by Scott Yanow
At the Blue Whale, one of today’s top jazz singers (Tierney Sutton) teamed up for a series of duets with one of today’s major jazz pianists (Tamir Hendelman). It was such a logical matchup that it is surprising that it had not happened earlier, at least not in a club.
With the singer sometimes operating as a horn but one who interpreted words, Hendelman was free to accompany her with any stimulating ideas that came to mind. He was always supportive, consistently challenged the singer, and kept the momentum flowing. Tierney Sutton clearly enjoyed his musical input and was heard at her best on such songs as “When Your Lover Has Gone” (which put an emphasis on the rarely-heard sad verse), “I Get Along Without You Very Well” (during which she was quietly expressive), a scat-filled “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” and the “Theme From Mulholland Falls” (written by Dave Grusin and the Bergmans). On “Make Me Rainbows” and “Double Rainbow,” Hendelman created lots of musical rainbows behind her. To close the first set, Tierney asked for requests and decided to sing “The Peacocks” despite the fact that they had never played it together before. The very spontaneous performance by the duo was an instant classic. During the second set, flutist Hubert Laws made the group a trio on a few numbers including an exuberant “Joy Spring.”
Hopefully the Tierney Sutton-Tamir Hendelman musical partnership will be recorded sometime; it had many special moments and has quite a bit of potential.
One of Southern California’s top jazz singers, Janis Mann has been organizing and performing at a monthly series of concerts held at the San Fernando Valley Arts and Cultural Center in Tarzana. Recently she paid tribute to Kenny Rankin with a night that had her joined by guitarist Tom Rizzo, pianist Andy Langham, bassist Chris Conner and drummer Roy McCurdy. In addition to performing his own songs, Rankin loved to sing standards which gave Ms. Mann a wide variety of material to choose from for the tribute. Among the highlights of her two sets were “The Very Thought Of You,” “Then I’ll Be Tired Of You,” “When The Sun comes Out” (taken as a bossa-nova), “Blackbird” (sung as a duet with guitarist Rizzo), “A Song For You” (an example of superior ballad singing), and “When Sunny Gets Blue.” Rizzo had plenty of fine solos, Langham (who was mostly heard in an accompanying role) made the most of his spots, and the rhythm section was solid. Janis Mann added wit and swing to everything she sang along with her winning personality, making the material her own while at the same time paying homage to Rankin. It resulted in an entertaining and fun evening. Her upcoming shows at this venue will include a meeting with fellow singer Greta Matassa (Aug. 18), a show with personnel to be announced (Sept. 15), and a meeting with the great tenor Ernie Watts on Oct. 20. For more information, look at her website www.janismann.com/shows
DAVE TULL, SINGER/SONGWRITER
For years, Dave Tull was primarily known as a versatile and swinging drummer, one who occasionally took a vocal. In recent times, he has emerged as one of jazz’s top lyricists and a very good singer. After the success of “I Just Want To Get Paid,” he recorded 15 new tunes for his CD Texting And Driving. At Catalina’s, in a quartet with guitarist Larry Koonse, pianist Andy Langham and bassist Kevin Axt, Tull celebrated the release of his new recording by performing many of his songs before a large and appreciative audience.
Quite a few of his originals deserve to be covered by other singers. “Please Tell Me Your Name” (about having a conversation with an old friend whose name one cannot remember), “The Texting Song” (which, with its rapid lyrics, could pass for vocalese by Jon Hendricks), the love song “I’m Forever In A Fog,” “The Date” (about two interpretations of a love affair), “Clapping On One And Three,” and the ballad “I’m So Confused” are all particularly memorable. In addition to Tull’s fine singing, there were many short solos from guitarist Koonse and pianist Langham along with fine backup playing by Axt and the leader himself (who had no difficulty playing drums and singing at the same time)Texting And Driving is one of the finest jazz vocal albums of the year.
A fine singer from Denver, Tina Phillips made a rare visit to Los Angeles recently (her second in a decade) to perform at the Vibrato Grill. She was joined by the Divine Jazz Trio, a group consisting of pianist Sascha Dupone, bassist Sherry Luchette and drummer Nicole Falzone. The trio was in the spotlight during the first set which included swinging versions of “A Night In Tunisia,” “Someday My Prince Will Come,’ “There Will Never Be Another You,” “Misty” (which began with Luchette’s bowed bass) and “Blue Bossa.” Dupone and Falzone also sang “How Sweet It Is” with the pianist taking “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You” and Ms. Phillips singing a teaser, “The Fool On The Hill,” to close the first set.
Tina Phillips was the main star throughout the rest of the night. Alternating lyrics with scatting and always displaying a cheerful personality and a love for the music, she was at her best on “Fly Me To The Moon,” “Pennies From Heaven,” Fred Hersch’s “For No One,” “Summertime” with an Ahmad Jamal groove taken from “Poinciana,” “Comes Love,” and even an uptempo “My Funny Valentine.” The trio was excellent in support with Sascha Dupone also taking an additional vocal.
Even if Vibrato tends to be very noisy (particularly in the bar area) and not exactly inexpensive, it served as a fine venue for Tina Phillips. Hopefully she will visit Southern California again in the near future.
Lps have made a small comeback during the past few years, a bit of a miracle since they were declared by many to be extinct by 2000. One can certainly understand their appeal: cover art, liner notes that do not require a magnifying glass, attractive packages and impeccable sound. Also, while most consumers can make their own CDs off of their computer, none can make their own Lps. Prices are a bit steep and one has to get used to flipping the album over after 20 minutes but it’s nice to have the Lp back. It is as if 78s had returned in the 1980s.
Frank D. Waldron (1890-1955) was a skilled saxophonist and trumpeter who settled in Seattle, played locally, and made his living primarily as a music teacher. He never recorded and has been completely forgotten since his passing, but in 1924 he published a book of nine songs called Syncopated Classic For C Melody and Alto Saxophone. None of those songs or two other tunes that he published had been documented before Greg Ruby & The Rhythm Runners recorded their Lp Syncopated Classic. The group consists of Ruby on guitar and banjo, trumpeter Gordon Au, trombonist Charlie Halloran, Dennis Lichtman doubling on clarinet and mandolin, bassist Cassidy Holden, and drummer Julian MacDonough, with two guest appearances by mandolinist Mike Marshall. The songs, which include such colorful titles as “Climb Them Walls,” “Go Get It,” “With Pep” and “The Kaiser’s Got The Blues (Since Uncle Sam Stepped In),” were arranged by Ruby so they sound like they are being played by a group influenced by Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers. The ensembles are clean, the short melodic solos are fine, and the two mandolin features for Marshall add variety. The main fault is that the interpretations are all taken at similar tempos, a medium-slow pace that is quite danceable if not very adventurous. The program would certainly have benefitted from the inclusion of a few hotter uptempo performances. Still, it is nice to hear all of this fresh material impeccably played; the Lp is available from www.gregrubymusic.com.
One of the least-known albums released by the India Navigation label in the 1970s was Alan Braufman’s Valley Of Search which has recently been reissued by the Valley Of Search label (www.valleyofsearch.com). Recorded in the loft at 501 Canal Street in New York in 1975, it features fairly free improvising by altoist-flutist Braufman, pianist Cooper-Moore, bassist Cecil McBee, drummer David Lee and percussionist Ralph Williams. Braufman contributed seven compositions, McBee is featured bowing on his “Miracles,” and there is also a traditional “Chant.” The music ranges from spiritual ballads that are full of quiet intensity to passionate romps with Braufman displaying plenty of individuality and strong musicianship on alto. Cooper-Moore is also an excellent soloist, McBee was a giant even at this early stage, and Lee and Williams keep the music quite stimulating. The musicians listen closely to each other and one piece leads logically into the next one. It makes for 43 minutes of dynamic avant-garde music that is always quite coherent and purposeful.
Moving up to more recent times, drummer Quin Kirchner’s two-Lp set The Other Side Of Time gathers together a quintet of explorative players based in Chicago. Bass clarinetist Jason Stein (perhaps the best-known player at this point), trombonist Nick Broste, Nate Lepine on tenor and flute, and bassist Matt Ulery (with pianist Ben Boye on one number) perform a variety of original material that could be called free bop in that there is a forward momentum, loose but flowing rhythms, and soloists who are familiar with the past without feeling compelled to repeat it. In addition to Quin Kirchner’s originals, the group performs a song apiece by Andrew Hill, Sun Ra (the hard boppish “Brainville”), Arthur Verocai, Paul Motian and Kelan Phil Cohran plus two Charles Mingus pieces. Kirchner has a few concise drum features that often combine together his tuned drums with the primitive (a kalimba sampler) and modern electronics.
Among the other highlights are the episodic and haunting “The Ritual,” the reversal of roles on “Wondrous Eyes” (the horns play long tones behind the drum theme), “Mumbo Jumbo” (which fits its title since it has several solos going on at once like a street scene), and the lengthy and ultimately explosive “Armageddon.” The music ranges from modern hard bop to freer moments, forming a consistently fascinating set of colorful performances that are well worth several listens. The Other Side Of Time is available from www.quinkirchner.com.
The Monterey Jazz Festival is the most significant jazz festival held on the West Coast each year. Its 61st edition, which will take place at the Monterey Fairgrounds during Sept. 21-23, includes a vast number of major performers. Among those who will be appearing this year are Tia Fuller, Ingrid & Christine Jensen, Dianne Reeves, the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, Hristo Vitchev, Jane Bunnett, Christian McBride, Jane Ira Bloom, Oscar Hernandez & the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Bria Skonberg, Melissa Aldana, Benny Green, John Clayton, Jamie Baum, Dave Grusin (as a pianist), Donny McCaslin, Fred Hersch, Charles Lloyd, Anat Cohen Tentet, Randy Brecker, Norah Jones, Gary Meek, Veronica Swift, Wadada Leo Smith, Joey DeFrancesco, Julian Lage, and Bill Frisell. That is only a small sampling! For more information, contact www.montereyjazzfestival.org