Guitarist Barney Kessel, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Shelly Manne first recorded together on a Maynard Ferguson date in 1952. They co-led four albums during 1957-60 (The Poll Winners, The Poll Winners Ride Again, Poll Winners Three, and Exploring The Scene) and made a reunion recording in 1975 (Straight Ahead), all for the Contemporary label.
Guitarist Bruce Forman wanted to revisit the sound of the Poll Winners and devised an unusual reunion. It was not a rare reunion with bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton since they have played together many times through the years. Instead, it was a reunion of the Poll Winners’ original instruments since Forman owns Kessel’s guitar, Clayton had been willed Brown’s bass, and Hamilton had access to Manne’s drums.
While the members of Forman’s trio would all gladly admit to being influenced by their predecessors, there is no attempt to merely copy the original Poll Winners’ styles or repertoire. They perform five Forman originals, one song by Clayton, and six standards. Of the latter, only “On Green Dolphin Street” was recorded by the Kessel-Brown-Manne trio.
Listeners familiar with the playing of these three masterful musicians will know what to expect on Reunion. Forman, Clayton, and Hamilton swing as hard and tastefully as usual. There are many bluesy moments from the guitarist, concise bass solos, and breaks on brushes from Hamilton. The frameworks and arrangements result in lots of subtle musical fireworks and every selection has its memorable moments.
Those who enjoy the Jeff Hamilton Trio, the Ray Brown Trio, and the original Poll Winners will certainly want to pick up a copy of Reunion which is available from www.b4man-music.com.
Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band
(Music Of Content)
The latest release by one of the top jazz big bands around today is a five-song EP that can easily be divided into three.
The 18-piece orchestra starts off with a pair of funky pieces. “The Reset” is rather unpredictable, features tenor-saxophonist Brian Scanlon and guitarist Will Brahm playing off of the band, and gets rather exciting. “Six Feet Away” can be considered swinging funk and is a showcase for altoist Eric Marienthal. Vangie Gunn sings “Through The Fire,” displaying her strong pipes on the pop song.
The remainder of The Reset is comprised of a pair of tributes to the late arranger Sammy Nestico who was one of Gordon Goodwin’s mentors. “My Man Sam” is a Goodwin original that pays homage to Nestico and has brief but stirring solos from tenor-saxophonist Jeff Driskill, trombonist Andy Martin (whose opening break takes honors), and Marienthal. Concluding the short set is the debut recording of Nestico’s final
composition, “Cell Talk” which is taken as an ensemble piece.
While The Rest clocks in at under 28 minutes, it makes for a lively way to spend a half-hour. It is available from www.bigphatband.com.
Bobby Bradford & Friends
The late Terry Cannon, the executive director of the Baseball Reliquary, wanted to make sure that Pasadena honored Jackie Robinson’s centennial in 2018. The city where the groundbreaking African-American baseball player grew up might have totally overlooked the anniversary if Cannon had not brought it to their attention.
One of his projects was hiring veteran cornetist Bobby Bradford to compose a suite in honor of Robinson, who loved jazz. Bradford gathered together some of L.A.’s best (Vinny Golia on alto, baritone and bass clarinet, tenor-saxophonist Chuck Manning, pianist Don Preston, William Roper on tuba, bassist Henry Franklin, and drummer Tina Raymond) to perform his diverse six-part work.
The music is very open to both bop-oriented swinging and freer explorations. “Lieutenant Jackie” is mostly a medium-tempo blues in the tradition of “Blues March.” It is fun to hear Golia in a fairly conventional setting. Roper calling out commands (giving listeners the picture of Jackie Robinson marching) is an inspired touch.
“Up From The Minors” has an explosive outburst, heated bass clarinet playing, and some fiery but coherent ensembles. “Stealing Home” is the happiest piece in the suite, a boppish tune with fine tenor, piano, alto (Golia sounding a bit like Eric Dolphy) and trumpet solos that are propelled by tuba, bass and drums. “Fatigue” has a crowded and free ensemble with a bit of narration by Roper. Despite its title, “0 For 3” is rambunctious party music with heated statements and some exuberant tuba playing. Stealin’ Home ends as it began, with a medium-tempo blues and some joyfully loose ensembles.
Each of the horns is heard in top form whether as soloists or in the ensembles (Bobby Bradford who was 86 or 87 at the time sounds strong) and the rhythm section certainly seems as if they were having an enjoyable time. I suspect that Jackie Robinson would have loved Stealin’ Home. It is available from www.amazon.com.
A Love Supreme Live In Seattle
A Love Supreme was considered by John Coltrane to be his gift to God. His original studio album from Dec. 9, 1964 is one of the most famous of all jazz recordings, a four-part suite with his classic quartet of pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones. Other than a few attempts at the first two sections which Coltrane re-recorded on Dec. 10 with the addition of Archie Shepp on second tenor and bassist Art Davis, it was believed that the only other version that exists of Coltrane
playing his masterwork was at his Antibes concert of July 26, 1965.
The discovery and release of this recent CD is a major surprise. Performed on Oct. 2, 1965 on the first night in which tenor-saxophonist Pharoah Sanders officially made the group a quintet, Coltrane also welcomed two guests in altoist Carlos Ward and bassist Donald Rafael Garrett.
There are a few reservations about this music. Recorded from the audience, the balance is not state-of-the-art. John Coltrane is a bit low in the mix with the drums and piano sometimes coming close to drowning him out. This version of the suite is twice as long as the original, the melodies and themes sometimes get tossed aside for long stretches, and Coltrane plays much less than one would hope.
The “Acknowledgment” section lasts nearly 22 minutes and takes some time to get going. The first two minutes seem like a warmup and Coltrane does not really enter until the 5 ½ minute mark. After Trane’s statement, Sanders really raises the heat and the music becomes a screamfest for a bit. Elvin Jones helps keep things coherent before Garrison is in the spotlight. After Coltrane briefly plays the suite’s strongest melody (“Resolution”), Carlos Ward takes a rambling improvisation followed by a violent section for Coltrane. Jones has a heated section and Sanders does more screaming before McCoy Tyner creates one of the strongest solos of the performance on “Pursuance.” After another bass interlude, Coltrane finally takes center stage on the final section, “Psalm,” bringing the piece to a conclusion.
While quite intriguing, A Love Supreme Live In Seattle (available from www.amazon.com) is mostly recommended to John Coltrane completists and his more ardent followers. The Antibes set is my favorite of Coltrane’s three versions.
Stan Getz/Astrud Gilberto
(The Lost Recordings)
The French label called The Lost Recordings (their releases are available from www.thelostrecordings.store) has saved for history an impressive series of concerts by mostly American artists in Europe.
The quartet that tenor-saxophonist Stan Getz had with vibraphonist Gary Burton during 1964-66 was almost a lost group. Burton joined Getz when he was just 21 and the tenor-saxophonist loved his playing and creativity. Despite that, they made relatively few recordings. While they recorded a full album (Nobody Else But Me) on May 4, 1964, that music was not released until the CD era. They shared the Getz Au Go Go record with Astrud Gilberto, made an obscure limited-edition album in 1965, were part of a collaboration with Arthur Fielder and the Boston Pops Orchestra, and were captured live at Paris on Nov 13, 1966; the latter music was also not released until recent times. One can see Getz and Burton together with Astrud Gilberto in the 1964 film Get Yourself A College Girl, performing “The Girl From Ipanema.”
The Verve label was not that interested in the Getz-Burton Quartet but they were enthusiastic about Getz’s great popularity due to his bossa-nova hits. The tenor, who always seemed a little embarrassed by it all, preferring to play modern straight ahead jazz, for a time shared some concerts with Astrud Gilberto. Their European tour of 1966
was probably the last time that Getz and Gilberto performed together.
The previously unreleased Berlin 1966 is a two-CD set of their performances from Nov. 4, 1966. The first disc which features Getz, Burton, bassist Chuck Israels (subbing for Steve Swallow), and drummer Roy Haynes, is the finest recording that has been released by this group. One can understand Getz’s enthusiasm for Burton’s accompaniment (taking the place of both a piano and a guitar), inventive ideas, and mastery of his instrument. Burton gave the tenor both a new sound for his group and a challenging young voice. The combination of the Getz’s beautiful tone and inspired solos with Burton’s virtuosity (while both were pushed by Haynes who at times recalls his playing with John Coltrane) results in classic music. Highlights include “On Green Dolphin Street,” a beautiful rendition of “The Shadow Of Your Smile,” “O Grande Amor,” and a swinging “Blues Walk.” Burton plays unaccompanied on “Edelweiss” (from the Sound Of Music), sounding like an orchestra by himself. A few years later he would record a truly memorable unaccompanied version of “No More Blues.” He hints at that version during the quartet’s fine medley of “Desafinado” and “No More Blues.”
The second disc features Astrud Gilberto with the group. She is in fine form on such numbers as “Corcovado,” “It Might Be Spring,” another rendition of “The Shadow Of Your Smile,” and of course “The Girl From Ipanema.” But the main reason to go out of your way to acquire this twofer is for the superb playing of the Stan Getz-Gary Burton Quartet.
Adrianne Duncan has had many accomplishments in her young life. Originally a classical pianist who turned towards jazz for its adventure and creative freedom, the singer-pianist-composer has toured Brazil with Lado B Brazilian Project, was the musical director of the musical Twins in Berlin, recorded with Bennie Maupin, worked as an actress, and has played piano on movie soundtracks among other projects.
On Gemini, Adrianne Duncan performs four of her originals and Sting’s “Roxanne” with vibraphonist Nick Mancini, Katisse Buckingham on flute and tenor, clarinetist John Tegmeyer, bassist Dan Lutz, and drummer Jimmy Branly. She sings on four of the numbers. Her originals discuss settling for one’s second choice (“He’s Not Quite You”), a love affair that was cut off prematurely (“Elijah”), and being stuck in a boring loveless relationship (“Home At Last”). Ms. Duncan has a strong voice leavened by subtlety, her renditions of these potentially downbeat topics are lively and hopeful, and her modern piano playing is quite effective.
One of the strengths of this set is how generous Adrianne Duncan is in featuring her sidemen. Tegmeyer and Buckingham have plenty of solo space and the interplay of clarinet and flute (on “Home At Last” and the instrumental “Gemini” which is in 13/8 time) along with Buckingham’s high-powered tenor on “Elijah” are memorable. Vibraphonist Mancini also has fine spots on “Gemini” and “Roxanne.”
All in all, Adrianne Duncan’s Gemini is an impressive effort and will hopefully result in many more jazz projects. It is available from www.adrianneduncan.com.
Broadbent Plays Brubeck
Dave Brubeck’s music played an important part in pianist Alan Broadbent’s musical life early on. At 14 in his native New Zealand, Broadbent discovered a book of transcriptions from the Brubeck Plays Brubeck album. He learned to play all of the songs before ever hearing a Dave Brubeck recording. While his style would be more influenced by Bill Evans and his own musical personality, Broadbent always retained his affection for Brubeck’s music.
In 2018 in Cologne, Germany, Alan Broadbent had an opportunity to record 11 of Brubeck’s compositions with bassist Harvie S, drummer Hans Dekker, and the London Metropolitan Strings. Long a talented writer, Broadbent’s arrangements of Brubeck’s music is filled with consistently beautiful tones and harmonies, whether the songs are taken as ballads or at a medium-tempo. He explores Brubeck’s most famous originals (“Blue Rondo A La Turk,” “The Duke,” “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “Summer Song”) and some lesser-known pieces (“One Moment Worth Tears,” “Weep No More,” and “Theme For June”). Broadbent (the main soloist except for some spots for the bassist) does not try to emulate Brubeck’s approach. There are no polyrhythms or polytonality, and the only piece that is partly in an unusual time signature is “Blue Rondo A La Turk.”
While interpreting the music in his own style, Alan Broadbent pays tribute to Dave Brubeck by bringing out the beauty in his beloved melodies. This enjoyable set is available from www.eden-river-records.com.
Sweet Megg and Ricky Alexander
I’m In Love Again
As mentioned last issue in my review of the Terry Waldo/Tatiana Eva-Marie I Double Dare You CD, the Turtle Bay label was formed in order to document some of the many young hot jazz musicians active in New York. Those players are leading a powerful if little-heralded revival of early jazz.
I’m In Love Again, which is co-led by singer Sweet Megg and Ricky Alexander (who plays clarinet, tenor and soprano), is a delight. The octet (which also includes trumpeter Mike Davis, trombonist Rob Edwards, pianist Dalton Ridenhour, Jerron Paxton on banjo and guitar, bassist Rob Adkins, and drummer Kevin Dorn) performs a variety of spirited numbers from the 1920s and ‘30s. Sometimes they sound like a rollicking version of Eddie Condon’s bands.
Sweet Megg is a fine singer who fits easily into the style without too closely copying any of her predecessors. Her singing crosses over between swing, 1920s music, Dixieland, Western Swing and the blues. There is also plenty of solo space for the instrumentalists with the hot ensemble that launches the opening “My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms” serving as a very good beginning. “Foolin’ Myself” was made famous by Billie
Holiday so this version rightfully has Alexander playing some Lester Young-inspired tenor but he also contributes some heated Sidney Bechet-influenced soprano to “Right Or Wrong” (a 1930s Western Swing standard), and his clarinet playing on “Angry” is worthy of Joe Marsala or Peanuts Hucko. As on I Double Dare You, Mike Davis contributes many hot moments (although without any Bix tributes this time). The playing by all of the other musicians (with many excellent piano and trombone solos sprinkled throughout) is a joy.
Whether it is “Squeeze Me” (which has Jeremy Paxton humorously answering Sweet Megg’s vocal), a warm rendition of “I Got It Bad,” or the rapid I’d Love To Take Orders From You,” I’m In Love Again shows just how vital and exciting the current New York trad jazz scene has become. It is easily recommended and available from www.turtlebayrecords.com.
Jeremy Monteiro & Alberto Marsico
Jeremy Monteiro has long been one of Singapore’s top jazz pianists and a major musical force in his region. His mastery of straight ahead jazz has always been impressive.
Jazz-Blues Brothers is a reissue of a set from around 2014-15. The pianist is teamed with organist Alberto Marsico, tenor-saxophonist Shawn Letts, guitarist Eugene Pao, and drummer Shawn Kelly for music that could be described as soulful hard bop. The blend of piano and organ works quite well, particularly on the more bluesy material.
Jazz-Blues Brothers starts with a medium-tempo blues, “Opening Act,” that serves as an introduction of the band. Monteiro contributed two songs including the soulful “Olympia” while Marsico brought in five. Miz Dee Logwood takes spirited vocals on the rollicking “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water” and the Etta James-associated “I’d Rather Go Blind.” One could certainly imagine Les McCann playing the infectious “Mount Olive” which is one of several pieces that have hot guitar and tenor solos. The gospellish “Lou,” “Jackpot (which grooves a la Charles Earland in the early 1970s), and the closing blues “Wishy Washy” all have memorable moments. And, as if to show that this group does not have to stick to soul jazz, the rapid romp “Catastrophy” gives them a chance to show off their bebop chops and ability to think fast on their feet.
Jazz-Blues Brothers is an enjoyable and accessible set that is available from www.amazon.com.
Larry McDonough Quartet
Kind Of Bill On The Palace Grounds
Pianist Larry McDonough has loved Bill Evans’ music ever since he was a youth in the late 1960s. Each of his recordings has included at least one tribute to his musical role model. When the 40th anniversary of Evans’ death was approaching in 2020,
McDonough recorded Kind Of Bill, a full-length tribute album comprised of songs that the pianist used to perform.
With soprano and tenor-saxophonist Richard Terrill, bassist Greg Stinson, and drummer Dean White, McDonough plays creatively within the tradition of Bill Evans but without directly copying his musical hero. Terrill, who has a particularly attractive sound on soprano, also contributed two poems, “Improvisations” and “Bill Evans,” that discuss aspects of the pianist’s life. Each of the members of the quartet is a world class musician although, since they are based in Minnesota, they are not as well- known nationally as they deserve.
The music on Kind Of Bill is programmed loosely in chronological order (after the opening “Waltz For Debby” which is quite cheerful), following his career from “Blue In Green” and “My Foolish Heart” to “We Will Meet Again” and “I Will Say Goodbye.” It concludes on a happy note with a swinging “Milestones,” as if Evans near the end of his life was recalling an earlier memory.
Fans of Bill Evans are well advised to pick up Kind Of Bill which is available from www.amazon.com.
The Dave Stephens Swing Orchestra
Singer Dave Stephens has been leading swing-oriented bands for the past couple of decades and has recorded at least five CDs. While it was made in 1998, Swing Out is still available and serves as an excellent example of Stephens’ spirited music.
While it is called a “Swing Orchestra,” the band on this project is actually an octet comprised of pianist Russ Long, Steve Patke on reeds, trombonist Marvin Hart, trumpeter Jay Sollenberger, guitarist Rod Fleeman, one of two bassists, drummer Jurgen Weige, and “Washboard” Chaz on washboard in addition to the singer-leader.
The music is consistently fun and ranges from the opening “It Don’t Mean A Thing” and Slim Gaillard’s “8, 9 and 10” to “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby” and “Sway.” In addition to his warm and likable voice, Stephens contributed three originals (two co-written with Russ Long) in the swing tradition: “Renessa,” “Unavoidably Blue” and “Better Than This.” The solos by trombonist Marvin Hart and Steve Patke on clarinet, tenor, soprano and flute are major assets. The highpoint of Swing Out is an exuberant version of “I Wanna Be Like You” which is complete with jungle sounds, Patke’s flute, and Dixieland-flavored ensembles.
Swing fans will want Swing Out, an enjoyable outing that is available from www.amazon.com.
A very good jazz singer with an appealing voice, swinging phrasing, impeccable
musicianship, and the ability to perfectly place her notes, Alexis Cole has had an unusual life. She was born in New York, grew up in Florida, spent time living and singing in India, Ecuador, and Japan, and spent 2009-15 in the Army where she sang with the West Point Band’s Jazz Knights.
Sky Blossom is a salute to her Army period. Not only had she recorded most of these pieces with the Jazz Knights, but she used the same arranger, Scott Arcangel. With a big band led by trumpeter Jeff Jarvis, Alexis Cole is heard throughout in top form. Among the many highlights are the opener “Joy Spring” (which has some particularly creative scat-singing), “Pure Imagination,” “Triste,” “How I Wish” (a vocal version of Thelonious Monk’s “Ask Me Now”), and “Social Call.”
There are also many great solo moments from the sidemen including trumpeter John Castleman on “Joy Spring,” Bob Sheppard on soprano during “Pure Imagination,” a hot alto solo (probably by Derrick James) on “All Blues” and Jarvis during “Trieste.” It is to Alexis Cole’s credit that not only is she not overshadowed by the top-notch musicians but she sounds quite inspired by their presence.
Scott Arcangel’s arrangements swing and bring out the best in the singer. Sky Blossom, which is one of Alexis Cole’s strongest albums, is easily recommended and available from www.zohomusic.com.
The Hand That Draws Another Hand
Guitarist Rafael Rosa was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, taught himself the guitar when he was 14, and recorded with top local musicians before moving to New York in 2011. He has since performed at the major venues around town, working and recording with his own band, Ben Rosenblum’s Nebula Project, and singer Luba Mason (recording Mixtura with the latter). In addition, he teaches in his studio and released his debut album Portrait which received strong reviews.
The Hand That Draws Another Hand is a short but effective film that alternates between color scenes of a New York City protest against racism, and black-and-white footage of Rosa and his group (with saxophonist Alejandro Aviles, keyboardist Leo Genovese, electric bassist Francesco Marcocci, and drummer Joel Matero) performing the title song in the studio on Oct. 16, 2020.
The music serves as an effective soundtrack for the footage of the protest while also standing up well by itself, independent of the film. Building from a quiet start, the bluesy post bop jazz original features Rosa’s wailing guitar and some passionate but subtle ensembles along with an attractive groove.
The film concludes by saying: For the politicians: Do your job/serve the people/equal justice/end all wars/more humanity/more peace/more love/more empathy/more art/more music/more education. It is a plea for sanity that leaves one feeling a little optimistic despite the recent world events.
The Hand That Draws Another Hand is well worth seeing.
Guai is a talented jazz-inspired singer originally from Brazil who is now based in Lisbon, Portuga. In 2016 she released her debut album Dama De Paus. The idea behind her new CD, Capifania, is that everyone is the captain of their own ship and that life is a journey through a variety of adventures.
Since her singing is in Portuguese, the messages in her brief spoken introductions are lost in translation, but the musical quality of her singing shines through. Guai utilizes a core sextet that often includes Marco Britto or Luiz Otavio on keyboards, saxophonist Marcelo Martins, drummer Erivelton Silva, percussionists Marco Suzano and a few different guitarists and bassists. The 11 songs (there is a hidden bonus cut) are mostly lesser-known in the U.S. but contain many nice melodies, particularly “Sabor De Cor,” “Ca Com Deus,” and Ivan Lins’ “Depois Dos Temporais”; the composer makes a guest appearance on the latter.
Guai’s voice is attractive and fetching, and she does justice to the rich melodies. Capifania (available from www.amazon.com) will be enjoyed by those who love Brazilian music.
Bob Sabellico is a passionate and versatile guitarist with an original style that crosses between jazz, rock, and fusion. He gained recognition early in his career when, as an 18-year old in Philadelphia, he replaced guitarist Randy Bachman in the Guess Who at the height of their fame. Since that era, he has performed a wide variety of music in many different settings, helped pioneer the use of electronics and synthesizers in the 1980s, composed music for television and film, and worked with everyone from Chet Atkins and Bela Fleck to Jaco Pastorius, George Benson, Victor Wooten, and Everett Harp. The guitarist recorded two CDs as a leader (Groove Station and Child’s Play) before the recent Influence.
On Influence, Sabellico plays nearly all of the instruments (guitar, bass, and synth). Drummers Dennis Chambers, Will Kennedy, Todd Sucherman, Terry Silverlight, Raymond Massey, Nicole Marcus, Ray Gonzales, and Noah Sabellico were enlisted to add their spin to the arrangements. Keyboardist Michael Whittaker makes strong appearances on “Funky BS” and “Diversions” while saxophonist Jeff Scot Wills adds his tenor to the title track, “Influence.”
While much of the music is hard-driving with Sabellico’s distinctive guitar in the lead, there is an impressive amount of variety. “Funky BS” begins the set with some wild guitar over a funky background by Dennis Chambers. The style and mood quickly change on “Another Day At The Office,” some swinging jazz with a country twang. Then it shifts again with a complex fusion piece, “Disfunktion,” that will keep listeners guessing.
Each of the guitarist’s 13 originals has its own personality. “PFIC” is a bluesy and
slightly menacing strut. “Diversions” is an epic rock piece that features some spirited interplay between Bob and Todd Sucherman. “Just For A Moment” lightens the mood a bit with a relaxed original that one could imagine George Benson playing. “In Your Face” has an intense groove a little reminiscent of Weather Report while “Influence” is a bit more introspective but still full of energy.
No matter what the mood or groove, Sabellico’s guitar playing is consistently creative and full of passion. “Morningtide” gives one the impression of taking a happy journey, “Doo-Ett” is quite adventurous and full of dazzling playing from the leader. “Spearmint Or Fruit” is more melodic and restrained but still has the guitarist rocking out over the bass line. His playing is thoughtful on the atmospheric “Inversions” before he closes the memorable program with some soaring guitar on the haunting “Forgotten Times.”
Influence, which is available from www.bobsabellicomusic.com, is quite a tour-de-force and highly recommended to anyone who enjoys hearing a rock-inspired guitarist playing at his most passionate and inventive.