One of the most unique musicians in jazz history, by 1960 Eric Dolphy (1928-64) had developed highly individual and adventurous styles on alto sax, bass clarinet (which he virtually introduced as a solo instrument in jazz) and flute. No one had ever sounded like him before and few have since. Well trained in conventional music and jazz, Dolphy mastered playing very expressive wide intervals (particularly on alto) and found ways to make dissonant phrases and sounds a logical part of his conversational style.
After recording extensively as a leader for New Jazz and Prestige during 1960-61 and working with Charles Mingus and the John Coltrane Quintet (during part of 1961-62), Dolphy was not that well documented during 1962-63. He had a group for a few months that featured the young Herbie Hancock, and appeared in several unusual settings including with classical musicians in Third Stream projects and with a poet. He did record two albums in 1963 for the FM label. Conversations came out at the time while Iron Man was not issued until four years after Dolphy’s 1964 death.
In a definitive project produced by Zev Feldman and James Newton for the Resonance label, the two Lps have been expanded to three CDs, allowing one to really dig into the diverse music recorded on July 1 and 3, 1963. The nine-song program has been expanded to 19 performances. The original Conversations album starts with a memorable rendition of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” which features a young Bobby Hutcherson on vibes and 18-year old trumpeter Woody Shaw who was making his recording debut. Also on the album are a brilliant unaccompanied Dolphy alto solo on ‘Love Me,” a lengthy duet by Dolphy on bass clarinet and bassist Richard Davis that after an explorative beginning becomes “Alone Together,” and a larger group with altoist Sonny Simmons and flutist Prince Lasha on the delightful calypso “Music Matador.” The Iron Ma album consists of another Dolphy-Davis duet on “Come Sunday” and larger groups on “Iron Man,” “Mandrake” and “Burning Spear”; each have themes that sound as colorful as a Dolphy alto solo.
While those two albums have been available for decades, it is the unreleased performances that are naturally of greatest interest. The Dolphy-Davis duets on two versions of “Muses For Richard Davis” are fine although the dark theme is not too memorable. A bonus track from Mar. 2, 1964, “A Personal Statement,” is an unusual nearly 15-performance that, once it gets past David Schwartz’s operatic vocal, has outstanding playing by Dolphy on all three of his horns. It is interesting to note that the piece was composed by the pianist on the performance, Bob James (yes, the same one!).
The third disc consists of seven alternate takes which are often of the same quality as the originally issued versions. One gets to hear new versions of the catchy “Music Matador,” “Alone Together,” “Jitterbug Waltz,” “Mandrake” and “Burning Spear” plus two of Dolphy’s unaccompanied “Love Me.” In addition, the three-CD box set includes a 98-page booklet that tells the story behind these sessions and the discovery of the previously unreleased tracks, along with quite a few musicians’ impressions of Eric Dolphy.
This perfectly conceived release (available from www. resonancerecords.org) is a must for anyone who is the slightly bit interested in Eric Dolphy and his unique music.
Woody Shaw Quartet
Live In Bremen 1983
One of the greatest trumpeters of all time and a major discovery in the jazz world of the 1970s, Woody Shaw (1944-89) had a sound similar at times to Freddie Hubbard but a more harmonically advanced style. A fiery player who could also caress a ballad, Shaw (who had a tragically brief life) made many rewarding recordings as a leader during the 1970-87 period.
Live In Bremen 1983 is a previously unreleased two-CD set that features Shaw in prime form. Featured at the concert in Germany is Shaw’s regular group (with pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Stafford James and drummer Tony Reedus) but without his usual trombonist Steve Turre. With performances that clock in between 9:46 and 15:49, Shaw really had an opportunity to stretch out as does Miller and James. The trumpeter wrote four of the nine pieces, Miller contributed two, and the group also performs “You And The Night And The Music,” the 1927 ballad “Diane,” and the obscure “400 Years Ago Tomorrow.”
Live In Bremen 1983 is high-quality advanced hard bop that features Woody Shaw at the peak of his powers, adding to his musical legacy. It is available from www.elementalmusic.com.
Thelonious Monk never recorded a Django Reinhardt song, nor did Django apparently ever play any Monk tunes. The two highly individual jazz giants also never met. However veteran violinist Kit Eakles found common ground in their music and styles with DjangoSphere being the result.
Eakles, who splits his time between the San Francisco Bay area and Vancouver, British Columbia, has made a study of the history of jazz violin and works both as an active musician and an educator. His sound sometimes hints a little at Ray Nance while his swinging style is his own. On DjangoSphere, he teams up with the great guitarist Howard Alden, bassist Don Bennett and drummer Rory Judge to play an intriguing blend of music that includes three Monk songs, two by Django from his bop period of the mid-to-late 1940s, and a pair of the violinist’s own swinging originals plus “Detour Ahead” and Duke Ellington’s “Just Squeeze Me.”
On the Monk songs, one could imagine this being how Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli might have sounded if they had recorded the tunes in 1949. It is also fun to hear rare revivals of Reinhardt’s “Artillerie Lourde” and “Fletche d’or.” Eakle’s solos are pleasing, Alden’s are on the high level that one expects from him, and Bennett and Judge are quietly swinging in support of the lead voices.
Fans of both Django Reinhardt and Thelonious Monk will enjoy DjangoSphere, which is available from www.djangosphere.com.
Echoes Of Chicago
During an era (roughly 1954-64) that freewheeling traditional jazz was popular in Great Britain, trumpeter-bandleader Alex Welsh stood apart from most of his contemporaries. While other bands either looked towards the ensemble-oriented music of Bunk Johnson and George Lewis (Ken Colyer), 1920s jazz (early Humphrey Lyttelton), small-group swing or their own brand of trad for inspiration, Alex Welsh (1929-82) sought to be the British Eddie Condon.
Born in Scotland where in 1952 he played with clarinetist Archie Semple’s band, Welsh moved to London by 1954. He organized Alex Welsh’s Dixielanders, a group featuring Semple and trombonist Roy Crimmins in the frontline plus a four-piece rhythm section that included the excellent pianist Fred Hunt. With Welsh sometimes sounding a bit like Wild Bill Davison, Semple emulating Pee Wee Russell, and the group featuring hot ensembles and colorful solos, the band was quite popular. Its original nucleus was intact into 1962 with a second complementary Welsh band lasted until shortly before his early death. His group was often utilized by visiting Americas for tours and record dates including Henry “Red” Allen, Pee Wee Russell, Wild Bill Davison, Dicky Wells, Bud Freeman, Eddie Miller, Peanuts Hucko and Ruby Braff.
The ten songs on the original Echoes Of Chicago album from 1962 comprise one of the highpoints of Welsh’s career. With tenor-saxophonist Danny Moss making the group an octet, the band plays hard-charging Chicago jazz very much in Condon’s style. Such numbers as “Strut Miss Lizzie,” “Bugle Call Rag,” “The Eel” and even “Serenade In Blue” and “Please” are given definitive hot jazz treatments. Also on this CD is a previously unreleased seven-song session from 1964 (including “At The Jazz Band” and “Riverboat Shuffle), three numbers from a 1961 EP and one originally on a 45 from the same year.
Alex Welsh & Friends contains a variety of live performances from 1958-60 by the same group but with some special guests. Beryl Bryden does an excellent job singing three numbers (including “Miss Brown To You”), bass saxophonist Harry Gold is an asset on a few songs and guitarist Diz Disley (displaying a Django Reinhardt influence and singing on “Sweet Sue”) is always welcome. The great trombonist George Chisholm is showcased on “St. Louis Blues” and joins in with fellow trombonist Roy Crimmins on four numbers including a rousing “Crazy Rhythm.” While Welsh is less prominent than on the Echoes Of Chicago CD, he gets in some fine solos along the way, directing traffic and offering a solid lead and short fiery solos.
Both of these excellent CDs are available from the admirable British jazz label Lake (www.fellside.com) which has a large catalog of valuable recordings from the trad era.
Starting Here, Starting Now
A stage actress and singer, Cornelia Luna makes her recording debut on Starting Here, Starting Now. The set, which teams her with pianist-producer Bill King’s trio and a few guests, is a tribute to the early music of Barbra Streisand.
It is obvious from the first long notes that she hits on “When The Sun Comes Out” that Cornelia Luna is the perfect singer for the project. She not only sounds very close at times in her tone to Streisand but equals her power and range. Blessed with a very attractive voice, Ms. Luna interprets such material as “Loving You,” “Any Moment Now,” “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” and “Will Someone Ever Look at Me That Way.” At this point she is a cabaret rather than a jazz singer but hopefully as time progresses she will explore jazz. One senses that she could improvise quite well and, with that voice, it will certainly sound very good.
On this CD, she is joined by pianist Bill King, bassist Dave Young, and drummer Matt Kelso with two appearances apiece by trumpeter William Sperandei (who is outstanding on “When The Sun Comes Out”) and tenor-saxophonist Mike Murley, and one by singer Gavin Hope who duets with Ms. Luna on “Any Moment Now.”
But the main reason to acquire this CD is to hear Cornelia Luna’s flawless instrument, which is at its most beautiful on “Absent Minded Me.” Her debut is available from www.cornelialuna.com.
Temple Of Groove
Gene Celiberti is a talented drummer who was born and raised in Australia where he was largely self-taught. He moved to the U.S. to study at Berklee when he was 21 and spent time living in Toronto and Los Angeles (2000-04) before returning to Australia. He has performed a wide variety of music (including playing guitar and singing) but high-powered jazz is obviously his main love.
Celiberti went to Bali in 2010 where he was surprised at the wealth of musical talent that he found. In 2013 he visited Jakarta, Indonesia where he also met a lot of fine musicians. The eight selections on Temple Of Groove, which were recorded during 2014-18, showcases some of the top creative musicians in Indonesia along with Celiberti. All but one piece features a guitar-keyboards-electric bass-drums quartet (one performance has a trio without keyboards) although the personnel changes from song-to-song. Celiberti wrote four of the eight originals while the others are from his sidemen.
While one can call this music fusion due to the mixture of rockish rhythms and sounds with sophisticated jazz improvisations, the music (which is built around grooves) is often unpredictable and finds the musicians stretching themselves. Guitarist Aiden Ishmael takes honors with a stirring solo on the opening “Sir Dig It,” keyboardist Eghay Synth does well on “Gyro Spiral,” Celiberti has a fine concise drum solo on “Kretek Dreams” and “After Jam,” which has chord changes similar to “Impressions” and “So What,” features a particularly catchy groove and some nice organ-sounding keyboards from Synth.
“High As A Kite” is the closest that the music comes to straight ahead jazz. It is a driving piece with excellent solos from guitarist Kadek Rihardika and Synth along with inspired drum accompaniment. Guitarist Ishmael creates a particularly lively solo on the bluesy and episodic “Rainy Day,” Achmad Anada’s guitar is quite explosive on “3am Jam,” and catchy rhythmic figure makes “Time To Change” a fine closer. In addition to the musicians mentioned, Bassists Franky Sadkin, Indro Hardjodikoro and A.S. Mates, guitarist Yankjay Nugraha, and keyboardists Usereal Fitri and Yongki also make worthy contributions to the music.
Listeners who enjoy spirited and fresh fusion will want to check this CD out which is available from www.geneceliberti.com.
We’ll Meet Again
We3 consists of singer Renee Grant Patrick, violinist Suzanne Lansford and pianist Nicole Pesce. The three musicians met by accident one night a year ago and discovered that they all loved playing vintage jazz songs from the 30’s and ‘40s. We’ll Meet Again is their first joint recording.
Throughout this set, Nicole Pesce shows that she is quite a powerhouse on piano, Suzanne Lansford sounds like a hard-swinging Stephane Grappelli, and Renee Grant Patrick is equally skilled on high-powered tunes and ballads. After the opening instrumental version of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” the repertoire contains a few surprises. Several of the songs (“If I Didn’t Care,” “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall,” “Java Jive” “It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie” and “We Three”) are associated with the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers. While Ms. Patrick sometimes hints at those versions, the trio swings the pieces in a way that the vocal groups rarely did.
The performances are mostly pretty delightful including a medley of “The Gypsy” and “Gypsy In My Soul” (the latter is taken quite fast), a heartfelt “The Nearness Of You,” “Exactly Like You” (once it gets past the disguised beginning) and surprisingly cooking versions of “I Got The Blues When It Rains” and “It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie.”
We’ll Meet Again is a fun and nostalgic set, available from www.we3music.com.
(Outside In Music)
Lluc Casares, who was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain, took his first clarinet lessons from his father who was also a musician. Classically-trained, he switched to jazz as a teenager with his main focus moving to the tenor-sax. After graduating college in 2012, Casares began to visit the U.S. regularly, including with the Barcelona Jazz Orchestra and Dr. John’s Spirits of Satch show, and he recorded with such notables as Lee Konitz, Wendell Brunious, and Leroy Jones plus the Gramophone Allstars Big Band, Smack Dub and Pablo Martinez’s Flamenco Jazz Band. In recent times, Casares settled in New York.
On his second album, following 2015’s Red, Lluc Casares performs eight originals and Thelonious Monk’s “Brake’s Sake” with a sextet also includes trumpeter Philip Dizack, vibraphonist Joel Ross, pianist Addison Frei, bassist Mark Lewandowski, and drummer Francisco Ciniglio. The songs were conceived by Casares as a tribute to his experiences in New York City.
At times reminiscent of a mid-1960s Blue Note album, perhaps one with Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Sketches Overseas stands apart from the pack due to the individual sounds and adventurous styles of the musicians. Among the highlights of the post-bop set are the quirky “Maferefun” (which displays Casares’ originality on tenor and includes a fine spot for Dizack), the advanced blues “340 Blues,” the ballad “Ugh? Nuek,” “Brake’s Sake,” the introspective “Juntor” which has Casares switching to clarinet, and a fairly free tenor-piano duet on “Nobody’s Song.”
This is inventive music with its share of surprises heard along the way. Sketches Overseas is available from www.outsideinmusic.com
Trumpeter Nabate Isles, who has been heard on CDs as part of large ensembles led by Steve Coleman, Mike Longo, Fred Ho and Christian McBride, steps out on Eclectic Excursions, his recording debut as the leader of his own group.
The 13 selections, which have changing personnel and instrumentation, cover a lot of ground. The opening “Inception” is a brief trumpet-percussion duet with Allakoi Peete. The funky number “Laid Back” has, in addition to some singing, an unfortunate (but fairly brief) rap while “Find Your Light” is essentially an r&b feature for vocalist Alita Moses.
The jazz content increases with “Funkdafied,” an exciting number that has hot trumpet from Isles and spots for trombonist Ku-umba Frank Lacy and tenor-saxophonist Stacy Dillard. Christian McBride appears as a sideman on that selection. Isles teams up with altoist Jaleel Shaw in a quintet for “Exchanging Pleasantries.” After the brief and atmospheric “Sultriness,” “Grab Her By The What” has a septet (with both Johnathan Blake and Nate Smith on drums) laying down a groove with trumpet blasts and a good spot for guitarist David Gilmore that is worthy of early 1970s Miles Davis. “Minute Pieces Of Wozzeck” continues in the same burning vein. Things cool down a bit on “Mellod E. M.” which teams Isles with flutist Elena Pinderhughes.
The second half of the CD is often closer to straight ahead jazz although still modern and unpredictable. Walter Bishop Jr.’s “Cubicle” is taken for a soul jazz romp with a group that includes the passionate baritonist Lauren Sevian, Gilmore, organist Adam Klipple and drummer Blake. After the brief “Jubilation For Closure” (with the leader on keyboards), Isles heads a hard bop sextet on Bobby Hutcherson’s “Pomponio” that includes fellow trumpeter Jimmy Owens. An emotional version of “Strange Fruit” by Isles, singer Michael Mayo and pianist Adam Klipple precedes the CD’s closer, the melodic “For The End” which features bassist Ben Williams.
The music on Eclectic Excursions lives up to its title and keeps one guessing. This stimulating set is available from www.nabateisles.com.
Thicker Than Water
A brilliant virtuoso on the bass who is a master at tapping, Brian Bromberg has displayed his versatility and skills on a strong series of recordings. Thicker Than Water features him playing funky jazz with a large cast of fine players most of whom are based in Los Angeles.
Bromberg has the ability to sound like a guitarist on his bass as he shows on “Is That The Best You Can Do,” leading a horn section and some top-notch rhythm players on the attractive piece. The other numbers include catchy melodies, infectious but light rhythms and plenty of superior playing by Bromberg mostly on electric bass and piccolo bass although he also plays acoustic bass on “It’s Called Life.”
In addition to Bromberg’s fluent solos and powerful bass patterns, tenor-saxophonist Brandon Fields (often in the range of an alto) has a fine solo on ”Minneapolis 1987,” Najee takes a tenor spot on “Coupe De Ville” (following a Bromberg solo that sounds a bit like George Benson), and the late George Duke contributes a keyboard solo to “Uh-Huh.”
Not all of the music is significant (“Your Eyes” with Marion Meadows is pretty lightweight) and one has to enjoy the many bass solos but this accessible set is generally pleasing. It is available from www.mackavenue.com.