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Anat Cohen Tentet
Happy Song

During the past decade, Anat Cohen has been one of the top clarinetists in jazz in addition to being a very skilled tenor-saxophonist. She has excelled in a variety of idioms including swing, trad, bop, modern jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, Brazilian choros, klezmer and World Music.

Happy Song is one of Anat Cohen’s most colorful releases. She is featured at the head of a ten-piece group consisting of trumpet, trombone, baritone/bass sax, vibes, piano/accordion, guitar, cello, bass, drums and her clarinet. Oded Lev-Ari is the musical director of the Tentet and often provides the arrangements. Most of the music is played continuously as a suite that covers quite a few moods and styles.

The set begins with remakes of Cohen’s well-titled “Happy Song” and the lyrical “Valsa Para Alice.” The next piece is a real highpoint, a joyful version of the 1920s “Oh Baby” that is based on Benny Goodman’s recording of the mid-1940s. In contrast is the stirring and somber “Anat’s Doina,” a modern adaptation of klezmer played with a great deal of feeling by the clarinetist. Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro” precedes the dramatic “Trills and Thrills” which features some rockish and bluesy guitar by Sheryl Bailey. A beautiful version of Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye” (Benny Goodman’s closing theme) and the spirited West African “Kenedougou Foly” close the memorable set. In addition to Cohen and Bailey, the key soloists on this CD include trombonist Nick Finzer, cellist Rubin Kodheli, vibraphonist James Shipp and Vitor Goncalves on piano and accordion. While I wish that Anat Cohen had included some New Orleans jazz or perhaps another swing piece, Happy Song is a very enjoyable set of music that grows in interest with each listen. It is highly recommended and available from .

Scott Yanow

Norbert Stein & Pata Messengers
We Are

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Norbert Stein is a German tenor-saxophonist who has performed throughout Europe and the world including several visits to the U.S. He has a large tone and is equally skilled at caressing melodies and playing very adventurous and expressive solos. He sometimes hints at Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler but always displays his own musical personality.

While Stein sometimes leads the James Choice Orchestra and several other ensembles, We Are features his Pata Messengers, a quartet also including pianist Philip Zoubek, bassist Joscha Detz and drummer Etienne Nillesen. The group performs nine of its leader’s originals.

On this CD, Norbert Stein and his sidemen often introduce a warm folkish melody before engaging in advanced improvising. While playing quite free much of the time, the group does not lose sight of the mood set by the themes and in spots shows its ability to swing in a modern manner. The rhythm section keeps a forward momentum constantly flowing, building upon the past while looking towards the future. Zoubek has several excellent solos while Detz and Nillesen never let the music merely coast.

With Stein contributing fiery solos, We Are stays consistently passionate. It is available from .

Scott Yanow

Lucky Thompson
Complete Parisian Small Group Sessions 1956-1959
(Fresh Sound)

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Lucky Thompson (1924-2005) was one of the finest tenor-saxophonists to emerge during the 1940s. Influenced by Don Byas and (to a lesser extent) Coleman Hawkins, Thompson had the tone of a swing saxophonist but a complete mastery of bebop. He first recorded with Hot Lips Page in 1944, spent periods with the big bands of Lucky Millinder, Count Basie (in Lester Young and Illinois Jacquet’s old spot) and Boyd Raeburn, was on quite a few record dates in Los Angeles during 1945-47 (including with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and the Louis Armstrong Orchestra), worked with Fletcher Henderson’s last group in 1950, recorded with Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis (the famous version of “Walkin’”), and freelanced in NY during the first half of the 1950s. Always versatile, he was as comfortable playing with Jack Teagarden as he was with King Pleasure.

Despite all of this activity, Thompson was not making much money or becoming famous. In 1956 he gave Paris a try, recording no less than 15 sessions in 79 days. All of the music has been reissued by Jordi Pujol on his Fresh Sound label in either the single CD Lucky Thompson In Paris 1956 – The All Star Orchestra Sessions, or on the four-CD set reviewed here. Thompson returned to Paris twice during 1957-58 and all of the small group dates from those visits are also on this set.

There are more superb tenor solos in this package than one can list. After jamming creatively on rhythm changes (“Thin Ice”) while just accompanied by bass and drums, Thompson leads a quintet session that has some of trumpeter Emmett Berry’s best playing. Thompson is joined on the many other dates by some of the top French jazz musicians of the era including pianists Martial Solal and Henri Renaud, guitarist Jean-Pierre Sassoon, baritonist Michel de Villers, trombonist Charles Verstraete, bassist Pierre Michelot, drummer Dave Perchonet, vibraphonist Michel Mausser and fellow tenor Guy Laffitte. In addition there is a full album with the rollicking American pianist Sammy Price. The 74 selections include uptempo romps, slower explorations, warm ballads, and no-nonsense bebop. Thompson is inspired throughout and is heard at the peak of his powers. The four hours of music never loses one’s interest.

Most of these performances were formerly rare and they are perfectly presented. The colorful package includes a 32-page booklet that includes definitive liner notes by Pujol, complete discographical information, and many photos of the musicians and of all of the original albums and Eps.

Lucky Thompson, who is heard on a few numbers on the fourth disc introducing his soprano-sax, was among the first to revive that instrument, predating John Coltrane. He came back to Europe on and off throughout the 1960s but was frustrated by the music business and his lack of fame at home. After teaching at Dartmouth and making his final recordings during 1972-73, he permanently dropped out of music despite living another 30 years.

The Complete Parisian Small Group Sessions features Lucky Thompson, who was 31 at the time of his first Paris sessions, full of life and joy. This package (available from ) is simply essential for any bebop fan and 1950s jazz collector.

Scott Yanow

Alexis Cole with One For All
You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To

Alexis Cole has been a top jazz singer ever since she made her recording debut with 1999’s Very Early. She has a warm and alluring voice, scats well, and has swinging phrasing, perfectly placing notes. She has spent periods of time as a teacher, living and performing in Japan, even in the U.S. Army where she sang regularly during 2009-15 in the U.S. Army. Her 12 CDs as a leader include a set with pianist Fred Hersch, a Christmas jazz album and full-length tributes to both Pepper Adams and Paul Simon.

You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To was recorded back in 2011 but only recently released by the Japanese Venus label. Alexis Cole is joined by an all-star group known as One For All that consists of tenor-saxophonist Eric Alexander, trumpeter Jim Rotundi, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist David Hazeltine, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth. The instrumentalists are so strong that only a very confident and skilled singer could avoid being overshadowed by them. Fortunately Alexis Cole is on that level.

While there are many excellent solos throughout the set by the three horn players and pianist Hazeltine, Alexis Cole emerges as the main star. She is particularly winning on “Golden Earrings,” a haunting version of “Delilah,” “A Beautiful Friendship,” “So In Love” and the title cut although all 11 standards are given superior treatments. While the songs are all of vintage quality, Ms. Cole gives them fresh interpretations through her phrasing, bringing out the beauty of the lyrics while improvising with subtlety.

This CD is a delight, available from Alexis Cole deserves to be much better known in the jazz world and this set is an excellent way to discover her talents.

Scott Yanow

Remi Bolduc
Sax Zenith
(Les Productions Art And Soul)

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Canada has long been home to a large number of major jazz talents. While most are not that well-known in the U.S., quite a few could hold their own with their American counterparts. Altoist Remi Bolduc falls into that category. While he has worked along the way with such notables as Kenny Werner, Seamus Blake and Jerry Bergonzi, Bolduc has been leading his own albums since 1994. Sax Zenith is one of his most exciting projects.

For this live set from Edmonton’s Yardbird Suite, Bolduc teams up with four other top Canadian saxophonists (altoist PJ Perry and tenors Phil Dwyer, Kirk MacDonald and Kelly Jefferson) plus bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Dave Laing. The leader contributes four originals, mostly advanced pieces in addition to “Someone In Love” which is based on “Like Someone In Love.” Of the other three compositions, Phil Dwyer’s “Things You Usual-Lee Are” is “All The Things You Are” and Kirk MacDonald’s “The Revellers” (which has some highly appealing arranged ensembles between solos) is a joyful romp on rhythm changes.

While not every horn is featured on every number, each of the saxophonists has plenty of chances to stretch out. Bolduc is the most advanced of the players (adding a lot of excitement to the music), the great P.J. Perry is the most boppish, and the three tenors each display their own approaches to the music while swinging hard.

Sax Zenith, which is full of fireworks and individual heroics, is available from .

Scott Yanow

Dave Brubeck Quartet
The Lost Recordings

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It is remarkable how much high-quality jazz is currently available. There is a continuous flood of new CDs from today’s artists, labels (mostly from Europe) have reissued the great majority of the most significant early jazz recordings, and “new” previously unknown and unreleased sessions from the past are constantly being discovered. The Fondamenta label ( ) has begun what could be a very extensive series, one called “The Lost Recordings.” If the series can stay on the level of the Brubeck and Vaughan CDs, it will be quite noteworthy.

On Oct. 24, 1967, the Dave Brubeck Quartet (with pianist Brubeck, altoist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello) performed a concert at the Kurhaus Hotel in the Netherlands. The group had already announced that they would be breaking up after their European tour, and there was only be one further recording (Nov. 13’s The Last Time We Saw Paris) before it all ended. Perhaps because the end was near, the musicians were particularly uninhibited during their Kurhaus concert which is now being heard for the first time in a half-century.

In addition to the obligatory “Take Five” and “Three To Get Ready,” the group stretches out on such numbers as “La Paloma Azul,” “Celito Lindo,” “Rude Old Man” and even “Swanee River.” “Blues For Joe,” which features a Morello drum solo, is nearly 17 minutes long. Desmond is typically witty throughout, Brubeck comes up with many creative solos, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet makes one wish that they did not feel that they had to end the magic.

Sarah Vaughan
The Lost Recordings

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Sarah Vaughan’s The Lost Recordings features her on Aug. 5, 1975 at Singer Concert Hall at the Laren Jazz Festival in the Netherlands. With the fine accompaniment of pianist Carl Schroeder, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Jimmy Cobb, she rips into the opening “The Man I Love,” scatting furiously. Throughout the night, whether it is jazz standards, songs by Michel Legrand, “Sarah’s Blues,” or a four-song medley, Sassy displays her wondrous voice. There are times when she comes close to going over the top, sounding like an opera singer who is not shy to do anything with her voice, but the overall results are quite listenable and filled with remarkable moments. In addition, one gets to hear Sarah Vaughan joking with the audience and clearly having a great time. One looks forward to the future “Lost Recordings” releases by the Fondamenta label.

Scott Yanow

Freddy Randall
My Tiny Band Is Chosen

An excellent British trumpeter, Freddy Randall (1921-99) played professionally from the late 1930s through 1958 when he temporarily retired from music. Other than a session in 1963, he did not return to fulltime music until the early 1970s, performing for another decade. Randall was a fine swing and Dixieland player who led groups that were in the style of Eddie Condon’s bands.

My Tiny Band Is Chosen (which is one of his originals on this CD) reissues 24 of Randall’s recordings from 1952-57 that were made originally for the Parlophone label. Randall mostly leads a septet comprised of trombone, clarinet/soprano, piano, bass, drums and either guitar/banjo or tenor in addition to his trumpet. The only one of Randall’s sidemen who is known much in the U.S. is Bruce Turner, heard here on clarinet and soprano but later famed as Humphrey Lyttelton’s altoist. However all of the musicians are excellent and their renditions of dixieland standards and three Randall originals are lively, fresh and quite fun. Most of the recordings are rare (Randall’s best known albums in the U.S. are a couple of 1970s live dates for Black Lion), yet these are the recordings that best display his musical legacy.

Fans of Muggsy Spanier, Billy Butterfield and Eddie Condon’s brand of freewheeling jazz will particularly enjoy this valuable compilation, just one of scores of valuable prebop jazz British sets available from the Lake label at .

Scott Yanow

Paolo Alderighi/Stephanie Trick
Broadway And More

The great stride pianist Stephanie Trick and the slightly more modern but swinging pianist Paolo Alderighi have been happily married for a few years. In recent times they have often performed as a duo on one piano, showing what four hands can do to a single keyboard during their rollicking performances. Broadway And More features Trick and Alderighi again performing as a duo but this time on two pianos, which obviously gives them more space, flexibility and potential.

The results are quite enjoyable. They perform a wide-ranging program that includes witty and inventive medleys from Call Me Madam, West Side Story and The Music Man, along with “Marie,” “Make Believe,” “If I Had A Million Dollars” and even “Penny Lane” and “Mr. Sandman.” Although there are no classic stride pieces, Trick and Alderighi consistently find ways to stride this material, giving each song new life.

Broadway And More, available from , is a delight.

Scott Yanow

Walter Smith III.

Walter Smith III. has been an impressive tenor-saxophonist since the beginning of his career. The 37-year old began playing tenor 30 years ago in Houston where he was born and raised. He made his recording debut with singer-trumpeter Christine Fawson in 2002, has worked with Sean Jones, Christian Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire, Eric Harland, and Terence Blanchard, and has led several of his own albums since 2005.

Twio is Smith’s fifth recording as a leader and his first one at the head of a pianoless trio. He performs eight standards and his own “Contrafact” with either Harish Raghavan or Christian McBride on bass and drummer Eric Harland. Two numbers (“On The Trail” and “Contrafact”) have fellow tenor Joshua Redman making the group a quartet.

While the format may make one think of Sonny Rollins, Smith has his own sound, mixing together aspects of his historic predecessors (including Rollins and Coltrane) with his own ideas. He pays respect to the melodies, builds up his solos logically, and swings hard in a hard bop/post-bop style. Among the highlights of this fine outing are “Nobody Else But Me,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Adam’s Apple,” “Social Call” and the two encounters with the competitive Redman.

Twio is one of Walter Smith III.’s finest recordings to date. It is available from .

Scott Yanow

Mike Fahn Quintets
East & West
(Sparky 1 Productions)

Mary Ann McSweeney
Urban Fado
(Sparky 1 Productions)

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Valve trombonist Mike Fahn and bassist Mary Ann McSweeney have been married for quite a few years and they both have significant careers that occasionally overlap.

Fahn was born in New York, began on the valve trombone when his father (a fan of Bob Brookmeyer) gave him a horn as a teenager, and moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was 16. He became well known during his period in L.A., playing with the who’s who of the local straight ahead jazz scene including Bob Cooper, Pete Christlieb, Maynard Ferguson, Frank Strazzeri and Conte Candoli. Since he returned to New York, Fahn has worked with Michael Brecker, Toshiko Akiyoshi’s big band, Andrew Hill and Tom Harrell among many others. East & West features Fahn with two different pianoless quintets, one from the East Coast (Chris Becas on tenor and soprano, guitarist Tom Guarna, and drummer Eric Halvorson) and one from the West (tenor-saxophonist Chris Manning, guitarist Larry Koonse and drummer David Hocker) with Mary Ann McSweeney heard with both groups. The music is modern but swinging, featuring challenging material written by Bill Evans (“One For Helen”), Kevin Tullius, Larry Koonse, Kenny Wheeler, Tom Harrell, Gabriel Faure (“Pavane”) and Fahn. While the two bands have similar tones, they defy stereotypes a bit with the East Coast band sounding cooler while the one from the West is a bit more adventurous. In both cases, the groups are an excellent outlet not only for the fluent Fahn but his sidemen, with the valve trombone, tenor and guitar frontline blending together very well.

Mary Ann McSweeney was born in Aptos California, spending time playing piano and violin before switching to the acoustic bass while in high school. She developed quickly and performed with an ensemble at the Monterey Jazz Festival when she was 16. Among her many musical associations since that time have been Dizzy Gillespie, Lee Konitz, Joanne Brackeen, Renee Rosnes, Ken Peplowski, Anita Brown and Claire Daly.

The bassist’s Urban Fado features ten of her arrangements of seven originals and three other songs, all of which are inspired by the Fado music of Portugal. The Fado style, which began it the 1800s, has beautiful melodies that are often melancholy. McSweeney utilizes a group that features either Marc Mommas or Sam Marlieri on saxophones, Sara Caswell or Antoine Silverman on violin, Jason Ennis, John Hart or Vassilis Ketentzoglou on guitar, George Polyhronakos, Willard Dyson or Tim Horner on drums, and sometimes percussionist Solis Barki along with occasional vocals by Nana Simopoulos (who also plays bouzouki and guitar) and Margret Grebowicz. The leader is well featured, often bowing, and the treatments of the material are both melodic and a bit adventurous. Rather than remembering individual solos or even particular songs, it is the atmosphere of the entire project plus those haunting melodies that stick in one’s mind the longest.

Both of these high-quality CDs are worth exploring. They are available from and .

Scott Yanow

Dan Block
Block Party
(Miles High Records)

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A very talented and versatile veteran tenor-saxophonist and clarinetist, Dan Block has ranged in his career from trad jazz and swing to bop, hard bop and more adventurous styles. Born and raised in St. Louis, Block began playing the tenor when he was about 14. He nearly became a classical clarinetist although the appeal of jazz was too strong. Block studied at Juilliard, was on Charles Mingus’ final album, and has since worked with everyone from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks to Ralph Sutton, Marty Grosz, Warren Vache, Catherine Russell, Tom Harrell and Dave Liebman.

Block Party has Block playing clarinet and tenor with a quintet that includes his brother guitarist Rob Block, pianist Tadataka Unno, bassist Neal Caine and drummer Aaron Kimmel. The repertoire is as intriguing as Block’s career. Featured along the way are such songs as a modernized “Dinner For One Please James,” Thelonious Monk’s “Light Blue,” Gigi Gryce’s obscure but rewarding “Smoke Signal,” a hard-swinging “Wonderful One,” and two lesser-known songs from the 1920s: “Changes” and “Ain’t No Land Like Dixieland.” While the treatments are mostly boppish, there are many hints of earlier forms of jazz along with some more modern touches. Dan Block is the main soloist but Rob Block (who had only recorded twice before) shows that he is a talented player while pianist Unno also fares well on the diverse material.

Block Party is a fun set of music that has some of Dan Block’s most rewarding playing as a leader. It is available from .

Scott Yanow


Lisa B.
I Get A Kick – Cole Porter Reimagined
(Jazzed Media)

Lisa B. is a fine jazz singer with a strong voice and a wide range who hits high notes particularly well. She has also been a poet for as long as she has sung, having a parallel career that includes having a book of her work published and contributing to top literary journals.

On her sixth CD as a leader, Lisa B. performs ten Cole Porter songs composed during 1929-54. Porter’s music and lyrics have been performed and recorded a countless number of times through the years, so on some of these selections, Lisa B. tries something different than usual. She utilizes new arrangements that sometimes include additional lyrics that she wrote along with spoken word passages. She does her best to update and modernize the classic songs without making them unrecognizable or losing their essence.

On this project, Lisa B. is joined by either James Gardiner, Ben Flint, or Frank Martin on keyboards, Fred Randolph, Troy Lampkins or Gardiner on bass, Jeff Marrs, Alan Hall or Paul van Wageningen on drums and, for two songs apiece, percussionist John Santos and Michael Zilber on soprano and tenor.

Among the songs that Lisa B. transforms a bit are “I Get A Kick Out Of You” (which has her joined by just bass and drums), a bossa nova version of “Easy To Love,” the obscure “I Happen To Like New York” (on which she adds some storytelling about her grandparents emigrating to NYC in 1923), “What Is This Thing Called Love” (featuring her speaking poetically about what is love), a funky “All Of You” and “a rendition of “Night And Day” with electronic backing. Some of the highpoints are the more straightforward interpretations that feature her voice very well including a duet with the bassist on “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” and a slow version of “In The Still Of The Night” which has her joined by the wailing soprano by Zilber.

All in all, this is a rewarding and intriguing effort, available from .

Scott Yanow

Vinny Golia Wind Quartet
Live At The Century City Playhouse
(Dark Tree)

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During 1976-81, Lee Kaplan booked an important Sunday night series at the Century City Playhouse that featured avant-garde jazz. On May 13, 1979, Vinny Golia, who had started his Nine Winds label two years earlier and was already becoming an important force in the Los Angeles music scene, organized a wind quartet specifically for the event. He called two of the great free jazz veterans who were based in L.A., clarinetist John Carter and cornetist Bobby Bradford, along with the always-adventurous trombonist Glenn Ferris.

The previously unreleased music, five lengthy performances, is now available on this CD from Dark Tree ( ) which includes excellent liner notes by Mark Weber. With Golia featured on flutes, piccolo, baritone sax and bass clarinet, there is plenty of color displayed in the interplay between the horn players. The music, all Golia originals, has arranged passages that contrast with plenty of stretches of free improvisation by the four horns. While there are some unaccompanied solos, most of the music finds all of the musicians creating music together, based very loosely on the themes. Rather than random notes and an excess of intense passion (as was sometimes true in the mid-1960s free jams held on the East Coast), there are plenty of thoughtful moments and a regular use of space in these improvisations which sometimes hints at modern classical music. It could be considered West Coast cool jazz of the avant-garde.

This is intriguing music that rewards repeated listenings and still sounds contemporary today despite the passing of 39 years.

Scott Yanow

Howard Alden
Solo Guitar

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Howard Alden, one of the top jazz guitarists of all time, has recorded in many different settings throughout his career. Although his CDs include a variety of duet albums including with bassist Jack Lesberg, guitarists George Van Eps and Bucky Pizzarelli, pianist Dick Hyman, and the reeds of Ken Peplowski, he has only recorded two sets of unaccompanied solos. There was 2002’s My Shining Hour and, on one day in 2013, he recorded Solo Guitar.

To be technically accurate, Solo Guitar contains two numbers in which Buell Neidlinger on cello makes the group a duo, joining in on Duke Ellington’s “Dancers In Love” and “Black Beauty,” taking the lead on the latter. But otherwise this CD is all Alden on his seven-string guitar.

When one thinks of unaccompanied solo guitar, ballads come immediately to mind. However Solo Guitar begins with an uptempo version of “Nagasaki.” While this set has its share of slower tempos (including “Just A Gigolo,” “Single Petal Of A Rose,” Billy Strayhorn’s “Lotus Blossom” and Django Reinhardt’s beautiful “Tears”) there are also many rapid workouts that show just how brilliant a guitarist Alden can be. He romps through “Diabinho Maluca” (which at that speed sounds impossible to play), swings hard on “The Song Is You,” and comes up with fresh ideas on “My Shining Hour.”

All 14 performances on Solo Guitar, many of which are exquisite, are well worth hearing, featuring the brilliant Howard Alden in top form. It is hard to believe that the entire program was put together in a few hours and that nearly all of the renditions are first takes. Solo Guitar is available from .

Scott Yanow

Simon Lasky Group
About The Moment
(33 Jazz)

Keyboardist-composer Simon Lasky made his recording debut with his sextet on Story Inside a couple of years ago. About The Moment finds him changing some of the personnel but keeping the same sound which is touched by fusion and Pat Metheny while being quite original.

For the new project, the leader is joined by a core quartet with guitarist Luca Boscagin, bassist Pete Billington, and drummer Sophie Alloway. On three songs apiece either Kuljit Bhamra is added on tabla or percussionist Fergus Gerrand. In addition, Phillip Achille guests on four numbers on harmonica.

Lasky wrote all ten compositions which are episodic, melodic, often cinematic, have a strong forward momentum, and are consistently unpredictable. His music constantly evolves rather than being merely a set of chord changes, and the emphasis is on ensembles rather than solos. Lasky and guitarist Boscagin have their moments in the lead but most of the time the focus is on the compositions rather than the individual improvising. The music manages to fit the moods suggested by such song titles as “Dancing In The Rain,” “Mountain Spirit,” “Close To Ecstasy” and “New Day” yet, because each piece leads logically to the other, the CD sounds very much like a suite. The intriguing music of About The Moment (available from ) is well worth a close listen.

Scott Yanow

Frank Caruso

A top veteran modern jazz pianist from Chicago, Frank Caruso had led three albums of his own since 1985. Chosen is his fourth.

This outing with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Bob Rummage is Caruso’s first full-length recording in a trio format. While the shadow of McCoy Tyner is felt during a fine version of the opener, John Coltrane’s “Ascent,” Caruso adapts his flexible style to the material and displays many sides of his musical personality. He is quite original on Chick Corea’s “Matrix,” follows Gomez’s bowed bass with inventive bop-oriented ideas on John Lewis’ “Django,” plays a thoughtful “thinking-aloud” solo on Dave Frishberg’s “You Are There,” and swings hard on “Without A Song” while not sounding like any of his historic predecessors. Even with the presence of Gomez and the close interplay in which he engages with his sidemen (Rummage’s subtle drumming is felt as much as heard), Caruso avoids sounding like Bill Evans and instead displays his own fresh chord voicings. Also included on this fine disc are “Again And Again,” “Waltz For Gomez,” a medium-tempo “Dearly Beloved,” a tasteful rendition of “The Folks Who Live On the Hill” and the joyful closer “Grande Amor.”

Chosen is an excellent showcase for the pianist and his trio, and a very good opportunity to become acquainted with the musical talents of Frank Caruso. For more information, send an E-mail to .

Scott Yanow

Hiromi & Edmar Castaneda
Live In Montreal

The remarkable piano virtuoso Hiromi is heard at her best when she is playing unaccompanied solos although in recent times she has been leading a fusion trio. Live In Montreal is quite a bit different for it teams Hiromi with the impressive harpist Edmar Castaneda in a set of duets.

Born in Bogota, Colombia, Castaneda began playing the harp when he was 13, inspired by his father who was also a harpist. Based in New York since the mid-1990s, Castaneda has performed with top-notch musicians since then including Wynton Marsalis, Paquito D’Rivera, John Patitucci, Janis Siegel and John Scofield. He has the ability to make his instrument sound like a guitar or a bass and he plays with plenty of fluency.

It takes a lot of courage to perform duets with Hiromi for, when the pianist cuts loose, she has no competition. While there are some moments like that on this set (including during “For Jaco” and “Libertango”), Hiromi often shows a lot of restraint, letting Castaneda be an equal partner. Together they perform originals (including the pianist’s warm ballad “Moonlight Sunshine” and her four-part “The Elements”), Astor Piazzolla’s “Libertango,” and the hottest number, John Williams’ “Cantina Band.” The latter threatens to break up into hard swinging during Hiromi’s solo and is quite light-hearted.

The interplay between Hiromi and Castaneda, particularly on the hotter pieces, makes Live In Montreal a unique document of their brief musical partnership. It is available from .

Scott Yanow

Mike Stern
(Heads Up)

A versatile guitarist who has been a major musical force during the past 40 years, Stern worked with Billy Cobham (1979-81), Miles Davis (1981-83) and Jaco Pastorius (1983-84) before he began heading his own records. Stern also was part of Michael Brecker’s group during 1986-88) but has mostly been an influential leader since that time. His style has always been open to rock and funk influences but at heart he has consistently been a post-bop jazz improviser throughout his career

In the summer of 2016, Stern had a serious fall, breaking both of his arms. The worst injury was to his right hand which left him unable to hold a guitar pick. Luckily Stern came up with a method of gluing the pick to his hand that allowed him to adjust to the problem and return to playing last year.

Trip, his first recording since the accident, finds Stern performing at his former level and making a complete comeback. With an all-star cast that includes such sidemen as keyboardist Jim Beard, four different bassists including Victor Wooten, several drummers including Dennis Chambers, Lenny White, Dave Weckl and Will Calhoun, and appearances by tenor-saxophonists Bob Franceschini and Bill Evans, and trumpeters Randy Brecker and Wallace Roney, it is fair to say that Stern is in very good company.

In addition to the high quality musicianship, one of the main strengths to this set is the excellent material (all Stern originals) which covers a wide variety of ground. The titles all have to do with how his life evolved after the accident. The dramatic “Trip” is rockish, “Blueprint” is a ballad with a menacing strut, and “Half Crazy” gives Stern and Evans a chance to stretch out over relatively straight ahead rhythm changes. “”Screws” is a bit funky, “Gone” is wistful, and “Whatchacallit” features rhythmic but complex lines, while “Emilia” (one of two pieces on which Mike’s wife Leni Stern plays the ghoni, a West African string instrument) has a wordless vocal by Gio Moretti. The optimistic and catchy “Hope For That” has a stirring solo by Stern that leads to the celebratory “I Believe You,” the joyfully cooking “Scotch Tape and Glue” and the closing “B Train” which is based on “Take The ‘A’ Train.”

The spirited music consistently keeps one guessing throughout Trip which finds Mike Stern back at the peak of his powers. It is highly recommended and available form .

Scott Yanow

Heather Keizur & Steve Christofferson
Moon River

Singer-pianist duo albums are always a bit challenging because, with only two artists, there is nowhere to hide. The vocalist has to have the type of voice that one would love to listen to for a full program and they have to be able to convey a wide range of emotions. The pianist needs to be both supportive and stimulating, giving the singer a strong foundation while also challenging the vocalist to stretch and take subtle chances. And in a ballad-oriented set such as Moon River where the tempos are uniformly slow, every sound, whisper, and moment of silence counts.

It is apparent, while listening to singer Heather Keizur and pianist Steve Christofferson on “You Are There,” the opening selection of this CD, that both of the artists have all of the necessary qualities along with a familiarity with each other’s styles. Keizur, who has a beautiful voice, grew up in Canada and sings in both English and French. She moved to Portland, Oregon in 2008 and Moon River is her third CD since then. Christofferson, who is heard on an acoustic-sounding electric piano and (for atmosphere) a little bit of melodica, lives in Washington State, has performed for years with singer Nancy King, and has worked with Karrin Allyson and Kurt Elling in addition to leading his own groups. He has collaborated with Ms. Keizur on many occasions over the past nine years although this is their first duo recording.

Moon River consists of nine songs including four haunting numbers in French, “Always On My Mind,” “The Summer Knows,” Elvis Costello’s “Almost Blue,” the title cut, and the Dave Frishberg/Johnny Mandel song “You Are There.” The performances are taken at very slow dreamy tempos, as if the duo was thinking aloud. To a certain extent they are since Christofferson’s melodic parts are purely improvised. His quiet but significant contributions add a great deal to the music, clearly inspiring the singer who floats above his accompaniment.

As for Heather Keizur, she certainly has a great voice, one filled with restrained emotions, power, and a wistfulness that draws listeners into her music. “Moon River” has rarely received such a warm treatment and that can be said for the other heartfelt interpretations heard throughout this exquisite set. The CD, available from www.heatherkeizur, is easily recommended.

Scott Yanow

Craig Hlady Quartet
(TPR Records)

Craig Hlady is a skilled and versatile jazz guitarist who sounds equally at home in several styles. He has spent much of his career as a sideman, a record producer, and as a faculty member at Berklee, but he has also led his own groups in the Boston area.

On Twisted, Hlady performs nine of his originals in a quartet/quintet with pianist Dave Ramsay, bassist Oscar Stagnaro, drummer Alan Hall and, on two of the numbers, percussionist Ricardo Monzon. While the songs sometime utilize complex chord changes, Hlady easily sails over the music. His playing, which occasionally displays touches of Pat Metheny, Larry Carlton and electric blues guitarists, is mostly quite original and his ideas are expressed in his own voice Ramsay is also a strong soloist while Stagnaro, Hall and Monzon keep the post-bop music grooving behind the lead voices.

After a tricky melody on the opening “It’s A Pedal Still,” Hlady takes a solo that starts quietly but soon becomes quite fiery. “Happy Blue Year” (a medium-tempo jazz waltz) and the straight ahead “Baby Blues” are the most straight ahead performances, inspiring some colorful improvisations. “Twisted,” which is as eccentric as its title (and has no relationship to the Annie Ross classic), has a quirky melody with a rockish section along with a heated piano solo. In contrast to the more passionate pieces, “Steppin’ Out” sets an easy-listening groove and is quite soothing.

“When Fred Fled” is an inventive swinger while “Top Cat” is more relaxing but filled with subtle creativity. Hlady’s guitar on the latter at one point has a country twang and elsewhere hints more at Gabor Szabo. “One Sunday Morning” effectively alternates vamps and swing sections and includes some surprises along the way as the rhythm keeps on changing. The closer, “Four Way Strut,” is the freest and most electric performance, featuring Hlady and his sidemen at their most explorative.

Twisted holds one’s interest throughout and contains plenty of variety in moods and grooves. It is an impressive effort from Craig Hlady that is available from .

Scott Yanow

Various Artists
Groovin’ High – Jam Session At The Hopbine 1965

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Even fans who have a general interest in the history of British jazz will not have heard of most of the talents featured in this jam session from 1965. Altoist Ray Warleigh, tenor-saxophonist Red Price, trombonist Chris Pyne, pianist Johnny Burch, bassist Ron Mathewson and drummer Alan “Buzz” Green never became household names, but all prove on this previously unreleased set to be quite talented.

The well-recorded program features the full sextet on lengthy versions of “All The Things You Are” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (both of which are over 20 minutes long), the group without the trombonist plays “Billie’s Bounce,” and there is a showcase for tenor-saxophonist Price who is the only horn on “Groovin’ High.” Most impressive is that none of the horn players sound like copies of their American counterparts even if Pyne sometimes hints at J.J. Johnson. Price, a veteran swing-to-bop tenor, displays his mastery in the extreme upper register during the last part of his solo on “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and often steals the show. The latter tune is a surprising choice for a bop-oriented jam session but proves to work quite well, performed as a soul jazz/hard bop song. The rhythm section is solid with pianist Burch (particularly rewarding during his chordal improvisations) and bassist Mathewson getting their share of solo space.

It might have been 1965 but there are no hints of free jazz on these four spirited bop-oriented jams. Groovin’ High, which is available from , is easily recommended to bebop fans and those who love to discover overlooked but genuine talents from jazz’s past.

Scott Yanow

Richard Sorce
Samba Para a Vida

An excellent pianist, Richard Sorce is also a talented arranger-composer who performs a set of his new Brazilian jazz compositions on Samba Para a Vida.

For this project, Sorce uses similar personnel as on his previous CD Closer Than Before. Once again, Sorce features concise solos throughout the program by altoist Mark Friedman, trumpeter Fred Maxwell, trombonist Brian Bonvissuto, and guitarist Rob Reich that fit the music well; Friedman is particularly impressive. A major difference from Closer Than Before (which had three vocals from Kerry Linder) is that Iara Negrete is featured singing in Portuguese on seven of the selections. Her vocalizing is quite jazz-oriented, she handles the occasional wordless lines (most impressive on “Cante (Sing)”) effortlessly, and she has a clear and appealing voice that serves the music well.

Sorce, whose piano is well featured on the tasteful “Forever Again” and the closing easy-listening piece “No One Else But You,” has made a major contribution to Brazilian music, writing 15 new songs for this CD that are upbeat and joyous. They are a logical outgrowth of the 1960s bossa-nova tradition, extending its legacy. This fine set is recommended and available from .

Scott Yanow

Honey Beast
(Sharp Three Music)

Goh Kurosawa, who is often known simply as Goh, is a versatile guitarist who can range from melodic jazz to fusion, World Music to even heavy metal. A very likable and accessible musician, Goh frequently performs in the Los Angeles area when he is not touring Japan.

Honey Beast in an EP that features Goh on six of his originals. He plays unaccompanied throughout whether it is the easy-listening “Embracing Dark Beautiful,” the rockish “Slow Burn,” or the funky “My Family My Friends.” Of the other pieces, “Keep It Simple,” which uses a light electronic rhythm, is a jazz-oriented piece that builds up effectively, “Hitori” is episodic and a bit unpredictable, and the closing “Sing,” which has a light country feel, is singable and wistful.

The only fault to this EP is its extreme brevity at less than 20 minutes. However Honey Beast, which is available from , serves as a fine introduction to the varied and enjoyable musical worlds of Goh.

Scott Yanow

Hazelrigg Brothers
Songs We Like

It has been done before, by the Bad Plus and Brad Mehldau among others, but it is still an intriguing concept. On their debut recording, the Hazelrigg Brothers (pianist George and bassist Geoff) along with drummer John O’Reilly Jr. have taken seven rock songs plus two classical melodies and turned them into swinging piano trio jazz.

While they have modernized some of the chord changes, the essence of the rock and classical themes are very much present and recognizable. Whether performed originally by Jethro Tull (“Living In The Past), Jimi Hendrix (“If 6 Was 9”), Led Zeppelin, Steely Dan or Sting, the rock tunes (which are augmented by a melody apiece from Bela Bartok and Johann Fischer) are given fresh and surprising treatments.

The Hazelrigg Brothers have achieved the perfect balance between paying respect to the original tunes and coming up with fresh statements of their own, somehow bringing passion to the rock melodies despite the lack of a guitar or any electronics. The tunes prove to be more flexible than one might expect, making Songs We Like a delight, particularly for those who are familiar with the original recordings.

Songs We Like is available from .

Scott Yanow


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. .

Scott Yanow

Jacques Lesure
For The Love Of You

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 .

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 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 .

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 .

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 .

Scott Yanow

Julian Costello Quartet
(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 .

Scott Yanow

Cosmic Dust
The Dust Also Rises

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 .

Scott Yanow

George Webb’s Dixielanders

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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 ) 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 .

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 .

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 ) back in print.

Scott Yanow

Tony Adamo
The New York Crew

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 ) is Tony Adamo’s most rewarding recording so far.

Scott Yanow