An Englishman In Love In LA
Richard Shelton is a British actor and singer who has worked in many mediums and settings including American television. He portrayed Frank Sinatra onstage in both Sinatra RAW and the play Rat Pack Confidential. He has also performed at jazz clubs including Catalina Bar & Grill, Ronnie Scott’s, and recently at Feinstein’s at Vitello’s.
To his credit, Shelton does not sound like a Sinatra copycat on An Englishman In Love In LA. While his tone is sometimes similar and Sinatra is an obvious influence (one also hears some Bobby Darin in his phrasing), Shelton has his own voice and musical personality within the crooner tradition. Even on two songs taken from Sinatra’s repertoire (“Young At Heart” and “One For My Baby,” the latter taken as a duet with pianist Mike Lang), Shelton sounds like himself.
Usually joined by a medium-size group (often with former Sinatra sidemen Lang, bassist Chuck Berghofer, and drummer Gregg Field plus other top Southern California musicians including Eric Marienthal who has several short solos) and an occasional string section, Shelton displays an attractive voice, impeccable elocution (one can always understand the words he sings), confidence, and a solid sense of swing. He performs a mixture of standards, swinging renditions of pop tunes (including “And I Love Her”), and four newer songs in the tradition by either Alex Rudd or Alex Frank. While the ballads are given proper sensitivity, it is the swingers (such as the joyous and witty “An Englishman In Love In LA”) that are the real standouts. Shelton really knows how to build up his performances, chorus by chorus.
With Sean Hargreaves providing most of the arrangements (with hints of Nelson Riddle), this is a CD that should appeal to anyone who enjoys hearing top-notch jazz-inspired crooners. It is available from www.amazon.com.
Dave Brubeck Trio
Live From Vienna 1967
Pianist Dave Brubeck and altoist Paul Desmond were a regular team during 1951-67 as the main soloists in the Dave Brubeck Quartet. In 1967 it was decided that the classic quartet (with bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello) would be breaking up and they took a final tour of Europe. After playing a concert in Hamburg, West Germany on Nov. 10, Desmond went out on the town, not only missing the plane that the quartet was taking the next morning but all of the flights for the next day. The result was that for the first time in the history of the quartet, the altoist was absent for a Brubeck concert. Desmond did not show up until they performed in Paris on Nov. 13, which was recorded and released as The Last Time We Saw Paris.
On Nov. 12, 1967 for the only time, Brubeck, Wright and Morello performed as a trio for a full concert. While the pianist was unhappy about the situation, he plays with a lot of energy and even joy. There are more bass solos than usual and some spots for Morello but most of the focus is on the pianist. These previously unreleased and well
recorded performances find the trio stretching out on “St. Louis Blues,” Brubeck’s “One Moment Worth Years,” a polyrhythmic “Swanee River,” the beautiful “La Paloma Azul,” and the two strongest performances: an adventurous “Someday My Prince Will Come” and a spirited “Take The ‘A’ Train.” Making the most of the unique situation, Brubeck comes up with fresh ideas on the pieces and puts on an entertaining and very musical show.
All Dave Brubeck fans will want this enjoyable set which is available from www.brubeckeditions.com.
Mark Christian Miller
Music In The Air
(Sliding Jazz Door Productions)
Mark Christian Miller has long been a fixture in the Los Angeles area, both as a singer and as one who books and cheers on other jazz artists. He has continued to grow as a jazz vocalist through the years and Music In The Air is arguably his finest recording to date.
This CD contains 8 songs totaling just under 38 minutes. While it might be a bit brief, this disc contains plenty of rewarding music. Miller sounds in top form on such numbers as “If You Never Fall In Love With Me” (which has Donald Wolf’s lyrics to Sam Jones’ “Del Sasser”), “Lullaby Of The Leaves,” the obscure “Music In The Air” (Jon Hendricks’ words to Gigi Gryce’s “Wildwood”), “I Wished On The Moon,” and “Prelude To A Kiss.” Miller’s voice is heard at its warmest throughout and he handles the more boppish material with ease. There are also fine solos along the way from altoist Danny Janklow, pianist-arranger Jamieson Trotter, and guitarist Larry Koonse with fine support offered by bassist Mike Gurrola and drummer Kevin Winard.
This is an enjoyable set that features Mark Christian Miller at his best. It is easily recommended and available from www.markchristianmiller.com
I Want A Little Boy
(Kim Nalley Jazz Productions)
Long a fixture in the San Francisco Bay area as a high-quality soulful jazz and blues singer very much in the tradition of the best vocalists of the 1940s and ‘50s, Kim Nalley is always exciting to hear. She keeps the style alive without copying any of her predecessors, singing vintage songs in her own way while clearly enjoying herself.
Kim Nalley wisely utilizes Houston Person throughout all of I Want A Little Boy rather than having the veteran tenor-saxophonist just make a few guest appearances. In addition, Ms. Nalley is joined by a top notch quartet comprised of guitarist Barry Finnerty, pianist Tammy Hall, bassist Michael Zisman, and drummer Kent Bryson plus, on the first of two versions of the title cut (which was originally titled “I Want A Little Girl”), she duets with Maria Muldaur.
The emphasis is on bluesy material, often at slow and medium tempos with an
occasional romp included for variety. The wide-ranging program includes many highlights including the always-rousing Ruth Brown hit “Teardrops From My Eyes,” “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You,” “Pennies From Heaven,” and “Crazy He Calls Me.” There are also a couple of offbeat choices in “Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” (written by Mr. Rogers) and the only popular song penned by a vice president, Charles G. Dawes’ “It’s All In The Game.”
Throughout I Want A Little Boy, Kim Nalley is heard at the peak of her powers, inspired by and inspiring to the great Houston Person. This is an accessible and highly enjoyable set that will be savored by lovers of the classic style. It is highly recommended and available from www.kimnalley.com and www.amazon.com.
Shine A Bright Life
(Valley Jazz Records)
Teri Roiger is a fine jazz singer who also writes music and lyrics. She recorded four previous CDs as a leader including tributes to Billie Holiday (Ghost Of Yesterday) and Abbey Lincoln (Dear Abbey).
The quintet Sharp 5 features Ms. Roiger’s singing along with the playing of her husband bassist John Menegon, pianist-keyboardist Pete Levin, drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel, and percussionist Nanny Assis. Jay Collins makes two guest appearances, one apiece on flute and tenor.
The set begins with a particularly memorable version of Kenny Barron’s “Sunshower,” a melodic song that benefits from Roiger’s lyrics and her straightforward singing. The next few numbers have Sharp 5 playing Brazilian-oriented jazz. Collins’ flute is a strong asset on the King Crimson song “Matte Kudasai” while “E Preciso Perdoar” features the atmospheric singing of Assis who is also heard on guitar. Menegon’s “Shine A Bright Light” continues with more Brazilian jazz before the mood shifts with the ballad “Where Flamingos Fly,” a piece most famous in jazz for Gil Evans’ version.
Teri Roiger, generally sticks near the melody and lyrics on these selections while adding a bit of subtle improvising, sounds particularly warm on “Where Flamingos Fly,” a heartfelt rendition of “Meaning Of The Blues,” “’Round Midnight,” and Siegel’s “Remembering You Shirley,” a bluesy piece worthy of Mose Allison. Also performed are a pair of Menegon’s sambas (“Island Of The Sun” and “Spring Song”) and a satisfying closer in Abbey Lincoln’s joyful “Wholly Earth.”
Throughout the set there are also many fine solos from Levin along with occasional spots for Menegon and Siegel. In addition to the high quality of the music, there is enough variety to hold onto one’s interest throughout. This easily recommended CD is available from www.valleyjazzrecords.com.
Follow The Signs
A brilliant and virtuosic guitarist from Brazil, Diego Figueiredo can clearly play anything. Not quite 40, he has already released at least 26 CDs while still giving one the impression that he is just getting started.
Figueiredo, who started playing guitar when he was four (adding mandolin and electric guitar by the time he was 12), played in nightclubs in Brazil as a young teenager. Along the way he has worked with such notables as Gilberto Gil, Janis Siegel, Ken Peplowski, Cyrille Aimée, Wycliffe Gordon, and Dick Hyman to name a few.
While Figueiredo can dazzle one with his technique, he also has the wisdom to hold back and improvise with subtlety and dynamics. On Follow The Signs he is joined by bassist Eduardo Machado, percussionist Marcilio Garcetti, and a string quintet (with bass) from the Campinas Symphony Orchestra. The guitarist performs 11 of his originals plus “Misty,” paying tradition to the bossa nova and samba traditions. Among his songs are homages to Joao Gilberto (“Dear John”) and Antonio Carlos Jobim (“Jobim Forever”).
While much of the music on this set is laidback and relaxed, the results are never overly predictable or sleepy. Figueiredo often makes the impossible sound effortless in his playing, he includes enough variety to hold onto one’s interest, and on the closing “Imagination” (not the standard) he creates an inventive free improvisation that shows just how much potential he still has even after all of his accomplishments.
Follow The Signs is easily recommended to those who love the sound of bossa-nova and Brazilian guitar. It is available from www.arborsrecords.com.
Misha Tsiganov Quintet
The Russian-born pianist Misha Tsiganov has been a resident of New York since 1991. A solid and inventive post-bop improviser, Tsiganov is in top form on Misha’s Wishes, his fourth CD for the Criss Cross label (www.crisscrossjazz.thecom).
On this set Tsiganov, along with trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, tenor-saxophonist Seamus Blake, bassist Boris Kozlov, and drummer Donald Edwards (all of whom have led their own albums for the label), performs seven of his originals, a multi-tempoed “Strike Up The Band,” the Russian folk song (“There Was A Birch Tree In The Field, So What”), and Bill Evans’ obscure “Comrade Conrad.” The soloists are excellent with Sipiagin’s occasional and surprising jumps into his upper register being quite exciting while Blake stretches the music with his muscular and enthusiastic solos.
While I wish that “Strike Up The Band” had stayed at its most cooking tempo (which results in hot statements by Sipiagin and Tsiganov), the closing vamp with the passionate Blake in the spotlight compensates. Other highlights include the lyrical ballad “Misha’s Wishes,” a rousing uptempo workout on “There Was A Birch Tree” that has the group sounding a bit like Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, “Just A Scale” (which does have a melody based on a scale), a thoughtful “Hope And Despair,” and the touching closing ballad “Are You With Me.”
Misha Tsiganov and his musicians explore a variety of different moods throughout his well-rounded program of modern jazz. Misha’s Wishes (available from www.crisscrossjazz.com and www.amazon.com) gives one an excellent sampling of his writing and piano playing in addition to the contrasting and equally satisfying playing of Sipiagin and Blake.
Tetel Di Babuya
Tetel Di Babuya may be a singer from Brazil, but one should not look on her first recording, Meet Tetel, for bossa novas (other than “Voce,” the only song sung in Portuguese). Trained on violin from an early age, she worked with several orchestras and also developed into a talented songwriter. Now 36, she performs ten originals and the standard “Someone To Watch Over Me” on her CD.
The music is jazz-oriented with a touch of r&b and pop. Joined by Daniel Grajew on keyboards and accordion, bassist and guitarist Nilton Leonarde, drummer Emilio Martins, and occasionally Richard Fermino (on trumpet, trombone and saxophones), Tetel Di Babuya displays an attractive voice without an obvious accent, a versatile style, and consistent enthusiasm. The music ranges from the swing of “Lullaby Of Loveland” and some dramatic cabaret to a ballad (“All And More”) that one could imagine hearing played by a country group, torch songs, and happy romps. Tetel’s lyrics, which are included in the liner notes, are sometimes witty (“Clean Cut,” and “Not About Love” with the latter about trying to write songs not having to do with love), sometimes wistful, and even bragging about her spouse (“All And More”). They cover the wide range and different stages of romance and love.
There are occasional solos from her sidemen but the main focus of Meet Tetel is on the singer and her new songs. While I wish there was more of her violin (which just makes a few cameo appearances), Meet Tetel is an impressive debut for the singer. This fine set is available from www.arkadiarecords.com.
For Lennie Tristano
Pianist Sal Mosca, one of Lennie Tristano’s top students, had an on and off recording career. He first recorded in 1949 on a Lee Konitz session and had other opportunities with Konitz in the 1950s (including one date that had Miles Davis as a sideman) but did not lead his first recording until 1959. While he recorded three albums of material during that era on obscure sessions that included duets with bassist Peter Ind and a quartet date with trombonist Eddie Bert, Mosca was completely off records during 1961-69, 1972-75 and 1982-90, making his final recordings in 2005.
The previously unreleased solo session from 1970 that constitutes the bulk of For Lennie Tristano broke a nine year period of silence on records. They come from a private tape that Mosca sent to Tristano that was discovered in more recent times by Don Messina. Mosca had evolved and grown since the 1950s and his playing is freer while
still paying tribute to the melodies that he interprets. His improvising is mostly pretty thoughtful and sometimes out of tempo. Among the more memorable pieces on this CD are his versions of “It’s The Talk Of The Town,” “All The Things You Are,” and “Sweet And Lovely,” each of which he takes in unexpected and fresh directions. Rounding out the CD are two numbers (Bix Beiderbecke’s “In A Mist” and a brief “Stella By Starlight”) that were performed on a radio show in 1997. Throughout this program, despite his affection for Lennie Tristano, Mosca sounds very much like himself.
This intriguing and historic set, which contains Sal Mosca’s first session of unaccompanied piano solos, grows in interest with each listen. It is available from www.freshsoundrecords.com.
Concerto For Piano and String Orchestra
Marina Pacowski is a pianist born in France and now in the U.S. who plays both classical and jazz. She has also worked as a jazz singer, an actress, and a choral director.
On this project, she performs Frank Proto’s three-part “Concerto For Piano And String Orchestra.” The work, while being largely Western classical music, in spots has the feeling of jazz. Beyond her impressive technique, Pacowski swings in her own way and gives the music phrasing and emotions that bring it close to jazz at times.
The CD (really an EP at under 28 minutes) should be of strongest interest to classical music collectors due to Proto’s colorful writing for the string orchestra and Pacowski’s mastery of the material. Hopefully in the future the brilliant pianist will also record a jazz CD that will display her creativity. In the meantime, this fine set is available from www.liben.com.
Everybody Say Yeah!
Guitarist George Freeman recently turned 95. Because he has spent most of his career based in Chicago, he never became as famous as his talents deserved, but there’s still time! At this point the still-active Freeman can look back on a career that included gigs with his brothers tenor-saxophonist Von and drummer Bruz Freeman, playing with Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Charlie Parker, and tours with Wild Bill Davis, Richard “ Groove” Holmes, Gene Ammons, and Jimmy McGriff plus a series of his own albums.
Everybody Say Yeah! pays tribute to the guitarist by reissuing selections from his five Southport projects (dating from 1995-2019) plus previously unreleased versions of “Summertime” (an abstract rendition with singer Joanne Pallatto) and “Manteca,” in addition to a new 2021 duet version of “Perfume” with fellow guitarist Mike Allemana.
Like his late brother Von, George Freeman has tended to use bebop-oriented songs as his foundation while sometimes stretching the music into freer and funkier areas.
That is true throughout these performances which contain plenty of adventurous guitar solos. Highlights include “There Will Never Be Another You,” a Von Freeman romp on “Vonski,” the funky “Cha Cha Blue” and “It’s Cha Time” (on which the guitarist sometimes sounds like early George Benson), and the quietly thoughtful “Perfume.” Joined by several tight rhythm sections with a guest appearance by Billy Branch on harmonica and two by Von Freeman (one apiece on tenor and piano) and George’s nephew Chico Freeman (on tenor and soprano), the focus is mostly on the inventive and soulful guitarist.
Everybody Say Yeah! is an excellent introduction to the apparently ageless George Freeman and will most likely make many listeners want to explore his other recordings. It is available from www.chicagosound.com.
Meets Sheila Jordan
trioTrio consists of pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist David Ambrosio, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza. They previously recorded as a unit on a 2018 quintet date with trumpeter Dave Scott and tenor-saxophonist Rich Perry (Nice Treatment) for the Steeplechase label. In 2021, despite the pandemic, they regrouped and recorded Meets Sheila Jordan with the great singer who was 92 at the time.
While the instrumentalists are featured on a slow version of “Memories Of You” and Hank Jones’ “Hanky Panky,” they were happy to turn the spotlight on the other songs over to Sheila Jordan. She reminisces and sings about Charlie Parker on “The Bird” which leads into “Confirmation.” Her scatting during her wordless “Workshop Blues” and a combination of “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” and “Little Willie Leaps” (after handling the speedy lyrics with apparent ease) is as creative as ever. And as usual she makes every song her own, including “If I Should Lose You,” “Everything Happens To Me,” and Kenny Dorham’s obscure ballad “Fair Weather.” The set concludes with “The Crossing,” Jordan’s original about finding spirituality when she gave up her addiction to alcohol.
While Sheila Jordan’s voice has naturally aged a bit, at her age she still has youthful enthusiasm and consistently inventive ideas along with the wisdom to concentrate on her strengths. The members of trioTrio are quite supportive and form a solid foundation for her flights. This CD (available from www.steeplechase.dk and www.amazon.com) is well worth picking up.