February 10, 2015
Dale Bruning Thanks For The Memory . . . Jim Hall (Jazz Link Enterprises JLECD 1214)
This wonderfully melodic double album was recorded live at Dazzle Jazz Club in Denver over two evenings in September 2014. These concerts brought together guitarists Dale Bruning and Bill Frisell, long ago teacher and pupil, to pay tribute to their mutual friend and fellow guitar master, Jim Hall, who died in December 2013. Drawing music from the Great American Songbook as well as some well-known pieces from Spain and Brazil and Jim Hall’s own pen, Dale and Bill are supremely lyrical and inventive as they expand upon lovely melodies. The other four members of Dale’s sextet on this occasion are Ron Miles (cornet), Mark Patterson (trombone), Mark Simon (bass) and Paul Romaine (drums). All these musicians play with admirable skill and ingenuity, their solos displaying empathy with the composers of the music, the arranger (Dale), and – not at all surprisingly for musicians of this caliber – with one another. The repertoire presented here includes Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s My Funny Valentine andWith A Song in My Heart, Sonny Rollins’ St. Thomas, a gorgeous Body And Soul; a long and always engaging performance of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto; two very different versions of Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin’s Thanks For The Memory, one by the sextet, the other by only cornet and trombone backed by Dale’s guitar; and three Jim Hall originals, All Across The City, Careful and Big Blues. These two CDs are filled with musical delights that will bring pleasure to those who love music from the melodic mainstream of jazz and especially to jazz guitar enthusiasts who will aspire to and admire the skill of these masters of their art.
There is much more of Dale Bruning’s music reviewed elsewhere on this site; take a look at Jazz Guitar – Music & Words in October 2012 and Jazz CD Reviews in October 2013. More information, including booking details, can be seen at Jazz Link Enterprises, which is also where this CD can be bought. There is also an article on Dale Bruning in the August 2014 issue of Jazz Journal.
Judi Silvano My Dance (JSL Records 010)
Here, Judi Silvano sings a collection of songs that are all her own compositions, with her lyrics on four of them, on which she is accompanied by the always engaging pianist Michael Abene. On two previous CDs by Judi I have heard and reviewed, she worked with small groups (one of them including Michael) while on another she was in a duo with pianist Mal Waldron (Riding A Zephyr on Soul Note). Remarking on that album, I wrote: ‛The result is a rewarding, often intense, musical experience; one that will be especially valued by those with an ear for new departures in jazz that expand and enhance the repertoire.’ The last part of this remark stemmed from the fact that on that occasion the songs were all compositions by Waldron with lyrics by Judi. This new set bears some resemblances because here Judy is again accompanied by only a pianist, while again the songs are all originals. The resulting set is an always intriguing demonstration of the mutual understanding that can develop between musicians when thinking alike and playing with close attention to one another’s musical needs. As Judi says, ‛It’s a duo project of deep collaborations and intimate moments interpreting my melodies and stories.’ Some of the songs have been in Judi’s and Michael’s repertoire for a while and are performed with new lyrics while others are new for this album. On several of the tracks, Judi presents scat vocals that suit the overall mood. All those who have a liking for contemporary jazz and improvised music will find much here that is to their liking.
Roger Davidson & Pablo Aslan Live At Caffè Vivaldi (Soundbrush SR4001)
Playing mostly his own always lyrical compositions, pianist Roger Davidson finds an ideal collaborator in Argentine bass player Pablo Aslan. Roger’s delicately shaded touch is the perfect way to present his often graceful music that is always absorbing. The secure underpinning of Pablo’s bass also helps maintain the lightly swinging atmosphere that cloaks this live session. Pablo’s love for his country’s musical tradition can be heard on his album, Buenos Aires Tango Standards (Zoho). Here, apart from Roger’s work, there are three tracks by other composers: Irving Berlin’s How Deep Is The Ocean, Angel Villoldo’s El Choclo, and an especially lovely interpretation of Stelvio Cipriani’s Anónimo Veneziano. This said, the greater part of the music is Roger Davidson’s and he is as interesting in his role as composer as he is when performing. Throughout, he demonstrates his complete command of the jazz and Latin idioms that are only a small part of his musical interests and ability, which ranges through chamber music and symphonic works to encompass aspects of popular music, the last named being especially apparent in his love for the music of Brazil. Altogether, this concert is a delight and will appeal to all those who admire jazz piano to which Roger and Pablo apply touches of South American warmth and romance.
Keri Johnsrud This Side Of Morning (KJ Music KJ 0029)
For this, her latest album, Keri Johnsrud introduces another facet of her talent, that of songwriter. Where her début set, All Blue, was mainly standards plus some lesser-known items from the past, here she sings ten songs written by herself in collaboration with pianist Kevin Bales, whose accompaniment here smoothly enfolds Keri’s youthfully fresh and warm vocal sound. As might be expected, her interpretations are filled with profound understanding of the lyrics. Highly musical, Keri studied piano and trumpet and has worked extensively in vocal groups of all sizes up to and including choirs, in various parts of the USA and also in Europe. As a solo singer, Keri has worked nightspots in her home state of Iowa as well as in Atlanta, Chicago, where she is now based, and New York, and is now becoming much more widely known. Also heard on this album are Larry Kohut, bass, Jon Deitemyer, drums, as well as guitarist Neal Alger and vibraphonist Stephen Lynerd. Keri’s is an enjoyable voice on today’s jazz scene, and this new album, which is due for release on 7 April 2015, will be admired by many.
Uptown Jazz Vocal Quartet Vocal Madness (HouseKat unnumbered)
Starting out in Washington, DC, the Uptown Jazz Vocal Quartet is an exceptional vocal group. Add to this, alto saxophonist Richie Cole, a great admirer of the UJVQ, and the stage is set for a hugely entertaining hour of music making. The group’s members are Ginny Carr, Robert McBride, Holly Shockey and André Enceneat, while other instrumentalists heard include pianist Alan Blackman, guitarist Steve Herberman, bassist Max Murray, and drummer Frank Russo. Richie’s recognition of the quartet’s qualities was based upon his experience of working extensively with The Manhattan Transfer (he was on three of their Grammy-winning albums) and it is most assuredly not misplaced. Apart from the vocal skills of the quartet, the saxophonist was also attuned to the arranging and songwriting talent of lead singer Ginny Carr. Among the twelve songs on this release are heard five originals by Richie, arranged by Ginny, and four of Ginny’s own compositions. The flawless harmonizing of the singers, along with some vocal solo moments, blend well with the alto saxophonist’s outstanding solos. All this front-line music-making is admirably underpinned by the rhythm section and there are also well-taken guest appearances by Chris Walker, trumpet, Jen Krupa, trombone, Chris Vadala, alto saxophone, and Leigh Pilzer, tenor saxophone. This fine set is a swinging assurance that this kind of jazz singing is in good hands. The album is dedicated to ManTran founder Tim Hauser who died recently; not only is this appropriate, he would surely have approved.
October 30, 2013
Ken Peplowski – Maybe September (Capri 74125-2)
Anyone who has heard Ken Peplowski play, live or on record, need not read on. You will know that everything that he does starts at very good, swiftly moves on to excellent, and is soon edging into the kind of playing that needs those superlatives I usually try to avoid. Here, Ken is heard playing tenor saxophone on a few tracks but mostly he plays clarinet, which is where those superlatives are needed. The music heard here ranges widely, touching on many styles and all with understanding and subtlety. Ken opens with a low-key, moving interpretation of Irving Berlin’s All Alone before presenting the little heard Artie Shaw composition, Moon Ray. On this set, Ken is joined by pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson, all of whom accompany him with skill and . . . well, I was about to say, understanding – but paused because I’ve already used that word about the leader’s playing. Yet it is so right; these are all musicians who understand the music they are playing in the deepest sense of the word and they understand their roles, and they understand one another. Obviously, it is Ken who takes the bulk of the solos, but the others have their moments in the spotlight (Ted Rosenthal is notable on I’ll String Along With You) and always to great effect. No disrespect intended to the others, but Matt Wilson is a ferocious swinger. And speaking of swing, this is most apparent on the medium and up-tempo pieces all of which are played in a manner that cannot fail to keep toes tapping. An exceptional set that is strongly recommended.
Colorado Conservatory Bands – Hang Time (Tapestry 76020-2)
Two bands are featured here, Group Giz and Group Gunn. For the not-yet-informed (which included me until a few minutes ago), Giz is named for Greg Gisbert, Gunn for Eric Gunnison. These two men are well-known musicians and educators and have roles as teacher and/or mentor in the lives of the students at the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts. The two groups assembled here (Giz an octet, Gunn a septet) ably demonstrate individual and ensemble technical ability while also allowing scope for inventive solos. The composers of all the music heard here are members of the bands and display a liking for melodic themes, Interestingly, neither group includes a keyboard player, the rhythm section of Giz being guitar, bass and drums, that of Gunn is the same plus vibraphone; in both cases, it is the guitar that takes on the harmonic role usually dependent upon keyboards. There are differences too in the horns: Giz has two trumpets, one trombone and two saxophones while Gunn has one trumpet and two saxophones. These differences lend a pleasing variety to the overall sound. As for the stylistic sources of the pieces, these range through bop to contemporary improvised music by way of today’s R&B, funk, with touches of Latin and the east. Very enjoyable music, made all nicer by assuring us as it does that the future of jazz is in good hands.
Ali Ryerson – Game Changer (Capri 74124-2)
The flute has not always had an easy ride in jazz. An early player, who was also exceptionally good, was Wayman Carver with Chick Webb’s band in the 1930s; when Frank Wess came along with Count Basie’s band it was the 1950s. This decade saw the instrument become much more popular, especially on the west coast. As the instrument began to come out of hiding, with one or two exceptions, Herbie Mann and Hubert Laws come to mind, it was mainly played as a second instrument by a reed player. Things gradually got better and by the end of the century several fine musicians were coming into jazz playing the flute without the need to play another instrument; among them being Holly Hofmann and Ali Ryerson. Three of those musicians mentioned in the foregoing few lines appear here, two as guests, while one is leader. But that’s not all! This is a big band with a very unusual instrumental line-up: apart from guests Hofmann, Laws and Nestor Torres, and the leader, Ryerson, there are 15 other flute players. I must admit to a slight quiver of apprehension when I saw this information on the sleeve, but I need not have worried. The considerable gifts of the soloists (Hofmann, Laws, Torres, Paul Lieberman, Marc Adler, Jamie Baum, Fernando Brandao, Billy Kerr, Andrea Brachfeld, Kris Keith, Bob Chadwick, and of course Ryerson herself, ensure that there is always something of interest to hear. The band is propelled by a first-rate rhythm section – pianist Mark Levine, bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Akira Tana (and there is also bassist Keith Underwood) – that helps things along. Also invaluable are the charts, that give the ensemble much more variety in sound than the instrumentation might suggest is likely. Interesting stuff – and likely to change pre-set ideas about jazz ensembles.
Info on the foregoing CDs can be seen on artist websites where shown; also via Braithwaite & Katz Communications. To buy go to Amazon.
Dale Bruning – Reflections (Jazz Link Enterprises JLECD 7632)
Although recorded back in 2004, this fine CD demonstrates how truly timeless is the music of Vernon Duke, and by no means coincidentally, how Dale Bruning’s interpretative gifts similarly ignores the artificial bounds of the calendar. This set was recorded at Dazzle’s in Denver as a part of the ongoing series of themed concerts by guitarist Dale and his musical partner, producer Jude Hibler. The songs played here include Autumn In New York, I Can’t Get Started and What Is There To Say. There are also some of Dale’s own compositions, including Love Comes Softly and Dancing With Daffodils, all beautifully played by Dale and his regular collaborators, saxophonist Rich Chiaraluce, bassist Mark Simon, and drummer Paul Romaine.
For more of Dale Bruning’s fine playing take a glance at an earlier entry here (Jazz Guitar – Music & Words, 30 October 2012), which examines in more detail the work of Dale and Jude.
October 30, 2012
Starting in 1996, master guitarist Dale Bruning and jazz writer and producer Jude Hibler have presented live shows under the banner of their Colorado-based company, Jazz Link Enterprises. In particular and of especial interest to all who love the music of the great American songwriters are their Timeless Music of Great Composers Concerts. In these, Jude narrates the life of a chosen composer from the golden age of American popular music, explaining with anecdotes the origins of some of the most memorable songs. Then, Dale performs superb interpretations of these songs, usually with his various-sized ensembles. Among many songwriters whose work they have performed in this way are Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart/Oscar Hammerstein II, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter. In these shows, the narration is informed and succinct, adding immeasurably to the audience’s enjoyment and understanding of the music. From time to time, through their record company, Dale and Jude have released CDs of some of their shows. Understandably, though sadly, the narration is omitted although the CD buyer can enjoy a taste of this through the accompanying liner notes. On the CDs so far released are tributes to composers Harold Arlen, Harry Warren and George Gershwin. These albums are: The Timeless Music of Harold Arlen (Jazz Link Enterprises JLECD 6029), The Timeless Music of Harry Warren (JLECD 7938), Music Of Gershwin, By George! (JLECD-6804). On all of these releases the significance of the particular composers is vividly apparent and it also emerges why they have long found favor with jazz musicians.
There are other concert collaborations between Dale and Jude on different themes and among these is one that was recorded live at Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge in Denver. This is Classical Connections – Vol I & Vol II (JLECD 4860 & JLECD 7482). The choice of music here is, as always, exemplary and includes Besame Mucho, Lover Come Back To Me, The Breeze And I, Baubles, Bangles And Beads, which sit comfortably alongside pieces from the classical repertoire, by J.S. Bach, Joaquin Rodrigo and Aaron Copeland. Particularly interesting are examples of the way in which popular music has drawn from the classical repertoire: a Chopin Fantasy, used as the base for I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, and Sarasate’s Gypsy Airs, reinvented as You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To. Among Dale’s accompanying musicians on these occasions are pianist Jeff Jenkins, bassists Mark Simon and Michael Moore, and drummer Paul Romaine. On Classical Connections, flautist Ali Ryerson is added and her skill on both concert flute and alto flute is wholly admirable.
Other fine examples of Dale Bruning’s playing released by Jazz Link Enterprises include Reunion (JLECD 440072) and Just Between Us (JLECD 0240). On these double CDs he is joined by fellow guitarist (and former pupil) Bill Frisell for richly evocative explorations of the great heritage of jazz guitar; and in the case of Just Between Us, exemplary bassist Michael Moore joins Dale and Bill. On Reunion are song book classics, like Body And Soul and All The Things You Are, and jazz standards, such as ’Round Midnight and Anthropology, all of them revitalized by these outstanding musicians; while on Just Between Us can be heard Whisper Not, Dancing in the Dark, Her Tender Countenance. Then there is Easy Does It! (JLECD 8711), on which Dale plays the music of a long-time friend, Charles Eakin. With his quartet (Chiaraluce, Simon, Romaine), Dale explores elegant melodies with warmth, wit and understanding. This is an exceptional tribute to a fine composer and for some it will be an introduction to someone thus far overlooked.
Throughout all of the live performances and CDs presented by Dale Bruning and Jude Hibler can be heard seriously good music, played with skill, flair and imagination by fine musicians who with seemingly effortless ease convey their love for some of the best songs ever written. My reviews of some of the albums mentioned above can be seen in Jazz Journal.
Examples of the writing of Jude Hibler can be found through her website, which is where some of her excellent photographic work can also be seen.
Included on Dale Bruning’s website are details of his guitar music books, the third of which, Dale Bruning’s Jazz Guitar Series, Vol III: Phrasing & Scales, scheduled for publication late 2012 – early 2013.