May 24, 2016
During the past few decades the boundaries between jazz and other musical genres have become steadily more blurred. This observation is well illustrated by these four albums, which together bring a heady mix of styles.
Victor & Penny Electricity (Overtone VP 101)
For the past five or so years, Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane have been working together, touring and delighting audiences with their intriguing performances. Billed as Victor & Penny, they are heard here with their Loose Change Orchestra. Victor (Jeff) plays guitar and Penny (Erin) plays ukelele, and both sing. While Victor’s singing is confined mostly to harmonizing with Penny, she has several features. On uptempo songs, she has a slightly nasal quality that suits the music and the mood, while on ballads she her vocal sound is clear, unforced and youthful. Instrumentally, they are skilled practitioners, Victor playing several very good solos and Penny using the lighter toned sound of the ukelele as a driving to help drive the group. The most featured instrumental soloist in The Loose Change Orchestra is James Isaac on clarinet (he also plays soprano saxophone and melodica), the other leading members being Rick Willoughby, bass & ukelele bass, and Kyle Dahlquist, trombone, while also on hand are Paton Goskie, violin, and Dustin Ransom who plays accordion, mandolin, piano and Hammond B-3 organ. Nine of the ten tracks are composed by Victor and Penny (one of these, Say Goodbye, with Cody Wyoming) and they are richly varied in concept, structure and style. Among them are Day Off Boogie, which brings to mind late swing era jump bands, Rickshaw Chase, an engaging up-tempo piece that carries Klezmer echoes, and Penny’s Pounce and Hide, Seek, both with fine instrumental solos. The only non-original is Gordon (Sting) Sumner’s Moon Over Bourbon Street, which here has an air that perhaps owes more to Europe than New Orleans – although even in name the city is the most European in North America. Victor & Penny have won awards from folk-oriented organizations and while jazz and folk do not readily come to mind as compatible bedfellows this raises the side issue of pigeon-holing. The term ‛folk’ actually describes a richly varied genre in much the same way that ‛jazz’ means many things to many people. Only slight broadening of the folk genre brings in some aspects of country, bluegrass for example, and it is only a very small stretch to think of the long-ago popularity of the western-swing of Bob Wills and the early work of Chet Atkins (his quartet with George Benson), as well as, more recently, several artists who move comfortably through many of these genres: Bela Flek and April Barrows come readily to mind. But all this is digressing from this very pleasing album although there is a reason for this. I hope it’s not just me, but I think it is unfairly limiting to tack a genre label onto this hugely entertaining group. That said, I think that the apparent need for labeling (by promoters, radio outlets and the like) inhibits musicians of this quality. Victor & Penny and their colleagues deserve to be heard by all who like to hear good music well played by skilful artists.
Antonio Adolfo Tropical Infinito (AAM 0710)
The musical genres blended here are Brazilian samba and hard-bop jazz of the early 1960s and while others have done this before during the past half century, pianist Antonio Adolfo does it with effortless flair and instrumental skill. Antonio is joined here by the driving rhythm team of guitarists Leo Amuedo and Claudio Spievak, bassist Jorge Helder, drummer Rafael Barata, and percussionist André Siqueira. There are also fine soloists in Jessé Sadoc, trumpet and flugelhorn, Marcelo Martins, saxophones, and Serginho Trombone who, appropriately enough, plays trombone. The horn players are all in fine form, Jessé delivering flowing, lyrical solos that have depth and intensity; Serghino’s playing is forcefully dramatic; Marcelo, who plays tenor and soprano, has a tough, no-nonsense approach that ably bridges to two musical genres. The pieces played here are four of Antonio’s originals, two by Benny Golson (Whisper Not and Killer Joe), Horace Silver’s Song For My Father, Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments, and one standard, All The Things You Are. All are arranged by Antonio and he seamlessly blends the styles and ensures that there is ample solo space for his talented colleagues. This is a lively and thoroughly entertaining set that should appeal to many, be they fans of jazz or the music of Brazil.
Carol Saboya Carolina (AAM 0709)
Brazilian singer Carol Saboya has a pleasingly soft vocal sound that admirably suits all of the music she performs. Heard here are three songs written or co-written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, (Passarim, A Felicidade, Olha, Maria), two by Latin Grammy Achievement Award winner Djavan (Avião, Faltando Um Pedaço), three by other leading Brazilian composers, as well as two pop songs, Sting’s Fragile and Lennon and McCartney’s Hello, Goodbye. Carol is accompanied here by her constant collaborator, pianist and arranger Antonio Adolfo, along with several members of his regular group: Marcelo Martins, flute and soprano saxophone, Leo Amuedo (and Claudio Spievak), guitar, Jorge Helder, bass, Rafael Barata, drums, and André Siqueira, percussion. Throughout, the music has an engaging airiness, reflecting the spaciousness of the homeland of the performers and most of the composers and lyricists. Reflective, soothing, accomplished.
Nána Simopoulos Skins (Na Records NR 9206 2)
Noted in many areas of the arts Nána Simopoulos has composed music for several contemporary dance companies, including Dance Theatre of Harlem, scores for motion pictures and theatrical productions, as well as music for classical ensembles. An important part of Nána’s musical training came during her teenage years when she traveled from America to Greece. First recording in her own name in 1984, she has worked with leading jazz musicians including Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, her albums including two on Enja Records. She has also led her own groups, including World Music of Nána. All eight tracks heard here are Nána’s own compositions and the range of her inspirational sources is readily apparent, most particularly the music and the poetry of the east. Singing and playing guitar and bouzouki, Nána is joined by a dozen instrumentalists noted in world music and in jazz, along them being saxophonist Dave Liebman, bassist Mary Ann McSweeney, and drummer Royal Hartigan. Always interesting, this new release will be welcomed by Nána’s many fans around the world.
Carla Hassett +Blue (Paulista unnumbered)
Although born in Brazil, Carla Hassett was raised in Chicago where she lived amidst the city’s Brazilian community. As a result, she was exposed to many musical forms, including those of her homeland. Becoming a professional singer, she worked with local bands singing blues, funk, pop and many of the song styles of Latin America. Settling in Los Angeles, Carla worked extensively in recording studios as backing singer to leading names in pop, as well as in film and television studios, singing on soundtracks. She also worked in musical education, including teaching at Silverlake Conservatory of Music. Although she admires, respects and sings music composed by distinguished Brazilians, Carla also writes much of the music she performs. On this album, seven of the ten songs are her own, among them the samba flavored Pois É E Tal and Sangue Da Terra, and a touch of bossa nova is heard on Sem Calor. When Carla’s sunny and airy vocal sound is combined with her lyrics she brings to life the images that her many of her compatriots must carry in their minds. She is accompanied here by instrumentalists from both her homeland her adopted country. Heard here are the sounds of the guitar, accordion, trumpet, trombone, keyboards and of course percussion. Among the players are guitarist João Pedro Mourão, bassist Andre de Santanna, and percussionist Leonardo Costa, who provide a propulsive rhythmic undertow. The closing track, South American Way, is a nod of appreciation to Carmen Miranda although Carla’s treatment comes as a welcome surprise as she reflects on the sadness of those who live far from home.
More information on all of these artists can be found at Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services.
Other informative and entertaining sites to visit:-
Jazz Journal –
Vintage Bandstand –
Jazz Flashes –
Jazz Wax –
Frank Griffith –
John Robert Brown –
April 5, 2016
Darren English Imagine Nation (Hot Shoe HSW 109)
Making his debut as leader here is the exciting young South African trumpet player, Darren English who is now resident in Atlanta, Georgia. Here, Darren and his collaborators perform an interesting mix of standards, including a deeply introspective Body And Soul, classics from the jazz repertoire, a sparkling version of Dizzy Gillespie’s Bebop, as well as four of Darren’s originals. Labels are misleading, but if pressed I would say that it is post-bop mainstream – most importantly it is exhilarating. Three of the originals are part of a suite dedicated to Nelson Mandela, although they are presented separately here. Darren’s trumpet lines are graceful, he states the original melodies with engaging simplicity before moving into thoughtful and often driving improvisations. He is ably supported throughout by the trio of Kenny Banks, Jr., piano, Billy Thornton, bass, and Chris Burroughs, drums. Tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy joins him on three titles; these are two parts of the Mandela suite and Bullet In The Gunn, one of Darren’s originals. Vocalist Carmen Bradford is heard with a very attractive take on Skylark and on a fast What A Little Moonlight Can Do (To You), which also has good solos from bass and drums. Fellow trumpeters Russell Gunn and Joe Grandsen are also on hand, particularly excitingly so on Ray Noble’s Cherokee, which ends the album in fine style. An exceptionally talented and commanding young musician who will undoubtedly have a great future.
Kat Parra Songbook Of The Américas (JazzMa JMR 1005)
Always adventurous yet simultaneously wholly accessible, Kat Parra is a highly talented and very gifted musician. As the album title states, here she sings a selection of songs that draws upon the music of many parts of the continent. Among the songs are jazz pieces, Eddie ‛Cleanhead’ Vinson’s Four and Charlie Parker’s Au Privave, to both of which Kat has supplied lyrics (thus becoming Ever More and Wouldn’t It Be Sweet) and Betty Carter’s Please Do Something; some familiar songs from the popular repertoire, Meredith Willson’s Till There Was You and Bob Merrill’s Mambo Italiano; and songs from Peru, María Landó, Cuba, Viente Años, Argentina, Como La Cigarro and Mexico, Bésame Mucho. In addition to writing lyrics to the music of others, Kat also arranges, along with Aaron Germaine, Murray Low, David Pinto and others. The lyric for Dame La Mano is a poem by Gabriela Mistral, for which Kat has composed the music. All of these songs, familiar and lesser known, are sung with flair and ingenuity, always presenting a personal take but remaining true to the music’s origins. Singing with clarity and subtle drive, Kat turns all of these songs into vibrant demonstrations of her artistic skill. She is joined here by several musicians from the Bay Area, where she is based, among them being pianist Murray Low, trumpeter John Worley, trombonist Wayne Wallace, and bassist Marc van Wageningen. Adding to the atmosphere are Latin percussionists as well as players of flute and bandoneón. Also heard are fellow singers Patti Cathcart (along with guitarist Tuck Andress), María Márquez and Nate Pruitt. Altogether this is a delightful journey, seeing old favorites with new eyes and finding new sights to visit again.
Ehud Asherie Shuffle Along (Blue Heron)
Very much a musician of today, pianist Ehud Asherie has taken an unusual step for his twelfth album in drawing all the music from a barely remembered Broadway musical from the early 1920s. Although the show, Shuffle Along, might be beyond the recall of many, it is in fact important, chiefly because it was the first all-black musical to play on Broadway. All-black because not only was the cast African American, so too were the songwriters. They were lyricist Noble Sissle and composer Eubie Blake. What is especially interesting about the songs is that because they were written as the 1910s rolled into the 20s they are not written in a style that is heavily influenced by jazz although the ‛new’ music is noticeably hovering in the wings. At the time, Blake was only 24 years old, and perhaps because of his youth neither was he overly influenced by those earlier forms of popular music that were being edged aside, although here and there can be heard hints of then contemporary ragtime, a piano style he had mastered. As the lyrics are not heard their true melodic value can be more fully appreciated and it is striking how fresh they sound, especially when played with great sympathy by Ehud. Most famous of all Eubie’s songs is I’m Just Wild About Harry, heard twice, the second occasion being in waltz-time, which allows Ehud to reveal its considerable melodic charm. This is a remarkably durable song, turning up in the early 1950s as the theme song for Harry S Truman’s presidential campaign. Among the other songs, much less often heard, are Everything Reminds Me Of You, Bandana Days and Gypsy Blues. A particularly attractive song is the melodic and reflective Love Will Find A Way, with which Ehud closes the set. Very well played, with technical expertise allied with understanding and warmth and a jazz improvisor’s intelligence, this should appeal to all who love piano music.
Beside the point, I know, but I can’t resist quoting Eubie Blake when interviewed in 1983 on the occasion of what was said to be his 100th birthday (actually his 96th): “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would’ve taken better care of myself.”
Please note that the cover of the copy reviewed differs slightly from that shown above.
Phyllis Blanford Edgewalker (independent)
Having lived for some years in Europe, Phyllis Blanford returned to America around 2000 and since then has established a reputation for heartfelt and soulful performances. Her chosen repertoire draws upon many aspects of popular music. Some of the songs are standards, Night And Day, You Don’t Know What Love Is, Come Rain Or Come Shine, and some from fellow singers, Carmen Lundy’s Blue Woman and Good Morning Kiss, and Abbey Lincoln’s Throw It Away. Phyllis singing style is relaxed, her appreciation and interpretation of the lyrics intense. On this release, the singer is accompanied by a fine selection of jazz instrumentalists, the core trio of Ted Brancato, keyboards, Kenny Davis, bass, Winard Harper, drums, and saxophonist Don Braden, trumpeter James Gibbs, guitarist Vic Juris, trombonists Vincent Gardner and Jason Jackson, percussionist Mayra Casales, and vibraphonist Stefon Harris. An interesting and enjoyable singer who will surely and deservedly be heard much more widely over the coming years.
Danny Green Altered Narratives (OA2 22128)
Although all the music heard here is composed by pianist Danny Green, everything is redolent of the rich history of jazz piano. Danny’s musical career has ranged widely, including grunge rock, ska, Cuban son and especially the music of Brazil. He has brought all of these elements into jazz with seemingly effortless ease, in the process substantially broadening his audience appeal. Danny leads his trio (Justin Grinnell, bass, Julien Cantelm, drums) on a musical journey that draws upon the blues (Chatter From All Sides, I Used To Hate The Blues), as well as classical form (Second Chance, Katabasis, Porcupine Dreams), with other elements from Danny’s eclectic musical background. On those last three named tunes the trio is joined by a string quartet, Antoine Silverman, Max Moston, violins, Chris Cardona, viola, Anja Wood, cello). This very attractive album will appeal to all lovers of jazz piano.
Cristina Braga Whisper (ENJA ENJ 9617-2)
Brazilian harpist/singer Cristina Braga has built an audience far outside her homeland for her notable performances of the music of Brazil. Here, she plays and sings a selection works by composers such as Dorival Caymmi (É Doce Morrer No Mar), João Donato (A Rã) and Baden Powell Samba Triste (with Billy Blanco) and Whisper On A Prelude (Cristina Braga and Alberto Rosenblit). Here she is accompanied by The Modern Samba Quartet (Jesse Sadoc, trumpet, Arthur Dutra, vibraphone, Ricardo Medeiros, bass, Claudio Wilner, percussion, Mauro Martins, drums) and the Brandenburger Symphoniker. There is also a guest appearance by guitarist/singer Dado Villa-Lobos, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça’s (Meditation), sung here in the French and English versions (Eddy Marney and Norman Gimbel respectively). Although her vocal range is not wide, Cristina’s sound is gently soothing and suits the material well. Instrumentally, she is a gifted player displaying her talent on Mot D’Amour and especially Canto Triste. This concert was recorded live at the Great Hall of the Brandenburger Theater in Brandenburg.
For more on these artists go to their sites, highlighted above, and to Jazz Promo Services (for Phyllis Blanford, Cristina Braga), Braithwaite & Katz (for Ehud Asherie, Danny Green), and Mouthpiece Music (for Darren English, Kat Parra).
Other informative and entertaining sites to visit:-
And the place to go for albums is Amazon.
March 17, 2016
Daphna Levy Late Night Journey (independent)
Building upon a very wide range of musical genres, Daphna Levy is now enjoying a growing reputation in American jazz circles. Born in Tel Aviv, she studied classical music, playing bass, then began singing with an army band, later studying jazz piano, before embarking upon a career as a jazz singer. On this album, Daphna draws her repertoire from pop and jazz standards and the blues, including I Got Rhythm, I Remember You, Day Dream, In The Evening When The Sun Goes Down and I Hear Music, two of her own compositions, Jazzland and Late Night Journey, as well as Buck Ram’s Only You, Ken Morrison’s Jazz Band In Heaven and Luiz Bonfá’s Gentle Rain. Throughout, the arrangements are by Daphna and her ideas are very well served by her accompanying musicians. The core trio is Tony Pancella, piano, Assaf Hakimi, bass, and Gasper Bertoncelj, drums, with tenor saxophonist Lew Tabackin appearing on eight tracks, while Merton Cahm plays tenor saxophone on one. Daphna has a fresh-sounding voice, sparklingly clear diction, and sings rhythmically and is alert to the lyricists’ intentions. Lew Tabackin is in very good form and his contributions are a key factor.
Dane Vannatter Give Me Something Real (independent)
Singing a pleasing selection of songs, award-winning vocalist Dane Vannatter performs in a relaxed and invitingly intimate manner. The songs he sings come from many areas of popular music including the great standards and jazz. On this album, he sings Lover Come Back To Me, But Beautiful, Blame It On My Youth and East Of The Sun, as well as two songs from the Duke Ellington book: Just Squeeze Me, by Ellington and Les Gaines, and Something To Live For, by Billy Strayhorn. Dane’s interpretations delve deeply into the heart of the lyrics and his vocal sound is warm and appealing. On hand here to accompany Dane are two groups, the instrumentalists in one are keyboard player Daniel May, guitarist Eric Susoeff and bassist Jon Evans, while the other consists of Steve Ahern, trumpet, Bruce Abbot, saxophone and flute, Fred Boyle, piano, Ron Ormsby, bass, and Barry Weisman, drums. Clearly at home with the repertoire and in this setting it is readily apparent that Dane is a cabaret singer to seek out. Those not fortunate to live close enough to the Pittsburgh-New York-Boston axis to hear him in person will find this album an enjoyable alternative.
Renato Braz Saudade (Living Music LMU 48)
Highly acclaimed by fellow musicians, singer/guitarist Renato Braz draws almost entirely upon his artistic heritage when selecting songs to sing. Hailing from Brazil’s Matto Grosso, and raised in the country’s northeastern region, where African traditions are maintained, he is principally based in São Paulo, where he has soaked in some of the Portuguese elements that distinguish Brazilian music. Renato’s repertoire includes songs by masters of the genres in which he works, among them Acqua Marcia (by Ivan Lins), O Cantador and Desenredo (Dori Caymmi and Paulo César Pinheiro), Eu Não Existo Sem Você (Antònio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes), and Na Ilha De Lia (Chico Buarque and Edu Lobo). Renato’s singing voice is intense and lyrical, and his guitar playing is ideally suited to the vocal lines. Joining him on the album are different groups (the recording spanned about five years) and the instrumentalists include keyboardist Lins, guitarist Caymmi, soprano saxophonist Paul Winter, and pianist Don Grusin (whose The Last Train is heard). Most of the ballads here are romantic in origin and Renato’s singing voice captures this well, although it should be said that an understanding of Portuguese will allow listeners to get more from the songs.
Gabriela Martina No White Shoes (independent)
Born in Switzerland and now attracting attention on America’s east coast, Gabriela Martina draws her style from various sources, including jazz, pop and the music of her homeland. All but two of the songs heard here are Gabriela’s own, words and music, and some of them might well be picked up by other singers, carrying as they do echoes of music of earlier eras. The non-originals are Wayne Shorter’s Witch Hunt and Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night In Tunisia. Gabriela’s voice is attractively bright and clear and she succeeds in drawing the listener in to the tales told. Accompanying the singer on this, her debut album, are her regular Boston-based quartet, all of whom play with flair: pianist Jiri Nedoma, guitarist Jussi Reijonen, bassist Kyle Miles and drummer Alex Bailey. An enjoyable first encounter with a singer worth following.
For more on these artists go to their sites, highlighted above, and to Jazz Promo Services (for Daphna Levy, Renato Braz) and Braithwaite & Katz (for Gabriela Martina).
Other informative and entertaining sites you might like:-
And the place to go for albums is Amazon.
March 24, 2015
Rodrigo Lima Saga (JSR 6063/4)
Best known thus far as an accompanist, notably touring as a member of Ithamara Koorax’s band, this debut album by Rodrigo Lima is a real treat for lovers of the guitar and the music of Brazil. The musical styles heard here include choro, Novos Cariocas, samba, Canção Praieira, and bossa nova, Altinho, and much else that has become familiar to international audiences over the years. Although it is the guitar, mainly classical and also electric, that is prominent, Rodrigo is impressively joined by guest artists, among whom are Anat Cohen, saxophone, Hugo Fattoruso, keyboards, Hubert Laws, flute, Ithamara Koorax and Aline Morena, vocal, Mike Mainieri, vibraphone, Raul de Souza, trombone, Zé Eduardo Nazário, João Palma and Laudir de Oliveira, percussion, and Hermeto Pascoal, keyboards, while most of the arrangements are by Rodrigo and Arnaldo DeSouteiro. Mostly on this double album are heard original compositions by Rodrigo, and there are also some on which he collaborated with Pascoal, João Cavalcanti, Pedro Rocha and others, as well as a 20-minute jazz and Latin-tinged exploration of the 3rd Movement of Brahms’ 3rd Symphony. In contrast to the excellent instrumental combinations heard here there is a fine solo performance of A Velha Sozinha by Rodrigo on acoustic guitar. Throughout, the music is romantic, melodic, with flowing lines and always a joy to hear. Well known in South America, especially in Brazil, his homeland, Rodrigo Lima also plays extensively in Europe, especially in Spain. This release must surely expand his international audience.
Rachel Caswell All I Know (Turtle Ridge TRR-002)
Any singer choosing to present her art in the exposed setting of a duet needs to be good at what she does and Rachel Caswell certainly is that. It takes confidence, too, appearing in this setting and again Rachel has that confidence. The result is an excellent album, mainly of standards, that acts as a showcase for a singer who must surely and quickly build an international following. On seven of the twelve tracks, Rachel is accompanied by guitarist Dave Stryker, while on the other five she is in company with bassist Jeremy Allen. Throughout this set, Rachel delivers subtle jazz improvisations that enhance the original songs and remain always respectful of the intentions of the composers. Her vocal sound is graceful with a sinewy hint that adds immeasurably to her interpretations. Among the songs are If I Should Lose You, One For My Baby, Agua de Beber, I Fall In Love Too Easily and Feelin’ Groovy. This set should appeal to jazz and popular song audiences alike. Its appeal to fellow jazz singers will be clear from what Sheila Jordan has said of her: “Rachel is a wonderful singer with a deep feeling and a fantastic improvisational talent complemented by a lovely rich sound.”
For more information on Rachel Caswell, see Jim Eigo‘s website.
Mavis Rivers Mavis and Swing Along With Mavis (Warners 8122795 8480 and 7385)
The name of Mavis Rivers comes up only rarely when talking or reading about jazz singers and that’s a pity because she was exceptionally good. I recall reviewing some of her albums many years ago and also playing tracks on my long-gone radio show but I confess to having forgotten all about her. Mavis’s name has come to mind now with the review in March’s Jazz Journal of two reissued albums. Among the best of her recorded work, they are a very good introduction to her, especially as they come in Warner’s low-cost reissues from Japan. Only 62 when she died, Mavis packed a great deal of music into her life and fortunately for us she left a substantial recorded legacy that vividly demonstrates not only her vocal skills but also her ability to present her talent in a rich variety of settings. She was born Mavis Chloe Rivers into a large and musically-inclined family on 19 May 1929 in Apia, Western Samoa. With the outbreak of World War II the family moved to the American part of Samoa where, backed by a band led by her father, Moody Charles Rivers, she entertained American servicemen. After the war, the family moved to Auckland, New Zealand, and by 1948 she was singing on radio and the following year began her recording career. Some of her recordings from this period can be heard on The TANZA, Stebbing and Zodiac Years on Ode Records. Not surprisingly, most of the music Mavis recorded at this time reflected her Polynesian background, but her vocal skill and her admirable sound are already very much in evidence.
In 1953 Mavis came to the USA on a scholarship to study music at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah (her family were Mormons). She came back to the USA in 1955, this time to Los Angeles, where she found work singing in clubs at night (a secretarial day job was necessary), including playing with a Hawaiian band. The bass player in this band was Glicerio Reyes Catingub (known as David), with whom she formed a musical and personal relationship and they were married on 4 October 1955. After a brief spell out of music when her two sons, Matthew and Reynaldo, were born, Mavis resumed working, playing clubs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. As the 1950s rolled over into the 1960s, Mavis was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist and also recorded extensively, first for Capitol Records and then for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label. Two of the Reprise albums are those reissued on Warners and reviewed by Brian Robinson in Jazz Journal. Giving 4 and 5 stars respectively to Mavis and Swing Along With Mavis, the reviewer points out that both benefit from very good charts and backing, the first with Marty Paich, the second with Van Alexander, with the former band including a host of leading jazzmen. These sessions come from 1961 and there was another very good Reprise recording date that year, Mavis Meets Shorty, this one teaming Mavis with Shorty Rogers, on trumpet and fluegelhorn, with charts by Chuck Sagle. All three of these Reprise albums are together on a 2014 Fresh Sound double album. In 1964 Mavis made another excellent album, this time with Red Norvo, with whom she often appeared live; this was for the Vee-Jay label, We Remember Mildred Bailey. Mavis not only worked with Norvo, but also with George Shearing and André Previn; that she regularly kept company with musicians of this caliber speaks volumes for her own skills and how other musicians regarded her.
Just as Mavis had come from a musical family, so her own family continued the tradition with her alto saxophonist and bandleader son Matt Catingub becoming a respected figure on the Los Angeles studio and jazz scenes. Apart from regularly playing together in California, in the early 1980s mother and son appeared in Auckland, New Zealand, at a Royal Variety Performance for Queen Elizabeth. Mavis and Matt also recorded together on his Sea Breeze albums My Mommy And Me and Hi-Tech Big Band. The 1980s also brought a new album under her own name, It’s A Good Day, for Delos. Mavis continued to work through the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s, including appearing on another of Matt Catingub’s recording sessions, this one also for Sea Breeze, I’m Getting Cement All Over Ewe. They continued playing live dates together and it was at one of these, at the Vine Street Bar and Grill on 29 May 1992, that she suffered a stroke. Rushed to Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, she died. Following her death, her son reported that only days earlier they had been speaking of fellow singer Sylvia Syms who died after performing and Mavis had said that this was a “great way for a singer to go,” adding “I’d like to go the same way.”
Thanks to references to her by Marc Myers on his JazzWax website in January 2012, and to the re-release in 2015 of some of her albums, the name of Mavis Rivers lives on. Still not nearly as prominent in the minds of lovers of jazz singing as should be the case, now there is no excuse for not listening to and admiring the work of this exceptional jazz artist.
To buy any of the CDs mentioned here you can as usual go to Amazon.
January 10, 2015
This is becoming almost a mantra but once again I find myself listening to singers all of whom are new to me. On this occasion, there are four singers and I will take them in the order in which they came out of the package.
Lyn Stanley Potions from the 50s (A.T. Music 3103)
For this album, Lyn Stanley has chosen her repertoire from songs composed in the 1950s thus reminding her listeners that skilful songwriters did not vanish when the previous two golden decades ended. Among the songs, many of which are given interesting and agreeable new readings, are Cry Me A River, Fly Me To The Moon, In The Still Of The Night, Misty, and The Party’s Over. This is Lyn’s second album and she has a mature vocal sound, crystal clear diction that is abetted by her occasionally clipped delivery, and an obvious affection for the lyrics. This audible love for her material is nevertheless sufficiently relaxed to allow her to make the songs accessible to present-day ears – the songs were, after all, written more than a half-century ago. Lyn is accompanied here by several musicians in different small groups; too many to list but the pianists heard are Bill Cunliffe (5 tracks), Mike Lang (2 tracks), and Kenny Werner (7 tracks), with Mike and Kenny both playing on A Summer Place. The set ends with The Man I Love, which comes of course from an earlier time. This is a delightful set that should appeal to many, be they jazz fans or aficionados of the Great American Songbook.
Ellen LaFurn C’Est La-Furn (Invite Records 1003)
Perhaps I might be forgiven for this singer being new to me because this is Ellen LaFurn‘s debut album although she is far from being a newcomer to the music scene. Ellen worked in music as a teenager, singing backup and singing and playing flute in several bands, which is where she met her late husband, trumpet player Gerry LaFurn, who was co-leader with Charlie Persip of Superband. She then raised her family, taught for some years and now, after retiring, has returned to her first love – music. Ellen has an expressive sound and good diction that helps in her understanding interpretations of lyrics. The songs she has chosen come mostly from that same endless and enduring Songbook, mingled with some that have become known for their performance in a jazz context. Among the songs heard here are I Remember You, I’ve Got The World On A String, Cherokee, Girl Talk, Watch What Happens, and I’m Old Fashioned. Accompanied by Rave Tesar, piano, Vic Cenicola, guitar, both well-featured in solos, Ron Naspo, bass, and Patrick Cuttitta, drums, Ellen delivers pleasing performances that many will enjoy.
Julie Lyon Julie (Unseen Rain UR 9957)
This is another debut album, this time bringing to wide attention singer Julie Lyon who leads her New York Quartet through a selection of songs, mostly familiar, that display her rhythmic ease and intelligent interpretations. Among the songs performed here are Love For Sale, Dr Lonnie Smith’s Too Damn Hot, for which Julie has provided lyrics, Bye Bye Blackbird, Strollin’, Dindi and Comes Love. Julie is ably backed by her quartet: Matt Lavelle, trumpet, Jack DeSalvo, guitar, Bobby Brennan, bass, and Tom Cabrera, drums. The songs are performed in a manner that melds contemporary expectations with the older traditions from which jazz came. Julie’s accompanists provide a suitable backdrop for her and there are some well-taken solo moments from Matt Lavelle both on trumpet and on a breathily played alto clarinet. Most notable among the instrumental soloists is Jack DeSalvo who plays guitar and mandola with inventive flair. The set is rhythmically underpinned by Brennan and Cabrera, the latter providing many ear-catching moments, such as his imaginative introduction to All Or Nothing At All.
Carol Saboya/Antonio Adolfo/Hendrik Muerkens Copa Village (Antonio Adolfo Music AAM 0707)
Very well known in Brazil, her homeland, Carol Saboya brings a wholly delightful atmosphere to this album on which she is teamed with her father, pianist Antonio Adolfo, and Hendrik Muerkens, who here plays harmonica and vibraphone. Antonio is a veteran of the Brazilian and New York jazz scenes and blends the two dissimilar yet matching forms expertly as performer and composer, the latter musical skill shown here with Visão (Vision) and Pretty World, with lyricist Tiberio Gaspar (the latter song also with English lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman). He also co-composed Copa Village, with Hendrik, who himself composed Como Se Fosse (As If It Was) and Nosso Mundo (Our World), both with lyricist Ana Terra, and Show De Bola (Awesome), with lyrics by Paulo Sergio Valle. The other songs, perhaps rather better known to the wider audience, are compositions by Antonio Carlos Jobim with lyricists Vinicíus De Moraes, Norman Gimbel, Jararaco, and Chico Buarque; these include The Girl From Ipanema, Agua De Beber, and Two Kites. Both Antonio and Hendrik support the singer superbly and take several good solos throughout this set. The Brazilian atmosphere is ably evoked through lilting rhythms underpinned by guitarist Claudio Spiewak, bassist Itaiguara Brandão, drummer Adriano Santos, and percussionist André Siqueira. All instrumentalists provide an ideal backdrop for Carol’s singing and the album is a thoroughly entertaining collection of evocative music.
As usual, these albums are available from Amazon.
Booking information for all these artists from Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services.