Lovesome Thing: Sings Ellington and Strayhorn
Anais Reno has a lovely and full voice, shows maturity in her interpretations of ballads, uses space well for dramatic effect, sings every note in tune, and swings on medium-tempo numbers. All of that would be impressive if not that unusual for a top-notch jazz singer except for the fact that at the time of this recording from 2020, Anais Reno was 16.
Joined by pianist Emmet Cohen, bassist Russell Hall, drummer Kyle Poole, and occasionally saxophonist Tivon Pennicott and violinist Juliet Kurtzman (the singer’s mother), Anais Reno interprets a dozen songs associated with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Ms. Reno fearlessly begins the opener, “Caravan” (which was actually composed by Juan Tizol), unaccompanied except for quiet drums, the first of many highpoints on this memorable album. When she reinvents the melody (as on “I’m Just A Lucky So And So”) or scats, it fits the song. Her wordless singing on a slow version of “Chelsea Bridge” is haunting, and she always seems to fully understand the words of the songs that she sings, particularly the ballads and even “Lush Life.” In addition to the well-known numbers, she revives two real obscurities: “Still In Love” and “It’s Kind Of Lonesome Out Tonight.”
Anais Reno has sung in public since the age of ten and the experience shows throughout LovesomeThing. She is the most impressive new jazz singer to appear on the scene since Veronica Swift. Her debut recording (available from www.harbingerrecords.com) is a gem and is highly recommended.
Hasaan Ibn Ali
Subtitled “The Lost Atlantic Album,” the release of Metaphysics doubles the discography of the legendary but elusive pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali (1931-80). He was born William Henry Langford, Jr. in Philadelphia. Early on Ali toured with trumpeter Joe Morris and along the way he had chances to play in Philadelphia with Clifford Brown and Miles Davis. An early influence on John Coltrane and a highly original pianist and composer, Ibn Ali considered Elmo Hope to be an inspiration although his playing at times also recalls Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols without sounding exactly like anyone else. While he visited New York on a few occasions, performing with Horace Arnold and leading a trio with bassist Henry Grimes, he only made one recording that was released until recently. The Max Roach Trio Featuring the Legendary Hasaan was recorded in Dec. 1964, released by Atlantic, and also including bassist Art Davis.
On Aug. 23 and Sept. 7, 1965, the pianist recorded a second album for Atlantic, a quartet set with tenor-saxophonist Odean Pope, Art Davis, and drummer Kalil Madi. Shortly after the recording was made, Hasaan Ibn Ali was busted for possession of drugs and Atlantic decided not to release the album. A fire in 1978 destroyed the master tapes and the recording was considered lost forever. However a copy was discovered a short time ago and now Metaphysics has finally been released.
Hasaan Ibn Ali and his quartet perform seven of his originals plus alternate takes of three of the pieces. While the music swings in its own way (one could imagine “Viceroy” being played in a boppish setting), Ali’s percussive improvisations with its tonal freedom is a little reminiscent of Don Pullen and early Cecil Taylor yet sounds quite original, following its own musical logic. Odean Pope plays with both daring and maturity on his first recordings. He would not be on record again until 1972. Art Davis keeps the music grounded and the momentum flowing while drummer Madi, a veteran who had been on records as early as 1952 and would play with Earl Hines in 1970 and on a Charles Gayle album as late as 1997, adds color and drive.
The formerly lost music, which is avant-garde yet often fairly accessible, is fascinating in its own way, adding to the legacy of Hasaan Ibn Ali. It is available from www.omnivorerecordings.com.
Once Upon A Time
Subtitled “The Lost 1965 New York Studio Sessions,” this is a very different type of Bob James record. James became famous in the 1970s and ‘80s for his arrangements and keyboard playing in pop/jazz settings. While always a capable jazz musician (as he showed on sessions with Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, and Stanley Turrentine), most of his recordings under his own name (with an occasional exception) and in the group Fourplay crossed over into smooth and pop, with great commercial success.
However few of his longtime fans probably realize that James performed at a concert in 1964 with Eric Dolphy, that he was Sarah Vaughan’s accompanist during 1964-68, and that he recorded a largely straight ahead trio album (Bold Conceptions) in 1962 and a very avant-garde record (one on which he utilized electronic tapes) for ESP on May 10, 1965 (Explosions).
Once Upon A Time consists of two previously unreleased trio sessions from 1965 when James was 25. He was recorded by a teenaged George Klabin, the tapes went unplayed for decades, and now Zev Feldman (the Sherlock Holmes of jazz), on Klabin’s Resonance label, has released the excellent music. The Jan. 20 date with bassist Larry Rockwell and drummer Robert Pozar starts off with a swinger (“Serenata”) and then goes into uncharted territory, particularly on “Lateef Minor 7th” which travels completely outside before coming back. “Variations” starts out as a wandering and thoughtful ballad that is soon interrupted by and briefly taken over by odd electronic sounds that break up the mood in a surprising and humorous way.
The Oct. 9, 1965 session with bassist Bill Wood and drummer Omar Clay is more conventional but always of strong interest. Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin” is taken uptempo (making it perfect for a blindfold test), James sounds like Bill Evans on a slow “Indian Summer,” and the trio stretches out on the medium-tempo “Long Forgotten Blues.”
This classy package, which contains a 40-page booklet filled with informative interviews, will make one appreciate the early Bob James. It is easily recommended and available from www.resonancerecords.org.
Roberto Magris & Eric Hochberg
Roberto Magris is a prolific pianist originally from Italy who has led over 30 albums through the years including 17 for the J Mood label (www.jmoodrecords.com). Even with that large discography, Shuffling Ivories is a real standout and possibly his finest (or at least one of his most rewarding) recordings.
Teamed with the veteran Chicago bassist Eric Hochberg, Magris performs a well-rounded set that includes a few tributes to Eubie Blake and Andrew Hill, two very different pianist-composers. The opening “Shuffling Ivories” is a delightful and original medium tempo blues. The 1920s standard “I’ve Found A New Baby” is given an adventurous but logical treatment with Magris and Hochberg playing off of each other with improvising that hints at as much as it states before cooking a bit at the piece’s conclusion. “Clef Club Jump” is a bit stormy a la Andrew Hill with a haunting theme either heard or felt throughout. A beautiful version of Blake’s “Memories Of You,” precedes “The Time Of This World Is At Hand,” a jazz waltz by the little-known pianist Billy Gault that is given a bluesy soul jazz treatment by the duo that is worthy of Bobby Timmons. Hochberg (bowing his bass for part of the time) is featured on the well-constructed interpretation of Cal Massey’s “Quiet Dawn.”
Also included on this very enjoyable set are two versions of Andrew Hill’s “Laverne” (one of his finest pieces), the attractive hard bop number “Anysha,” Magris’ picturesque “Italy,” and Eubie Blake’s rarely-played “The Chevy Chase.”
Roberto Magris displays his own fresh musical personality throughout Shuffling Ivories, whether he is paying homage to Blake or Hill, or playing in his own classic hard bop style. Eric Hochberg’s fits in very well behind the pianist’s solos and has short spots of his own that add to the swing and momentum of the music. Shuffling Ivories is well worth acquiring and serves as a perfect introduction to the music of Roberto Magris.
(Reel To Reel)
Harold Land (1928-2001) was part of the Los Angeles music scene for 45 years. While he was born in Houston, he grew up in San Diego and settled in L.A. in 1955. A professional musician by the late 1940s, he was a member of the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet during 1954-55, only leaving to take care of his pregnant wife; his successor was Sonny Rollins. While being in LA as opposed to NY cut short his chances of becoming world famous, he was active on the West Coast throughout his life, leading groups, co-leading a notable quintet with Bobby Hutcherson, and touring as part of the Timeless All-Stars in the 1980s and early 90’s.
Land had his own relatively cool sound in the 1950s, a tone that gradually hardened through the years. In his last few decades, he was influenced by John Coltrane while retaining his own musical personality. He mostly played hard bop but also could engage in freer flights.
Westward Bound! is a set of previously unreleased and very well-recorded performances that were broadcast on the radio from Seattle’s Penthouse. Land is featured on three different occasions. The first three numbers from Dec. 12, 1962 match him with trumpeter Carmell Jones, pianist Buddy Montgomery, Monk Montgomery (who is on all of these broadcasts playing acoustic bass), and drummer Jimmy Lovelace. On Sept. 17, 1964, Land’s group performs two boppish originals, playing clean ensembles and colorful solos. The lengthy versions of “My Romance” and “Triplin’ The Groove” (a medium-tempo blues) are notable not only for Land’s playing but that of the great pianist Hampton Hawes who takes a nice introduction on the former piece and a really swinging solo on the latter. They perform in a quartet with bassist Montgomery and drummer Mel Lee, The final four songs (three standards and Land’s “Beau-ty”) have the tenor-saxophonist joined on Aug. 5, 1965 by the underrated but excellent pianist John Houston, Montgomery, and drummer Philly Joe Jones (who is featured on the brief “Blue ‘N Boogie”).
Because he was based in Los Angeles during most of his career and it has been 20 years since his passing, Harold Land tends to be a bit forgotten. The release of Westward Bounce (which is accompanied by an informative 24-page booklet) by the team of Corey Weeds and Zev Feldman is a very welcome event. This highly recommended set is available from www.cellarlive.com.
Roberto Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble
Live At Bing Theatre
One of my regular musical thrills of the 1980s and ‘90s was seeing pianist Horace Tapscott and bassist Roberto Miranda (often with drummer Donald Dean and later Fritz Wise) performing as a trio in L.A. area clubs. Tapscott was one of the true originals on piano and Miranda (who was always very inventive) was his perfect musical partner. It was always a shame that they did not have many opportunities to record together.
Live At Bing Theatre could have been titled The Los Angeles All-Stars. Not only does it include Miranda and Tapscott but cornetist Bobby Bradford (doubling on trumpet), clarinetist John Carter, and flutist James Newton plus Thom David Mason (on alto, tenor and bass clarinet), drummer Louis R. Miranda Jr (Roberto’s brother), guitarist David Bottenbley (Roberto’s cousin) and percussionists Buddy Toscano, Cliff Brooks and Louis R. Miranda Sr. (Roberto’s father who also sings wordlessly during parts of the closing “Dance Of Blessing, Happiness & Peace”). While Bradford and Carter often shared the bandstand through the years and Tapscott recorded with Carter, this was the first (and possibly only) time that Tapscott, Bradford, Carter and Newton all performed together.
From May 25, 1985, the musicians in various combinations perform a set of the bassist’s originals. “Platform For Freedom” puts the spotlight on Tapscott and drummer
Miranda while the adventurous ballad “Faith” features Newton. “Agony In the Garden” has Newton playing passionately over a vamp that has the percussion section sounding quite prominent. Bradford makes majestic statements opening and closing “Prayer #1”and the other musicians all get their spots along the way. Roberto Miranda is mostly in a supportive role except for his “Improvised Bass Solo” which gives one a taste of his unique playing.
This well-recorded concert brings back the atmosphere of a concert filled with spiritual feelings, adventurous playing, and joyful interactions by immortal Los Angeles-based players. It is available from www.darktree-records.com.
Live At No Black Tie
A world class jazz pianist from Singapore, Jeremy Monteiro has long had his own voice within modern hard bop. He has led over 40 albums of his own through the years, performed with visiting Americans, and been a major force for jazz in his homeland.
Live At No Black Tie features Monteiro leading a trio with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Lewis Nash. The pianist performs four standards and five originals. He starts off with Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” (during which he displays his own fresh chord voicings), a swinging “Just In Time,” and a rendition of “Prelude To A Kiss” in which he really digs into the beauty of the song. “Mode For Love” (a tribute to James Moody) and his tender ballad “Josefina” deserve to become standards in the future since both songs have memorable melodies.
The soulful romp “Mount Olive” is a tribute to bassist Eldee Young and drummer Redd Holt, former members of the Ramsey Lewis Trio who Monteiro worked with in the past. The trio also performs the dramatic “Life Goes On,” the jazz waltz “Monk In The Mountain” (which has some stunning Monteiro double-time runs), and a rousing version of “Watermelon Man.”
Jeremy Monteiro is the main voice throughout with Anderson and Lewis in supportive roles although there are occasional bass solos. Live At No Black Tie (available from www.amazon.com) makes for a very enjoyable listening experience.
The Secret Six is a hot New Orleans jazz band based in the Crescent City. They are comprised of trumpeter Reid Poole, trombonist Russell Ramirez, James Evans on clarinet and tenor, banjoist Hunter Burgamy, bassist John Joyce, and drummer Mike Voelker. On their self-titled CD they are joined by clarinetist Joey Woodis on five of the twelve selections, and have guest vocals by Meschiya Lake on four numbers.
This is a fun group that has excellent musicianship and plenty of spirit. Their repertoire includes several songs from Bunk Johnson and George Lewis (including “I
Can’t Escape From You,” “Climax Rag,” and a feature for clarinetist Evans on “Burgundy Street Blues”) but also ranges from Memphis Minnie (Lake takes her most memorable vocal on the lowdown “Looking The World Over”), and Danny Barker (banjoist Burgamy sings “Ham and Eggs”) to Louis Armstrong (“Potato Head Blues”) and Ella Fitzgerald (1937’s “When I Get Low I Get High”).
It would be great to go to New Orleans and see the Secret Six live. But in the meantime, this fine CD, which is available from firstname.lastname@example.org, will suffice.
My Original Plan
Joanie Pallatto, who with her husband pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow, founded and has run the admirable Chicago-based Southport label for quite a few years, is an appealing singer with a laidback delivery. My Original Plan is at least her 15th album since 1986 and one of her most personal.
Ms. Pallatto wrote nine of the 14 selections and co-wrote four with Sparrow. She is joined by guitarist Fareed Haque (who co-produced and co-arranged the music), bassist John Devlin (who plays accordion on one number) and drummer Luiz Ewerling on most selections with occasional appearances by flutist Steve Eislin (a strong asset on “Open Your Eyes”), Juan Pastor on bongos, bassist Kurt Schweitz, Howard Levy on piano and harmonica, and trumpeter Bobby Lewis. Sparrow guests on three songs.
The music is difficult to describe except perhaps as a jazz-inspired modern singer-songwriter set. The lyrics are worth listening to closely with “Do Butterflies Cry,” a dramatic “The Confessional,” the swinging “My Original Plan,” “The Photograph,” “Almost 65”,” “They Sentenced Us To Paradise,” and “Lucky To Belong To You” being among the more memorable originals. While Haque has some brief solos and adds to each song’s atmosphere, the spotlight is mostly on the singer who is heard throughout in fine form. She scats and sings wordlessly in spots, particularly on the more swinging pieces, while putting the right amount of understated feeling into her lyrics.
My Original Plan grows in interest with each listen. It is available from www.chicagosound.com.
Yuko Mabuchi is a very talented young pianist who is carving out her own voice in modern mainstream jazz. Born in Fukui, Japan, she studied classical piano from the age of four. By the time she was in high school, she was becoming very interested in jazz, r&b and American music in general. Yuko worked locally in a jazz trio before moving to Los Angeles in 2010 where she studied and performed, making her recording debut. After spending 2013-16 back in Japan, she settled in Southern California where she has become
better-known each year for her virtuosic and sensitive playing. Yuko is her fifth CD as a leader.
Recorded live at Vibrato in Los Angeles, Yuko teams the pianist with bassist Del Atkins and drummer Bobby Breton on 16 selections. Most impressive is that Ms. Mabuchi does not sound like anyone else. Her playing is equally comfortable on groove and swing numbers, her chord voicings sound fresh, and she creates a steady flow of creative ideas within the jazz tradition. The arranged passages that she plays with her trio show that they listen closely to each other.
Among the highlights of this two-CD set are the hard-swinging renditions of “A Night In Tunisia” and “I Got Rhythm,” a delightful piano solo on “So Danco Samba,” the bossa-nova feel of “St. Croix,” the fresh treatments of “All Blues” (which is partly taken in 5/4 time) and “So What” (showcasing bassist Atkins), the joyful groove of “Isn’t She Lovely,” and the infectious treatment given to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Yuko, who contributes brief vocals to two numbers, plays a tender medley of the two traditional Japanese melodies “Hazy Moon” and “Cherry Blossom” with affection, and provides some passion to the easy-listening “Sukiyaki.”
Fans of straight ahead piano trios will certainly enjoy discovering Yuko Mabuchi and her new recording Yuko which is available from www.yukomabuchi.com.
One of the finest bossa-nova singers around today, Bianca Rossini not only has a warm and quietly sensuous voice that is perfect for the melancholy yet infectious music, but she writes many of her own songs and lyrics. Her latest EP Rio Paradise, which follows her three previous albums (Kiss of Brasil, Meu Amor, and Vento do Norte), consists of five songs. She wrote or co-wrote all of the lyrics and composed the music for two of the numbers.
Whether it is the bittersweet “Mariana,” the joyful “Ipanema Paradise,” or the thoughtful “Tic Tac do Amor, Bianca Rossini adds to the legacy of bossa-nova not by merely reviving the music’s hits but by giving today’s listeners new compositions that keep the style fresh and lively. Rio Paradise (available from www.biancarossini.com) is an excellent example of her talents.
The Sixth Sense
When one listens to the powerful guitar playing of Roman Miroschnichenko, it is easy to be reminded of Al DiMeola and John McLaughlin during his Mahavishnu days, but it soon becomes apparent that Miroschnichenko has his own sound within fusion. While he is never shy to cut loose, he also uses subtlety, mood variations and creativity throughout, mixing together tight arrangements with pure spontaneity.
Born in the Ukraine, Roman Miroschnichenko (the son of a saxophonist) began playing guitar when he was 14. While he started out exploring blues and rock, he was regularly exposed to jazz which he found challenged him more. Since 2003 he has led at least ten albums, setting the standard for 21st century fusion guitar.
The Sixth Sense has Miroschnichenko and his regular trio with electric bassist Oleg Kanakov and drummer Val Chernook are joined by special guests along the way which give the project variety. The guitarist performs eight of his originals plus Henrik Andersen’s “Moon Over Tanjore” and Daniel Figueiredo’s “Planar.”
The opener, “Flying Dragon,” has bassist Bunny Brunel joining Miroschnichenko for a high-powered and assertive theme that inspires the guitarist to play with a great deal of intensity. “Night In June” with percussionist Gumbi Ortiz also starts on an intense level but uses space that allows Miroschnichenko to draw out the melody as the performance builds and builds. “Isoboogie,” with guitarist Jennifer Batten added to the group, has a particularly catchy groove that is both memorable and fiery. “The Sixth Sense (with drummer Luis Alicea, percussionist Paul Wertico, and some background singing from Matt Laurent) is a relatively melodic piece that cools things down a little.
The latter acts as a prelude to one of the album’s highpoints, “Bodhran’s Magic.” The interplay between Miroschnichenko and violinist Charlie Bisharat is quite colorful and the violinist takes an outstanding solo. In contrast, “Planar,” which includes pianist Rannieri Oliveira and the St. Petersburg Studio Orchestra, is a pretty ballad given a concise treatment. “Moon Over Tanjore” with guitarist Henrik Andersen and bassist Dominique Di Piazza has rapid lines played impeccably by the two guitarists who consistently challenge each other while displaying distinctive styles. “Ole” finds guest keyboardist Gary Husband adding a jazz flavor to a piece that features a strong melody and Spanish rhythms. “Ocean” with Frank Colon and Gumbi Ortiz on percussion, is quite explosive yet melodic while “Breathe Groove” concludes the memorable set with a calm and peaceful theme.
The Sixth Sense (available from www.romanmiroschnichenko.com) is an impressive effort that can either serve as an introduction to the talents of Roman Miroschnichenko for some listeners, or be a prized acquisition for the guitarist’s many fans.
Karla Harris has a beautiful voice, impeccable diction, and the ability to make her improvisations a logical part of the song that she is interpreting. She started out as part of St. Louis’ jazz scene, moved to Portland in 2005 where she worked often, and made a strong impression with her first CD 2007’s Twice As Nice, a collaboration with Tom Kennedy that found her performing fresh versions of standards. After moving to Atlanta in 2012, she recorded Karla Harris Sings The Dave and Iola Brubeck Songbook, the first CD that featured a vocalist performing a full set of Brubeck compositions. Certain Elements is a bit different. Ms. Harris sings seven of her own songs plus four other numbers including tunes by Michel Legrand, Bill Withers, and Terry Kirkman. The emphasis is more on the lyrics and crosses over between jazz, pop/jazz, light r&b and vintage pop. But while none of the songs are tunes that one would expect to hear at jam sessions, Karla Harris stretches them and creates spontaneous flights.
The singer is joined by several different rhythm sections including pianists Randy Porter, George Colligan, Kevin Bales and Dan Gaynor. On “Lean On Me,” the late pianist Mark Simon contributed the arrangement and played on the opening section; after he passed away his brother Fred Simon finished the rest of the performance.
Even with brief solos from some of the sidemen (mostly the pianists), the focus is very much on Karla Harris’ voice. Among the highlights are the message of “Set Sophia Free,“ the sensuous yet subtle mood of “The Way He Makes Me Feel,” a swinging “When Michael,” “Interlude” (a menacing strut), and the ballad “Do I Still Figure In Your Life.” Certain Elements (available from www.karlaharris.com) displays Karla Harris’ growth as a singer, improviser, and especially as a songwriter. While she is realizing her great potential, one also looks forward to her future projects.