by Scott Yanow
A talented bassist-singer, Kristin Korb studied with Ray Brown, made her first album (Introducing Kristin Korb) in 1996, and was a fixture in Los Angeles during 2002-11. In 2011, after getting married, she moved to Copenhagen. She has worked steadily in Europe ever since, returning to Los Angeles on an infrequent basis during the past decade.
Recently she was back in L.A., performing at the G-Spot at the head of a trio with pianist Andy Langham and drummer Aaron Serfaty. Ms. Korb has a light, soft and beautiful voice along with attractive phrasing and (not too surprisingly) a choice of notes that is worthy of a top jazz instrumentalist. She also plays bass at a high level and seems to find it easy to both sing and play her instrument simultaneously.
While Serfaty was excellent in support and took an occasional solo, Langham was quite outstanding and consistently inventive during his improvisations, really stretching out. Kristin Korb looked rightfully pleased with her sidemen.
Among the highlights were such numbers as “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “Zanzibar,” a surprisingly cooking version of “I Surrender Dear,” Duke Ellington’s “Warm Valley,” Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” (which was turned into heated jazz), a charming version of Ray Brown’s “Soft Shoe,” “Summerwind,” and a hard-swinging version of the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
All in all, it made one look forward to Kristin Korb’s future visits to L.A.
It was quite a spectacle to watch. Wynton Marsalis revived his “All Rise” suite/symphony during a night at the Hollywood Bowl. Composed in 1999 (when it was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic) and recorded in 2001 as a two-CD set, it is comprised of 12 movements that are performed in three four-movement sections.
Most impressive was seeing how so many musicians could somehow fit on the Hollywood Bowl stage. There was the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and no less than five choirs: the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Bythax Singers, the Gay Men Chorus Of the L.A, Selah Gospel Choir, and the Spirit Chorale of Los Angeles. I did my best to count them all and I estimate that there were 96 singers and at least 65 instrumentalists which adds up to a minimum of 161 performers plus conductor James Gaffigan. Unfortunately there was no Hollywood Bowl program listing personnel and telling audience members the idea behind the suite; why are there no real programs this year?
All Rise is quite a gumbo of styles with the emphasis on classical music, gospel, operatic singing, and bits of jazz. Most of the time there was actually little for the choirs to do. They were just occasionally enlisted to sing religions clichés; one hopes that they enjoyed watching the instrumentalists during the rest of the time!
The opening “Jubal Step” is an African-inspired classical piece. “A Hundred and a Hundred, a Hundred and Twelve” had the ensemble sounding a bit like a dissonant Duke Ellington orchestra with a slight Latin tinge and a danceable rhythm. The string-filled waltz “Go Slow (But Don’t Stop)” included a surprising piano trio section. “Wild Strumming Of Fiddle” is a string feature while “Save Us” included cries of anguish both from the singers and the horns along with an uptempo section for Marsalis to solo through. “Cried, Shouted, Then Sung” is a dirge with some religious singing and angry muted trumpet from Marsalis. “Look Beyond” sounded a bit more hopeful while trumpeter Marcus Printup had a spot on “The Halls Of Erudition & Scholarship.”
The second half of the performance was briefer and had more bright moments. “El ‘Gran’ Baile de la Reina” found Lincoln Center returning to an Ellington sound and had fine interplay between a violinist, a cellist and bassist Carlos Henriquez, a tango rhythm and (finally!) some brief solos from members of Lincoln Center. “Expressbrown Local” fond the band emulating a train although the writing was not on the level of Duke Ellington’s classic “Daybreak Express.” “Saturday Night Slow Drag” is a slow blues.
And then finally, as if to reward the audience for sitting through all of this, “I Am (Don’t You Run From Me”), after a ponderous section, had the band romping happily through the chord changes of “Bill Bailey.”
It was definitely a mixed bag but certainly held onto one’s attention.
A fine jazz singer with a friendly style and a warm voice, Mark Christian Miller performed at the Urban Press Winery in Burbank with pianist Karen Hammack, bassist Richard Simon, and drummer Aaron Serfaty.
Each member of the trio had an opportunity shine on a swinging version of “Bye Bye Blackbird” and they also performed such numbers as Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Mr. Kicks,” an uptempo “’Deed I Do,” a conversational “Invitation” (uplifted by Miller’s behind-the-beat phrasing), “Pennies From Heaven” (which was introduced by Simon playing the bass intro to “Just Squeeze Me”), a heartfelt rendition of “Daydream,” “The Party’s Over” (which was scheduled as their closer) plus a pair of encores for the appreciative crowd: a scat-filled “Swinging’ Till The Girls Come Home” (which segued into “Route 66”) and “My Romance.” The always-witty Richard Simon quoted “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” during his solo on the latter which was played during a day when the temperature hit 112 degrees.
A special treat was a guest appearance by the ageless pianist-singer Betty Bryant. She performed “Let Me Love You” and “Stormy Monday.” While the latter has been played a countless number of times since it was introduced by T-Bone Walker in the 1940s, Ms. Bryant’s version was taken at a perfect slow-medium tempo and her expressive singing (with its impeccable timing) made it sound fresh and new.
The Urban Press Winery features a variety of jazz performers each Sunday afternoon and is well worth checking out.
THE LE COQ ALL-STARS
At Catalina Bar & Grill, some of the top artists on the Le Coq label were scheduled to appear one night, but things did not quite work out as planned. Singer Andy James and percussionist Luis Conte both had to cancel due to COVID, and trumpeter Terell Stafford was not able to make it for other reasons. So instead, the first half of the evening was a jam session headed by pianist Bill Cunliffe while the second half was inspired by 1960s Miles Davis and early fusion.
The results, although different than expected, were quite rewarding. First Cunliffe, Bob Sheppard (on alto and flute), guitarist Steve Cardenas, bassist Eric Reevis and drummer Clarence Penn performed “I Love You” and “ The Nearness Of You.” While one does not immediately associate Sheppard with the flute, his tone was beautiful on the latter and he should be featured on it more often. Unfortunately after the second song he departed and was not seen again that night.
Guitarist Cardenas was showcased on “ Invitation.” Tenor-saxophonist Joel Frahm joined the band and then Jane Monheit (coming out of the audience) sat in and did fine on “Honeysuckle Rose” although Frahm’s single chorus stole the show.
The second half of the night had John Cowherd taking over on piano, bassist John Patitucci joining in, and trumpeter Nicholas Payton more than ably filling in for Stafford. Most of the pieces were originals with Payton building up his inventive solos to some impressive high notes and Frahm (who rarely appears in Los Angeles) taking solos that at times recalled Michael Brecker but in his own voice.
It was a fun night with plenty of spontaneity and fiery music.
BRITISH JAZZ FROM THE 1960s ON THE R&B LABEL’S BBC JAZZ CLUB SERIES
Joe Harriott (1928-73) was a brilliant alto-saxophonist who was never shy to take chances. Born and raised in Jamaica, he moved to London in 1951 and became part of the modern jazz scene. Influenced by Charlie Parker (as was every saxophonist of his generation) although his tone was actually closer to Sonny Criss, Harriot mastered bebop while including hints of the Jamaican music that he heard while growing up. He began leading his own recordings in 1954 and worked as a sideman with many top British players. Starting in 1960, Harriott began playing more abstract improvisations and, while some said he was influenced by Ornette Coleman, the altoist actually arrived at his newer music independent of Coleman. His Free Form, Abstract, and Movement albums during 1960-63, while not pleasing his earlier fans, were considered major breakthroughs and inspired other younger British players.
However, unlike most of the American avant-gardists, Harriott also continued playing straight ahead jazz during the 1960s. He had an eclectic career that included recording with Chris Barber and Sonny Boy Williamson, working on some jazz and poetry projects, and fusing jazz with Indian music on his Indo-Jazz Fusion album. Unfortunately Harriott did not record after 1969, his health declined, and in early 1973 he passed away from cancer when he was just 44.
The Rake’s Progress – At The BBC (R&B Records RANDB084), as with each of the CDs covered in this article, has three previously unreleased radio appearances. The first set from 1964 is particularly intriguing for it has Harriott in a quintet with trumpeter Shake Keane, pianist Pat Smythe, bassist Coleridge Goode, and drummer Bobby Orr that switches in styles back and forth between fairly free improvisations and straight ahead jazz. After Harriott’s adventurous “Idioms,” it is surprising to hear the group playing conventionally on “St. Thomas” and “Here’s That Rainy Day.” While “Sub Cruise” has its free moments, Dizzy Reece’s “The Rake” is hard bop.
The 1966 set with trumpeter Ian Carr, pianist Michael Garrick, drummer Alan Green, and Coleridge is the most conservative of the broadcasts although no less enjoyable. While “Merlin The Wizard” has both adventurous solos and hints of “King Porter Stomp,” Garrick’s “Portrait Of A Young Lady” is a jazz waltz and the group also jams on three standards including a cooking version of “Nardis” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Blue ‘N Boogie.” Oddly enough, the CD concludes with the earliest of the broadcasts, featuring Harriott’s quintet from 1961 with trumpeter Les Condon, pianist Smythe, bassist Goode, and drummer Phil Seamen. While they perform standard versions of “ Moanin’,” and “’Round Midnight,” an original blues and an explorative calypso-inspired piece, “Coda” and “Tempo” are particularly unpredictable and take the music into unexpected areas while swinging in their own way.
Ronnie Scott (1927-96) is best known today for his club Ronnie Scott’s, the top jazz establishment in England during the past half-century. Often forgotten is that he was the United Kingdom’s top tenor-saxophonist before the rise of Tubby Hayes in the mid-1950s. At the time he sounded a bit like a mixture of Zoot Sims, Lester Young and Dexter Gordon.
While he led many record sessions during 1949-57, Scott actually hated to record. Not counting live sessions that were released later on, he made no records as a leader during 1958-63 and only led three final albums during his last 30 years. That is a pity because the lack of documentation hurts his place in the jazz history books.
Ronnie Scott’s BBC Jazz Club 1964-1966 (R&B Records RANDB063) has a trio of radio broadcasts with Scott at the head of a quartet that features pianist Stan Tracey and several bassists and drummers. By the mid-1960s, his playing was somewhat reminiscent of Paul Gonsalves and Coleman Hawkins and he had a heavier tone than earlier. The opener, “Sweet And Lovely,” has Tracey sounding just like Thelonious Monk while Scott is cast in the role of Charlie Rouse, but on other selections Tracey displays his own percussive style. Mark Murphy, who spent most of a decade living and working in England, is featured singing a warm version of “Waltz For Debby” and a ballad medley. While his voice is higher than it would be in the 1970s and his singing is not quite as chance taking as his later work, he is quite recognizable.
While Ronnie Scott’s sound had changed a bit and, having listened to the many great saxophonists who were booked at his club, he had modernized his style a bit, he still retained much of his musical personality. During this CD, he is best on such ballads as “Sweet Lotus Blossom,” and “The Night Is Yours,” although he is blazing like Johnny Griffin on “Avalon,” and an uptempo romp on “I’ll Be Seeing You” (usually a slow ballad) is a happy surprise.
The Rendell/Carr Quintet was one of most promising British jazz groups of the 1960s. In existence from late 1962 to late 1969, the group (co-led by tenor and soprano-saxophonist Don Rendell and trumpeter/flugelhornist Ian Carr) evolved from hard bop to freer music and early fusion before breaking up.
BBC Jazz Club 1965-1966 (RAND B064) features the group on radio broadcasts from around the halfway point of its existence. The co-leaders are joined by Michael Garrick or Colin Purbrook on piano, Dave Green or Jeff Clyne on bass and drummer Trevor Tompkins. Their music at this time was mostly forward-looking hard bop including the soulful “ Blues For Sue,” “Silver’s Serenade” (during which they come close to sounding like the Horace Silver Quintet) and originals based on “Milestones” (“Hot Rod”) and inspired by “’Round Midnight” (“Jubal”). The second broadcast (a year later than the first) finds the group sounding a bit more advanced in their solos and interplay along with some freer spots (particularly on “Spooks”) that show that they were familiar with Ornette Coleman’s music. All three of these worthy CDs are available from www.rhythmandbluesrecords.co.uk and www.amazon.com.
I have a new book that is available from amazon.com. Life Through The Eyes Of A Jazz Journalist. It is subtitled My Jazz Memoirs and is my 12th book and first in a few years. I discuss in an often-humorous fashion my early days and discovery of jazz, my period as the jazz editor of Record Review, the story behind my involvement with the All Music Guide, and I reminisce about some of my adventures as an amateur musician. Included are vintage interviews with Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, and Maynard Ferguson, encounters with Clint Eastwood, summaries of the Monterey and Playboy Jazz Festivals (including a full-length review of the 1985 Playboy Festival), memories of other events (such as the IAJE Conventions), and brief snapshots of many memorable club and concert performances. There is also background information about my other books, evaluations of the jazz critics who inspired me early on, and my thoughts on jazz criticism which includes advice to up-and-coming jazz journalists. Rounding out the book is a chapter on how the jazz writing business has changed over the past 50 years, and appendixes that include the jazz greats of the past, 86 jazz giants of today, 21 young performers to look for in the future, jazz books and DVDs that everyone should own, and a dozen enjoyable Hollywood jazz films.
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