Jeff Hamilton Trio
Jeff Hamilton Trio Live From San Pedro
(Capri Records, # 74147-2)
Master drummer and composer Jeff Hamilton has one of the absolutely best piano, bass and drum trios on our planet Earth for the last seventeen years with Israeli-born pianist Tamir Hendelman and virturoso bassist Christoph Luty. Some excellent CD notes are made by Geoffrey C. Ward, Author of Jazz: A History of America’s Music. He explains and makes several important points about Hamilton. He states, “One of the special pleasures of seeing the trio in person is watching him listen to his fellow musicians and then respond – encouraging, echoing, counter-stating, punctuating, making sure,” as he says, that “everyone gets a share,” that “everyone sounds as good as they can.” “Hamilton is a musician first and foremost, always eager to serve the music, not to make it serve him.”
This brilliant CD was recorded at Alvas Listening Room in San Pedro, CA on January 8, 2017 and recently has recent street release date of February 16, 2018. Hamilton’s home is also in San Pedro, CA for many years as well.
Jeff Hamilton wrote CD notes for his trio’s own CD and some history of where the ten tunes came from into play.
The trio opens with a tune composed by Jeff Hamilton, “Sybille’s Day,” as a surprise birthday gift for a good friend, Fritz in Germany, for his wife Sybille, a great opening number. Two well-known gems continued, “Poinciana” and ballad “I Have Dreamed,” (both are outstanding arrangements). “Hammer’s Tones” is with stellar brush work from Hamilton, a song composed by a friend, George Robert, to be played on a European tour that was a longer wait to finally be able to happen.
Two favorite jazz tunes I liked were, “In Walked Bud” and “Bennissmo.”
“In Walked Bud” that shows off both Hendelman and Luty’s talents in composition and arranging. “Bennissimo” is an earlier tune composed by Hendelman and dedicated to the trio’s friend, pianist great, Benny Green. Both tunes are great movers of jazz music to the max.
“Gina’s Groove” is one of two numbers composed by John Clayton re: his daughter’s accomplishments, graduating from Harvard Law School. It is a very moving jazzy tune. The second Clayton composition is “Brush This” that was originally composed by Clayton for the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Hamilton decided to condense it down to size just for trio setting. With Luty and Hendelman’s talents this accomplishment was able to succeed.
“Gary, Indiana” was created by Hamilton when he was visiting his prior home town on a four hour drive that gave him memories of Brazillian music and a reminder of certain American Songbook songs that have a good amount of Brazillian influence.
“Hoosier Friend” is an acknowledgement to drummer great, Joe LaBarbera, a long time admired friend of Jeff Hamilton’s. On Hamilton’s 60th birthday, LaBarbera surprised him with a special song. He and LaBarbera share an inside joke about brushes so Hamilton decided to return the favor by featuring them in this very well- composed tune by LaBarbera.
At the end of Geoffrey Ward’s CD notes he states, “Joy and generosity are rare commodities these days. Here’s an album with both.”
See Jeff Hamilton’s website: http://www.hamiltonjazz.com and
Capri Records website: http://www.caprirecords.com
Jazz Fans: This is one of the great ones and is highly recommended.
Glenn A. Mitchell
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong,
Cheek To Cheek
The mutual affection and respect that Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong had for each other was always obvious. The two immortal giants recorded three full-length albums together during 1956-57 (Ella And Louis, Ella And Louis Again, and Porgy And Bess) that are full of charm, joy, swing and delightful surprises.
Cheek To Cheek is a four-CD set that includes everything that exists of Ella and Louis together. They first met up in the recording studio on three occasions for the Decca label in 1946, 1950 and 1951, recording eight selections. While the emphasis was on pop tunes, they swung the tunes, interacted with each other, and uplifted the material. Best are “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” “Can Anyone Explain” and “Would You Like To Take A Walk.”
In 1956 for Ella And Louis, producer Norman Granz had the pair joined by pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Buddy Rich for 11 superior songs, most of which were not in Armstrong’s normal repertoire with his All-Stars. Satch was having trouble with his playing chops during this period so his trumpet solos are brief and the emphasis is on the singing. “Can’t We Be Friends,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “A Foggy Day” and “Cheek To Cheek” are particularly memorable.
A year later the same group (with Louie Bellson on drums instead of Rich) regrouped for Ella And Louis Again. 19 performances resulted including “Don’t Be That Way,” “They All Laughed,” “Let’s Do It,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and “A Fine Romance.” On an exuberant ”Stompin’ At The Savoy,” Armstrong takes a hot trumpet solo and the ad-libbing between the two at the fast tempo almost gets out of control.
The Porgy and Bess project features Ella and Louis singing all of the vocal parts from the famous Gershwin folk opera with accompaniment by an orchestra arranged by Russ Garcia. It all works well, particularly the versions of “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’,” “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”
The fourth disc has a variety of joint appearances. Ella and Louis are heard on a radio show taking turns with Bing Crosby on “The Memphis Blues” in 1951. The day before they recorded Ella and Louis, they appeared at a Hollywood Bowl concert, performing mostly separate sets. They came together for a remake of “You Won’t Be Satisfied” and “Undecided.” In addition, included are all of the existing alternate takes (including some false starts and breakdowns) from the Decca sessions, Ella and Louis Again, and Porgy and Bess, most of which feature Armstrong without Ella (including many attempts at “Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess”).
This perfectly-conceived reissue package, which has fine liner notes from Ricky Riccardi, is essential, a gem, and available from www.vervelabelgroup.com and on Amazon.
(Global Soul Records)
Sally Night is a very skilled and appealing jazz singer who was raised in England but has been based in New York in recent times. On So Cosmopolitan, her fourth release as a leader, she shows that she is a talented songwriter too.
For this project, which at the moment is only available digitally, Ms. Night is joined by the 34-piece HGM Jazz Orchestra from Zagreb, Croatia along with the Rucner Quartet (comprised of vibes, harmonica, harp and bandoneon). While she performs ten originals co-written with Kresimir Herceg and the recording took place in Croatia, the music and the arrangements sound very much like they are performed by an American big band circa 1961. Sally Night’s singing is top-notch, sometimes fetching (as on the last part of “Fascinating Star”), and timeless.
None of the songs are familiar of course but there are a few possible future standards included such as her love letter to the Big Apple (“New York Whistle”), the bossa-nova “I Loved You So Much” (which recalls Susannah McCorkle in the understated feeling that Ms. Night displays), the optimistic “I Do Still Hope,” and the swinging “The Most Wonderful Feeling.” There are some fine solos scattered throughout the date, mostly uncredited (such as the trumpeter on “Fascinating Star” and the excellent pianist) and including Bertl Meyer on harmonica.
So Cosmopolitan, which is available from
www.amazon.com and iTunes, is arguably Sally Night’s finest recording to date. She is a talented vocalist and songwriter who is well worth discovering.
Texting And Driving
(Toy Car Records)
Veteran drummer Dave Tull has in recent years emerged as a talented and witty lyricist and a skilled songwriter, and an enjoyable vocalist, whether singing his lyrics or scatting up a storm. Since jazz has a shortage of major lyricists and male vocalists, he is filling a couple of important gaps while creating fun music.
While at this point Dave Tull’s best known song is “I Just Want To Get Paid,” there are 15 new tunes on his recent Texting And Driving and most are memorable. Tull, who is joined by some of L.A.’s top straight ahead jazz musicians for this project including pianist Randy Porter, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Kevin Axt and quite a few horn players (most notably trumpeter Wayne Bergeron and tenor-saxophonist Doug Webb), sounds exuberant throughout the boppish set. To name a few of the many highlights, “The Texting Song” is both humorous and a warning against texting while driving. “Henrietta” is a joyful love song. The funny “Please Tell Me Your Name” is about reminiscing with someone whose name one cannot recall; the punch line works quite well. “I’m Forever In A Fog” is about being so struck by someone that one wanders around lost while “Watch Your Kid” is filled with true-to-life comments about an out-of-control child unchecked by his parents. “The Date” has Tull and guest vocalist Cheryl Bentyne giving two sides of a successful date, “Clapping On One And Three” is about a common and unfortunate occurrence, while “I’m So Confused” sounds like a classic ballad.
Texting And Driving not only gives jazz fans new material that Jon Hendricks and Eddie Jefferson would have enjoyed, but is one of the finest jazz vocal albums of the year. It is highly recommended and available from www.davidtull.com
Mark Wade Trio
Mark Wade has been a top bassist in New York for the past couple of decades. Following on the success of his 2015 debut album as a leader Event Horizon, he has released Moving Day. This trio project teams him with pianist Tim Harrison and drummer Scott Neumann.
Even with the excellent bass playing, it is for Wade’s composing that Moving Day will probably be best remembered. He wrote all but two of the songs and modernized and altered “Autumn Leaves” (adding a “Maiden Voyage” riff) and “Another Night In Tunisia” (adjusting its rhythm in spots). On his own originals, the music tends to be episodic, evolves as it progresses, is full of subtle creativity, and features close interplay by the trio. A few of the more memorable pieces include “Moving Day” which captures the many contradictory feelings one has when moving, the hyper and complex but rhythmically accessible “Wide Open,” the somber “Midnight In The Cathedral,” and “The Quarter” which has New Orleans parade rhythms.
The melodic and lyrical playing of pianist Harrison and the quiet (felt as much as heard) drumming of Neumann serve Wade’s music well. Moving Day is the type of softly inventive jazz that grows in interest with each listen. It is available from www.markwademusicny.com .
Old Fashioned Gal
Kat Edmonson has a voice that one could imagine hearing on pop/jazz recordings of the late 1920s, she composes originals that could have been from the 1930s, and uses arrangements (many of which she co-wrote) that sound like they date from the 1950s. It is an intriguing combination that works very well throughout her fourth CD, Old Fashioned Gal.
Ms. Edmonson’s 11 new songs have lyrics that include surprising twists (“I’d Be A Fool”), romance (“Canoe”), nostalgia and wit (“Old Fashioned Girl”). One hears her being alone in Paris (“Please Consider Me”), joyful “(“How’s About It Baby?”), and frustrated but not defeated (“Not My Time”). It is easy to imagine a few of the tunes catching on in the future.
The supporting cast changes a bit on each song with trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso doing his best 1950s Louis Armstrong on three songs, guitarist Matt Munisteri proving to be a consistent asset, the vocal group Duchess guesting as background singers on “I’d Be A Fool” and “If,” and Matt Ray (who provides some of the arrangements) playing keyboards including two vocal-piano duets with Ms. Edmonson.
Old Fashioned Gal is a delightful recording that is well worth checking out, particularly by those who enjoy vintage jazz and hearing fresh new originals. It is available from www.katedmonson.com .
Dave Liebman & John Stowell
Petite Fleur: The Music Of Sidney Bechet
Soprano, tenor and flutist Dave Liebman has recorded many albums during the past 50 years, ranging from Coltranish explorations and free form interplay to special standards projects. Whether playing unaccompanied solos or with a big band, Liebman can always be relied upon to create inventive improvisations. Still, Petite Fleur is rather unexpected.
While Liebman has been one of the major soprano-saxophonists of the past few decades, it was not inevitable that he would record a tribute album to the first great soprano-saxophonist, Sidney Bechet. However on this set of duets with guitarist John Stowell, although Liebman does not try to copy Bechet’s very individual sound, he plays creatively within Bechet’s style.
The duo performs nine Bechet compositions and “Summertime”; Bechet had a minor hit with the latter song in 1938. There are three versions of “Petite Fleur” including individual solos by Liebman (who makes a rare appearance on piano) and Stowell, plus such songs as “Premier Bal,” a joyfully swinging “What A Dream,” “Creole Blues” and the now-famous “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” which was used throughout the soundtrack of Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris.
Stowell gives Liebman a solid chordal base and takes high-quality swing solos throughout the project. Liebman modifies his approach a great deal to fit the songs and keeps his playing mostly pretty melodic.
Petite Fleur, which would make for a great blindfold test, is a surprise and a very effective tribute to the great Bechet. It is recommended and available from www.originarts.com .
One of the top European jazz musicians since the 1960s, flugelhornist Franco Ambrosetti recently celebrated his 75th birthday with a new recording. A bop-based improviser who at various times displays the influences of Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, Ambrosetti has recorded a series of rewarding albums through the years, many for the Enja label.
On Cheers, Ambrosetti is joined on various selections by quite an all-star cast that includes four pianists (including Kenny Barron and Uri Caine), bassist Buster Williams, drummers Jack DeJohnette and Terri Lyne Carrington (they play together on “Drums Corrida” and separately elsewhere), guitarist John Scofield, trumpeter Randy Brecker, altoist Greg Osby, and the leader’s son the fine soprano-saxophonist Gianluca Ambrosetti. The musicians perform five standards (only one of which Ambrosetti had recorded previously), a song apiece by Joey Calderazzo and George Gruntz, and two boppish originals by the leader.
The CD actually begins a bit weakly with a version of “Autumn Leaves” that has Ambrosetti playing muted and sounding very much his age. However things pick up with the second number and the flugelhornist does not falter again. In fact, he sounds pretty youthful throughout the remainder of the spirited set, interacting happily with his illustrious sidemen on such songs as “I’m Glad There Is You,” “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.”
All American jazz fans should be familiar with the talents of Franco Ambrosetti. Cheers (available from www.amazon.com ) is a fine place to start.
Pianist George Kahn has been a longtime fixture on the Southern California jazz scene, playing his brand of soulful straight ahead jazz in a variety of contexts. For years he had wanted to record a trio album and Straight Ahead is the realization of that goal.
Teamed up with bassist Lyman Medeiros and drummer Alex Acuna, Kahn is heard throughout in top form. While much of the music could be considered soul jazz that grooves, there are also swinging numbers and a solid amount of variety. The biggest surprises are Kahn’s transformation of such songs as Adele’s “Rumour Has It” (which in this version recalls Horace Silver’s “Tokyo Blues” in spots) and Prince’s “Thieves In the Temple” into funky jazz. The set also includes plenty of Kahn’s melodic originals which pay tribute to such inspirations as Wynton Kelly, Roger Kellaway, Joe Sample, Dave Brubeck, Red Garland, Count Basie and Bill Evans. While Kahn does not directly copy any of the other pianists, one can feel their influence in these performances.
The connections are most obvious in the hard-swinging and witty ‘Roger Killowatt,” “Get Naked” (which has bits of Les McCann and Vince Guaraldi in addition to Joe Sample), the 5/4 (for Brubeck) “Dreamin,” and the happily swinging “Red’s Riff” (for Garland and Basie). Another highlight is a fresh version of “Work Song.”
Medeiros and Acuna take concise solos throughout the set and clearly inspire the pianist. Straight Ahead, which is available from www.georgekahntrio.com, features George Kahn at his best.
Purveyor Of Balladry
Tenor-saxophonist Nino Tempo, who played with Maynard Ferguson way back in 1955 and is still occasionally active, has always had a tone that is reminiscent of Stan Getz and Zoot Sims. Tempo spent much of his career as a session and studio musician (in addition to being an actor) and had a pop hit in 1963 with his sister April Stevens on “Deep Purple.” He did not even record his first jazz album as a leader until 1990 and his jazz talents have long been largely a buried treasure.
Purveyor Of Balladry begins with a beautiful but previously unissued version of “Darn That Dream” that Tempo performed at the memorial service for Nesuhi Ertegun in 1999. Ahmed Ertegun (Nesuhi’s brother) was in the audience and was so impressed by Tempo’s solo that he signed him to a contract with Atlantic Records that eventually resulted in three albums. This single CD contains nine of the 11 selections from the second record (1993’s Nino) and three from 1990’s Tenor Saxophone. The third Tempo Atlantic album, 1995’s Live At Cicada, is a live quintet date with trumpeter Conte Candoli that is not represented on this reissue but will hopefully be reissued someday.
The majority of the selections on this CD are ballads that put the focus on Tempo’s tone, but some of the performances are taken at a slightly faster pace. “This Masquerade” from the earlier album, is different in that the vocal by Rachelle Cappelli has been taken out so it is a feature for the tenor. Other highlights include “Brazil,” “You Are So Beautiful,” “’Round Midnight” and a medium-tempo “Stella By Starlight.” Some of the other songs are pop tunes of the era but Tempo’s warm tone and his ability to embrace the melodies make them quite worthwhile.
While it is a pity that Nino Tempo has not recorded many jazz albums during his career, this fine collection (available from www.omnivorereccordings.com ) is a nice one to have around.
Mike Clark & Delbert Bump
Retro Report looks back at the 1960s funky jazz scene, an era when organ-guitar-sax-drums groups were common. Drummer Mike Clark and organist Delbert Bump are featuring co-leading a similar quartet which also features guitarist Elias Lucero and Vince Denham on tenor and soprano (with tenor-saxophonist Rob Dixon guesting on “Honky Tonk”).
The result is a set of infectious music that is always danceable while emphasizing creative and bluesy solos along with heated ensembles propelled by the dominant organ. Starting with a very funky rendition of “Topsy” that gives one a fresh rendition of the song (much different than even Cozy Cole’s hit version), the set includes among its highlights the relatively straight-ahead “Deep In The Inner City,” a particularly catchy” Hi Heel Sneakers,” the jazz waltz ‘Alice In Wonderland,” Miles Davis’ “No Blues” (an exciting medium-tempo blues with an ironic title) and “Well You Needn’t.”
Delbert Bump, while strongly influenced by Jimmy Smith, also has touches of Wild Bill Davis’ extroverted style in his playing along with a strong individual voice of his own. Elias Lucero’s fluent guitar is well featured, Mike Clark keeps the music grooving and driving, and Vince Denham has a few welcome spots to be showcased.
This enjoyable brand of accessible funky jazz is available from www.ropeadope.com .
Scenes From An Italian: The Billy Joel Project
While Billy Joel never seriously tried to be a jazz singer or pianist, at least two of his songs (“Just The Way You Are” which originally featured Phil Woods taking the saxophone solo and “New York State Of Mind”) have become jazz standards. Joel has stuck throughout his career to adult rock but Lou Lanza on this enjoyable CD shows that many of Joel’s songs can be easily transformed into straight ahead jazz.
Lanza, who has a strong and appealing voice along with a naturally swinging style, is joined by Tony Gairo on saxophones, clarinet and flute, keyboardist Paul Sottile, guitarist Mike Lorenz, bassist Matt Parrish and drummer Matt Scarano. The music includes such songs as an episodic “The Stranger,” “Modern Woman” (which uses the famous “Killer Joe” riff throughout the performance), a surprising uptempo “Just The Way You Are,” the rhythmically tricky but hard-swinging “Don’t Ask Me Why,” “Zanzibar,” and “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” (which includes a bit of gypsy swing). Throughout the intriguing program, there are many solos by Gairo, Sottile and Lorenz, strong support supplied by Parris and Scarano, and consistently first-class singing by Lanza.
It would be very interesting to hear what Billy Joel thought of Scenes From An Italian. Somehow I think he would enjoy it, and maybe even be inspired to give jazz a spin sometime. This fine project is available from www.loulanza.com .
Steve Gadd Band
One of the most recorded drummers of all time, Steve Gadd has the ability to play with just about anyone. His endless resume includes Steely Dan (Aja), Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, Chuck Mangione, Chick Corea (briefly with Return To Forever), Al DiMeola, Stuff, Steps Ahead, Jim Hall, and Grover Washington Jr, When he was just 11, he sat in successfully with Dizzy Gillespie.
Gadd, who is now 73, has only recorded as a leader on an occasional basis throughout his busy career. His recent BFM Jazz release is his 12th as a leader in 50 years. It finds him happily accompanying his quintet and setting grooves while only taking an occasional drum break. Gadd’s group consists of keyboardist Kevin Hays (who takes a vocal on “Spring Song”), guitarist Michael Landau, bassist Jimmy Johnson, and Walt Fowler on trumpet and flugelhorn. His son Duke Gadd plays percussion on three numbers and acoustic guitar on one song.
The music, all originals from the band members except for one song apiece by Allan Holdsworth and Larry Goldings, is laidback, melodic, grooving and ensemble-oriented. At times it reminds one of an instrumental version of Steely Dan in that, even when the chord changes are a bit complex, the music is danceable and accessible. While there are some strong individual moments, the focus is on the sound of the full group. The results are soothing, work well as background music, and are pleasing. This set is available from www.bfmjazz.com .