Peter and Will Anderson
Featuring Jimmy Cobb
(Outside In Music)
Sometimes one just needs to hear some straight ahead bebop. These two CDs definitely fill the bill.
Peter and Will Andersons, equally talented twins who are now 33, moved to New York in 2005 to attend Julliard. With such mentors as Joe Temperley, Victor Goines, Frank Wess and Benny Golson, they developed quickly into major saxophonists and clarinetists. Altoist Will and tenor-saxophonist Peter, who have worked with such notables as Bob Wilber, Vince Giordano, Wycliffe Gordon and Jimmy Heath among others, have released at least nine albums as leaders prior to their most recent one.
Featuring Jimmy Cobb is a quintet date that also features pianist Jeb Patton and bassist David Wong in addition to the veteran drummer. Much of the music, whether standards, new tunes that utilize the chord changes of standards, or originals, sounds like classic 1950s/’60s bop that one could easily imagine Sonny Stitt or Richie Cole playing. The Andersons have very complementary styles that, while in the tradition, do not directly copy any of their predecessors. While Will Anderson is showcased on “Polka Dots & Moonbeams” and Peter Anderson is in the spotlight on “Autumn In New York,” most of the songs have solos by both of the co-leaders, the always-fluent Patton, and occasionally Wong and Cobb. Among the highpoints are an uptempo run through on “Body And Soul” (renamed “Hot and Cold”), the medium-up “Blues For You,” and the cooking “Rhythm In F,” but all of the performances are enjoyable and full of energy. Certainly one does not want to miss their version of “Jeannine” or Will’s “I’ll Tell You Later” (based on “What Is This Thing Called Love”).
This is outstanding and fun music, available from www.outsideinmusic.com.
Most Los Angeles jazz followers are well aware of the brilliance of trumpeter Carl Saunders although those who live outside of Southern California may have overlooked him. Jazz Trumpet shows what they might have missed.
Saunders, a virtuoso who has a very appealing style that often features endless breaths filled with sparkling notes, has the ability to throw in surprising high notes quite quietly as a natural part of his solos. Jazz Trumpet finds him joined by pianist Josh Nelson (an up-and-coming giant), bassist Chuck Berghofer, and drummer Joe Labarbera. While Nelson takes many outstanding solos of his own (his improvisation on “Flim Flam” is particularly notable), and Berghofer and Labarbera are in fine form, the focus is primarily on Saunders. He is showcased on six of his originals and six jazz standards.
From the start of the opener, Joe Henderson’s “Recordame,” it is obvious that this is a classic album. Saunders, who is 77 but sounds 30 years younger, plays a long solo filled with creative ideas while swinging all the way. The same can be said for his playing on such numbers as “All The Things You Are,” his original blues “Say What,” “I Thought About You” (which he takes muted at a medium-tempo pace), and “Pick Yourself Up.” Saunders revives Tom Harrell’s “Sail Away,” is thoughtful on his own ballad “Patience,” and sounds effortless on his tongue-twisting “Tofu Or Not Tofu.”
There are quite a few talented trumpeters on the jazz scene today but very few on Carl Saunders’ level. For proof of that statement, listen closely to his Jazz Trumpet (available from www.summitrecords.com), one of the finest jazz recordings released this year.
Gus Haenschoen (Carl Fenton)
The Missing Link
On Feb. 26, 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band made what has always been considered the first jazz recordings, cutting “Livery Stable Blues” and “Dixie Jazz Band One Step.” “Livery Stable Blues,” a bit of a novelty with its animal sounds created by the horn players, was a big hit. The ODJB became a sensation and helped introduce jazz to Chicago (just prior to the recordings), New York, and England. While the group was not the first to play jazz (Buddy Bolden preceded them by 22 years), they were largely responsible for jazz getting its first outburst of popularity, helping to launch what would be called “The Jazz Age.”
There have been occasional claims that the first jazz recording was actually made by James Reese Europe’s orchestra in 1913, but Europe’s better early performances were really ragtime that had a little bit of primitive improvising. The best case I have heard for an alternative to the ODJB are the two recordings made by pianist Gus Haenschoen in May 1916 in duets with drummer T.T. Schaefer that are the opening selections on Archeophone’s The Missing Link. Haenschoen, who on his 1920s recordings at the head of a recording orchestra used the pseudonym of Carl Fenton, was a talented pianist who had been a student of Scott Joplin. On “Sunset Medley” and “Country Club Medley,” he mostly plays ragtime in duets with the colorful military-inspired rhythms of Schaefer but does improvise part of the time, sounding like a jazz pianist from around 1923 rather than 1916. Are these little-known performances the first jazz on record?
Haenschoen is also featured later in1916 leading a group that adds trombone and two banjoists (one doubling on violin) on four numbers including “Maple Leaf Rag” and “Honky Tonky.” The latter was later renamed “Down In Honky Tonk Town.” There are sections of the ensembles that hint at early jazz and the band is much more relaxed even at faster tempos than the usual ragtime orchestra of the time although whether the music crosses over into jazz is debatable. But the two piano-drums duets are certainly thought-provoking even if they made no real impact at the time.
After World War I, Gus Haenschoen worked for the Brunswick label, supervising and producing many recordings and helping to sign artists to the company. Most of the remainder of The Missing Link consists of a cross section of recordings that he was involved with. There are performances of his compositions from 1914 by the Victor Military Band and singer Irving Kaufman and then from 1919-24 there are selections from his orchestra (“Karavan”), Al Bernard, the Wiedoeft-Wadsworth Quartet, Isham Jones, Gene Rodemich, Abe Lyman, Paul Ash, Vic Meyers, the International Novelty Orchestra, Al Jolson, the Mound City Blue Blowers, Nick Lucas, Herb Wiedoeft and Charlie Chaplin conducting the Abe Lyman Orchestra on the comedian’s “With You, Dear, In Bombay.” The music ranges from early jazz to dance music. Surprisingly the most famous recording by the Carl Fenton Orchestra, a version of “Delirium” featuring Red Nichols in 1927, is absent.
Gus Haenschoen, who spent his later career working in radio, deserves to be remembered as a jazz pioneer. The Missing Link (available from www.archeophone.com), which has the formerly very rare recordings along with a definitive booklet, tells the full story.
Pianist Connie Han’s recent recording is an excellent example of today’s mainstream jazz. The originals (five by the pianist and three from drummer-producer Bill Wysaske) set moods in their melodies, have complex chord changes, and inspire inventive solos from Han (doubling on Fender Rhodes) and, on selections on which they appear, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, and tenor-saxophonist Walter Smith III. Wysaske and bassist Ivan Taylor provide stimulating support throughout. The music, which could be called post bop, really has no name other than high-quality modern jazz. While tied to chordal improvisation, the playing is far beyond hard bop and is open to influences from current times while still being tied to the jazz tradition.
While Connie Han hints at early Herbie Hancock on “Mr. Dominator” and McCoy Tyner on “For The O.G,” both of which are features for her trio, she mostly plays in her own fresh voice, not sounding like anyone else when she switches to the electric piano. Other highlights of the set include the assertive “Iron Starlet,” a revival of “Detour Ahead” by the trio, Pelt’s ballad feature on “Captain’s Song,” the torrid playing by Walter Smith III. during “Boy Toy,” and the uptempo romp “Dark Chambers.”
Connie Han’s Iron Starlet, which is available from www.mackavenue.com, is a testament to the vitality of 2020 jazz.
Listening to Brian Charette romp through the uptempo blues “Yolk,” the first number on this set, it is surprising to realize that there have been so few albums of unaccompanied organ solos. When an organist is able to play swinging basslines with his or her feet, they have the potential of playing the organ as a one-man band. Even Charette has only recorded in this format once before, six years ago for a CD called Borderline. Since that time he has worked in a variety of settings and continued stretching the jazz organ tradition in different ways, but had not played solo again until this spontaneous record session.
Charette recorded the nearly 63-minutes of music on Beyond Borderline in around 70 minutes. All of the dozen songs (ten originals plus versions of Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge” and Duke Ellington’s “Prelude To A Kiss”) were just played one time apiece, yet the results sound well-rehearsed and virtually flawless. Charette sticks a bit closer to the tradition in this format than he does with combos but still throws in occasional surprises and displays his own voice. While many of his originals had previously been recorded, these versions are different and often superior to the earlier recordings.
Whether it is the hints of “Mission Impossible” on “Wish List” (which is also in 5/4 time), the oddly episodic “Girls,” or the racehorse tempo of “Public Transportation,” Brian Charette is heard at the top of his game. Beyond Borderline, which is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the jazz organ, is available from www.statesidemusic.com.
Leonisa Ardizzone Quartet
All In Good Time
(2 Strange Cats)
Leonisa Ardizzone has had several careers including as a biologist, a science educator, the executive director of the Salvadori Center, and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. Classically trained on piano, oboe, violin and voice, she has been a jazz singer since her college days, recording two earlier albums.
All In Good Time has Ms. Ardizzone joined by a top-notch modern trio (pianist Jess Jurkovic, bassist Mark Wade, and drummer Justin Jay Hines) on a variety of superior and mostly lesser-known material. While the music is essentially straight-ahead jazz, the results are often unpredictable and filled with subtle surprises. The repertoire includes jazz transformations of a few pop tunes from the 1980s, three originals (two by the singer), a scat-filled version of Hank Mobley’s “This I Dig Of You,” a revival of Dave Brubeck’s “My One Bad Habit,” and “Someday My Prince Will Come” which includes the singer’s vocalese to Miles Davis’ recorded solo.
Leonisa Ardizzone has a warm and distinctive voice along with a flexible style. Accompanied by the swinging and supportive trio with many stimulating solos from pianist Jurkovic, the result is an enjoyable and inventive set of modern jazz and Leonisa Ardizzone’s finest recording so far. All In Good Time is available from www.leonisaardizzone.com.
Annie and the Fur Trappers
Formed in 2016, Annie and the Fur Trappers is a hot trad jazz band based in St. Louis. Led by cornetist-trumpeter and singer Annie Lenders, the band also includes clarinetist Joshua Baumgardner, Joe Sparks or Mikail Andria on trombone, banjoist Bryan Cool, Jon Weiss on tuba, Adam Andrews on washboard, and sometimes altoist Yuki Aono and pianist Christopher Parrish.
The group’s latest recording, Muskrat Ramble, has a few hot jazz standards (including “Tin Roof Blues,” a heated “Dippermouth Blues,” “King Porter Stomp,” and two versions of the title cut), some vintage blues (Lonnie Johnson’s “St. Louis Cyclone Blues” and a song apiece by Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie and Blind Boy Fuller), and the leader’s “You Break It, You Buy It.”
Sounding very much like a high-quality New Orleans street band, the Fur Trappers feature a strong frontline led by Lenders, spirited bluesy vocals, and energetic ensembles. Fans of New Orleans jazz will want to pick up this fun CD which is available from www.annieandthefurtrappers.bandcamp.com.
A Throw Of Dice
Rez Abbasi, a superb guitarist who blends influences from India into his personal modern jazz style, was commissioned to write a score for the 1929 silent film A Throw Of Dice. The movie, a fable set in India about a love triangle and the fight between good and evil kings, is quite extravagant. While Abbasi had never written for a silent film before, he was up to the challenge.
The CD, A Throw Of Dice, has Abbasi leading a group that includes Pawan Benjamin on tenor, soprano and flutes, bassist and cellist Jennifer Vincent, drummer Jake Goldbas, and Rohan Krishnamurthy on several Indian instruments. The musicians perform 19 of Abbasi’s themes from the film, nearly the entire soundtrack. While the mostly concise pieces were composed to accompany and accentuate the film’s story, they stand alone from the movie quite well, forming a melodic and episodic suite that deserves a close listen.
A Throw Of Dice is available from www.whirlwindrecordings.com.
The Sublime Gershwin
George Gershwin was such a versatile musician that he is as difficult to pin down today as he was 90 years ago. While inspired by jazz and stride pianists, he never considered himself a jazz pianist despite his ability to improvise. His compositions ranged from very influential American pop songs (including creating such constantly used chord changes as those he wrote for “I Got Rhythm” and “Lady Be Good”) to full-length classical works and the unclassifiable “Rhapsody In Blue.”
On The Sublime Gershwin, pianist Roger Lent (himself a jazz musician) sticks to the written notes and performs some of Gershwin’s most interesting solo piano pieces. Gershwin had planned to write a book of 24 Preludes that he would call “The Melting Pot” and would feature many different American styles and melodies. He never got around to getting beyond seven pieces including his “Three Preludes” which were published together in 1926 and have been recorded many times since. Lent begins this CD by performing all seven preludes including the ragtime-inspired “Novelette In Fourths.”
Also included on this fascinating set is a full-length solo piano version of “Rhapsody In Blue” (modelled after Gershwin’s 1924 recording with Paul Whiteman which differs from the later standard version) and four other piano pieces. Most memorable of the latter are the unusual “Impromptu In Two Keys” and the lyrical “Three Quarter Blues.”
The music is impeccably played by Roger Lent, there are plenty of rich themes heard throughout the CD, and the result is an excellent tribute to one side of George Gershwin’s outstanding musical legacy. The Sublime Gershwin is available from www.jazzheads.com.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
From Carnegie Hall to Antibes
Sister Rosetta Tharpe had a unique career. A powerful gospel singer and a skilled jazz guitarist, she spent her career traveling between the sacred and the secular with equal success. Her performance at the 1938 Spirituals To Swing Concert at Carnegie Hall helped launch her career, she toured and recorded with the Lucky Millinder Orchestra during 1940-43 where she was a major attraction, and returned to gospel in her solo career while sometimes being joined by jazz musicians. A flamboyant yet down-to-earth performer, she may have scandalized some gospel purists (one cannot imagine what they thought of her Millinder recording of “I Want A Tall Skinny Papa”) but she retained her popularity throughout her life.
From Carnegie Hall to Antibes, which is available from Upbeat Jazz (www.upbeatrecordings.co.uk), is a fine overview of her career, particularly during the 1940s.It begins with three selections from 1938 (including two numbers from the Spirituals To Swing concert), has her singing with Millinder (including “Shout Sister Shout”) and the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra, and includes several solo gospel numbers in which she is just accompanied by her guitar. Tharpe is joined by pianist Sammy Price’s trio on several tunes including a vocal duet with Marie Knight, and the CD concludes with six selections from a 1960 European concert with the Sims-Wheeler Vintage Jazz Band, a British trad sextet that includes trumpeter Ken Sims, clarinetist Ian Wheeler, and trombonist Mac Duncan.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe shows plenty of spirit throughout, whether on “Down by The Riverside,” “This Train,” “Rock Me,” or “The Lonesome Road.” From Carnegie Hall to Antibes serves as a fine introduction to the memorable singer.
Hand Of Benediction
The first avant-garde jazz guitarists were Derek Bailey and Sonny Sharrock. Hendrik Olsson, who is from Sweden and based in Copenhagen, is a logical successor to both of those innovators.
Olsson displays his versatility on Hand Of Benediction. He is joined by bassist Jeppe Skovbakke and drummer Rune Lohse, with Julie Kjer heard on two pieces on flute and bass clarinet, one of which also includes Kristian Tangvik on tuba.
The music ranges from otherworldly sounds on the opener, rockish playing worthy of Sharrock, free form sound explorations a la Derek Bailey, a piece that is almost melodic, a slightly bluesy number, and a spoken word piece. Throughout Hand Of Benediction, Olsson displays his own musical vocabulary which is full of surprising sounds and unpredictable explorations. He never plays the expected and somehow his sidemen follow him closely even when the music is at its freest.
The only reservation I have is that the graphics on the CD cover are confusing so I am unable to determine which of Hendrik Olsson’s original pieces is being performed at a particular time. But since his moody and adventurous music is beyond words anyway, Hand Of Benediction is recommended for those listeners who enjoy hearing the guitar’s potential for unconventional sounds multiplied in colorful fashion. It is available from www.barefoot-records.com.
Keeping A Hand In This, And That, And The Other Thing
(Joe Holt’s Notes)
An excellent stride/swing pianist based in the Northeast who gained some recognition during his stints with the Midiri Brothers, Joe Holt performs a swinging solo set on this recent recording.
The music is a fine all-round effort which a fairly wide range. Among the songs that Holt swings are “As Time Goes By,” “The Woody Woodpecker Song,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “Hallelujah,” and a hot exploration of “Maple Leaf Rag” that finds him really stretching out on the rag’s second theme. He also performs a few departures including two free but melodic improvisations (“Blooming” and “Hope”), “Amazing Grace,” and Bach’s “Minuet In G.”
Everything works well on this solo outing which features Joe Holt at his best. The delightful CD is available from www.joeholtsnotes.com.