Jakob Bro/Joe Lovano
Once Around The Room
Paul Motian (1931-2011) gained his initial fame as drummer with the Bill Evans during 1959-64 including the period when the bassist was Scott LaFaro. He also worked extensively with Paul Bley and Keith Jarrett for a time but his main importance was as a bandleader starting in 1972. Among his best known groups were his trio with tenor-saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Bill Frisell (which had no piano or bass) and the Electric Bebop Band (a sextet with two tenors, two guitars and bass). During his last three decades, Motian often implied time rather than stating it, floating rather swinging and acting as a subtle percussionist.
Ten years to the day after Motian’s death, Danish guitarist Jakob Bro and Joe Lovano co-led Once Around The Time, a tribute to the late drummer. They both contributed two compositions. Lovano’s one-chord “As It Should Be” is particularly dramatic while Bro’s two originals (“Song To An Old Friend” and “Pause”) are melodic and wistful. In addition, the group plays a purposeful free improvisation (“Sound Creation”) and a passionate version of Motian’s “Drum Music.”
Most unusual about this project is that the co-leaders are joined by three bassists (Larry Grenadier, Thomas Morgan, and Anders Christensen with the latter on bass guitar) and two drummers (Joey Baron and Jorge Rossy). Despite the enlarged rhythm section, the ensembles are never overcrowded and make exquisite use of space.
Joe La Barbera Quintet
Drummer Joe La Barbera, who has long been everyone’s favorite sideman due to his taste, solid swing, and supportive creativity, only leads record dates on an occasional basis but each one is special. That is certainly true of World Travelers which was recorded live at Sam First for the club’s label (available at www.samfirstrecords.com).
For these performances from Mar. 4-5, 2022, La Barbera heads an all-star quintet that also features tenor-saxophonist Bob Sheppard, trumpeter Clay Jenkins, pianist Bill Cunliffe, and bassist Jonathan Richards. The music is mostly forward-looking hard bop although Joe Lovano’s “Landmarks Along The Way” can be considered free bop with its tricky melody, adventurous solos, and a statement by Jenkins that recalls the brittle tone of Don Cherry. Other highlights include Cunliffe’s swinging “Blue Notes,” a La Barbera original (“Lake Erie”) that utilizes a drum pattern a bit reminiscent of Chico Hamilton on “Desert Sands,” a rare revival of Duke Pearson’s “You Know I Care” that is taken as a medium-tempo ballad, the straight ahead cooker “It’s A Big Wide Wonderful World” (which could have been twice as long), a feature for Jenkins on “Soultrane,” and the rousing closer, John Coltrane’s “Grand Central.”
Sheppard (in top form) and Jenkins prove to be a formidable frontline, the rhythm section is tight, and La Barbera, while having occasional solos, is a very supportive host for his sidemen. World Travelers gives one an opportunity to hear some of Los Angeles’ top jazz artists at the top of their game.
Libby York is a soft-toned swinging jazz singer based in Chicago. She has a quietly seductive voice, very attractive phrasing, and seems to always pick the perfect moment to sing notes that one wants to hear. On her fifth release as a leader, DreamLand (available from www.originarts.com), the vocalist is heard on a set of intimate trios with guitarist Randy Napoleon and bassist Rodney Whitaker; the subtle drummer Keith Hall also joins in on four of the dozen selections. While the music is taken at a low volume, it is not top heavy with ballads and includes some real swingers that sound relaxed even at the faster tempos.
Libby York sometimes hints briefly at others (Peggy Lee on “Hit The Road To Dreamland” and Susannah McCorkle on “Still On The Road”) but mostly sounds like herself. She picks superior songs (among them “Mountain Greenery,” Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away,” “Rhode Island Is Famous For You,” and Artie Shaw’s “Moon Ray”), displays a real understanding of the lyrics she interprets, leaves space for occasional guitar and bass solos, and creates consistently warm and soothing music.
DreamLand is one of Libby York’s finest hours on record.
Usually when a group of young up-and-coming jazz artists are gathered together to record and tour, decades later there are one or two who either became obscure or had all-too-brief lives. Fortunately that was not the case with the quartet of tenor-saxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Brian Blade. They recorded Mood Swing in 1994 and went on tour before going their separate ways. The musicians had a reunion at the 2007 San Francisco Jazz Festival and in 2019 recorded RoundAgain for the Nonesuch label.
The new CD is taken from the same sessions as RoundAgain except for the closing number, “Rejoice,” which is from their reunion concert in 2007. 25 years might have passed since Mood Swing but the quartet still displays its own group sound. All four musicians had grown since their earlier date and have a long list of accomplishments, being among the leaders of jazz during the past three decades.
LongGone consists of six Joshua Redman compositions. Most memorable among the melodies are “Long Gone,” the catchy “Disco Ears” (which fortunately sounds nothing like disco), and “Rejoice” (which has strong interplay between the saxophonist and McBride before an excellent piano solo). Redman, who is on tenor except for playing soprano on “Disco Ears,” is the main soloist although Mehldau as expected always makes a strong impression (particularly on “Statuesque”) and McBride is particularly inventive during his short spot on “Ship To Shore.” The music is modern mainstream jazz, a bit reminiscent of the Keith Jarrett Quartet of the 1970s (which had Joshua’s father Dewey Redman on tenor) in the way that it stretches the idiom a bit.
Hopefully this quartet (which appeared successfully at the 2022 Monterey Jazz Festival) will have future reunions and not wait another 25 years before their next recording. LongGone is available from www.nonesuch.com.
Dameronia’s Legacy All-Stars
Live At Audi Forum Ingolstadt
Tadd Dameron (1917-65) was one of the top composers and arrangers to emerge during the classic bebop era. Early on he wrote for the big bands of Harlan Leonard, Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, and Artie Shaw, and during the bop era for Dizzy Gillespie. Among his best known originals are “Hot House,” “If You Could See Me Now,” “Good Bait,” and “Our Delight.” In the 1980s the group Dameronia, a nonet co-led by trumpeter-arranger Don Sickler and drummer Philly Joe Jones, recorded three albums and went on tours.
In 2021, Austrian drummer Bernd Reiter brought back Dameronia, organizing an octet (with one less trumpet than the previous group) as Dameronia’s Legacy All-Stars. The newer band consists of six Europeans (tenor-saxophonist Jon Boutellier, baritonist Rik Van Der Bergh, trombonist Johannes Herrlich, pianist Andrea Pozza, bassist Aldo Zunino, and Reiter on drums) and two Americans (trumpeter Jim Rotundi and altoist Dick Oatts).
On their live CD, they perform nine pieces, most of which utilize adaptations of Dameron’s original arrangements for the big bands of Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie. In addition to seven Dameron compositions, they perform “My Foolish Heart” (which has plenty of interplay between the two Americans) and Charles Mingus’ “Portrait” which is taken as a relatively brief closing ballad. While one gets to hear Dameron’s famous ballad “If You Could See Me Now” (a feature for baritonist Van Der Bergh) and “On A Misty Night,” such lesser known pieces as “Choose Now,” “Flossie Lou,” and “Look, Stop And Listen” also receive welcome revivals. The latter and an extensive treatment of “Philly J.J.” feature fine drum solos by Reiter.
All of the musicians in the octet are world class and they each receive solo space along the way, sounding inspired and giving fresh life to Dameron’s classic pieces. Live At Audi Forum Ingolstadt (available from www.weareubuntumusic.com) is heartily recommended.
The Almost Forgotten New Orleans Hot Trombonist
Roy Palmer (1892-1963) was one of the most colorful and hottest trombonists of the 1920s and ‘30s but he is barely remembered today. His percussive style and enthusiastic playing (which primitive in sound yet rhythmically sophisticated) are always a joy to hear. Palmer is on a couple of early and little-known Jelly Roll Morton sessions from 1923-24, is in excellent form in 1927 with Johnny Dodds’ Black Bottom Stompers (which includes Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines), and can be heard on dates in 1929 with Richard M. Jones and Ida Cox, but otherwise did not record until 1931. This CD from Upbeat (available from www.upbeatmailorder.co.uk) has all of Palmer’s 1930s recordings with the exception of “Beedle-um-bum” (3/2/32), “Wild Man Stomp” (3/30/32), two titles in which the Memphis Night Hawks accompanied singer Chick
Bullock (4/1/32), the alternate take of “It’s Too Bad” (3/11/36), and one number on which Palmer accompanied Amos Eaton (3/11/36).
This CD begins with the nine selections recorded by the State Street Ramblers (Mar. 13, 1931) and ten numbers by the similar group the Memphis Night Hawks rom Mar. 29 and 31, 1932. Palmer is teamed with Darnell Howard (clarinet, alto and possibly violin), the versatile Alfred Bell who plays kazoo, washboard, and cornet (the latter with the Memphis Night Hawks), either Jimmy Blythe or Frank Melrose on piano, banjoist Bob Hudson, and (on the Night Hawks recordings) Jimmy Bertrand on drums and washboard. The good-time music has some wild ensembles, hot if mostly basic solos, and is completely out of place during the somber early Depression years of 1931-32! Such numbers as “Barrel House Stomp,” “Tiger Moan,” “Sick ‘Em Tige,” “Stomp That Thing,” and “Endurance Stomp” have an irresistible spirit and Palmer is a major force throughout.
Roy Palmer is actually heard at his very best on a duet with Bob Hudson (on piano) during the sweet and unique number “The Trombone Slide.” “Sweet Feet” from Apr. 1, 1932 has Palmer, Howard, Bertrand and either Hudson or W.E. Burton on piano. The CD concludes with the four numbers cut by the Chicago Rhythm Kings during Mar.-Apr. 1936. The sextet (with clarinetist Arnett Nelson, an unidentified trumpeter, and a rhythm section) is a bit more swing-oriented but has the trombonist playing in a similar style as earlier.
Despite his obvious musical talents, Roy Palmer did not record again and spent much of his remaining 27 years outside of jazz although he did work for a time as a music teacher. It is a shame that he was not part of the New Orleans jazz revival of the 1940s and ‘50s for one could easily imagine him fitting into that era. But at least most of his 1930s work (25 selections in all) can be enjoyed on this rewarding CD from Upbeat which as a bonus has definitive liner notes from John Petters.
On A Clear Day
Throughout his remarkable career, Oscar Peterson led over 200 albums in addition to appearing on many as a guest or a sideman. The brilliant pianist, who always ranked at the top of his field, had a longtime association with producer Norman Granz who was his manager, constantly recorded Peterson in the 1950s for his Clef, Norgran and Verve labels, and made him the star of his Pablo record company during 1972-86. On A Clear Day (available from www.mackavenue.com) is a previously unreleased concert recording from 1971, just before Pablo got officially underway. Peterson, who had been recording for MPS, is featured in Zurich, Switzerland leading his trio with bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and drummer Louis Hayes. That particular group did not last long since Hayes, who had been Peterson’s drummer since 1965, was soon to depart while Pedersen was very early in his association with the pianist. That trio only recorded one studio album. Great Connection (MPS) was cut a month before the Zurich concert.
Peterson is in typically stunning form, particularly on the uptempo pieces. His playing during the final 2/3rds of “Mack The Knife” is rather stunning as are his double-time runs on the jazz waltz “Where Do I Got From Here.” The virtuosic Pedersen shows that he could keep up with him, actually pushing the pianist at times and taking miraculous solos of his own. Among the highlights of this well-recorded performance are a jubilant “On A Clear Day,” “On The Trail,” and a tasteful medley of “Young And Foolish” and “A Time For Love.”
Even with scores of worthy Oscar Peterson albums, it is gratifying to have a new one come out 15 years after his passing. His fans have a reason to rejoice.
Esbjorn Svensson (1964-2008) was a brilliant Swedish jazz pianist who is best remembered for founding the trio E.S.T. In some ways, that group could be considered the European Bad Plus in that they helped to redefine how the piano trio sounded in jazz. Tragically at the height of his fame in Europe, Svensson died in a scuba diving accident at the age of 44.
Six months before his death, Svensson recorded a set of solo piano improvisations, the only one of his life. It went unheard for over a decade (sitting in a family closet), was discovered, and the ACT label (www.actmusic.com) put out Solo last year.
The music is primarily comprised of thoughtful improvisations. A little reminiscent of Keith Jarrett but with more of a classical influence, some of the pieces utilize counterpoint that will make one think of Bach, particularly “Delta.” Particularly memorable are the bluesy “Gamma” (which has a hint of stride piano), the extroverted and soulful “Eta,” and the waltz pattern of “Zeta.” “Epsilon” is arguably the strongest piece, beginning with some improvised classical music before it builds to a passionate level over a subtle rhythm while keeping close to a melodic idea throughout.
The well-recorded performances of Solo, which are different in style than the recordings of E.S.T., add to the musical legacy of Esbjorn Svensson.
Matchbox Bluesmaster Series Set 10
Home Town Skiffle
One of the most elaborate reissue programs currently underway is the Matchbox Bluesmaster Series being released by Saydisc (www.saydisc.com). The first seven volumes are six-CD sets that bring back all of the music put out in the 1980s on Matchbox Lps, covering a great deal of blues and hokum from the 1920s and ‘30s along with some early gospel. The next five volumes, which are also six-CD sets, will have all of the music from Matchbox Lps that were put out in the 1970s. Those include not only vintage blues but releases featuring American blues artists recorded during 1966-72 and from Great Britain in the ‘60s.
The 10th volume is a particularly strong entry. The first CD has 14 selections dating from 1937-40 that feature singer-guitarist Blind Boy Fuller. A powerful folk singer who was very honest and frank in his lyrics, Fuller was quite influential during his lifetime. The second CD, in addition to two additional titles from Fuller, mostly focuses on other performers who were inspired by his recordings including Buddy Moss, Blind Gary Davis, Bull City Red, Dan Pickett, Curly Weaver, and Brownie McGhee (who was billed for a time as Blind Boy Fuller No. 2).
The third CD has seven songs from sessions led by the first Sonny Boy Williamson (an excellent singer and harmonica player) and seven on which Williamson is a sideman, accompanying Elijah Jones, Yank Rachel, and Big Joe Williams. CD #4 features a variety of blues-oriented females including Sara Martin, Bernice Edwards, Madlyn Davis, Lulu Jackson, Mae Glover, Gladys Bentley, Lucille Bogan, Annie Turner, and the most rewarding of all,
Memphis Minnie. The final two CDs are titled Early Folk Blues and have performances from Stovepipe No. 1, Charlie Jackson, Gus Cannon, Joe Linthecome Joe, Winston Holmes & Charlie Turner, Walter Jacobs & the Carter Brothers, Billy James, the Beale Street Sheiks, the Excelsior Quartette (performing “Jelly Roll Blues” in 1922), the Mississippi Sheiks, Napoleon Fletcher, the Hokum Boys, Old Ced Odom, the Paramount All-Stars, Winston Holmes, Bumble Bee Slim, Tampa Red, Yank Rachel, and the Delta Boys.
While the sessions on this box are generally not complete, this massive volume serves perfectly as both an introduction to blues-oriented music that often crosses over into folk and hokum, and as a joyful acquisition for veteran blues collectors. It is highly recommended to both.
Back At The Bop Stop
Maria Jacobs was a familiar figure on the jazz scene in Los Angeles during the 12 years that she lived here. She was born in Cleveland, first sang in church, and as a teenager became interested not only in jazz but in singer/songwriters from folk, pop and r&b. She mostly explored jazz while in Los Angeles in addition to becoming a national voiceover artist. Jacobs has since moved back to Ohio where she is the Adjunct Professor of Applied Vocal Jazz at Kent State University. Back At The Bop Stop is her ninth recording as a leader and finds her sticking to straight ahead jazz.
Ms. Jacobs has a powerful and passionate voice and puts a lot of feeling into her interpretations of standards. She is joined on her recent CD on all but the final two selections by pianist Rock Wehrmann (an excellent soloist), bassist Bryan Thomas, and drummer Jamey Haddad. Each performance is rewarding in its own way. Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring” (which has lyrics by Abbey Lincoln) has the singer also contributing a flute solo. Her explosive scat-singing on “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” and the hard-swinging “’Deed I Do” contrast with her longing on her original “Infatuation” and the tender version of “If You Could See Me Now.” Other highlights include her new version of her earlier original “Pour Me A Cup Of Yesterday,” a surprisingly slow and fresh version of “Moody’s Mood For Love,” and the singer scatting the original Cannonball Adderley solo during “Never Will I Marry.” The closing studio cuts are a duet (featuring Jacobs on piano and altoist Bobby Selvaggio) on a floating and atmospheric version of “Blue Moon,” and her overdubbed voices with a three-horn sextet on “Pale Moon, Blue Sky” which evolves from a ballad to a joyful romp.
Maria Jacobs has grown a great deal as a singer since her Los Angeles period, and Back At The Bop Stop (available from www.mariajacobs.com) is arguably her most rewarding recording so far.
Trombonist Steve Turre has yet to record an unworthy album. He has long had his own sound within straight ahead jazz while hinting at and often paying homage to his predecessors. Generations finds Turre featuring guest appearances by a few of his contemporaries and elders
(tenor-saxophonist James Carter, guitarist Ed Cherry, bassists Buster Williams and Corcoran Holt, drummer Lenny White, and percussionist Pedrito Martinez) with his core group of relative youngsters: trumpeter Wallace Roney Jr. (the son of Wallace Roney and Geri Allen).tenor and soprano-saxophonist Emilio Modesto, pianist Isaiah J. Thompson, and Turre’s son drummer Orion Turre. Roney displays his own modern mainstream style (not emulating his late father), Thompson takes one impressive solo after another, Modesto has his own sound on his two horns, and the younger Turre keeps the music swinging and colorful.
No matter who is performing or their age group, the musicianship on Generations is consistently high. Under Turre’s direction and creative solos, each of the ten selections (all but a modernized “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” are originals by the trombonist) are well worth hearing. To name a few bright moments, “Dinner With Duke” sounds like it could have been an Ellington piece from the 1930s, “Blue Smoke” gives the band a chance to play the blues, the moody modal ballad “Flower Power” has Turre’s only solo of the set on shells, “Sweet Dreams” finds Carter briefly blowing the roof off of the studio, and “Resistance” has a catchy if tricky melody that precedes some hard-swinging solos. There is also a departure into reggae on “Don D.” which utilizes a completely different rhythm section and displays the connection of reggae to jazz,
All of Steve Turre’s recordings as a leader are recommended and Generations is on the same high level as its predecessors. It is available from www.smokesessionsrecords.com.