July 30, 2016
Anthony E. Nelson Jr Swift To Hear, Slow To Speak (Musicstand MSR 0005)
A fine instrumentalist and composer, Anthony E. Nelson is well established on the New York scene. On this album, his fourth as leader, Anthony plays soprano and tenor saxophones on a selection of his own compositions, all contemporary in style and execution and delightfully melodic. There are also hidden depths, deriving from an important and distinguishing aspect of his writing. In all that he does, Anthony is strongly influenced by his faith; indeed, each work is inspired by passages in the Bible. Although this does not appear in an overt manner, in some of his compositions he holds up a reflective mirror to the gospel tradition. This form, which has appeared in jazz and other kindred musical genres over the years, is used by Anthony as a very subtle undercurrent beneath new styles and forms. Thus the music is of today and for today, yet contains within it profound statements for those who choose to hear them. Joining Anthony here are Josh Evans, trumpet, Bruce Williams, alto saxophone, Brandon McCune, piano, Kenny Davis, bass, and Chris Beck, drums. Among the tracks are Never Too Late, which draws upon the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-44), Blessed Are Those That Mourn, a moving piece, Consider It All Joy, which fully lives up to its title, and Swift To Hear, Slow To Speak. This is used appropriately as the album title because Anthony’s music continues to echo in the mind long after the first hearing.
Senri Oe Answer July (PND 88295 45908)
This interesting, entertaining and rewarding album presents a selection of compositions by Senri Oe, all of them melodically pleasing. There are various lyricists, some of them singing the songs themselves. Senri has performed in Japan for many years as a pop artist and has been active in jazz for a relatively short time. The songs heard here include Tiny Snow and Mischievous Mouse (lyrics: Jon Hendricks; vocal: Sheila Jordan), Just A Little Wine (lyrics: Hendricks; vocal: Theo Bleckmann), The Very Secret Spring (lyrics and vocal: Lauren Kinhan), Answer July (lyrics: and vocal: Becca Stevens), Without Any Moon Or Rain (lyrics: Kinhan, vocal: Kinhand and Dylan Pramuk). There is about this set a relaxed and intimate atmosphere that suggests these artists would be a joy to see and hear live in a nightclub. Unfortunately, I am sure that this much talent will be far beyond any club owner’s means. The core instrumental group consists of Senri Oe, piano, Yacine Boulares, saxophones, Jim Robertson, bass, Reggie Quinerly, drums, along with guests Paul Tafoya, trumpet, Olga Trofimova, trombone, and drummers Andy Watson and E.J. Strickland. Also heard are vocalists Travon Anderson and Junko Airta (on You And Me), both these last named also providing background vocals as do Mitch Wilson and The New School Singers. Very enjoyable music played and sung with skill and subtle flair.
Ricardo Bacelar Concerto Para Moviola/Ao Vivo (Bacelar AA 0001000)
The music heard here was recorded by Ricardo Bacelar live at the 2015 Guaramiranga Jazz and Blues Festival. The repertoire is drawn from the jazz world, Horace Silver’s Señor Blues, Joe Zawinul’s Birdland, Benny Golson’s Killer Joe, and Chick Corea’s Blue Miles; Brasiliana, Chico Buarque and Tom Jobim’ s Sabiá, and Jobim’s and Vinicius De Moraes’s Água De Beber, some pop material, Michel Legrand’s The Windmills Of Your Mind, as well as some of Ricardo’s originals. All is performed with warmth and intensity by a strong yet smooth group of musicians. On this occasion, Ricardo plays piano and keyboards and he is joined by Marcio Resende, soprano and tenor saxophones and flute, Marcus Vinicius Cardoso, violin, Ronaldo Pessoa, guitar, Miquéias Dos Santos, bass, Luizinho Duarte, drums, and Maria Helena Lage Pessoa and Hoto Júnior, percussion.
Rebekah Victoria & JazzKwest #OldFashionedTwitterTwit (Kwest Music)
It comes as a pleasant surprise to hear Rebekah Victoria & JazzKwest because not all, in fact not many, musicians today focus their repertoire on the Great American Songbook. Although this is a debut album, all on hand are experienced and have played professionally for many years, mainly in California. The fact that they have been together for a while now is apparent from their rapport throughout this set. Among the songs performed are Taking A Chance On Love, Our Day Will Come, Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, All The Things You Are, Speak Low and We’ll Be Together Again. Rebekah’s voice is clear, and her love for and understanding of the lyrics she sings is always evident. Accompanying Rebekah is the core trio of Chuck Mancini, guitar, Bob Steele, bass, and Bob Belanski, drums, and several guests also appear. These are John Copobianco and Warren Gale Jr, trumpets, Jules Rowell, trombone, Ian Willson, tenor saxophone, Sharman Duran, piano Rob Michael, guitar and Rob Fisher, bass. Although the singer is in the spotlight throughout there is never a suggestion that the instrumentalists are there only as a backing group, rather there is a sense of unity that bespeaks a working band. The title of one of the tracks, I’m Old Fashioned, allied with the repertoire should not lead anyone to imagine that Rebekah and JazzKwest are anything but artists of today.
Brazzamerica Brazzamerica (own label)
The trio of musicians who form Brazzamerica are pianist Didinho Teixeira, bass player Leco Reis and drummer Edson Ferreira, all originally from Brazil but long established in New York City. Together, they present a selection of music that includes Brazilian standards and originals by Didinho. All the music is rhythmically rich and melodically satisfying and leans strongly toward the American jazz world in which these three musicians now work. Individually, Didinho, Leco and Edson are masters of their craft and inventive solos abound. Collectively, they play with complete understanding of the contrasting yet compatible genres and the set is replete with musical subtlety and invention.
Ron King Triumph (own label)
Very much a showcase for the playing and composing talent of Ron King, this album is a relaxed and pleasing experience. Playing trumpet and flugelhorn, with occasional turns on keyboards, Ron presents an eclectic mixture of music from several genres. There are Latin touches, contemporary pop styling, even moments that impart a suggestion of classical music, and much that displays Ron’s delight in playing jazz. Among the other musicians joining the leader here are saxophonists Rob Lockhart and Bob Sheppard, pianists Andy Langham, Tom Ranier and Jeff Lorber, drummer Gary Novak and vocalist Vienna Spencer. Throughout, these artists play with sophisticated skill and the album will appeal to many.
June 6, 2016
Compared to the countless alto and tenor saxophone players in jazz, many of them distinguished and spotlit, those musicians who chose other members of the saxophone family often play in the shadows. I suspect that most of us would have a hard time producing an off-the cuff list of baritone saxophonists that reached far into double figures, while listing those who played bass or C-Melody saxophone would certainly be much harder. (I managed only one of each – Harry Gold, who was not a jazz man but a dance band leader, and Frankie Trumbauer, who would be on everyone’s list.)
And then there is the soprano saxophone. Of course, many saxophonists have played soprano as a second instrument to their usual clarinet or alto or tenor but it has been principle instrument for very few. Even Bob Wilber and Kenny Davern, whose Soprano Summit brought such pleasure to the mainstream of the 1970s, at other times respectively played alto and clarinet extensively. But back to making lists – pretty nearly everyone reading this will instantly note the name of Sidney Bechet, the grand master of the soprano, but might well slow down a little after having added the names of Steve Lacy and Jane Ira Bloom. It is a new album by the last named that has prompted these thoughts, although references to other players of the soprano saxophone is unfair because her great skill and profound musicianship are virtually unparalleled as is the enormous contribution to jazz she has made, and continues to make, as performer, composer and educator.
Jane Ira Bloom Early Americans (Outline OTL 142)
On this new release Jane Ira Bloom performs twelve of her own compositions, themes that range widely, touching upon aspects of America’s history, geography and culture. Among the performances heard here are a lively Song Patrol, the darkly dramatic Dangerous Times, the deeply introspective Other Eyes, an atmospheric Mind Gray River, and an adventurous and exciting Gateway To Progress. Throughout, the sound of Jane’s saxophone is rich, drawing from the instrument’s full range and is emotionally most satisfying. Jane’s collaborators here are bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte, both of whom are wholly attuned to the leader’s intentions and provide superb support, blending where required, soloing with flair when called upon. The closing track, the only non-original, is Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Somewhere. Played by Jane alone, its spaciousness and hint of melancholy matches the atmosphere that imbues every moment of this set. Altogether, a lovely album that brings pleasure both intellectually and emotionally.
Lou Caputo Uh Oh! (Jazzcat 47 JC 1825)
The soprano saxophone is also heard on this album led by Lou Caputo, who additionally plays flute, alto and mostly baritone saxophone. Leading his 12-piece New York-based Not So Big Band, on this, their third CD, Lou presents an admirable selection of compositions by several leading jazz artists. These include Wayne Shorter, Black Nile, Mary Lou Williams, Busy, Busy, Busy, Chick Corea, Guijira, Jack DeJohnette, Festival, Oliver Nelson, Stolen Moments, and Dexter Gordon, Fried Bananas. The arrangers are Geoffrey Burke, Jason Ingram, Mike Carubia, Chris White, Chris Rinaman, Ryan Krewer, Bill Crow, Lyn Welshman, Bill Whited and Virginia Mayhew and their spacious charts offer ample opportunities for the excellent soloists among those gathered for this date. The full band Lou directs comprises John Eckert, Dave Smith (trumpet and flugelhorn), Jason Ingram (trombone), Dale Turk (tuba), Geoffrey Burke (alto and flute) Virginia Mayhew (tenor), Don Stein (piano), Bill Crow (bass), Mike Campenni sharing with Rudy Petschauer (drums), Warren Smith (vibraphone), Eddie Montalvo (conga) and Leopoldo Fleming (percussion). The many solos are supported by crisp ensemble work, perhaps not too surprising given that Lou has had this band for about a decade. The mood is rich and varied, with a lively Latin jazz sound on Festival, an appropriately thoughtful Stolen Moments, Bill Crow’s irresistibly toe-tapping News From Blueport, and a romantic take on Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now. So much to enjoy here and lucky you if you should live in the New York area and catch Lou Caputo’s band live.
Jim Self ¡Yo! (Basset Hound BHR 114-2)
Long known as a studio musician in the film and television studios of Los Angeles, tuba player Jim Self has also made numerous albums as leader of jazz and Latin groups. The group he leads here, on his 13th album, is the Tricky Lix Latin Jazz Band, a name that hides neither its style or intentions. Much of the music of Latin America is for dancing and the forms heard here include mambo, For Charlie and Old Arrival, danzon cha cha, Poinciana, and bolero, Quiero Llegar. The musicians joining Jim here are Ron Blake (trumpet, flugelhorn), Francisco Torres (trombone), Rob Hardt (tenor and soprano saxophones, flute), Andy Langham (piano), Rene Camacho (bass), and percussionists Joey De Leon, Giancarlo Anderson and George Ortiz, while the arrangements are the work of Jim, Francisco, who between them also wrote five originals, Curt Berg and Bill Cunliffe. There are numerous solos, notably Rob’s soprano on Sweetest Blue, Ron’s trumpet on Encognito and Cal’s Pals, Francisco’s trombone on Quiero Llegar on which Andy’s piano is also heard. Some of Jim’s solos are on tuba and others on the mellow-toned fluba, which looks rather like a Brobdingnagian flugelhorn. Propelled by a lively bass and percussion, the air of lightness and joy that pervades this set will bring pleasure to many.
Terceto Kali Terceto Kali (Jason McGuire Music)
Leading his dynamic trio, Terceto Kali, Jason McGuire “El Rubio” is not only a notable jazz guitarist, but also a master of flamenco. His combining of these two styles is marked both by its rarity in popular music and his striking skill and ingenuity. An important aspect in much of flamenco is its dramatic intensity and that is especially notable here on pieces such as Zardoz and Ratones Ciegos, while the form’s inherent romanticism is presented on Romance. All of the music heard here is composed by Jason and reflects just a few of the numerous stylistic variations that lie within flamenco. Different dance styles are also heard with flamenco’s percussive nature apparent as drummer Marlon Aldana conveys the power of the flamenco dancer. Among the dance music heard are the tango, Ratones Ciegos, the rondeña (a form of fandango, Contratiempo, and the rumba, Mira Mira, Jason demonstrating in all of them his feeling for jazz. The third member of the trio, bassist Paul Martin Sounder, is similarly attuned to the wide stylistic range of the musical origins. Storytelling is a significant aspect of flamenco, not only through dance and the music of the guitar but also by way of a singer and this is displayed on some selections by José Cortés. Superb musicianship and always fascinating music make this an exceptional album, reflecting as it does the manner in which Jason McGuire, from Texas, has so thoroughly assimilated the traditions of Andalusia and it should appeal to lovers of music from many genres and countries.
Jocelyn Michelle Time To Play! (Chicken Coup CCP 7024)
The Hammond B3 organ has a much admired and respected place in jazz and Jocelyn Michelle, a relatively new name on this particular scene, is a valuable addition to the instrument’s roll of honor. Playing with verve and driving swing on mid- and up-tempo pieces and thoughtful depth on ballads, Jocelyn vividly displays her musical skills and a varied selection that includes six of her originals. Playing piano from very early childhood, at the University of Miami School of Music she played guitar and also studied commercial aspects of the music business before concentrating on the organ and a career as a performer. Stylistically, there is here a wide range that encompasses Latin and gospel, rock and soul, all brought into jazz by Jocelyn and the front-rank artists with whom she collaborates. These are guitarists Bruce Forman on six tracks and John Rack on four (the latter being also Jocelyn’s life partner), saxophonists Doug Webb, five tracks, and Steve Mann, three, trumpeter Stan Martin, five, drummer Sammy K, all ten tracks, and percussionist Brad Dutz, three. Also heard on one track each is trumpeter Andrea Lindborg and vocalists Gina Saputo and Regina Leonard Smythe. The four non-original tracks are Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man, Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther Theme, Gato Barbieri’s Last Tango In Paris, and the Jay Livingston-Ray Evans standard Never Let Me Go. On one track, Sylvia’s Song, Jocelyn plays guitar and on another, The Loss, she plays piano but elsewhere it is the B3. Jocelyn Michelle is a jazz musician worthy of your attention and if you have the chance to see and hear her perform live you should certainly do so. She and John are now resident in Hawaii and if you cannot make dates there or the west coast of the mainland, then this album will be a lively alternative.
For more information on these musicians and albums see the sites highlighted above and also Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services for Jane Ira Bloom, Lou Caputo and Jim Self and Mouthpiece Music for Jason McGuire/Terceto Kali and Jocelyn Michelle.
All albums are available at Amazon.
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.
February 28, 2016
The Great American Music Ensemble It’s All In The Game (Jazzed Media JM 1073)
Back in the 1980s this 15-piece big band came into being through the inspiration and dedication of its musical director, composer and arranger Doug Richards. Originally, G.A.M.E. was centered on the Jazz Studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University and drew instrumentalists from both faculty members and the student body. During the following decades, the band performed to critical acclaim but although this album was recorded in 2001 it has been sitting on a shelf gathering dust until now because major companies were unwilling to take it in hand, thus revealing a (perhaps unsurprising) lack of imagination. Certainly there is no absence of quality as from the first notes of the opening track, In The Mood, it is clear that this a band of highly skilled instrumentalists. In the opener they are playing a chart by someone unafraid to dismantle and reconstruct for the modern era a piece of music that has had a place at the heart of big band jazz for going on eight decades. As the album progresses, Doug’s arranging skill is vividly apparent as he remakes mostly familiar music into sparkling new works.
Featured soloists from within the band include trumpeters John D’earth and Bob Ransom, trombonist Jim McFalls, and saxophonists Marty Nau, Skip Gailes, Rob Holmes and John Winn. There are still more outstanding solos thanks to the presence of guest trumpeter Jon Faddis, on Stardust and West End Blues, and violinist Joe Kennedy Jr., who is also on West End Blues as well as When It’s Sleepy Time Down South. Throughout, the soloists and the crisp brass and reed sections are supported by the rhythm section of pianist Weldon Hill, bassist Victor Dvoskin and drummer Howard Curtis, all of whom also have solo moments although their main role here is to punch the band along, a task they accomplish with distinction. And if all this were not enough, the remarkable René Marie sings on six tracks, bringing her special talent to Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man Of Mine, Clap Yo’ Hands, I’ve Got The World On A String, I Am Loved, They All Laughed, and Ain’t Misbehavin’. This was not long after René re-entered the world of music and while she would not often be heard singing with a big band, her performance here show her to every bit as good as in any other setting. Summing up this album can be done with one word: Outstanding.
Ken Peplowski Enrapture (Capri 74141-2)
Virtuoso clarinetist Ken Peplowski has a worldwide reputation, playing mainstream jazz with imaginative flair and consummate skill. Joining Ken on this session are pianist Ehud Asherie, bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson, each providing individual solo skills and collectively forming a sparkling ensemble. The music chosen for this album is attractively varied and is far from the usual for jazz dates. Opening with a Caribbean-tinged version of Duke Ellington’s Flaming Sword, the quartet’s repertoire then explores other jazz pieces, Herbie Nichols’ Enrapture, Fats Waller’s Willow Tree and Peter Erskine’s Twelve, and also film music, including Scene D’Amour from Vertigo and Cheer Up, Charlie from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There are some less familiar pop songs, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Oh, My Love and Barry Manilow and Johnny Mercer’s When October Goes, as well as a sumptuous reading of Noël Coward’s I’ll Follow My Secret Heart. In the hands of these gifted musicians all of these pieces become jazz works yet such is their skill that echoes of the romanticism, charm and wit of the music’s origins remain. Wholly admirable and very warmly recommended to all who love music with heart and soul.
Bruce Torff Down The Line (Summit DCD 672)
This album by pianist and composer Bruce Torff touches upon the loss of friends and associates and while it has moments of appropriate solemnity it is far from being sad and gloomy. All the music heard here is composed by Bruce, the moving Memoriam being written following the death of a friend from childhood and seeks and finds joy in these memories. Yes, there are moments of reflection, such as Wave Of Silence, but there is also liveliness and wit, Down The Line, Tribal Function, and (despite its title) Well Of Tears. For this album, Bruce is joined by guitarist Pete McCann, drummer Ben Wittman, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm (playing soprano saxophone on one track). Also present on this session is trumpeter Lew Soloff who plays on two tracks, This I Promise You and Early Sunday, both fine examples of his work, exploring as they do depths of mature and sincere emotion. That emotional content is enhanced immeasurably by the knowledge that just two weeks after his appearance was recorded Lew Soloff died. Attractive music in the contemporary mainstream of jazz.
Socrates Garcia Back Home (Mama MAA1050)
Connections with Latin music go back to the earliest years of jazz (Jelly Roll Morton’s ‛Latin tinge’ comes readily to mind) and there have long been big band links. Among these have been Frank Grillo, Maria Bauza, Tito Puente and Dizzy Gillespie. A significant figure today is Socrates Garcia, who was born in the Dominican Republic, which is where he first played guitar but was diverted into an engineering career. Fortunately, that did not last and he decided that music was to be his life. While playing rock and pop, he also studied extensively in America, including spells at the Grove School, Luther College, and universities in Tennessee and Colorado. These studies ranged widely, incorporating classical music but also generating an interest in big band jazz. On this album, Socrates presents his Latin Jazz Orchestra playing his own compositions, which includes his Dominican Suite. The musicians here come from America (recorded at University of Northern Carolina where Socrates is Director of Music Technology) and from the Dominican Republic (recorded at MIDILAB studies, where he had worked as an engineer). All the music on this fine set is exhilarating and played with verve by the band ably demonstrating that big band Latin jazz is alive and well.
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