JAZZ CD REVIEWS FOR JULY 2017

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Richard Dowling
The Complete Piano Works Of Scott Joplin
(Rivermont)

There have been a handful of “complete” Scott Joplin piano projects through the years, including ones undertaken by Richard Zimmerman, Dick Hyman and Knocky Parker. Richard Dowling has not only recorded Joplin’s 53 rags, waltzes and marches but he has performed all of them at extensive two-part concerts, probably the first time that Joplin’s music has been played in full before audiences.

Dowling’s three-CD Complete Piano Works Of Scott Joplin is not programmed in chronological order but by mood, including the rarely-heard “A Slow Drag” which is taken from Joplin’s ragtime opera Treemonisha. Although I would have preferred the chronological approach, one certainly cannot fault these performances. Besides being note-perfect and sticking to the classic formats, Dowling clearly lives the music. His versions are lively, at times emotional, and seem to always be played at the perfect tempos, often slightly faster than other recordings. He brings Scott Joplin’s 100-120 year old music to life, infusing the beautiful melodies and syncopated rhythms with plenty of spirit.

In addition to photos of the sheet music and a summary of Joplin’s life, the 72-page booklet has Bryan S. Wright (a fine pianist who runs the Rivermont label) relating the often-colorful stories behind each of the selections. Ragtime is America’s classical music, Scott Joplin is the king of ragtime and Richard Dowling is clearly the premiere interpreter of his music. Be sure to pick up this gem, which is available from www.rivermontrecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Terry Gibbs
92 Years Young: Jammin’ At The Gibbs House
(Whaling City Sound)

Back in 1946 when he was 21, Terry Gibbs made his recording debut with clarinetist Aaron Sachs’ “Manor Re-Bops.” Even at that early stage, it was obvious that Gibbs ranked at the top among jazz vibraphonists. 70 years later, after insisting for a year-and-a-half that he was retired, the 91-year old Gibbs was persuaded by Neil Weiss of Whaling City Sound and his son drummer Gerry Gibbs to make another recording. The vibraphonist relented while insisting that it be a jam session at his house. With pianist John Campbell and bassist Mike Gurrola completing the group, the quartet recorded 31 songs in a four-day period. 14 are on this CD.

No prior planning took place, nor was any needed. A musician would suggest a tune, the group played and recorded it, and then it was time for another song or a break. The party atmosphere can be felt throughout this enjoyable outing. Gibbs and his group are featured on 11 standards and three of the vibist’s basic originals. The music always swings (which is certainly not surprising), the solos are colorful, and Terry Gibbs shows throughout that he is far from finished. Highlights include their treatments of such songs as “Indiana,” “What’s New,” “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” “Between the Devil And The Deep Blue Sea” and “Yardbird Suite.”

Bebop, vibes and Terry Gibbs fans are advised to pick up this set, available from www.whalingcitysound.com . Hopefully the great vibraphonist will remain open to occasional recordings in the future. One cannot really imagine him retiring.

Scott Yanow


Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell
Vol. 1 1928-1934
(JSP)
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell
Vol. 2 1934-1941
(JSP)

Photo of CD cover

Leroy Carr (1905-35), who is best remembered for introducing his “How Long, How Long Blues,” was a major blues pianist and singer during his short life. He primarily performed medium-tempo blues and blues ballads (with an occasional swing tune) during a long series of duets with guitarist Scrapper Blackwell. Carr’s singing style sometimes recalls early Jimmy Rushing while his piano playing was among the most fluent and soulful of the blues-oriented pianists of the era. Leroy Carr would certainly be better known today were it not for his early death which was partly due to him being an alcoholic.

All of Leroy Carr’s recordings are on this pair of four-CD sets from the British JSP label (available from MVD Distribution at www.mvdb2b.com ). The first box, which covers 1928-34, has the first 95 of the Carr-Blackwell duets including seven previously unreleased performances. Scrapper Blackwell, who joins Carr for a vocal duet on seven of the numbers, was a very sympathetic acoustic guitarist whose supportive playing and occasional solos fit in perfectly with Carr. While the music is best enjoyed one CD at a time, it contains plenty of highpoints and never gets tired nor loses its enthusiasm.

Vol. 2 1934-1941, in its first two discs, has the final 49 Leroy Carr recordings (15 were previously unissued), concluding with the ironic “Six Cold Feet In The Ground.” Josh White guests on some of the numbers on second guitar and the last four selections feature Carr singing and playing piano unaccompanied. The remaining two CDs are a bit unusual. One has a sampling of selections by singers Bumble Bee Slim and Little Bill Gaither. They are included because both Slim and Gaither recorded tributes to Leroy Carr, they cover some of his songs, and the pianists (including Honey Hill) play in a similar style to Carr. The last disc, called Friends Of Leroy Carr 1926-1940, is a grab-bag of selections that often either influenced Carr or vice versa. Sippie Wallace (with Louis Armstrong), Roosevelt Sykes, Tampa Red, Leadbelly, Lucille Bogan, Robert Johnson and Washboard Sam are among the many greats who make appearances. Scrapper Blackwell concludes the program by singing “My Old Pal Blues” for his late friend. Both of these superb boxes from the JSP label have the best sound quality possible and together make it possible for one to hear the complete recordings of the immortal Leroy Carr.

Scott Yanow


Ted Brown Quartet
Live At Trumpets
(Cadence)

Photo of CD cover

Ted Brown (born in 1927), after stints on banjo and violin, began playing tenor when he was 14. A professional by 1945, he loved bebop from the start. After meeting Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz, Brown became a student of pianist Lennie Tristano during 1948-55. He made his first recording in 1956 with pianist Ronnie Ball, worked and recorded as a member of the Warne Marsh Quintet. Brown performed on a regular basis for decades despite often having a day job. He stayed active as a saxophonist at least into 2012 and fortunately is still with us today at the age of 89.

Live At Trumpets has two previously unreleased live performances from 2006 and 2010. Brown is joined by pianist Jon Easton, bassist Don Messina and drummer Bill Chattin on both occasions, displays the same cool tone as he did back in the 1950s, and he does not show any decline in his playing or creativity. Brown stretches out on such numbers as “Somebody Loves Me,’ “Relaxin’ At Camarillo,” “Broadway,” “When You’re Smiling” and “Anthropology,” coming out with an endless supply of fertile ideas. Pianist Jon Easton, whose chord voicings and general approach sound a bit like early 1950s Dave Brubeck, both challenges the saxophonist and complements him while Messina and Chattin swing in support of the lead voices.

The music is consistently excellent, making Live At Trumpets (available from www.cadencejazzrecords.com ) recommended for bop and cool jazz fans.

Scott Yanow


Heads Of State
Four In One
(Smoke Sessions)

Heads Of State is an all-star quartet comprised of four great veterans: altoist Gary Bartz, pianist Larry Willis, bassist David Williams and drummer Al Foster. Those listeners who are into swinging hard bop need to know little more in order to become interested in this CD.

The group performs inventive versions of such standards as Thelonious Monk’s “Four In One,” John Lewis’ “Milestones,” Miles Davis’ “Sippin’ At Bells” and “Freedom Jazz Dance.” Each of the musicians contributed one original with Willis’ ballad “The Day You Said Goodbye” being particularly memorable, and they also stretch out at length on Wayne Shorter’s “Dance Cadaverous.” Suffice it to say that each of these masterful musicians is heard at their prime and they clearly inspire each other. Four In One is highly recommended and available from www.smokesessionsrecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Cameron Graves
Planetary Prince
(Mack Avenue)

Cameron Graves is a very talented pianist, keyboardist and writer. Best known for his association with the West Coast Get Down and his recent touring with Stanley Clarke, he utilizes his classical technique to create post bop jazz that is open to aspects of fusion and rhythms from many sources including hip hop and funk. Planetary Prince is his first CD as a leader.

The eight lengthy performances on Planetary Prince, which clock in between 7:29 and 13:39, are mostly multi-sectioned works that keep one guessing. Graves is joined by either Hadrien Faraud or Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner on electric bass, drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr., and occasionally up to three horns (including Kamasi Washington on tenor). The bassists and drummer Bruner are tight and intuitive no matter how complex the rhythms, constantly pushing Graves to play at his most fiery and creative. The sidemen have a few spots including Kamasi Washington who takes fiery solos on “Adam & Eve” and “Isle Of Love,” but the main focus is on the keyboardist, who never plays an obvious idea or sounds too much like any of his historic predecessors. He already has his own sound and approach.

This stimulating set, which launches Cameron Graves’ solo career, is a perfect example of creative 21st century jazz. It is available from www.mackavenue.com.

Scott Yanow


Jazzmeia Horn
A Social Call
(Prestige)

At the 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Vocals Competition, Jazzmeia Horn was the winner while Veronica Swift was the runner-up. Both of these young singers are very impressive performers as they show on their recent CDs. Jazzmeia Horn, who has been part of the New York jazz scene since 2009, is the first artist to release a CD on the revived Prestige label. A Social Call teams her with pianist Victor Gould, bassist Ben Williams, drummer Jerome Jennings and, on half of the songs, tenor-saxophonist Stacy Dillard, trumpeter Josh Evans and trombonist Frank Lacy. Ms. Horn, at 26, has a very attractive and flexible voice along with a wide range. She is already a superior scat-singer.

Lots of time was clearly put into carefully choosing the material, some of which I will mention. Betty Carter’s “Tight” has the singer emulating the composer, and her phrasing is reminiscent of early Carter on “East Of The Sun,” certainly not a bad thing. Gigi Gryce’s “Social Call” is taken quite fast with Ben Williams contributing a rapid double-time walking bass. Horn does not pay attention to those lyrics much but does a fine job on Jimmy Rowles’ haunting “The Peacocks.” “People Make The World Go Round” is completely reinvented, and a unique medley of “Afro Blue,” Horn’s “Eye See You” and “Wade In The Water” has storytelling, spacey sounds and plenty of adventure. A brief version of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” becomes a cooking “Moanin'” (during which Horn really belts it out and scats up a storm). The program concludes with the celebratory “I’m Going Down.” Jazzmeia Horn is exciting throughout the CD. This is an early milestone during what will certainly be a significant career. A Social Call is available from www.concordmusicgroup.com .

Veronica Swift
Lonely Woman
(Hodstef Music)

Photo of CD cover

Veronica Swift has impeccable musical genes since she is the daughter of two major talents: singer Stephanie Nakasian and the late pianist Hod O’Brien. A professional since at least the age of nine when she recorded her first CD (with Richie Cole), she is now 22 and on the brink of greater success. On Lonely Woman she is joined by Matt Wigler, Emmett Cohen or her father (two songs recorded shortly before his passing) on piano, bassist Daryl Johns and drummer Scott Lewis. Two other songs are from 2013 with a different rhythm section including pianist Gene Knific.

This is a bop-oriented set with plenty of heated scatting and warm ballads. Veronica Swift, who really knows the bebop vocabulary, is joined by her mother and singer Benny Bennack III. on Jon Hendricks’ words and vocalese to Horace Silver’s “Room 608.” A high-powered Cole Porter medley of “It’s All Right With Me” and “Too Darn Hot,” teams her again with Bennack who sounds like Mel Torme on the latter song. Even if Ms. Swift is a bit too young to be singing “Something Cool,” her singing throughout this CD is fearless and stirring. Other highlights include a melancholy version of Benny Carter’s “Lonely Woman,” the singer’s original ballad “Bisky,” an uptempo “Get Out Of Town,” and Hod O’Brien’s “Hod House” which has Swift wordlessly singing lines influenced by Lee Konitz. “September In The Rain,” which teams together father and daughter, includes vocalese penned by the singer based on a Lester Young solo. Lonely Woman, a delight for bop lovers, is highly recommended and available from veraiconswift.com . There is certainly no shortage of talented female jazz singers around today. Veronica Smith and Jazzmeia Horn are on their way to the top.

Scott Yanow

Tina Raymond
Left Right Left
(Orenda)

A fixture in Southern California as a drummer and an educator, Tina Raymond makes her recording debut as a leader on Left Right Left. The title of her CD has to do with the general political leanings of this country, with the two coasts being generally liberal while the Republicans rule most of the central states.

While this is a purely instrumental trio set with pianist Art Lande and bassist Putter Smith, virtually all of the pieces (other than Putter Smith’s two originals) originally had political meanings. Included are two songs by Woody Guthrie and one apiece from Joni Mitchell (“The Fiddle And The Drum”), Joan Baez and Pete Seeger plus “America,” “Battle Hymn Of The Republic” and “Lift Every Voice And Sing.”

“Battle Hymn” is interpreted with a dissonant treatment; the walking bass and drums give the music a militaristic feel. “The usually cheerful “America” is dark, serious and utilizes modern harmonies. In contrast, “Lift Every Voice And Sing” is joyful and “If I Had A Hammer” is relatively light-hearted.

Throughout the always-intriguing Left Right Left, the three musicians always bring out the best in each other. Art Lande’s relaxed but adventurous piano is never predictable, bordering on the avant-garde at times while being grounded and controlled. The always underrated Putter Smith (whose “Xxmas In Baghdad” is filled with colorful development) is heard throughout at his most creative, reacting quickly to the other’s ideas and displaying versatility in his patterns and musical moods. As for the leader, Tina Raymond (who arranged six of the ten pieces) consistently creates colorful sounds which, beyond the timekeeping and accents, add a lively feel to the music no matter what its theme. Her drum breaks and solos always hold on to one’s attention and she always swings.

Left Right Left is easily recommended and available from www.orendarecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Fabio Giachino
North Clouds
(Tosky)

Fabio Giachino, a top Italian jazz pianist, has been leading his own trio since 2011. At the time that he recorded North Clouds, the 30-year old Giachino was in Denmark. The set, which features eight of his originals plus Duke Ellington’s “Azalea,” teams the pianist with up to four Danish musicians: bassist Matthias Flemming Petri, drummer Espen LaubVon Lillienskjold, Paolo Russo on bandoneon for three songs and saxophonist Benjamin Koppel guesting on four.

North Clouds begins with tenderness as Giachino states the thoughtful melody of “My Journey.” The piece develops and, as with the other selections, the trio’s close communication makes it sound like this unit has been together for years. “Poetto’s Wind” has Giachino and altoist Koppel (who has a large and attractive tone) whipping through the tricky melody effortlessly and making passionate statements. The uptempo piece is filled with fire and really cooks, climaxing with Von Lillienskjold’s drum breaks over the closing theme. “The Plane Is Late” begins quite free with percussive sounds made by the rhythm section and Paolo Russo on bandoneon. It soon becomes a sophisticated and attractive Spanish jazz waltz that is worthy of Chick Corea.

“Dancing Swan,” which has a quirky cat-and-mouse theme, puts the spotlight on Giachino’s trio, displaying the pianist’s original style and chord voicings in a modern post-bop context. “Charlottelund Beach,” the only performance with both Koppel (who is on soprano) and Russo, is a dramatic piece that is quite haunting. “North Clouds,” a jazz waltz that uses repetition creatively in its melody, has one of the strongest piano solos of the project along with statements from the other members of the trio. “Dreaming Waltz,” which lives up to its title, is an excellent feature for Russo with the trio while “Lover Stay Away” (based on “Lover Come Back To Me”) has altoist Koppel and Giachino excelling at the rapid tempo. North Clouds concludes with a tasteful rendition of Duke Ellington’s rarely-played “Azalea.”

North Clouds (available from www.toskyrecords.com ) is an excellent introduction to both the playing and writing of Fabio Giachino.

Scott Yanow

Steve Carr & Alan Oldfield
The Day The Funk Man Turned Green
(Self-released)

Reed master Steve Carr and pianist Alan Oldfield are longtime musical friends. Both are studio musicians who have appeared on a countless number of sessions with Carr heard frequently in Southern California jazz venues. On The Day the Funk Man Turned Green, Carr (doubling on alto and tenor) and Oldfield perform 11 originals (six by the pianist and five from Carr) with a group that also includes either Justin Morrell, Steve Cornelli, John Kurnick or Rick Fleishman on guitar, Bruce Lett, Kevin Axt or Eric Stiller on bass, and M.B. Gordy or Henry Newmark on drums.

Since these musicians can play literally anything in any style, it is fun to hear what they came up with. The program begins with the title cut, a funky melody that introduces Carr’s high-powered tenor over the assertive rhythm section. “Uncle Jim” and “Sultry” are both blues-based compositions that feature the rockish guitar of Steve Cornelli who plays quite passionately. “Uncle Jim” is a minor-toned piece that also includes a spirited solo from Carr on alto while “Sultry” has an inventive piano improvisation by Oldfield that takes the music a bit outside.

“Impressions Of Red” is an uptempo piece with complex chord changes that are a little reminiscent of John Coltrane. The bluish ballad “When Da Blues Get Da Blues” has some preaching alto from Carr while “No Thanks,” a blues that includes a two-bar extension, features excellent solos from Carr, Morrell and Oldfield along with a brief spot for bassist Bruce Lett. The other performances include the brooding ballad “Descent,” the funky “Stayin’ Right,” the calypso feel of “Kona Coral,” the harmonically advanced strut “Bright Side,” and the jazz waltz “Winter Dreams.”

The Day The Funk Man Turned Green is filled with lively and unpredictable solos, colorful ensembles and plenty of variety. This fine CD (available from www.stevecarrmusic.com ) is easily recommended.

Scott Yanow


Shea Welsh
Arrival
(Blujazz)

Guitarist Shea Welsh has had extensive careers as a sideman, a studio musician, and an educator at USC. Welsh displays a lot of variety on Arrival, his recording debut as a leader. The music ranges from jazz to r&b and World Music. Most of the songs utilize a core group with pianist-keyboardist Cameron Graves, bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer Abe Lagrimas, Jr. While Welsh varies his sound to fit the music, his own musical personality consistently shines through.

Arrival leads off with “Sancho T. Panza,” a Spanish piece that evolves into a Spanish fusion piece that is reminiscent of the first part of Chick Corea’s “La Fiesta.” Welsh’s rockish playing on this selection is worthy of Al DiMeola. “Slowly Falling” is the first of two vocal pieces that put the focus on Michelle Coltrane’s soulful singing. Welsh is in the spotlight on Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” playing all of the instruments (acoustic guitar, electric guitar and a background keyboard) during his melodic and respectful treatment. Michelle Coltrane’s other feature, “Out Of The Shadows,” develops a catchy r&bish groove. Changing moods and styles, “Baltimore’s Lament” is a medium-slow blues with a sextet that includes a fine trumpet solo from Dontae Winslow and grooving organ from Ron Jerome Avant.

The last four numbers cover many idioms. The childlike folk melody of “Kuna Vala Song – Panama’s Triumph” celebrates Panama’s rain forests. Yulineth Castillo has the vocal, Graves plays a particularly powerful piano solo, and Welsh in his improvisation displays an airy sound a little reminiscent of Pat Metheny. “Moonlight In Vermont” is an unaccompanied solo guitar showcase that is melodic and pretty yet inventive. “Sweet Pea” has the quartet on a medium-tempo piece that is straight ahead and a little Monkish. Welsh hints at John Scofield as he creates a fascinating solo full of unexpected twists and turns. The final selection, “Time,” features a haunting and emotional vocal by Tomi Townsend.

Arrival, which is available from www.blujazz.com , is a high-quality set from beginning to end, and an excellent introduction to the colorful playing of Shea Welsh.

Scott Yanow


Albert Mangelsdorff
And His Friends
(MPS)

In Sept. 1967, altoist Lee Konitz recorded Duets, a set of encounters with a variety of jazz musicians from different styles. Trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, a remarkable player who mastered multiphonics (playing chords) on his instrument, started his career in straight ahead jazz before becoming an innovator in avant-garde jazz. On six selections recorded between Dec. 1967 and May 1969, he followed Konitz’s example (without knowing of the other project) and coincidentally recorded duets of his own, including one with the altoist.

On this reissue CD, Mangelsdorff matches wits and creativity on one song apiece with trumpeter Don Cherry (the playful “I Dig It – You Dig It’), drummer Elvin Jones, vibraphonist Karl Berger, guitarist Attila Zoller, pianist Wolfgang Dauner, and Lee Konitz himself (the cool bop piece “Al-Lee”). While the music is sometimes free, it is also tied to the tradition and makes use of both space and melodic ideas.

The results are tasteful, subtle and full of surprises. Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends is available from www.mps-music.com .

Scott Yanow


Jazz CD Reviews for JUNE 2017

Tomasz Stanko
December Avenue
(ECM)

Photo of CD cover

Veteran trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, who is from Poland, has recorded a string of picturesque and impressionistic recordings for the ECM label. December Avenue teams the 74-year old trumpeter with his New York quartet which also includes pianist David Virelles, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gerald Cleaver.

December Avenue features Stanko and his group performing a dozen of his originals, the majority of which are ballads. Stanko’s music is consistently cinematic and can serve as quietly emotional background music. However the closer one listens, the more one is drawn into the colorful sounds and expressive playing. Stanko says a great deal with a minimum of notes, his rhythm section is very attentive to his playing (reacting immediately), and the quartet has a singular purpose in its playing.

Things pick up a bit tempo-wise with the fifth selection (titled “Burning Hot”) and a few of the later pieces are taken at slightly faster paces but December Avenue is most notable as a 12-part suite, with each selection leading logically to the next, rather than for its individual compositions. This is music that grows in interest with each listen. It is easily recommended as an example of Tomasz Stanko’s artistry and is available from. www.ecmrecords.com

Scott Yanow


Sylvia Brooks
The Arrangement
(Self-Released)

Sylvia Brooks, who has been singing and acting in Southern California during the past decade, is the daughter of jazz pianist-arranger Don Ippolito and of an opera singing mother. Her voice is attractive and alluring, her phrasing is swinging, and she always sings in-tune. Ms. Brooks has had some success with her first two CDs, Dangerous Liaisons and Restless, which often found her singing in dramatic fashion while looking back towards the film noir era of the 1940s and ‘50s.

The Arrangement is her most jazz-oriented set to date. Performing 11 familiar standards and three originals, Sylvia Brooks performs with top artists (mostly from Southern California) on arrangements contributed by Otmaro Ruiz, Quinn Johnson, Jeff Colella, Christian Jacob and Kim Richmond. Her singing is always appealing while her improvising is subtle. While I would love to hear her take more chances with her phrasing since she largely sticks to the words and the melody, it is obvious that Ms. Brooks is a top-notch singer.

While some of the arrangements modernize and reharmonize the standards, the best performances are the ones that have charts that let the music breathe and include some space. The most rewarding renditions include “Eleanor Rigby,” a swinging “The Tender Trap,” “Angel Eyes” and the three originals. It is particularly rewarding hearing the singer perform her “Sweet Surrender” as a duet with pianist Christian Jacob. There are also occasional statements from sidemen with the solos of Ron Stout on flugelhorn and tenors Bruce Babad and Bob Sheppard being standouts.

The Arrangement (available from www.sylviabrooks.net) is Sylvia Brooks’ finest recording to date. It makes one look forward to her Catalina performance of Wednesday June 7.

Scott Yanow


Rebecca Hardiman
Honoring Ella!
(Self-Released)

Since 2017 is the centennial of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth, there are many Ella tributes being planned this year. Rebecca Hardiman’s Honoring Ella is a particularly swinging and fun affair. Honoring Ella finds Ms. Hardiman capturing the sweetness, swinging phrasing, and infallible pitch of the First Lady of Song while also displaying her own musical personality.

Accompanied by pianist Ray Hardiman, bassist Whitney Moulton and drummer Kurt Deutscher on nine songs, Rebecca Hardiman is in prime form throughout. The set begins with Ella’s biggest hit, a version of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” that is given a Latin feel. “Manhattan,” which begins with the rarely-heard verse, features Ms. Hardiman taking a heartwarming vocal, and her voice sounds quietly expressive on “Isn’t It Romantic.” One cannot do a real Ella Fitzgerald tribute without including some scat-singing so there is some creative scatting on an uptempo “I Get A Kick Out Of You” and “Honeysuckle Rose” which is taken at a perfect slow-medium pace. The singer’s voice is particularly attractive on a slow version (complete with verse) of “Someone To Watch Over Me,” she has fun with the Brazilian groove on “Cheek To Cheek,” and also sounds rewarding on “Stairway To The Stars” and a cooking “How High The Moon.”

However the highpoint to the CD is the tenth and final performance. Rebecca Hardiman takes “You Turned The Tables On Me” as a duet with guest bassist Marty Ballou. While she mostly sticks to the lyrics, she is particularly inventive in her choice of notes and her phrasing.

Ella would have approved of and loved this recording, which is available from. www.rebeccahardiman.com

Scott Yanow


Kenny Dorham
1962 & 1966
(Uptown)

During the 1945-70 period, Kenny Dorham (1924-72) was one of the top bop-oriented trumpeters in jazz. While he never gained the fame and acclaim of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan, he was close to being on their level and made strong contributions to the music as a trumpeter and a composer.

Dorham was with the Billy Eckstine Orchestra early on and was a member of the Charlie Parker Quintet during 1948-49. As a sideman he worked and recorded with most of the bop greats. In the 1950s he played with Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins, was an original member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, was Clifford Brown’s successor in the Max Roach Quintet and led his own group, the Jazz Prophets. During 1962-64 Dorham became part of the hard bop movement, using the young tenor-saxophonist Joe Henderson in his quintet and stretching himself to record with Andrew Hill. Lack of work and a worsening kidney ailment resulted in him being less active in his later years.

1962 & 1966 features Dorham in prime form during a pair of previously unreleased radio broadcasts. He performs five numbers in 1966 with a quintet that also includes altoist Sonny Red, pianist Cedar Walton, bassist John Ore and Hugh Walker. Among those performances are his original “Jung Fu,” a trumpet feature on “The Shadow Of Your Smile,” and the hard-swinging “Straight Ahead.” The earlier set has Dorham joined by tenor-saxophonist Joe Farrell (near the beginning of his career), pianist Walter Bishop, Jr, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Stu Martin for three lengthy numbers. Farrell is quite exuberant on “Au Privave” and Dorham sounds comfortable and creative on “Woody’N You and “If I Should Lose You.” The music is high-quality hard bop and is well recorded.

1962 & 1966, which has extensive liner notes from Matt Leskovic that definitively covers Dorham’s career, is highly recommended and available from www.uptownrecords.net .

Scott Yanow


Hod O’Brien Meets Sal Nistico
Live From The Netherlands
(HodStef)

Photo of CD cover

At the time of his death in 2016 at the age of 80, Hod O’Brien was (along with Barry Harris) one of the last of the bebop pianists. His style was very much in the Bud Powell vein (with no traces of Bill Evans or later pianists) although infused with his own musical personality. Hod just loved to swing as the music on this previously unreleased session shows.

In 1986, O’Brien was teamed with the hard-charging tenor-saxophonist Sal Nistico and a pair of fine Dutch players (bassist Harry Emmery and drummer John Engels) at the Porgy & Bess Club in the Netherlands. Fortunately the music was recorded and now it is being released for the first time on the label that O’Brien co-owned with his wife, the great singer Stephanie Nakasian.

O’Brien and Nistico really stretch out on seven standards, with only one performance being less than nine minutes in length. Alternating romps such as Charlie Parker’s “Quasimodo,’ “Airegin” and “Indian Summer” with ballads (including a 15-minute version of “My Old Flame”), the co-leaders are in top form. The recording quality is decent, the rhythm section is always swinging, and Nistico shows that he still had plenty of power and drive left 20 years after his peak years with Woody Herman’s orchestra.

It is gratifying to have this music available, allowing one to appreciate the artistry of the late Hod O’Brien. It is available from www.stephanienakasian.com.

Scott Yanow


Joe Harriott
Helter Skelter
(Acrobat)

Joe Harriott (1928-73) had a fascinating and important if all-too-short career. Born in Jamaica, the altoist moved to England in 1951 where he spent his last 22 years. He was originally rated as one of England’s top bop-oriented musicians. While Charlie Parker was naturally a strong influence, Harriott’s passionate tone was actually more reminiscent of Sonny Criss. During the 1950s he performed with the who’s who of British jazz, occasionally leading his own group.

During 1959-60, Harriott began improvising freer explorations. While his music was sometimes a bit similar to Ornette Coleman’s, he actually developed his ideas independently of Coleman. Another innovative period took place later in the 1960s. Harriott teamed up with violinist John Mayer to develop “Indo-Jazz Fusion,” a combination of jazz with music from India. Tragically, cancer caused the altoist’s premature death at 44.

Helter Skelter is mostly drawn from Joe Harriott’s bebop years and features him in four different settings. The rare performances showcase him leading a quartet on four songs from 1955, in the spotlight during three previously unreleased numbers with Kurt Edelhagen’s orchestra in 1959, taking short solos (along with many others) with the Melody Makers All-Stars in 1957, and making appearances on four songs with the Daily Mail International Jazz Festival All-Stars in 1963. The latter is particularly intriguing for it has Harriott with a modern combo on “Milestones” and “Jackie-ing,” and jamming with a diverse big band alongside such major names as Kenny Ball, Humphrey Lyttelton, Chris Barber and Tubby Hayes.

While Helter Skelter (which is available from www.mvdb2b.com ) does not contain Joe Harriott’s most essential sessions, it has more than its share of fun and swinging music from a British jazz legend.

Scott Yanow


Mark Winkler
The Company I Keep
(Café Pacific Records)

A notable lyricist who has had 200 of his songs performed and often recorded by other singers, a playwright, and an educator, Mark Winkler has also been a solo singer in the Los Angeles area for quite a few years. The Company I Keep is his 13th CD as a leader.

The performances on The Company I Keep certainly show that Winkler has many talented musical friends. He is joined on various songs by seven pianists, several rhythm sections, up to four horn players, and five other vocalists.

Winkler, who contributed five of the 12 songs, participates in vocal duets with Jackie Ryan (a swinging version of “Walk Between The Raindrops”), Cheryl Bentyne (a surprising rendition of Prince’s “Strollin’”), Claire Martin (“Stolen Moments”), Steve Tyrrell (the light-hearted “But It Still Ain’t So”) and Sara Gazarek (“Rainproof”). While “Walk Between The Raindrops” and “Stolen Moments” have the feel of a big band with their four horns, the instrumentation changes from tune-to-tune. Among the instrumental highlights are guitarist Larry Koonse’s playing on “Strollin,” clarinetist Don Shelton and violinist Paul Cartwright during the atmospheric “Midnight In Paris,” trombonist Bob McChesney on “That Afternoon In Harlem,” and Bob Sheppard’s tenor whenever he appears. Sheppard also plays some surprising clarinet on “Lucky To Be Me.”

As for Mark Winkler, the personable singer clearly had a great time working on this project. He can be heard at his best interacting with Tyrell on “But It Still Ain’t So,” paying tribute to Mark Murphy with some vocalese during part of “Stolen Moments,” digging into the heartfelt lyrics on the ballads “Rainproof” and “The Sum,” and swinging on “Lucky To Be Me.”

The Company I Keep, which is available from www.markwinklermusic.com , serves as a perfect introduction to Mark Winkler’s music.

Scott Yanow


Cathy Segal-Garcia
In2uition
(Dash Hoffman Records)

An important musical force in the Los Angeles area since the 1980s, Cathy-Segal Garcia has performed in a countless number of settings through the years, has booked other singers in many venues, and has been a significant educator. Always an enthusiastic and tasteful improviser, she has performed regularly in Japan and frequently in Europe in addition to Southern California.

In2uitiion, a two-CD set which is her tenth recording as a leader, finds Ms. Garcia utilizing ten different pianists on one or two songs apiece: Josh Nelson, John Beasley, Karen Hammack, Otmaro Ruiz, Vardan Ovsepian, Gary Fukushima, David Moscoe, Bevan Manson, Jane Getz and Llew Matthews. All of the performances are duets except for the two pieces with Karen Hammack which also have Calabria Foti playing violin.

Cathy Segal-Garcia and her pianists consistently display impressive in2uition in guessing each other’s musical directions during these spontaneous and spirited performances. Most of the songs are standards other than the singer’s four originals and a tune apiece by Bevan Manson and Shelby Flint. Highlights include “I Love You,” a lengthy and quietly emotional “It Never Entered My Mind,” the rarely-performed “Ruby,” “There’s A Small Hotel” and the closing “America The Beautiful.” The latter, a duet with Llew Mathews in what is probably one of his last recordings, starts out a bit mournful before ending more optimistically, as if to say that this country can survive practically anything.

All in all, In2uition is one Cathy Segal-Garcia’s strongest recordings and is available from www.cathysegalgarcia.com .

Scott Yanow


Idrees Sulieman Quartet
The 4 American Jazz Men In Tangier
(Sunnyside/Groovin’ High)

Photo of CD cover

Pianist Oscar Dennard (1928-60) is a long-lost figure in jazz history, one who is partly restored on this intriguing double-CD. He did not live long enough to make a strong impression except among the musicians who knew him. Dennard was a member of Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra during 1954-58, appearing on nine albums including a few with Hampton’s small group. Beyond that, his only other recordings were an unissued trio session from 1956 and albums with arranger A.K. Salim and saxophonist Jesse Powell. Bassist Jamil Nasser, a friend of his since 1950, convinced the pianist to leave Hampton and go overseas with trumpeter Idrees Sulieman’s quartet in 1959. The group (which also included drummer Buster Smith) performed in France, Switzerland, Morocco and finally Egypt. Dennard was stricken with typhoid fever while in Cairo and soon died at the age of 31.

Trumpeter Idrees Sulieman (1923-2002), had a longer life but is also rather obscure. He made his first recording with Louis Jordan’s Tympani Five in 1945 and also recorded with guitarist Bill DeArango, Thelonious Monk and Mary Lou Williams. He had a slightly earlier stint with Lionel Hampton than Dennard, and appeared on a variety of recordings in the 1950s, most notably with Mal Waldron, Teddy Charles and Coleman Hawkins (The Hawk Flies High). After Dennard’s death, Sulieman moved to Scandinavia. He stayed in Europe for 20 years and was a member of both the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band and the Danish Radio Band. Although the trumpeter led a few sessions of his own for the Steeplechase label, during the two decades after returning to the U.S. in 1982, he had a low profile. Sulieman was an excellent bop trumpeter with a big tone who, by the late 1950s, had learned how to utilize circular breathing

.

The 4 American Jazz Men In Tangier has a studio session cut in Tangier, Morocco and a private live recording made in New York City shortly before the quartet left the country. The Morocco session (only put out previously by the Japanese Somethin’ Else label) is primarily bebop. Highlights include “Confirmation,” “Stella By Starlight” and Charlie Parker’s rarely-played “Visa.” Sulieman takes a continuous breath for five choruses on the slow “Tangier Blues,” mostly playing one note endlessly. But otherwise this is a rewarding CD that includes occasional bass and drum solos.

The second disc was privately taped and the recording quality of the previously unreleased music is sometimes a bit rough. However it is quite significant due to Dennard being well featured in a much looser and more adventurous setting, He takes the first six minutes of “Invitation” unaccompanied, tearing the music apart while keeping the melody close by. When Sulieman joins in, the piece is given the rhythm of an Arabic caravan. Dennard hits a dissonant chord 12 times to start “’Round Midnight,” launching into another creative solo feature. After an excerpt of “These Foolish Things,” a heated “Wee” and “Circular Breathing Blues” with the quartet, Dennard is again alone on “Piano Improvisation.” His meandering solo covers “Three Blind Mice,” a bit of stride piano and a classical melody in addition to other musical thoughts.

Considering how little Oscar Dennard was documented, The 4 American Jazz Men In Tangier is full of treasures. It is available from www.sunnysiderecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Albert Ayler Quartet
Copenhagen Live 1964
(Hat Art)

Photo of CD cover

This is fire music. Albert Ayler, a tenor-saxophonist whose early roots were in Sonny Rollins, was a major leader in the free jazz movement by the time he performed at this Copenhagen concert. His solos were often full of intense passion, breaking the sound barrier with upper-register screams and inspiring John Coltrane and others to take their music much further into sound explorations.

In 1964, Ayler led a quartet with cornetist Don Cherry, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray. Some of the saxophonist’s originals (such as “Spirits”) had folkish melodies that harked back to the early 20th century (a trend that would become much stronger a year later in his band with trumpeter Donald Ayler) but, once the brief theme is gone, the improvising becomes quite intense. Jazz had experienced a gradual race towards freedom for over 40 years. It started in the 1920s and, in Albert Ayler’s music (and that of Cecil Taylor’s), it reached the end.

Whether wailing away or using a wide vibrato during the ballad moments, Albert Ayler is featured carving out his own path. Cherry is fine in his briefer and more soothing statements while Peacock and Murray demonstrate how to play inventively without keeping time or a chord pattern.

Listeners with open ears who want to hear passionate sounds are recommended to check out Albert Ayler’s Copenhagen Live 1964, available from www.naxosusa.com and www.hathut.com

. Scott Yanow


Larry Coryell
Heavy Feel
(Wide Hive)

The recent death of Larry Coryell (1943-2017) was a surprise to the music world. He had played at the Iridium in NYC during the previous two nights. Coryell will always be best remembered as being the first fusion jazz guitarist, playing rockish solos with Chico Hamilton (1966), the Free Spirits and the Gary Burton Quartet (1967-68), and leading The Eleventh House starting in 1973. He had a wide-ranging career that included acoustic guitar tours with John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia, bop sessions for the High Note label, and guest appearances with Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter.

Heavy Feel was recorded in 2014 and features Coryell back in a fusion-oriented band. Preceding his brief Eleventh House reunion, Coryell performs in a quartet also including electric bassist Matt Montgomery, drummer Mike Hughes and soprano-saxophonist George Brooks. The music is rock-oriented at times with Coryell utilizing distorted but recognizable tones but is always creative and a bit unpredictable. Never quite as intense as McLaughlin or Al DiMeola, Coryell displays his own brand of passion, infusing the rockish grooves with plenty of bluish feeling. The rhythm section is tight, Brooks’ soprano adds fire to the music, and the relatively straight ahead blues “Jailbreak” offers a change of pace.

The set of originals segues easily from one song to another and shows that, when in the hands of someone on Larry Coryell’s level, fusion still has plenty of life left. Heavy Feel is available from www.widehive.com .

Scott Yanow


Regina Carter
Ella: Accentuate The Positive
(Okeh)

Ella Fitzgerald recorded so many songs in her career that one could make dozens of Ella tributes without repeating any tunes. Violinist Regina Carter celebrates the singer’s centennial by completely reshaping nine vintage songs that Ella had recorded, only one (“Undecided”) of which was closely associated with her.

Joined by guitarist Marvin Sewell, pianist-keyboardist Xavier Davis, bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Alvester Garnett, Carter reinvents each of the tunes. Johnny Mercer’s “Ac-cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive,” which has a Miche Braden vocal, is largely unrecognizable with reharmonized chords and a rockish guitar solo. The obscure “Crying In The Chapel” sounds like a new pop tune rather than an early 1950s ballad. “I’ll Never Be Free” is taken quite lowdown, Carter caresses the melody of “All My Life” before it ends as a light funk groove, and she takes “Dedicated To You” fairly straight as a pretty ballad in a trio with piano and bass.

The lesser-known “Reach For Tomorrow” becomes a contemporary ballad that is well played. One of the biggest surprises is “Undecided” which is turned into jazzy funk with a scat-filled vocal by Carla Cook. “Judy,” the song that won Ella the Apollo Theater amateur show that launched her career, sounds melancholy while still retaining its original melody. The program ends with a remake of one of Ella’s first recordings, “I’ll Chase The Blues Away.” The first half of this performance has the piece recast as a lowdown country blues before it becomes a one-chord funky vamp.

Obviously this is not a typical Ella Fitzgerald tribute CD. Instead, her centennial serves as a good excuse to dig into the past and create fresh versions of older songs. While I wish that Regina Carter, jazz’s top violinist of the past decade, would simply swing hard on a few numbers as she did earlier during her collaborations with pianist Kenny Barron, this set is satisfying in its own way. It is available from www.okeh-records.com .

Scott Yanow


Jazz CD Reviews for MAY 2017

The Microscopic Septet
Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me
(Cuneifor

The Microscopic Septet was formed in 1980 by soprano-saxophonist Phillip Johnston. For the next 12 years, the Micros performed their brand of “Surrealistic Swing” as part of New York’s Downtown Scene. While its members were all familiar with and influenced by early jazz, their music (unpredictable versions of standards and the compositions of Johnston and pianist Joel Forrester) was also open to later styles, often being an avant-garde take on swing. The band broke up in 1992 but 25 years later came back together and have been active ever since.

Their new release (available from www.cuneiformrecords.com ) is a blues-oriented set although not all of the songs are technically blues. The septet (which also includes altoist Don Davis, tenor-saxophonist Mike Hashim, baritonist Dave Sewelson, bassist Dave Hofstra and drummer Richard Dworkin) is witty, adventurous and utterly unpredictable in exploring the material. The 13 selections (all originals except “I’ve Got A Right To Cry” and an unusual version of “Silent Night”) give the musicians a jumping-off point and a plot for their riffing. Of the soloists, Johnston’s soprano is particularly powerful while the enthusiastic baritonist Sewelson always sounds ready to take the music outside. The ensembles are quite colorful (sometimes recalling Charles Mingus) and the musicians use their knowledge of early jazz and blues in consistently surprising ways.

Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me (which is a blues phrase turned backwards) features the Microscopic Septet in top form and is well worth a few close listens.

Scott Yanow


Randy Kaye Quintet
Brooklyn 1967, May 24th
(Philology)

Randy Kaye, who passed away in 2008, was a talented and versatile jazz drummer who in his career worked with Tony Scott, Sheila Jordan, clarinetist Perry Robinson and for many years with Jimmy Giuffre. In 1967, he organized a rehearsal to perform and tape six of his compositions. In addition to tenor-saxophonist Joel Peskin (who doubled on bass clarinet), pianist Peter Lemer, and bassist Steven Tintweiss, he invited a young and very promising Italian trumpeter, Enrico Rava.

The music, released on this double-CD for the first time, was discovered by Randy Kaye’s son Justin Kaye after his father’s death. The younger Kaye, who has put together Tao Beats: The Randy Kaye Documentary, is dedicated to preserving his father’s musical legacy. This twofer is a valuable addition to his relatively small discography.

Randy Kaye’s music is influenced and inspired by Albert Ayler and the later period of John Coltrane. The first performance on each CD (“Apricot Lady” and “Laughter”) is particularly intense. Peskin contributes often-ferocious solos and Rava explores a wide variety of moods in a more extroverted style than would later be associated with him. “Laughter” has some wild and demented chuckling from the musicians and builds its improvisations out of their rhythmic laughing. “Pretty Sweet” and “To Angel With Love” have their tender moments while “Tears For A Year Gone By” is particularly episodic. The music is often dominated by free improvisations but the musicians listened closely to each other and the results are always coherent if sometimes very passionate.

Randy Kaye plays with subtlety throughout, often being content to quietly accompany the other musicians and listen to how his compositions develop. The surprisingly well-recorded music, which is easily recommended to listeners with open ears, stays colorful and fascinating throughout. It is available from justingkaye@gmail.com .

Scott Yanow

Stephane Wrembel
The Django Experiment 1
(Water Is Life Records)

Stephane Wrembel is an important force in the Gypsy Jazz movement. His guitar playing is superb and he has mastered the Django Reinhardt style without sounding like a duplicate. Born in France and currently based in New Jersey, Wrembel is best-known for contributing his piece “Bistro Fada” to Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight In Paris. Wrembel, who has also written some music for two other Allen movies, has recorded on an occasional basis since 2001.

Stephane Wrembel recorded the two volumes of The Django Experiment with his regular group, a quartet also including rhythm guitarist Thor Jensen, bassist Arti Folman Cohen and drummer Nick Anderson. Nick Driscoll on clarinet and soprano makes a few guest appearances. The musicians perform Django Reinhardt compositions, six of Wrembel’s originals, and a handful of pieces by others in a similar swing genre.

“The Django Experiment” received its name to signify Wrembel’s goal of stretching the vintage swing music a bit. He is not content to merely recreate recordings or formats, instead performing creatively in the style and infusing it with some fresh ideas. On a few pieces in this series, the music is surprisingly modern while keeping the Gypsy Jazz instrumentation

The Django Experiment I includes such Reinhardt numbers as “Nuages” (Django’s most famous original), his charming waltz “Gin-Gin,” “Dinette” (which uses the chord changes of “Dinah” and has Driscoll featured on clarinet), “Djangology” and “Minor Swing.” Quite intriguing is “Troublant Bolero” which, despite being composed by Reinhardt 70 years ago, has the feel of a Gabor Szabo drone piece from the late 1960s. Of Wrembel’s originals, most memorable are the exciting waltz “Windmills” and the attractive melody of “Jacques Prevert.” There are occasional bass and drum solos but the focus throughout is mostly on the leader, who plays brilliantly.

Stephane Wrembel
The Django Experiment 2
(Water Is Life Records)

Photo of CD cover

The Django Experiment II is more eclectic and often quite modern. It opens with Driscoll’s adventurous soprano playing over a one-chord vamp with assertive drums before it becomes “Douce Ambiance.” Perhaps this would have been what it might have sounded like if John Coltrane met Django. Other modern pieces include Wremble’s moody ballad “Boston,” “Nanoc” (Django in the 1970s?) and the group’s interpretation of “Heavy Artillery” on which Driscoll’s dissonant clarinet is a bit jarring. However there is also plenty of swing on the set including “Viper’s Dream,” a driving version of the Bamboula Ferret waltz “Valse de Bamboule,” Django’s boppish “Double Scotch,” and “Minor Blues” which has some furious guitar during its double-time section. Another highlight is a conventional but wonderful treatment of Django Reinhardt’s most haunting melody, “Tears.”

Both volumes of The Django Experiment are very much a success. It is available from www.stephanewrembel.com .

Scott Yanow


The Grand St. Stompers
Do The New York
(Self-Released)

Virtually every style of jazz is alive and prospering somewhere. During the past decade, New York has been the center of classic jazz with many young musicians are exploring music of the 1920s and ‘30s with energy, creativity and a love for those precious recordings.

The Grand St. Stompers performs regularly in the Big Apple. Its leader, trumpeter-cornetist Gordon Au, has worked with many modern jazz artists (including Brian Blade, Rich Perry and Melissa Aldana) but has also become very busy on the trad jazz scene. For Do The New York, he arranged 13 selections including six of his originals for the septet. Featured along with Au on concise solos and hot ensembles are clarinetist Dennis Lichtman, soprano-saxophonist Matt Koza, trombonist Matt Musselman, Nick Russo on banjo and guitar, bassist Rob Adkins and drummer Kevin Dorn. Tamar Korn has two solo vocals (her voice is fetching), Molly Ryan is in the spotlight on “When I Take My Sugar To Tea,” and they sing together on two songs.

The music of the Grand St. Stompers spans a fairly large range within classic jazz. To name a few examples, “Do The New York” features Tamar Korn sounding like a flapper singer from the 1920s proclaiming a new dance step. The band obliges with sounds of New York traffic jams, something one could imagine the Cliquot Club Eskimos doing. “Ridgewood Stomp” has the group sounding like an alternate version of Luis Russell’s band in 1929. The warm “Ballad Of Bus 38” is a charming piece that could have been played by Pete Kelley’s Big Seven or perhaps Jack Teagarden in 1946 while “Saratoga Serenade” hints at “Lullaby In Ragtime” from the 1959 Five Pennies movie. The melodic and swinging “Nadine” could become a standard if enough other musicians hear it.

Even when the Grand St. Stompers perform revivals of early tunes, they sound different than expected. “She’s A Great Great Girl” (made famous by Roger Wolfe Kahn) and “Muskrat Ramble” (which alternates between Latin and straight ahead rhythms) are given fresh life while “Blue Skies” is recast as a delightful vocal duet by Tamar Korn and Molly Ryan.

Although I wish that there were a few more freewheeling ensembles (many are tightly arranged), the soloists are uniformly excellent, the group has a very appealing sound, and the musicians show individuality within the vintage styles. Do The New York, which is filled with fresh and infectious music, is available from www.grandststompers.com .

Scott Yanow


Oscar Hernandez & Alma Libre
The Art Of Latin Jazz
(Origin)

Oscar Hernandez is probably best known as the leader of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra and for his work performing modern salsa. However, as the performances on The Art Of Latin Jazz show, he is also a very talented Afro-Cuban jazz pianist.

Hernandez performs ten of his compositions in a group also featuring Justo Almario on tenor and flute, bassist Jorge Perez, drummer Jimmy Branly, Christian Moraga on congas and percussion, and occasionally guest trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. From the start of the opening title cut, the music is first-class Latin jazz that pays respect to the tradition while looking forward. Among the highlights are the attractive “One Day Soon,” a playful “Danzon Para Las Seis” (which has a vocal from Jeremy Bosch), the swinging augmented blues “Right On,” the catchy “ESPN Blues,” and the melodic “Entre Amigos.” Justo Almario takes fine solos throughout the set, the rhythm section is tight, and Castellanos is a welcome addition whenever he appears, adding fire.

As for Oscar Hernandez, his piano solos and compositions put him at the top of his field. The Art Of Latin Jazz (available from www.originarts.com ) makes for a highly enjoyable listen.

Scott Yanow


Rick Hirsch’s Big Ol’ Band
Pocono Git-Down
(Self-Released)

Throughout the United States, there are a countless number of regional big bands comprised of local musicians who often play at a world class level. Arranger-composer Rick Hirsch put together a successful Kickstarter campaign to record his 18-piece orchestra which is based in central Pennsylvania. He contributed seven of the nine compositions heard on Pocono Git-Down and also arranged jazz transformations of a song apiece by Eric Clapton and Michael Jackson.

Although using the standard big band instrumentation, there is plenty of variety and some surprises heard on Hirsch’s CD. “Giddyup” gets the musical voyage started with a bit of funky jazz. “Pocono Git-Down” has the band visiting New Orleans (or hosting their own local Mardi Gras) and getting a bit rambunctious with spirited statements from trombonist Jay Vonada and trumpeter Eddie Severn. “Tonight, We Tango” is a complete change of pace with Alex Meixner guesting on accordion and Hirsch taking a tenor solo on his original tango. After a thoughtful feature for pianist Steve Rudolph (Clapton’s “A Wonderful Thought”), “The Old Chief’s Lookout” has trombonists Jim McFalls and Jay Vonada battling it out and Greg Johnson adding a sophisticated statement on soprano. Hirsch’s tenor is in the spotlight on the picturesque “Metroliner,” Tim Powell contributes some blazing soprano-sax to “The Witching Hour” and the exuberant Latin piece “Mambo Over The Mountain” gives drummer Kevin Lowe and percussionist Bob Velez chances to be featured. The fine program closes with “The Way You Make Me Feel” which certainly does not sound like a Michael Jackson piece!

Fans of modern big bands and those who just like some exciting jazz will certainly enjoy Pocono Git-Down which is available from www.bigoldband.com .

Scott Yanow


Chris Bennett/Bill Marx
Something Wonderful
(Self-Released)

Photo of CD cover

Chris Bennett, an always-delightful singer with a warm voice and a cheerful style, performs a set of ballads on Something Wonderful. She is accompanied by veteran pianist Bill Marx, a very sympathetic player who is very much a one-man orchestra. Ms. Bennett and Marx have worked together regularly in Palm Springs and decided that it was long overdue for them to record a duet album. They interpret nine standards at slow tempos yet the music is dreamy rather than sleepy and it never loses one’s attention. Among the tunes that are explored are “I’m Glad There Is You” “My One And Only Love,” “The Summer Knows” and “We’ll Be Together Again.”

Chris Bennett does justice to the melodies and lyrics while Bill Marx adds subtle touches that bring out the best in both the singer and the songs. The result is a very tasteful set that is easily recommended to those who love the Great American Songbook and superior ballad singing. Something Wonderful is available from www.chrisbennett.com .

Scott Yanow


Audrey Bernstein
Alright, Okay, You Win
(L.B. Records)

Audrey Bernstein is a jazz singer who loves to swing. She has a strong and attractive voice, scats quite well, and can shout over ensembles or interpret lyrics with tenderness. Alright, Okay, You Win is her second jazz CD. For this project, Ms. Bernstein is joined by pianist Tom Cleary, guitarist Joe Capps, bassist John Rivers, drummer Geza Carr, saxophonist Michael Zsoldos and the great trumpeter Ray Vega. With the exception of the Melody Gardot ballad “Our Love Is Easy” and a catchy and swinging original by Ms. Bernstein and Capps (“Oh The Money”), the set is comprised of standards.

Highpoints include a spirited “Too Close For Comfort,” the excellent scatting on “Come Loves,” an uptempo “’Deed I Do,” a warmly expressive version of “Detour Ahead,” and “Alright, Okay, You Win” which is given a big band sound. “You Made Me Love You” has a joyful revival while “I Want A Sunday Kind Of Love” is taken as a duet with guitarist Capps.

The music is fun and Audrey Bernstein and her musicians sound like they were having a great time. Alright, Okay, You Win is easily recommended and available from www.audreybernsteinjazz.com .

Scott Yanow


Bobby Darin & Johnny Mercer
Two Of A Kind
(Omnivore)

The unlikely combination of Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer works very well on this reissue from 1960. Darin was one of the top singers of his time and, while his career went through several periods, it was his swinging years (which resulted in major hits in “Mack The Knife” and “Beyond The Sea”) that is best remembered. Johnny Mercer, an adequate but personable vocalist, was one of the greatest lyricists of the 20th century, a poet whose hip words graced dozens of standards and hits.

With support from the Billy May Orchestra, Darin and Mercer engage in lots of close verbal interplay throughout this session. They constantly ad-lib, comment on each other’s singing, and are full of joyful spirits. It is fair to say that neither one takes themselves too seriously. The arrangements by May often have the flavor of Dixieland or vintage swing and, while some of the songs are novelties, every performance is well worth hearing. Be sure to check out the fine scat-singing on “Indiana” which may be the only time that Darin scatted on record.

The recent reissue of Two Of A Kind adds seven previously unreleased performances, (five alternate takes and two “new” selections: “Cecilia” and “Lily Of Laguna”) to the original 13-song program. The ad-libs are different than on the more familiar versions, showing that Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer were very talented improvisers in addition to their other talents.

Two Of A Kind is available from www.omnivorerecordings.com .

Scott Yanow


Mostly Other People Do The Killing
Loafer’s Hollow
(Hot Cup)

Originally a quartet and now a septet, Mostly Other People Do The Killing is comprised of brilliant players who bring a large dose of humor to avant-garde jazz. Each of the musicians know a great deal about other styles and genres of music, and one can hear references (often satirical) throughout their performances and recordings.

Loafer’s Hollow has the band exploring swing, early country and 1920s jazz, sort of. The group (comprised of bassist-leader Moppa Elliott, Jon Irabagon on tenor and sopranino, trumpeter and slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein, bass trombonist Dave Taylor, Brandon Seabrook on banjo and electronics, pianist Ron Stabinsky and drummer Kevin Shea) perform eight pieces by Elliott. The music is episodic in the extreme, with the narrative and plot constantly changing. The riffing and tonal distortions of the horns, along with the use of the banjo and some stride piano on “Kilgore,” hint at early jazz, but the performances are completely unpredictable and take many wild twists and turns.

While there are moments where I wish that the musicians had stuck to playing 1920s jazz instead of veering off into crazy free form sections, it is fair to say that there are no dull moments on Loafer’s Hollow. If one has a strong sense of humor and no pre-conceptions, Loafer’s Hollow makes for an entertaining and stimulating listen. It is available from www.hotcuprecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Debbie Denke
It’s All About YOU!
(Self-Released)

This is an unusual CD that was conceived by pianist Debbie Denke as a party game. Ms. Denke asked her friends, fans and fellow musicians for songs that had the word “You” in its title. She compiled a list of 800 “You” songs and settled on the 16 for this CD. Ms. Denke ultimately put together a “name that tune” contest for parties with clues about each of the songs.

Included on this set are her concise solo piano versions of the tunes. The highlights include a wistful interpretation of “I Remember You,” an uptempo “There Will Never Be Another You” that sounds inspired by Teddy Wilson, “I Loves You Porgy,” (taken slow and with emotion), a version of “I Get A Kick Out Of You” that during its second half swings wittily like Erroll Garner, and a hard-swinging “I Thought About You.” The songs keep the melodies close by and swing but also include subtle creativity. The closing performance, “It Had To Be You,” features the pianist taking her only vocal of the date while accompanied by bassist Robert Kim Collins and drummer Bones Howe.

Debbie Denke, who is based in Santa Barbara, has put together a fine CD that works well as both the theme for a jazz party or for close listening. It is available from www.debbiedenkemusic.com .

Scott Yanow


Med Flory
Go West Young Med!
(Fresh Sound)

Photo of CD cover

Med Flory (1926-2014) will always be best known as the leader of Supersax, the ensemble of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s that expertly played harmonized versions of Charlie Parker solos as the basis for songs. However Flory had a long career before that success. He spent 1950-55 freelancing in New York, including having associations with Woody Herman, Claude Thornhill and Ray Anthony. Flory moved permanently to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s.

Go West Young Med has all of the sessions that Flory led during that decade. He plays alto and tenor, contributing two of the four arrangements for a lesser-known big band session from 1954. The bulk of this CD has Flory heading his Jazz Wave Orchestra on 15 songs from 1956-57. The saxophonist, who sings the good-humored if silly “I Love You, That’s All,” wrote four of the arrangements with the other being penned by Al Cohn, Bob Brookmeyer, Bill Holman, Lennie Niehaus, Bob Enevoldsen, Bill Hood and Sy Johnson. Al Porcino is heard on most of the selections on lead trumpet, trumpeter Conte Candoli is on some of the numbers, and other key sidemen include altoist Charlie Kennedy, tenor-saxophonist Richie Kamuca, pianist Russ Freeman and drummer Mel Lewis. The music, which falls between swing and West Coast jazz, is often hard-driving and stirring.

Go West Young Med concludes with two eccentric pieces performed by Flory’s Sax Maniacs in 1959. The group, comprised of six saxophonists and a rhythm section, hints ever so slightly at Supersax. Go West Young Med is available from Jordi Pujol’s admirable Fresh Sound label (www.freshsoundrecords.com ).

Scott Yanow


Jazz CD Reviews for APRIL 2017

Maurice Gainen
Eight
(Empyrean Music)

Saxophonist and flutist Maurice Gainen has always believed in true world music. His previous CD, Youth Movement, found him interacting with musicians and singers recorded in Kenya, Argentina, India and Los Angeles. On Eight, he again utilizes performers from many countries along with a mixture of acoustic and electronic instruments while always including the improvisation and spirit of jazz.

Eight begins with the exciting “Modern Africa,” a combination of African rhythms, funky bass, background vocalists and the leader’s wailing soprano. “Tango Mumbai” has his pretty flutes, a couple of eerie-sounding violinists from India and a tango rhythm. Voices (including Mighty Mo Rodgers) are used creatively on the catchy “Falling Softly” while “I Will Return” looks towards Ethiopia in its dialogue, vocal, and the use of Amadou Fall’s kora.

Maurice Gainen’s journey through the world continues on “Unrequited Fantasy” which has brief dialogue in Japanese and Shelly Ren on erhu. Gainen gets to stretch out on flute, alto and tenor during “Cobrinha,” a melodic and rhythmic number from Brazil. “Rise & Shine” is a return to India with electronic percussion and Gainen’s soprano being joined by violin and other unclassifiable sounds. “Rush” has a bit of Gainen’s tenor interacting with a pair of Argentinian musicians. “Nota Singular” is an eccentric bossa-nova that teams the leader’s flute with pianist Jamieson Trotter. The colorful program concludes with a dreamy version of “Isn’t It A Pity,” Maurice Gainen’s debut as a singer.

All in all, Eight is a continually surprising set of music that is easily recommended and available from www.mauricegainen.com .

Scott Yanow


Kei Akagi Trio
Contrast & Form
(Time & Style Jazz)

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Kei Akagi is a very inventive pianist who always plays and records stimulating music. In his career he worked for seven years with Airto and Flora Purim, nine with Stanley Turrentine, had associations with Jean-Luc Ponty, Allan Holdsworth, James Newton and Al DiMeola, and was a member of Miles Davis’s last group. He also led at least 13 CDs prior to the new one.

Contrast & Form features Akagi with the trio that he has had since 2000 which also includes bassist Shunya Wakai and drummer Tamaya Honda. They perform nine of the pianist’s originals plus Wayne Shorter’s “Limbo” and nearly all of the pieces on the CD are first takes. Akagi often contributes fairly simple themes but with unlimited potential for growth and development.

The pieces include the distinguished and stately theme “In The Fold,” a repetitive and playful childlike melody (“Playground – The Dog And The Snake) that builds and builds, two songs in different time signatures (“Simply Five” and “Count Nine”) and the three-part “Contrast & Form.” The latter has a brief solo piano section, the rhythmic “Part 2” and a fiery “Part 3” which includes a drum solo a bit reminiscent of Elvin Jones in its use of polyrhythms.

Throughout Contrast & Form, the musicians form a tight trio that often seems to think as one. While there are some brief touches of early Keith Jarrett and McCoy Tyner in spots, Kei Akagi’s playing is distinctive and quite original. The result is a high-quality set of creative and thought-provoking post-bop jazz. Contrast & Form, which is easily recommended, is available from www.cdbaby.com .

Scott Yanow


Oleg Frish
Duets With My American Idols
(Time Out Media)

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Oleg Frish appears frequently as a host on radio and television in the New York area. Born in Russia and a long-time lover of the Great American Songbook, Frish is also a personable singer with an appealing voice and a smile in his sound.

On this CD, Oleg Frish is featured on one vocal duet apiece with Gary U.S. Bonds, Peggy Marsh, Ben E. King, B.J. Thomas, Chris Montez, Lainie Kazan, Tony Orlando, Melissa Manchester, Lou Christie and Bobby Rydell. While the other singers are fine, adjusting their styles to fit whatever song they are interpreting, the host is the main star throughout. The singers are backed by a few overlapping combos that often include John Oddo or Kenneth Asher on piano, guitarist Bob Mann, George Rabbi on trumpet and saxophonist Lawrence Feldman.

Oleg Frish, who also has four solo pieces, is in fine form throughout. He obviously loves the music, his enthusiasm is infectious, and his singing is full of joy. Whether it is “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You,” “Day By Day,” “Hello Dolly,” “When You’re Smiling” or the one obscurity “Bagel and Lox,” this is fun set of lively and classic music. It is available from www.olegfrish.com .

Scott Yanow


Mary Bogue
Blue Smoke
One Night Of Sin
(Dance Me To Stardust Records)

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A fine jazz/blues singer based in Los Angeles, Mary Bogue has performed frequently during the past decade. She recently released two EPs that total around 25 minutes apiece, giving listeners a strong sampling of her talents.

Blue Smoke has the singer joined by pianist Steve Rawlins, guitarist Grant Geissman, bassist Richard Simon, drummer Gordon Peeke and occasionally trumpeter Nolan Shaheed. After a swinging “No Moon At All,” Mary Bogue is featured on a pair of Tom Culver originals: the warm ballad “Blue Smoke” and the Brazilian-flavored “Endlessly.” She is in particularly excellent form on the sly “Must Be Catchin’” which sounds like a relative in its sentiments to “Comes Love.” Ms. Bogue concludes the set with the love ballad “My Superman” and a fine version of “In A Sentimental Mood” which also features Shaheed.

While Blue Smoke is enjoyable, One Night Of Sin gets the edge due to its superior material and the occasional contributions of tenor-saxophonist Rickey Woodard. With pianist Karen Hernandez, bassist Brad Bobo and drummer Jack Le Compte completing the quartet, Mary Bogue is in bluesy form throughout the date. “Sneaking Around” is a swinging piece about hiding an affair. Woodard makes his presence felt on the blues ballad “Night Life” and the singer really digs into the lowdown blues “Rock Me Baby” and the country ballad “One Night Of Sin.” She is in expressive form on “Don’t Explain,” is in top form on the Linda Hopkins piece “I’m Going To Cry You Right Out” and finishes the all-too-brief set with “Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast.”

Mary Bogue has a distinctive and inviting voice and swings at every tempo. Her performances throughout these two sets makes one want to see her perform live. These EPs are easily recommended and available from www.marybogue.com .

Scott Yanow


Rebecca Kilgore and Bernd Lhotzky
This And That
(Arbors)

For the past couple of decades, Rebecca Kilgore has been one of the finest jazz singers on the scene. She can sing a song fairly straight, sticking to the lyrics and the melody, and still swing as hard as anyone by perfectly placing her notes. She also improvises with subtlety, has a very attractive voice, and uplifts every song that she interprets. While she is usually heard with larger groups, Rebecca Kilgore excels on this duet project with pianist Bernd Lhotzky. The swing-based pianist provides a gentle stride, and on some of the faster numbers he creates hot solos that are also melodic. Lhotzky’s piano playing is all of the accompaniment that the singer needs.

One of the main joys of this set, in addition to hearing the two performers, is that the majority of the 15 vintage selections are rarely performed today. It is particularly wonderful hearing “I’m Shooting High,” “Flying Down To Rio,” Duke Ellington’s “Grievin’,” “I Hear The Music Now” and “You Can’t Lose A Broken Heart.” In most cases, Rebecca Kilgore starts off by singing the verse, which tends to be even lesser-known than the chorus. Other highlights include a pair of Billy Strayhorn ballads (“Lotus Blossom,” “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing”), “Who Cares” and “Sweet And Lovely.”

This And That is a typically excellent Rebecca Kilgore outing and is highly recommended to lovers of the Great American Songbook. It is available from Arbors ( www.arborsrecords.com ).

Scott Yanow


The Jazz Couriers
Live In Morecambe 1959 – Tippin’
(Gearbox)

During 1957-59, the Jazz Couriers was arguably the top British jazz band. Co-led by a pair of great tenor-saxophonists (Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott) and anchored by a top-notch rhythm section (pianist Terry Shannon, drummer Bill Eyden and several bassists including Jeff Clyne), the Jazz Couriers played high-energy hard bop. While somewhat forgotten today, they could hold their own with their American counterparts.

Fortunately the Jazz Couriers made several studio albums and were also captured live on a few occasions. This CD reissues a live Lp that was first put out five years ago by the Gearbox label ( www.gearboxrecords.com). Unfortunately readers need to use a magnifying glass to appreciate the microscopic liner notes. (reprinted at a much smaller size than on the Lp) or look on their website, but otherwise there are no reservations about this exciting music.

The Couriers perform an uptempo version of Horace Silver’s “Tippin,’” a straightforward reading of “For All We Know,” a feature for Hayes’ vibes on “Embers” and a rapid rendition of “Cherokee.” While the bassist is largely inaudible on the latter, otherwise the recording quality is excellent for a live set from the era. Tubby Hayes displays his ability to perfectly articulate every note at the fastest tempos (a skill that he shared with Johnny Griffin and Sal Nistico), Ronnie Scott puts plenty of personality into his solos, and the friendly competition between the two tenors result in lots of stirring music.

Fans of hard bop and hard-swinging jazz should go out of their way to collect the recordings of the Jazz Couriers including this excellent CD.

Scott Yanow


David Wise
Till They Lay Me Down
(Self-Released)

Tenor and baritone-saxophonist David Wise makes his recording debut as a leader on “Till They Lay Me Down. Born and raised in Virginia, he graduated from Oberlin College, studied with Gary Bartz, and has appeared on several recordings since 2907. A resident of Los Angeles, Wise is a member of Bruce Forman’s Cow Bop.

Till They Lay Me Down teams the saxophonist with guitarist Forman, bassist Alex Frank, drummer Jake Reed and several guests. The first number, “What More Could One Man Want,” finds Wise playing colorfully on an r&bish piece that has vocals by Jason Joseph and Laura Mace. The mood and style shifts with a brief but heartfelt rendition of “Sylvia”; cellist Mikala Schmitz is an asset on that track. “Here’s That Rainy Day,” one of only two numbers on the set not composed by the saxophonist, is given a surprising cooking treatment with Wise (on baritone), Forman and bassist Frank taking fine solos. It certainly casts new light on the song.

“Home,” an original that is a bit reminiscent of “I Remember Clifford,” has an excellent ballad statement by Wise on tenor. He plays some unaccompanied baritone on the mellow “Kol Nidre,” digs into the slow blues “Till They Lay Me Down,” and duets with Forman on “Lullaby.” The program concludes with the three-part “Life Is But A Song,” a simple and likable melody on which Wise sings.

All in all, this is an impressive debut by a laidback but creative saxophonist. David Wise’s CD is available from www.davidgwise.com.

Scott Yanow


Carsten Dahl Trio
Simplicity
(Storyville)

An excellent jazz pianist, Carsten Dahl was born in Copenhagen 49 years ago. Originally a drummer and a studio musician by the time he was 14, he switched to piano when he was 21. Dahl was working professionally as a pianist by the early 1990s. He has since mastered the bebop vocabulary while also developing his own voice. In addition to Danish musicians, he has also had opportunities to work with drummer Ed Thigpen (who had been one of his early drum teachers), Joe Lovano, Billy Harper, Dave Liebman, Eddie Gomez, Jerry Bergonzi, Johnny Griffin, and Jim Snidero among many others.

Simplicity is comprised of 16 Dahl originals that he performs in a trio with bassist Lennart Ginman and drummer Frands Rifbjerg. While the music (ranging from joyous romps to brooding ballads) may at first seem to be straight ahead bebop that is inspired by Bud Powell, a closer listen reveals that Dahl utilizes his own original chord changes and chord voicings. The music, while built from the past, is quite modern and filled with unpredictable moments. The performances are mostly pretty concise and the playing fits such song titles as “A Minor Mood For You,” “Monk’s Skunk,” “Dark Moments,” “Prelude and Blues,” “Flying Birds,” “Fragility” and “Beautiful.”

Simplicity features Carsten Dahl in top form, making it obvious that he is an important jazz artist who Americans should discover. This CD is available from www.storyvillerecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Michel Benebig
Noumea To New York
(American Showplace Music)

Many observers love to claim that jazz is “America’s only art form,” a debatable claim that overlooks the fact that ragtime, the blues, tap dancing, and the movies are four other American art forms. It also greatly underrates the contributions of non-Americans to jazz’s development. Jazz has been an international music ever since recordings became widely available in the early 1920s.

Michel Benebig, who was born in New Caledonia, is a top-notch jazz organist. While he spent time in his early years playing classical piano, electric bass and accordion, by 1993 (when he turned 29) he was a fulltime jazz organist. He has toured internationally, visited the United States many times, and utilized American musicians on some of his sessions.

Noumea To New York has Benebig leading a quartet also featuring guitarist Carl Lockett, drummer Lewis Nash, and the great tenor-saxophonist Houston Person. Whenever Person appears on a recording, it is a strong clue that the music is special and that is certainly true of Noumea To New York. While performing mostly original material, Michel Benebig shows that he is a master of blues, ballads and swinging originals. Although he is clearly inspired by the earlier jazz organists and his mentor Rhoda Scott, Benebig has his own sound and approach to playing hard bop and soul jazz.

Guitarist Lockett contributes some excellent solos, Nash keeps the music tight and swinging, and Person (with his huge tone) is in typically soulful form, Noumes To New York (available from www.amazon.com ) is a must for fans of the jazz organ. Michel Benebig deserves to be much better known in the U.S.

Scott Yanow


The Mark Masters Ensemble
Blue Skylight
(Capri)

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A very skilled arranger and head of the American Jazz Institute, Mark Masters previously had recorded projects of the music of Jimmy Knepper, Clifford Brown, Porgy & Bess, Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz, Duke Ellington’s saxophonists, and Steely Dan. Blue Skylight is a bit unusual in that it alternates between songs composed by Charles Mingus and Gerry Mulligan.

The five Mingus pieces feature a septet comprised of trumpeter Ron Stout, trombonist Les Benedict, altoist Gary Foster, Jerry Pinter (tenor and soprano), pianist Ed Czach, bassist Putter Smith and drummer Kendall Kay. In addition to “Peggy’s Blue Skylight” and “Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love,” the group performs three lesser-known Mingus compositions: the swinging “Monk, Bunk And Vice Versa,” “So Long Eric” and the haunting “Eclipse.” While the ensembles do not become quite as adventurous and wild as Mingus’ bands, there are plenty of stirring moments with Gary Foster and Jerry Pinter often taking solo honors.

For the six Mulligan works, Foster, Pinter and the rhythm section return and are joined by Gene Cipriano on tenor and baritonist Adam Schroeder. “Apple Core” and “Motel” are the best known of the mostly obscure pieces. Schroeder emulates Mulligan a little on “Strayhorn 2” and “Motel,” each of the horn players have spots (with Cipriano on “Out Back Of The Barn” and Foster throughout starring), and Jeru’s legacy is well served.

Blue Skylight is another fine recording from Mark Masters, who has compiled quite a memorable body of work in his career. Get this one, available from www.caprirecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Tina May Meets Enrico Pieranunzi
Home Is Where The Heart Is
(33 Jazz)

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Long one of Great Britain’s finest jazz singers, Tina May has recorded a wide variety of projects during her career. Home Is Where The Heart Is is both intimate and quietly creative.

May and pianist Enrico Pieranunzi perform seven duets and (with the inclusion of Tony Coe on soprano) two trios. The co-leaders contribute five originals (music by Pieranunzi and lyrics by May), Pieranunzi wrote two others (one with lyrics by Lorraine Feather) and they also perform “Day Dream” and “This Is New.”

While the emphasis is on ballads with a few exceptions (most notably the closing “This Is New” and “The Night Bird” which has May’s vocalese to a Chet Baker solo), the music holds one’s interest throughout. Tina May always had a beautiful voice and she digs into the meaning of the lyrics. Enrico Pieranunzi’s playing throughout is quite sensitive yet never obvious, both anticipating the singer’s directions and inspiring her to take even more chances. Tony Coe’s soprano on “The Night Bird” and “Day Dream” adds variety and fire to the set.

Home Is Where The Heart Is grows in interest with each listen and fortunately the philosophical and thoughtful lyrics are included in the inner sleeve. This fine project is well worth exploring and is available from www.33jazz.com .

Scott Yanow


Billy Childs
Rebirth
(Mack Avenue)

A major modern jazz pianist and composer, Billy Childs’ writing has sometimes overshadowed his very original piano playing. While Rebirth has six of his originals, the focus is on his piano in a quartet with Steve Wilson (alto and soprano), bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Eric Harland.

Both Childs’ solos and his pieces are harmonically advanced and challenging to musicians although quite listenable. “Backwards Bop,” while not quite living up to its name (an intriguing thought), has a strong forward momentum, an eccentric theme, an opening spot for Glawischnig and heated solos by Childs and Wilson on alto. “Rebirth” features Claudia Acuna’s wordless singing in the ensembles, stirring piano and soprano solos, and a spot for trombonist Ido Meshulam who is just on this piece. The ballad “Stay” puts the focus on guest singer Alicia Olatuja’s pleading and effective vocal.

Of the other originals, “Dance Of Shiva” is a bit intense and finds the trio swinging hard, “Tightrope” is an advanced jazz waltz and “The Starry Night” includes adventurous piano and soprano solos. Rebirth concludes with a stormy version of “The Windmills Of Your Mind” (as if the John Coltrane Quartet had tackled it in 1965) and an alto-piano duet on Horace Silver’s “Peace.”

Virtually every Billy Childs recording is well worth acquiring. Rebirth is most notable for his consistently creative piano playing. It is available from www.mackavenue.com .

Scott Yanow


Clarice Assad & Friends
Live At The Deer Head Inn
(Deer Head Records)

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A very talented singer, pianist and composer, Clarice Assad was born and raised in Brazil. Her musical family includes her aunt singer Badi Assad, her father guitarist Sergio Assad and her uncle guitarist Odair Assad. While many of Clarice Assad’s compositions have been performed by orchestras, the spotlight on her Deer Head release is on her singing.

Four selections are duets with percussionist Keita Ogawa including a medley of Antonio Carlos Jobim songs and “Aquarela do Brazil” which has some brilliant scat-singing in addition to Assad’s piano. “Invitation” and Milton Nascimento’s “Maria, Maria” have her singing with a quartet comprised of tenor-saxophonist Adam Niewood (who takes several passionate solos), keyboardist Richard Burton, bassist Tony Martino and drummer Bill Goodwin. A special treat are “Corcovado” and “Vera Cruz” for those two numbers team her with her fellow singer Nancy Reed, whose English vocals contrast well with Assad’s vocalizing in Portuguese.

All in all, this is an enjoyable release that can serve as a fine introduction to the artistry of Clarice Assad. It is available from www.deerheadinn.com .

Scott Yanow


Charles Mingus & The Jazz Workshop All Stars
The Complete 1961-1962 Birdland Broadcasts
(Solar)

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The Jazz Messengers store in Barcelona has an extensive catalog that includes many previously unreleased sessions by American jazz greats along with a countless number of rarities. Be sure to check them out at www.jazzmessengers.com One of their most valuable recent additions is this three-CD set which fills in an important gap in the career of Charles Mingus. During this period, the bassist recorded the last of his Atlantic albums (Oh Yeah) and was preparing for what would be an overly ambitious and somewhat disastrous Town Hall concert.

The performances on the seven radio broadcasts from Birdland were mostly out previously on bootleg Lps but with poor recording quality. Happily this CD box has greatly improved recording quality and, while the quality dips a bit in spots on the third CD, all of the music is quite listenable. Three different overlapping groups are featured, none of which made studio recordings with the exact same personnel.

The first three numbers feature a band with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef and trombonist Jimmy Knepper in the frontline along with bassist Doug Watkins and drummer Dannie Richmond. Mingus is heard on piano rather than bass; “Ecclusiastics” is the highlight. The next four broadcasts team together the always passionate tenor-saxophonist Booker Ervin with the greatly underrated trumpeter Richard Williams and altoist Charles McPherson. Jaki Byard is the main pianist but a young Toshiko Akiyoshi is on some of the selections and is showcased on a trio rendition of “Reets And I.” Along the way one hears a few versions of the sometimes-riotous “Eat That Chicken” (which Mingus was using as a theme song), along with a lengthy “Take The ‘A’ Train” “Fables Of Faubus” a great interpretation of “Peggy’s Blue Skylight” and the hard-swinging “Monk, Funk Or Vice Versa” which is based on “Well You Needn’t.” One of the broadcasts has Dannie Richmond absent and Mingus utilizing Henry Grimes as the second bassist. Their version of the only live recording that exists of “Ysabel’s Table Dance” is quite stirring.

The third disc features a Mingus group with flugelhornist Edward Armour, Charles McPherson, baritonist Pepper Adams, Don Butterfield on tuba, Jaki Byard and Dannie Richmond. While it repeats some of the earlier titles, this band displays plenty of spirit and McPherson’s playing in particular is brilliant. The Complete 1961-1962 Birdland Broadcasts is a must for lovers of Charles Mingus’ music.

Scott Yanow

Charlie Parker
Unheard Bird – The Unissued Takes
(Verve)

Charlie Parker’s recordings for Norman Granz (1949-54), which were originally issued on Mercury and Clef and later consolidated on Verve, have been released many different ways through the years including as a ten-CD set that included not only his released sides but quite a few alternate takes. Until recently, it was believed that that box had every Bird side that existed from this period.

But now a variety of new material held by the late Granz has been released on this two CD set available from the Spanish Jazz Messsengers store (www.jazzmessengers.com ) and through Universal. Under the direction of Phil Schaap, this twofer has alternate takes, false starts and incomplete versions of 18 songs along with the originally issued versions. While some of the false starts are a bit frivolous to include (particularly ones that only last a few seconds), the alternate versions are often quite intriguing and there are quite a few.

The great altoist is featured on five renditions (three of which are complete) of “Okiedoke” with Machito’s Orchestra, septet numbers with trumpeter Kenny Dorham and trombonist Tommy Turk, “If I Should Lose You” with strings, a few quartet pieces, “Bloomdido,” “An Oscar For Treadwell” and “Mohawk” with a quintet also featuring Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, Latin numbers with a combo, and three standards with a big band from 1952.

Most intriguing are the many versions of “Blues,” which in its original release was a themeless jam. However listening to the earlier takes, Charlie Parker had an unusual melody in mind that one could imagine Ornette Coleman playing later in the decade. Obviously more general Charlie Parker fans should get his Savoy, Dial and regular Verve recordings first. But true Bird fanatics will have to pick up this valuable addition to his musical story.

Scott Yanow

Donny Most
Mostly Swinging
(Summit)

Donny Most, a mature vocalist who loves Bobby Darin, Sinatra and others of the era, is a swinging crooner. He puts plenty of personality into the lyrics of the standards he sings. His voice is friendly and pleasing and he clearly conveys the love that he feels for these vintage songs.

On Mostly Swinging, Most is joined by a big band filled with all-stars from the L.A. studio scene. The joyful arrangements of Willie Murillo are so spirited that they border on the riotous at times with the emphasis on faster tempos and extroverted ensembles. It helps that he has a killer trumpet section led by Wayne Bergeron plus plenty of notables including trombonists Andy Martin and Alan Kaplan and saxophonists Rusty Higgins and Brian Scanlon.

Such songs as “Lover Come Back to Me,” a Latinized “Let’s Fall In Love,” “After You’ve Gone” and “Day In Day Out” are given rousing treatment by Danny Most and the ensembles. His tribute to Bobby Darin on “Clementine” is a definite highlight. This fun album is available from www.summitrecords.com.

Scott Yanow

Don Joseph
A Tribute To The Jazz Poetry Of
(Fresh Sound)

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Don Joseph (1923-94) was a cool-toned cornetist and trumpeter who was most active in the 1950s. His lyrical solos and quiet sound are a bit reminiscent of Chet Baker and he was always capable of providing fresh ideas to any session. Unfortunately his heroin habit resulted in him going into obscurity by the end of the 1950s, only re-emerging on records in 1984 for his lone album as a leader.

Jordi Pujol of the Fresh Sound label has compiled a definitive single CD of Joseph’s best recordings of the 1950s. The cornetist is featured on four rare selections originally under drummer Art Madigan’s leadership in 1954 that also feature tenor-saxophonist Al Cohn. In addition, Joseph soloes on five numbers from 1957 with a pair of sextets led by guitarist Chuck Wayne, three songs with Gerry Mulligan’s all-star 15-piece big band (also from 1957) and on three songs from a live session from 1952 led by altoist Dave Schildkraut that is erratically recorded. Jackie Paris sings one of the tunes from the latter set.

Throughout these vintage cool jazz performances, Don Joseph takes thoughtful solos that sometimes become quietly heated; all are a joy to hear. The liner notes (the ones for the original Lps plus some humorous stories by Bill Crow) are a perfect addition to the excellent collection.

This CD, available from www.freshsoundrecords.com , is highly recommended and does justice to the musical legacy of Don Joseph.

Scott Yanow

Carmen Lundy
Something To Believe In
(Justin Time)

Carmen Lundy, who has one of the strongest and most powerful voices of any jazz-based singer on the scene today, is at the top of her game throughout Something To Believe In. She is joined by pianist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Curtis Lundy (her brother), drummer Victor Lewis, percussionist Mayra Casales and occasionally violinist Regina Carter and Mark Shim on tenor and soprano.

The program consists of six songs that the singer wrote or co-composed plus four standards.

Among the highlights, Carmen Lundy shows how hard she can swing on “In Love Again.” She creates a fresh and atmospheric version of “Windmills Of Your Mind,” is dramatic and adventurous on “Wild Child” (which has some intense and exciting soprano-sax soloing from Shim) and is tender during the first part of “I Loves You Porgy” (taken as a duet with pianist Wonsey) before it swings a bit with Shim on tenor. “Moody’s Mood For Love” is given a slightly unusual treatment in that Lundy sings the bulk of the piece (which is usually sung by a male) while the female part is taken instrumentally by Carter on violin.

Whether performing folkish originals, passionate romps or a heartfelt ballad such as the title cut, Carmen Lundy deserves to be recognized as one of today’s greats. Something To Believe In is easily recommended and available from www.justin-time.com www.justin-time.com.

Scott Yanow

Gabrielle Stravelli
Dream Ago
(Big Modern Music)

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Gabrielle Stravelli is a very talented musician who obviously has a great future. She has the powerful voice of a cabaret singer or a Barbra Streisand-type performer yet also swings and improvises well. For her most recent CD, Dream Ago, she wrote lyrics for nine of the dozen songs and the music for seven of those. Bassist Pat O’Leary contributed the arrangements and Ms. Stravelli’s group also includes Art Hirahara on piano, drummer Eric Halvorson, Scott Robinson on both reeds and brass, and guest appearances for keyboardist David Cook, guitarist Saul Rubin and singer Kenny Washington who is on “Bicycle Blues.”

From the start, when Ms. Stravelli creates an overdubbed heavenly chorus on “Dream Dancing” and scats on “Cake Of My Childhood,” it is obvious that this is going to be a continually surprising and stimulating set. On “Little Zochee” she interacts with the late Thomas Chapin whose flute playing is taken from 1985. A swinging version of Bob Dorough’s quirky and witty “Where Is The Song” (which comments on the tune that she is singing) precedes her atmospheric love song “If Only Love Was Blind.”

Among the other pieces are a surprisingly hard-swinging “It Might As Well Be Spring” (which includes some impressive long notes from the singer), a duet with pianist Cook on “Dream Ago” (an emotional ballad written for the singer’s late father), the passionate jazz waltz “Prism,” and “More” on which Stravelli performs as an unaccompanied choir.

Dream Ago (available from www.gabriellestravelli.com ) is filled with fresh, melodic and unpredictable music from a brilliant and inventive singer who is still in the early stages of her career.

Scott Yanow

John Stein
Tones
(Whaling City Sound)

Guitarist John Stein’s Tones can be thought of as modern cool jazz. His quietly inventive playing at times recalls Jim Hall although he has his own musical personality. Trumpeter Phil Grenadier’s tone is not that far from Chet Baker’s. Fernando Brandao on flute, alto flute and bass flute is a very fluent soloist who adds a great deal to the color of the ensembles. Bassist John Lockwood and drummer Ze Eduardo Nazario swing hard but at a low volume. Every musician makes perfect use of space and every note counts.

But beyond the musicianship and the fine playing are the compositions. John Stein contributed all but one of the 11 selections (a faster-than-usual version of “Angel Eyes”). A fine songwriter, Stein’s tunes have excellent melodies, set moods, employ catchy basslines and rhythms, and inspire the musicians. “The Commons” could easily become a standard in the future, “New Shoes” is likable and playful, “Five Weeks” is a medium tempo blues and “Jo Ann” is a warm ballad. Even the heated and fairly free “Neck Road” has a relaxed feel to it. Adi Yeshaya’s arrangements for three of the pieces add harmonies to the themes and set up the solos well.

John Stein’s Tones is melodic, concise (none of the pieces exceed 6:14 in length) and quite enjoyable. This fine example of cool jazz for the 21st century is easily recommended and available from www.whalingcitysound.com .

Scott Yanow

Burak Bedikyan
Awakening
(Steeplechase)

Burak Bedikyan, who is based in Turkey, has been a top-notch modern jazz pianist for the past two decades. Awakening is his third CD as a leader for the Steeplechase label.

On Awakening, Bedikyan is joined by altoist Loren Stillman, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Donald Edwards. The music is post-bop jazz with the pianist contributing all nine pieces. In most cases, the themes are brief and set the mood before being followed by stirring alto and piano solos. Among the highlights are the opener “Idee Fixe” which serves as an excellent introduction to the group, the melancholy ballad “Mother Earth,” a driving “Unfair Blues,” the picturesque “Memory Of A Fading Dream” “Ad Infinitum” with its mysterious feel, and the quiet waltz “Awakening” which has one of the leader’s finest piano solos. The date concludes with the forceful and memorable “The All Seeing Eye.”

While the atmospheric originals challenge the musicians, the main reasons to acquire Awakening are for the colorfully individual solos of Bedikyan and Stilmman who effortlessly glide over the often-complex chord changes and the hard-swinging playing of Okegwo and Edwards. Awakening is available from www.statesidemusic.com .

Scott Yanow

Deborah Brown
Kansas City Here I Come
(Wydawca)

Photo of CD cover

An exciting and swinging veteran jazz singer, Deborah Brown was born and raised in Kansas City. However she has spent much of her career overseas, singing in over 50 countries, which is why she is not as well-known as she should be in the U.S.

Kansas City Here I Come was recorded in Poland. Guest Kevin Mahogany joins the singer for vocal duets on “Teach Me Tonight” and “My One And Only Love” and Ms. Brown is assisted by a mixture of American and Polish musicians including the fine tenor-saxophonist Sylwester Ostrowski, pianist Rob Bargad, either Essiet Essiet or Joris Teppe on bass, drummer Newman Taylor Baker and, on three songs, a chamber orchestra.

From the start, an uptempo version of Thelonious Monk’s “Ask Me Now,” Deborah Brown sounds quite exuberant, scatting up a storm. She has a strong and very appealing voice, can belt out lyrics with the best, and seems capable of singing anything that she spontaneously thinks of. On “Lullaby Of Birdland” and “Summertime,” she really cooks. She is rollicking on “Kansas City Here I Come,” easily holds her own with Mahogany on the two vocal duets, and displays the beauty of her voice (along with her range) on an emotional version of the ballad “How Deep Is The Ocean.” Sylwester Ostrowski, a world-class player, takes several concise tenor solos and the rhythm section is solid and supportive throughout.

Kansas City Here I Come may be a difficult recording to locate but it is worth the search. Contact www.deborah.jazzvox.com for more information about this highly recommended CD.

Scott Yanow

Kenny Barron Trio
Book Of Intuition
(Impulse!)

It is easy to take pianist Kenny Barron for granted. He has been so consistently brilliant during the past 50 years that one automatically expects each of his recordings to be very rewarding. Book Of Intuition is no exception and it has the added plus of seven enjoyable Barron compositions.

Performing with his regular trio of the past decade (bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Johnathan Blake), a unit that surprisingly seems to have not recorded together before, Barron is heard at the peak of his powers. While his best-known original is “Voyage,” on this set he performs seven other superior compositions plus Charlie Haden’s “Nightfall” and a pair of rarely played Thelonious Monk songs (“Shuffle Boil” and “Light Blue”).

To name a few highlights of this delightful outing, “Magic Dance” is so light-hearted and appealing that it should be performed by others. “Bud Like” captures the spirit of Bud Powell while the gentle yet danceable light bossa “Cook’s Bay” has a groove that Ahmad Jamal would enjoy. “Lunacy” is an intense uptempo romp.

This CD does bog down a bit at its conclusion, closing with three straight ballads: “Dreams,” “Prayer” and “Nightfall.” However, on a whole, Book Of Intuition is a typically strong and quite enjoyable Kenny Barron outing. It is available from www.impulse-label.com .

Scott Yanow

Peter Erskine and the Dr. Um Band
Second Opinion
(Fuzzy Music)

In his career, drummer Peter Erskine has played in a wide variety of creative jazz settings, from the Stan Kenton Orchestra and Weather Report to his own projects for ECM, ranging from bebop to funk and beyond. On Second Opinion, a quartet album with saxophonist Bob Sheppard, keyboardist John Beasley and bassist Benjamin Shepherd, Erskine performs nine songs (six originals by band members and three standards) that cover most of the bases.

Second Opinion begins with “Hipnotherapy,”a blues with a relaxed groove. The funky fusion piece “Eleven Eleven” has Beasley on electric keyboards and hints at Weather Report. “Street Of Dreams,” which is dedicated to Kenton, is spacey and dreamlike. “Not So Yes” offers some light funk while Sheppard’s “Did It Have To Be You?” (great title!) is a disguised “All Of Me” that gives each of the musicians opportunities to shine. “Lida Rose,” is a modern Beasley ballad. Sheppard’s “Solar Steps” (which combines aspects of “Solar” and “Giant Steps”) has a particularly rewarding solo by the composer. A floating version of Henry Mancini’s “Dreamsville” utilizes Beasley’s electronics creatively. Second Opinion concludes with a 5/4 rendition of “Willow Weep For Me” (dedicated to Joe Morello) that features Sheppard on soprano.

Everything works well throughout this fine CD, Peter Erskine’s latest accomplishment, which is available from www.petererskine.com .

Scott Yanow

Larry Coryell
Coryell
(Real Gone)

Guitarist Larry Coryell was one of the most important early pioneers of fusion, He made his first recording on a Chico Hamilton album in 1966, led the legendary if barely documented fusion group Free Spirits during 1966-67, made influential recordings with vibraphonist Gary Burton during 1967-68 and was at the head of the Eleventh House in the early-to-mid 1970s.

In addition, before the Eleventh House, Coryell led a series of recordings for the Vanguard label during 1968-71. His album Coryell was, until its recent reissue by the Real Gone label, the rarest of these early recordings. Those listeners who are mostly familiar with Coryell’s more recent work will be surprised by much of the music on Coryell which was recorded in 1969.

The opening “Sex” (which is a bit of a parody on the subject) and “Beautiful Woman” not only have Coryell’s guitar but his so-so vocals and, on the latter tune, his piano. The music is rock-oriented, reminding one that, unlike most of the famous fusion innovators, Coryell’s original roots were in rock rather than jazz. “The Jam With Albert” is the set’s highpoint, with Coryell spontaneously jamming over Albert Stinson’s very active bass playing on the lengthy track “Elementary Guitar #5” completely changes the mood during its first part with Coryell’s guitar hinting at Bach before the piece gets a bit bluesy and funky. Coryell also plays passionately on “No One Really Knows,” the intense “Morning Sickness” and the brief and crowded “Ah Wuv Ooh.” The other musicians on this set are organist Mike Mandel, drummer Bernard Purdie, either Stinson, Ron Carter or Chuck Rainey on bass and, on “Ah Wuv Ooh,” Jim Pepper on flute. While the music is a bit dated and very much of its period, it displays plenty of fire and creativity and points the way towards fusion of the 1970s.

Since his fusion days, Larry Coryell has recorded in a wide variety of settings ranging from acoustic guitar groups to straight ahead jazz. Coryell, which is available from www.realgonemusic.com , shows how the guitarist sounded near the beginning of his career.

Scott Yanow