Lia Booth
Life Can Be Beautiful
(Metajax Entertainment)

Lia Booth, a fairly recent discovery for me, is not only one of the finest jazz singers based in Southern California but one of the very best on the scene today. She has a beautiful and very appealing voice that at times hints at Anita O’Day in the 1950s and Doris Day, one can hear a consistent smile in her singing, and both her phrasing and her inventive scat-singing are quite swinging.

Life Can Be Beautiful includes superior standards, top-notch obscurities, and three originals by trumpeter Tony Guerrero including “I Love The Rain” which was co-written by the singer. Ms. Booth is joined by her regular trio (guitarist Miles Jensen, bassist Will Lyle and drummer Izaak Weatherwax) with guest spots for trumpeter Guerrero, tenor-saxophonist Tama Shutts, and vibraphonist Nick Mancini. From the opening “This Can’t Be Love” which is taken at a cooking tempo and includes some heated scat singing in unison with Jensen, this CD is a delight.

Among the many highlights are the trumpet and tenor split chorus on “Life Can Be Beautiful,” the very expressive and fetching vocal on “Night And Day,” a charming “’A’ You’re Adorable (a duet with guitarist Jensen), an infectious “I Could Write A Book,” “Whistle A Little Tune” which has the singer whistling a chorus, a scat-filled vocal-bass duet on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” the hot version of “It Could Happen To You,” and a vocal-drums duet on “Honeysuckle Rose.”

Every one of the 15 selections on Life Can Be Beautiful can serve as evidence of the truth in my opening sentence. This Lia Booth recording is from 2022 but has rarely been reviewed. It is well worth discovering and available from

Vasilis Xenopoulos-Paul Edis Quartet
Feels Like Home
(Ubuntu Music)

Feels Like Home features a world-class quartet from England. Vasilis Xenopoulos is an excellent tenor-saxophonist in the Dexter Gordon tradition (although with his own sound) who is also skilled on soprano-sax and flute. Pianist Paul Edis, who contributed five of the eight selections for Feels Like Home (two are by the saxophonist while the title cut is the only standard), is a strong bop-based pianist while bassist Adam King and drummer Joel Barford keep the music swinging and stimulating.

Their music should greatly interest those who love straight ahead jazz even if the musicians’ names are not that familiar. Among the highpoints are a medium-tempo version of “Going Home,” the modal jazz waltz (a la Coltrane) “Lockdown London” which has Xenopoulos contributing passionate soprano, a joyful “Memories Of Home,” the uptempo swinger “Get Off My Lawn” (based on “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”), the thoughtful and warm ballad “From Something To Somewhere,” and a blues with a bridge (“Mikey’s Samba”) which features the leader’s fluent playing on flute.

The enjoyable CD Feels Like Home is easily recommended and available from

Spike Robinson
The Live Session
(PME Records)

Spike Robinson (1930-2001) had an unusual career. Born in Wisconsin, the tenor-saxophonist (who doubled on alto) served in the U.S. Navy and was based in the United Kingdom for a few years, leading his first record dates in 1951. Seeing that making a living playing jazz would be difficult, he settled in Colorado and for nearly 30 years he worked as an engineer, only occasionally playing music. In 1981 he made a comeback in music and had a successful career during his final 20 years, playing regularly in the US, the UK, and throughout Europe.

In some ways Spike Robinson was the last of the Four Brothers in his tenor style, sounding a lot like Stan Getz and Zoot Sims, swinging standards and uplifting ballads. He also played alto at times where he hinted strongly at Paul Desmond.

The two-CD set The Live Session features Robinson along with the very talented guitarist Dale Bruning, bassist Dick Patterson (who recorded the date), and drummer Derryl Goes in 1974. The previously unreleased music, which was fortunately well recorded, was Robinson’s first recordings since 1951. While it says on the liner notes that this quartet, Robinson’s regular band, was never recorded, it was actually previously documented in June 1974 on the Hep CD Very Live In Boulder, Colorado.

Robinson is heard in top form during the 17 standards. While most of the selections feature him on his Getz-inspired tenor, his playing is particularly beautiful on alto during “Nancy (With The Laughing Face).” Other highlights include his versions of such songs as “Love Letters,” “Groovin’ High,” an uptempo “Like Someone In Love,” “A Fine Romance,” “Tangerine,” “It Could Happen To You,” and Charlie Parker’s “Au Privave” although every performance is rewarding. Guitarist Bruning (a local legend in Colorado) is also in top form during what was his recording debut while Patterson (who has occasional solos) and Goes are sympathetic and tasteful accompanists.

While Spike Robinson recorded fairly often in his later years, The Live Session is a major addition to his discography. Anyone who enjoys swinging and melodic saxophone playing will want this swinging set which is available from

Karrin Allyson
A Kiss For Brazil

Karrin Allyson, who has been recording rewarding albums since 1992, is still in prime form these days. On A Kiss For Brazil which is at least her 17th album, she displays her long-time love for Brazilian music. In 2008 Allyson had recorded an album titled Imagina: Songs Of Brasil and her rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “O Pato” (complete with her charming quacking) is one of several Brazilian songs that have long been in her repertoire.

A Kiss For Brazil came about when Karrin Allyson wanted to achieve her longtime goal of recording with veteran singer Rosa Passos. After cutting “Month Of March In Salvador” and “O Grande Amor,” she decided to record a full Brazilian album, one that would feature her singing songs that she had never recorded before.

With Vitor Goncalves on piano, accordion and Fender Rhodes, guitarist Yotam Silberstein, bassist Harvie S, and drummer Rafael Barata, Karin Allyson uplifts such numbers as

“Recardo Bossa Nova,” Ivan Lins’ “The Island,” “Manha de Carnaval, “So Many Stars” (during which she plays piano) and “Wave.” She also accompanies herself on piano (with bassist Harvie S) on “Only Trust Your Heart.”

The music is performed in English and Portuguese (Allyson can sing fluently in several languages) with taste and the infectious bossa nova rhythms, mostly taken at an unhurried pace. Karrin Allyson is particularly adept at contrasting the joyful melodies with its often-melancholy lyrics. She has always had a real feeling for Brazilian music, making A Kiss For Brazil easily recommended for fans of that idiom. It is available from

Gueorgui Kornazov and the Brass Spirit Quintet

Gueorgui Kornazov is a trombonist and composer originally from Bulgaria who is based in France. He has worked in Europe with a wide assortment of artists including the Vienna Art Orchestra, the NDR Big Band, Norma Winstone, Carla Bley, Maria Schneider, Bob Brookmeyer, Toots Thielemans, Albert Mangelsdorff, Didier Lockwood, and Kenny Wheeler among others.

Reminiscences finds him leading the Brass Spirit Quintet, a group consisting of his trombone, trumpeter Quentin Qhomari, accordionist Didier Ithurssarry, Lucas Dessaint on tuba, and drummer Eric Ehampard. They perform a dozen of Kornazov’s originals: Reminiscences #1, #2, #3 and songs with a single word for its title including “Stars,” “Dance,” “Solitude,” “Twist,” “Joy,” and ”Love.”

It is a pity that this CD has no liner notes for it would have been enlightening to have Kornazov talk about what is really a suite. The songs mostly segue into each other without much pause. The spirited and continually surprising music blends together Eastern European influences (including hints of klezmer and brass band music) with creative jazz solos while covering a variety of moods. The rich melodies, beautiful blend between the horns, creative arrangements, and the inventive use of the accordion make this a particularly worthy release that will keep one guessing. Play it all the way through in one setting and be charmed. Reminiscences is available from

Emmet Cohen Featuring Houston Person
Masters Legacy Series Volume 5
(Bandstand Presents)

How is it possible that Houston Person was 88 at the time of this 2023 recording? He still has his trademark huge sound on tenor, caresses each note of the melodies he plays, displays constant soul, and improvises with energy and warmth while generally keeping the themes of each tune in mind. He has not declined in the slightest. Didn’t he know that he was 88?

Pianist Emmet Cohen has long been a hero in the jazz world for collaborating with veteran jazz greats and particularly for his weekly livestreams during the pandemic. He can play creatively and in his own voice in most jazz styles from stride and swing to bop and beyond. Cohen meets Person in the tenor’s comfort zone while inspiring him to stretch a little on songs that he loves. With his regular sidemen bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Kyle Poole, Cohen gives the great tenor a solid foundation in which to express himself.

The quartet performs Person’s “Why Not,” Shirley Scott’s “Blues Everywhere,” and six standards. Perhaps the biggest surprise is an effective uptempo version of the Billy Joel hit “Just The Way You Are.” Also particularly rewarding are these renditions of “Isn’t It Romantic,” “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart,” and “Sunday Kind Of Love,” but there is not a weak moment throughout this joyful set.

Masters Legacy Series Volume 5 is highly recommended and available from and

Legends & The Lost
Rare & Hot Jazz 1925-1930

Legends & The Lost • Rare and Hot Jazz 1925-1930 - The Syncopated Times

Since 1994, Paul Swinton on his Frog label has reissued many rare gems from the 1920s and early ‘30s. Rare & Hot Jazz 1925-1930 fills in a few gaps and contains some pretty rare music.

Five groups are represented on this CD. Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra was one of the great jazz bands of the second half of the 1920s, featuring such notables as trumpeter Jabbo Smith, trombonist Jimmy Harrison, altoist Benny Carter (at the beginning of his 70 year career), and tenor-saxophonist Benny Waters among others. Included on this set are the two songs from the band’s first session (before any of those giants were part of the band) plus the previously unreleased “Mo’lasses” from 1929, a real find.

The six numbers recorded by the Georgia Strutters from 1926-27 with singer-leader Perry Bradford and (on the last two numbers) Jabbo Smith and Jimmy Harrison receive a welcome revival as do the only two songs recorded by the Kentucky Jazz Babies (a quintet led by violinist Clifford Hayes). Eddie & Sugar Lou’s Hotel Tyler Orchestra recorded ten numbers in two sessions during 1929-30 and all of them are also reissued here. The Dallas band is particularly riotous during the first six-song session. Included is their version of the standard “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” a song that the band’s banjoist-singer Eddie Fennell and pianist Charles “Sugar Lou” Morgan wrote years earlier (it was first recorded in 1921) but unfortunately sold for just $100.

Rare & Hot Jazz 1925-1930 concludes with four selections featuring clarinetist-altoist Vance Dixon (leader of Dixon’s Jazz Maniacs) with a trio. 1920s jazz and blues collectors are advised to check out the Frog label’s website ( which includes many gems, and acquire this set of rarities.

Brian Bromberg

Brian Bromberg | "LaFaro" - DL Media Music

Scott LaFaro (1936-61) was a brilliant bassist, a virtuoso who is best remembered for his playing with the Bill Evans Trio during 1959-61. He was one of the first jazz bassists to play with the fluency of a guitarist and his interplay with Evans helped move the concept of a piano trio a few steps forward.

Brian Bromberg is also a brilliant bassist, one who long ago mastered the tapping technique popularized by Stanley Jordan. Bromberg has performed a wide variety of music in his

career on both acoustic and electric basses but on his recent album LaFaro, he sticks to acoustic in a trio with pianist Tom Zink and drummer Charles Ruggiero.

The group performs a set of music that mostly includes numbers that LaFaro had played with Evans plus Bromberg’s “Scotty’s Song,” “What Is This Thing Called Love,” a solo bass version of “Danny Boy,” and LaFaro’s “Gloria’s Step.” To their credit, Bromberg and Zink do not try to copy LaFaro and Evans although naturally there are hints of them in spots. Instead, LaFaro is a tribute to the interplay that the bassist and pianist had rather than a close recreation of their styles. While there are many bass solos heard throughout this set, they are concise and pianist Zink, who has his own straight ahead jazz style, is often the dominant voice with drummer Ruggiero tastefully playing a supportive role.

LaFaro is a fine tribute to an innovator and well worth picking up. It is available from

Wolfgang Schalk
Dear Earth
(Frame Up Music)

Wolfgang Schalk, who is originally from Austria, took up the classical guitar when he was 15. He discovered jazz while in art school and Wes Montgomery was his early musical idol. Schalk has been leading his own bands since 1992 both in Europe and the U.S. While Pat Metheny is an influence on his sound, Schalk displays his own musical personality on his recordings including his recent Dear Earth.

The guitarist is joined by pianist Andy Langham, bassist Carlitos Del Puerto, and drummer Oscar Seaton Jr. for a program comprised of his nine originals. The set contains plenty of variety including the quiet ballad opener “Twelve-Tone Blues,” an energetic jazz waltz (“Screws Loose”) which has a long section where unisons by guitar and piano accompany Seaton’s drum breaks, and the introspective classical-type melody of “Dear Earth.” Other highlights include the medium-tempo “Let’s Cook” (which does), a tribute to Chet Baker (“For Chet”) that is a melodic tune that one could imagine the trumpeter playing, and the thoughtful and heartfelt ballad “Clouds And Droughts” which is subtitled “Soundtrack For A Dream.”

Schalk and the always creative Andy Langham have most of the solo space and display strong musical chemistry while Del Puerto and Seaton are stimulating in support of the lead voices. Dear Earth, which is available from, is an excellent acquisition for those who enjoy cool-toned modern jazz guitarists.

Johnny Griffin
Live At Ronnie Scott’s

Johnny Griffin (1928-2008) was famous during his career not only for his brilliance in exploring the bebop language and for his original sound (which was an influence on Rahsaan Roland Kirk) but for being the fastest saxophonist around. He was always able to play perfectly coherent solos at a blinding speed whenever he felt that it fit the music.

Griffin moved permanently to Europe in 1963 where he spent his final 45 years, occasionally visiting and playing in the U.S. Live At Ronnie Scott’s is a previously unreleased

set from Jan. 8, 1964 that features the tenor at London’s Ronnie Scott’s club with pianist Stan Tracey, bassist Malcolm Cecil, and drummer Jackie Dougan.

The quartet starts off with a relatively relaxed if sometimes fiery version of “The Girl Next Door.” “Indiana” is taken at a racehorse tempo for over 21 minutes with Griffin never running out of ideas during his 12-minute solo and also engaging in a heated tradeoff with drummer Dougan. The medium-tempo “Blues In Twos” also has lengthy spots for Griffin and Tracey (who tends to be a little low in the mix) before the CD concludes with a brief and rapid version of “The Theme.”

It is a pleasure getting to hear “new” performances by Johnny Griffin. This worthy CD is available from

Orlando Madrid
From This Moment Forward

There is so much talent to be found on the current jazz scene all over the world that, try as one might, it is impossible to be familiar with everyone. Altoist Orlando Madrid has his own sound in the modern mainstream, writing and performing swinging and harmonically advanced music inspired by Wayne Shorter while sounding fresh and new. He leads a young quintet/sextet on From This Moment Forward that also features pianist Arnie Sainz, guitarist Robert Papacica, bassist Marshall Herridge, drummer Jonas Esser and, on five of the eight selections, trumpeter Mike Rodriguez. While their names (other than Rodriguez) may not be familiar yet, it is a sure bet that these world-class players will all have significant careers in future years.

The musicians perform seven compositions by Madrid and one from Sainz. The Afro-Cuban flavored “Never For Ever,” an exciting blues-with-a-bridge original (“Blue And Gold”), and a medium-tempo ballad with a bit of spoken word from guest Thurston Ray (“From This Moment Forward”) get the CD off to a strong start. The other selections are the jazz waltz “Quintessential” which has a particularly fluent guitar solo, the somewhat somber ballad “Noelia,” a hyper “Mas Sangre!” which features heated trumpet and alto solo, the complex waltz “Enjoy It While It Lasts,” and Sainz’s “Right Flank” which finds the group recalling Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in spots.

All in all, From This Moment Forward is a fine modern jazz album from musicians who we will be surely be hearing much more from in the future. It is available from

Dario Savino Doronzo and Pietro Gallo
Reimagining Opera
(DIG Jazz)

Dario Savino Doronzo and Pietro Gallo
Reimagining Aria
(DIG Jazz)

Jazz artists have been playing excerpts of classical music since the 1920s and there have been occasions where one of the melodies catch on such as “The Light Is Low” being taken from a piece by Ravel and becoming a standard during the swing era. Flugelhornist Dario Savino

Doronzo and pianist Pietro Gallow, a pair of very talented Italian jazz musicians and educators, formed the Re-Imagining Duo in 2014. Since then they have performed concerts comprised of classical melodies that they have transformed into modern jazz. Rather than “ragging” or “swinging” the classics, they pay tribute to the melodies while giving them new identities. Sometimes the renditions sound as if they were written recently for a jazz group, and at other times the duo improvises as if they were around during the time period in which it was originally composed.

Reimagining Opera features the two musicians exploring themes by Verdi, Monteverdi, Parisotti, Puccini, Mascagni, Giordani, Paisiello, and Godard that are drawn from operas. Most of these melodies are not all that famous outside of classical circles and they adapt well to the jazz solos and ensembles. In fact, this version of Paisiello’s “Nel cor piu non mi sento” (the only piece performed on the project that is taken as fast as a medium-tempo pace) even sounds as if it was a jazz song. Three selections add Michel Godard on serpent (an early brass instrument with a low range) with the Godard piece being a flugelhorn-serpent duet.

Reimagining Aria has Doronzo and Gallo utilizing the arrangements of Daniele Sardone on ancient arias (mostly from the 1600s) by Baroque composers Cesti, Caldara, Scarlatti, Marcello, Caccini, Cavalli, and Porpora. While the music on Reimaging Opera was generally taken at slow thoughtful tempos, Reimagining Aria has more mood and tempo variations with Doronzo’s warm tone and fluent playing heard at its most expressive. Gabriele Mirabassi’s clarinet is a strong asset during three guest appearances and there are stretches where Doronzo and Gallo play unaccompanied. The music is frequently exciting and is filled with rewarding themes and arrangements.

Both CDs are easily recommended to those who enjoy both jazz and classical music with Reimagining Aria getting the edge. They are available from

Abe Pollack
Unprecedented Time

Abe Pollack is an excellent bassist who on Unprecedented Time contributes new compositions in the style of 1930s swing, trad jazz, and klezmer. Other than “The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise” (a fine feature for his slap bass) and “Lullaby Of The Leaves,” the songs are all his originals.

Pollack, who also plays one song apiece on guitar and electric piano, is joined by guitarist Brad Brose, drummer Uri Zelig, either clarinetist Jonathan Greene or Ryan Weisheit on reeds, and (on three numbers) accordionist Albert Behar.

The wide-ranging songs are mostly pretty concise. Best are the catchy riff tune “Palling Around In The Parlor,” the swing era type ballad “A Night In With You,” and some Gypsy jazz on “Valse D’Urgence.” The klezmer songs and Greene’s clarinet take a little getting used to (his best spot is actually on alto during “Lullwater Blues”), and I wish that the individual performances were a bit longer with Pollack taking more solos.

But Abe Pollack’s desire to revitalize several musical styles with new material is a worthy one and there is some excellent material and playing on this set. Unprecedented Time is available from

Charles Mingus

In 1960 Charles Mingus recorded five sessions for Nat Hentoff’s Candid label, with double sessions featuring two different groups on Oct. 20 and Nov. 11 plus a single title on Nov. 1. With the exception of one song that was recently unearthed, all of the music on this new Candid Lp was put out previously but some of the less common performances are included.

Four of the five selections on the Lp date from Nov. 11. “R&R” and “Body And Soul” are unusual in that they team together trumpeter Roy Eldridge and altoist Eric Dolphy in a sextet that also includes trombonist Jimmy Knepper, pianist Tommy Flanagan, and drummer Jo Jones. The swing era veteran Eldridge had not only never recorded with Dolphy before but he had also not met up in a recording studio with Mingus. With the emphasis on straight ahead swinging, the often-combative trumpeter was happy with the results. “Body And Soul,” which begins as a ballad featuring Eldridge before it doubles the tempo for Dolphy and a second trumpet solo, is particularly successful.

From later on the same day, Mingus leads an octet consisting of some of his favorite players (trumpeters Ted Curson and Lonnie Hillyer, Dolphy, altoist Charles McPherson, tenor-saxophonist Booker Ervin, pianist Paul Bley, and drummer Dannie Richmond) on one of his most memorable originals, “Reincarnation Of A Lovebird,” and the same group without Curson and Dolphy is heard on the boppish “Bugs.”

. That leaves the previously unreleased “All” from Oct. 20 which was apparently based on pianist Art Tatum’s treatment of “All The Things You Are” but without the theme. This unusual and dark performance is quite abstract, an ensemble piece that is tightly arranged for Mingus’ tentet.

While not quite essential since all of the performances but “All” are available elsewhere, Incarnations has plenty of memorable music and will be a must for Charles Mingus completists. It is available from and

Eric Swinderman
In Pursuit Of The Sound

Guitarist Eric Swinderman, who is based in the San Francisco Bay area, has a clear sound, a clean style, swings at every tempo, and has flawless articulation. While known locally for his work with singer Brenda Boykin, some of his best playing is on this CD, In Pursuit Of The Sound.

Joined by pianist Marty Williams, bassist Ruth Davies, drummer Raul Ramirez and, on four of the 12 numbers, trombonist Wayne Wallace and tenor-saxophonist Charles McNeal, Swinderman is definitively showcased during the wide-ranging program. Among the highlights are the joyful opener “Sugar Baby,” a funky version of “All Blues” that reinvents the jazz waltz into a 4/4 romp, the soulful Ramsey Lewis-type groove given to Hampton Hawes’ “Dede” and “Georgia On My Mind,” Swindelman’s Wes Montgomery-type octaves on the minor blues “In Pursuit Of The Sound,” and his tasteful and mostly unaccompanied renditions of “I Remember Clifford,” “Recado Bossa Nova,” and “Nardis” with Babatunde Lea’s quiet percussion heard on the latter. An added bonus is the fine vocalist Joyce Grant singing on her original “Speak To Me” which has a bossa-nova groove.

While there are excellent piano, tenor and trombone solos, Eric Swinderman’s attractive and inventive guitar playing is the main reason to acquire this excellent CD which is recommended and available from

Lorenzo Petrocca
My Foolish Heart

Lorenzo Petrocca – My Foolish Heart | Jazz'halo

Lorenzo Petrocca was born in Italy and moved to Germany with his family when he was 15. When he was 18, he purchased his first electric guitar. He gained experience playing with soul and funk bands and did not explore jazz until he was 25 in 1989. Since that time he has worked with swing groups, led an organ trio, and performed everything from Dixieland and Louis Prima-associated songs to Chick Corea compositions, leading at least 17 albums of his own.

My Foolish Heart is Lorenzo Petrocca’s first full-length recoding as an unaccompanied soloist. On a set mostly comprised of ballads (“Satin Doll” which is dedicated to Joe Pass and Kenny Burrell’s “Midnight Blue” are the only songs taken at a medium tempo), Petrocca displays impressive technique (his occasional double-time breaks are noteworthy), a solid sense of swing even when playing out of tempo, and the willingness to caress melodies but in an inventive fashion.

On a set that includes such numbers as “All The Things You Are,” “Have You Met Miss Jones,” “Body And Soul,” and “The Godfather Theme” along with a pair of three-song medleys, Lorenzo Petrocca creates beautiful music. While one can use this set as background music, it is best to play it loud and appreciate his constant creativity and subtlety even as he keeps the melodies close by. My Foolish Heart is an excellent set, available from