Jazz CD Reviews – early July 2017

July 7, 2017

Kellye Gray Rendering (& Standards In Gray) (Grr8 0010)

Twenty-five years ago, Kellye Gray recorded her debut album, Standards In Gray, which proved to be very successful. Recently, she decided to re-record some of the same songs. These appear on Rendering, and an especially attractive aspect of this new release is that the earlier, long unavailable album is included in the package. That first album was recorded over three days, the new set is one concert-style take performed in the studio before a small invited audience. kellye newThe songs Kellye sings on both albums are Don’t Explain, How Long Has This Been Going On?, How Insensitive, and Good Morning, Heartache. There are subtle differences that reflect her artistic growth and this adds to the listening pleasure. Not that the first album is in any way less than excellent; here, Kellye sings the songs with understanding and her vocal command is apparent throughout. On the new set, Kellye’s voice remains rich and full while her interpretations mirror her maturity. Among other songs heard on the new set are I’ve Got A Right To Sing The Blues and two originals by Kellye, Out Blows Me and God You Make Me Wonder. Texas-born and mainly based, Kellye has a soulful vocal sound that is especially suited to the songs that have blues and gospel echoes. Supplying very good support on Standards In Gray are pianist Dave Catney, guitarist Dwight Stills, bassist Tom Anastacio,kellye old 2 drummer Sebastian Whittaker, and saxophonist Warren Sneed. Playing piano on Rendering are Pamela York, while David Craig is on bass, Andre Hayward on trombone, and both Sebastian and Warren return. Altogether, this pairing of albums is imaginative and hugely entertaining.

 

Hyeseon Hong Jazz Orchestra Ee-Ya-Gi (Stories) (Mama MAA 1053)

For the past several years, Hyeseon Hong has led a rehearsal band in New York City, a group that largely showcases her own compositions. These works draw upon the cultural heritage of Hyeseon’s homeland, South Korea, but are presented in the musical form of her new world. Titles for individual pieces include Harvest Dance: Story Of Thanksgiving, Para Mi Amigo Distante: Story Of Long Lost Friends, Boat Song: Story Of My Heritage, and Trash Digging Queen: Story Of Nica The Dog. The 17-piece ensemble directed by Hyeseon plays with bite and assurance, the melodic strains – lyrical, plaintive, lively – are underpinned by rhythms from Asia and the Americas. Among many solos (all of which are identified in the liner) are Ingrid Jensen’s fluid, warm trumpet on Harvest Dance and Love Song: Story Of First Love, Rich Perry’s compelling tenor saxophone on Boat Song, and Broc Hempel’s reflective piano on Disappearing Into Foam: Story Of Girlhood. The occasional vocal contributions, by E.J. Park and Subin Park, are mostly wordless and add to the album’s tonal palette.hyeseonhongjo.jpg Musically, this a blend of contemporary big band music and intriguingly unusual south-east Asian concepts. The full personnel of the band heard here is: Augie Haas, Ingrid Jensen, Jason Wiseman, Colin Brigstocke (trumpets); Ron Wilkens, Daniel Linden, Ric Becker, Becca Patterson (trombones); Ben Kono, Matt Vashlishan, Rich Perry, Jeremy Powell, Andrew Hadro (reeds); Broc Hempel (piano); Matt Panayides (guitar); John Lenis (bass); Mark Ferber (drums); E.J. Park, Subin Park (vocals). This should have wide appeal among fans of today’s jazz.

For more on these artists, including booking details, contact Mouthpiece Music.

Order albums direct from Amazon.

The Jones Boys

March 15, 2017

Are jazz musicians born or are they made? This topic was touched upon in a post here when writing about the Caceres family from the 1930s through to the early 2000s. There, the leaning is toward the belief that environment does the trick rather than blood. Until, that is, the names of the true giants are mentioned. Did Louis Armstrong’s genius spring from his blood or his childhood environment? It appears not to have been either (the Waif’s Home notwithstanding). Or how about Charlie Parker? Or Billie Holiday? Neither the blood nor the early childhood environment of those three artists was particularly conducive to the creation of a musical life. On contrast, the effect of blood and environment inevitably come to mind when considering the lives and careers of the Jones brothers: Hank, Thad and Elvin.

Their father, Henry Jones, worked in the construction industry (he was a lumber inspector) and was also a Baptist deacon. Their mother, Olivia, sang but not professionally and Hank (Henry Jr.) and two older sisters, were encouraged to study piano. In his case, he progressed rapidly and as he entered his teens he began performing semi-professionally close to the family home in Pontiac, Michigan (he was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on 31 July 1918). He also led his own band, in one of which a younger brother, Thad, played trumpet. Hank played piano in various territory bands and was heard by Lucky Thompson who urged him go to New York where he worked with Hot Lips Page. This was in 1944 and while in the city he not only played with musicians such as John Kirby, Coleman Hawkins, and Andy Kirk, he also began drawing into his style aspects of bop through men like Howard McGhee and the future stars of bop who worked in Billy Eckstine’s band. He also worked with Benny Goodman and Milt Jackson and toured extensively with Jazz At The Philharmonic. He then spent several years as a staff musician at CBS Records. This job, which he held into the mid-1970s, meant that he was often working in non-jazz areas but subsequently he returned to jazz.aaahankjonestrioaaahankjonesarigatou He played most often as a soloist, sometimes accompanied singers, and he also played in piano duos with artists including Tommy Flanagan and George Shearing. Hank’s performances, live and on record, were always elegant, reserved almost, his playing always hinting that beneath the urbane surface lay a massive, smoldering talent.

Relevant to the blood -vs- environment theme, Thad Jones (born Thaddeus Joseph on 28 March 1923 in Pontiac) was a self-taught trumpet player. He played a little with brother Hank but his technique and knowledge were advanced during military service. Early in the 1950s he worked in Billy Mitchell’s band in which the youngest of the Jones boys, Elvin, played drums. After a short spell with Charles Mingus, from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s he became widely recognized through spending several years with Count Basie. In the mid-1960s, Thad teamed up with Mel Lewis to form and co-lead The Jazz Orchestra Mel Lewis.aaathadjonesmelaaathadmagnif In many respects this was a turning point in Thad’s career because it was here that his playing began to take second place alongside the development of his work as composer and arranger. At the end of the 1970s, Thad emigrated to Denmark, where he continued his writing, now for the Danish Radio Big Band and his own band, Eclipse. In 1985 he was briefly leader of the Count Basie Orchestra, a role that ended a few months before his death. Like his brother Hank, Thad was influenced by bop and was a gifted and harmonically advanced soloist, his sound being especially attractive when he played flügelhorn. (Late in life, a lip injury prompted him to occasionally play trombone.) This said, Thad’s legacy is the large library of big band compositions and arrangements that vividly demonstrate his skill that extended over many aspects of jazz and popular music.

Four years younger than Thad and nine younger than Hank, Elvin (born Elvin Ray in Pontiac on 9 September 1927) played drums with local bands and also in the army before joining Billy Mitchell. From the mid-1950s he was one of the foremost drummers in bop, working with musicians such as Donald Byrd, J.J. Johnson and Sonny Rollins, before joining John Coltrane’s quartet. The five years he spent with Coltrane secured his place among the most notable and influential of jazz drummers. Thereafter and for the rest of his life he was mostly leader of small groups, toured internationally, playing concerts and festival dates. Musicians who fronted the groups Elvin drove included George Coleman, Joe Farrell, and Wilbur Little, and he also recorded with Art Pepper. Elvin’s career as small group leader continued with the Elvin Jones’ Jazz Machine and he worked to within a few months of his death.aaaelvinvvangaaaelvinrd The last two decades of his career showed Elvin to be a hugely accomplished drummer, his style ranging from bop to free, his technique being exceptional. This last-named quality allowing him to become far more than an accompanist or a mere setter of the beat. A powerful and dominating presence on the bandstand, Elvin Jones created cascading yet intricately formed sheets of sound far beyond the grasp of most of his fellow drummers in jazz.

So, in the case of the Jones boys was blood or environment the factor that drove them to become exceptional and significant figures in jazz? A simple answer is not easy. Clearly, the same blood ran in the veins of them all and their early childhood years were spent in the same environment. This said, and perhaps clouding rather than illuminating the picture, a strong argument can be made that sibling inspiration was one of the keys to their success. Whatever the answer, there can be no doubt that Hank, Thad and Elvin Jones were important, valuable, admired and much-missed musicians

Hank Jones: 31 July 1918 – 16 May 2010

Thad Jones: 28 March 1923 – 20 August 1986

Elvin Jones: 9 September 1927 – 18 May 2004

The album covers illustrated above are just a few of the dozens of albums made by each of the Jones brothers, all of which can be found at walk-in and on-line stores, including Amazon.

Eastern Promise – Jazz CDs

November 26, 2014

Kaoruko Pilkington Bright Side of Life (self produced)

Although little known to the CD-buying public, Kaoruko Pilkington is a long-established figure in jazz voice teaching. Since graduating from Berklee in the late 1990s, where she studied jazz improvisation, jazz theory and arranging, she has been a respected and sought-after private teacher and has also taught at various music institutions. Formerly on the faculty at Boston Conservatory, Charles River School and at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, she presently teaches at Wellesley High School, Rivers School Conservatory, as a jazz voice faculty member, and in the summer months at Berklee. Among the methods Kaoruko teaches is Jeanette LoVetri’s Somatic Voicework(tm). During these same years she has also been active as a performer leading her band, the kaorukojazz ensemble, mainly around her Boston base. Sadly for those who do not live within reach of venues such as Acton Jazz Cafe and Amazing Things Arts Center, before this new 2014 CD, Kaoruko has released only one other album. That was Joy Spring, which came as long ago as 2000.

kaorukoOn this new release, Kaoruko sings an interesting repertoire of songs that includes mainly standards, such as All The Things You Are, Night And Day, and What Is This Thing Called Love?. There are also some songs from the jazz world – Pat Metheney’s Bright Size Life, Ralph Burns’ Early Autumn and Duke Ellington’s Just Squeeze Me. Altogether, these songs provide an interesting insight into the singer’s worldly approach to music, the arrangements being the work of herself and various members of her ensemble. These musicians are trumpeter Greg Hopkins, saxophonist Rick DiMuzio, trombonist Bob Pilkington, bassist Keala Kaumeheiwa, with pianists Mark Shilanksy and Doug Johnson sharing duties as do drummers Bob Tamagni and Casey Scheuerell.

Chie Imaizumi A Time Of New Beginnings (Capri 74104-2)

After playing organ as a small child in her homeland, Japan, Chie Imaizumi then switched to piano but it was while studying at Berklee that her potential talent as a composer was recognized. Chie began concentrating on writing music and won awards in various countries. For this CD, Chie has composed music for a large ensemble and for her performers has selected an all-star line-up: Greg Gisbert and Terell Stafford, trumpets and flügelhorns, Steve Davis, trombone, Steve Wilson, alto and soprano saxophone and flute, Scott Robinson, tenor, soprano and sopranino saxophones, clarinet and flute, Gary Smulyan, baritone saxophone and bass clarinet, Tamir Hendelman, piano, John Clayton, bass, Jeff Hamilton and Paul Romaine, drums.che imaz Additionally, trumpeter Randy Brecker guests on one track. The music that Chie has composed and arranged is fluid and melodic and the band has a light, airy sound more in keeping with small groups than a big band the line-up suggests. The solos are very good indeed and the ensemble playing is tight. This fine, swinging album will appeal to many lovers of contemporary jazz.

As usual, CDs can be bought from Amazon, while some sites offer downloading of individual tracks. For more on Kaoruko Pilkington see Jim Eigo’s site.

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