Jazz CD reviews – late October

October 25, 2016

Alyssa Allgood Out Of The Blue (Jeru Jazz JJR-5-CD)

Among the many new young vocalists who happily label themselves as ‘jazz singers’ are just a few who truly deserve the title. Unquestionably, Alyssa Allgood is one of these few. Based in Chicago, she has gained acclaim locally and has also attracted attention further afield while studying, then working with mentors including Jay Clayton and Madeline Eastman, and taking part in the 2015 Shure Montreaux Jazz Voice Competition.alyssa Alyssa’s love of jazz is immediately apparent from her choice of material, which includes Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil, Hank Mobley’s Watch Me Walk Away (Dig Dis), Sam Rivers’ Beatrice, Joe Chambers Mirrors (all with lyrics by Alyssa), Only A Memory (Ceora) by Lee Morgan and Milton Suggs, Joe Henderson’s If, Horace Silver’s Peace, the Bobby Timmons-Jon Hendricks classic, Moanin’, as well as Noticing The Moment (Moment’s Notice) by John Coltrane, Peter Eldridge and Kim Nazarian. As the album title makes clear, the material and its originators are associated with the classic Blue Note label and that company’s ethos lies at the heart of Alyssa’s work. Indeed, all of the instrumentalists heard here are with the label today. These collaborators are saxophonist Chris Madsen, organist Dan Chase, guitarist Tim Fitzgerald, and drummer Matt Plaskota. All play with skill and the mutual empathy is apparent throughout, in ensemble, supporting the singer, as well as soloing with flair. The arrangements, by Alyssa and Dan, are crafted to allow ample space for inventive vocal and instrumental solos. Alyssa’s singing voice is light and true, she is rhythmically assured and has a clear understanding of the intentions of the originators of the music. As is apparent, most of this music began as instrumental pieces and in some instances Alyssa’s vocals follow the original solo lines. Vocalese is a difficult art, as is scat singing, but Alyssa displays her accomplishment in these areas. Not that these forms of jazz singing are overused; rather, they are blended into a wholly satisfying display of jazz singing. Contemporary in presentation, the blues are never far away; a comment that might also apply to Blue Note Records. Alyssa Allgood is a name to look out for and to remember.

Matthew Kaminski Live At Churchill Grounds (Chicken Coup CCP 7026)

Playing Hammond B3 organ, here Matthew Kaminski leads his quartet through a live date, recorded over two nights in Atlanta. Rounding out the quartet are Will Scruggs, tenor saxophone, Rod Harris Jr, guitar, and Chris Burroughs, drums, all of them playing with the spirit heard in Hammond-led groups of the past.kaminski Also featured here is vocalist Kimberly Gordon, who sings on If I Had You, I Love Being Here With You and So Danco Samba. Mixed in with the standards are pop songs, such as the Beach Boys’ Sail On Sailor, and jazz pieces, like Jimmy Smith’s Midnight Special, Duke Ellington’s Just Squeeze Me and It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream, on both of which Kimberly sings, and Lou Donaldson’s Hot Dog. And then there’s the almost inevitable April In Paris, which started out as a popular song but gravitated into the world of the jazz organist by way of Wild Bill Davis (not forgetting Count Basie), here given a long workout by all five musicians. Throughout this album, the spotlight is mainly on Matthew and his solos are always interesting. So too are those by Will, playing with drive on the swingers and with sensitivity on ballads. A fine example of Rod’s playing comes on Jack McDuff’s A Real Goodun, which closes the album. A very entertaining occasion that swings from start to finish and leaves the listener wanting more. Speaking of which, this is Matthew’s third jazz release, the others being Swingin’ and Taking My Time. A footnote for those with a sporting inclination: Matthew has played organ for eight seasons at the home of the Atlanta Braves and has also released an album in this style.

Rebecca Dumaine Happy Madness (Summit DCD 687)

Singing with obvious delight in the material, here Rebecca Dumaine presents a selection that draws mainly upon the music of earlier times. Among the songs are standards but there a few from more recent times, all of them given a fresh outlook yet their treatment shows her respect.dumaine The songs include Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke’s Like Someone In Love, Harry Warren and Mack Gordon’s The More I See You, Marvin Fisher’s Destination Moon, Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer’s I’m Old Fashioned, Joe Bushkin and Joe Devries’s Nobody Else But Me and Cole Porter’s It’s All Right With Me, while the album takes its title from the song by Antonio Carlo Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes (with Gene Lees’ lyrics). Providing admirable support for Rebecca is the Dave Miller Trio, a longtime association. With Dave on piano are Perry Thoorsill, bass, and Bill Belasco, drums (Dave is Rebecca’s father). The trio is augmented on some tracks by guitarist Brad Beauthe and saxophonist Pete Cornell. Relaxed and happy music that is collectively a very pleasing set that will appeal to those who enjoy hearing good songs sung and played well by straightahead jazz performers who clearly admire this music. For details of an earlier album by Rebecca, The Consequence Of You, see my post in late-May 2015.

Joshua Breakstone 88 (Capri 74144-2)

Tributes paid by a jazz artist to others are by no means unusual, but this set from guitarist Joshua Breakstone takes an intriguing approach. One original by Joshua apart, the music heard here is written by jazz pianists and the fact that there is no pianist in the group means that an alternate view is taken of the music.joshua-88 Thus, aspects that might, perhaps, have been unobserved by the many fans of the composers concerned are revealed. Among the composer-pianists featured by Joshua are Cedar Walton, Black, Tadd Dameron, If You Could See Me Now, Lennie Tristano, Lennie’s Pennies, and Mal Waldron, Soul Eyes. Joshua’s collaborators here, collectively named The Cello Quartet, are cellist Mike Richmond, bassist Lisle Atkinson, and drummer Andy Watson. Although Joshua is the principal soloist, all make an important contribution and this is very much a collaborative venture. It is worth noting Joshua’s comment regarding the reason why he has chosen to perform pieces composed for (and at) the piano: “It’s merely the expression of one guitarist’s love and admiration for the instrument and those who happen to play the hell out of it and use it as a vehicle for composition.” Altogether, this a rewarding and entertaining album that will appeal to many.

Mili Bermejo & Dan Greenspan Arte del Duo (Ediciones Pentagrama APCD 707)

The music performed by this duo has an appealing freshness, which is, perhaps, surprising as singer Mili Bermejo and bassist Dan Greenspan have worked together for a quarter century.mili-bermejo Mili’s early years saw her move from Buenos Aires to Mexico City to Boston, where she has taught at Berklee College of Music since 1984; Dan started out in New Haven before moving to Boston where he became an in-demand session musician and more recently the couple have settled in New Hampshire. The music heard here ranges widely both stylistically and geographically with a handful of originals by Mili as well as songs by composers from Mexico, Armenia, Argentina, Uruguay and France. Melodically and rhythmically rich, this music is sung and played with emotional intensity and considerable technical expertise and will have widespread appeal.

Al Strong Love Strong Volume 1 (independent)

On his debut album, trumpeter Al Strong displays his technical skill and also his awareness of the paths taken by jazz in recent years. Although a relatively new name on the contemporary jazz scene, he plays with mature confidence.astrong Most of the music played here has been composed by Al and there is an emotional depth to the music, a quality not always present nowadays. There are also some well known themes, including Kenny Barron’s Voyage, Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s My Favorite Things. Joining Al here are several musicians, some of whom also take solos, forming groups of different sizes. Among them are saxophonists Bluford Thompson and James ‘Saxmo’ Gates, keyboard players Ryan Hanseler and Lovell Bradford, and drummers Jeremy ‘Bean’ Clemons and Iahji Hampden. Contemporary jazz, played with sensitivity and always displaying an awareness of what has gone before.

Richard Sussman The Evolution Suite (Zoho ZM 201614)

sussmanA five-movement suite drawing upon pianist-composer Richard Sussman’s wide and eclectic interest in contemporary improvised and classical music. This album is reviewed elsewhere.

For more on Alyssa Allgood, Matthew Kaminski, and Rebecca Dumaine contact Holly Cooper at Mouthpiece Music; for Mili Bermejo & Dan Greenspan and Joshua Breakstone contact Braithwaite & Katz (Ann@bkmusicpr.com); and for Al Strong and Richard Sussman go to Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services site.

Albums by these artists are available at the usual outlets, including Amazon.

Jazz CD Reviews – late May 2015

May 24, 2015

Michael Dees The Dream I Dreamed (Jazzed Media JM 1071)

Although only recently becoming a familiar name to all who love to hear good songs well sung, Michael Dees has been around for a long time and heard by unknowing millions. During these many years in the business, dating back to the late 1960s, he was often heard singing on film and television soundtracks. He sang What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life on the soundtrack of the 1969 film, The Happy Ending, and the title song for the 1970 film, A Walk In The Spring Rain; he appeared on The Steve Allen Show; and he recorded albums for Dot Records and Capitol Records, the latter including 1968’s Talk To Me Baby. In later decades, Michael was heard on the soundtrack of Sabrina (1995) and he provided the singing voice, performing One For My Baby And One More For The Road, for actor Ray Liotta who played the role of Frank Sinatra in The Rat Pack (1998).m dees cd He also recorded a fine album in 2002 for Mack Records, One Single Rose, but that was a dozen or so years ago and since then only those lucky enough to catch him live at jazz and supper clubs in and around Los Angeles and Palm Springs (where he now lives) have heard him. Now, there is a new album, recorded in late 2014, that shows another facet of this remarkable artist’s talent. Although his past performances have found Michael singing the great standards, he is also an accomplished songwriter and that particular talent is on vivid display on The Dream I Dreamed, all the songs on which are his compositions. And good songs they are, too, ranging through romantic ballads, I Miss You, Where Love Goes, I’m Home, and the especially attractive I Stay, to gently bouncing swingers, In A Moment, So Crazy For You, Back In New Orleans. Michael is accompanied by front-rank studio and jazz musicians: pianist Terry Trotter, bassist Chuck Berghofer, and drummer Steve Schaeffer, with guest trumpeters Steve Huffsteter and Sal Marquez, tenor saxophonists Chuck Manning, Bob Sheppard and Doug Webb, and percussionist Don Williams. Although Michael displays maturity with his interpretation of the lyrics he sings (here his own – elsewhere those of others), his lithe and fresh vocal sound is something many will love and certainly belies whatever age it might say on his passport.


Rebecca DuMaine The Consequence Of You (Summit DCD 654)

After some years working in regional theater as both actor and educator, Rebecca DuMaine began developing a latent interest in the standards of the Great American Songbook and in jazz. This interest had simmered throughout her childhood, thanks in large part to her father, Dave Miller, Bay Area pianist (and, when off-stage, successful attorney). Although an established teacher at New York’s Actors Studio, Rebecca developed her interest in jazz singing, taking particular note of the understated work of singers like Irene Kral and Peggy Lee, identifying an innate ability to inhabit a song’s lyric in a manner that mirrored her acting talent.r dumaine cd Back on the west coast in 2008, she began working with her father’s trio and signed with Summit Records, making two albums, Deed I Do in 2011, and Better Than Anything in 2013. This new partnership was a learning curve for father and daughter. Although well known locally for many years as trio leader and accompanist to visiting jazzmen, Dave was not used to accompanying a singer but he reveled in the new demands. While Rebecca had acted on stage in all manner of productions, including Shakespeare, she was now performing in a very exposed setting for a very different audience. To help her master her new craft, she studied with Madeline Eastman and Kitty Margolis, finding work wherever she could. That father and daughter have succeeded superbly is evident from every note played and sung on The Consequence Of You. Ably supported by guitarist Brad Buethe, bassist Mario Suraci, and drummer Bill Belasco, Rebecca performs songs including There Will Never Be Another You, Exactly Like You, You’ve Changed, and Too Close For Comfort. To all the songs, many warmly familiar, she brings intelligent appreciation of the lyrics and, together with Dave and the other instrumentalists, finds the right balance twixt melody and rhythm that turns this into a jazz outing with many effective moments that allow everyone to share in the spotlight, notably in the many well-taken solos for Piano and guitar. These artists are billed as ‘The Dave Miller Trio with Rebecca DuMaine’ and this is how it should be because this is not a singer with backing group but a quartet of like-minded musicians wholly in tune with one another and with the music they perform.


Judy Wexler What I See (Jazzed Media JM 1065)

Although an established singer, Judy Wexler, has made far too few records and this one, released a couple of years ago, has not received the attention it so richly deserves. The songs choice is interesting – none overused, all melodically and lyrically pleasing. Among them are King Pleasure’s Tomorrow Is Another Day, Dory and André Previn’s Just For Now, Benny Carter’s Another Time, Another Place, and The Moon Is Made Of Gold by Richard Jones. Judy’s vocal sound is warmly enfolding, yet has a sinewy directness, suggesting an underlying strength of character. The accompanying instrumentalists providing an ideal frame for the musical pictures the singer paints are pianist Jeff Colella, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Chris Colangelo and drummer Steve Hass, with guests trumpeter Ron Stout, bass clarinetist Bob Sheppard, trombonist Scott Whitfield and percussionist Billy Hulting.j wexler cd Approaching the songs directly, with no unnecessary frills, Judy clearly revels in the subtleties of music and lyrics and takes full advantage of Jeff Colella’s fluid and spacious arrangements. Lovely stuff and if you missed it on its 2013 release now’s the time to seek to correct that omission.


For more on all these artists, including booking, see Mouthpiece Music or the artists’ websites (as highlighted above). To order CDs see label sites, Jazzed Media and Summit, or the usual walk-in and on-line stores, the latter including Amazon.

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