Rémi Bolduc
Les Esprits Oubliés

Veteran alto-saxophonist Rémi Bolduc is based in Montreal where he is the head of the jazz department at McGill University. A virtuoso with an individual sound of his own and an adventurous style that is full of passion while sometimes hinting at Eric Dolphy (although without the wide interval jumps), Bolduc made his first recordings in 1989. He has led at least 11 albums since 1994 (ten since 2000) including a duet recording with pianist Kenny Werner and tributes to Charlie Parker and Dave Brubeck.

Les Esprits Oubliés teams Bolduc with tenor great Jerry Bergonzi (they made an earlier album together back in 2007) and a versatile rhythm section comprised of pianist Marie-Fatima Rudolf, bassist Ira Coleman, and drummer Jim Doxas. The ten Bolduc originals begin with two pieces where an infectious but not predictable rhythmic groove accompanies the heated Bolduc and Bergonzi solos. After that the music mostly becomes straight ahead post-bop including the relaxed title cut (a ballad that inspires lyrical improvisations), “Liberte De Mouvement” (partly based on a minor blues), and a very exciting and uptempo “Not So Long Ago.” The CD gets more intense and explosive as it evolves, with “Tectonic Plates” and “In Love Like Someone” containing plenty of fireworks, particularly during the leader’s solos. While Bolduc is the main soloist, Bergonzi gets his spots, pianist Rudolf is quite impressive, and the team of Coleman and Doxas consistently are strong assets in making the music quite stirring.

Les Esprits Oubliés is easily recommended to listeners who enjoy high-powered modern jazz. It is available from www.remibolduc.com.

Jason Miles Kind Of New
Miles To Miles

  Keyboardist and programmer Jason Miles was a close friend of Miles Davis and worked with him on Tutu, Amandla, and Siesta. The 29-minute EP Miles To Miles is his fourth recording (following Kind Of New, Kind Of New 2 – Blue In Paris, and Kind Of New – Black Magic) with his Kind Of New group.

This band plays in a style purposely reminiscent of Davis’ groups of the 1970s (and to a lesser extent) and ‘80s with infectiously crowded ensembles, electronics, and funky grooves. Four of the selections are from recent times and features Jason Miles’ keyboards heading a sextet with trumpeter Barry Donelian, Aaron Heick on alto and soprano, guitarist Sherrod Barnes, bassist James Genus and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana. Other than an updated “Flamenco Sketches” (which was on the original Kind Of Blue but sounded little like this), the pieces are originals that Miles co-wrote with either Gerald Albright, Randy Brecker or Tom Harrell. Also included is an earlier selection (“Voices On The Corner’) with a slightly different but complementary group that teams the keyboardist with guitarist Barnes, bassist Genus, saxophonist Dino Gavoni, drummer Josh Dion and percussionist Cyro Baptista.

The ensembles are full of spirit, color, and inventive funk polyrhythms. Fans of Miles Davis of the 1970s and ‘80s will certainly enjoy these sounds. In fact, one can imagine Davis himself smiling at the music and wanting to sit in. Miles To Miles is available from www.ropeadope.com.

Joe Farnsworth
In What Direction Are You Headed?
(Smoke Sessions)

Joe Farnsworth is a top straight ahead jazz drummer who along the way has worked with such notables as Jon Hendricks, George Coleman, Annie Ross, Benny Green, Diana Krall, Benny Golson, and Eric Alexander among others. In What Direction Are You Headed is his third recording as a leader for the Smoke Sessions label, following Time To Swing (which included Wynton Marsalis) and City Of Sounds (a trio date with pianist Kenny Barron).

This CD is a bit of a change of direction from Farnsworth’s first two Smoke Sessions CDs for it features adventurous playing from two of today’s greats (altoist Immanuel Wilkins and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel) in a quintet with the young pianist and electric keyboardist Julius Rodriguez (who is already an impressive player) and veteran bassist Robert Hurst. The first few selections contain most of the excitement. After the thoughtful “Terra Nova,” Rosenwinkel’s “Filters” is an uptempo piece that includes rapid and intense tradeoffs between the guitarist and Wilkins along with heated keyboard and drum solos. The late Harold Mabern’s “In What Direction Are You Headed” is lightly funky and features hot solos while remaining somewhat accessible. Another highpoint is the explosive “Anyone But You” which includes passionate statements from Rosenwinkel and Wilkins, a raging rhythm section, and a heated trade with Farnsworth.

Most of the other performances, including Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” are more relaxed and laidback with “Composition 4” and “Safe Corners” having their pretty moments. But it is for the uptempo pieces that In What Direction Are You Headed (available from www.smokesessionsrecords.com) is most highly recommended.

Benny Benack III.
Third Time’s The Charm
(Bandstand Presents)

Merch — Bandstand Presents

Trumpeter and singer Benny Benack III. is a joyful entertainer with a full knowledge of jazz history. While it is easy to think of him as a swing performer whose inspirations include Louis Armstrong, Benack is also quite credible and creative when performing more modern material. Third Time’s The Charm is his third album as a leader, following One Of A Kind and A Lot Of Living To Do (if one does not count his Christmas album Season’s Swingin’ Greetings).

Starting with his spectacular beginning on trumpet on the opening “Third Time’s The Charm,” the music on this program holds one’s interest throughout. It progresses from the title cut to Burt Bacharach’s “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again,” a boogaloo-type blues (“Scottin’”), a hard bop-type song (“Catching Drift”) that the Jazz Messengers might have played, the ballad “Thank You For the Heartbreak” and the rarely revived “Gary, Indiana” from the Music Man. On the latter, Benack performs a duet with pianist Emmet Cohen, concluding with a quote from the end of the Louis Armstrong-Earl Hines 1928 duet “Weatherbird.”

“In A Mellow Tone” co-stars trumpeter-singer Bria Skonberg. She and Benack trade off both vocally and instrumentally, accompany each other’s singing on trumpet (have two performers ever done that before?), and create a classic version. Be sure to check out their filmed performance on You Tube. Seeing them (as opposed to just hearing them) increases the excitement and points out the uniqueness of this performance.

The other selections are a jazzy version of the pop song “It’s Not Unusual,” a moody and atmospheric “Twilight Blue,” the happy swinger “Roylike,” a soulful and bluesy “American Woman,” the vocal ballad “Giselle,” and a spirited “Pretty Eyed Baby.” Throughout this enjoyable set, Benack is joined by either Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, Michael Stephenson or Ruben Fox on tenor, pianist Cohen, guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Russell Hall, and drummer Kyle Poole, all of whom excel in this setting.

On Third Time Is The Charm and during his live performances, Benny Benack III. consistently succeeds at his stated goal of “spreading joy through music.” This recommended set is available from www.bennybenackjazz.com and www.amazon.com.

Angie Wells
Truth Be Told
(Café Pacific)

One of the top female jazz singers based in Southern California although one not seen often enough in local clubs, Angie Wells is heard in excellent form throughout her latest recording, Truth Be Told (produced by John Clayton). Utilizing a core trio of pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Trevor Ware, and drummer Clayton Cameron with guests on various tracks, she performs four originals plus other songs that mean a great deal to her and her life.

The program begins with a rollicking blues, “There’s Always Time For Lovin’,” that Angie Wells co-wrote with Clayton. Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You” finds her giving the saucy standard her own personal take. “Where The Livin’ Is Good” is an ironic piece about someone being homeless while living close to million dollar mansions; Kye Palmer’s flugelhorn playing on this selection is a strong asset. “Truth Be Told” has Ms. Wells singing as part of an a capella vocal group with Lynne Fiddmont and Valerie Geason.

Johnny Mercer’s “Accentuate The Positive” features the singer bending virtually every note; she should probably have sung the melody straight somewhere along the way. Much more effective is her soulful singing on the r&bish medium-tempo ballad “Nick Of Time.” After a slow and expressive “Here’s To Life,” Ms. Wells performs the strutting minor blues “Talkin’ All Under My Clothes,” a duet with the bowed bass of John Clayton on “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” a powerful version of “Work Song” (with organist Carey Frank and flutist Katisse Buckingham) that is preceded in a medley by “Moanin’,” and some excellent ballad singing on “I Wish I’d Met You.” Also heard as transitions between some of the songs are very brief renditions of the gospel tune “I’ve Got A Feeling,” culminating with a full band version that leaves one with a smile.

Truth Be Told is a well-conceived CD that showcases Angie Wells’ versatility and musical talents. It is easily recommended and available from www.angiewellsjazz1.com.

George Coleman
Live At Smalls Jazz Club
(Cellar Music)

Listening to the great tenor George Coleman performing on this live program from 2022, it is difficult to believe that he had just celebrated his 87th birthday a week earlier. Probably most famous for being a member of the Miles Davis Quintet during 1963-64, Coleman had a decade of experience prior to that (including working with Ray Charles, B.B. King, Max Roach, and Slide Hampton) and has worked steadily during the 59 years since, often as a leader.

Live At Smalls Jazz Club features Coleman in a quartet with pianist Spike Wilner, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Joe Farnsworth. The tenor has retained his big sound and advanced hard bop style and still sounds in prime form even at his age. The repertoire consists of seven standards plus “Blues For Smalls,” but that does not mean that the music is predictable. Most unusual are cooking versions of “At Last” and “New York, New York,” both of which are rarely played as instrumentals and even less frequently at these heated tempos.

Whether caressing the melody of “The Nearness Of You” or digging into “Four” and “Blues For Smalls,” Coleman sounds 30 years younger than his age. The rhythm section is top-notch with Wilner’s solos also uplifting the music.

Live At Smalls Jazz Club is easily recommended and available from www.cellarmusicgroup.com.

Bill Henderson
Senor Blues – Complete Recordings 1958-1961
(Fresh Sound)

Bill Henderson - Senor Blues: Complete Recordings 1958-1961 - Amazon.com  Music

Bill Henderson (1926-2016) was a legendary figure in Los Angeles during his final 50 years who sang in clubs and had acting roles in films and television. He always had a friendly and very musical voice and can be compared in his style to Joe Williams and Ernie Andrews although he also displayed his own musical personality.

Born in Chicago, it was not until he was 31 that he moved to New York and started becoming well-known. Henderson’s recording of “Senor Blues” with the Horace Silver quintet became a hit in 1958 and led to him becoming a fulltime singer.

This two-CD set, with the exception of six titles made in 1952 with the Jackson Brothers Orchestra, has all of the singer’s early recordings. The first two songs were made for Riverside, and there are five songs (“Senor Blues” and four numbers with organist Jimmy Smith) that were cut for Blue Note. Otherwise all of the music is from sessions for the Vee Jay label including six “bonus” cuts not on the original Lps.

Henderson already had a mature and very recognizable sound, swinging all the way including on the occasional ballads. Along with those mentioned, the supporting cast includes such notables as the Ramsey Lewis Trio, an octet led by Benny Golson that includes trumpeter Booker Little and tenor-saxophonist Yusef Lateef, the Bobby Bryant Octet, the MJT + 3, a quartet with pianist Tommy Flanagan, the Eddie Higgins Trio, and a few large orchestras. In all, there are 47 selections on this definitive twofer.

Henderson would soon record an album with the Oscar Peterson Trio and become a member of the Count Basie Orchestra for two years before moving to Los Angeles. The performances on Senor Blues still sound fresh and lively today and show that Bill Henderson

was already a musical giant during his earlier period. This well-conceived set is available from www.freshsoundrecords.com and www.amazon.com.

Gerry Mulligan Quartet
In Concert

Gerry Mulligan Quartets - Gerry Mulligan: Quartets in Concert - Amazon.com  Music

Baritonist Gerry Mulligan gained his early acclaim during 1952-53 for his pianoless quartet with trumpeter Chet Baker. He also led several other pianoless groups in the 1950s with one of the best being his 1958-59 unit with trumpeter Art Farmer, bassist Bill Crow and drummer Dave Bailey. They only recorded one studio album (What Is There To Say) but fortunately some of their live performances, including at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival and during a European tour in May-June 1959, were recorded and have been released.

Steeplechase’s In Concert captures the quartet during a date in Copenhagen. Recorded on May 21, 1959, this previously unreleased music was performed two days after a Stockholm concert (released on Tax and Candid) and 29 days before a Rome concert (put out by Fini Jazz and some other small labels).

The music from Copenhagen is well recorded and finds the quartet in excellent form. While four of the eight selections were on their studio album, these versions are generally more extended (“News From Blueport” is over ten minutes long) and of course have different solos. The interplay between the two horns (Mulligan was a master at devising countermelodies and spontaneous harmonies) was always a highlight of the baritonist’s quartets and Art Farmer was already a superb player. Crow and Bailey get short solos and are tastefully supportive, adding both subtle creativity and swing to the music. And Mulligan shows throughout why he was considered the leader in his field.

Among the highlights are “What Is There To Say,” “Blueport” and “Utter Chaos.” Mulligan switches to piano for “I Can’t Get Started” and on his medium-tempo blues “Spring Is Sprung” with the latter giving all of the musicians an opportunity to stretch out. The quartet’s early version of “Blueport,” which in 1961 would contain a hilarious tradeoff by Mulligan and Clark Terry, is a bit more straightforward although the Mulligan-Farmer exchanges contain a few witty moments.

All of Gerry Mulligan’s recordings during this era are well worth acquiring, and this fine Steeplechase release is no exception. It is recommended and available from www.statesidemusic.com and www.amazon.com.

Bobo Stenson Trio

Pianist Bobo Stenson has been a regular on ECM or 30 years. He first recorded or the label in 1971 and has led nine albums for ECM, eight since 1993. All of the eight have bassist Anders Jormin while the most recent four find the trio filled out by drummer Jon Falt.

On Sphere, the first three songs are quite impressionistic and seem like sparse free improvisations although each is based around a composition. Starting with the fourth selection,

“Kingdom Of Coldness,” the melodies become stronger and the trio swings in its own way. While Stenson is the lead voice, bassist Jormin has his solo spots while drummer Falt displays subtle ideas that quietly uplift the music.

So while Sphere gets off to a slow start, the final two-thirds of the CD is filled with rich melodies that Stenson and his trio build upon in fascinating fashion, making this an ultimately rewarding recording. Sphere is available from www.amazon.com and www.ecmrecords.com.

Various Artists
The Birth Of Bop
(Craft/Savoy 00591)

Savoy was a very important label in the history of bebop, rhythm & blues, and gospel. To celebrate its 80th birthday, the two-CD set The Birth Of Bop was compiled and released.

To be accurate, the 30 selections on this twofer do not constitute the “birth of bop.” Charlie Parker only appears once, as a sideman on Tiny Grimes’ “Romance Without Finance,” none of Bud Powell’s early dates as a leader (which were made for Blue Note) are here (although he does appear a few times as a sideman), and Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk are absent altogether.

But what is included on this twofer is a fine cross section of Savoy’s recordings from the classic bop era. There are excellent selections led by Grimes, Dexter Gordon, J.J. Johnson, Milt Jackson, Leo Parker, Stan Getz, Fats Navarro, Allen Eager, Kai Winding, Don Byas, Budd Johnson, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Roy Porter, Serge Chaloff, and Morris Lane. The performances, all clocking in around three minutes apiece due to the time restrictions of 78s, are full of exciting moments that give listeners an overview of the modern jazz scene of 1945-50.

While veteran collectors will have many of these performances, The Birth Of Bop serves as an excellent introduction to listeners who are just beginning to explore the rich music of the classic bop era. The music (available from www.craftrecordings.com) still sounds timeless and vital today, more than 70 years later.

That You Not Dare To Forget

This is an unusual tribute album to Miles Davis. MEB, which was formerly known as the Miles Electric Band, is produced by drummers Vince Wilburn Jr. and Lenny White. The five songs on their 27 1/2 minute EP, which has different personnel and instrumentation on each number, include such Davis alumni as electric bassist Marcus Miller, acoustic bassist Ron Carter, guitarist John Scofield, White on drums and synth, and drummer Wilburn. Also appearing along the way are the late keyboardist Bernard Wright, the late trumpeter Wallace Roney, guitarist Vernon Reid, and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt plus numerous others. Miles Davis himself pops up on two numbers (taken from previously unreleased tapes) but ironically does not make much of an impression.

Unfortunately two of the numbers (“Bitches Are Back” and “Ove My Shoulder”) are dominated by raps and two of the other three pieces (including the spoken word on “That You

Not Dare To Forget”) are somewhat forgettable. Only “Mellow Kisses,” which has one of Roney’s last recorded solos, is memorable.

The funky vamps on these numbers could have worked if there were some notable solos or colorful ensembles but the overall results are forgettable and mundane, certainly not up to the caliber that Miles Davis would have demanded from his musicians. But for those who are curious, That You Not Dare To Forget is available from www.amazon.com.

Basie All Stars
Live At Fabrik, Vol. 1
(Jazzline Classics)

In 1981 when this previously unreleased concert recording was made, it was possible for one to put together strong all-star groups comprised of alumni of the Count Basie Orchestra. Trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison and tenor-saxophonist Buddy Tate were both with Basie by the late 1930s, trumpeter Joe Newman joined the orchestra in the mid-1940s (sticking with Basie until the early 1960s) and trombonist Benny Powell, altoist Marshall Royal, tenor-saxophonist Billy Mitchell, and drummer Gus Johnson were in the band in the 1950s. Of the other musicians in the nonet, bassist John Heard was on some small group recordings with Basie in the 1970s while pianist Nat Pierce, who sometimes subbed for Count in the big band, had the ability to sound nearly identical to Basie.

Live At Fabrik Vol. 1, which is the first part of a concert from Hamburg, Germany, is as solid and swinging as one would expect. The uptempo “Bluebird Blues” has many solos with both Edison and Tate showing that they are in top form. There are individual features for Powell (“Please Send Me Someone To Love”), Tate (“Everything Happens To Me”), Royal (“This Is All I Ask”), and Edison (“I’m Confessin’ That I Love You”) along with full band romps are on “Shiny Stockings” and “Little Pony”; the latter has some outstanding Mitchell tenor that is worthy of Illinois Jacquet. The only slight disappointment to this CD is that not much is heard from Joe Newman who I believe does the announcements.

The second volume of the concert, which features Joe Williams, will be released next year. Count Basie fans will certainly enjoy this hard-swinging CD which is available from www.mvdentertainment.com and www.amazon.com.

Julie London
Five Classic Albums

Julie London - Five Classic Albums - Amazon.com Music

Julie London (1926-2000), a fine actress, was in a variety of films during 1944-61 and during 1972-78 was one of the stars in the television series Emergency. As a singer she was best known for her hit “Cry Me A River,” her quietly sensual and lightly swinging delivery, and for the colorful photos of her on her album jackets.

She recorded 21 jazz-oriented albums during 1955-69 including 14 during 1955-61 and was a regular on television variety shows. Ironically London, who was married to songwriter-pianist Bobby Troup, was never that fond of performing live, but despite that she was greatly in demand and was a household name during the era.

Five of Julie London’s early records were previously reissued on the two-CD set Five Classic Albums (Avid 1356) and now five more (dating from 1955-60) are included on this identically titled twofer (Avid 1424): Lonely Girl, Calendar Girl, Julie, London By Night, and Send For Me. While one misses the album jackets (the Calendar Girl Lp has 12 photos of her, one for each month), this is an inexpensive and easy way to acquire a large sampling of her recordings.

Lonely Girl was her first full album and it has the singer performing duets with guitarist Al Viola on a dozen swing standards plus the title cut (a Troup original). Calendar Girl features London accompanied by an orchestra directed by Peter King with one song (some famous, some obscure) for each month. Julie has the singer joined by an orchestra led by pianist Jimmy Rowles; most notable is her version of “Bye Bye Blackbird” which became a favorite. London By Night mostly has lesser-known songs (with a few exceptions) with Peter King’s orchestra while the Jimmy Rowles big band is in the background of Send For Me, an album with a lot of swing era standards.

No less than 62 concise performances are included on this reissue with just six songs exceeding three minutes and none topping four. The focus is on Julie London’s warm voice and her subtle way of making each melody sound as if it was written for her. This recommended set is available from www.avidgroup.co.uk and www.amazon.com.