Syncquistic Linear Expositions
A leader of the avant-garde jazz scene in Los Angeles since the late 1970s, Vinny Golia has recorded in many different settings through the years for his Nine Winds label. One of the most accessible groups to hear him in is the pianoless quartet that is featured on this CD, a disc whose full title is Syncquistic Linear Expositions and their Geopolitical Outcomes (…we are all still here…).
Golia, who long ago developed his own sound on nearly every possible reed instrument, is featured on this set on sopranino, soprano, baritone, bass clarinet, kwala (an Arabic flute), kayzee and gongs. He is joined by altoist Steve Adams (who occasionally recalls Eric Dolphy), bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Tina Raymond for seven episodic performances.
Golia’s music is dramatic and often freely improvised but it also has organized sections, covers a variety of moods and ideas, and balances solos with colorful ensembles that contain important contributions from each of the musicians. The freeboppish “All The Things I’m Not” is a highpoint but there is not a slow or predictable moment throughout this memorable set. The players constantly react to each other and Golia, whether on his low or high instruments, is in top form throughout.
Syncquistic music indeed; this fine set is available from www.pfmentum.com.
Outside The Soiree
Erin McDougald is a Chicago- based singer who is well worth discovering. Outside The Soiree, her fourth CD as a leader, apparently took a long time to get out. Howard Mandel’s liner notes are from 2013. But considering the quality of the music, it was worth the wait.
McDougald is a versatile singer who can coo and shout with the best of them, swings hard, and writes arrangements that bring new light to even the most familiar songs. On Outside The Soiree, she is joined by such greats as soprano and tenor-saxophonist Dave Liebman, trumpeter Tom Harrell, Dan Block on alto, flute and clarinet, and vibraphonist Mark Sherman, each of whom have many concise solos. The fine rhythm section is comprised of Rob Block on piano and guitar, bassist Cliff Schmitt, drummer Rodney Green and percussionist Chembo Corniel.
After starting with a straightforward version of the blues “Don’t Be On The Outside” (which recalls Karrin Allyson a little), Ms. McDougald goes into a slower-than-expected version of “Begin The Beguine” and a Latinized “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime.” Other highlights include a rhythmically tricky (and uptempo) “Midnight Sun,” a surprisingly joyful “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most,” a rare rendition of “The Man With The Horn,” and a medley of “Linger Awhile” and “Avalon.”
Outside The Soiree is filled with unexpected interpretations of often-unusual material. All 13 performances have their bright moments from the ensemble, the classic soloists, and the consistently creative and appealing singer. Erin McDougald, who deserves to be much better known, has put together one of the more memorable vocal albums of the year. Outside The Soiree is highly recommended and available from www.flappergirlsings.com.
Tears Of Joy/Connection
(Beat Goes On)
Don Ellis (1934-78) was a unique figure in jazz history. An adventurous and versatile trumpeter with his own distinctive sound, Ellis led a series of unique big bands starting in 1965 that became famous for exploring unusual time signatures, utilizing electronic attachments on some of the musicians’ horns, and having an unconventional instrumentation. With its occasional broad use of humor and its open-minded approach towards both rock and Indian music (along with a regular tip-of-the-hat to earlier jazz styles), the Don Ellis Orchestra made most other big bands sound somber in comparison.
While one thinks of Autumn and Live At The Fillmore and perhaps Electric Bath from 1967-70 as being the greatest recordings by Ellis’ ensembles, the recent reissue as a two-CD set of Tears Of Joy (originally a two-Lp release) and Connection is a happy event. At the time of 1971’s Tears Of Joy, Ellis’ big band consisted of four trumpets (including Ellis on his quartertone trumpet, four-valve flugelhorn and drums), a brass quartet (comprised of French horn, trombone, bass trombone and tuba), a woodwind quartet, a string quartet, and a five-part rhythm section (with pianist Milcho Leviev) that includes two other drummers and congas. A few years later Ellis would add a vocal quartet but unfortunately that version of his band never recorded.
Tears Of Joy has many highlights including the wild “5/4 Getaway” (based on “Little Rock Getaway”), Leviev’s “Bulgarian Bulge” (which is in 33/4 when it is not 36/4), the heartfelt ballad (in 7/4) “Loss,” and the lengthy and fascinating “Strawberry Soup” which features each of the big band’s sections.
Connection was recorded shortly after Ellis wrote the award-winning score to The French Connection. Although the performances are briefer and a bit commercial (particularly in the choice of pop tunes), Ellis managed to make most of the songs sound individual and unusual in his use of electronics and odd time signatures. In addition to his “Theme From ‘The French Connection,’” the set includes unique “cover” versions of such songs as “Put It Where You Want It,” “Alone Again (Naturally),” “I Feel The Earth Move,” “Conquistador,” and “Lean On Me.”
This worthy reissue from one of the greatest of all big bands is available from www.bgo-records.com.
Francois Moutin & Kavina Shah Duo
Interplay is a set of duets by singer Kavina Shah and bassist Francois Moutin. Ms. Shah’s voice is beautiful, has a wide range and, whether interpreting lyrics or flying freely, she is a joy to hear. Bassist Moutin is very much an equal partner in these performances, taking his share of solos, pushing the singer to stretch herself by feeding her inventive ideas, and interacting closely with her.
The duo is heard in particularly fine form on “You Go To My Head,” “La Vie En Rose,” on the singer’s well-titled “Bliss,” and a rare vocal version of Bill Evans’ complex “Interplay.”
Two special guests appear on a pair of numbers apiece. Veteran pianist Martial Solal challenges the duo on his “Coming Yesterday” and “Aigue Marine” which he co-composed with Ms. Shah. And it is only fitting that Sheila Jordan, who made vocal-bass duets famous decades ago, guests on “Falling In Love With Love” and Horace Silver’s “Peace,” sounding as wonderful as usual.
But the main credit for this CDs success goes to the co-leaders. Kavina Shah, who is heard on her second CD (her first as a leader was 2014’s Visions) and Francois Moutin (who played with Solal decades ago and is perhaps best known for co-leading the Moutin Reunion Quartet) make for an ideal team during the stimulating yet subtle outing. Their fine set is available from www.kavitashamusi.com.
It Might As Well Be Swing
Allan Vache has long been one of the finest clarinetists on the scene. In addition to being a member of Jim Cullum’s band for 17 years, he has appeared as a freelancer at a countless number of classic jazz festivals, parties and clubs since leaving Cullum in the early 1990s. Vache can always be relied upon to contribute a large attractive tone in all registers (his high notes are quite appealing), ideas that are swinging and melodic, and a bit of excitement to every solo.
It Might As Well Be Spring mostly features Vache in a quartet with pianist Mark McKee, bassist Charlie Silva and drummer Walt Hubbard, all of whom are based in Orlando, Florida. Two songs add Vache’s wife Vanessa Vache on either clarinet or bass clarinet and his former student Erin Davis-Guiles on third clarinet. They stick to arranged ensemble parts on “Poor Butterfly” and “Air Mail Special” that add a bit of variety and color to the set.
Rather than playing Dixieland or early jazz pieces, Allan Vache is heard in excellent form on a variety of sophisticated swing standards including an uptempo “It Might As Well Be Spring,” “Cheek To Cheek,” “You Took Advantage Of Me” and “There Is No Greater Love.” His sound is as strong as ever and he shows throughout that he is very much in prime form.
It Might As Well Be Swing is recommended to anyone who enjoys swinging jazz and the sound of the clarinet. It is available from www.arborsrecords.com.
This is a most unusual and delightful project. Ted Daniel is best known for playing avant-garde jazz although his solos were generally a bit melodic and mellow. A few years ago he bought a King Oliver 78 and became very interested in finding out about his life and music. In 2015 Daniel gathered together a quintet that also included guitarist Marvin Sewell, violinist Charlie Burnham, Joe Daley on tuba and drummer Newman T. Baker to play new versions of seven songs that Oliver had recorded in 1923 with his Creole Jazz Band.
The instrumentation is much different than what Oliver used but it works well in this intriguing program. Rather than have another cornetist, trombone or clarinet to work off of, Daniel instead casts the tuba of Daley in a prominent role both in playing rhythmic figures and taking solos. Daley also overdubbed a euphonium to play the trombone part on “Tears.” Violinist Burnham adds to the richness of the ensembles and has occasional solos, Sewell displays the blues side of his musical personality, and Baker occasionally plays New Orleans parade rhythms while also functioning as a percussionist. The music is a bit ragged and loose at times but quite effective. Daniels does not attempt to recreate the early recordings and successfully pays homage to King Oliver in a fresh way.
With Daniel faithfully playing the melodies, taking expressive solos (remembering that Oliver was an early master of mutes), and mixing in his own sound while keeping the themes in mind, Zulu’s Ball is full of surprises and joy. Certainly one would not have expected to hear Ted Daniel and the other musicians playing such songs as “Mabel’s Dream,” “Buddy’s Habit” and “Riverside Blues” which is heard twice (the second time as a duet with Sewell).
While not for New Orleans jazz purists or those who lack a sense of humor, Ted Daniels’ Zulu’s Ball is a memorable tribute to the great King Oliver. It is well worth hearing several times and is available by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Terms Of…
(Joe Mazz Music)
Trumpeter Joe Mazzaferro has been active in the Northern California jazz scene for the past 15 years, based in the Sacramento and Stockton areas. Along the way he has performed with Dave Brubeck, Gunther Schuller, Christian McBride, Stefon Harris, Donald Brown, Wycliffe Gordon, and Ingrid Jensen among others. In Terms Of his debut CD as a leader.
For this project, Mazzaferro utilizes a core quintet that co-stars altoist Jeff Clayton on five of the eight pieces. He also uses a variety of guests including most notably pianist Donald Brown and drummer Carl Allen. With the exception of a song apiece by Clayton and Mulgrew Miller, the set is comprised of the leader’s originals.
The music is primarily modern hard bop. While part of the Clifford Brown/Freddie Hubbard tradition, Mazzaferro does not sound like either and has his own warm sound and inventive straight ahead style. The high-powered opener, “In Terms Of…” has particularly exuberant solos by Mazzaferro, Clayton, pianist Brenden Lowe and bassist Chris Amberger, getting the set off to a roaring start. Among the other pieces are the excellent hard bop tune “’E’ for Eleanora,” Mulgrew Miller’s jazz waltz “Holding Hands,” the lyrical ballad “For Cherylyn & Josh” which is a trumpet feature, Clayton’s confident strut “Wild Man” and the closing romp “Dark Heart Beat.” Of the other soloists, Patrick Langham excels on alto and soprano.
In Terms Of… is an impressive debut for Joe Mazzaferro and is available from www.joemazzmusic.com.
A New Day
(B. Falk Music)
Bobby Falk is a talented drummer and vibraphonist who has been based in Dallas/Fort Worth and Louisville. In addition to his playing abilities which are used to support his group (rather than being showcased as a soloist), Falk is a very skilled songwriter. He composed all 12 selections that are performed on his CD A New Day.
At the time, Falk was in the process of moving from Louisville to Dallas, so he utilized some of his favorite Louisville musicians. Featured are Tommy Poole on tenor, alto and soprano, Hunt Butler on tenor or flute for three numbers, trumpeter Craig Tweddell or flugelhornist Rick Cook, guitarist John Arstingstall, Wade Honey or Daniel McGeeney on keyboards, and Lee Puckett or Saulo DeAlmeida on bass. While those names will be unfamiliar to most jazz followers from outside of the area, it is a measure of the universality of jazz that each of the musicians are excellent and capable of being part of any city’s jazz scene.
The music covers a wide area. “Blues For B’ Falk” opens the set with a swinging augmented blues with a bridge. The joyful performance features spirited trumpet, tenor and guitar solos. “Journey” is one of several numbers that display the influence of Pat Metheny in the writing. “Falk’s Feeling” is a celebratory piece with some soulful saxophone playing while “Sundown Dance” has an aggressive piano/bass pattern that inspires heated tenor, guitar and trumpet solos along with a heated closing ensemble.
The picturesque “A New Day” contrasts with the straight ahead “The Alternate Choice” and “Boppin’ Around Germantown.” The latter is an original that is based on “Out Of Nowhere” although given some extensions. A swinging “The Passing Moments” and the modern ballad “Deep Dream” precede a duet by flutist Hunt Butler and pianist Daniel McGeeney on the happy “Back Home.” The program concludes with the gospellish “That Sunday Feeling” and a peaceful soprano-piano duet by Tommy Poole and Wade Honey on “Goodbye.”
This is an enjoyable set from start to finish that is available from www.bobbyfalkmusic.com.
A Light In Darkness
Eric Reed, one of the top pianists of the past 25 years, can swing as hard as anyone, always plays with a bluesy feel and soul, and has long had his own musical personality within the jazz tradition. Like millions of others, he is deeply troubled by the current political and moral situation in the U.S. along with the constant celebration of mediocrity. On A Light In Darkness, he does his best to express himself through music and occasional words.
For this heartfelt project, Reed is joined by saxophonist Tim Green, bassist Ben Williams, drummer McClenty Hunter and, on three selections, singer Jamison Ross. The program has several numbers with religious themes including the opening “The Way To Love” which, in the singing of Ross, talks about the importance of doing what is right rather than just going along with what one knows is wrong. “Calvary,” which begins with the hymn “Lead Me To Calvary,” despite its serious subject manner, becomes spirited and swinging. “The Promised Land” is an uptempo romp with plenty of drum breaks and jubilant playing by Green on soprano and the pianist. “Beauty For Ashes” starts as a thoughtful ballad, picks up steam, and has a fiery alto solo at a cooking tempo. Jamison Ross returns for “Hope In View” which is about the importance of living in the present and looking towards the future rather than bemoaning the past.
A one-chord jam on “Shine” gives Ross an opportunity to ad-lib a bit. “Garden Of Sorrow” (a tribute to Donny Hathaway and his struggles) is one of the strongest originals on the date, featuring close interplay between Reed on electric piano and bassist Williams. The program concludes with Reed playing solo on a thoughtful medley of “Yesterday” and “Yesterdays” that is nostalgic and a little hopeful about the future.
A Light In Darkness (available from www.wj3records.com) is a different type of Eric Reed recording but, like his previous sets, is it well conceived and easily recommended.
Mike Daniels and his Delta Jazz Band
Mike On Mike
A pioneer British trad jazz trumpeter and bandleader, Mike Daniels (1928-2016) led his Delta Jazzmen during 1948-74. A part-time group since the musicians also had day jobs, the band’s playing was on a high level, particularly by the mid-1950s. Daniels, whose playing was inspired most by King Oliver, utilized fresh arrangements and frameworks on obscurities and a few standards. The musicians played creatively within the world of 1920s jazz, sometimes sounding like a Chicago band circa 1928.
Mike Daniels, who made a comeback in the 1990s, recorded surprisingly little during his earlier years. The admirable Lake Records, which has made available scores of valuable and highly enjoyable British trad sessions from the who’s who of the 1950s and ‘60s, compiled many of the trumpeter’s better performances (some previously unreleased) on their Remembering Mike Daniels CD.
Mike On Mike is mostly comprised of the contents from the one Lp that was released during Daniels’ prime years. Two selections dating from 1956 and a dozen from 1960 team Daniels with trombonist Gordon Blundy, clarinetist John Barnes, pianist Des Bacon, either Geoff Over or Eddie Smith on banjo, Don Smith on bass and sousaphone, and drummer Arthur Fryatt. The band romps through a spirited program that includes four Jelly Roll Morton numbers (highlighted by “Steamboat Stomp” and “King Porter Stomp”), two by Clarence Williams (“Cushion Foot Stomp” and “Wildcat Blues”), the King Oliver-associated “Struggle Buggy,” “Hiawatha Rag,” a couple of bluesy features for singer Doreen Beatty, and two band originals. The ensembles are clean, the solos are concise and hot, and the group displays its own personality.
The Mike On Mike CD also has, as a bonus, six of the eight numbers made by Daniels at his earliest sessions. From 1949-50, the ensembles are a bit rougher but the group shows plenty of spirit, especially during Louis Armstrong’s “Gatemouth.”
Fans of Dixieland, 1920s jazz, New Orleans jazz and trad are advised to take a close look at the large Lake Records catalog at www.fellside.com. Acquire as many of those releases as you can while they are still available, including Mike Daniels’ enjoyable Mike On Mike.
Sam Trippe/Bob Rogers
West Coast Series
Bill Hitz/Greig McRitchie
West Coast Series
Even the most devoted of jazz record collectors probably have never heard of Sam Trippe, Bob Rogers, Bill Hitz or Gregg McRitchie. With the exception of McRitchie (who headed one other album), these big band leaders from the late 1950s only recorded one album apiece, and those Lps have been very obscure and out-of-print for more than a half century.
One of the joys of exploring Jordi Pujol’s Fresh Sound label is getting to discover many great artists of today (on his Fresh Sound New Talent label) and of the past (Fresh Sound). He recently started a new “West Coast Series” with these two CDs, featuring four worthy orchestras based in Los Angeles that did not catch on.
Trumpeter Sam Trippe’s band, which is documented on 1959’s Explosion, certainly had potential. While the only “names” in his 17-piece orchestra are tenor-saxophonist Jay Migliori and drummer Chiz Harris, the big band had a powerful trumpet section, excellent musicianship, fine soloists and solid arrangements by trombonist Ray Sikora. Trippe, who is showcased on “You Go To My Head,” was rightfully enthusiastic about the band’s chances of making it. But tragically the 36-year old bandleader died in a car accident just five months after his group made its only recording.
The Bob Rogers Orchestra recorded All That And This Too in 1961. The 11-piece band also includes Jay Migliori (this time on alto) along with tenor-saxophonist Bill Perkins, baritonist Jack Nimitz and the brilliant young bassist Gary Peacock. The arrangements by trumpeter Kip Dubbs and pianist Len Stack work well but this group did not survive long. Rogers, who plays vibes on a couple of selections, apparently never recorded again after this set.
The two bands on the second CD both recorded in1956. Bill Hitz heads a 13-piece group on Music For This Swinging Age that features his dry but fluent clarinet playing, lead trumpet from Conrad Gozzo, and contributions from such notables as trumpeter Ray Linn, trombonists Milt Bernhart and Dick Nash, Buddy Collette on alto, tenor and flute, the long-forgotten tenor-saxophonist Bill Ulyate, pianist Gerald Wiggins, bassist Curtis Counce and drummer Larry Bunker. However the main ingredients that give this orchestra its own personality are the adventurous arrangements of Spud Murphy which utilize his 12-tone system. The ensembles are often dense and unpredictable, uplifting such songs as “Strike Up The Band,” “Stompin’ At The Savoy” and “Diga Diga Doo” in surprising ways.
Greig McRitchie’s Easy Jazz On A Fish Beat Bass (a title that is never explained) is unusual in that the leader’s arrangements make liberal (and often-witty) use of “The Big Beat” which was a part of early rock and roll. The band (ranging from 11-16 pieces), which includes such names as Ray Linn, Buddy Collette (alto and flute), pianist Russ Freeman and drummer Shelly Manne, is good-humored as they shift back and forth from the stereotyped rhythms to swing, giving listeners unusual versions of “Jeepers Creepers,” “Runnin’ Wild” “Robbin’s Nest” and a variety of originals.
These two intriguing CDs, which are easily recommended to fans of 1950s big bands, are available from www.freshsoundrecords.com.