October 10, 2015
Jan Lundgren A Retrospective (Fresh Sound FSR 5055 CD)
One of the finest pianists in jazz, Jan Lundgren has been very well served by this label, making nine albums as leader and appearing on another seven as sideman with some equally distinguished musicians. Stretching over two decades, these recordings have vividly displayed the pianist’s remarkable talent, which was exceptional at the start of this period in his career and has developed superbly. As this release’s title indicates, this compilation presents examples from some of these albums although they do not cover all the years – the first track is from 1995, the last from 2003. Among the leaders on the sessions heard here are Bill Perkins (tenor saxophone), Shorty George from Perk Plays Prez, Conte Candoli (trumpet), On Green Dolphin Street from Portrait Of A Count and Rockin’ Chair from Conte-nuity, Andy Martin (trombone), Doxy from It’s Fine . . . It’s Andy!. The original albums under Jan’s name are mainly as leader of a trio and tracks from these include Swedish Pastry, If You Could See Me Now, and Angel Eyes. He is also heard solo, Spring Isn’t Spring Anymore, and in duet with Herb Geller (soprano saxophone), Restless from You’re Looking At Me, and Arne Domnérus (clarinet), Barney Goin’ Easy from Dompan!. On two tracks, I’ve Never Been In Love Before and You Stepped Out Of A Dream, Jan’s trio is expanded to a quartet by fellow pianist Pete Jolly. On every track there are rewarding solos, all displaying inventive improvisation, imaginative flair and considerable technical accomplishment. Many of these fine solos are from the horns although, as expected, the spotlight is mainly on this remarkable pianist. It would be unfair not to mention the excellent support given by bassists Dave Carpenter, Chuck Berghofer and Tom Warrington and drummers Paul Kreibich and Joe La Barbera. This album is very warmly recommended and fans of Jan Lundgren will like it a lot while those who have yet to hear him will find it a very effective introduction to a master jazz piano player. It is encouraging to note that today Jan Lundgren is not yet fifty.
And speaking of elsewhere, a review of A Retrospective also appears in the September issue of Jazz Journal.
Romain Collin Press Enter (ACT 9583-2)
Highly regarded by contemporaries and also, importantly, by senior statesmen on today’s jazz scene, on this new release Romain Collin vividly displays his talent not only as performer but also as composer. Born in France, Romain has been based in America for several years and during this time has worked as leader and sideman, touring internationally with a band from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, and working with Mike Stern, John McLoughlin, Christian McBride, among many. Here, Romain leads a core trio rounded out by bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Kendrick Scott, who are joined on some tracks by vocalist Megan Rose, guitarist Grey McMurray, cellist Laura Mercalf, percussionist Mino Cinelu, and whistler Jean-Michel Pilc. All the artists here are skilled performers and individually and collectively present interesting and rewarding interpretations of a richly varied repertoire, most of which are Romain’s compositions. For these, he draws upon the rich tapestry of piano not only from the jazz world but also from wider fields. There is a pleasing hint of underlying folk on San Luis Obispo, rhythmic urgency with The Kids, and intriguing minimalism 99. Understandably, the spotlight is mostly upon Romain, but the work of Luques and Kendrick is a significant ingredient in the success of this very attractive album.
All albums are available from Amazon.
June 25, 2012
FAB Trio History Of Jazz In Reverse (TUM Records CD 028)
This remarkable jazz trio is decidedly unusual in its instrumental make-up: violin, bass, drums. The group is astonishingly powerful, and while couched in contemporary terms is replete with elements familiar to fans of most jazz styles. The trio’s name is taken from the initial letters of its members’ names: the bassist is Joe Fonda, the drummer Barry Altschul, the violinist Billy Bang. All are virtuoso jazz musicians yet have the ability to blend with one another, subordinating their often startling technical skills to the needs of the other group members and to the sound of the trio as a whole. At times, these musicians create a thunderous ensemble sound that suggests far more than just three men and their fluid interplay is testimony to a long association and the depth of their mutual understanding. Brilliant solos, matchless ensembles, this 2005 recording is masterly. Released in late 2011, this CD is one of the last recordings by Billy Bang, who died on 11 April 2011. Thanks to music like this, his name continues to resonate in the world of jazz. Summing up, the FAB Trio is just that: Fab!
Mike Greensill Live At The Plush Room (Pismo CD 101)
A fine jazz pianist who has been around for many years, along the way Mike Greensill has built a striking reputation. He first opened ears while still a student at the Leeds College of Music in the north of England. After moving to the USA, Greensill became well known as an accompanist – in particular to jazz singer Wesla Whitfield, to whom he is married. Together, the couple have appeared on more than 15 CDs. Here, though, the pianist is leader of a trio, the other members of which are bassist John Wiitala and drummer Donald Bailey. Throughout, Greensill makes vividly clear that he is an accomplished jazz pianist; and he also proves to be an intriguing singer. In the latter role, he delivers wryly observed versions of songs such as Bob Dorough’s I’ve Got Just About Everything and Small Day Tomorrow. However, it is Mike Greensill’s work as jazz piano soloist that confirms what those earlier opened ears noticed. Among his many gifts is his always melodic taste, which, underpinned with hard-driving swing, allows him to romp through an excellent live set. This is a fine CD that will be enjoyed by anyone who loves mainstream jazz played by a first-class musician who clearly knows a thing or two about the history of jazz piano.
Nick Moran No Time Like Now (Manor Sound 10661-1)
Here, jazz guitarist Nick Moran teams up with organist Brad Whiteley and drummer Chris Benham for a set that mainly features the leader’s own compositions. The music is filled with emotional nuance and is played with understanding and subtle fire by three jazz musicians of considerable talent. They think individually and collectively and deliver fascinating and grooving performances. Some of the album’s striking emotional base stems from Moran’s thoughts developed after the loss of friends and mentors and people, sometimes strangers in foreign lands, who have inspired him: Say Hi To Paris (for Frankie Paris) and Natalya (for Natalya Estemirova). Among other compositions are Intention (for Ron Carter) and Wishful Thinking (for Jeff Beck). Whatever the emotional and/or intellectual starting point, Moran’s music is always filled with engaging subtlety and underlying fire.
Romain Collin The Calling (Palmetto PM 2156)
Here, French-born jazz pianist Romain Collin teams up with bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Kendrick Scott to perform an intriguing set of his own compositions. Born and raised not far from the site of the Cannes jazz festival, Collin played in rock bands and studied business management, but retained an original love for jazz that eventually took him to the Berklee School of Music. On this CD, the music is richly varied, ranging through impressionistic pieces to some that vividly offer aural reflections on moments that have clearly inspired their creator. Collin presents here music that is highly personal and yet accessible to all who hear it. As a composer, he is clearly attuned to the needs of jazz musicians and his pieces require collective improvisation as well as individual solo skills. Collin’s collaborators here, Curtis and Scott, are fully capable of meeting the musical demands placed upon them.