Patti Austin/James Morrison
Although its title may lead one to believe that this double-CD is a tribute to the famous recordings that Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong did together, it is actually something else.
Patti Austin, whose 2001 album For Ella is a classic, has shown during the past two decades that she can sound just like Ella Fitzgerald whenever she wants, not only capturing her sound but her swinging style, choice of notes, and the joy that Ella always expressed while singing. James Morrison, the brilliant virtuoso from Australia, can play nearly any horn in practically any jazz style but is most often heard as a swing-oriented trumpeter and trombonist. Teaming the two of them together with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (which includes a big band) was an inspired idea.
But do not look for a recreation of the Ella & Louis Songbook. Morrison does not sing so Armstrong’s voice is missing. Nor did many of these songs originally appear on the Ella & Louis projects. Patti Austin is quite wonderful on a variety of tunes associated with Ella including “Too Close For Comfort,” “Mr. Paganini,” “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” “Lullaby Of Birdland,” and “Hard Hearted Hannah.” Her own soulful style emerges in places, particularly on a surprisingly gospellish version of “Miss Otis Regrets.” Morrison is featured on instrumentals that Louis Armstrong played (including “Hello Dolly,” “Lazy River,” “Basin Street Blues” and “Struttin’ With Some BBQ”) but without copying Armstrong’s solos or sound. His effortless high-note work on trumpet is quite exhilarating and his trombone on “I’ve Got The World On A String” is played with the fluency of his trumpet playing.
The biggest surprise of the project is that Austin and Morrison only appear together on one selection, a closing version of “Get Happy” that has the trumpeter playing a background role behind the singer. The concert (from the 2017 Melbourne International Jazz Festival) obviously featured Morrison and Austin in separate sets although the songs have been juggled on this release so every couple of performances shifts to the other star. It is a pity that they did not perform much of the show together but, then again, Ella rarely ever featured her sidemen.
So toss away your preconceptions and enjoy the consistently delightful program for what it is; superior showcases for the talents of Patti Austin and James Morrison. This Australian release is available from www.abcmusic.com.au.
Heading For Newport 1956
45 years after his death, it is almost as if Duke Ellington (who would have turned 120 this year) is still with us. His famed orchestra performed at so many concerts that were either broadcast or recorded (particularly during 1940-74) that every couple of months a previously unissued gem makes its debut on CD.
On July 7, 1956, Duke Ellington’s performance at the Newport Jazz Festival (highlighted by Paul Gonsalves’ 27-chorus tenor solo on “Diminuendo and Crescendo In Blue”) gained international acclaim and gave his career a momentum that continued for his final 18 years. The Doctor Jazz CD Heading For Newport 1956 has “new” music that was performed and recorded just five days earlier at a concert at Ann Arbor University in Michigan.
This very well-recorded set does not have “Diminuendo” but it finds the Ellington Orchestra in excellent form. Featured along the way are Ray Nance (playing cornet on “Black and Tan Fantasy” and singing “Take The ‘A’ Train”), clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton (on his obscure “Clarinet Melodrama”), trumpeter Clark Terry (“Harlem Air Shaft”), baritonist Harry Carney (“Sophisticated Lady”), trombonist Britt Woodman (“Theme For Trambean”), trumpeter Cat Anderson (“La Virgen De La Macarena’), altoist Johnny Hodges (“Prelude To A Kiss” and “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”), trombonist Quentin Jackson, clarinetist Russell Procope, and even Paul Gonsalves (“Take The ‘A’ Theme”). If one also counts trumpeter Willie Cook who missed getting featured during this concert, what other band ever had 11 horn soloists of this caliber?
This may have been a fairly typical concert for Duke Ellington during this period, rounded out by Duke’s humorous storytelling on “Monologue,” a Jimmy Grissom vocal on “Day In, Day Out,” and a medley of “V.I.P. Boogie” and “Jam With Sam.” While there are few new revelations, the quality of the music and the playing of the individual musicians are so high that this release is a very welcome event. It is the 18th CD put out by the Doctor Jazz magazine from the Netherlands and is perfectly done.
Heading For Newport 1956 is available from www.doctorjazz.nl.
Elvin Jones Jazz Machine
Live At Carnegie Hall
Elvin Jones Jazz Machine
Live At Paris Olympia
Elvin Jones, one of the greatest drummers of all time, led his first record date in 1961, becoming famous for being a key member of the classic John Coltrane Quartet during 1961-65. He did not really emerge as a bandleader until 1968 when he led the first in a series of pianoless groups, a trio with tenor-saxophonist George Coleman and bassist Wilbur Little. During 1971-72, the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine consisted of tenor-saxophonists Steve Grossman and Dave Liebman and bassist Gene Perla in addition to the fiery drummer. Two recent CDs from the PM label (www.pmrecords.com) feature this group at its peak.
Live At Carnegie Hall from July 3, 1972 has the quartet performing as part of the Newport Jazz Festival. There is plenty of intense playing from the saxophonists, both of whom show a strong John Coltrane influence. While Liebman (“A Time For Love” and “I’m A Fool To Want You”) and Grossman (“Fancy Free”) have their features, it is when they lock horns (on Liebman’s “A Brite Place,” “Three Card Molly” and “Children’s Merry-Go-Round March”) that this set truly gets exciting and a bit ferocious. Perla has his spots and keeps the accompaniment stimulating while Jones is a force of nature throughout, never playing the obvious and constantly displaying his mastery of polyrhythms.
Live At Paris Olympia starts off with the same group on Oct. 22, 1972 at a Paris concert performing another (and superior) version of “The Children’s Merry-Go-Round March,” “Soultrane” (Grossman’s ballad feature), and the explosive “Shinjitu.” Making this set particularly historic is that drummers Art Blakey and Roy Haynes sit in on “The Children, Save The Children” and “A Night In Tunisia.” All three drummers solo on lengthy versions of the two pieces with Blakey (who follows the other two) stealing honors with his distinctive and very powerful sound. While these performances go on for quite a while (“The Children” is over 24 minutes long), the musicians were clearly enjoying themselves, the tenor solos are joyfully intense, and the drummers inspire each other.
The two exciting releases, which are well recorded, are heartily recommended to Elvin Jones fans.
Sings Tadd Dameron: The Dream Is You
Tadd Dameron (1917-65) was arguably the most significant arranger-composer to emerge from the classic bebop era. While best known for “Hot House” and “If You Could See Me Now,” he wrote a couple dozen other timeless songs too, sometimes also contributing lyrics. He had a short life but along the way worked with Harlan Leonard’s Rockets, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Fats Navarro, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, Chet Baker, and John Coltrane among others.
Vanessa Rubin and Tadd Dameron were both from Cleveland and she was taught early on by musicians who knew Dameron. The Dream Is You features her singing a dozen Tadd Dameron songs and contributing her lyrics to the title cut (renamed “Reveries Do Come True”). Her voice is heard at its prime and the singer does justice to the rich melodies and the lyrics, improvising with subtlety and swing.
Ms. Rubin is joined by an octet that includes pianist John Cowherd, trumpeter Eddie Allen, tenor-saxophonist Patience Higgins, altoist Bruce Williams, baritonist Alex Harding, trombonist Clifton Anderson, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Carl Allen. The musicians get a generous number of concise solos that consistently uplift the music, performing arrangements by Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Bobby Watson, Willie “Face” Smith and the late Frank Foster; each writer other than Watson personally knew Dameron. Among the highlights are “Lady Bird,” “On A Misty Night,” “Next Time Around (Soultrane),” and the title cut but all of the performances are excellent.
This is a superior tribute that will hopefully result in some of the lesser-known Tadd Dameron songs (including “Weekend,” “Never Been In Love” and “Whatever Possessed Me”) being revived. It is highly recommended and available from www.vanessarubin.com.
Classic Jazz Guitar
Rich Peare started off as a classical guitarist before switching to jazz in the 1990s. He had previously recorded led two CDs, Guitar Hero (standards played unaccompanied) and a set of duets with bassist Bill Crow called Sunday Session.
On his unaccompanied set Classic Jazz Guitar, Peare plays his classical guitar throughout. He starts off returning to his roots, performing a pair of classical pieces by composer John Dowland (1562-1629) called “Forlorn Hope Fancy” and “Farewell.” He follows it up by creating melodic and swinging versions of five jazz standards. On such songs as “Darn That Dream,” “Yardbird Suite” and “A Day In The Life Of A Fool,” Peare builds up his solos logically, comes up with fresh ideas, and makes the presence of any other instruments unnecessary.
Both soothing and stimulating, Rich Peare’s Classic Jazz Guitar is filled with pleasing music. It is available from www.richpeare.bandcamp.com.
Samantha Boshnack’s Seismic Belt
Live In Santa Monica
There have been a countless number of recorded tributes in the jazz world through the decades, but it is fair to say that this one is quite unique. Trumpeter Samantha Boshnack composed eight originals dedicated to the Ring Of Fire, the area in the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s volcanoes are located and the majority of the earthquakes take place.
While one might expect this picturesque music to be unremittingly intense and explosive, Ms. Boshnack explores a variety of moods, some of which are unsettlingly quiet. The trumpeter is joined by Ryan Parrish on tenor and baritone, pianist-keyboardist Paul Cornish, bassist Nashir Janmohamed, drummer Dan Schnelle, and both Paris Hurley and Lauren Elizabeth Baba on violins (with Baba doubling on viola). On such numbers as “Subduction Zone,” “Tectonic Plates,” “Submarine Volcano” and “Summer That Never Came,” Boshnack’s arrangements and frameworks are quite impressionistic and a bit cinematic, almost a bit like Maria Schneider’s music except that she utilizes a much smaller group. The horns and violins have their spots, creating improvisations that fit the music and blending together beautifully in the ensembles, serving the music rather than being featured on individual heroics.
This unusual set is worth several listens. Live In Santa Monica is available from www.orendarecords.com.
You’re Gonna Hear From Me
Although You’re Gonna Hear From Me is James Suggs’ first jazz recording as a leader, the trumpeter already has plenty of experience. Born in Ohio, he began playing trumpet when he was nine, studied at Youngstown State, toured with the ghost bands of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller, worked on cruises, and lived and performed in Buenos Aires for eight years. Since returning to the U.S. in 2014, he has been based in Florida.
For his debut, Suggs is teamed with tenor-saxophonist Houston Person, pianist Lafayette Harris, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash. During a set that includes three of Suggs’ blues-oriented originals, Person’s “Rachel’s Blues (for Arbors head Rachel Domber) and eight standards, the trumpeter sounds fine, displaying a warm tone (occasionally reminiscent of Bobby Hackett), a solid range, and strong melodic ideas. His solos never climax or explode and there are times when I wish he would take more chances but, for a maiden effort, this is a good start.
Person has almost as much solo space as Suggs and he is in his usual soulful and hard-swinging form. The rhythm section always swings with Harris coming up with many creative ideas in his solos. Among the highlights are “When I Grow Too Old To Dream,” “Be My Love,” “Detour Ahead” and “Rachel’s Blues.” James Suggs concludes the set by playing the melody of Andre Previn’s “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” as an unaccompanied solo.
This is a solid set of enjoyable music, available from www.arborsrecords.com.
Was Out Jazz Zone Mad
A spoken word artist who is also a very good singer, Tony Adamo fits into his own musical category. He loves jazz and funk, often pays tribute to both in his lyrics, and utilizes top-notch musicians on his recordings.
While he has recorded frequently in the past, Was Out Jazz Zone Mad is Tony Adamo’s debut for Ropeadope, a perfect fit since the label often releases music that crosses between genres. Other than “Boogaloo The Funky Beat” which was written by drummer Mike Clark, Adamo wrote or co-composed all of the music and lyrics. His enthusiastic talking/singing is full of excitement, joy and wisdom, paying homage not only to musicians (including Joe Henderson on “Sonic Henderson” and “B.B. King’s Blues On Fire”) but discusses the lifestyle of creative music, the joy of improvisation, and the problems of love (“I’m Out The Door”).
Tony Adamo does not dominate these performances and he gives a generous amount of solo space to his sidemen. Mike Clark is a driving force on the numbers on which he appears and among the other sidemen are Roger Smith, Mike LeDonne, Wayne De La Cruz, or Delbert Bump on organ, pianist Michael Wolff, bassist Richie Goods, drummer Lenny White, guitarist Jack Wilkins, Tim Ouimette on trumpet and valve trombone, and altoist Donald Harrison.
Switching between infectious grooves and straight ahead swinging, boppish chord changes and the blues, Tony Adamo has put together a colorful program full of hipster philosophizing and the excellent playing of his musicians. Was Out Jazz Zone Mad is available from www.ropeadope.com
Doug MacDonald Quartet
Guitarist Doug MacDonald has been a fixture in the Los Angeles area since the mid-1980s, contributing his brand of tasteful straight ahead jazz to a countless number of sessions including over 14 CDs of his own.
On Organisms (available from www.dougmacdonald.net), he is featured on eight standards and three of his originals. Joined by organist Carey Frank, drummer Ben Scholz, and sometimes Bob Sheppard on tenor, MacDonald is head in prime form. Whether it is a medium-tempo “It’s You Or No One,” the catchy “Jazz For All Occasions,” the beautiful ballad “Too Late Now” (which starts with a chorus of MacDonald’s chordal guitar) or the Harry “Sweets” Edison blues “Centerpiece,” every selection has its bright moments. “Sometime Ago” features the trio without Sheppard and, as is true of each performance, the musicians join together to create swinging and joyful music. A special bonus is getting to hear MacDonald as an unaccompanied soloist on a medium-tempo “Poor Butterfly,” his own “Hortense” and a brief medley of “Nina Never Knew” and “Indian Summer.”
Everything works well on Organisms, a typically rewarding set from Doug MacDonald.
Dwight Trible has long been one of Los Angeles’ unsung heroes, a major force and organizer in the community. Based in Los Angeles since 1978, he worked with the legendary Horace Tapscott (and has been leading Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra since the pianist’s death in 1999), had strong success with his 2005 recording Love Is The Answer, and has worked with Pharoah Sanders and Kamasi Washington in addition to leading his own groups.
An exciting performer, Dwight Trible holds nothing back when he is singing at his most passionate. He sometimes literally screams and shouts (think of a vocalized Pharoah Sanders) in order to get his message across although he is capable of singing quieter pieces with subtlety. With his powerful voice, he could have been an opera singer but fortunately has dedicated himself to creative music.
Mothership has Trible joined by an excellent rhythm section (pianist Mark de Clive-Lowe contributes many fine solos), two percussionists, Maia on harp, violinist Miguel Atwood Ferguson, and occasionally Kamasi Washington on tenor. The repertoire covers a wide ground with Tapscott’s “Mothership,” Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Brother Where Are You,” and Donny Hathaway’s “Thank you Master” being given particularly intense interpretations. The set also includes Trible’s “It’s all About Love,” the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” and a lyrical treatment of “Some Other Time.”
But no matter what the source of the material, the results are 100% Dwight Trible. Mothership, available from www.gearboxrecords.com, is one of his strongest recordings to date.
Fleurine is a multi-talented singer/composer. Born in the Netherlands, she learned to play guitar, alto sax, electric bass and percussion but decided to become a singer. She performed with the Metropole Orchestra and Rita Reys in 1995, toured Cuba with Roy Hargrove the following year, moved to New York in 1998, and recorded a duo album (Close Enough For Love) with pianist Brad Mehldau.
Brazilian Dream has Fleurine’s quietly sensuous voice featured on seven of her originals, one Brazilian number, and Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” Joined by the Boys From Brazil (a quintet comprised of acoustic guitarist Ian Faquini, electric guitarist Chico Pinheiro, Vitor Goncalves on accordion and piano, bassist Eduardo Belo, and percussionist Rogerio Boccato), Fleurine also welcomes guest Brad Mehldau on four songs (two apiece on acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes) and Chris Potter (one song apiece on alto flute, soprano and tenor). Four strings (plus a flutist) are on one song and a four-piece horn section is on another.
The music has light rhythms, melodic contributions by the sidemen, and beautiful singing. The songs are programmed so as to convey a Brazilian dream that traces a love affair that evolves from “Longing” to a few problems and finally the desire to say “Let’s Stay Together.” “Longing” and “My King” are particularly memorable numbers although the full program flows logically from one song to another.
Anyone interested in Brazilian jazz should know about Fleurine’s beautiful voice and songwriting abilities. There is much to enjoy on this fine CD which is available from www.sunnysiderecords.com.