Jazz CD Reviews – late September 2017

September 30, 2017

Patrick Arthur/Dana Fitzsimons/Chris Otts the ¢heap 3nsemble (independent release)

This highly musical Atlanta-based trio is exploratory, inventive and lyrical. To use founder Dana Fitzsimons’ words, the music played is “. . . dominated by melodicism and space, rather than rhythmic density”. Drawing inspiration from an abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, drummer Dana teamed up with tenor saxophonist Chris Otts and guitarist Patrick Arthur to develop music free from the restraints of too-rigid tempos and conducive to calm reflection. cheap danaAgain quoting Dana: “Since we’re living in such a crazy and stressful period in our own history, we wanted to work with sustained sounds and less rhythmic freneticism, and make music that could heal.” Among the tracks are originals by Chris, Volkslied and Reflection, and Patrick’s Front, as well as works by Bruce Hornsby, Fortunate Son, Chick Corea, Matrix, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, Pure Imagination, and Raymond Hubbell and John L. Golden, Poor Butterfly. Throughout, there are well-crafted solos from saxophonist and guitarist, all with controlled emotional heart, and intelligent underpinning from the drummer. Interestingly, the cover art on this album is the Gerhard Richter painting that inspired Dana to conceive this music.

For more on Patrick, Dana, Chris and the ¢heap 3nsemble, including booking, contact Mouthpiece Music.

Manny Echazabal Short Notice (independent release)

A recent graduate of University of Miami, tenor saxophonist Manny Echazabal presents a selection of his own compositions on this, his debut album. For his themes, Manny has developed some concepts that originated in assignments but there is nothing tentative or immature about the end product. Other ideas stem from personal experiences, and while not all of these were good they did prove inspirational. Among these works is the title track, which was a “write a composition in just an hour” assignment given by trumpeter Terence Blanchard who also teaches at UM. Another piece is a three-part work, New Dawn, that deals with aspects of depression, while Abraham’s Warriors centers upon fundraising efforts of a family friend whose young child had terminal cancer. Although the thinking behind this music is outwardly dark, the musical results are far from this. Instead, they are filled with optimism and light and vividly demonstrate Manny’s exceptional musical skill.manny After graduation, he played in Miami clubs and also various jazz festivals. Manny is a fluent player, his technical ability comfortably matching the tasks he sets himself through his compositions. The quartet on this session is completed by pianist Tal Cohen, bassist Dion Kerr and drummer David Chiverton, all young musicians who are similarly gifted and are making names for themselves in the US. This release is sure to extend their audience.

For more on Manny Echazabal, including booking, contact Mouthpiece Music.

Josh Nelson The Sky Remains (Origin 82741)

On this musical portrait of Los Angeles, pianist Josh Nelson takes inspiration from places and people and events that have added to the city’s rich history. Instrumentalists joining Josh on this album are trumpeter Chris Lawrence, alto saxophonist Josh Johnson, clarinetist Brian Walsh, organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Alex Boneham, drummer Dan Schnelle, and percussionist Aaron Serfaty. Also heard are vocalists Kathleen Grace (on Bridges and Tunnels, The Sky Remains, Pitseleh, Run) and Lillian Sengpiehl (on Bridges and Tunnels, Ah, Los Angeles, Lost Souls of Saturn), both of them soloing well – sometimes with lyrics other times wordlessly – and also blending effectively with the instrumental ensemble. Anthony takes a long and engaging solo on Ah, Los Angeles, Chris, Brian and others solo on Lost Souls of Saturn, a track that has intriguing instrumental ensemble passages underpinned by fiery percussion. josh nelsonSeveral of the works hear here are Josh’s compositions, among them Bridges and Tunnels, which paints an aural image of those aspects of the city familiar to moviegoers (and depicted also on the sleeve), Ah, Los Angeles, inspired by John Fante’s semi-autobiographical 1939 novel Ask the Dust, and Pacific Ocean Park, a long forgotten amusement park. Also largely forgotten is the Polynesian culture present among the ethnic ingredients of the city in the 1930s, recalled here in Russ Garcia’s Lost Souls of Saturn. There is also a collaborative song by Josh and Kathleen, Run, which commemorates Mack Robinson (bother of Jackie) who won a silver medal to Jesse Owens’ gold in the 200 meters at the 1936 Olympic Games – surely a test of memory for even the most-devoted sports fan. Overall, the mood of this album is reflective – understandably so given the underlying concept – and it is a revealing picture of a city most of us think we know better than is actually so. Very effective playing by all enhances The Sky Remains, which is a rewarding musical experience.

For more on Josh Nelson, including booking, contact Mouthpiece Music.

John Daversa Wobbly Dance Flower (BFM Jazz 302 062 438 2)

Trumpeter John Daversa’s instrumental collaborators here are Bob Mintzer, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, pianist and Hammond organist Joe Bagg, guitarist Zane Carney, bassist Jerry Watts Jr, and drummer Gene Coye. John and Bob are also heard on EVI (electronic valve instrument) and EWI (electric wind instrument) respectively. With the exception of Donna Lee all the titles played on this album are John’s compositions. Many of these are developed out of what might seem at first glance to be random thoughts. A reality check reveals that the thoughts of writers – of music or not – are seldom without some connection to the world around them. Put another way, the imagination is never completely turned off. For example, like all frequent fliers, John often has time to kill at airports and sometimes uses his cell phone to record melodies that come into his mind. John is a composer but that particular source of inspiration should ring bells with many writers of all kinds. (Digressing wildly, an idea for a short story came into my mind on a railway station in the North of England and by the time the train reached London the story was finished – and appears elsewhere on this site.)

wobblyBut getting back to John and the airport, the piece that resulted from this is Meet Me at the Airport, which effectively depicts the organized chaos of such places and has long solos from John, followed by Bob, then Joe on the Hammond B3, and Jerry and Zane. Ms. Turkey, a fast-paced work, has fleet soloing from John underpinned by Gene crackling drumming while Donna Lee here has a more relaxed treatment than this bop standard that it is usually given. The opening passage of Be Free, with its hints at a Latin feel, is a good opportunity to hear Joe’s skill on the Hammond B3, in the middle section Bob’s tenor takes an approach in keeping with the tune title, and John brings to an end with a crisp boppish solo. Brooklyn Still has John and Bob in an introspective frame of mind, soloing and effectively supporting one another. Wobbly Dance Flower, again featuring John and Bob who are punched along by Gene, is a lively jaunt that will certainly leave any dancers trying to keep up a little wobbly when it’s over. In contrast, Jazz Heads is a thoughtful piece with John and Bob (here on bass clarinet) underscored by Joe who is again on B3. On the energetic You Got a Puppy? Zane and Gene are heard after opening statements from the horns while the brief (less than a minute) closer, Extra Credit, is a quick word from all. And speaking of quick words, in his liner note fellow trumpeter Brian Lynch writes: “The through line for this project can be boiled down to one word: fun!” No arguments from me.

For more on John Daversa, including booking, contact Mouthpiece Music.

All albums available at Amazon.

Jazz CD Reviews – early August 2016

August 10, 2016

Bob Mintzer All L.A. Band (Fuzzy Music PEPCD 022)

Heading this fiery big band are saxophonist Bob Mintzer and drummer Peter Erskine who have assembled some of the best musicians on the west coast to perform a selection of Bob’s originals. Some of these pieces were written for the Yellowjackets, of which Bob was a founder member, some for the bands of himself and others.Bob Mintzer Tracks such as El Caborojeño, Ellis Island, and Latin Dance have an Afro-Cuban subtext, and here and there are touches of r&b, while Havin’ Some Fun and Home Basie mirror the work Count Basie’s Atomic band. When Bob was in the Buddy Rich band he wrote Slo Funk, and Tribute is exactly that for Thad Jones. Worth listing all of the musicians who join Bob and Peter here: Wayne Bergeron, James Blackwell, John Thomas, Chad Willis, Michael Stever (trumpets); Bob McChesney, Erik Hughes, Julianne Gralle, Craig Gosnell (trombones); Bob Sheppard, Adam Schroeder (saxophones); Russ Ferrante (piano); Larry Koonse (guitar); Edwin Livingston (bass); Aaron Serfaty (percussion). Amidst sparkling ensemble playing solo spots abound from several of these fine musicians with Bob mostly in the spotlight. Of more than passing interest to any budding or, indeed, experienced instrumentalists reading this, the music heard here was recorded for the Mintzer Big Band Essentials play-along app. For details of this and also for full big band charts see Bob’s or Peter’s website.

Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Havana Blue (3Sixteen CD31608)

The term Afro-Cuban is freely used in music and not always strictly reflecting the material concerned. No such reservations here. This set is a result of a collaboration between composer and trumpet player Orbert Davis, multi-genre Third Stream orchestra Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, and River North dance ensemble with choreographer Frank Chavez, and it draws inspiration from both Africa and Cuba, blending the forms with great skill.havana blue The principal composer of the music heard here is Orbert Davis, although Ernesto Lecuona’s Al Fin Te Vi is heard here as the fifth movement of the seven-part Havana Blue Suite, while there are also pieces by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, Chega de Saudade, and Dizzy Gillespie, Manteca. All of these pieces are performed with an effective blending of orchestral intensity, peppered with bright brass and sonorous reeds, all backed by the pulsating drive of a fiery rhythm section.

Dick Oatts/Mats Holmquist NYJO A Tribute To Herbie +1 (Summit MAA 1049)

The teaming of alto and soprano saxophonist Dick Oatts and arranger Mats Holmquist promises musical excellence and this is certainly delivered by their New York Jazz Orchestra on this celebration of Herbie Hancock. Drawing the band’s members from New York’s seemingly endless supply of jazz and studio musicians as well as an effective smattering of Scandinavians, the co-leaders have at their disposal efficient ensemble players and inventive soloists. The compositions Mats has turned to for his engaging and imaginative charts include some of the most familiar music in the post-bop jazz world.oatts These include Cantaloupe Island (which features the alto of Mark Gross and Adam Birnbaum’s piano), Dolphin Dance (Oatts on soprano and Birnbaum), Eye Of The Hurricane (Joe Magnarelli, trumpet, Walt Weiskopf, tenor, John Riley, drums, and Oatts, this time on alto), and Watermelon Man (Weiskopf again and Frank Basile, baritone). Collectively, the members of the New York Jazz Orchestra playing with verve and enthusiasm and provide a welcome reminder (if one is needed) of Hancock’s intrinsic qualities as a composer. Also heard here is one of Mats’ compositions, Steve R, which admirably suits the overall atmosphere of this vital and always interesting slice of today’s big band music.

For more on these artists go to Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services site.

All albums reviewed here are available from Amazon.

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