Jazz and Other CD Reviews – April 2016

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.DarrenEnglish 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.kat parra 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.shuffle 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. phyllis bSome 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.dan green 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).braga 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:-

Jazz JournalVintage BandstandJazz FlashesJazz WaxFrank GriffithJohn Robert Brown

And the place to go for albums is Amazon.

Jazz CDs reviewed – late October 2012

October 25, 2012

Sara Serpa & Ran Blake

Many times during his long career, radical jazz pianist Ran Blake has teamed up with singers, notably Jeanne Lee. Importantly, he has often worked with young singers, still at the start of their careers and with many routes beckoning, often confusingly so. With Ran’s sophisticated guidance, the results have been very rewarding. An outstanding example of this musical relationship is his mentoring of Dominique Eade. (See review of Ran & Dominique’s Whirlpool in the mid-August 2012 post.)

Sara Serpa is another young singer working productively with the pianist. Sara’s debut album came in 2008 and she also recorded with Ran (Camera Obscura). This time, on Aurora (Clean Feed CF264CD), the pair explore a wide selection of material, offering intriguing, sometimes captivating, andAurora-cover always rewarding treatments of songs such as Margo Guryan’s Moonride, Charles B. Ward and John F. Palmer’s 19th century-favorite, The Band Played On, and there are two songs by R.B. Lynch, originally written for Abbey Lincoln, When Autumn Sings and Love Lament. Although Sara sings unaccompanied on the Abel Meeropol-Billie Holiday classic, Strange Fruit, the pervading influence of Ran’s iconoclastic approach to music is evident as she explores the shadowed musical byway of this haunting tale. The album closes with an evocative take on Last Night When We Were Young, a Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg gem, with motion picture origins. This last point is fitting, as much of the music heard on this album has connections with the world of films, especially those on the darker side of that vast array and reinforces the pianist’s ongoing admiration for film noir that has resulted in several albums and concerts through the years. Ran Blake’s contribution to the world of music, and to the New England Conservatory in particular was rewarded in October 2012 with the NEC’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Danny Green

Based in San Diego, jazz pianist-composer Danny Green comfortably embraces Latin and classical touches, drawing them effortlessly into his jazz work. On his second album, A Thousand Ways Home (Tapestry 70018-2), danny-green coverhe presents music that is melodically engaging, sprightly, and filled with invention. He is joined here by saxophonist Tripp Sprague, bassist Justin Grinnell and drummer Julien Cantelm, as well as guests mandolinist Eva Scow, guitarists Peter Sprague, Chico Pinehiro and Dusty Brough, and singer Claudia Villela.On several tracks, Danny displays his particular affection for the music of Brazil, notably on Quintal Da Solidão. Throughout this very pleasing set, it is plain to hear that Danny is a virtuoso pianist, yet he keeps this aspect of his talent tightly wrapped, thus providing strong undercurrents that add immeasurably to the experience of hearing him play.

 

Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo

Among the most consistent of contemporary creative musicians are trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and percussionist Louis Moholo-Moholo. Given their prominence in this particular jazz arena, it is surprising that this is their first collaboration on record. ancestors coverOn this collection of duets, both men vividly display the reasons why they are held in such high regard. On Ancestors (TUM CD 029), their playing is inventive, imaginative and inspirational; the manner in which they play off one another is at times breathtaking in its audacity. These are musicians of the highest caliber and the Finnish record company is to be congratulated on bringing together these leading figures of the American and African improvised music scenes.

 

Kalle Kalima & K-18

A key figure in the European improvised music scene, electric guitarist Kalle Kalima has a deep and abiding affection for movies, especially those with edginess. out to lynch coverHere, on Out To Lynch (TUM CD 030), Kalima has chosen to mine ground first explored by writers of scores for films of David Lynch.  This director’s films are sometimes disturbing, always thought-provoking, and Kalima’s aural reflections of them are similarly multi-faceted. The leader’s key collaborator here is saxophonist-flautist Mikko Innanen, the pair being ably supported by quarter-tone accordionist Veli Kujala and bassist Teppo Hauta-aho. Not only do these musicians spark ideas from one another, they also create musical tapestries that prompt the listener to see the films again, preferably with this music echoing in the background.

 

If you want to know more about any of these albums, take a look at the websites of the artists or the record companies.

If you want to buy any of them, Amazon is a good place to look. 

 

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