(Street Of Stars)
Born in Israel and a resident of New York for the past four years, Tamuz Nissim is a singer with a lovely voice and an adventurous spirit. As she shows on Capturing Clouds, her fourth release as a leader, she is a superior and inventive scat singer who also uplifts lyrics.
For this intimate session on which she is joined by guitarist George Nazos, bassist Harvie S. and drummer Tony Jefferson, Tamuz Nissim performs five of her originals, three jazz standards, “Here Comes The Sun,” and a song apiece from Tom Waits and Nick Drake. All of the music is turned into creative and mostly swinging jazz although there are many unpredictable moments. The set begins with “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” which, due to some unusual phrasing, is almost unrecognizable for part of the time before Ms. Nissim displays her heated scatting over a floating and danceable rhythm. Some of the other tunes also keep one guessing but the end results are personal, logical and subtle.
In addition to her optimistic originals (which include “Make It Last,” “Capturing Clouds” and “Saturday Sun”), highlights include a real tour-de-force on “Rhapsody For Trane” which has vocalese sung to John Coltrane’s solo on “I Hear A Rhapsody,” “Like Someone In Love,” “Here Comes The Sun” (on which the singer interacts closely with guitarist Nazos), and her scatting duet with Harvie S. on “What A Pair.” Throughout the program, guitar and bass solos accentuate the moods set by the singer and add to the variety of the performances.
Tamuz Nissim is well worth discovering. Capturing Clouds is available from www.tamuzmusic.com.
My Patsy Cline Songbook
If Patsy Cline had not died in a plane crash in 1963 when she was just 30, would she have eventually sung jazz? A very accessible and influential country singer who made “Crazy” and “Walkin’ After Midnight” (both of which have been adopted by jazz vocalists) famous, she had unlimited potential.
Staci Griesbach, who grew up listening to Patsy Cline before becoming a jazz singer, decided to return to her roots for her debut recording, but with her own twist. Although her singing at times recalls Cline without directly copying her, the interpretations and the arrangements by Tamir Hendelman, Michele Weir, Celia Vaz (who turns two of the songs into bossa-novas), Jeremy Siskind and Josh Nelson are jazz-oriented while paying respect to the original melodies. Featured along the way are fiddle player Stuart Duncan, Bob Sheppard on tenor, guitarist Bruce Forman (who after all is the leader of Cowboy Bop), and Rich Hinman on steel guitar plus pianists Misha Adair, Hendelman, Siskind and Nelson.
Throughout the set, Staci Griesbach displays a beautiful and adaptable voice that will appeal to both jazz and country listeners. Highpoints include “Crazy,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” some very nice ballad singing on “She’s Got You” and “Leavin’ On Your Mind” (the latter has close interplay with Sheppard), the tender “Blue Moon Of Kentucky,” and two songs that Cline recorded but are better known for their jazz associations: “Bill Bailey” and Irving Berlin’s “Always.”
This is a surprising and successful tribute, easily recommended and available from www.stacigriesbach.com.
High And Outside
(Cadence Jazz Records)
HMC, a trio consisting of tenor-saxophonist Jimmy Halperin, bassist Don Messina and drummer Bill Chattin, performed a concert together on April 21, 2002 that was fully recorded. The album Cycle Logical was released around that time but the remainder of the music is now finally being put out for the first time. While it should have been released years ago, it was worth the wait.
High And Outside features the type of music that Lennie Tristano could have played in the 1950s. Utilizing chord changes from standards, it puts the emphasis on the cool-toned Halperin’s lengthy and melodic improvisations. Messina also contributes some fine solos, engages in a bit of counterpoint with Halperin and, along with the supportive Chattin, provides steady and swinging accompaniment of the tenor.
Halperin displays the ability to play chorus after chorus of colorful and creative ideas on such songs as “My Melancholy Baby,” “Leave Me” (“Love Me Or Leave Me”), “Ornithology,” and “Sax Of A Kind” (“Fine And Dandy”). He also plays with warmth on the ballad “Ghost Of A Chance.”
Lovers of cool jazz and bebop will certainly enjoy High And Outside, which is available from www.cadencejazzrecords.com.
During the past few years, Lolly Allen has developed into one of the most promising vibraphonists in jazz. While one can occasionally hear the inspiration of other vibraphonists in her playing (such as Milt Jackson, Terry Gibbs and Gary Burton), she has developed her own style and approach to performing straight ahead jazz.
Coming Home, her second CD as a leader, has Allen mostly leading a quintet with Danny Janklow on alto and tenor, Josh Nelson or Tom Owens on piano, bassist Jordan Richards, and Paul Kreibich or Kendall Kay on drums. Two songs (Carl Saunders’ swinging “Lolly’s Folly” and “Gentle Rain”) have trumpeter Saunders, trombonist Scott Whitfield, baritonist Adam Schroeder, and guitarist Larry Koonse being added to the group.
Mixing together standards with a few lesser-known songs (including Horace Silver’s “The Hippest Cat In Hollywood”) and two of the vibraphonist’s originals, Coming Home is an excellent showcase for Lolly Allen’s playing. With inventive arrangements provided mostly by Allen and Owens, the highlights include “Little Hummingbird,” a quietly expressive version of “If You Could See Me Now,” “Mambo Inn” and Dizzy Gillespie’s Bebop.”
The passing of Bobby Hutcherson and the retirement of Gary Burton and Terry Gibbs makes it necessary for a new generation of vibraphonists to move the instrument and the music forward. Lolly Allen has the potential to become one of the leading vibists. Coming Home, available from www.originarts.com, is an excellent showcase for her talents.
Miss Maybell & Charlie Judkins
The Lingering Blues
Listening to this CD, it would be easy to believe that much of the music was recorded in the mid-1920s. Miss Maybell (Lauren Sansaricq) has a vocal style that is similar to that of the classic blues singers of the era, ranging from Ethel Waters to Bessie Smith without copying any one vocalist. She puts plenty of bluesy feeling into the songs (which include both vintage blues and vaudeville-type songs), she swings, and she also plays washboard. Pianist Charlie Judkins is a ragtime and stride pianist and is very much a complete band by himself in addition to begin a tasteful accompanist.
With a few exceptions, the repertoire is from the 1920s including “Arkansas Blues,” “I’ve Got What It Takes But It Breaks My Heart To Give It Away,“ “I’m Tired Of Fattening Frogs For Snakes,” and Alberta Hunter’s “Downhearted Blues.” The only “modern” piece is “Waiting For The Evening Mail” (recorded by Peggy Lee in the 1940s but actually composed in 1923). Judkins also has a couple of solo piano showcases including Charles Thompson’s “The Lingering Blues.”
While this CD would have benefitted from liner notes and a better piano, The Lingering Blues is a very enjoyable set that is highly recommended to fans of 1920s jazz and blues. It is available from www.facebook.com/missmaybell
Tenor-saxophonist Stephen Riley has a sound of his own, featuring a tone that is both light and piercing, sometimes hinting a little at Joe Lovano although he says that Paul Gonsalves was a big influence.
Oleo is his tribute not only to Sonny Rollins but to Rollins’ 1963 quartet that featured trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Billy Higgins. Riley, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, bassist Jay Anderson, and drummer Adam Nussbaum perform four Rollins pieces and five other jazz standards that he had played at one time or another, except possibly “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” which is effectively explored for 11 minutes.
Sonny Rollins played freer in the 1960s than he had earlier or would later, and he and Cherry made for a mutually inspiring team. The same can be said for Riley and Magnarelli who, while tied to the bebop tradition, in this setting do not feel compelled to stick to it. Their fresh ideas and sly song quotes invigorate such tunes as “Doxy,” “St. Thomas,” “Ornithology,” and John Coltrane’s “Lazy Bird.”
Oleo is easily recommended and available from www.statesidemusic.com.
Django a la Creole – Live!
Django Reinhardt and Sidney Bechet never recorded together and possibly never played on the same set despite both being based in France during 1949-52. Django a la Creole, a quartet comprised of clarinetist Evan Christopher, David Blenkhorn and Dave Kelbie on guitars, and bassist Sebastien Girardot, gives one an idea what the collaboration might have sounded like even though Christopher does not copy Bechet and Blenkhorn has his own style within the Django tradition.
Formed in 2007, Django a la Creole is featured on Live, its third recording for the Lejazzetal label (www.lejazzetal.com), each of which is recommended. The program (drawn from four concerts) starts out particularly strong with Reinhardt’s “Douce Ambiance,” a joyful jam on the hot jazz standard “Riverboat Shuffle,” and a version of “Dear Old Southland” that is taken as both a New Orleans funeral dirge and a romp. Also included on the program are numbers by Johnny Hodges, Jelly Roll Morton (“Mamacita” and “The Crave”), Rex Stewart, Duke Ellington (“The Mooche”) and two additional numbers by Django plus “Songe d’Automne.”
Everything works during this well-paced program which consistently features Evan Christopher and his group at its most stirring.
The Stick EWI Project
In The Moonlight
There have been a countless number of jazz recording sessions through the years but, as far as I can tell, none have featured both the Chapman Stick and the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument). Certainly none have been comprised of a set of duos between the two instruments, until the Stick EWI Project’s In The Moonlight.
Emmett Chapman developed his innovative tapping technique on the guitar in 1969, and by 1974 had invented the Chapman Stick. Related to the guitar, it has ten or twelve strings, is performed by tapping the strings, and its best exponents can play chords, bass patterns and melody lines simultaneously. The EWI was invented by Nyle Steiner around the same period of time. It is an electronic wind controller similar in fingering to a saxophone and looking a little like a soprano-sax. The EWI is essentially a wind synthesizer that, like the Stick, has unlimited potential.
Since both the Stick and the EWI can be an orchestra by themselves, on In The Moonlight Stick master Michael Kollwitz and the EWI specialist Walton Mendelson show a lot of restraint. They perform a dozen group originals that are melodic, atmospheric and often picturesque. Their music generally fits the titles on such selections as “Pleasant Dreams” (a relaxed ballad), the mellow “Whispering,” “In The Moonlight” (which is quite wistful), a lightly swinging “Summer River Day,” and the humorously titled “If It Ain’t Baroque Don’t Fix It.” Many of the selections, particularly “Spinnakers Bay.” would be excellent choices for soundtracks. Mendelson’s EWI ranges in tones from sounding like a harmonica on the wistful “Missing You” to emulating a violin a bit on the romantic “Lasting Love.” While Mendelson is often in the lead, Kollwitz takes care of all of the rhythm section functions, and one would swear in spots that there was a guitar, keyboard and electric bass.
One could imagine the Stick and the EWI “battling it out” and really creating some crazy sounds together. However, In The Moonlight is primarily a peaceful and soothing but not overly predictable set of melodic music that finds the Stick and the EWI blending together in a unique fashion.
This recommended set is well worth checking out and available from www.michaelkollwitz.com.
Lisa Liu is an impressive up-and-coming gypsy jazz guitarist who is based in Brooklyn. While she had classical piano lessons early on (switching to guitar when she was 13) and gained experience playing folk, punk, blues and rock, including making three albums with the acoustic folk/blues-oriented Cornelius Eady Trio, Introducing…Lisa Liu is her debut gypsy jazz recording.
It is obvious throughout this enjoyable set that Ms. Liu has impressive technique, really knows the Django Reinhardt style, and has developed her own voice within the tradition. She is featured with her Manouche Trio which includes rhythm guitarist Josh Kaye and bassist Zach Serleth, and they welcome four guests on a song apiece.
The set consists of four standards, a Django Reinhardt obscurity, and three of Lisa Liu’s originals. Reinhardt’s “Duke & Dukie” is a minor-toned piece that swings hard and features both the guitarist and trumpeter Angeleisha Rodgers. Ms. Liu’s “Valse D’elle” is a charming waltz that showcases her fluent playing on the scalar piece while her “Buenos Aires” is harmonically complex and has some fine playing from accordionist Loic Da Silva along with a spot for bassist Serleth.
The leader is featured throughout a tasteful and bluesy version of “September Song.” She teams up with violinist Victor Lin on “Rebound’s Bounce,” a cooker that is a bit cinematic. “Sweet Lorraine” is a duet in which she plays chordally behind Cait Jones’ warm vocal. After “Out Of Nowhere,” a fine swinger by the trio, she creates a lyrical version of “Someday My Prince Will Come” as an unaccompanied closer.
Lovers of gypsy jazz, Django Reinhardt, swing, and high-quality music in general will savor Lisa Liu’s music on this enjoyable set which is available from www.lisaluiguitar.com.
Live, Bootleggin’ At The Bop Stop
A versatile singer and songwriter who has composed over 100 songs, Maria Jacobs has performed jazz (both swinging and smooth), r&b, pop and gospel in her career. Born and raised in Cleveland, she gained valuable experience as a vocalist during a 12-year period living and working in Los Angeles. She is currently a professor at Kent State University. Live, Bootleggin’ At The Bop Stop is her eighth album as a leader.
This is very much a jazz set with Ms. Jacobs joined on all but the final selection by pianist Rock Wehrmann, bassist Aidan Plank and drummer Mark Gonder. The program consists of her fresh and lively versions of seven jazz standards plus four of her colorful originals and it is performed live before an enthusiastic audience.
The set begins with “Seven Steps To Heaven” which features the vocalist’s lyrics, some dazzling scat-singing which really shows of her impressive range, and short piano and bass solos along with drum breaks. “Comes Love,” which was made famous by Billie Holiday in the 1950s, is most notable in this version for the passionate scatting and the heartfelt piano playing of Wehrmann. Jacobs’ “Round And Round” begins as a ballad before becoming a samba; it features its composer playing some excellent flute. She had strong success a few years ago with her soulful “Pour Me A Cup Of Yesterday” which is heard in a new version with Jim Kiroff guesting on guitar. After that thoughtful piece, the singer goes all-out during “It Could Happen To You” which features her singing her lyrics to the original Chet Baker scat solo. It also includes an excellent piano-drummer tradeoff and some joyfully over-the-top vocalizing at its climax.
Jacobs’ “My Blue Heart” is a jazz waltz that has some modal playing by Wehrmann. “Day By Day” features some explosive scatting and a heated tradeoff with drummer Gonder. She does a fine job on “Moody’s Mood For Love” and sings with a great deal of soul on “Losing You” while accompanying herself on piano. The concert concludes with her tribute to Ella Fitzgerald on “How High The Moon.” The CD also includes a bonus track. Each year Maria Jacobs performs a concert at the Torrance Civic Center. Her stirring rendition of “One Note Samba” from the 2013 concert has her joined by pianist Richard Sherman, bassist Adam Cohen, and drummer Jon Stuart.
An impressive singer at the beginning of her career, Maria Jacobs has continued to evolve through the years, gaining power and developing her very individual style. Live, Bootleggin’ At The Bop Stop (available from www.mariajacobs.com) is her strongest jazz recording to date and is easily recommended.
Bill Keis/Ron Ruvio
(Bill Keis Music)
Keyboardist Bill Keis and trumpeter Ron Ruvio have known each other a long time. They first met in kindergarten, played music together in high school and then, after having their own successful music careers, crossed paths at their 40th high school reunion. That event made them decide to make music together again.
Reunion is the result. The versatile Keis and the virtuosic Ruvio co-wrote three pieces and also perform five by Keis, one from Ruvio, a pair by guitarist Mitch Talevi, and two standards. They cover a variety of styles and utilize different instrumentations. Keis (on piano, keyboards and keyboard bass) and Ruvio (switching between trumpet, flugelhorn and cornet) create colorful duets on three numbers, play trios with either drums or guitar on one song apiece, perform four quartet numbers with bass and drums and two with trombone and drums, and also have a quartet piece with trombone, bass and drums. The changing personnel, which includes trombonist Tom Garling, either Adam Cohen or Steve Billman on bass, and Tom Walsh (a founding member of Spyro Gyra) or Jay Setar on drums with one guest appearance by guitarist Talevi, plus the wide range of music, gives Reunion plenty of variety and keeps one guessing.
The opening “Whadd?” with Keis’ electric piano sounding a little like Chick Corea, differs greatly from the Latinish “Cantamar,” the melodic and dramatic duet on “The Adirondacks An Improvisation,” and the catchy and funky “Jury Duty.” “Spring Leaves,” taken as an acoustic swinger by the quartet, has a new theme over the chords of “Autumn Leaves.” “Within The Legal Limit” is a jazz waltz with a strong melody that has Ruvio displaying a nice fat tone on his trumpet. After the quietly expressive ballad “Grey Skies,” the co-leaders and drummer Setar romp through an uptempo “Oleo.”
Keis’ “Sunbird” introduces an attractive light melody before the piece becomes a straight ahead cooker with a particularly fluent piano solo from its composer. Talevi’s minor-toned “The Blues” inspires some excellent solos. “Rolling An Improvisation” has strong interplay between the two leaders while taking the music to some unexpected places. Freddie Hubbard’s “Byrdlike” is given a brief but heated ride before the set concludes with the uplifting melody of “Reminiscence.”
There are plenty of subtle surprises heard throughout Reunion with Bill Keis and Ron Ruvio consistently inspiring each other to make every note count. It makes for an enjoyable set of modern jazz, one that is easily recommended and available from www.billkeis.com.
Jazz has become such an international music and is filled with so many talents today that it is impossible to follow everything even if one works at it fulltime. One can certainly be excused if they are not familiar with Sefi Zisling although, once hearing his music, it is difficult not to be impressed by his abilities.
A top trumpeter on the jazz scene in Tel Aviv, Israel, Zisling combines together jazz improvising with creative funk rhythms, utilizing both electric keyboards and arrangements that give many of his ensembles a big band sound.
His double-Lp Expanse has Zisling’s powerful trumpet joined by keyboardist Noam Havkin, guitarist Uzi Ramirez, electric bassist Omri Shani, drummer Tom Bollig, percussionist Idan Kupferberg, and both Yaron Ouzana and Yair Slutzki on trombones. In addition, some of the selections add one or two saxophonists, vibes, French horn, and background singers.
Zisling co-wrote all of the selections with band members, some of which occasionally recall Freddie Hubbard in the 1970s. The music mostly grooves, sets up moods, and has melodies that are often a bit catchy. Such pieces as “The Sky Sings,” “Reverie With You And Me,” and “Changing Colours” contain melodies and solos that fit the titles with the sidelong “Epilogue” being one of the highpoints.
This intriguing yet accessible music, which has been released by the British Tru Thoughts label, is available from www.tru-thoughts.co.uk.
Songs From The Harp
(Soul Harp Music)
Julia Cunningham is a harpist and singer based in Victoria, British Columbia. While her first six albums were instrumentals, on Songs From The Harp she is recast as a singer who plays harp rather than the other way around. While she has often been part of nonjazz settings ranging from classical music (performing with Luciano Pavarotti many times) to four years of touring with Solomon Burke, on this CD she mostly performs swing standards with a jazz combo consisting of pianist Miles Black, violinist Richard Moody, trumpeter Miguelito Valdes, guitar, bass, drums, and congas.
Cunningham has a soft and fetching voice that is particularly attractive and inviting on such songs as “On The Sunny Side Of The Street,” “There’s A Small Hotel,” “My Romance,” “All I Do Is Dream Of You,” and “Pennies From Heaven.” Surprisingly, Cunningham’s harp playing on this project is mostly confined to accompanying her singing, playing some fills, and occasionally stating the melody.
While it would have been nice to hear her perform some lesser-known material and she should have taken some improvised harp solos, Julia Cunningham’s sweet voice and lightly swinging style are strong enough reasons to pick up Songs From The Harp which is available from www.soulharp.com.
Reverberant: Poems & Music
(Piece Of Pie)
Lisa B (Lisa Bernstein) has a strong reputation as a creative jazz singer. However she is also a published poet and, on Reverberant, she emphasizes the latter. The spoken word set has her reciting, acting out, and occasionally singing her poetry. Assisted on various tracks (usually by just one or two musicians) by Ben Flint or Scott B. Looney on keyboards, bassist Marcus Shelby, and drummer Jeff Marrs with James Gardiner playing all of the accompanying instruments on three pieces, Lisa B. has created an inventive and often haunting set.
Along the way she pays tribute to Cecil Taylor (“I Am An Orchestra”) who was a family friend, Billie Holiday, Max Roach, and bassists in general, sings about being a diabetic, includes a new Lord’s Prayer, and also offers a few offbeat pieces about religion, concluding the set with a collage of excerpts from the previous ten pieces.
Listeners who like spoken word albums will enjoy this colorful effort which is available from www.llsabmusic.com.