Lori Bell Quartet
Recorda Me – Remembering Joe Henderson

Lori Bell has long been a major jazz flutist. Based in Southern California where she teaches at San Diego State University, she has recorded a strong series of modern straight ahead jazz albums. Recorda Me contains one of her finest hours on disc.

Joe Henderson was such an inventive and distinctive tenor-saxophonist (he was instantly recognizable within two or three notes) that his skills as a composer have often been overlooked. While “Isotope,” ”Inner Urge” and “Recorda Me” have been occasionally recorded by others, Lori Bell’s new release has eight of Henderson’s compositions (including those three) plus the flutist’s “Outer Urge.

Joined by pianist Josh Nelson, bassist David Robaire, and drummer Dan Schnelle, Lori Bell is heard throughout at the peak of her powers. She takes high-quality solos on all of the pieces, some of which have tricky melody lines or complex chord changes. Highlights include such numbers as “Isotope,” “A Shade Of Jade,” “Black Narcissus” and “Punjab,” and it is fair to say that “Out Of The Night” and “Serenity” are not performed all that often. Ms. Bell certainly makes the case for recognizing Joe Henderson as a major songwriter.

With excellent support from her rhythm section and consistently swinging solos from Nelson, Lori Bell also provides plenty of evidence that she deserves recognition as one of the top jazz flutists around. Recorda Me is highly recommended and available from www.loribellflute.com.

Louis Stewart Trio
Louis The First

Louis Stewart (1944-2016) is a name that all jazz collectors should know. A brilliant bop-oriented guitarist from Ireland, Stewart worked with Tubby Hayes, Benny Goodman, Ronnie Scott and George Shearing, made recordings with Billy Higgins, Red Mitchell, Spike Robinson, Joe Williams, J.J. Johnson, and Clark Terry, and led 25 albums of his own.

Louis The First, which was recorded in 1975, was his debut as a leader and its reissue is a historic occasion. Stewart had already been a busy professional guitarist for over a decade when he found time to record this trio set with bassist Martin Walshe and drummer John Wadham.

From the first choruses of an absolutely blazing version of “All The Things You Are,” it is obvious that Stewart was a jazz giant, and a master of the bebop vocabulary. His playing, inspired by Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessel but very much in his own voice, is full of swinging phrases and he never seems to run out of fresh ideas. Other highlights on the set of standards include a double-time version of “Body And Soul,” “O Grande Amor,” “Footprints,” and three unaccompanied solo selections including “Autumn Leaves” (which in spots has his second overdubbed guitar).

With Walshe and Wadham giving stimulating and steady support, Louis Stewart is quite dazzling throughout Louis The First. Get this recording (available from www.liviarecords.com) and discover a great “new” guitarist.

The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
And So It Goes
(R.M.I. Records)

The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra has been one of jazz’s top big bands since it was formed in the mid-1980s. It has always been filled with some of the top Los Angeles area musicians. Its swinging group spirit, which is filled with mutual respect and love, has always been very appealing. Led by bassist-arranger-composer John Clayton, drummer Jeff Hamilton, and the late altoist Jeff Clayton, the orchestra has recorded quite a few memorable albums through the years.

And So It Goes is the band’s first recording since the passing of Jeff Clayton whose presence will always be missed. The set finds the orchestra evolving a bit with some new personnel and John Clayton contributing arrangements that are often a bit more advanced and harmonically complex than his previous ones.

The album starts with an inspired version of the 1920s blues “See See Rider” that begins with John Clayton’s bowed bass. The ensembles gradually build in passion and intensity behind the solos of guitarist Steve Kovalcheck, tenor-saxophonist Rickey Woodard, and trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos before the piece concludes as it started, with bowed bass.

“Thelonious” has fine spots for Kovalcheck and trumpeter Clay Jenkins while Jeff Clayton’s “The Jones Brothers” features the group’s newest member (altoist Jacob Scesney) and pianist Tamir Hendelman. A relative of “Blue Bossa,” “The Jones Brothers” contains lots of dissonance in its ensembles and some colorful drum breaks from Jeff Hamilton. “And So It Goes” was originally supposed to feature Jeff Clayton. The melancholy and mournful performance instead has altoist Keith Fiddmont as the main soloist. The band’s other bassist Jon Hamar is featured on his “The Barn” which finds the band swinging at a slow-medium tempo. Charles Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song” has both Clayton and Hamar on basses and includes ensembles worthy of Mingus with several horn players soloing together at length.

And So It Goes concludes with Ray Brown’s “Buhaina, Buhaina,” a somber ensemble version of “What A Wonderful World,” and Hamilton’s joyfully swinging “Sybille’s Day” which includes a hot tradeoff between Rickey Woodard and trumpeter Kye Palmer. Throughout the album, Jeff Hamilton’s drumming is a major force as always, driving the band, inspiring the soloists, and adding fire and color to the music.

And So It Goes is one of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra’s finest recordings. It is highly recommended and available from www.rmirecords.net.

Jim Shearer
Cloud Bowling

The French jazz pianist-composer-bandleader Claude Bolling (1930-2020) had a wide-ranging career. He found his greatest success by composing “Suite for Flute And Jazz Piano Trio,” teaming up with classical flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal for a beloved best-selling record.

Cloud Bowling is a two-CD set that features Jim Shearer on tuba, pianist Chris Reyman, bassist Erik Unsworth, and drummer Andy P. Smith. All of the musicians are educators who have extensive experience performing both jazz and classical music.

The first CD consists of the seven movements of Bolling’s “Suite For Flute And Jazz Piano Trio” but with tuba instead of flute. While some listeners may still regard the tuba as a limited instrument, the virtuosic Shearer proves otherwise. The familiar themes, which range from whimsical to warm ballads, are treated quite well. While there are some updates to the 50-year old material, lovers of the original suite will find much to enjoy here and I think Claude Bolling would have been pleased to hear this.

The second disc debuts Reyman’s “Cloud Bowling (Suite For Tuba And Jazz Trio).” A bit more modern and sometimes more somber than Bolling’s work, the music includes some excellent improvising, a few warm melodies, mood variations, and tributes to Duke Ellington (”Ellingtonian”) and Dave Brubeck (“Brubesque”). The interplay between Shearer and Reyman both in the written and improvised sections contains plenty of exciting moments. Cloud Bowling is easily recommended and available from www.summitrecords.com.

Pharoah Sanders
(Luaka Bop)

Pharoah Sanders (1940-2022) first came to fame for his gut-wrenching sound explorations with John Coltrane during 1965-67, picking up where Coltrane’s passionate solos ended. He had a long and successful solo career in which he alternated between three different types of styles. Sanders could always scream with the best on his tenor, but he also liked to caress ballads and standards (sounding a bit like Coltrane circa 1957), and he was a pioneer in what became known as “spiritual jazz.” For the latter, Sanders utilized fairly simple vamps that were repeated in colorful fashion by his rhythm section while he sailed on top. His surprise hit “The Creator Has A Master Plan” was in that genre.

The two-Lp box set Pharoah is both deluxe and a bit unusual. After Sanders’ period recording for the Impulse label ended in 1973, he was not on records for two years. In 1976 he made his only album for the small India Navigation company, one called Pharoah. The fairly obscure recording features Sanders in a unique setting. “Harvest Time” which clocks in at 20:24, teams the tenor with his wife Bedria Sanders on harmonium, guitarist Tisziji Munoz, bassist Steve Neil, and percussionist Lawrence Killian. While it holds one’s interest, Pharoah’s playing on this selection is fairly brief and he puts the focus on the rhythm section.

Also reissued from the original Pharoah album are “Love Will Find A Way” and “Memories Of Edith Johnson.” For those two pieces, Sanders is joined by Munoz, Neil, Killian, organist-keyboardist Clifton “Jiggs” Chase, and drummer Greg Bandy. While Sanders’ singing on “Love Will Find A Way” is a bit of an acquired taste (if heartfelt), there are good spots on these two numbers for his tenor, Munoz, and Chase.

But it is the second album that is most notable. It is accurately titled Harvest Time Live 1977. Sanders, keyboardist Khalid Moss, bassist Hayes Burnett, and drummer Clifford Jarvis are heard on two previously unreleased live versions of “Harvest Time” that were performed during their European tour in Aug. 1977. The rendition from Middelheim, which is over 18 minutes long, utilizes the same two-chord vamp as the studio version but has Sanders stretching out much more. The most rewarding performance is the final version of “Harvest Time, recorded in Willisau and just 10 ½ minutes long. Sanders not only takes a forceful solo but the last few minutes of the piece finds him playing unaccompanied and with the over-the-top sounds that originally made him famous. It is a pity that this rendition is not twice as long.

In addition to the two albums of music, Pharoah includes an 24-page Lp-sized booklet that has interviews with some of the musicians (including Sanders), and some historic items: the lead sheet for “Harvest Time,” a concert program from the 1977 Montmartre Jazz Festival, a ticket from the European tour, several photos, and a newspaper clipping that contains a review of Sanders’ band. Lots of love and effort went into this release which is available from www.luakabop.com.

John Clayton and Houston Person
Family Tree

John Clayton Feat. Houston Person - Family Tree

Tony Guerrero and Jeremy Siskind
Duo Tones
(Meta Jax)

Duo Tones - Tony Guerrero & Jeremy Siskind | Tony Guerrero

Playing in a duo is one of the most potentially difficult settings for jazz artists. This is particularly true of duets that do not include drums for there is nowhere to hide. Every sound is important and the musicians need to utilize space creatively. Larger groups give individuals more cover and opportunities to use arranged frameworks while a solo outing lets the soloist change keys, tempos and moods at will. But in a duo, the two musicians have to be able to communicate with each other instantly and without hesitation.

These two duet albums are quite successful within the jazz tradition. Houston Person, who is now 89, is still in his playing prime. He has lost nothing of his large and warm tone, ability to caress superior melodies, and soulful style. While Person has alternated through the years between quartets with piano and organ groups, years ago the tenor recorded two successful duet albums with bassist Ron Carter. John Clayton, renowned as an arranger-composer and a bowed bass soloist, functions as the full rhythm section on Family Tree but makes that potentially daunting task sound effortless.

Starting with an uptempo version of “My Funny Valentine” and continuing through a set of top-notch standards and obscurities (including Person’s “That’s That” and Lionel Hampton’s “Gone Again”), Person remains at the top of his game. His warmth comes through on both medium-tempo pieces and slower ballads while Clayton was clearly happy to play a supportive role with occasional solos. Among the highlights are such pieces as “Crazy He Calls Me,” an emotional “Everything Must Change,” “Hey There,” and “My Little Suede Shoes.” Family Tree, which will make Houston Person fans smile, is available from www.johnclaytonjazz.com.

Tony Guerrero has long been an important trumpeter and flugelhornist based in Southern California while pianist Jeremy Siskind uplifts every musical situation in which he appears. On Duo Tones, Guerrero displays his mastery of both bebop and swing. For the latter, he contributes some spectacular playing on “In A Mellow Tone” and “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.” The duo is more bop-oriented on such numbers as “There Will Never Be Another You,” “I’ve Never Been In Love Before,” “Just Friends,” and “Secret Love” and there are also some Brazilian

numbers and ballads included. Siskind’s playing behind Guerrero’s solos is never complacent or commonplace. Quite the opposite, his stimulating ideas push and inspire the trumpeter. While Guerrero is generally the lead voice, Siskind also takes some inventive solos of his own.

Duo Tones, which grows in interest with each listen, contains plenty of exciting moments. It is heartily recommended and available from www.amazon.com.

Brian Tarquin & Heavy Friends
Beyond The Warrior’s Eyes
(BHP Music/Guitar Trax Music)

Fans of high-powered rock-oriented fusion will want to explore Brian Tarquin’s Beyond The Warrior’s Eyes. In addition to being its producer and engineer, Tarquin contributed all nine compositions, rhythm guitar, keyboards and bass along with occasional guitar solos. However he was clearly happy to let his many guests take center stage.

A special highlight is the title cut for that number features the great violinist Jean Luc Ponty in one of his rare recent recordings. The rockish guitarists Eric Johnson and Dean Brown battle it out on “The Gates Of Valhalla,” Robben Ford and Hal Lindes are featured on the more laidback “Quiet Desperation,” and guitarist Chris Poland blows the roof off of the studio on “Behind The Iron Curtain.” Other featured artists are guitarists Steve Morse, John Tropea (the most jazz-oriented of the soloists), Carl Verheyen, and Larry McCray, violinist Steve Kindler, and singer Phil Naro who takes the only vocal of the album during the closing “Those Colors Don’t Run.” There are also several other musicians (including several drummers) in the supporting cast.

This well-conceived release is particularly recommended to those who enjoy rock-oriented guitar soloists and the more intense side of fusion. Beyond The Warrior’s Eyes is available from www.bhpmusic.com.

Gerry Beaudoin Trio
Blues & Ballads & More
(Francesca Records)

While veteran guitarist Gerry Beaudoin has played a variety of music in his career, he decided to return to his roots on Blues & Ballads & More. He joined together with bassist Bob Nieske and drummer Gary Johnson, both of whom he has known and played with many times in the past, to record his first guitar trio album in 26 years. The results are extremely easy to enjoy.

Beaudoin performs three of his originals (a trio of different blues) and two by his son Gerry Beaudoin III. The latter’s “Blue Once Again” (which has a catchy theme) opens and closes the set while his “That Long Forgotten Look” has a particularly likable melody. The trio also performs “In A Sentimental Mood,” “Tenderly,’ “I Thought About You” and “Here’s That Rainy Day.”

The performances are swinging, melodic, tasteful, and full of subtle surprises with Nieske takes occasional solos. Nieske and Johnson listen closely to the guitarist and their familiarity with each other’s playing is obvious.

The results are quite rewarding and easily recommended to lovers of the classic jazz guitar. Blues & Ballads & More is available by writing Francesca@francescarecords.com.

(Wide Hive)

Daggerboard is an intriguing and enjoyable band. While no one is listed as its leader, trumpeter Erik Jacobson and percussionist Gregory Howe wrote all of the songs for Escapeament with Jacobson also providing the arrangements.

Many of the 12 originals segue seamlessly into the next one without a pause. While Jacobson and keyboardist Matt Clark (who is particularly effective on the Fender Rhodes) are the main soloists, the infectious rhythms played by bassist Henry Franklin, drummer Mike Clark, and percussionist Babatunde Lea are often key parts of the songs. For example, the program begins with “Centrifugal” (which is in 5/4 time), followed by the jazz waltzes “Escapement” and “Climbing In The Cocoon,” before a Mid-Eastern groove is set on “Shiva’s Mode” and mildly funky rhythms are played on “The Balance Board.”

There is plenty of variety along the way. The instrumentation sometimes includes violins, a cello, French horn, timpani, Mike Rinta on trombone and tuba, and Kasey Knudsen (who is excellent on “Olivia 1” and “Concrete Dim”) on alto. In addition, Sheldon Brown’s bass clarinet is prominent on “Shiva’s Mode” and the Bitches Brew-inspired “Distant Sirens.”

Escapement deserves several listens for it is filled with surprises. The one fault is the lack of liner notes discussing the band’s history and musical purpose. However the music is certainly rewarding, making this a set (available from www.widehive.com) well worth picking up.

Xavier Richardeau
A Caribbean Thing
(Continuo Musique)

This is a charming record. Soprano and baritone-saxophonist Xavier Richardeau spent time living in Paris and New York before moving to Guadeloupe (an island in the Caribbean) in 2018. On his new album, A Caribbean Thing, Richardeau utilizes both Caribbean and Afro-Cuban rhythms along with his own joyful melodies.

Richardeau leads an excellent sextet that also includes Jocelyn Menard (originally from Quebec), pianist Leonado Montana, guitarist Anthony Jambon, bassist Regis Therese, and drummer Yoann De Danier. The group performs originals composed by Richardeau and/or Veronique Sambin plus a happy version of the standard “Soul Le Ciel De Paris (Under Paris Skies)” which sounds fine with a reggae rhythm.

Xavier Richardeau is a fine improviser with sounds of his own on soprano (his main instrument) and baritone. He and Menard work together particularly well, forming a distinctive and very appealing group sound. Among the highlights are the infectious title cut, the thoughtful medium-tempo ballad “Linea Osceanica,” an energetic “Broussa Samba,” and the haunting “Lila” which is heard in two different versions. Along the way, guitarist Jambon and pianist Montana have their spots and they are strong assets.

But the main reasons to acquire A Caribbean Thing (which is available from www.continuomusique.com) are for the memorable blend of the two saxophonists and their individual solos.

Jim Butler
Short Stories

Jim Butler, who plays alto and soprano, performed with United States Air Force Field Bands for 23 years. He led four CDs while in the service and two other ones (Let’s Get Lost and Perseverance) since leaving the Air Force and settling in Tokyo in 2018.

His seventh CD, Short Stories from 2023, is quite impressive. Butler, who has very original sounds and styles on both of his horns, performs six originals that swing while being harmonically adventurous; he also digs into four standards. Butler’s quartet includes pianist David Berkman, bassist Kengo Nakamura, and drummer Gene Jackson, and he also features two singers on one song apiece.

The saxophonist sought to musically depict aspects of everyday life through his originals. For example, the high-powered “Green, Yellow And Stars,” conveys the excitement of a car ride that takes one to new adventures. “The Edge Of Darkness” is an atmospheric piece that conveys the complexity and beauty of love. It has long unisons played by Butler and Berkman along with a calming and lyrical bass solo from Nakamura. The wistful “Never Say Goodbye” is about people who are significant during a period of one’s life but eventually fade out and disappear without actually saying goodbye. The uptempo cooker “The Hurricane” is a tribute to the late saxophonist Andrew Speight.

Nancy Wilson’s trademark song “Guess Who I Saw Today” has some fine and personal singing by Crissey Saalborn and includes sympathetic soprano playing from the leader. For variety, “The Lion” is a funky number with a catchy melody. “Blue In Green” has Butler contributing a heartfelt statement on soprano. Aimee Blackschleger’s singing on “Killing Me Softly With His Song” is both lively and quietly dramatic. The enjoyable set finishes with the straight ahead “Oblivion Blues” and a passionate romp on “Stella By Starlight.”

The easily recommended Short Stories gives listeners a strong sampling of Jim Butler’s talents as both a soloist and a composer and it is filled with bright moments. It is easily recommended and available from www.interjazz.com.

Mchael, Wolff, Leon Dorsey and Mike Clark
A Letter To Bill Evans
(Jazz Avenue 1)

Wollf, Clark and Dorsey – A letter to Bill Evans (ENG review) - Paris Move

In the 1960s, Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner emerged to become the biggest influences on jazz pianists, replacing Bud Powell whose shadow had dominated the 1950s. Evans’ impact on his fellow pianists has continued to grow since his passing in 1980, particularly in his chord voicings and the interplay that he engaged in with his bassists and drummers.

Pianist Michael Wolff has a musical personality of his own but he is not shy to display Evans’ influence, particularly on his new recording. For A Letter To Bill Evans, Wolff performs five Evans compositions, “Nardis” (claimed by Miles Davis but probably written by the pianist), Scott LaFaro’s “Gloria’s Step,” and two standards that Evans often performed. With bassist Leon Lee Dorsey and drummer Mike Clark contributing inventive yet tasteful accompaniment along with occasional solos, the trio is tight and very much a unified group.

Among the more memorable performances are a swinging “My Romance,” a light-hearted “Peri’s Scope,” the mysterious-sounding blues “Interplay,” “Nardis” (during which Wolff’s voicings sound particularly original), the swinging “You And The Night And The Music” (during which Wolff sounds particularly original) and Evans’ most famous piece “Waltz For Debby.”

Fans of Bill Evans will be pleased with this outing as will those who have long been aware of Michael Wolff’s musical talents. A Letter To Bill Evans is available from www.amazon.com.

Scott Yano