Jazz CD Reviews – September 2013

September 30, 2013

Billy Bang Da Bang! (TUM Records CD 034)

Recorded in February 2011, this was very nearly Billy Bang’s final flourish. Hard to believe, and deeply sad, that in April, just a a few weeks later, he would be gone. Although he knew that he was fast-approaching death this is never apparent from the vibrant, exhilarating music created here. Alongside the master violinist are some like-minded contemporary jazz players, all of them, like him, setting down crisp, authoritative musical ideas that will surely be a lasting testimony to Billy Bang’s exceptional contribution to jazz in the last few decades. billy da bangThese other musicians are trombonist Dick Griffin, pianist Andrew Bemkey, bassist Hilliard Greene and drummer Newman Taylor-Baker. Interestingly, the repertoire chosen comes from leading jazzmen: there is Barry Altschul’s Da Bang, Don Cherry’s Guinea, Ornette Coleman’s Law Years, Miles Davis’s All Blues, Sonny Rollins’s St. Thomas, and Billy’s own Daydreams. Exceptional music, often joyous despite the presence in the wings of the Grim Reaper, performed by an outstanding musician whose enormous talent is much missed.

 

 

Iro Haarla Kolibri (TUM Records CD 035)

Even a casual glance at current releases of contemporary jazz and improvised music albums readily demonstrates that something remarkable has been happening in Finland in recent years. In this instance, the leader is the gifted pianist Iro Haarla who is joined by trumpeter Verneri Pohjola, tenor saxophonist Kari Heinilä, trombonist Jari Hongisto, bassist Ulf Krokfors and drummer Markku Ounaskari. Although like-minded, these instrumentalists have all acted as leaders of their own groups, yet display no difficulty in lending their talents to the common cause. iro haarlaThat cause here is a fluid sextet performance built upon themes composed by the pianist herself. Although leading independent musical lives, this sextet has been in existence for around four years and this is apparent from their togetherness as support is provided for the creative impulse of individual soloists. The often introspective solos reflect the background of the players, offering distant yet distinct echoes of past work; for example, Iro spent several years in harmonious collaboration with the late Edward Vesala and with Tomasz Stanko. Musically intense and at times demanding careful attention, this is contemporary improvised music for the discerning. In passing, on two compositions Iro plays chen, a Taiwanese folk instrument, a diversion that adds intriguing color.

 

Craig Hartley Books On Tape Vol. 1 (Skidoo Records)

This is the first appearance on Skidoo by pianist Craig Hartley and ably demonstrates why he is held in such high regards. He is joined by bassist Carlo De Rosa and drummer Henry Cole, with guests trumpeter Fabio Morgera on two tracks, Why Not and Just For Me, and Israeli vocalist Dida Pelled on one, I Should Love You More.craig hartley With the exception of My Foolish Heart all the music here is composed by Craig and builds upon significant moments in his life and career, ranging through the effect upon his development by mentors Gary Dial and Jackie McLean to echoes of classical music, which here comes with two versions of Why Not, which reflects J.S. Bach’s French Suite No. 5 in G Major. Craig’s playing throughout is fluid, lyrical and always melodic. A most satisfying album.

 

These albums are available at most stores, including Amazon. Additionally, look for Craig Hartley on Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services website; more on the Billy Bang and Iro Haarla albums can be found through Braithwaite & Katz Communications as well as on the TUM Records site.

 

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