Malcolm Earle Smith
Malcolm Earle Smith is best known as a skilled and versatile trombonist from the United Kingdom who has played early jazz, swing, and bop in addition to more contemporary music. Up to now he has also been an occasional jazz singer. Vocal Intent features him exclusively as a vocalist and in the small field of male jazz singers, he already ranks fairly high.
Smith has a warm, light and appealing voice, along with the knowledge (and choice of notes) of a jazz instrumentalist. He also picks nine great tunes to interpret.
On this set with saxophonist Leo Richardson (excellent on tenor and baritone), pianist Chris Eldred, bassist Conor Chaplin, and drummer Douglas Marriner, the singer performs such numbers as “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” the 1930s Bing Crosby hit “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams,” an uptempo “Confirmation,” and a hard-swinging “I Had The Craziest Dream.” He handles lyrics well, integrates scatting into his singing, and uplifts each song that he revives with his melodic improvising. The rhythm section is supportive, offers some worthy solos, and works well with the vocalist. Listeners who enjoy swinging jazz singing in the 1950s tradition of Jackie Paris and Mel Torme will certainly want to pick up Malcolm Earle Smith’s Vocal Intent (available from www.malcolmearlesmith.com).
Flugelhornist Dmitri Matheny has a mellow tone, a laidback and boppish style, and writes melodic pieces that would fit in well on a West Coast jazz date of the mid-1950s. His music is easy-to-take yet never predictable.
For what is at least his 12th recording as a leader, Matheny teams up with Charles McNeal (who has cool tones on tenor and soprano that blend in well with the leader), pianist Bill Anschell, bassist Phil Sparks, and drummer Mark Ivester. They perform six of Matheny’s originals, three standards (including an offbeat choice in ‘Wichita Lineman”), and one song by Anschell. The music is quietly creative, subtle, and always swings.
Among the highlights are the light Latin piece “Cascadia,” “Evergreen Girl,” Matheny’s ballad “Dark Eyes,” and the bluesy strut “The Lonesome Road.” “Bourdain,” which has some free improvising, is a bit of a surprise but is still in a mellow mood.
Cascadia, while at times a bit of a throwback to 1950s West Coast Jazz, also is filled with fresh ideas and beautiful playing (such as Matheny on John Coltrane’s “After The Rain”) that make this an easily recommended set of pleasing music. It is available from www.originarts.com.
Live At Room At The Top
(Reel To Reel)
Pepper Adams (1930-86) was one of the greatest baritone-saxophonists of all time. While Gerry Mulligan came to prominence before him and won the jazz polls, Adams in the long run has been more influential. He had a passionate sound, could play very fast lines, was harmonically advanced, and emphasized the lower register of his horn.
Live At Room At The Top is a two-CD set of previously unreleased performances from Sept 25, 1972. Adams is very much in the spotlight throughout while joined for the engagement in Edmonton by pianist Tommy Banks (best known for his playing and writing with his own big band but also excellent in this setting), electric bassist Bobby Cairns (who was normally a guitarist), and drummer Tom Doran. Except for a brief version of “’Tis,” Adams really stretches out; the six other selections clock in between 12:18-19:11.
The recording quality is excellent (other than an uptempo “Stella By Starlight” which fades in and out in spots) and Adams is in prime form on such numbers as “Three And One,” the baritonist’s “Patrice,” “Oleo,” and “Stella By Starlight.” Unfortunately he does squeak several times (rather loudly on “Three And One” and once or twice elsewhere), probably due to a bad reed. But that flaw aside, Live At Room At The Top (which was produced by Cory Weeds and has extensive liner notes) is well worth acquiring. It features Adams swinging hard and with plenty of passion as he really digs into these songs. The CD is available from www.cellarlive.com.
Paris Sessions 2
Tierney Sutton and French guitarist Serge Merlaud worked together on the original Paris Sessions CD back in 2014. They were married in late 2019 and recorded Paris Sessions 2 during the lockdown the following year. This album, which is intimate on a few levels, has the two joined by bassist Kevin Axt (a member of the singer’s regular group) and, on five numbers, guest flutist Hubert Laws.
Dedicated to the late Marilyn Bergman (she and her husband Alan Bergman are represented by three songs), the set primarily consists of warm ballads. Tierney Sutton’s voice blends in very well with her husband’s guitar and Laws’ flute during some of the wordless ensembles, she caresses the words that she interprets, and the improvising is both subtle and satisfying. Among the highpoints are their treatments of two Jobim songs (“Triste” and “Zingaro”), a relaxed “Isn’t It A Pity,” a mysterious sounding “Beautiful Love,” and a swinging version of “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.”
Now we all know that Tierney Sutton can scat up a storm, flawlessly hit wide intervals, and create complex improvisations. But Paris Sessions 2, which focuses on the beauty of her voice, quiet emotions, and the caressing of melodies and moods, is a very different type of album and successful on its own terms. One of her most rewarding recordings, Paris Sessions 2, which is available from www.bfmjazz.com, is a real standout in Tierney Sutton’s career.
Conversations With My Father
Stephan Oberhoff is a talented multi-instrumentalist who plays piano, guitar, bass and even drums in addition to being a fine Brazilian styled singer. It is no wonder that he is generally very busy with a countless number of projects in many musical genres, working primarily as a studio musician and not often enough as a leader in public and on records.
Conversations With My Father, which is dedicated to his late Dad, features Oberhoff performing 11 of his originals (plus “Broken Wings”) on piano, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums, and percussion in addition to contributing an occasional vocal. However, despite the overdubbing, he is not alone on this CD. There are also other guitarists (including Paul Jackson Jr. and Mike Miller), bassist Jimmy Haslip, three woodwind players (including Scott Mayo), drummer Tom Brechtlein, two other percussionists, and a pair of cellists on various selections, all of whom make worthy contributions to the project’s success.
The music covers a wide range of moods and grooves. Among the highlights are the joyful “Smoothjazz With A Sharp Stick” (which fortunately is not smooth), “Conversations With My Father” (an acoustic ballad featuring Oberhoff on both guitar and piano), the Latin fusion of “Venezuela,” his funky piano on “Unexpected Move,” the often-wild “Bird Speak,” and the cool jazz piano on the all-too-brief “Jammin With James.” Conversations With My Father (available from www.stephanoberhoff.com) displays some of the many musical sides of Stephan Oberhoff. Hopefully he will have time for many more releases of his musical visions in the future.
Herb Geller (1928-2013) was one of the top bop-oriented alto-saxophonists of the 1950s. Influenced by both Charlie Parker and Benny Carter, Geller worked with several big bands in the late 1940s including Claude Thornhill, married pianist Lorraine Walsh and, after freelancing in New York, moved to Los Angeles with his wife in 1952. An important part of the West Coast jazz scene, Geller worked with many of the top local players including Shorty Rogers, Bill Holman, Shelly Manne, Chet Baker, Maynard Ferguson and Clifford Brown, and led a series of fine recordings. This period abruptly came to an end in 1958 when Lorraine Geller (who worked as the house pianist at the Lighthouse) died suddenly from an asthma attack.
Deeply depressed, Herb Geller continued playing, touring Brazil with Benny Goodman and trying unsuccessfully to bury himself in his work. Taking Stan Getz’s advice, in 1962 he moved to Paris and began a new life. It was the right move for soon
Geller was doing studio work and being celebrated for his musical talents. Later that year he moved to Berlin where he was a staff musician for Radio Free Berlin’s orchestra and met his second wife. In 1965, Geller began a 28-year period playing with the NDR Big Band in Hamburg. Starting in 1984 and accelerating after his retirement from the orchestra, Geller freelanced as a top-notch jazz soloist who was still in his playing prime, recording a rewarding series of sessions as a leader and staying active until shortly before his death at age 85.
Geller had headed a series of excellent albums during 1953-57 and a jazz version of the songs from Gypsy in 1959, but he only led one forgettable album during 1960-83 before he began recording as a leader again in 1984. While he did make recordings during that long period as a sideman, European Rebirth – 1962 Paris Sessions, helps fill part of that gap.
The previously unreleased performances include 11 selections recorded for the Jazz aux Champs Elyseés radio program. Geller is joined by a fine rhythm section with the excellent pianist Jack Dieval. On six of the numbers the group is expanded from a quartet to a larger combo that has fine playing from trumpeter Sonny Gray, tenor-saxophonist Francois Jeanneau, and (on “It’s You Or No One”) vibraphonist Dany Doriz. Geller is heard in often exuberant form, sounding quite happy on such swingers as Charlie Parker’s “Crazeology,” Gigi Gryce’s “Brake’s Sake,” Jimmy Heath’s “C.T.A,” and the obscure but excellent “While The Cigarette Was Burning.”
Four other numbers from the period are relatively brief performances with pianist Henri Renaud who joins Geller in a quartet, playing Renaud’s originals based on blues and standards. As bonus tracks, the altoist is featured on two additional live numbers (one with pianist Kenny Drew) taken from appearances at jazz festivals in Italy and Yugoslavia.
European Rebirth is an important release that shows that Herb Geller was very much at the top his game during the 1960s. More importantly, this is consistently exciting music that anyone interested in bop will want to acquire. It is available from www.freshsoundrecords.com.
Beverley Church Hogan
A few years ago, Beverley Church Hogan made her long overdue recording debut with Can’t Get Out Of This Mood. Nearly a half-century before, she was a professional singer who almost signed a recording contract with Capitol, turning it down because she would have had to spend lengthy periods on the road; she chose to raise her daughter instead. In the years since, she sang on a part-time basis including performing an annual concert at Catalina’s in Hollywood.
With the successful release of Can’t Get Out Of This Mood and the easing of the pandemic, it was time for an encore. Sweet Invitation teams her with some of Southern California’s top jazz musicians (pianist John Proulx, saxophonist Bob Sheppard, guitarist Grant Geissman, bassist Lyman Medeiros, Clayton Cameron and Dean Koba on drums, and percussionist Kevin Winard) for nine standards. Most of the songs (other than
“Here’s That Rainy Day” and “Invitation”) are not performed all that often. The instrumentalists are quite complementary to the singer’s voice (adding color, swing and creativity in their concise solos), and the results (produced by Mark Winkler with arrangements by John Proulx) are enjoyable.
Beverley Church Hogan sings with warmth, deep understanding of the words that she interprets, and with quiet emotion. She is heard at her best on the medium-tempo songs including “Falling In Love With Love,” “What A Way To Go,” and “Why Try To Change Me Now,” and is quite expressive on “When October Goes.” Her fine recording is available from www.beverleychurchhogan.com.
Daniel Glass Trio
Drummer Daniel Glass, who has written extensively about drumming, has a background that includes being a longtime member of the Royal Crown Revue and work with jazz, Retro Swing, rock, and r&b groups. On Bam, which also features guitarist Sean Harkness and bassist Michael O’Brien, the three musicians operate very much as a musical democracy, accompanying each other’s solos and contributing one original apiece.
The set begins with relatively straight ahead versions of Cedar Walton’s “Bolivia” and “It Could Happen To You.” Harkness has his own flexible sound on guitar while O’Brien and Glass are assertive without ever being dominant. In addition to the originals which are a bit funky at times and a little rockish while still including jazz improvising, the group also plays the colorful “Smoke On The Water,” and two songs by vibraphonist Eldad Tarmu (one co-written with Glass) including a memorable “The Crippled Waltz.”
But beyond the individual songs, it is the friendly and accessible sound of the trio, with all three musicians making major contributions, that result in Bam being well worth exploring. This accessible set of creative music is available from www.amazon.com.
(Tiger Turn Productions)
The versatile singer Sarah Partridge in her Beautiful Minds project pays tribute to ten remarkable women mostly from the 1800s and 1900s along with a few current geniuses. She wrote the lyrics to ten originals along with the music for three of them, saluting astronomer Maria Mitchell, mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr, astronaut and surgeon Stella Splendida, doctor Susan La Flesche Picotte, aeronautics engineer Mary Jackson, physician Ester Pohl Lovejoy, climate scientist Nicole Hernandez Hammer, scientist and author Sunetra Gupta, and rocket scientist Jasmine Sadler.
While the lyrics (it is a pity that they were not reproduced in the liner notes) tell a bit about each of the women’s lives, the music is purely jazz. Pianist Allen Farnham leads
the rhythm section and there are occasional spots for Dan Block (soprano, tenor and flute), trumpeter Nathan Ekllund, and trombonist Ben Williams. Sarah Partridge voice is warm and flexible, the arrangements (by the singer, Farnham, Williams, drummer Tim Horner, and pianist Tomoko Ohno) vary moods and tempos (the rollicking Afro-Cuban jazz on “Rise Up” is particularly spirited), and a close listen reveals that the lyrics are often inspirational. Fortunately the liner notes include a thumbnail sketch of the ten women, each of whom should be much better known.
Beautiful Music, which is available from www.amazon.com, deserves several listens.
Sylvia Brooks was born in Miami to a jazz pianist (Don Ippolito) and an opera singer (Johanna Dordick). She began her career working in the theatre in New York, moved to Los Angeles, and since 2009 has been singing jazz-oriented music. Signature is her fourth recording.
This set is different than her previous recordings in that Ms. Brooks composed seven of the nine selections, also performing one number apiece by Melody Gardot and Leonard Cohen. Some of the music stretches beyond jazz into other areas. The rap on “Red Velvet Rope” by Perro Lou is unfortunate and “The Boy That Lived There” is pop. But most of the other selections are either superior ballads (her rendition of Gardot’s “Your Heart Is As Black As Night” is one of the highlights) or medium-tempo ruminations.
Sylvia Brooks’ lyrics deal with such universal topics as being too scared to tell someone how one feels (“Catch 22”), the end of a relationship (“Over And Done” and “Holding Back Tears”), and being young and directionless (“Sixteen”). Her voice sounds excellent, her interpretations are heartfelt and personal, and the backup group (which has Jeff Colella, Nikros Syropoulos, Tom Ranier, and Christian Jacob alternating on piano) help bring out the best in her singing.
Signature is an eclectic set by a fine vocalist who is becoming more individual with each recording. It is available from www.rhombus-records.com.
John Scofield has had his own easily recognizable sound on the guitar since the 1970s. In his career he has performed and recorded a wide variety of jazz, sometimes in funky and dense ensembles, and at other times in more introspective settings.
On Solo, recorded in Aug. 2021, Scofield is heard alone in the studio during the pandemic. He performs solos, overdubbed duets (often using the second guitar to play rhythm), and occasionally used a looper for effects. Most of the music is taken at lazy
tempos and the mood is quiet but there is more variety than one might expect. The repertoire includes such numbers as Keith Jarrett’s “Coral,” a lightly swinging “It Could Happen To You,” “Danny Boy,” the bluesy “Junco Partner,” a cooking “There Will Never Be Another You,” Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” Hank Williams’ “You Win Again,” and several melodic originals including the hypnotic “Trance De Jour.”
John Scofield excels on each of these selections and certainly sounds like he was having fun. His solo recital is quite accessible, easily recommended, and available from www.ecmrecords.com and www.amazon.com .
After making a major comeback during 1960-62 (recording Doin’ Allright, Dexter Calling, Go, and A Swinging Affair for Blue Note) following a barren period in the 1950s, tenor-saxophonist Dexter Gordon moved to Europe for what would be 14 prosperous years. His many recordings for the Steeplechase label (which include radio broadcasts and live engagements in addition to studio dates) show that he was at the peak of his powers during his European years.
While Gordon worked steadily throughout his stay in Europe, he made few recordings during his first 20 months aboard, only being documented on the Blue Note album Our Man In Paris and on a radio broadcast issued by Steeplechase. The previously unreleased music of Soul Sister is valuable in showing how Gordon sounded shortly after he moved overseas.
It is clear that Europe’s gain was America’s loss for Dexter Gordon sounds as wonderful as usual. There are three selections apiece from Feb. 24, 1963 (Copenhagen) and Nov. 24, 1962 (Oslo). The later session with pianist Bent Axen, bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen (16 at the time) and drummer William Schiopffe, is programmed first. Gordon introduces each of the songs verbally with his own brand of humor. His version of “Three O’Clock In The Morning” (a hit for Paul Whiteman in the 1920s) is a classic and joined by his likable original “Soul Sister” and “A Night In Tunisia.” Gordon also sounds in prime form for the earlier Oslo date with pianist Einar Iversen, bassist Erik Amundsen, and drummer Jon Christensen (later a member of Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet). They excel on “Second Balcony Jump,” the medium-slow “Ernie’s Tune,” and the tenor’s swinging boppish blues Stanley The Steamer.”
Suffice it to say that even collectors who have dozens of Dexter Gordon recordings will enjoy this one, as will those who are newer to the great tenor’s music. Soul Sister is available from www.steeplechase.dk.