Jazz CDs reviewed – early August 2012

August 1, 2012

Jeff Hamilton Trio Red Sparkle (Capri Records 74114-2)
When he first appeared on the jazz scene back in the mid-1970s, Jeff Hamilton’s youthful appearance, allied as it was to sprightly playing, was a joy to many who feared that subtle, rhythmic and always swinging drumming was fading from the jazz scene. These days, happily, there are many jazz drummers who play like this, and it must be acknowledged that Hamilton has rather more gray in his hair than most. But listening to his playing on this CD you would certainly never know it. He is joined here by the regular piano player and bass player of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, and the fluid interplay of these three fine musicians, Hamilton, Tamir Hendelman and Christoph Luty, makes clear how attuned each is to the others.  Jeff-Hamilton-CDThis musical empathy provides one of the reasons why that particular big band is so good and so popular. But this is trio time, and as the spotlight shifts from one to another of the trio’s members it is fascinating to hear how all consistently contribute to the group’s overall well-being. Hendelman is a thoughtful jazz pianist, popular with singers, who need a musician of subtlety and grace. But he is also a soloist of distinction and his always inventive playing is a source of great delight. Luty plays with a solid sense of swing, urging along his companions and finding in his solo moments touches of brilliance, especially apparent when, appropriately enough, he takes an arco solo on a Ray Brown composition. But this is Hamilton’s group, and although throughout he makes clear that this is a joint enterprise, the ears are constantly drawn to his tasteful accompaniment, especially notable in his brush work, and in solos that are crisp and perfectly timed and placed. Red Sparkle, in case you are wondering, was the color of Jeff Hamilton’s first drum kit. Fortunate for all of us, it wasn’t his last.

Daryl Sherman Mississippi Belle (Audiophile ACD 342)
One of the most entertaining of musicians, Daryl Sherman has a fully deserved worldwide reputation as a fine jazz pianist and singer. On this CD, she delves into a trove of music with which she is wonderfully familiar, the songs of Cole Porter. For many years, Daryl Sherman has played and sung regularly at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel; what’s more, she has done so seated at the piano Cole Porter had in his suite when he stayed there, a Steinway given to him by the hotel. This CD is subtitled ‘Cole Porter in the Quarter’, that being, of course, the French Quarter of New Orleans, which is not only home to Audiophile Records but also where Sherman has often chosen to perform, particularly after Hurricane Katrina. Among the songs Sherman sings here are the familiar, which include Let’s Do It, Rosalie, Get Out Of Town, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To and From This Moment On, and some that are less so, including Ours, Tale Of The Oyster, Use Your Imagination and Looking At YouDaryl-Sherman-CDTo her interpretations of all the songs, Sherman brings her unmistakable charm and wit, cloaking everything in superb musicianship. Sherman’s instrumental collaborators here are clarinetist-tenor saxophonist Tom Fischer and bassist Jesse Boyd. The always admirable New Orleans-based jazz singer, Banu Gibson, joins Daryl Sherman for By The Mississinewah. This is lovely stuff, a CD that will have very wide appeal.

Jane Stuart Don’t Look Back (Jane Stuart Music JSM 002)
Jazz singer Jane Stuart’s debut CD was 2007’s Beginning To See The Light, which won the Blue Chip Award for ‘Best Jazz Vocals’ from the International Association of Jazz Educators. By now very much appreciated for her live performances, sometimes solo and sometimes as leader of her band, Airtight, in the New York and New Jersey area, Jane Stuart has built upon her very good start in the tough world of jazz singing and her new CD shows just how far she has come. This is a mature and confident performance, and her repertoire shows the breadth of her musical appreciation; among the songs here are Cole Porter’s Experiment, Dave Frishberg’s Wheelers And Dealers and You Are There (co-composed with Johnny Mandel), Lennon and McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby and I’ll Follow The Sun, Rodgers and Hart’s I Didn’t Know What Time It Was, and an especially attractive version of the Gershwin classic, SummertimeJane-Stuart-CDStuart’s accompanists are pianist Rave Tesar, tenor saxophonist Frank Elmo, bassists Kermit Driscoll and Sue Williams (who share tracks), and drummer Rick De Kovessey (who is her husband). Also on hand are percussionist Emedin Rivera and background vocalists Orlando Quinones and Paige Sandusky. There are also guests in the very welcome form of guitarist Dave Stryker and saxophonist Dick Oatts. Jane Stuart is a jazz singer who deserves your attention.

Natalie Cressman Unfolding (own label)

Natalie Cressman and her band, Secret Garden, are quite new to the jazz scene, and very welcome additions they are. Natalie is a trombonist, composer, and singer, and that might well be the right sequence in which to list her exceptional talent. Although stylistically centered firmly in contemporary jazz, it is clear that she has special affection for the music of Latin America. Among Natalie’s musical companions here are pianist Pascal Le Boeuf, trumpeter Ivan Rosenberg, and tenor saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, and they, together with Ruben Samama and Jake Goldbas, bass and drums, and guest tenor saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum, create an inventive and always appropriate framework for Natalie’s performance.  Natalie-Cressman-CDIn interviews, with, for example, Indie Music Reviewer’s Dan MacIntosh, Natalie has cited trombonist Melba Liston and singer Joni Mitchell as key influences. From the wealth of involving and thought-provoking music that Natalie creates it is tempting to suggest that a few decades down the road, new young singer-instrumentalists will cite her as a guiding light.


Kat Parra Las Aventuras de ¡Pasión! (JazzMa JMR 1004)

Very popular in South America as well as in the USA, Kat Parra has a voice that demands attention and rewards the listener with wholly satisfying interpretations of an always interesting selection of songs. While much of Kat’s repertoire is suffused with Latin sounds, especially the rich song books of Brazil and Cuba, she also draws from jazz and the great popular standards. Unusually, Kat also explores in contemporary jazz terms the music of the Sephardic Jews of Spain. Blending this ancient form with contemporary jazz and Afro Caribbean styles is a leap for the imagination, yet Kat achieves this with seeming ease.  Kat-Parra-CDHere, Kat is joined by some of her near neighbors in the Bay Area, among whom are trombonist Wayne Wallace, pianist Murray Low, saxophonist-flautist Masaru Koga, and drummer Paul van Wageningen. Kat’s earlier albums include Birds In Flight (JazzMa JMR 1001), Azucar De Amor (Patois PRCD 005) and Dos Amantes (JazzMa JMR 1003), the last named also draws upon the Sephardic tradition and seamlessly blends fiery flamenco, lively Hanukkah, and insinuatingly rhythmic Caribbean airs. It is a delight and, indeed, all of her albums are very warmly recommended, overflowing as they are with music that is emotionally rich and moving and performed in a voice that is burnished and flowing and touched with an attractive sinewy edge.





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