Jazz CD Reviews – late July 2016

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.a e nelson 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.senri oe 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.ricardo bacelar 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. r victoriaThe 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. brazzamAll 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.ron king 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.

More on Anthony E. Nelson Jr can be found at Mouthpiece Music. For all the other artists go to Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services site and the albums are available at all usual outlets, including Amazon.


Jazz Child: A Portrait Of Sheila Jordan

November 4, 2014

The very welcome publication of Ellen Johnson’s new biography, Jazz Child: A Portrait Of Sheila Jordan, prompts not only a review of this book but also a few very brief comments about CDs. This is because the book’s arrival not only sent me to albums recorded by the subject of Jazz Child but also to some of those recorded by the author herself.

For some decades now, Ellen Johnson has vividly demonstrated that she is a remarkably gifted exponent of that same difficult art at which Sheila Jordan excels. Indeed, not only does Ellen sing jazz, she also teaches jazz singing. During the past several years I have had enormous pleasure in listening to and writing about her albums, sometimes in Jazz Journal, other times on my old website. Among these albums are Too Good To Title, Chinchilla Serenade and These Days, all on Ellen’s own label, Vocal Visions (numbered respectively 2300, 2310 and 2700).ellen j cd Her eclectic repertoire includes compositions by jazz masters Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Thad Jones, Charles Mingus, and Michal Urbaniak, for some of which she has written lyrics ably demonstrating another facet or her multi-talented persona. The third of these albums is dedicated to Sheila Jordan, who appears as backing singer on Little Messenger, a song composed by Ellen for Sheila, and the two singers duet on The Crossing. As if being singer, teacher and lyricist were not enough, in recent years Ellen Johnson has also proved herself to be an able writer on jazz. Previously, Ellen’s writing consisted of short pieces while here she has produced a full-length book that recounts with skill and insight the story of a remarkable woman.

Today, there are thousands of young singers around the world, many of whom find open doors through which to pass and perform their art. It is likely that they would be surprised, horrified even, were they to encounter the problems that faced Sheila Jordan when she was starting out in the early 1940s. jazz child-bookAmong these problems were poverty and the racial divide, and overhanging these widespread issues was another related specifically to the jazz world. This was the fact that while nowadays the term ‘jazz singer’ is acceptable as a definition of a young woman’s career choice, back then it was a decidedly disagreeable negative.

Sheila Jordan, then Dawson, was raised in a poor mining community in Pennsylvania but as a young teenager she headed for Detroit, which is where she was born in 1928. Back in the city as a young teenager, she hung out in jazz clubs, decidedly not the done thing, and sang with and socialized with black musicians, another alienating act seventy-plus years ago. The music itself was another no-go area because the young girl was immediately captivated by bebop, a genre that was a turn-off even for many in the jazz world, musicians as well as fans, who were still attuned to swing era styling. Then, if all these negatives were not enough to deter all but the armor-plated, Sheila crossed the racial divide by marrying black jazz pianist Duke Jordan. In her private life, she did everything with astonishing determination and dedication, including raising single-handed her daughter, Tracey, after Duke Jordan went off while she was pregnant. With equal grit, the singer took her own musical path, refusing to follow the commercial route and instead sticking uncompromisingly to jazz – and modern jazz at that. Now, more than seven decades later, she is still following her chosen path and doing so with flair and skill and consummate professionalism.

It goes almost without saying, that the story of Sheila Jordan is one that needed to be told and we are fortunate that it is Ellen Johnson who has brought us this estimable biography. Johnson has interviewed many of the musicians with whom her subject has worked, among them several bass players, appropriate given Jordan’s predilection for the voice-bass duo format: Cameron Brown, Harvie S, Steve Swallow. Other musicians whose comments illuminate this story include Theo Bleckmann, Kenny Burrell, Carol Fredette, George Gruntz, Alan Pasqua, Ra-Kalam, Sonny Rollins, Roswell Rudd. The life and music of Sheila Jordan is explored in intimate detail and many readers will find especial value in her warm recollections of Charlie Parker and the important personal role he played in her early life, and whose influence continues to guide her through to the present day. Biographer Johnson and her subject take a hard look at racism in America, while addiction is another topic explored; both of these troubled areas are approached with clarity and honesty. The overriding impression left after reading this book is that jazz, indeed all music, has been blessed to have had such an amazing artist in its midst for such a long time.

Listening again to some of Sheila Jordan’s CDs there is everywhere rich evidence of all those skills she has demonstrated over the decades. On albums such as Jazz Child (HighNote HCD 7029) and Little Song (HighNote HCD 7096), her performances are a joy.jazz child-cd Hearing them again, this time with the underpinning of knowledge of the personal background to her career, adds immeasurably to the experience. It might be argued that a singer’s work should be assessed only on the basis of what is heard; but sometimes that rubric places an impossible demand upon the listener. Sheila Jordan is an exceptional singer, knowing the details of the life she has lived, evoked so masterfully in Ellen Johnson’s biography, makes this singer even more interesting and worthy of our attention and admiration. Music is her life; her life is in her music.

For many reasons Jazz Child: A Portrait Of Sheila Jordan is a book that should be read not only by those with a specific interest in jazz singing, but also those whose interests in jazz extend to the life of jazz musicians in general, and those active during the early days of bebop in particular. It should also interest anyone who wishes to follow the inspirational tale of a woman who was determined to make her way through a minefield of antipathy and antagonism to achieve what is in essence a simple ambition: to sing her song.

Jazz Child can be bought through the websites of Sheila Jordan and Ellen Johnson and also from Amazon.

ISBN 978-0-8108-8836-4 (ebook 978-0-8198-8837-1)

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