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JAZZ CD REVIEWS FOR JANUARY 2018

Martial Solal
Solo Piano, Vol. 1
(Fresh Sound)

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Ross Russell is best remembered for founding and running the Dial label during 1945-48, documenting Charlie Parker and other modern jazz artists from the period. After 1949 he dropped out of the music business, later writing the book Bird Lives about Parker. However in 1966 he attempted a comeback, recording sessions with pianists Joe Albany and Martial Solal. However Russell soon gave up the venture and the dates remained unreleased for decades.

Now, for the first time ever, the three solo piano dates that featured Solal are being released as a pair of CDs. Martial Solal is a still-active innovator whose roots were in bebop but who developed his own adventurous approach to improvising many years ago.

On the first of two volumes, Solal performs 13 classic bop standards, many of which were associated with Charlie Parker. However, even with some swinging sections, these are not conventional bebop jams. Solal states the melodies but varies the chord changes, the time, and even the keys while he is improvising, sometimes playing briefly in two keys at once. He comes up with unique versions of such songs as “Groovin’ High,” “Ornithology,” “Now’s The Time,” “’Round Midnight” and other vintage songs. Solal throws in some stride passages, bits of boogie-woogie, and heated bass lines, but also frequently sounds as if he is thinking aloud, taking his time between ideas. His wit is very much present and the results are quite unpredictable.

Solo Piano, Vol. 1, a major addition to Martial Solal’s discography, is available from www. www.freshsoundrecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Jacques Lesure
For The Love Of You
(WJ3)

Guitarist Jacques Lesure has been a happy and very musical presence in Los Angeles for the past 20 years. Inspired by Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell among others, Lesure has an attractive sound, a soulful bop-based style, and the ability to swing at every tempo.

Willie Jones III’s record company WJ3 has been one of the most consistently satisfying jazz labels in recent years, specializing in albums that are filled with high-quality modern straight ahead jazz, On For The Love Of You, Lesure is joined by three giants of the idiom: pianist Eric Reed, bassist Tony Dumas and Jones on drums.

The set’s highlights include a swinging rendition of “The Lamp Is Low,” Lesure’s soulful version of the Isley Brothers’ “For The Love Of You,” and a cooking interpretation of Cedar Walton’s “Holy Land” that at first has Reed’s out-of-tempo ruminations alternating with the guitar. Lesure, who takes the ballad “That’s The Way Of The World” as an unaccompanied solo and contributes the medium-slow blues “That’s Mr. Burrell, Thank You,” is in top form throughout, obviously inspired by his illustrious sidemen. The other musicians, particularly Reed, also have their chances to shine.

This is a fun and easily recommended set of spirited music, available from www.williejones3.com. .

Scott Yanow


Duke Robillard
And His Dames Of Rhythm
(M.C. Records)

Duke Robillard has gained fame as an electric guitarist and singer in the blues world, particularly known for his early days with Roomful Of Blues. However Robillard has long loved jazz of the 1920s and ‘30s and he has recorded swing tunes on occasions with tenor-saxophonist Scott Hamilton. But, even in his varied career, this CD (available from www.mc-records.com) is a bit different.

Robillard utilizes four horns (trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, clarinetist-altoist Billy Novick, Rich Lataille on tenor, alto and clarinet, and trombonist Carl Querfurth), a solid rhythm section, and six singers for a set of 15 tunes, most of which date from the 1925-40 period. Kelley Hunt has three vocals, there are two apiece from Maria Muldaur, Madeleine Peyroux and Sunny Crownover, Catherine Russell and Elizabeth McGovern appear once, and Robillard joins in by singing three songs. The closing “Call Of The Freaks” is the lone instrumental.

While all of the singers fare well with Muldaur (excellent on “Got The South In My Soul”) and Peyroux (“Easy Living” and “Squeeze Me”) being the most instantly recognizable, they are just part of the music. The horn players (with Kellso a consistent standout) have many short solos and there is a guest spot on violin for Andy Stein on “Me, Myself And I.” Novick and Kellso contribute most of the arrangements.

As for Duke Robillard, whether accompanying the singers, taking acoustic guitar solos, or uplifting the ensembles, he clearly had a great time. But with such songs as “From Monday On,” “What’s The Reason I’m Not Pleasin’ You,” “Me, Myself And I” and “If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight” being performed at this level, it is difficult not to smile at the results.

Scott Yanow


PJ Perry Quartet
Alto Gusto
(Cellar Live)

Quite often in jazz, geography determines how famous a musician becomes. P.J. Perry may be a new name to many American readers but for the past 40 years he has been one of the top bop-oriented altoists in jazz. A masterful player who is based in Edmonton, Perry can be thought of as the Canadian Sonny Stitt. Not that he sounds as close to Charlie Parker as Stitt did but, like Stitt, Perry is a master of the bebop vocabulary and one who can be relied upon to uplift any straight ahead date.

Alto Gusto teams Perry with pianist Jon Mayer (long based in Los Angeles), bassist Steve Wallace and drummer Quincy Davis. Performing seven songs including Paul Chambers’ “Ease It,” “Stablemates,” “Two Bass Hit” and “Quasimodo” (Charlie Parker’s line on “Embraceable You”), Perry is heard throughout in top form, swinging up a storm while displaying an attractive tone.

No further analysis is needed. Those who love bop and discovering “new” talent are well advised to pick up Alto Gusto, which is available from www.cellarlive.com. .

Scott Yanow


Ori Dagan
Nathaniel: A Tribute To Nat King Cole
(Scat Cat Records)

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Ori Dagan, who is based in Canada, has a deep voice, is a superior scat-singer, and is an excellent song writer. Nathaniel is his third CD as a leader.

This intriguing tribute to Nat King Cole has a variety of songs that Cole recorded (including a few lesser-known tunes) and five Dagan originals that one could imagine Cole singing. Accompanied by pianist Mark Kieswetter (who does a good job of emulating Cole’s style without copying him too closely), guitarist Nathan Hiltz, bassist Ross MacIntyre and occasionally drummer Mark Kelso, Dagan is also joined by three special guests. The great veteran singer Sheila Jordan joins in on a happy version of “Straighten Up And Fly Right.” Alex Pangman does a fine job on a vocal duet version of Pretend,” and Jane Bunnett’s soprano and flute are assets on three numbers.

But the main credit for the success of Nathaniel lies with Ori Dagan. He fearlessly scats when it fits, does a rare uptempo version of “Unforgettable,” and contributes such songs as “Keep It Simple” (which discusses Cole’s musical philosophy) and “Complexion.” The latter recalls Cole’s racial problems during a Southern tour in the late 1950s.

Nathaniel grows in interest with each listen, adding to the legacy of both Ori Dagan and Nat King Cole. It is recommended and available from www.oridagan.com .

Scott Yanow


Lucky Peterson
Tribute To Jimmy Smith
(Jazz Village)

Starting with his initial impact in New York during 1956-57, Jimmy Smith was such a dominant force on the Hammond B-3 organ that one could say that nearly every organist of the past 60 years pays tribute to Smith during every chorus they play. Lucky Peterson is best known as a blues guitarist who occasionally sings, but he is also a talented keyboardist. On this tribute album, he sticks exclusively to organ, hinting at Smith’s style and also taking vocals on two numbers. He is joined by guitarist Kelyn Crapp, drummer Herlin Riley and on one song apiece, guitarist Nicolas Folmer and guitarist Philippe Petrucciani. The biggest surprise is that veteran tenor-saxophonist Archie Shepp sits in on “Jimmy Wants To Groove” and “Back At The Chicken Shack,” sharing the vocal duties with Peterson on the former.

Peterson and his musicians perform five songs associated with Jimmy Smith including “The Sermon,” “The Champ” and “Back At The Chicken Shack.” They also play Leon Russell’s “Singin This Song 4 U,” “Blues For Wes” and two Peterson originals that fit the soul jazz/hard bop style.

Organ may not normally be Peterson’s main instrument but he sounds very much at home on this mostly blues-based material, jamming happily with his sidemen and keeping the spirit of Jimmy Smith alive. This fine outing is available from www.pias.com .

Scott Yanow


Julian Costello Quartet
Transitions
(33 Jazz)

Veteran saxophonist and educator Julian Costello is based in the United Kingdom. He utilizes an international cast of sidemen (guitarist Maciek Pysz, bassist Yuri Goloubey and drummer Adam Teixeira) on Transitions, an intriguing and melodic set of modern jazz.

Transitions is comprised of 13 pieces that often flow together as a suite. In fact, there is virtually no time on this CD programmed between the complementary compositions, particularly the first seven tracks. It is very easy to hear and digest all of the music in one listen. Costello displays cool sounds on tenor and soprano along with a relaxed style that is filled with inner heat. The same can be said for his sidemen, particularly the versatile and skilled guitarist Pysz. The four musicians interact constantly throughout the set and never play the predictable.

There are many bright moments to be experienced including the melancholy ballad mood of “Waves,” Costello’s soprano playing over his overdubbed horns on the brief “Corners,” the catchy patterns of “A Manic Episode,” some witty free playing on “Tonight In Cheek,” and the memorable melody of “Earworm.”

Transitions, which always holds on to one’s attention, is easily recommended and available from www.33jazz.com .

Scott Yanow


Cosmic Dust
The Dust Also Rises
(Self-Released)

While fusion (the combination of the sound, volume and rhythms of rock with jazz improvisation) dominated the 1970s and then became overshadowed by other approaches during the next decade, it is still very much a part of the current jazz scene. The electronics have become more sophisticated as have the rhythms, and the best fusion groups always have a generous amount of inventive solos.

Jim Templeton, an excellent pianist and an important educator in the Pacific Northwest, founded Cosmic Dust in 1980. The current version of the fusion band consists of Templeton on keyboards, guitarist Mike Doolin, Gary Edighoffer on tenor, flute and other reeds, electric bassist Sam Hallam, and drummer Charles Neal. They perform ten originals with spirit and constant creativity.

The music is consistently unpredictable, even when it hits a relaxing groove as on “Circus.’ The melodies, chord changes and solos are quite original and at no time does Cosmic Dust sound closely based on any other fusion group. All of the musicians are strong soloists (Edighoffer is a standout on flute and tenor), the ensembles are tight yet loose and, even with its rockish moments, the jazz content is high. “Walkin’ On Out” (which sounds briefly like “Chameleon” in spots), “Blues #7” and the happily funky “Bones For Kitty” are among the highpoints of this colorful set.

Cosmic Dust is a fusion group well worth checking out. The Dust Also Rises is available from www.jimivories.net .

Scott Yanow


George Webb’s Dixielanders
1945-1947
(Lake)

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The British trad jazz movement was at the height of its popularity in the early 1960s, right before the rise of the Beatles knocked away any chance of New Orleans-oriented groups having further pop hits. Trad had blossomed during the 1950s with the groups of Humphrey Lyttelton, Chris Barber, Ken Colyer and Acker Bilk among many others, but its seeds were actually planted during the 1940s.

George Webb’s Dixielanders, which began in 1941 when a group of part-time musicians discovered their mutual love for the 1920s jazz of King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong, came together almost by accident. Webb’s lengthy liner notes on the Lake reissue tell the full story. Considered the first British trad band (even though there was jazz in Great Britain during the 1920s and ‘30s), Webb’s Dixielanders essentially launched the revival movement in the UK.

While the group occupied a similar place in the history of classic jazz as Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band did at the same time in the States, and it also featured a lineup with two cornet players, the British musicians apparently never heard Watters’ music until their sound was already fully formed. Clarinetist Wally Fawkes is the most impressive soloist although cornetists Owen Bryce and Reg Giden, trombonist Eddie Harvey and the leader (accompanied by banjo, tuba and drums) are all excellent within the idiom. All of the players contribute enthusiastically to the rousing ensembles.

Other than a broadcast from 1944 released by Jazzology, all of the existing recordings and broadcasts of the Dixielanders (dating from 1945-46) are on this single CD. There are also six numbers (all that exists) from the 1947 version of the group which, in addition to Fawkes and trombonist Tony Finnis, has the young Humphrey Lyttelton as the only cornetist. The group broke up the following year. Lyttelton and Fawkes would soon form a classic matchup in the former’s band which originally also included the former bandleader George Webb on piano.

This CD by the very influential George Webb Dixielanders (available from www.fellside.com ) is both a significant historic release and great fun for those who enjoy high-spirited New Orleans jazz.

Scott Yanow


Kevin Mahogany
The Vienna Affair
(Cracked An Egg)

One of the finest male jazz singers of the past 30 years, Kevin Mahogany, who passed away Dec. 18 from a stroke, had a lower profile than he deserved during his last decade. He had been performing regularly, including in Europe, but there were fewer recordings than one would hope.

The Vienna Affair (which was recorded in Austria) features Mahogany at the peak of his powers, showcasing him as both a singer and a songwriter. Mahogany performs six songs for which he wrote the words and music (two are wordless scat features), his lyrics to a tune apiece by Kenny Barron and Dave Stryker, a Joe Williams song (“Pretty Blue”), and the standard “The Nearness Of You” (taken as a duet with guitar). Particularly memorable are “It’s Too Late” (during which the singer states emphatically in many ways that an affair is over), and “My New Friend” (an unusual tribute to Michael Buble). Mahogany’s lyrics throughout are intelligent, sometimes witty, and insightful.

Joined by pianist Erwin Schmidt, guitarist Martin Spitzer, bassist Josehi Schneeberger, and drummer Martin Gonzi, Mahogany displays a warm voice and engages in some dazzling scatting that uplift the songs. Schmidt and Spitzer come through with consistently rewarding solos and Schneeberger and Gonzi keep the music swinging while providing a perfect backdrop for the singer and the soloists.

The Vienna Affair, one of Kevin Mahogany’s final recordings, is filled with fresh music and stirring vocals. It is recommended and available from www.crackedanegg.com .

Scott Yanow


Petra van Nuis & Andy Brown
Lessons Lyrical
(String Damper Records)

Husband and wife guitarist Andy Brown and singer Petra van Nuis work regularly in the Chicago area. Lessons Lyrical, a set of vocal-guitar duets, can be thought of as a follow-up to their fine 2009 recording Far Away Places.

Ms. Van Nuis has a sweet and youthful voice, does justice to lyrics, and improvises with subtlety. Andy Brown is a very skilled swing-based guitarist who can operate well as a one-man orchestra, swinging like a big band or playing sparse accompaniment on ballads.

Lessons Lyrical features the duo exploring 17 songs that are standards from several eras plus a few obscurities. Ranging from “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’” and “Bali Hai” to “You’re Blasé” and a pair of 1920s songs (“Save Your Sorrow For Tomorrow” and “Doctor Jazz”), these delightful and cheerful renditions cover a variety of moods and tempos. And it is a joy hearing such forgotten numbers as “Peter Had A Wolf” (contributed by Judy Roberts) and Red Mitchell’s “Simple Isn’t Easy.”

Lessons Lyrical is easily recommended and available from www.petrasings.com .

Scott Yanow


Ornette Coleman
Ornette At 12/Crisis
(Real Gone Music)

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One of jazz’s greatest innovators, the late altoist Ornette Coleman showed that jazz improvisation could go beyond chordal restrictions. His solos lasted as long as he felt he had something to say (rather than sticking to a specific number of bars), and the range of emotions and sounds that he expressed resulted in music that had previously never been attempted. His shadow is still felt on much of jazz 60 years after he first burst upon the scene.

Two of Ornette Coleman’s rarest albums have been reissued by Real Gone on a single CD. Both of these sessions were recorded live on college campuses. Ornette at 12 has Coleman leading a quartet that includes tenor-saxophonist Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden and his son 12-year old Denardo Coleman in 1968. The elder Coleman, whose alto playing had continued to grow and evolve, also plays a song apiece on trumpet and violin. He was self-taught on those instruments and although his technique was limited (particularly on violin), he effectively uses them to get his message across.

The four pieces, after the melody statements, give the musicians opportunities to improvise freely. Redman, who learned a great deal from Coleman, is heard in his early prime, Haden (probably the only bassist who could have given Ornette what he needed in 1959) swings in his own way (when he is not playing drone notes) without forcing the other musicians to play over chord changes, and Denardo Coleman shows that he was a bit of a prodigy on drums.

Crisis was recorded in 1969 but not originally released until 1972. It has the same group except that Don Cherry is added on trumpet and flute, having a reunion with Coleman seven years after he left his quartet. Coleman plays the free blowout “Trouble In The East” on violin with Redman switching to clarinet and Cherry on flute. Otherwise he is featured on his very distinctive alto. Best known among the five compositions are Charlie Haden’s “Song For Che” and Coleman’s “Broken Shadows.”

On both sets, the music is passionate, unique, forward-looking (even in 2017), sometimes dense and explorative. Ornette Coleman fans and listeners open to the sounds of avant-garde jazz will be very happy to have this valuable high-energy music (available form www.realgonemusic.com ) back in print.

Scott Yanow


Tony Adamo
The New York Crew
(Self-Released)

A fine singer, Tony Adamo is also a master at what he calls “hipspokenword.” He enjoys interacting with major jazz musicians while telling stories having to do with the music and life in general. His lyrics and narratives are intelligent, his approach and language are connected to the hipsters of the 1950s, and he fits into both the beatnik tradition and the pioneers of “word jazz” while displaying his own hip personality.

On his fifth release, The New York Crew, Adamo gathered together an all-star group. Altoist Donald Harrison, trumpeter Tim Ouimette, pianist Michael Wolff, bassist Richie Goods, drummer Mike Clark (who also produced the recording), and percussionist Bill Summers are on many of the selections with drummer Lenny White and guitarist Jean C. Santalis guesting on one song apiece. Unlike most other “jazz and poetry” recordings, this project has Tony Adamo taking his turn taking “solos” with his sidemen who have plenty of opportunities to stretch out. Adamo may be the main star but he does not dominate the performances. Throughout the set, Harrison, Ouimette and Wolff are in top form during their many solos while the rhythm section is tight and swinging.

Among the subjects that Adamo discusses are the obscure but talented trumpeter Eddie Gale (“Gale Blowing High”), New York City (“City Swings”) and Eddie Harris (“Listen Here Listen Up”). He talks about changing oneself during “Buddhist Blues,” swings on an uptempo blues (“Mama’s Meat Pies”) and creates a fantasy about Picasso playing trumpet in his off hours (“Picasso At Midnite”). A brief instrumental (“To Bop Or Not To Be”) has the trio of alto, trumpet, and drums paying homage to Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach.

This unusual but satisfying set (available from www.amazon.com ) is Tony Adamo’s most rewarding recording so far.

Scott Yanow


JAZZ CD REVIEWS FOR DECEMBER 2017

Shorty Rogers
Early Skylark and Tampa EPs
(V.S.O.P.)

The V.S.O.P. label has long specialized in reissuing obscure sessions from the 1950s. Early Skylark and Tampa Eps collects together three unrelated dates from 1951-52 that were originally released as EPs (extended play records which were 10-inch Lps) by the Skylark label. Although Shorty Rogers gets top billing, he is actually only on one of the three sessions.

“Big Boy Parts 1 and 2” (which is programmed as the fifth of the nine selections) is a humorous satire on early rhythm & blues played by the earliest recorded version of the Lighthouse All-Stars. While the musicians (which include trumpeter Shorty Rogers, trombonist Milt Bernhart and Jimmy Giuffre who steals the show with his honking tenor) would be closely associated with the cool-toned West Coast jazz, this performance features them in more riotous form, creating a surprise hit. Also included from the group is “M.B.B.” (“More Big Boy”) which is the same music with different editing and the inclusion of some phony applause from the nonexistent audience, and a three-song medley by singer Vivien Garry. The latter has a little bit of satirical Dixieland from the group but is comprised mostly of features for the vocalist. The bulk of this CD has two lengthy performances (“Cool Canary Blues” and “Sweet Georgia Brown”) in a jam session format by a group led by violinist Paul Nero that features some very good Maynard Ferguson trumpet playing, tenor-saxophonist Bob Cooper and clarinetist Abe Most. The final four numbers, which are much more concise, also feature Most although this time in a more swing-oriented group that also stars trumpeter Charlie Shavers.

While the performances are not essential, there are enough bright moments to make this set (available from www.magnebit.com/vsoprecords/index.htm www.magnebit.com/vsoprecords/index.htm ) recommended to 1950s jazz collectors. Everyone should hear “Big Boy.”

Scott Yanow


Stephan Oberhoff
Applauding The Sunset
(Self-Released)

Stephan Oberhoff is a multi-talented individual who plays keyboards and guitar, sings, arranges, composes, produces records, and is a recording engineer. In his career he has written popular advertising jingles and collaborated with many songwriters including Brenda Russell, Melissa Manchester and Quincy Jones. Oberhoff is also a superior jazz improviser and has worked in local clubs.

Applauding The Sunset is a Brazilian-oriented project in which Oberhoff performs originals plus three other songs including two by Ivan Lins. His haunting voice is often used wordlessly (although he also sings in Portuguese) as part of an ensemble that includes his keyboards and occasional guitar along with Robert Kyle on flute and soprano, Katisse Buckingham on flute, a string section, two other singers (mostly in the background), and a pair of percussionists.

The music at various times evokes Weather Report, classical music, traditional Brazilian songs and an electronic soundscape, all mixed together with Stephan Oberhoff’s original ideas and a set of rich melodies. The result is an atmospheric program that is well worth experiencing. It is available from www.stephanoberhoff.com .

Scott Yanow


Hilary Gardner/Ehud Asherie
The Late Set
(Anzic)

Part of the New York jazz scene since 2003, Hilary Gardner is 1/3 of the vocal trio Duchess and had previously released her debut recording The Great City. On The Late Set, she performs duets with pianist Ehud Asherie who has also been a fixture in New York.

The Late Set has music that fits its title with the duo featured on mostly lesser-known vintage standards, the type of music that they often performed at Mezzrow’s. Asherie’s swing and stride-based playing fits in perfectly with the warm singing of the vocalist. Most of the songs are taken as ballads although there are hotter moments including the second half of “After You’ve Gone” and “Everything I’ve Got.” Other highlights include welcome revivals of “Shadow Waltz,” “A Ship Without A Sail,” “I Used To Be Color Blind” and “Seems Like Old Times.” While Ms. Gardner generally sticks to the melody and lyrics, her phrasing swings at each tempo. Asherie is a superior accompanist and his melodic solos give the music a solid forward momentum.

The Late Set is an easy album to enjoy. It is available from www.anzicrecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Jason Stein Quartet
Lucille
(Delmark)

One of the few fulltime bass clarinetists in jazz, Jason Stein is carving a new legacy for the instrument, apart from that set in the past by Harry Carney, Eric Dolphy and Bennie Maupin. On Lucille, Stein teams up with contrabass clarinetist Keefe Jackson (who doubles on tenor), bassist Joshua Abrams and drummer Tom Rainey.

The repertoire includes pieces by Lennie Tristano (“Wow” and “April”), Warne Marsh (“Marshmallow”), Charlie Parker (“Dexterity”), and Thelonious Monk (“Little Rootie Tootie”), a Bob Hurst tribute to tenor-saxophonist Charlie Rouse (“Roused About”) and three Stein originals. While the music often swings in a free bop fashion, there are also freer explorations and moments of unpredictability. The interplay between bass and contrabass clarinets is intriguing and fascinating with Jackson sometimes stealing the show. While Abrams and Rainey are mostly in supportive roles, they keep the music stimulating throughout.

The music looks forward while retaining ties to the past. The unusual instrumentation, mood and tempo variations, and the high-quality solo and ensemble playing make Jason Stein’s Lucille an excellent acquisition, easily recommended, and available from www.delmark.com .

Scott Yanow


Howlin’ Wolf
The Complete RPM & Chess Singles As & Bs 1951-62
(Acrobat)

Howlin’ Wolf was one of the giants of the blues, a vocalist who growled as much as he sang, often spitting out menacing sounds while doing justice to the lyrics that he interpreted. Born as Chester Arthur Burnett in 1910, it took him some time to launch his solo career, not making his first recordings until he was already 40 in 1951. However as part of the Chicago blues scene of the 1950s and ‘60s, Wolf was an influential and powerful force, putting on memorable shows and making a series of important recordings that, along with those of Muddy Waters, defined the music of the era.

This remarkable three-CD set (available from MVD Distribution at www.mvdb2b.com ), has all of the singles that Howlin’ Wolf recorded during his first 12 years on records, virtually everything other than live performances and full-length albums. In addition to the 64 singles, there are 16 additional numbers that are included which were recorded at the same sessions but did not make their debut on singles Howlin’ Wolf is heard on his early and often-primitive Memphis recordings of 1951-53 with guitarist Willie Johnson and James Cotton on harmonica in the supporting cast, and in Chicago during 1954-62 with such notables as guitarist Hubert Sumlin, pianist Otis Spann, and bassist Willie Dixon (who wrote many of the later pieces) among others. While several of the numbers (especially “Smokestack Lightning,” “Spoonful,” and “Wang Dang Doodle”) became famous as his signature songs, virtually all of the performances are memorable in their own way, including the most obscure pieces.

Rather than the sidemen or even the songs, the main star throughout is the unique Howlin’ Wolf, who never coasted, sounded like anyone else, or sang without passion. All blues collectors should own this valuable and historic set.

Scott Yanow


Randy Porter
Plays Cole Porter
(Heavywood Music)

Veteran pianist Randy Porter is a fine modern straight ahead pianist who in his career has worked with Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson, Charles McPherson, the New York Voices, Rebecca Kilgore and David Friesen among others. On his tribute album to Cole Porter, he teams up with bassist John Wiitala, drummer Todd Strait and, on six of the nine selections, the great singer Nancy King.

The set features eight Cole Porter songs plus the pianist’s ballad “Inside Your Mind.” Nancy King brings her own warmth and individual phrasing to such songs as “I Concentrate On You,” “Just One Of Those Things” and “All Of You,” sounding very much in her musical prime. Porter takes “I Love You,” “Why Can’t You Behave” and “Get Out Of Town” as instrumentals. His solos are swinging, boppish and full of subtle creativity while keeping the melodies in mind. Wiitala and Strait are excellent in support of the lead voices.

Further analysis is not needed. Randy Porter’s Plays Cole Porter, which is available from www.randyporter.com , is a high-quality set of creative jazz that is easy to enjoy.

Scott Yanow


Bob Lark-Phil Woods Quintet
Thick As Thieves
(Jazzed Media)

Bob Lark, a Professor of Jazz Studies at Chicago’s DePaul University, is both an influential educator and a very good bop-based trumpeter. A good friend of the late great altoist Phil Woods, Lark recorded with Woods on several occasions including with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble and with the combo that they co-led.

Thick As Thieves features the Bob Lark-Phil Woods Quintet which is essentially Woods’ 2009 Quintet (which also includes pianist Jim McNeely, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin) with Lark in place of Brian Lynch. The performance from May 17, 2009 was originally going to feature originals but Woods at the last minute decided to mostly play standards with the emphasis on spontaneity and playing by ear rather than utilizing arrangements. While Lark, who sticks throughout to flugelhorn, was not initially pleased by the change in plans, the results are quite colorful and joyful.

The full quintet performs lengthy versions of “Yardbird Suite,” “I Love You,” “All The Things You Are,” “Billie’s Bounce” and Lark’s “First Steps.” Lark is featured on briefer renditions of “Rhythm-A-Ning” and his own “Winter’s Touch.” The flugelhornist is a strong and colorful soloist who has his own sound within the bebop tradition, not copying any of his predecessors. McNeely plays consistently inventive improvisations while Gilmore and Goodwin are as tight and swinging as one would expect.

As for Phil Woods, it is a pleasure getting to hear some “new” solos from the classic altoist. He and Lark play off each other very well and with occasional wit, making Thick As Thieves (available from www.jazzedmedia.com. ) well worth picking up.

Scott Yanow


Vijay Iyer Sextet
Far From Over
(ECM)

Pianist-composer Vijay Iyer is considered by many to be one of the most significant jazz musicians active today. Far From Over features Iyer as, not only the leader and pianist in his sextet but, perhaps most importantly, as the arranger.

The music, comprised of ten Iyer originals, falls between post-bop and the avant-garde. Iyer’s pieces generally utilize catchy if very complex rhythms, original chord changes, and tricky melody lines. The solos from the individual players (cornetist Graham Haynes, altoist Steve Lehman, tenor-saxophonist Mark Shim, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Tyshawn Sorey in addition to Iyer) are concise and colorful. They are an outgrowth of the ensembles which find the group being both tight (well-rehearsed) and loose (spontaneous). While there are excellent solos from the horn players (Haynes’ playing is particularly rewarding on “Poles” and the funky “Into Action”), the rhythm section gives the music its foundation and direction.

The music covers a variety of moods. “Poles” begins quietly, utilizes a repeated figure by the ensemble, and becomes quite intense. The shifting time signatures on “Far From Over” sound almost impossible to improvise over yet Haynes and Iyer (on Fender Rhodes) make their statements sound natural. Nope” has its funky moments, the brief “End Of The Tunnel” will remind some of Bitches Brew era Miles Davis, and the uptempo “Down To The Wire” is a modal piece with raging tenor and piano playing reminiscent in spots of McCoy Tyner. “For Amiri Baraka” is a ballad for the trio, “Wake” is a spacey atmospheric piece, and “Good On The Ground” has the sextet playing over a one-chord vamp and utilizing a melody and groove that could have come from Ornette Coleman. Far From Over concludes with “Threnody” which begins as an out-of-tempo melancholy ballad for the trio before gradually becoming a triumphant piece with altoist Lehman in the lead. After hearing this stimulating set, one can certainly imagine Vijay Iyer adapting some of his pieces for a big band. The thought-provoking CD is available from www.ecmrecords.com and Amazon .

Scott Yanow


Corina Bartra
Takunde
(Blue Spiral)

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Throughout her career, singer and composer Corina Bartra has been innovative in blending together Peruvian rhythms (along with some from Cuba and Brazil) and her singing (mostly in Spanish) with modern post bop jazz and original melodies. While her previous CD Tribute To Chabuca Granda was an instrumental set of her music, her vocals are in the spotlight on Takunde.

For this project, Ms. Bartra is joined by pianist Steve Sandberg, guitarist Seth Johnson, bassist Victor Murillo, drummer Vince Cherico, Perico Diaz on cajon, and Jay Rodriguez on various saxophones. Rodriguez is a major asset throughout, offering stirring solos that keep the music inventive and unpredictable.

Corina Bartra contributes consistently powerful singing along with some scatting and wordless vocalizing on a wide-ranging but consistently rhythmic set. Included along with her originals are unusual versions of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Jobim’s “Samba de Aviao,” Joe Henderson’s “Black Narcissus” and a traditional Afro-Peruvian song. Among the other highlights are the joyful “El Tamalito” (which has some fine soprano playing by Rodriguez), the modern jazz of “Ecstasy Green,” “Purple Heart Sky” (a ballad waltz), and the leader’s assertive singing on the closing “Paseo de Aguas.”

Takunde serves as a fine introduction to the unique music and singing of Corina Bartra. It is available from www.bluespiralrecords.com.

Scott Yanow


Rez Abbasi
Unfiltered Universe
(Whirlwind)

The adventurous guitarist Rez Abbasi formed his group Invocation in 2008. Since then he has recorded CDs that have explored a mixture of modern jazz with Hindustani (Things To Come) and Qawwall (Suno Suno) music. Unfiltered Universe has Abbasi and his band delving into aspects of the music of Southern Indian (Canatic).

The references to Canatic music are mostly quite subtle, in the phrasing and some of the themes, so one does not have to be familiar with the idiom to enjoy Unfiltered Universe. Abbasi’s sextet includes altoist Rudresh Mahanthappa, pianist Vijay Iyer, bassist Johannes Weidenmueller, drummer Dan Weiss and cellist Elizabeth Mikhael. They have in-common virtuosity and original styles. Certainly Abbasi, Mahanthappa and Iyer sound unlike anyone else. While Abbasi’s music on this CD is clearly jazz and the music (which sometimes hints at fusion) is tonal, it does not owe a close allegiance to any previous style.

Invocation performs seven of Abbasi’s stimulating originals on Unfiltered Universe. While the melodies are not by themselves memorable, they set moods and patterns that the musicians dig into and stretch. Ranging from “Propensity” and the brief guitar solo “Thoughts” to the piano-guitar tradeoff on “Thin-King,” the episodic “Turn Of Events” and the closing and ironically titled “Dance Number,” this is dynamic music that grows in interest with each listen.

Unfiltered Universe is available from www.whirlwindrecordings.com and www.reztone.com .

Scott Yanow


Bill Charlap Trio
Uptown, Downtown
(Impulse!)

The Bill Charlap Trio, comprised of the pianist-leader, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington, first recorded together in 1997. 20 years later, there is no loss of enthusiasm or subtle creativity in their latest recording, Uptown, Downtown.

Charlap could be considered a modern swing pianist. His playing, while open to developments as recent as Bill Evans and early Herbie Hancock, is melodic, swinging and tied to the jazz tradition. His sophisticated chordings are particularly effective on medium-tempo tunes and he clearly enjoys embracing melodies that he loves.

Uptown, Downtown features the Charlap Trio performing five standards, the Stephen Sondheim title tune plus lesser known songs by Gerry Mulligan (a former employer of Charlap), Jim Hall, and Gigi Gryce. Among the highlights are a tender and wistful version of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” on which Charlap interprets the song as if he were singing it, an uptempo “The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else,” a sophisticated rendering of “There’s A Small Hotel” and a cooking rendition of Gryce’s “Satellite.” Throughout the program, the two Washingtons act like Charlap’s third and fourth hands, supporting the pianist and both echoing and adding to his ideas.

Lovers of the classic piano trio will enjoy Uptown, Downtown which is available from www.universalmusic.com and Amazon .

Scott Yanow


Humphrey Lyttelton
Dusting Off The Archives
(Lake)

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As a trumpeter and bandleader, Humphrey Lyttelton occupies a major place in the history of British jazz. His band with clarinetist Wally Fawkes was one of the very best in trad jazz during the first half of the 1950s, recording a long series of exciting selections for the Parlophone label that was inspired by 1920s jazz. Lyttelton never attempted to copy any of his predecessors even when bringing back vintage songs, and he added greatly to the legacy of the music. After 1956 when Fawkes departed, Lyttelton shifted his music to mainstream swing (which angered many in England’s trad world) although he occasionally went back to his roots throughout his long career.

Dusting Off The Archives is a particularly valuable CD from the Lake label for it includes 25 very rare selections from 1948-55, many of which had never been released before. The program consists of alternate takes, private recordings, numbers from broadcasts, and completely unissued studio sets. Most significantly, the performances and the recording quality are on the same level as Lyttelton’s released recordings. In addition to Lyttelton and Fawkes, such notables as pianist George Webb, trombonist Keith Christie, clarinetist Ian Christie and altoist Bruce Turner make contributions. Particularly fun are several selections in which Lyttelton switches to clarinet (with Fawkes sometimes on bass clarinet); the two reed players interact with each other and the results are quite exciting.

Highlight include “Snake Rag,” “Wild Man Blues,” “Chicago Buzz, “Randolph Turpin Stomp,” a fresh rendition of “Singing The Blues,” and a version of Lyttelton’s lone hit “Bad Penny Blues” that was performed four years before the famous studio version. In reality, there are no throwaways among the 25 performances many of which rank with the top hot jazz recordings of the time. Dusting Off The Archives, which is highly recommended to anyone interested in pre-swing jazz, is just one of literally hundreds of worthy British trad jazz CDs available from Lake (www.fellside.com ).

Scott Yanow


Lowell Fulson
Classic Cuts 1946-1953
(JSP)

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Lowell Fulson (1921-99) was a superior blues singer and guitarist for decades. A major figure in West Coast Blues after World War II, his cool but passionate voice was appealing and easy to understand. Fulson’s guitar playing was inspired at times by T-Bone Walker but he also spontaneously added or dropped extra bars to many of his choruses like a country blues performer. Fulson’s conversational phrasing was easily recognizable and he was an inspiration to quite a few later performers including B.B. King and Chuck Berry.

The four CD set Classic Cuts 1946-1953 contain 113 selections, virtually Fulson’s total output during his first eight years on record. The earliest performances are particularly intriguing as pianist Eldridge McCarty and bassist Big Dad expertly follow Fulson’s thoughts while he changes chords in irregular fashion. McCarty’s swing and boogie-woogie playing are a joy throughout those sessions. Fulson’s guitar phrasing was a bit awkward at first but he soon learned how to use space more effectively. His singing was first-class from the start. On this very generous package (each CD has over 78 minutes of music), Fulson is also heard with occasional drums and the Lester Young-inspired tenor of Que Martyn (on two cuts), in a bassless trio with piano and drums, on two songs with a combo led by pianist Jay McShann, a few dozen titles with a solid quartet/quintet that includes pianist Lloyd Glenn and often altoist Earl Brown and with a rollicking ensemble during the final few numbers. Also included are 12 selections in which Fulson is solely accompanied by the rhythm guitar of his brother Martin Fulson.

Along with the bluesman’s hits, “Blue Shadows,” ”Every Day I Have The Blues” (he gave Memphis Slim’s “Nobody Loves Me” that title), and “Lonesome Christmas Parts 1 & 2,” there are many lesser-known but rewarding performances including on this admirable reissue. The music ranges from lowdown and laidback blues to swinging romps, from jump to early r&b. There is a lot to consume but it is well worth it. Classic Cuts (available from MVD Distributors at www.mvdb2b.com ) is a must for every blues collection.

Scott Yanow


JAZZ CD REVIEWS FOR OCTOBER 2017

Richie Cole
Latin Lover
(Richie Cole Presents)

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Ever since he settled in Pittsburgh a couple of years ago, altoist Richie Cole has enjoyed a renaissance. He works regularly around town, goes on tours, and records prolifically. His latest recording, Latin Lover, is a delight and features him at the peak of his powers.

The music of Latin Lover is not so much Latin jazz (there are no added percussionists) as a combination of Latin themes turned into swinging bop and some unlikely material given a Brazilian twist. Cole is joined by guitarist Eric Susoeff, pianist and keyboardist Kevin Moore, bassist Mark Perna (who has produced many of the altoist’s recent recordings) and drummer Vince Taglieri. The repertoire is typically wide-ranging for Cole, whose concept of “Alto Madness” has always been that practically any song can be turned into swinging jazz.

Among the many highlights are a Latinized version of “ If I Only Had A Brain,” an exuberant “Celito Linda,” Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” transformed into “ L’ Eclipse de Lune,” “Serenata” (which the altoist caresses before swinging), and even Neil Sedaka’s “ Laughter I The Rain.” While it is not clear what “Harlem Nocturne” and a hard-swinging “Almost Like Being In Love” are doing on this set, one certainly does not mind their inclusion. Cole also contributed four originals including “Girl From Carnegie” which is a thinly disguised “Girl From Ipanema” given a different and appealing melody.

Richie Cole’s beautiful tone, fertile imagination and wit are very much in evidence throughout this very enjoyable set. Latin Lover (available from www.markpernamusic.com ) is highly recommended.

Scott Yanow

Benny Green
Happiness!
(Sunnyside)

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One of the finest jazz pianists of the past 30 years, Benny Green has yet to make an unworthy record. In recent times, Green has been exploring worthy obscurities from the hard bop era.

On Happiness, the pianist (along with bassist David Wong and drummer Rodney Green) performs a song apiece by Horace Silver (“The St. Vitus Dance”), Freddie Hubbard, Thad Jones, Duke Pearson, and Wes Montgomery plus two by Cedar Walton and Green’s own “Pittsburgh Brethren.” None of the songs are well known but all sound fresh and lively.

Throughout this swinging disc, Benny Green sounds very much like a Blue Note pianist circa 1960-65 without being a pale imitation of anyone. As usual, he shows that he can play octaves as fast and creatively as anyone; that skill is displayed on “Twisted Blues.” Among the other highlights are the uptempo “The St. Vitus Dance,” the tightness of the trio on “ Down Under,” several excellent bass solos, and Green’s “ Pittsburgh Brethren” which easily fits into the music of the era.

Happiness consolidates Benny Green’s position as one of the giants of today’s hard bop scene. This live set is available from www.sunnysiderecords.com .

Scott Yanow

Kelly Green
Life Rearranged
(Self-Released)

It is difficult to believe that Life Rearranged is Kelly Green’s recording debut (not counting an album of originals that she recorded while in high school). Her piano playing is sophisticated and modern while also being connected to the tradition. Her vocals (heard on half of the numbers) are subtle, quietly expressive and full of insight. Ms. Green contributed six of the dozen selections to Life Rearranged while choosing the six standards carefully, only performing lyrics that are meaningful to her. And she contributed all of the arrangements for groups ranging from a sextet to her solo version of the title piece.

There are many highpoints to this impressive set. “Never Will I Marry” and “I Should Care” are given fresh vocals as Kelly Green really digs into the words. “If You Thought To Ask Me” is a moody instrumental that is well worth being adopted by others. Tenor-saxophonist Jovan Alexandre and trumpeter Josh Evans both blow up a storm during the lengthy and episodic “Culture Shock” (altoist Mike Troy is excellent too) while bassist Christian McBride and vibraphonist Steve Nelson make welcome contributions to a few selections.

But the main star is Kelly Green, whose wistful ballad singing on “Simple Feelings” and “If I’m Lucky” show a maturity that one would not expect from a performer near the beginning of her career. Life Rearranged is highly recommended and available rom www.kellygreenpiano.com .

Scott Yanow

Eric Hofbauer Quintet
Reminiscing In Tempo – Prehistoric Jazz, Vol. 4
(Creative Nation Music)

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Duke Ellington recorded the four-part 12-minute “Reminiscing In Tempo” with his orchestra in 1935 in memory of his recently deceased mother. It has a haunting and memorable theme and, quite unusual for the period, no improvisation other than some piano interludes. It received mixed reviews at the time but clearly meant a great deal to the composer.

80 years later, guitarist-arranger-composer Eric Hofbauer recorded this EP which consists solely of his 24 ½ minute version of “Reminiscing In Tempo.” Hofbauer’s quintet consists of trumpeter Jerry Sabatini, Todd Brunel on clarinet and bass clarinet, cellist Junko Fujiwara, drummer Curt Newton and the leader’s guitar. The new version is opened up quite a bit with the inclusion of solos and (near its conclusion) group improvising but it also retains the essence of the original.

Hofbauer’s arrangement always keeps the melody close by and the musicians, particularly trumpeter Sabatini, play very much in the style of the period. The results are fascinating and well worth several listens, holding its own with the original recording.

Reminiscing In Tempo is available from www.erichofbauer.com .

Scott Yanow

Neil Maxa
Voila
(Self-released)

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During the past couple of decades, trombonist Neil Maxa has been active on the Las Vegas music scene, playing behind many top acts and in show bands. However, like the late Carl Fontana (who also worked steadily in Las Vegas), Maxa is a fluent and boppish trombone soloist who deserves to be heard.

On his recent EP, Maxa is joined by pianist Dave Loeb, bassist Steve Flora and drummer Bob Chmel for five songs totaling 25 minutes. The music is a delight and will remind some of Frank Rosolino’s playing in the 1950s and ‘60s. Maxa has an extroverted style and obviously knows straight ahead jazz very well.

The set is comprised of Rosolino’s “Blue Daniel” (usually a waltz, it is swung here in 4/4), a faster-than-usual version of “Emily,” the Rosolino medium-tempo blues “Free For All,” Blue Mitchell’s “Fungii Mama” and Hank Mobley’s “This I Dig Of You.” Throughout this spirited program, which includes a few fine Loeb piano solos, the focus is mostly on the trombonist who is in consistently joyous form.

This is fun and swinging music that is well worth discovering. Voila is available from www.neilmaxa.com .

Scott Yanow

Sabine
Destiny
(Self-Released)

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Originally a classical pianist, Sabine switched to jazz early in her career and has since become a regular fixture in Southern California jazz clubs. While she has worked with such notables as Clayton Cameron, Scotty Barnhart, Chuck Manning and Barbara Morrison among others, she is most frequently heard at the head of her own trios.

Destiny features Sabine leading a group also including bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Jon Stuart. They perform seven of her originals plus Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty” and “’Round Midnight.” Throughout the program, Sabine displays her own voice within the modern mainstream of jazz. Her chord voicings are original (as can be heard on the dark “God’s Rest”), she creates some modern bebop (“Chase The Dream”), and always swings. The opener, an uptempo version of the rarely-performed “Humpty Dumpty,” sets a high bar for the set. Sabine explores a variety of moods and tempos, her sidemen provide stimulating accompaniment and colorful solos, and the music is full of subtle surprises. Sabine switches to electric piano for the last three songs including the catchy blues “Little Fact” and a swinging “’Round Midnight.” The packaging of the CD could be a bit better (the songs should be listed on the inner sleeve rather than just on the CD, and the last two songs are in reverse order) but the music is consistently excellent.

Destiny is a fine place to start discovering Sabine and her music. It is available from www.sabinepiano.com .

Scott Yanow

Laurie Kinhan
A Sleepin’ Bee
(Dotted i)

A member of the New York Voices since 1992, Lauren Kinhan has also had a viable solo career that has included touring and recording with Ornette Coleman, teaming up with Janis Siegel and Laurel Masse in JaLaLa, and recording her own string of albums.

As a child, Kinhan loved the classic Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley recording. A Sleepin’ Bee features her performing the six vocal numbers from that famous project plus four other songs that Wilson waxed during 1960-64.

Laurie Kinhan does not attempt to sound like Wilson. Her powerful voice is more extroverted and she regularly stretches herself both in her scatting and sonically. Joined by pianist Andy Ezrin, bassist Matt Penman, drummer Jared Schonig and, on a few numbers, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, Kinhan brings her own jazz knowledge, soul and passion to these songs. To name a few highlights, on George Shearing’s obscure “Let’s Live Again,” she makes the difficult interval jumps and wide range seem effortless. “A Sleeping Bee” finds her swinging with the excellent rhythm section while “How Glad I Am” sounds like vintage r&b with a touch of country. Her wild flight borders on the avant-garde on “Never Will I Marry.” “Save Your Love For Me” is taken slow and is filled with soulful yearning. While it is probably time to retire “Guess Who I Saw Today,” it is a joy to have Nat Adderley’s “The Old Country” getting a revival. “Happy Time” is one of several numbers uplifted by the playing of Ingrid Jensen and the rhythm section (with pianist Ezrin getting many short solos) is a major asset throughout.

Sleepin’ Bee, which is full of colorful moments and adventurous singing, is highly recommended and available from www.laurenkinhan.com .

Scott Yanow

Teri Roiger
Ghost Of Yesterday
(Dot Time)

Teri Roiger, who had previously recorded a tribute album to Abbey Lincoln (Dear Abbey), pays homage to Lady Day on Ghost Of Yesterday. It is a fitting project since Ms. Roiger was originally inspired to pursue jazz after hearing some of Billie Holiday’s recordings.

On Ghost Of Yesterday, while she occasionally hints at Holiday’s sound (most notably on “Lady Sings The Blues”), Teri Roiger does not imitate her and instead sings in her own voice. Ten songs associated with Holiday are performed along with the Gil Scott Heron blues “Lady Day and John Coltrane” and “Lady Day;” the latter has Roiger’s lyrics and is getting its recording debut.

Teri Roiger and her trio (pianist Wayne Hawkins, bassist John Menegon and drummer Steve Williams) are joined by several guests on this set including trombonist Roswell Rudd (who fits perfectly on “Fine And Mellow”), tenor-saxophonist Jay Collins (sounding a bit like Ben Webster on “It’s Easy To Remember”), and trumpeter Rebecca Coupe Franks. The treatments of the swing standards often differ from Holiday’s recordings. “What A Little Moonlight Can Do” (which includes some fine scatting) is taken slightly slower than usual, “You Don’t Know What Love Is” has a very atmospheric arrangement, “These Foolish Things” is transformed into a jazz waltz, and two songs (“Fine And Mellow” and “Ghost Of A Chance”) feature vocalese sung to Lester Young’s solos. Most unusual is that Roiger sings vocalese set to an Ella Fitzgerald scat vocal on “Them There Eyes,” one of the most exciting performances of the set.

Everything works well on Ghost Of Yesterday, a CD that will be enjoyed by fans of both Billie Holiday and Teri Roiger. It is available from www.dottimerecords.com .

Scott Yanow

The Street Of Dreams Trio
Celebrating Larry Young
(Cojazz)

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Larry Young (1940-78) was the first major organist to emerge after the rise of Jimmy Smith in the mid-1950s who developed his own voice apart from Smith. Young, as with most organists of his generation, started out under Smith's influence but moved his instrument a decade ahead, being inspired by John Coltrane more than Charlie Parker, and developing an inventive style that perfectly fit the music of the 1960s and '70s. The Street Of Dreams Trio, which is comprised of organist Jon Eshelman, vibraphonist Dick Sisto and its leader drummer Lee McKinney, gets its name from a Grant Green album that featured the organist, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, guitarist Grant Green and drummer Elvin Jones. The group performs five Larry Young compositions, Woody Shaw's "The Moontrane," two originals by McKinney and "Street Of Dreams."

The music on Celebrating Larry Young parallels the first half of Young's career. Among the highpoints are the straight ahead "Luny Tune" and a boppish "Street Of Dreams." Sisto sounds a bit like Bobby Hutcherson and, for a change of pace, effectively switches to African talking drums on McKinney's "Blue Nile." Organist Eshelman has some aspects of both Young and Jimmy Smith in his style without sounding like a duplicate of either while McKinney keeps the momentum flowing in his supportive drumming and occasional solos.

Celebrating Larry Young will make for a fun listen for anyone interested in jazz organ groups. It is available from www.cojazz.com .

Scott Yanow

Various Artists
Innerpeace
(We Want Sounds)

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When the recordings on this CD, drawn from the Mainstream catalog of 1971-73, was originally released, it was largely overlooked. The music, produced by Bob Shad, was too funky for straight ahead and hard bop jazz fans, not as advanced as fusion or the avant-garde, and not quite commercial enough for bigger sales. The records, which soon went out-of-print, were largely forgotten even though DJs starting in the late 1970s utilized samples of some of the selections for use as dance music.

More than four decades later, the music sounds better now than the first time around. While the rhythms tend to be funky, they are not overly predictable and usually are accompanying passionate solos. The 11 selections on Innerpeace (which is available from www.wewantsounds.com) cover a variety of moods and include many heated solos and ensembles. Featured along the way taking solos are such notables as tenor-saxophonists Harold Land, Hadley Caliman and Frank Foster (who leads a large ensemble), trumpeters Sal Marquez (taking one of the best solos of his career on the relatively straight ahead “Libra’s Longing”) and Oscar Brashear, the Wes Montgomery-inspired guitarist Roland Prince, altoist Chris Woods, Kenny Barron and Albert Dailey (both on electric pianos) and bassist Stanley Clarke.

Innerpeace is an excellent sampling of the music recorded by Bob Shad in the early 1970s and makes it clear that a re-evaluation of these records is overdue. It is available from www.wewantsounds.com .

Scott Yanow

Kenny Wright Experience
Jazz Expression
(Self-released)

In his career, bassist Kenny Wright has worked with the Supremes, Bobby Humphrey, Oscar Brown Jr. and others in the r&b and contemporary jazz fields. A versatile bassist with an attractive sound and a fluent style, he leads the jazz-oriented Kenny Wright Experience and has organized several albums of his own since 1993 of which Jazz Expression is his seventh.

While Jazz Expression features several overlapping groups of musicians, it has a strong unity and flows easily from one selection to another. Wright, who wrote all of the songs other than the two standards, takes concise solos on many of the performances but does not dominate the music. He gives his talented sidemen plenty of opportunities to shine while he provides stimulating and inspiring accompaniment.

The program begins with the thoughtful “Through The Mist” which evolves from a somber melody to a passionate jazz waltz with fine solos from guitarist David Cosby and Charles Etzel on electric piano. This version of “All The Things You Are” is most notable for Jacob Yoffee’s soprano playing. The energetic “Five Or Six” has sections in 5/4 and 6/4 time (thus its title) and excellent solos from Yoffee on soprano and pianist Elliot Levine.

“Satisfy My Love” is an attractive groove piece that has Kelly Shepherd on soprano floating over the funky vamp. A change of pace, “Motion Is the Only Constant” finds Wright playing all of the instruments (bass, guitar and drum programming) and creating a bluesy background while also providing narration that discusses the importance of motion to life. “The Line Up” begins a bit funky before becoming a straight ahead minor-toned blues. Soprano-saxophonist Kelly Shepherd and Etzel on electric piano make strong statements but Wendell Shepherd’s colorful and inventive trumpet solo takes honors.

The catchy theme of “Angela” along with Hasaan Sabree’s passionate soprano playing make this original one of the highpoints of the CD. Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance” has particularly inventive solos from altoist Yoffee and Wright, both of whom really dig into the song. ‘Lula,” an excellent ballad performance by a trio with pianist Etzel, drummer Eric Kennedy and Wright, adds variety and another strong melody to the program. “Krystal” has an appealing groove and colorful statements from guitarist Cosby and Steve Carrington on tenor. The relatively straight ahead “Blue Tuesday” has Yoffee showing that he is also quite skilled on tenor. “Oakk Studio Jam” is a spontaneous cooking blues in which Wright swings hard in a trio with electric pianist Paul Onheiser and drummer Steve Onheiser. The program concludes with the leader’s “The Waterbearer Revisited,” a driving piece that features the unusual use of George Spika on celeste, a rockish guitar solo by David Cosby and some fine keyboard work from Camarra Kambron.

Jazz Expression (which is available from www.kennywrightexperience.com ) holds one’s interest throughout, giving listeners a strong sampling of the music of Kenny Wright.

Scott Yanow

Robyn Spangler
Something Cool - The Billy Barnes Sessions
(Other Productions)

Billy Barnes (1927-2012) was a songwriter best known for “Something Cool” and “Too Long At The Fair” but he wrote quite a bit more in his lengthy career. He wrote songs for television variety shows, Broadway shows, club acts, theatrical revues and practically every major performer of the 1950s and ‘60s who appeared on television.

Actress and singer Robyn Spangler proves to be the perfect person to interpret a full set of Billy Barnes’ music. She has a very attractive voice, can express a wide range of emotions, and brings the right amount of drama and swing to these songs. She is joined by pianist Todd Schroeder, bassist Tim Christensen, drummer Chris Jago, and (on three songs) Robert Kyle on tenor and flute.

In addition to the two hits, the highlights include “Talkin’ To Myself Again,” “Does Anybody Here Love Me” and “Just Up Ahead” which are among the songs that other vocalists should be exploring when they want fresh material. The singer’s liner notes are an added plus, telling the story behind the tunes and lyrics.

Robyn Spangler does Billy Barnes’ songs justice throughout this inspired set. Something Cool is available from www.robynspangler.com .

Scott Yanow


Eddie Palmieri
Sabiduria (Wisdom)
(Ropeadope)

Eddie Palmieri, who is now 80, has been an innovative force on the Latin music scene since at least the early 1960s. While he claims that he is not a jazz pianist since he does not want his music to be limited to one genre, Sabiduria is certainly an Afro-Cuban jazz recording, one of the most rewarding of the year.

Palmieri leads a particularly strong group with the nucleus being bassist Luques Curtis, Little Johnny Rivero on congas, Anthony Carrillo playing bongos, and Lusito Quintero on timbales. Some selections add four horns (two trumpets and two saxophones) and both Xavier Rivera and Camilo Molina on bata. In addition there are quite a few guests, each of whom make their presence felt.

Violinist Alfredo de la Fe takes hot and exciting solos on “Cuerdas Y Tumbao” and “La Cancina.” The latter piece features vibraphonist Joe Locke in a Cal Tjader role as does “Samba Do Suenho” and the medium-tempo blues “Locked In.” On “Wise Bata Blues,” after an introduction by the two bata players, the four horns (trumpeters Jonathan Walsh and Jonathan Powell, and saxophonists Jeremy Powell and Louis Fouche) each get solos, also having spots on “Spinal Volt.” The funky blues “Sabiduria” has a heated baritone solo from Ronnie Cuber, a rockish spot for guitarist David Spinozza and a guest appearance by electric bassist Marcus Miller. Altoist Donald Harrison takes a high energy solo on “Augustine Parish” and sings on “The Uprising,” but the latter is most notable for a furious tradeoff by Harrison and Cuber. Ronnie Cuber is also in ferocious form on “Coast To Coast.” As for Eddie Palmieri, he takes several short solos throughout the set and is showcased on the thoughtful ballad “Life” and the closing Latin romp “Jibarita Y Su Son.”

Every selection on Sabiduria is memorable in its own way, being rhythmically exciting, creative, and filled with infectious ensembles and colorful solos. This highly recommended CD is available fromwww.ropeadope.com .

Scott Yanow


Echoes Of Swing
A Tribute To Bix Beiderbecke
(ACT)

This is a rather unusual two-CD set. The second disc has ten vintage recordings featuring the legendary cornetist Bix Beiderbecke at the peak of his powers in 1927 (and on one song from 1928). While those performances are easily available elsewhere, they serve as a fine sampling of Bix at his best including such numbers as “Singing’ The Blues,” “I’m Coming Virginia,” “Royal Garden Blues” and his futuristic piano solo “In A Mist.”

The opening disc is a bit different. Nine songs that Beiderbecke had recorded (including five included on the second CD) are updated and reinvented. There are also four originals in the style. Echoes Of Swing, a quartet comprised of pianist Bernd Lhotzky, altoist Chris Hopkins, cornetist-trumpeter Colin T. Dawson and drummer Oliver Mewes, does not emulate the original recordings but plays creatively within their own swing style. Dawson actually sounds closer to Charlie Shavers than to Bix and the arrangements are more based in the 1930s and ‘40s than the 1920s. Augmented on some of the selections by trombone, C-melody sax, soprano, guitar, string bass, and another drummer., Echoes Of Swing offers plenty of surprises. Bix’s “In The Dark” is transformed into a tango, “Happy Feet” becoming a Latin bugalu, “Jazz Me Blues” emerges as a bossa nova, “At The Jazz Band Ball” is played at half the tempo that one would expect, and “I’m Coming Virginia” is interpreted in 5/4 time. Another surprise is hearing “The Girl From Ipanema” arranged in Bill Challis’ 1920s style, as if he had written it for Beiderbecke.

With many fine solos, a couple of vocals, and tight ensembles, Echoes Of Swing succeeds at casting a fresh light on Bix Beiderbecke’s musical legacy. This twofer is available from www.actmusic.com .

Scott Yanow


Duchess
Laughing At Life
(Anzic)

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Duchess is a vocal trio featuring excellent jazz singers who have had solo careers of their own: Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou. Founded in Nov. 2013 when the three vocalists teamed together for what was supposed to be a one-time club date, Duchess has since gained a lot of experience singing together in many venues. They previously had released their self-titled debut recording.

Laughing At Life has the singers joined by a four-piece rhythm section and the colorful tenor-saxophonist Jeff Lederer on four of the 14 songs. There are also two guest appearances apiece by clarinetist Anat Cohen and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. The emphasis is on swing standards with the vocalists performing such numbers as “Swing Brother Swing,” “Everybody Loves My Baby” (based on the Boswell Sisters version although one misses Bunny Berigan), “Creole Love Call (with Wycliffe Gordon), and a touching “We’ll Meet Again.” There are a few departures as Duchess ventures into the 1950s with “Give Him The Oo La La” (a Cole Porter song revived by Blossom Dearie) and a spirited “Strip Polka.”

The lack of liner notes makes it difficult to know who is singing which solo and, amazingly enough, the names of the three singers are not listed! But other than that one flaw, Laughing At Life is an easily recommended CD of fun music. It is available from www.anzicrecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Sam Most
Four Classic Albums
(Avid)

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Everyone loved Sam Most (1930-2013). In addition to his lovable personality, he was best known during his many years in Los Angeles as one of the top flute players, a cool-toned tenor-saxophonist, and a witty scat-singer. However in his early days (the late 1940s and ‘50s), he often doubled on flute and clarinet. Most was particularly significant for being one of jazz’s first major flutists and probably the first to occasionally hum through the instrument at the same time that he blew into. Rahsaan Roland Kirk would expand that innovation in the 1960s. Most was also one of the top clarinetists of the 1950s, a talent overshadowed by his other skills and the fact that his older brother Abe Most was known as a major swing clarinetist.

Four Classic Albums, a two-CD set available from www.avidgroup.co.uk , brings back the music from four formerly rare Sam Most Lps dating from 1956-57. At the time Most had already recorded for Prestige in 1953 (including “Undercurrent Blues”), and made one album apiece for Debut, Vanguard and Bethlehem. This twofer has many gems. I’m Nuts About The Most – Sam That Is has a sextet date that also features baritonist Marty Flax. Musically Plays is a very good quartet album which can be considered one of pianist Bob Dorough’s best instrumental sets. Plays Bird, Bud, Monk & Miles is split between big band titles and a sextet with Dorough, David Schildkraut on tenor and trumpeter Doug Mettome. The Amazing Mr. Sam Most has the flutist playing with a rhythm section and strings. Other than three titles in 1964, Most would not get another chance to lead his own record date until 1976.

Throughout these 32 performances, the music is no-nonsense bebop, the musicianship and solos are on a very high level, and Most plays as much clarinet as flute. Anyone who loves bop or Sam Most should consider this twofer to be a must.

Scott Yanow


Paul McCandless
Morning Sun – Adventures With Oboe
(Living Music)

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Paul McCandless, a brilliant oboe and English horn player, has been a member of Oregon since its founding in 1972. Before that, he was part of the Paul Winter Consort during 1969-71. He has played with Winter on an occasional basis in the many decades since. Winter, who gained his original recognition as a bop-oriented altoist, in the 1960s became very interested in Brazilian music and classical music. He formed his Consort with the goal of combining together the sound of classical music with the freedom of jazz, shifting his own playing towards the soprano sax.

Morning Sun, which dates from 1970-2010, is a 14-song anthology that features McCandless mostly on oboe performing with various versions of Winter’s groups. Drawn from nine previously released albums, the music can be described as instrumental folk, New Age, World Music, Mood Music, light pop, melodic jazz or none of the above. McCandless, whether heard on an unaccompanied solo, accompanied by keyboard Don Grusin, or interacting with a larger chamber-type group, is in top form, displaying a beautiful tone and an inventive yet always melodic style. While there are appearances from such notables as cellist David Darling, guitarists Ralph Towner and Oscar Castro-Neves, and several different vocalists, McCandless is in the spotlight much of the time. In fact, Paul Winter is only on a few of the performances.

This intriguing set is available form www.livingmusic.com .

Scott Yanow


Acker Bilk
Vintage Acker Bilk
(Lake)

Acker Bilk (1929-2014) will always be best remembered for his easy-listening clarinet-with-strings hit “Stranger On The Shore” from 1961. However he was an important trad clarinetist on the British scene and his hard-charging bands were often quite popular. After making his recording debut in 1954 with Ken Colyer, he organized his own group, the Paramount Jazzmen, which recorded five studio titles in 1955. While there are some live dates from the period that were preserved and released years later, Bilk began really recording in earnest in 1957.

During that year, Bilk made sessions with several overlapping groups: four dates by his Paramount Jazzmen (two are quite extensive) and recordings with the Storyville Jazzmen (a band very similar to his own), banjoist Hugh Rainey’s All-Stars and banjoist Johnny Bastable’s Chosen Six. Other than five rare selections that were considered a bit flawed and a few alternate takes, all of the clarinetist’s recordings from 1957 are on this 40-selection two-CD set.

The freewheeling New Orleans jazz sessions mostly feature Bob Wallis on trumpet (Derek Saunders is on two numbers), Keith Avison, Mac Duncan, Pete Dyer or John Mortimer on trombone, Les Wood occasionally on second clarinet, and a banjo-bass-drums rhythm section that only utilizes a piano on five of the selections. John RT Davies, later famous as a reissue producer and engineer, plays trombone and alto on some songs. A few numbers utilize a clarinet-alto frontline as a tribute to Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra of 1928. Of historic interest is that Ginger Baker (the drummer with Cream a decade later) is on two of the sessions.

While there are times when the Paramount Jazzmen sound a bit like George Lewis’ group of the era (Wallis sometimes comes close to Kid Howard), they are a little less primitive and Bilk does not copy Lewis.. The music is often ensemble-oriented although there are individual solos. The repertoire is a mixture of 1920s tunes, New Orleans numbers, some obscurities, and even a bit of ragtime (a charming version of Scott Joplin’s “Gladiolus.”).

The Lake label (www.fellside.com ) has done an admirable job of compiling classic British trad jazz from the early years in addition to recording some newer sessions. Those who are interested in the beginning years of Acker Bilk, and those who love enthusiastic revivalist New Orleans jazz will want this valuable and enjoyable twofer.

Scott Yanow


Danny Stiles 5
In Tandem
(Progressive)

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Danny Stiles was a great trumpeter. In his career he worked with Woody Herman (1957-58), the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band (1960) and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra (1966), recorded with Gil Evans, Sal Salvador, Nat Pierce, Chris Connor and Peggy Lee, and was on many sessions in New York during the 1960s and ‘70s.

Stiles had an important association with trombonist Bill Watrous, being one of the main soloists in Watrous’ Manhattan Refuge Orchestra and recording five combo albums with Watrous for the Famous Door label. Of the latter, two (Bone Straight Ahead and Watrous In Hollywood) were headed by the trombonist while Stiles was the leader of In Tandem, One More Time and In Tandem Into The ‘80s. Unfortunately Stiles did not make any further jazz recordings after 1978. He became discouraged by his career, eventually moved to Orlando, Florida, and on New Year’s Day 1998 committed suicide.

In Tandem, recorded in 1974, is from much happier days. Stiles leads a quintet also including Watrous, pianist Derek Smith, bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Bobby Rosengarden. A lead trumpeter who was also a very good bop-based soloist, Stiles is heard at the peak of his powers during what may very well have been his finest recording. He and the quintet perform Watrous’ uptempo blues “Dirty Dan” (which has some unaccompanied choruses and a colorful framework), “It Had To Be You,” a faster-than-usual “Blue Room,” “In A Mellow Tone” and two of the leader’s originals. While Derek Smith has a few fine solos (including a long intro to “In A Mellow Tone”), the focus is primarily on the two horns who are both in superb form.

This reissue, which adds three previously unreleased alternate takes to the program, is highly recommended and available along with most of the Stiles-Watrous dates from www.jazzology.com .

Scott Yanow


Jay Hoggard
Harlem Hieroglyphs
(JHVM)

Jay Hoggard is a veteran vibraphonist who has been a major voice on his instrument since the 1970s. While he began on records as an avant-gardist, Hoggard has long since shown that he is a well-rounded musician capable of playing a wide variety of music ranging from swing and bop to post bop and in free settings.

Harlem Hieroglyphs is a two-CD set that features the vibraphonist with a quintet that includes Gary Bartz on alto and soprano, James Weidman on piano and (on three numbers) organ, bassist Belden Bullock and drummer Yoron Israel. Nat Adderley Jr. takes Weidman’s place on six of the 18 selections.

There are many Hoggard, Bartz and Weidman solos on these selections which include a few standards (such as “If I Were A Bell” and “Airegin”) and many of the leader’s originals. There are quite a few highlights including the 1920s feel of “Harlem Jazzbirds Swinging’ & Swayin,’” the funky jazz piece “I Am Free,” a somber and tasteful “Everything Must Change,” the picturesque and soulful “A Walk Through The Colorful Forest” and the attractive original “I’m Gonna Show You That I Love You.” Bartz and Hoggard engage in some inventive free improvising on two versions of “Disposable Consumption,” a song that sounds as if it could have been written by Jackie McLean in the 1960s. The sensitive and romantic vibes-piano duet “My Love” and Hoggard’s unaccompanied “Pleasant Memories” are also highpoints.

Obviously there is a lot of rewarding music to be heard throughout Harlem Hieroglyphs, a set that is easily recommended and available from www.jayhoggard.com .

Scott Yanow


Josh Nelson
The Sky Remains
(Origin)

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Josh Nelson’s The Sky Remains is an unusual tribute to Los Angeles. It pays homage to L.A.’s rich architectural history, much of which has disappeared due to the demolition of historic buildings through the years. The title “The Sky Remains” refers to the fact that at least the sky has not been destroyed.

The pianist composed and arranged ten originals which form a suite. He pays tribute to the bridges of L.A., the architects, a Civil Rights worker, TIKI culture, P.O.P. (Pacific Ocean Park), and the many stairways in steep neighborhoods. Nelson utilizes an ensemble comprised of trumpeter Chris Lawrence, Brian Walsh on clarinet and bass clarinet, altoist-flutist Josh Johnson, guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Alex Boneham, drummer Dan Schnelle and percussionist Aaron Serfaty plus occasionally Larry Goldings on organ. The voices of Kathleen Grace and Lillian Sengpiehl are used as part of the ensembles (quite effectively on “Bridges and Tunnels”) with Ms. Grace being featured on three numbers where she displays an attractive voice while singing fairly straight.

The moody and often melancholy suite, which has some fine solos along the way plus an excellent tradeoff between Nelson’s piano and Anthony Wilson’s guitar on “Bridges and Tunnels,” holds one’s interest throughout. Most memorable is the dramatic “On The Sidewalk,” the celebratory “Ah Los Angeles,” the Latin jazz of “Lost Souls Of Saturn,” and “Pacific Ocean Park” which sounds like an old-time party.

While Josh Nelson takes some fine piano solos, The Sky Remains makes the case that perhaps his greatest talent is his writing. The fine outing is available from www.originarts.com .

Scott Yanow


Douye
Daddy Says So
(Groove Note)

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Douye has gained a reputation as a singer of classic r&b, but Daddy Says So is something much different. Douye’s late father always hoped that she would sing jazz standards someday, and in their last conversation before he passed away, she promised that she would. Daddy Says So is the result.

Douye has an attractive and a warm voice. On Daddy Says So, she sticks close to the lyrics of the classic songs and their melodies except when she sings wordlessly on “I Loves You Porgy” and “Nature Boy.” For this project, she is heard with an impressive array of jazz all-stars. Among her sidemen on various cuts are pianists Kenny Barron, John Beasley, Otmaro Ruiz, Benito Gonzalez, Joel Scott, and Rick Germanson, guitarist Russell Malone, bassists John Clayton, Essiet Essiet, and Edwin Livingston, drummers Roy McCurdy, Willie Jones III, and Clayton Cameron, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, and saxophonists Bob Sheppard, Justo Almario and Zem Audu, not counting three songs with larger ensembles. In addition, bassist Ron Carter duets with Douye on “Nature Boy.”

Throughout the set of well-known standards (which includes “But Beautiful,” “Mood Indigo,’ “Autumn Leaves,” “Summertime” and “Besame Mucho”), Douye sings tastefully and with a genuine affection for the songs. Hopefully in the future she will continue to sing jazz and will stretch herself a bit more in her improvising. This is an excellent start.

This enjoyable set is available from www.doyemusic.com .

Scott Yanow


Hollywood Blues
Classic West Cast Blues 1948-1953
(JSP)

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When one thinks of the type of blues that was recorded in Los Angeles in the 1940s and ‘50s, it is either swinging sessions by the Nat King Cole Trio, the sophisticated bluesy ballads of Charles Brown, or the straight ahead urban blues of T-Bone Walker. The two-CD set Hollywood Blues shows that there was a lot more blues activity in L.A. than one might think.

The 43 performances on this two-CD set are filled with obscure talents and a wide range of blues-oriented performances spanning from lowdown country blues to hokum. Many of the acoustic tracks could pass for a recording from Chicago or the South in the 1930s/early ‘40s rather than the 1948-53 time period. Some of the numbers that utilize an electric guitar sound a bit more modern but are a bit surprising . The influence of the swing bands is mostly absent and it is difficult to believe, while listening to these performances, that bebop and r&b were the dominant new styles of the time.

Among the stars of these selections are such long-forgotten names as Soldier Boy Houston, Sonny Boy Johnson, Sonny Boy Holmes, Big Son Tillis, Little Son Willis, Mac Willis, James Tisdom, Sidney Maiden, Charles Lacy, Beverly Scott, Black Diamond, John Hogg, James Little Houston, Ira Taylor, Ernest McClay and Slim Green. Even blues aficionados have probably not heard of the majority of these performers due to them having recorded only a handful of sides for tiny labels.

While one wishes that this twofer was either in strictly chronological order or programmed by artist (it skips around a bit), the liner notes do a good job of discussing what is known about these forgotten musicians. The music is rewarding and shows that the earlier forms of blues were alive in Southern California during this era.

Hollywood Blues, which is just one of a large series of admirable blues box sets put out by the British JSP label, is available from MVD Distribution at www.mvdb2b.com .

Scott Yanow


Various Artists
The Passion Of Charlie Parker
(Impulse!)

Charlie Parker’s music is always worth celebrating. On The Passion Of Charlie Parker, Larry Klein sought to put aspects of Bird’s life to music. David Baerwald wrote new lyrics for eight Charlie Parker songs which, along with “Yardbird Suite” (which has Parker’s original lyrics) and “Apres Vous,” trace Bird’s life up until his 1949 triumph in Paris.

The instrumentalists are top-notch modern players: tenor-saxophonist Donny McCaslin, Craig Taborn on piano, electric piano and organ, guitarist Ben Monder, Scott Colley or Larry Grenadier on bass, and drummer Eric Harland (with Mark Giuliana on one song). There is no attempt to reproduce Parker’s music or bebop in general. McCaslin is featured throughout, adding emotional intensity to many of the pieces. The electric backgrounds by Taborn add to the atmosphere of the story..

There are ten vocals by a total of nine singers ; Jeffrey Wright appears twice. Some of the vocalists have an opportunity to do more than the others. Madeleine Peyroux and Barbara Hannigan mostly stick to the melody on their pieces with McCaslin taking lengthy solos. Gregory Porter is fine on “Yardbird Suite” and Kurt Elling sings “Los Angeles” (“Moose The Mooche”) with enthusiasm, but both should have been given much more of a chance to stretch out. In contrast, Jeffrey Wright gets to display his dramatic skills on “So Long” (“K.C. Blues”) and “Fifty Dollars” (“Segment”). Luciana Souza is surprising on “Every Little Thing” (“Bloomdido”), showing off her unexpected scatting skills. Kandace Springs on “Live My Love For You” (“My Little Suede Shoes”) and Melody Gardot during “The King Of 52nd Street” (“Scrapple From The Apple”) sound like they are having fun. The program, which traces Charlie Parker’s life from his funeral to his periods in Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York and Paris, concludes with Cammille Bertault scatting in French on “Apres Vous” (“Au Privave”).

Toss away your preconceptions. The Passion Of Charlie Parker is a unique treatment to the tale of Bird, and it grows in interest with each listen. It is available from www.impulse-label.com .

Scott Yanow


September 2017

Diana Krall
Turn Up The Quiet
(Verve)

Diana Krall’s latest CD finds her returning to what she does best: singing and playing swing standards. There are no attempts as in her last few projects to play stride piano of the 1920s, eccentric “modernizations” of vintage songs, or searches for nonexistent treasures in current pop tunes. With Russell Malone, Marc Ribot or Anthony Wilson on guitar, Christian McBride or John Clayton on bass, drummer Jeff Hamilton, and four songs with a string orchestra arranged by Alan Broadbent, Ms. Krall is heard in comfortable settings with old friends.

This is very much an easy-listening set perfect for romantic backgrounds. Most of the tunes (such as “L-O-V-E,” ”I’m Confessin’’ and “Moonglow”) are taken at relaxed slow-to-medium tempos. Other highlights include “Like Someone In Love,” “Blue Skies,” the lightly swinging “No Moon At All” and a delightful rendition of “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” Krall is in good voice, her concise solos fit the songs well (all but two of the performances clock in between 3:16-4:39), and there are fine spots for the guitarists and violinist Stuart Duncan.

While there is not much chance-taking heard on Turn Up The Quiet (and no song with that title is included), Diana Krall fans will easily enjoy this likable effort, available from www.universalmusic.com .

Scott Yanow


The Dave Pell Octet
Plays Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart and Burke & Van Heusen
(Fresh Sound)

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The recent passing of Dave Pell (1925-2017) at the age of 92 nearly closes the door on the West Coast Cool Jazz movement of the 1950s with Jack Sheldon and Bill Holman being among the last survivors. Pell, who played with Les Brown’s orchestra during 1947-55, was a cool-toned tenor inspired and influenced by Lester Young. In 1953 he began leading the Dave Pell Octet, one of the finest cool jazz combos of the 1950s. Their series of recordings during that decade still sound fresh and lively today. While Pell would have success in later years as a studio musician, a record producer, and the leader of both Prez Conference (a band that played Lester Young solos) and a later octet, it is for his 1950s albums that he will always be best remembered.

Producer Jordi Pujol of Fresh Sound was a good friend of Pell’s and, after hearing of his passing, he compiled a two-CD set that has all of the music from the first three albums by the Dave Pell Octet. The 40 performances, which generally clock in around three minutes apiece, contain a great deal of music in a brief period of time. The octet on these recordings consists of Pell, trumpeter Don Fagerquist, trombonist Ray Sims, Ronnie Lang on baritone, flute and alto, one of three pianists (Jeff Clarkson, Donn Trenner or Claude Williamson), guitarist Tony Rizzi, bassist Rolly Bundock, and Jack Sperling or Bill Richmond on drums. Lucy Ann Polk, whose warm but quiet voice was perfect for the group, takes eight vocals. The Octet performs arrangements from many notable writers including Shorty Rogers, Wes Hensel, Marty Paich, and one apiece by Jerry Fielding, Johnny Mandel, Bill Holman, Bob Enevoldsen, Jack Montrose, Med Flory, Jim Emerson and Buddy Bregman. The voicings are tight, the solos are brief but colorful, and the sound of the octet is distinctive.

While there would be other recordings by the Dave Pell Octet in the 1950s, this two-fer is the perfect place to start in discovering the music of this definitive cool jazz combo. It is available from www.freshsoundrecords.com.

Scott Yanow


Wynton Kelly Trio and Wes Montgomery
Smokin’ In Seattle
(Resonance)

Zev Feldman and George Klabin have done it again. Previously they had discovered and released on the Resonance label quite a few valuable and previously unknown sessions by such artists as Bill Evans, Jaco Pastorius, The Three Sounds, Sarah Vaughan, Larry Young, Stan Getz, Charles Lloyd, Freddie Hubbard and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra. In addition, due to arrangements with his estate, two historic and very musical Wes Montgomery sets have been issued. Echoes Of Indiana Avenue and In The Beginning

While those Wes packages focused on his early period, Smokin’ In Seattle was recorded in 1966, two years before the great guitarist’s death. His June 24, 1965 live recording, Smokin’ At The Half Note, which teamed him with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Jimmy Cobb, is justly acclaimed as one of his finest outings. Montgomery also teamed up with the group (with Ron McClure on bass) for the Sept. 1966 studio album Full View. Smokin’ In Seattle, which has the same quartet (with McClure), consists of a pair of half-hour radio broadcasts from Apr. 14 and 21, 1966. None of the music has been available before.

A particular treat is that each of the five-song broadcasts starts with two guitarless numbers that put the focus on the wonderful Wynton Kelly. He swings particularly hard on “There Is No Greater Love” and his medium-tempo blues “Sir John,” playing chorus after chorus of very inventive and boppish ideas. The music is quite irresistible.

Wes Montgomery is also in top form on his six numbers (two of which fade out when the broadcast ends), playing some especially imaginative chordal solos which stretch far beyond his trademark octaves. These versions of “Jingles” and “West Coast Blues” are particularly memorable.

A special bonus is the 40-page booklet which is filled with information, notes by Pat Metheny, and interviews of Kenny Barron, Ron McClure and Jimmy Cobb. All Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly fans will want this highly recommended set, available from www.resonancerecords.org.

Scott Yanow


Richie Beirach & Gregor Huebner
Live At Birdland New York
(ACT)

Pianist Richie Beirach and violinist Gregor Huebner have played together on a regular basis since 1996. Both are superior jazz artists who have a strong interest in classical music. Long ago they created a way to improvise on classical pieces while paying respect to the melodies and moods of the original music.

To celebrate Beirach’s 70th birthday and Huebner’s 50th (they were both born on May 23), and as part of the celebration of the ACT label’s 25th anniversary, they performed and recorded a live set at Birdland. Joined by bassist George Mraz, 76-year old drummer Billy Hart (with whom Beirach has played for more than 40 years) and, on some selections, trumpeter Randy Brecker, Beirach and Huebner perform a wide-ranging set of material. Their repertoire includes a modernized but swinging version of “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” intriguing explorations of “Around Bartok Bagatelle #4” and Bach’s “Siciliana,” an original apiece by the co-leaders (Huebner’s “African Heartbeat” and Beirach’s “Elm”), and John Coltrane’s “Transition.”

Brecker contributes a few blazing trumpet solos and the Mraz-Hart rhythm team is unbeatable, but the main focus is on the co-leaders. Both prove to be very much in their creative prime, creating music that rewards repeated listenings. Live At Birdland New York is easily recommended and available from www.actmusic.com .

Scott Yanow


Art Pepper & Warne Marsh
Unreleased Art: Volume 9
(Widow’s Taste)

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Laurie Pepper, Art Pepper’s widow, has worked hard to keep the legacy of the great altoist not only alive but thriving. In addition to her work in overseeing the reissue of some of his recordings for other record companies, on her Widow’s Taste label she has now released nine previously unknown and consistently brilliant programs of music.

Unreleased Art: Volume 9 is one of the most ambitious, a three-CD set recorded at Donte’s on the night of Apr. 26, 1974. At the time, Pepper and tenor-saxophonist Warne Marsh had not worked together in 18 years nor seen each other in almost as long a period. No matter, in this jam session setting they were clearly mutually inspired. Pepper was in the early stages of his very successful comeback. While he normally played a lot of originals with his own group, on these 13 jazz standards he was clearly having a great time, playing with fire and explosive emotions. He pushes Marsh, who normally was heard playing quiet improvisations with a cool tone but here is as heated as the altoist. Pianist Mark Levine (Bill Mays takes his place on the closing “Cherokee”), bassist John Heard and drummer Lew Malin keep up with the two saxophonists.

Many of the songs are taken uptempo including “All the Things You Are,” “Donna Lee,” “Lover Come Back To Me,” “Rhythm-A-Ning,” “Yardbird Suite” and “Cherokee “ The solos, tradeoffs, and joyous ensembles are hot, competitive and full of spirit. The recording quality of these private tapes is decent if not up to the level of a studio recording, but the playing more than compensates.

This is one to get and treasure. More information is available from www.straightlife.info/widowstaste.html .

Scott Yanow


Tyler Pedersen
Swingin’ In Space
(Self-Released)

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Tyler Pedersen is a veteran bassist whose powerful playing has been an integral part of a variety of Retro Swing and blues groups including those led by Johnny Dyer, William Clarke, Kid Ramos and San Pedro Slim. Swingin’ In Space is his debut recording as a leader.

On his 11 originals, Pedersen seeks to not only invigorate jump blues but to move it into the 21st century, away from nostalgia, recreations and predictability. In addition to his bass playing, he is heard soloing on the four-string guitar while joined by rhythm guitarist Nathan James and drummer Craig Christensen. The music includes several blues at different tempos and a variety of new jump tunes. While the music is an outgrowth of late 1940s/50s jump music, Pedersen’s adventurous guitar playing also includes aspects of 1960s/’70s rock and modern jazz along with his own open-minded musical personality.

The danceable music swings throughout while sounding fresh and infectious. This enjoyable outing is available from www.bluebeatmusic.com .

Scott Yanow


Katie Thiroux
Off Beat
(Capri)

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Katie Thiroux is an excellent Los Angeles-based bassist and a personable singer whose phrasing sometimes recalls Diana Krall. Her second CD as a leader has many bright moments.

Ms. Thiroux is joined by pianist Justin Kauflin, drummer Matt Witek, and Ken Peplowski (during five of the ten songs) on clarinet and tenor. Two of Peplowski’s numbers also add Roger Neumann on soprano and tenor.

While the musicianship is top-notch throughout with Peplowski sounding consistently brilliant, the main strength to this CD is the treatment of the material. The program begins with the obscure and witty “Off Beat” which was recorded decades ago by June Christy. Other highlights include the warm vocal on “When Lights Are Low,” the joyous “Brotherhood Of Man” (an early 1960s show tune that has the same chord changes as “The Saints”), the bop classic “Ray’s Idea,” a sly “Some Cats Know,” and a warm two-tenor rendition of “”Happy Reunion.” The funky closer, “Willow Weep For Me,” features Katie Thiroux as an unaccompanied singer-bassist.

All ten performances are well worth hearing on this delightful outing which is available from www.caprirecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Denys Baptiste
The Late Trane
(Edition)

1965 was the year that much of John Coltrane’s music became atonal, Pharoah Sanders made his group a quintet, and intense sound explorations began to dominate his music. Many of Coltrane’s fans became bewildered at his music during this final period although he picked up other listeners who were amazed by his ecstatic flights.

The Late Trane has the British saxophonist Denya Baptiste (mostly on tenor) exploring seven Coltrane pieces from the 1965-67 era plus the slightly earlier “After The Rain” and two of his own complementary originals. Although he uses a similar instrumentation as Coltrane (with pianist-keyboardist Nikki Yeoh, Gary Crosby and/or Neil Charles on bass, drummer Rod Youngs and, on three of the performances, tenor-saxophonist Steve Williamson), he does not copy Coltrane’s approach or frameworks. Baptiste has a mellower tone and a quieter style. He wisely does not seek to equal or top Coltrane’s intensity. In addition, the rhythm section does not attempt to play as if it is 1966.

Most of the songs have been rarely performed or recorded since the 1960s, so this CD is full of “new” material. “Dusk Dawn” is given a Mid-Eastern atmosphere and, near its conclusion, it adopts a reggae groove. Yeoh’s piano is outstanding on this number. “Living Space” is played melodically with the focus on Baptiste’s attractive tone “Ascent” begins with the same bass riff originally played by Jimmy Garrison and the performance has its explorative sections. However it is also a bit danceable due to the bassline and, with Yeoh on electric keyboard, it sounds a bit like it is from the Bitches Brew era that Coltrane did not live to see.

“Peace On Earth,” a tenor-piano duet, is quietly emotional, out-of-tempo and spiritual. “Transition” stays relatively mellow while “Neptune” gets into a funky groove. “Vigil” has the two tenors playing around each other while drummer Rod Youngs states complex rhythms. The somber “Astral Trane” (which has a long, slow and stretched-out melody statement), “After The Rain,” and a brief tenor-bass duet on “Dear Lord” end this surprisingly thoughtful CD

Denya Baptiste is to be credited for being himself while exploring late John Coltrane. The Late Trane is available from www.editionrecords.com .

Scott Yanow


Erica Papillion-Posey
From The Deep
(EPPO)

Erica Papillion-Posey is a rarity, a talented opera singer who has decided to switch her career towards jazz. Her debut jazz recording, The Standard Reimagined, featured her in excellent form mostly singing ballads and standards. From The Deep is another step forward.

A powerful singer who cuts loose whenever inspiration strikes, Ms. Papillion-Posey has her own sound. Her style is very expressive (she really tears into “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise”) yet also shows subtlety on some of the other numbers, most notably her “Chemistry.” She does not leave her opera training behind but instead adapts it to perform straight ahead jazz. Joined by pianist Tenia Nelson, bassist Eric Wheeler (who is prominent on “Estate”), drummer Alex Tripp, and occasionally Eric Jordan on tenor and clarinet, the singer performs five originals, Bizet’s famous “Habanera” and three familiar standards. She even successfully tackles a blues on “JuJu” which has a nice spot for Al Chesis on harmonica.

The mostly high-powered music makes for a rousing listening experience. It is available from www.epapillionposey.com .

Scott Yanow


Steve Wilson
Sit Back Relax & Unwind
(J.M.I.)

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The J.M.I. label (www.jmirecordings.com) recently was born, specializing in releasing high-quality Lps by jazz artists. Their first Lp features Steve Wilson on alto and soprano performing in a quartet with pianist-keyboardist Ray Angry, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Willie Jones.

The six selections consist of five songs drawn from other genres beyond jazz (including David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”) plus a Wilson original. Although this is an instrumental set, the liner notes primarily consist of the lyrics to four of the tunes. The music overall is relaxed, grooves and flows as much as it swings, and has solos from Wilson that are melodic and occasionally heated. “Sit Back, Relax & Unwind” is a spiritual-sounding medium-tempo piece, “6/74” has a passionate alto solo and a good spot for Angry’s electric piano over a funky rhythm, and the post bop piece “Songly Speaking” is an excellent showcase for Wilson’s soprano. Side Two has Wilson’s blues-based “Jake’s Place,” “Rest Of Our Times” (a soprano feature that starts out as a ballad before picking up steam), and a soprano-piano duet on “Space Oddity.”

The music is pleasing and accessible but also has plenty of subtle creativity. Steve Wilson sessions are always worth acquiring and this one is no exception.

Scott Yanow


Oscar Pettiford
Nonet/Big Band/Sextet 1955-1958
(Uptown)

One of the greatest jazz bassists of all time, jazz’s second cellist (after Harry Babasin) and a fine songwriter, Oscar Pettiford was possibly the first bassist to lead his own big band.

This historic two-CD set from the Uptown label ( www.uptownrecords.net ) is comprised of previously unreleased material taken from radio broadcasts. The recording quality, while not state-of-the-art, is quite listenable. The first five songs have Pettiford leading an all-star nonet in 1955 with such soloists as trumpeter Art Farmer, altoist Gigi Gryce, and Jerome Richardson on tenor. Most of the rest of this twofer is from 1957 and features Pettiford’s big band, an ensemble comprised of two trumpets, one trombone, two French horns, four saxophonists, piano, harpist Betty Glamann (who often has a prominent role), bass, drums, and Pettiford on cello and lead bass. With Lucky Thompson and Gigi Gryce contributing most of the arrangements, Pettiford and Gryce bringing in many originals, and such soloists as altoist Gryce, trumpeters Donald Byrd and Ray Copeland, tenor-saxophonist J.R. Monterose, trombonist Jimmy Cleveland, and pianist Dick Katz, there are many great moments hear from this largely forgotten orchestra. The last ten selections on the second disc feature Pettiford in 1958 leading a sextet that includes trumpeter Johnny Coles, Sahib Shihab on reeds, pianist Hod O’Brien and Betty Glamann.

The generous set (which has over 158 minutes of music) also includes a very informative 40-page booklet. Lovers of 1950s bebop, big bands, and Oscar Pettiford will certainly want to get this valuable package.

Scott Yanow


August 2017

Dizzy Gillespie
Concert Of The Century – A Tribute To Charlie Parker
(Justin Time)

In Nov. 1980, an all-star sextet filled with classic veterans performed at what was billed as “Concert Of The Century – A Tribute To Charlie Parker.” While the heading was not exactly accurate since there were more significant concerts in the 20th century and none of the songs played was actually composed or clearly associated with Parker, the performances (only previously available on a limited-edition Lp) are quite rewarding.

It would be difficult to improve upon the lineup which consisted of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody on tenor and flute, pianist Hank Jones, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Philly Joe Jones. The first five musicians came to maturity during the classic bebop era more than 20 years earlier while Jones, a slightly offbeat but inspiring choice for the drum chair, became famous a decade later as Miles Davis’ drummer.

While Dizzy had begun to gradually fade as a trumpeter starting in the early-to-mid 1970s, he sounds very much in prime form on a superior revival of “Blue ‘N’ Boogie” (which is up to the level of his playing in the 1950s), a rapid “Get Happy,” and a swinging version of “The Shadow Of Your Smile.” James Moody is in the spotlight on his blues “Darben The Redd Fox” and the first half of “The Shadow Of Your Smile.” Moody and Hank Jones are surprising on the latter, beginning the piece playing quite free before the theme emerges. Milt Jackson (showcased on “If I Should Lose You”), Hank Jones and Ray Brown (who is in the spotlight during a medley of “Manha de Carnaval’ and “Work Song”) are also well featured while Philly Joe Jones adds a lot of fire to the music.

Concert Of The Century is available from www.justin-time.com and well worth picking up.

Scott Yanow


Thelonious Monk
Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
(Sam Records)

The discovery of “new” Thelonious Monk recordings is a very rare event more than 35 years after his death. Zev Feldman, who could be considered the Sherlock Holmes of jazz since he has been responsible for quite a few rare discoveries, was successful at locating Monk’s largely unknown and previously unreleased soundtrack recording for the 1960 French film Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The movie actually utilized a variation of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers on screen performing pieces by pianist Duke Jordan. However Monk and his group (with tenor-saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Art Taylor plus guest tenor Barney Wilen) also recorded music for the soundtrack, 30 minutes of which appeared in the background.

This two-CD set from the Sam label (www.samrecords.fr ) has a program that was originally planned to be a soundtrack Lp plus a second disc comprised of alternate takes, unedited versions, and a 14-minute rehearsal of Monk’s then-new song “Light Blue.”

The first CD includes one of the fastest versions of “Rhythm-A-Ning” ever documented (with solos from both tenors), a themeless blues (“Six In One”) which has Monk in the spotlight, a brief “Bye and Bye” (which was never otherwise recorded by Monk) and a fine appearance by Barney Wilen taking the second solo on “Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues Are.” The other songs include “Crepuscule With Nellie,” “Well You Needn’t,” “Light Blue” and three versions (two are brief piano solos) of “Pannonica.” The second disc repeats five of the songs in different or lengthier versions plus the rehearsing of “Light Blue” which, frankly, is not worth hearing a second time.

The recording quality is excellent and a very informative 56-page booklet is included. Thelonious Monk fans will rejoice at the chance to hear these formerly forgotten performances.

Scott Yanow


Larry Coryell’s 11th House
Seven Secrets
(Savoy)

Larry Coryell was the first fusion guitarist. He brought the sound of electric blues and rock into jazz during 1966-67 on his recordings with Chico Hamilton, Free Spirits, and the Gary Burton Quartet. While later overshadowed by John McLaughlin and Al DiMeola, Coryell organized and led The Eleventh House, one of the major fusion bands during 1973-76. He had a wide-ranging career for decades that included straight ahead jazz dates, acoustic projects, and virtuoso guitar encounters with McLaughlin and DiMeola along with his own original music.

The Eleventh House had a reunion during 1998-99 that included extensive touring. In July 2015, Coryell brought back The Eleventh House again. This last version included two other original members (drummer Alphonse Mouzon and trumpeter Randy Brecker) and John Lee who was the second bassist in the band of the 1970s. Because keyboardist Mike Mandel was ailing, Larry’s son Julian Coryell took his place on guitar.

Seven Secrets can be thought of as a last hurrah for Mouzon, who passed away on Dec. 25,, 2016, and is certainly one of Larry Coryell’s final recordings since he also passed on Feb. 19, 2017. However everyone sounds quite healthy and energetic on this CD. The veterans had not mellowed with age and there is plenty of exciting guitar by both of the Coryells, passionate Brecker trumpet solos, and assertive playing by Mouzon (who also doubles on keyboards on four songs) and Lee. There is more mood and style variation than one might expect, ranging from explosive fusion and electric blues (“Mudhen Blues”) to performances that are a bit more easy-listening. Larry Coryell, who takes “Molten Grace” as a feature for his acoustic guitars, and his musicians are heard throughout in prime form.

Seven Secrets is available from www.savoyjazz.com .

Scott Yanow


Alex Weitz
Luma
(Self-Released)

Tenor-saxophonist Alex Weitz, who performed early on with the Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band and studied at the University Of Miami (where one of his most important teachers was Terence Blanchard), recorded Chroma, his debut CD as a leader, in 2013. Luma is his second CD.

Joined by the up-and-coming pianist Tal Cohen, bassist Ben Tiberio and drummer Michael Piolet, Weitz performs nine of his originals. He has an explorative style that is tempered by a cool tone (which could be considered a cross between Stan Getz and Chris Potter) that makes his playing fairly accessible. Weitz’s originals swing but are not predictable. Quite often, as on “Did You Know” and the two-part “Song For Peace,” the music is episodic with one theme and mood leading to another.

Some of the tunes (such as the first half of “Song For Piece”) could almost be folk songs. The quartet, a little reminiscent at times of the 1970s Keith Jarrett group with Dewey Redman, thinks along similar lines, using the strong melodies and occasional repetition as the basis for building up their performances. The musicians pay close attention to dynamics and mood variations and the music ranges from the haunting ballad “Luma” to the more intense but still controlled “Equilibrium.”

Luma, which rewards repeated listenings, is a strong outing from Alex Weitz and his group that is filled with fresh ideas and subtle surprises. It is easily recommended and available from www.alexweitz.com .

Scott Yanow