Lynne Arriale Trio
Give Us These Days
A major pianist with her own voice ever since her first trio recording in 1993, Lynne Arriale has
forged an individual musical path in the modern jazz mainstream ever since. Give Us These Days is her 14th album as a leader and each of those sets are consistently rewarding
Joined by two fine players from the Netherlands (bassist Jasper Somsen and drummer Jasper Van Hulten), Ms. Arriale performs a well-rounded program that includes a surprisingly hard-driving and muscular version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” the tender “Finding Home,” the spiritual “Give Us These Days” (inspired by Jim Schley’s poem “Devotional”), “Slightly Off-Center” (a cooking blues), a respectful “Let It Be” that lets the melody sing in a fashion that one could imagine Keith Jarrett playing, and the exciting samba “Over And Out” which has some witty playing by the pianist, particularly behind Van Hulten’s energetic drum solo. The closer, Tom Waits’ “Take It With Me,” is a wistful ballad duet with guest singer Kate McGarry.
Give Us These Days (available from www.challengerecords.com) is easily recommended to Lynne Arriale’s longtime fans and particularly to those who are just discovering her brand of creative jazz. It is well worth several listens.
Rhapsody In Technicolor
(Gigi Habanero Records)
Sylvia Mims, after spending time early in her career singing standards in San Diego and Los Angeles, studied classical voice in Connecticut for several years before deciding to return to jazz. She has a beautiful voice, is quite sensitive when interpreting lyrics, and always swings. Her debut CD Where Lovers Live was excellent and the follow-up, Rhapsody In Technicolor, is even better.
The new CD finds her usually being joined by pianist Matt DeChamplain (Taber Gable and Donn Trenner are on two songs apiece), and often by bassist Matt Dwonszyk and drummer Curtis Torian (with Jonathan Barber on two numbers). Violinist Jason Anick is a major asset on “Wild Is The Wind” and “Fragile,” classical guitarist Cesar Garabini helps out on two songs, and Joshua Bruneau adds his muted trumpet to the funky “What You Won’t Do For Love.”
But the main star throughout is Sylvia Mims. She puts plenty of feeling into an atmospheric “House Of The Rising Sun which is filled with her glorious long notes. In addition to singing the lyrics, she contributes some very nice wordless singing to “A Day In The Life Of A Fool.” She scats well on a faster-than-usual version of “Beautiful Love” and displays superior ballad singing on “Wild Is The Wind” and “Sometimes I Wonder Why,” perfectly placing her notes. The latter is the first of four songs that Ms. Mims takes as a duet with either DeChamplain or Trenner.
Sting’s “Fragile” excels at the unexpectedly fast tempo with strong contributions from Anick and Garabini (who gives the song a touch of gypsy swing). “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” cooks in 6/4 time while “Morning” has the singer and DeChamplain sounding quite comfortable performing a song with a salsa feel. “The Nearness Of You” is a tender performance with Trenner while Dave Brubeck’s “Strange Meadowlark” (which has rarely been revived) is a duet with DeChamplain. “What You Won’t Do For Love” has Sylvia Mims sounding soulful on an r&b piece, and she is quite exuberant during “I Will Wait For You.” “Nature Boy” teams the vocalist (who shows confidence at the relatively fast tempo) with the virtuosic bassist Dwonszyk. A swinging “Old Devil Moon” and a heartfelt version of the Donn Trenner ballad “Here I Am With You” conclude the memorable set.
Rhapsody In Technicolor (available from www.sylviammis.com) is one of the finest jazz vocal albums of the year, serving as a perfect introduction to the artistry of Sylvia Mims.
For John Coltrane, 1958 was a key year. He had developed from an unknown sideman with the Miles Davis Quintet in 1955 to the most promising young giant in jazz, one whose “sheets of sound” solos were making a major impact. The previous year he had grown month-by-month, particularly during a period as a member of the Thelonious Monk Quartet. While he led four sessions in 1957, he was a sideman on 16 others (not counting the Monk dates), generally stealing the show in each setting.
In 1958 Coltrane rejoined Miles Davis’ group which was now a sextet with Cannonball Adderley and (after a few months) Bill Evans, recording the classic Milestones album. He also recorded (on alto) with Gene Ammons for Prestige and with Michel Legrand, George Russell and Cecil Taylor for other labels.
The five-CD set Coltrane ’58 has all of his recordings for the Prestige label (other than the Ammons dates) from 1958. The innovative tenor was the leader for all of the sessions except for three headed by flugelhornist Wilbur Harden and one by guitarist Kenny Burrell. The 37 selections include his first versions of “Lush Life” and “I Want To Talk About You,” a wondrous solo on “Lover,” and such highlights as “Russian Lullaby,” “Why Was I Born” (a duet with Burrell), “Freight Trane,” “Black Pearls,” “Lover Come Back To Me,” “Invitation,” “Stardust,” “My Ideal” and “I’ll Get By.” In addition to Burrell and Harden, the supporting cast includes trumpeters Donald Byrd and Freddie Hubbard (at the beginning of his career), pianists Red Garland and Tommy Flanagan, bassist Paul Chambers and drummers Jimmy Cobb, Louis Hayes and Art Taylor.
While all of this music has been out before, it is nice to have these exciting bop-oriented performances in the spotlight on one set, particularly in a package that includes a definitive 76-page booklet. For those who do not already have these sessions, Coltrane ’58 (available from www.concord.com) is a must.
Mandy Kemp sounds so at home on her jazz EP Firecracker that it is surprising that it took her so long to discover jazz. While she was classically trained, sang with a professional choir when she was a teenager, and performed in theatrical productions in the San Francisco Bay area, she took a detour, earned a degree in Communication Studies, and had a career in corporate marketing for 15 years. Even when she returned to singing in 2015, it was in the world of cabaret. It was not until 2017 that she became very interested in jazz, studying with Greta Matassa and Jane Monheit and appearing in Los Angeles area jazz clubs.
Firecracker, a six-song EP with 22 minutes of music, is her debut jazz recording. Ms. Kemp has a nice friendly voice, puts swing and understated feeling into each song, and improvises with subtlety and taste. She uplifts the material without ever overwhelming it, making each song sound rewarding.
She is joined by pianist Andy Langham (who contributed most of the inventive arrangements), vibraphonist Nick Mancini, guitarist Will Brahm, bassist Jonathan Flaugher, drummer Rick Montalbano, and percussionist Jamey Tate. The program includes a warm and sometimes touching version of “How Little We Know,” the jazz waltz “I Don’t Care Much,” a slightly funky rendition of “I Concentrate On You,” the ballad “In A Matter Of Speaking” and “Sugar.” The latter is not the Stanley Turrentine hit but a vintage swing tune which is taken as a samba. The highpoint of the set is a surprisingly effective combination of “Detour Ahead” and “These Foolish Things Remind Me Of You” which gracefully alternates between the two songs.
Mandy Kemp has a lot of potential in jazz. Hopefully she will stick to it and reward us with a full CD in the near future. In the meantime, the enjoyable Firecracker is recommended and available from www.mandykemp.com.
Nick Hempton is a veteran alto and tenor-saxophonist based in New York. In 2018 he recorded his sixth album as a leader and his first leading a group that utilizes an organist (Kyle Koehler). The quartet, which also features the great guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Fukushi Tainaka, will certainly delight fans of soul jazz and hard bop organ groups.
The opening blues “Night Owl” and the saxophonist’s excellent original “I Remember Milady’s” are very much in the 1960s hard bop tradition with Hempton’s tenor sounding particularly strong. An uptempo “After You’ve Gone” has the leader on alto where he sounds very much like Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt, displaying his mastery of the bebop vocabulary. His melodic and emotional alto is heard in top form on the ballad “I’m A Fool To Want You.” “10th Street Turnaround” is a nice swinging original while “Corner Bistro” is a joyful funky soul jazz number worthy of Lou Donaldson in the late 1960s. The other selections include a pretty version of “It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream” (with Hempton’s tone being close to Sonny Stitt’s), the menacing strut “Listen Hard, Speak Easy,” and “Macao Mood” which has Hempton’s tenor preaching a la Stanley Turrentine.
Despite the references to other saxophonists, Nick Hempton has his own sounds on alto and tenor within the tradition. There are also many colorful solos throughout the set by Koehler and Bernstein with Tainaka keeping the music swinging.
The result is a highly enjoyable and swinging set. Night Own is easily recommended and available from www.nickhemptonband.com.
Harold Danko/Kirk Knuffke
Pianist Harold Danko is best-known for playing in hard bop settings while cornetist Kirk Knuffke has often been heard in much freer settings. However both musicians are flexible and adaptable with Danko able to be quite adventurous while Knuffke is familiar with earlier approaches to jazz improvisation.
They had never met before recording Play Date, but their duets sound as if they had been familiar with each other for years. On their consistently intriguing set, they alternate compositions by pianist Duke Jordan (who recorded many albums for the SteepleChase label) with mostly briefer free explorations. The unlikely combination works quite well with the free numbers acting as interludes between Jordan’s excellent songs.
The Duke Jordan performances include three versions of “Flight To Denmark” (including ones that open and close the set), “Misty Thursday,” “Stonewall Blues,” “Wut’less,” “Undecided Lady” and “Layout Blues.” These mostly obscure songs are worth reviving and the close interplay and quick reactions between Danko and Knuffke (who do not accompany each other as much as they have stimulating conversations) hold one’s interest throughout.
This inspired set is available from www.statesidemusic.com.
Two Sides Of The Organ Combo
One of the top organists on the scene today, Radam Schwartz has worked with such notables as Woody Shaw, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, George Benson, Cecil Brooks III. and Arthur Prysock, in addition to leading eight CDs of his own. While quite familiar with the organ tradition, Schwartz has developed a sound of his own.
Two Sides Of The Organ Combo is divided into “Smooth Side” and “Groove Side” with five songs apiece in the two sections. Fortunately “Smooth Side” is not so-called smooth jazz but is meant to be the relaxed music that has often been played in lounges and behind singers while the “Groove Side” is more adventurous and features more aggressive grooves. In reality, the division between the two is not that obvious, but each “side” is rewarding in its own way.
The five “smooth” numbers team Schwartz and drummer Andrew Atkinson with vibraphonist Bryan Carrott and tenor-saxophonist Mike Lee. Highlights include a joyful version of the Ted Weems hit “Heartaches,” the uptempo “First Bit Of Sun,” and a nice catchy version of “My Guy.” Lee gets to wail a bit in his spots and the often-prominent vibes of Carrott give these performances their own personality.
The “groove” pieces have Schwartz and Atkinson joined by guitarist Charlie Sigler, altoist Anthony Ware and trumpeter Marcus Printup. The mostly-heated music (other than the more mellow “Hope”) includes “Variations On Freedom Jazz Dance” and a funky “Summertime.” The music contains its share of fiery moments.
On both “sides,” Radam Schwartz is heard in top form, playing creatively within the soul jazz tradition. This fine set is available from www.arabesquerecords.com.
Jazz In Detroit
The brilliant and unique bassist-composer Charles Mingus dropped out of music during 1966-69 before making a complete comeback during 1970-71. He recorded Let My Children Hear Music in 1971 with a huge group and a live concert with a large all-star band (Charles Mingus And Friends In Concert) in Feb. 1972 before touring Europe with a new but regularly changing quintet.
A year later he brought his quintet to Detroit for a five-day engagement at the Strata Concert Gallery. Now, 46 years later, the performances of Feb. 13, 1973, which were broadcast on the radio with Bud Spangler as the host, have been released for the first time as a five-CD set.
The Charles Mingus Quintet at the time included tenor-saxophonist John Stubblefield, trumpeter Joe Gardner, pianist Don Pullen and drummer Roy Brooks. Mingus’ longtime drummer Dannie Richmond was absent from the group during this period. Brooks’ more high-powered approach gives the unit a different sound, as does his occasional playing of a musical saw. Pullen, whose dense and avant-garde chordings were leavened by his infectious rhythmic approach, would be with Mingus through 1975. In contrast, Stubblefield was only in the band for five months and was never otherwise documented with Mingus although he would later become an important member of the posthumous Mingus Big Band. Gardner fares well in his spots although is overshadowed a bit by Stubblefield (heard in peak form) and Pullen, who are both consistently inspired.
A great deal of music was performed that night, ten mostly lengthy performances including “Pithecanthropus Erectus,” “Peggy’s Blue Skylight,” “C Jam Blues” and “Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk.” “Dizzy Profile” (which along with “Celia” is heard twice) and “Noddin’ Ya Head Blues” were never otherwise recorded and “The Man Who Never Sleeps” was only documented for a Japanese label. Mingus is mostly content to lead the ensembles and accompany the soloists, taking surprisingly few solo spots himself.
A 30-minute radio interview with Roy Brooks by Bud Spangler and a long announcement about the Strata Gallery and other topics are only worth hearing once. They add to the atmosphere but were not necessary and this compact box could have been four rather than five CDs.
But that reservation aside, the stirring music is quite rewarding and adds to the legacy of both Charles Mingus and John Stubblefield. It is heartily recommended and available from www.bbemusic.com.
Day Of Reckoning
Dann Zinn is a high-powered tenor-saxophonist and a respected educator based in the San Francisco Bay area. In his career he has worked with Wally Schnalle, Dave Eshelman’s Jazz Garden Big Band, Joe Henderson, Jeff Tain Watts, and Freddie Hubbard among others. Day Of Reckoning is his fifth album as a leader.
Teamed with pianist Taylor Eigsti, bassist Zach Ostroff, and drummer Mark Ferber on nine of his originals and the standard “Blame It On My Youth,” Zinn takes plenty of explosive and intense solos throughout the CD, really blowing the roof off during “Day Of Reckoning,” “Continental Divide” and “Brave New World.” His playing is in the tradition of Ernie Watts, Don Menza, early Ernie Krivda and Bennie Wallace although with his own ideas and sound.
In addition to his powerful tenor playing, Zinn takes a solo apiece on flute and soprano, and contributes several songs that one could imagine others covering, particularly “Family Reunion,” “The Journey Home” and the happily funky “Time’s Up.” Eigsti and Ostroff have several brief solos during the set and Ferber often matches Zinn in intensity.
Variety is offered on sections of several of the pieces, particularly during a mostly tender rendition of “Blame It On My Youth.” But Day Of Reckoning is most highly recommended to those who love the sound and power of a very expressive saxophonist. It is available from www.dannzinn.com.
Ehud Asherie Trio
Wild Man Blues
Born in Israel, Ehud Asherie spent part of his childhood in Italy before moving to the U.S. when he was nine, growing up in New York. Largely self-taught on piano, Asherie has developed a very open style that, while based in bop and 1950s jazz, has him sometimes playing swing and stride. He has worked along the way with Cecile McLorin-Salvant, Wycliffe Gordon, Catherine Russell, John Pizzarelli, Charles McPherson, Harry Allen and Ken Peplowski to name a few
Wild Man Blues is Asherie’s 11th CD as a leader. His trio with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Rodney Green performs a variety of mostly vintage material. On songs such as “Wild Man Blues,” “Flying Down To Rio,” and “Chasin’ The Bird.” Asherie switches easily from bop to swing with occasional forays into stride piano, all of it somehow fitting each song. He takes “Oh, Lady Be Good” as a slow dirge, revives Dizzy Gillespie’s rarely-performed but joyful “And Then She Stopped,” and does justice to the beautiful melody of “Autumn Nocturne.”
Chances are good that Ehud Asherie will someday be heralded as one of the jazz piano greats of this time period. His eight performances on Wild Man Blues make for a highly enjoyable and slightly unpredictable listening experience. His fine CD is available from www.caprirecords.com.
Greg Reitan has won several awards for his composing for television and film projects. As a pianist, with the release of West 60th he has now led five trio albums for the Sunnyside label, all featuring bassist Jack Daro and drummer Dean Koba.
West 60th consists of 11 concise performances with only two songs exceeding five minutes in length and none over six. Reitan performs eight of his originals and a song apiece by Bobby Hutcherson, Herbie Hancock and Aaron Copland (“Four Piano Blues, Movement No. 3”). Many of Reitan’s originals are taken uptempo (particularly “Hindemith,” “Momentum” and “Lines”), have original chord changes, and melodies that are quickly discarded in favor of his adventurous flights. In contrast is his moody “Luminosity,” the jazz waltz “West 60th” and his treatments of the Hutcherson (“When You Are Near”) and Hancock (“Little One”), pieces which are taken as sensitive ballads.
The interplay between Reitan and bassist Daro, the subtle playing of drummer Koba, and the overall feel of the trio is sometimes reminiscent of Bill Evans, but the material is generally more advanced and Reitan’s solos are more outwardly virtuosic The inventive playing on West 60th grows in interest with each listen. This rewarding release is available from www.sunnysiderecords.com.