The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7 – That’s What Happened 1982-1985
Miles Davis’ recordings and music of the 1980s were different than his work of 1969-75 (before he left the scene for five years). While his music remained electric and groove-oriented, the ensembles were less crowded (sometimes even sparse), there was a stronger emphasis on melodies that appealed to the trumpeter, the performances were briefer before shifting to the next piece, and the overall effect was safer and more consistent than his work of the previous decade. Rarely distorting his tone as he had frequently done during 1973-75, by 1982 Davis was back in his playing prime and his instantly recognizable sound was often glorious to hear. Occasionally the music even used a walking bass and swung in its own way.
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7, is a three-CD set that consists of previously unreleased Miles Davis performances from 1982-85, the period when he recorded Star People, Decoy and You’re Under Arrest and just preceding his move from Columbia to Warner Bros. Many of these “new” performances are actually superior to what was released at the time, there are quite a few catchy melodies and grooves, and there is one particularly fascinating session.
On Oct. 20, 1982, Davis had a reunion with the great bebop trombonist J.J. Johnson. They had first recorded together on a Charlie Parker session in 1947. Johnson was a member of Davis’ Birth Of The Cool nonet, he recorded with the trumpeter on some pioneering early hard bop sessions in 1952-54, and he was part of an undocumented Davis group in 1962. 20 years later, the trombonist is featured on duets with Davis on keyboards (two versions of “Minor Ninths”) and three versions of “Celestial Blues” with Davis’ sextet. While there is not that much interplay between Johnson and the trumpeter, it is quite a surprise to hear the trombonist in this setting mostly playing the blues. What other alumni of Miles Davis’ groups of the 1950s recorded with him in the ‘80s?
The other sessions, while slightly more conventional, feature the trumpeter in excellent form playing on outtakes, discarded performances, and unedited jams with Bill Evans or Bob Berg on saxophones, Mike Stern, John McLaughlin or John Scofield on guitar, Marcus Miller or Darryl Jones on electric bass, Al Foster, Al Foster or Vince Wilburn on drums, Mino Cinelu or Steve Thornton on percussion, and Davis or Robert Irving III. on keyboards. While the first two discs were cut in the studios, the final CD is a very good live concert from Montreal in 1983 with Evans (who is in top form, particularly on tenor), Scofield, Jones, Foster and Cinelu.
Listeners who think that Miles Davis’ music of his later years is not worth exploring, or that he did not evolve after Bitches Brew are particularly advised to acquire The Bootleg Series Vol. 7 which is filled with rewarding performances including from the leader. This set is available from www.amazon.com.
At 24, Samara Joy is poised to be the future of jazz singing. She has a beautiful and warm voice, is remarkably mature in her interpretations of ballads, can swing hard, scats well if only occasionally, and has grown in confidence during the past couple of years. Her second recording, like her self-titled debut, features her singing vintage standards with joy and a full understanding of the lyrics. While there are times (such as on “Can’t Get Out Of This Mood”) when she recalls a young Sarah Vaughan, in general she displays her own original voice.
Joined on most selections by pianist Ben Paterson and/or guitarist Pasquale Grasso, bassist David Wong, and drummer Kenny Washington, Samara Joy uplifts such songs as “Guess Who I Saw Today” (making the Nancy Wilson hit her own), “The Day I Knew” (which has her vocalese lyrics to Fats Navarro’s “Nostalgia”), “I’m Confessin’,” and “’Round Midnight,” singing the rarely heard Jon Hendricks lyrics on the latter. Everything works well throughout this gem. Linger Awhile, available from www.amazon.com, is an excellent way to discover the young and very talented jazz singer. The future of jazz continues to be bright.
A fixture on the Chicago jazz scene as a pianist and an educator during the past 15 years, Kevin Fort revitalizes bebop and straight ahead jazz in his playing. Considering his obvious musical talents, it is surprising that Perspectives is only his second recording as a leader, following 2014’s Red Gold.
Perspectives features Fort in a trio with bassist Joe Policastro and drummer Joe Deitemeyer. Starting with a medium-tempo romp through “I Should Care” and including such standards as “You’re Nearer,” a cooking “Lullaby Of The Leaves,” and Thelonious Monk’s “Ask Me Now,” Fort plays each song with enthusiasm and constant creativity within the bebop tradition. He also contributes four originals including the catchy “Hollywood Beach” which is based on the chords of “Avalon.”
Perspectives does not need much analysis for the tight trio’s joyful swing is quite easy to enjoy. This CD is easily recommended and available from www.jerujazzrecords.com.
(Cellar Music Group)
Jeremy Wong makes his recording debut on Hey There, and already he ranks high among male jazz singers, an admittedly small field dominated by Kurt Elling and Gregory Porter. Wong has a warm and friendly voice, swinging phrasing, and on this CD he consistently sings perfectly placed notes that make each song sound fresh.
Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Wong already has a strong local reputation. For Hey There, he is joined by pianist Chris Gestrin, guitarist Alvin Brendan, bassist John Lee, drummer Jesse Cahill and occasionally tenor-saxophonist Ardeshir Pourkeramati. They perform seven standards, Michael Franks’ “Jive,” and two originals. The singer sounds particularly memorable on a swinging “Where Or When,” a jazz waltz version of “Easy To Love,” a rare revival of “Hey There,” an optimistic-sounding “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” and a version of “The Days Of Wine And Roses” which, like Toots Thielemans’ rendition, shifts between two keys. Hey There (available from www.cellarmusicgroup.com) is an excellent debut and hopefully will result in Jeremy Wong gaining attention in the United States as a potentially significant jazz singer.
The Complete Albums Collection
The Early Albums Complete
The careers of drummer Kenny Clarke and bassist Ray Brown overlapped on a few occasions in their early years. They were both members of the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band in 1946, recorded with Charlie Parker in 1951, and were part of the Milt Jackson Quartet in 1951 that the following year became the Modern Jazz Quartet. Brown was never a member of the MJQ for instead he went on the road with Oscar Peterson while Clarke was with the group until 1955.
Their two four-CD sets from the Enlightenment label (available from MVD Distributors at www.mvdb2b.com) each reissue no less than eight albums apiece at a budget price. Kenny Clarke started his career as a flexible swing drummer who could sound quite credible playing New Orleans jazz with Sidney Bechet or pushing a big band. During the early-to-mid 1940s he was among the first drummers to lead the way in bebop, shifting the time keeping function from the bass drum and the hi-hat to the ride cymbal, and playing irregular “bombs” that pushed and inspired soloists. The first disc in his set starts with the reissue of a collection (Special Kenny Clarke 1938-59) that was originally released as an album in France, putting the spotlight on some of his early European sessions. It includes four songs from Stockholm in 1938 with a hot swing group, four tunes from France in 1946 with a bop unit, a number from a 1949 quintet led by altoist Hubert Fol, a lone song from a 1957 session, and four numbers with a group of French and American musicians (including Lucky Thompson), also in 1957.
The box set next includes all of the music from four Savoy albums dating from 1955-56 (Telefunken Blues, Kenny Clarke & Ernie Wilkins, Bohemia After Dark and Klook’s Clique). The music is vintage hard bop with Clarke joined by such all-stars as vibraphonist Milt Jackson, altoists Cannonball Adderley (on his first recording), Frank Morgan, and John LaPorta, cornetist Nat Adderley, trumpeter Donald Byrd, Frank Wess on tenor and flute, trombonist Eddie Bert, pianists Gerry Wiggins, Hank Jones, and Horace Silver, and bassist Paul Chambers among others. Missing from this compilation of Clarke’s early era are three sessions that he led during 1946-48 for the Swing label, a set for Savoy in 1949, 2 titles for Swing in 1950, two songs for Dee Gee in 1951, the 1956 Savoy album Kenny Clarke Meets the Detroit Jazzmen, and his first recordings after moving to Europe (1956-57).
However the Kenny Clarke box concludes with the drummer’s first collaborations with pianist-arranger Francy Boland. The Golden 8 is an octet set from 1961 with some very talented European players while Jazz Is Universal and Handle With Care are reissues of the first two albums by the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland big band, one of the finest jazz orchestras of the 1960s. The latter two recordings (originally released by Atlantic and fairly scarce) have swinging arrangements played by top European and American jazz artists including trumpeters Benny Bailey and Jimmy Deuchar, trombonist Ake Persson, altoist Derek Humble, tenors Zoot Sims and Ronnie Scott, baritonist Sahib Shihab, and bassist Jimmy Woode.
Bassist Ray Brown originally came to fame with the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band before becoming an indispensable part of the Oscar Peterson Trio. A fine soloist although not quite on the level of Oscar Pettiford or Charles Mingus, Brown had the perfect sound for an acoustic bassist and he could outswing anyone. With the exception of his four-song Savoy date of Sept. 25, 1946 (which has been reissued several times elsewhere), his box titled The Early Albums Complete has all of the sessions that Brown led up to 1975; he did not lead any during 1966-74.
It begins with the rare live Royal Roost Sessions of 1948 that feature his trio with pianist Hank Jones and drummer Charlie Smith both instrumentally and accompanying his wife of the time, Ella Fitzgerald. The other albums reissued in this box (with one exception) are his Verve sets of 1956-65: Bass Hit, This Is Ray Brown, the long elusive Jazz Cello, Ray Brown With The All-Star Big Band, So Much In Common, and Ray Brown/Milt Jackson. As a bonus 1957’s The Poll Winners (with Barney Kessel and Shelly Manne) from the Contemporary label is also included. In this box, Brown is heard in
a wide variety of settings ranging from a quintet with flutist Jerome Richardson and Oscar Peterson (doubling on organ), to a nonet with Bill Holman and Jimmy Giuffre on tenors, a couple of big bands, a soul jazz group with vibraphonist Milt Jackson and organist Wild Bill Davis, and the unusual cello date. Along with part of the All-Star Big Band date, and one song in 1974 with the L.A. Four, the latter was the only time that Brown recorded on the larger instrument.
Needless to say, both of the Enlightenment box sets are essential for jazz collectors who do not already have all of these very enjoyable albums.
West Coast In Amsterdam
Jazz at the Concertgebouw
(Nederlands Jazz Orchief)
The Jazz at the Concertgebouw series (available from www.jazzarchief.nl) is a very valuable program of previously unreleased concerts held at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in the 1950s and early ‘60s. Earlier releases include sets by Chet Baker, the Gerry Mulligan Sextet, Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band, J.J. Johnson, Sarah Vaughan, an all-star group with Lee Konitz, Zoot Sims and Phineas Newborn, Miles Davis, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Cannonball Adderley, Ella Fitzgerald, Jazz at the Philharmonic, and pianist Misha Mengelberg’s quartet. Despite all of that quality, the three-CD set West Coast In Amsterdam, the 15th in the series, may very well be the most valuable one.
The music, drawn from four concerts held during 1956-60, will certainly delight fans of West Coast Jazz. First tenor-saxophonist Bob Cooper and altoist-flutist Bud Shank jam with a quintet on “Scrapple From The Apple.” Cooper (who switches to oboe on “’Round Midnight”) and Shank are next featured on three songs apiece. The same rhythm section (pianist Claude Williamson, bassist Don
Prell and drummer Jimmy Pratt) finish up the first disc by accompanying June Christy on seven songs. Christy is heard at the top of her game and her version of her signature tune “Something Cool” is one of her most heartfelt and emotional renditions.
The second disc is split between the 1956 Stan Kenton Orchestra (with trumpeter Sam Noto, trombonist Carl Fontana, altoist Lennie Niehaus, and tenors Bill Perkins and Don Rendell being featured on a particularly swinging set) and Shelly Manne’s quintet with trumpeter Joe Gordon and tenor-saxophonist Richie Kamuca. The last CD has the Jimmy Giuffre 3 during two performances that match the leader on clarinet and tenor with guitarist Jim Hall and either Buddy Clark or Wilfred Middlebrooks on bass. Rather than performing folk/jazz material, the music is generally more hard-driving than expected with the leader in particularly excellent form.
What more need be said? Go out of your way to pick up this set!
Putt Lake Toodleloo
Doug Munro is a veteran jazz guitarist who has worked with Dr. Lonnie Smith, Michael Brecker and Dr. John, appeared on over 100 recordings as a sideman, and has composed over 75 originals. He has shown impressive versatility throughout his career, whether playing with a soul jazz organ trio, Latin music, bossa novas, guitar duets, or fusion. Putt Lake Toodleloo is his 20th album as a leader and the third with his gypsy jazz group La Pompe Attack following A Very Gypsy Christmas and The Harry Warren Songbook.
Putt Lake Toodleloo allows one to imagine what it would have been like if Django Reinhardt was from a much younger generation, and if he had been open to sharing the spotlight with other talented guitar soloists. This eclectic set only includes one Django song, “Manior De Mes Reves (Django’s Castle),” and two swing standards (“I’m Confessin’” and “Down By The Riverside”) in a program that also features six originals by Munro and songs by James Taylor, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, the Beatles, and the 1990s rock group Sound Garden. Yet despite the varied sources, the music consistently sounds very much in the gypsy jazz tradition and has a surprising unity with each song somehow leading logically to the next one.
Doug Munro, who also takes a few vocals, is joined by Albert Rivera (mostly on soprano-sax in addition to alto), bassist Michael Goetz, drummer Ian Carroll (with Jon Doty filling in on three songs), and one of four guitarists: Vinny Raniolo, Ernie Pugliese, Ted Gottsegen, or Ben Wood. Unlike with the Quintet of the Hot Club of France which had Reinhardt as the only guitar soloist while he was accompanied by two rhythm guitarists, there is solo space for each of the guitarists that appear in this quintet although, unfortunately, the liner notes do not identify who solos first. Each of the musicians solos in the tradition without copying their predecessors. Rivera’s solid lead on some of the songs blends in well with the guitarists.
The music is consistently joyous and good-humored while always swinging. The opening “Putt Lake Toodleloo” hints at both Duke Ellington’s “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” (his theme song in the 1920s and ‘30s) and “Topsy.” “Traffic Jam” weds James Taylor’s words from one of his pieces to a medium-tempo blues. “Rhumba Gitane” is a spirited rumba with a particularly catchy melody while “I’m Confessin” is taken at a relaxed medium-slow tempo and includes a fine Munro vocal and warm solos.
One would never think of Jaco Pastorius’ “Teen Town” as heated gypsy jazz but, despite its complex melody, this piece is given a cooking performance. “Struttin’” is a boppish Munro original that utilizes some of the chord changes of “I Got Rhythm.” “Psycho Samba” is a bit more modern and includes some counterpoint and a Spanish tinge. The rather unusual “Castyourfatetothewindcriedmary,” which has no connection to the Vince Guaraldi song “Cast Your Fate To The Wind,” features Munro singing lyrics that have numerous connections to other songs, TV shows, movies, and commercials. “Doug’s Bolero” is an attractive tango, Sound Garden’s “Black Hole Sun” and Shorter’s “Black Nile” (with its mysterious theme) are utterly reinvented as hot swing, and the group does justice to Django’s beautiful ballad “Manior De Mes Reves.” The enjoyable program closes with the Lennon/McCartney song “Honey Pie” (which sounds here like a vintage swing tune) and a goodtime version of “Down By The Riverside.”
The 1930s Jimmie Lunceford song “Tain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It” can be used to sum up this album. The diverse material on Putt Lake Toodleloo is less important than what Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack do with it, and the results are easily recommended to anyone who likes enjoys swinging gypsy jazz. This fine set is available from www.dougmunro.com.
Trial & Error
Drummer-composer Ben Freidkin, who makes his recording debut as a leader on Trial & Error, is one of many great jazz musicians who are originally from Israel. He had extensive classical piano training as a youth before starting on the drums when he was 14. During his studies at both the prestigious Rimon Jazz Institute and the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, he got to perform with several top artists including altoist Miguel Zenon and pianist Aaron Goldberg. After earning his degree, Freidkin moved to the U.S. in 2019, becoming a graduate student Aaron Copland School Of Music and also studying jazz piano and composition. The 28-year old has been quite busy in recent times, playing over 100 concerts in the New York area during the past year.
The music on Trial & Error comes from three concert recordings and teams Freidkin with either Nitsan Kolko or Moshe Elmakias on piano, and Gonn Shani, Rosa Lea Salamon or Guy Bernfeld on bass. Three songs add a guitarist (either Omri Bar Giora or Shai Jaschek) and three other songs have tenor-saxophonist Tal Kalman making the group a quartet. On “River Man,” Meital Waldmann takes a guest vocal. In addition to Ben Freidkin’s assertive, intuitive and versatile drumming, the leader contributed four of the eight inventive compositions.
The set begins with the title cut, some high-quality modern modal music. There are creative piano and bass solos along with Freidkin’s passionate drumming, and the high-powered tenor playing of Tal Kalman is quite memorable. This version of the standard “Nardis” is filled with polyrhythms, begins with an intense pattern over a vamp, and includes a fine spot on piano by Elmakias that hints at early Herbie Hancock with a bit of McCoy Tyner. “Running” features rhythmic piano lines that play opposite the bass and drums patterns plus a speedy bass solo by Bernfeld that never loses sight of the melody.
Two of the most intriguing pieces on the program are “Desiring” and “Big City Life.” The group’s version of Vijay Iyer’s “Desiring” is quietly emotional and dreamlike while making inventive use of repetition. “Big City Life” begins with banging from Freidkin that makes one think of early morning construction in a metropolis. Throughout the piece, which has some especially adventurous guitar playing from Bar Giora, several things are continually going on at once from the four musicians, emulating life in the city. John Coltrane’s “26-2” has the melody played in unison but out of tempo, features implied rather than stated rhythms by bass and drums, and includes a thoughtful piano solo that is often right on the edge. Freidkin’s “Kenny (For Kenny Garrett)” is an eccentric jazz waltz that is free in spots while the closing “River Man,” in addition to Waldmann’s haunting vocal, has guitarist Jaschek taking the music outside. Here, as throughout the set, Ben Freidkin never plays the expected on drums, constantly creating a musical commentary that inspires the other musicians.
Trial & Error (available from www.amazon.com) is a consistently impressive effort from Ben Freidkin who deserves recognition for his talents as both a drummer and a composer.
(Village Jazz Café)
Roberta Donnay has had quite a wide-ranging musical life. Like Maria Muldaur, she brings a bluesy style and a sweet voice to everything that she performs, no matter what the idiom. Her career has included singing trad jazz with Dick Oxtot’s Golden Age Jazz Band, writing originals that were used on soap operas, touring as one of the Lickettes with Dan Hicks & The Hot Licks, composing the song “One World” which became the theme for the United Nations’ 50th Anniversary, and leading her Prohibition Mob Band,
On Blossom-ing, she pays tribute to one of her inspirations, singer-pianist Blossom Dearie. While Donnay does not directly copy Dearie, her voice has similar qualities as does her hip phrasing. Joined by a quartet that includes pianist-arranger Mike Greensill, guitarist Jose Neto, bassist Ruth Davies, and drummer Mark Lee, she sings 16 songs that were in Blossom Dearie’s repertoire. Among the highlights are “Peel Me A Grape” (a Dave Frishberg classic that Dearie helped popularize), “Moonlight Savings Time,” “The Party’s Over,” “If I Were A Bell,” “You Fascinate Me So,” and “Put On A Happy Face.”
This is a very enjoyable release by a top-notch jazz singer paying homage to a unique voice. It is available from www.robertadonnay.com.
The Great American Songbook
Erich Cawalla is a talented and versatile singer-saxophonist who has mostly been known on the East Coast for performing r&b and pop/jazz. However his first full-length release, The Great American Songbook, is quite a bit different.
With a few exceptions, most of the songs on this set are vintage standards. Cawalla, whose singing is in the spotlight throughout, is joined on five selections by a swinging 17-piece big band and on other songs by smaller units that sometimes include strings. The late Dave DePalma arranged most of the songs and among the sideman are pianist Steve Rudolph, saxophonists Larry McKenna and Andrew Neu, guitarist David Cullen, bassist Bennie Sims, drummer Marko Marcinko, and the late percussionist Doc “Leonard” Gibbs. Violinist Karen Briggs guests on “All My Tomorrows” while the great trumpeter Randy Brecker takes a blazing solo on “Stella By Starlight.” The Great American Songbook was scheduled to be released in March 2020 but, due to the pandemic, was postponed until it finally came out much more recently. The program begins with “Have You Met Miss Jones.” Cawalla improvises around the melody a bit, scats like Chet Baker but with a wider range, and hits an impressive high note at its conclusion. “Ooo Baby Baby” demonstrates that Cawalla can also be a credible vocalist in an r&b setting; his masterful falsetto singing comes in handy as he flies over the background singers. “Almost Like Being In Love” has him joined by the shouting big band, singing in the tradition of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, at least until he scats wildly over the closing vamp.
Cawalla displays some fine ballad singing on “When Sunny Gets Blue” which he infuses with subtle creativity. He follows it up with his swinging original “Life’s About Forgiving,” a fresh take on the Frank Sinatra signature song “One For My Baby,” and is quite tasteful on the string-filled “All My Tomorrows.” The enjoyable set also includes a medium-fast “Stella By Starlight” (which, in addition to Brecker’s spot, has an excellent piano solo from Cliff Starkey, the former pianist on the Emeril Live Show on the Food Network), the soulful ballad “Home,” a spirited and exuberant version of “That’s Life,” and a heartfelt and nostalgic rendition of “The Curtain Falls.”
Throughout The Great American Songbook (available from www.erichcawalla.com), Erich Cawalla shows that he is a top-notch singer quite capable of creating memorable music in several different genres. His career is one worth watching.
Throughout his career, guitarist Shea Welsh has often played music that is very difficult to categorize. Born in Baltimore and based in Los Angeles, he has been utilized as a session musician and sideman in a countless number of different settings, from jazz and rock to soundtracks for films and television shows. His previous album was a jazz set called Arrival and he has worked with Michelle Coltrane (appearing on her album Awakening), Ronnie Laws, and the Paul McDonald Big Band.
Knowing all of that does not prepare one for the music of Renaissance Heart, a unit that consists of a nucleus trio with the versatile opera singer Hila Plitmann, tabla master Aditya Kalyanpur, and Welsh’s adaptable but personal guitar playing. Renaissance Heart is a World music group that blends together Indian music, Western classical, folk, rock, and jazz to create an unpredictable mixture of
styles and genres. For their debut recording, Layers, Renaissance Heart welcomes a few guests (pianist John Beasley, bassist Sezin Ahmet Turkmenoglu, cellist Eru Matsumoto, and percussionists Ray Yslas and Taku Hirano) on some selections but the focus is primarily on the three group members.
The opening “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5” serves as an excellent introduction to the eclectic group with opera singing co-existing with tabla playing and Welsh’s guitar. The fusionish “Sancho T. Panza” gets into a groove a little reminiscent of part of Chick Corea’s “Spain” and features rockish guitar, haunting singing (often in unison with the guitar), and a superb tabla solo.
Other performances include a vocal feature on the folkish “Wildflower,” the atmospheric “Layers,” some dazzling singing on “The Art Of Conversation” that emulates rapid tabla playing, the episodic “Water,” and a charming waltz (“One More Tomorrow”). Kalyanpur takes a powerful tabla improvisation on his showcase with the percussionists on “Your Turn” while Plitmann sings quite effectively on the pop song “Lean On.” To conclude the consistently intriguing set, “Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair” is given a light Latin flavor and “Merry Christmas Mother Earth” introduces a heartfelt Xmas song.
On their debut recording (available from www.amazon.com), Renaissance Heart has succeeded in carving out its own place in the modern music world.
Music For Guitar
A very skilled and versatile composer, Louis Rosen has written over 30 scores for theater productions and recorded at least ten albums on piano or guitar. His music is difficult to classify for it blends together jazz, folk music and classical. Music For Guitar features a dozen pieces on which Rosen plays solo acoustic guitar.
The melodies are rich, there is more variety in moods than expected, and such titles as “Before Rain,” “Air,” “Meditation 1 A.M,” “MSNBC (Or 7/8 to 4/4),” and “Night Blues” gives one an idea as to the moods covered. For the closer, the rockish strut “Eight And Forty In A Pie,” guitarist David Mansfield improvises a second guitar part.
Louis Rosen’s melodic and mostly soothing music is well worth several close listens. It is available from www.louisrosen.com.
Straight From The Heart
One of the top blues performers of recent times, Kenny Neal performs lowdown blues, spirited blues-oriented numbers, music inspired by his native Louisiana, and other related music. While he is the main star on Straight From The Heart, taking the vocals, frequently heated guitar solos, and contributing “Blues Keep Chasing Me,” “It Don’t Cost Nothing,” and “New Orleans,” he also features such guests as guitarist-singer Christone Ingram (known as Kingfish) on “Mount Up On The Wings Of The King” and Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters on two other numbers.
With rollicking support by a backup group that includes the 504 Horns and organist Brandon Adams, Kenny Neal is heard throughout in prime form. He shows that the blues are still very much alive today, and that there is more to the current blues scene than just its senior statesman Buddy Guy.
Straight From the Heart is recommended to lovers of the blues. It is available from www.rufrecords.de.
Known as a follower of Lester Young (once stating that “Anybody who doesn’t play like Pres is wrong”), tenor-saxophonist Brew Moore (1924-73) stuck to the Four Brothers Sound throughout his career. Unlike Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and even the lesser-known Allan Eager (all of whom sounded very similar to each other around 1950), Moore saw no reason to evolve much beyond his original approach. However he was never an imitator of Young, kept his style open to the influence of Charlie Parker, and his sound became more personal with time.
Because he spent much of his career living and playing in the San Francisco Bay area and Europe, and because he was not a sideman to famous bandleaders, Moore tended to be underrated if not totally overlooked in the jazz world. However, as the performances on Special Brew show, he was a swinging and creative improviser within the mainstream of jazz.
Recorded in 1961 with pianist Harold Goldberg (who on “Special Brew” effectively switches to alto horn), bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen (only 15 at the time but already long on his way to becoming a brilliant player), and drummer Alex Riel, the previously unreleased music finds Brew Moore in top form whether playing standards or lesser-known material. The highlights include “I Want To Be Happy,” “Tiny’s Blues,” “Scrapple From The Apple,” and the title cut.
Special Brew serves as an excellent introduction to the nearly forgotten but highly enjoyable playing of Brew Moore. It is available from www.steeplechase.dk.