text Waxing Poetic Reviews

 

Charles Lloyd Trios
Chapel
(Blue Note)

Difficult as it might be to believe, the 84-year old Charles Lloyd is playing at the peak of his powers these days. While originally inspired by the giants of the 1950s, Lloyd has long sounded quite original. His tenor and flute playing were always a bit spiritual and picturesque, and in recent times he has emphasized a gentleness that perfectly suits his musical personality. While his playing is open to change and modern musical developments, he has remained a melodic and lyrical improviser who finds inspiration in nature.

Chapel is the first of three Charles Lloyd recordings that will be released by Blue Note this year, each of them with a different trio. On this set, Lloyd is joined by guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan for a touching rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s final composition (“Blood Count”), the folk song “Ay Amor,” and three Lloyd originals.

Whether on tenor or during two appearances on flute, Lloyd’s playing is thoughtful and laidback but never predictable. He shows particular fluency on flute during “Beyond Darkness,” embraces the theme on “Song My Lady Sings,” and ends the program with the joyful “Dorotea’s Studio” which is a little reminiscent of his classic “Forest Flower” from the 1960s. Throughout the set, Frisell and Morgan, who get their solo space, clearly enjoyed their roles in the supporting cast, with Frisell in particular often adding to the music’s beauty. The music on Chapel, which is available from www.bluenoterecords.com and www.amzon.com, is a consistent delight.

     

 

Tracye Eileen
You Hit The Spot
(Honey Crystal Records)

Tracye Eileen studied at the Bloom School of Jazz in Chicago, has worked regularly at Buddy Guy’s Legends for six years, and is a soulful jazz singer. You Hit The Spot, her fourth release as a leader, follows her straight ahead debut Love Journey (2012), her soul/r&b 2018 release Why Did I Say Yes, and an album marketed to the smooth audience, 2020’s It’s Time.

You Hit The Spot is strictly swinging and Tracye Eileen sounds very much at home in this genre. Three of the songs have her joined by a three-horn sextet with pianist Jeremy Kahn and she really swings hard on “I Love Being Here With You” and the swing obscurity “You Hit The Spot.” The other five numbers are with a fine trio comprised of pianist Dennis Luxion, bassist Paul Martin, and drummer Linard Stroud. Best are “Almost Like Being In Love” and “This Can’t Be Love” although “The Very Thought Of You” goes on a bit too long and is uneventful.

Tracye Eileen, who hopefully will record with a big band someday, has a very attractive and powerful voice that sometimes hints at Nancy Wilson. She deserves to be heard. You Hit The Spot is available from www.tracyeeileen.com

     

 

Ahmad Jamal’s Three Strings
The Complete Okeh, Parrot & Epic Sessions 1951-1955
(Fresh Sound)

Ahmad Jamal - Ahmad Jamal's Three Strings · The Complete Okeh, Parrot & Epic  Sessions 1951-1955 (2-CD Box Set) - Blue Sounds

Ahmad Jamal, who is still playing in his prime these days at age 92, always had an original style on piano. During an era when many young pianists emulated Bud Powell and filled their solos with rapid single-note lines, Jamal’s use of space for dramatic effect was something much different. His “less is more” approach inspired Miles Davis (who urged Red Garland to play in a similar style), his close interplay with his sidemen by the mid-1950s predated Bill Evans, and his recordings do not sound at all dated 70 years later.

While Jamal’s trio with bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernell Fournier during 1957-62 set the standard for his music, they were not his first group to record. The pianist had been a member of violinist Joe Kennedy’s Four Strings in 1948 which also included guitarist Ray Crawford and bassist Tommy Sowell. The group broke up in late 1949 and in 1951 Jamal called his new band The Three Strings. It initially included Crawford and Sowell before Eddie Calhoun took over on bass. The band’s individual identity included Crawford occasionally hitting his hand on the guitar to emulate a bongo, a sound that Herb Ellis would soon utilize with the Oscar Peterson Trio.

The piano-guitar-bass trio recorded eight songs with Calhoun during 1951-52, one four-song session with bassist Richard Davis in 1954, and 25 selections with Israel Crosby in 1955. After that, when Crawford departed, Jamal replaced the guitar with drums and it became known as the Ahmal Jamal Trio.

All of the pianist’s recordings in his trio with guitar are on this imported two-CD set. Jamal’s style is quite recognizable from the start even though it took a few years of struggle for him to build up his audience. Among the highlights are his versions of several songs that he would rerecord with his drums trio a few years later (including his hit “Poinciana”), quite a few numbers that Miles Davis would add to his repertoire (“The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” “Will You Still Be Mine,” “A Gal In Calico,” “New Rhumba,” “Billy Boy,” “All Of You,” “I Don’t Wanna Be Kissed,” “Old Devil Moon,” and “Autumn Leaves”) plus such gems as “Perfidia,” “Slaughter On 10th Avenue,” and “Pavanne.” The latter, an adaptation of Morton Gould’s classical piece, has a section that briefly includes what would become the melody (and chord change) of Davis’ “So What” which would not be “composed” for another 3 ½ years.

This perfectly compiled two-CD box set, in addition to all of the recordings that Ahmad Jamal made before he turned 26, has a definitive 24-page booklet about the group written by label head Jordi Pujol. The Fresh Sound set (available from www.freshsoundrecords.com) is highly recommended.

     

 

Jesper Thilo Quartet
Live At Jazzcup
(Stunt)

JESPER THILO 80 - Live At Jazzcup reviews

For decades, Jesper Thilo has been one of Denmark’s top jazz artists. In his earlier days, he was often reminiscent of Zoot Sims but on Live At Jazzcup, recorded earlier this year, the 80-year old tenor-saxophonists has a heavier tone and is closer to Coleman Hawkins.

Thilo, very much in prime form, is featured on a 2022 live date with pianist Soren Kristiansen, bassist Daniel Franck, and drummer Frands Rifbjerg. He revives Matthew Gee’s catchy “Oh Gee,” caresses the melody of “Body And Soul,” and really cooks on “Just Friends” including during a heated tradeoff with the drummer. Other highlights include an uptempo “Blue And Boogie,” a warm Stardust,” and hard-swinging versions of “I Remember April” and “Lester Leaps In”; the latter concludes as a humorous “Montmartre Blues.” Kristiansen is featured on “Tenderly” (sounding

inspired by Oscar Peterson) and is excellent on “Like Someone In Love.” Bassist Franck is the main soloist on the medium-tempo “Sweets To the Sweet” and, on “If I Had You” and “Memories Of You,” Thilo shows that he is also a very good clarinet player.

All straight ahead jazz fans should be familiar with Jesper Thilo who has been recording rewarding and swinging albums since the 1960s and as a leader since 1973. Live At Jazzcup is available from www.sundance.dk.

     

 

Charles Mingus
Presents Charles Mingus
(Candid)

There is no point being subtle in one’s praise for this album, it is simply a classic.

In 1961, Charles Mingus led one of the smallest groups in his career, a pianoless quartet with trumpeter Ted Curson, Eric Dolphy on alto, bass clarinet and flute, and drummer Dannie Richmond. Right about the time that the unit was breaking up, the bassist fortunately got the quartet into a recording studio with the resulting album being released by Nat Hentoff’s Candid label. Recently it has been reissued as an Lp by the reborn Candid, a company that will be bringing back earlier gems in addition to recording new music.

The Mingus Lp consists of four songs. “Folk Forms, No. 1,” is a medium-tempo blues that is taken through many different sections including unaccompanied solos, duets and trios. The interplay between the four musicians is intuitive and often remarkable with Curson in particular sounding at his best. It is followed by the definitive version of “Fables Of Faubus” (renamed “Original Faubus Fables”) which, unlike the studio version for Columbia, has Mingus’ spoken comments about the segregationist Arkansas governor Orville Faubus.

Side two of the album begins with the lengthy “What Love” which is highlighted by a passionate musical conversation between Dolphy (on bass clarinet) and Mingus. The album concludes with a number that has one of the great song titles: “All The Things You Could Be By Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother.” The song is loosely based on “All The Things You Are” except with the musicians not playing the melody or the chord changes!

Dolphy, Curson, Richmond and Mingus are heard throughout this album at their very best, listening closely to each other, reacting instantly, and taking the music in unexpected directions. One of the finest recordings of 1961, Presents Charlie Mingus still sounds undated and fresh today. It is available from www.candidrecords.com.

     

 

JC Sanford
Imminent Standards Trio, Vol. 2
(Shifting Paradigm)

Trombonist JC Sanford was a protégé of Bob Brookmeyer and has worked with such notables as Danilo Perez, Matt Wilson, and John McNeil. He is also a talented composer who has written for a wide range of instrumentation and recorded a big band album by his orchestra in 2013.

Based in Minnesota, Sanford had recorded Imminent Standards Trio, Vol. 1 in 2021 with bassist Jeff Bailey and drummer Phil Hey. At the time, he made it a goal to record further volumes with different trios. On a few of his rare sessions during the pandemic year that followed, he played with bassist Charlie Lincoln and drummer Abinnet Berhanu, liked what he heard, and enlisted them for Vol. 2.

For what is very much a blowing session without much prior planning, Sanford performs Dexter Gordon’s “Fried Bananas,” Lee Morgan’s “Ceora,” two songs by Ornette Coleman, “Willow Weep For Me,” and an original apiece by Thelonious Monk, Tommy Flanagan (the medium-tempo blues “Freight Trane”) and Stevie Wonder (“Isn’t She Lovely”).

In addition to his fluent technique, Sanford has an expressive tone of his own, a sound that holds one’s interest in this sparse setting. Lincoln and Berhanu get their solo spots and keep the music swinging in their active accompaniment of Sanford who never seems to run out of ideas.

Imminent Standards Trio, Vol. 2 is easily recommended to those who love straight ahead jazz. It is available from www.shiftingparadigmrecods.com.

     

 

Petra Van Nuis & Andy Brown
Lonely Girl – I Remember Julie
(Self-Released)

Petra Van Nuis, a fine jazz singer with a fetching voice and swinging phrasing, is married to guitarist Andy Brown, a superb player who can sound like a full band when he plays unaccompanied solos; he has also uplifted many straight ahead jazz combos. The couple have recorded together frequently in the past including as a duo.

This project from 2021, which had previously been released by a Japanese label and is now available domestically, is a tribute to Julie London. A subtle singer whose sensual vocals were matched by a series of famous album jackets, London’s first record was called Lonely Girl, a set of duets with guitarist Al Viola. London also recorded trio albums (with bass) that featured guitarists Barney Kessel and Howard Roberts.

The Van Nuis-Brown duo set only has one song taken from London’s Lonely Girl album (the title cut), drawing the rest of its 13 selections from other recordings by the singer. Petra Van Nuis, who grew up loving Julie London’s singing, does not attempt to imitate her and instead sings in her own fetching style. She improvises more than London used to yet utilizes space in a similar manner. Brown’s accompaniment and solos are so complete that one never misses the piano, bass or drums.

Among the many selections that are uplifted by the couple are “You’ve Changed,” “Here’s That Rainy Day,” “The Meaning Of The Blues,” “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home,” and “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most.” Lonely Girl concludes with a heartfelt rendition of Julie London’s big hit, “Cry Me A River.”

Fans of Julie London and of Petra Van Nuis are advised to get this rewarding CD which is available from www.petrasings.com.

     

 

Darrell Grant
The New Black
(Lair Hill)

In late-1993, pianist Darrell Grant made his recording debut as a leader, heading a young all-star quartet on the Criss Cross album Black Art that also included trumpeter Wallace Roney, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Brian Blake. At Birdland over two nights in Jan. 2019, he celebrated the 25th anniversary of that album with a group featuring trumpeter Marquis Hill, bassist Clark Sommers, and drummer Kendrick Scott.

The musicians were not aware that they were being recorded. They stretch out on remakes of six of the nine pieces from Black Art plus “The New Bop” (the title track from Grant’s second album)

and the more recently composed “The New Black.” The group performs five Grant originals, the ballad “For Heaven’s Sake,” “Blue In Green,” and Ron Carter’s “Einbahnstrasse.”

While the spontaneous performances are probably longer than they would have been if recorded in the studio, the music never loses one’s interest or wanders. Darrell Grant, who has always been an inventive and stimulating pianist, is in top form while Somers and Scott offer intuitive support and short solos. However The New Black is particularly noteworthy for the consistently brilliant playing of Marquis Hill. He displays his mastery of hard bop, his more extroverted flights sometimes hint at Freddie Hubbard, and he adds a great deal of fire to the group yet plays with quiet and heartfelt emotion on “Blue In Green.”

The playing throughout The New Black is of such a high quality that one hopes that its release will result in another great celebration 25 (or more realistically 10) years from now. It is heartily recommended and available from www.darrellgrant.com.

     

 

Rickey Ford
Paul’s Scene
(Whaling City Sound)

It is good to hear music from tenor-saxophonist Ricky Ford again. After working with the Duke Ellington Orchestra during 1974-76 when it was led by Mercer Ellington, he gained attention for his playing with Charles Mingus, Dannie Richmond, Mingus Dynasty, Abdullah Ibrahim, Mal Waldron, and his own groups, leading at least 15 albums during 1977-91. Ford always had his own sound which

was inspired more by the great swing tenors than by John Coltrane although he was always a modern improviser.

Ford moved to France in the early 1990s and was also based in Istanbul for five years, so he has been largely overlooked in the U.S. during the past few decades. But, as his playing on The Wailing Sounds Of Ricky Ford: Paul’s Scene shows, he has continued to grow as a soloist through the years.

Joined by pianist Mark Soskin, acoustic bass guitarist Jerome Harris, and drummer Barry Altschul for this 2021 set, Ford performs a variety of his postbop originals along with five obscurities. Among the latter are the Coleman Hawkins ballad “The Essence Of You” and Hank Jones’ “Angel Face” (on both, Ford displays the influence of Hawkins), Duke Ellington’s “Frustration” (originally a Harry Carney feature) and a real surprise, the 1920s piece “Stockholm Stomp.” Of his own songs, the jubilant party piece “Paris Fringe” and the high-powered “ Paul’s Scene” (his tribute to Paul Gonsalves who he succeeded in the Ellington Orchestra) are particularly memorable. Paul’s Scene (available from www.whalingcitysound.com) is a fine introduction to the Ricky Ford of today and serves as a good excuse to explore his earlier recordings.

     

 

Joel Ross
The Parable Of The Poet
(Blue Note)

One of the top young jazz vibraphonists, Joel Ross is greatly in demand as a featured sideman and increasingly as a leader. He has now headed four albums Blue Note.

The Parable Of The Past has Biblical text in the liner notes and the titles in the seven-part suite each have something to do with religion, including such numbers as “Prayer,” “Choices” and “Bendiction.” However this is an instrumental set and the thoughtful music stands on its own so it can be enjoyed by atheists and agnostics too!

Ross is joined by the already-mighty young altoist Emmanuel Wilkins, trumpeter Marquis Hill, tenor-saxophonist Maria Grand, trombonist Kalia Vandever, pianist Sean Mason, bassist Rick Rosato, and drummer Craig Weinrib. The music is taken at thoughtful tempos and the performances generally build up gradually. The vibraphonist is in the forefront throughout “Prayer” which uses a simple melodic phrase that is repeated throughout the ensemble. “Guilt” starts with an unaccompanied bass solo, becomes a jazz waltz with fine solos from vibes and alto and, at its close, the ensembles play around the theme and become happily crowded. “Choices” is a feature for Hill featured and also has some colorfully dense ensembles. Other highlights include Wilkins’ passionate “preaching” on “Wail,” and a change of pace in “Doxology” which is an uptempo jam.

Joel Ross’ The Parable Of The Poem is an atmospheric and subtle work that is just the latest accomplishment in what will certainly be a significant career. It is available from www.amazon.com and www.bluenote.com.

     

 

Vicki Burns
Lotus Blossom Days
(ViBu Jazz)

In 2005, Karrin Allyson on her Footprints CD mostly sang new lyrics that were written to jazz instrumentals by Chris Caswell. During an era (that has now been 30 years) when few jazz musicians are composing originals that are becoming standards, it was a refreshing idea to add words to jazz classics that had not been sung before.

Vicki Burns on Lotus Blossom Days revives the idea. She performs such standards as Sam Jones’ “Del Sasser” (renamed “If You Never Fall In Love With Me”), a pair of Billy Strayhorn songs (“Lotus Blossom” and “ Bittersweet”), Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” (“Watch Out”), Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” (which Carmen McRae sang years ago as “It’s Over Now”) and John Coltrane’s “Equinox” (Caswell changed it into “A Long Way To Go” for Allyson). In addition, she contributes “Love Spell” and “Siren Song,” and interprets three standards plus Tessa Souter’s “You Don’t Have To Believe.”

A singer has to have a wide range and an attractive tone in each register in order to successfully perform most of these former instrumentals without sounding awkward. Vicki Burns has those qualities and more, also being a superior interpreter of lyrics and an excellent scat-singer (as she shows on a few of the numbers). Burns sounds quite at ease even during the more difficult melodies and obviously relished the challenge. The singer is joined by pianist Art Hirahara, bassist-arranger Sam Bevan, and drummer Billy Drummond plus several guest horn players. Tenor-saxophonist Dayna Stephens takes several solos (including on “Love Spell”) and trumpeter Josh Deutsch is excellent on “Close Your Eyes.”

This is an enjoyable release, arguably Vicki Burns’ finest recording to date. It is available from www.vickiburnsjazz.com.

     

 

British Underground
Outernational: Live From Studio Two
(Jazz Refreshed)

OUTERNATIONAL - LIVE FROM STUDIO TWO ABBEY ROAD [VINYL ONLY] | jazz  re:freshed

During the past decade, many new jazz and improvised music talents have been performing and recording original music in the United Kingdom. The six selections on this Lp, each of which feature a different ensemble, are evidence of the rich modern jazz scene to be found on the other side of the

Atlantic Ocean. The performances were originally recorded for a filmed show at 2021’s South By Southwest (SXSW) festival.

DoomCannon is an ensemble with keyboardist Dominic Canning as its leader. On “This Too,” the quintet features an impressive soprano solo by Kaidi Akinnibi. Altoist Camilla George leads a quintet on “ Ekpe” and takes an excellent improvisation over the funky but not predictable rhythms. Side one concludes with drummer Richard Spaven heading a power trio with guitarist Stuart McCallum and electric bassist Christopher Hargeaves that is relatively laidback on “Helsinki Trio.”

The virtuosic tuba player Theon Cross is the best-known musician on this sampler. He takes a brief solo and then pushes his quintet with rhythmic patterns on “Panda Village.” Chelsea Carmichael’s tenor playing and the spacey guitar work of Nikos Ziarkas are standouts. The other two selections are of lesser interest due to forgettable vocalizing. Olivia Bhattacharjee is featured on “Red” while Tess Hirst shouts as much as sings on “These Days.” The latter does include some heated tenor playing from Binker Golding. Overall, Outernational: Live From Studio Two (available from www.jazzrefreshed.com) is a fine sampling of some of the new music by British artists who American jazz listeners would benefit from discovering and exploring.

     

 

Clark Terry
Live In Holland 1979
(Storyville)

Even if he did not have a lovable personality, his great sense of humor, his Mumbles singing, and his unique conversations between his trumpet and flugelhorn (not to mention being an inspiring educator), it would be difficult not to love Clark Terry (1920-2015). On flugelhorn he had the happiest sound in jazz, an enthusiastic and very individual voice that was full of joy. His technique was superb, he could play or read anything, and C.T. was instantly recognizable within two notes. Fortunately he left behind a large number of rewarding recordings.

Clark Terry occasionally led big bands in the 1970s and ‘80s. His Big Bad Band, which is featured on this previously unreleased concert, had the looseness and spirit of a small group. While his 16 sidemen only contain a few major names (including a trombone section comprised of Hal Crook, Buster Cooper, Chuck Conners, and Richard Boone), all of the musicians were world class players. While the leader is naturally the main soloist on this set, there are spots for many of his sidemen including altoist Chris Woods (featured on “Jeep’s Blues”), tenors Herman Bell and Bill Saxton, baritonist Charles Davis (on “Carney”), and bassist Victor Sproles among others.

Not too surprisingly the music, which mixes together obscurities with such C.T. standbys as “On The Trail,” “Just Squeeze Me,” and “Take The ‘A’ Train,” swings joyfully throughout. Terry, who sings on “Just Squeeze Me” and a typically crazy version of his trademark “Mumbles,” sounds particularly happy to be heading his own big band.

Clark Terry’s Live In Holland 1979 is as rewarding and fun as one would expect. It is available from www.storyvillerecords.com.

     

 

Judy Whitmore
Isn’t It Romantic
(Arden House Music)

An actress, theater producer, and a published author, Judy Whitmore is also a cabaret singer who, after years as a part-time vocalist, has performed regularly since 2018. On her latest recording,

Isn’t It Romantic, she is joined by pianist-arranger Tamir Hendelman and some of Southern California’s top jazz players.

Judy Whitmore sings 11 veteran standards and the more recent “Just A Little Lovin’.” She has a lovely voice and does justice to the lyrics that she interprets but does not improvise or take any chances in her vocals. The most exciting selection during the mostly ballad-oriented set is “The Birth Of The Blues” which has her being inspired by the exciting vocalizing of guest singer Peisha McPhee.

There are some fine solos taken along the way by Hendelman, flutist Lori Bell, tenor-saxophonist Rickey Woodard, trumpeter Mike Rocha, guitarists Mitchell Long and Larry Koonse, and bassist Alex Frank with support by drummer Dean Koba and (on two songs) percussionist Brian Kilgore; Stephan Oberhoff provides harmony vocals on one song.

Judy Whitmore sounds fine throughout such standards as “It Could Happen To You,” “Sunday In New York,” “But Beautiful” and the title cut, letting her attractive voice tell the story. Hopefully next time around she will stretch out more in her phrasing and really make these songs her own. Isn’t It Romantic is available from www.judithwhitmore.com.

     

 

Scott Hamilton
Classics
(Stunt)

This CD could have been called Scott Hamilton Plays Chopin, Ravel, Debussy And Others. The veteran tenor-saxophonist, who has yet to record an unworthy album, generally plays classics from the American Popular Song. On this set, with the assistance of the great pianist Jon Lundgren, bassist Hans Backenroth, and drummer Kristian Leth, he performs nine melodies drawn from classical music.

In the 1930s and ‘40s, it was not unusual for a theme from a lengthy classical work to be recorded as a swing tune. Some became hits, such as “The Lamp Is Low” which was originally part of Maurice Ravel’s “Pavane.” Hamilton continues that tradition on Classics, playing pieces by Rachmaninoff, Anton Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky, and Franz Lehar (in addition to the names already mentioned) as ballads and swinging jazz.

Hamilton’s warm tone, caressing of the themes, and melodic solos, along with the top-notch rhythm section, uplift such pieces as “Humoresque,” “Theme From Swan Lake,” and “Yours Is My Heart Alone.” Classics (available from sundance.dk) is easily recommended, even to those not all that familiar with Western classical music.

     

 

Enrico Rava/Fred Hersch
The Song Is You
(ECM)

Enrico Rava, 82 at the time of this 2021 recording, has been a regular on the ECM label for decades with this being at least his 15th outing as a leader. The trumpeter, who on The Song Is You exclusively plays flugelhorn, has also recorded for other labels and worked with a wide variety of adventurous improvisers in his career including Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Steve Lacy, Roswell Rudd, Carla Bley, Barry Altschul, and many top Europeans. His mellow tone makes his playing accessible even when it is heard at its freest, and he has lost nothing through the years.

The Song Is You is a thoughtful duet set of mostly standards that co-stars the always-inventive pianist Fred Hersch. Rava and Hersch make for a very compatible team, playing with full knowledge of the tradition while occasionally stretching its boundaries. Some of the pieces on “The Song Is You” are taken out-of-tempo part of the time; they are all filled with quiet passion.

It does seem unusual to have such songs as the title cut, Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso,” “’Round Midnight,” and especially “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” (Tommy Dorsey’s theme song and a Monk favorite) on an ECM album, but the label has had occasional departures into standards. The duo also performs a Jobim song (“Retrato em Branco e Preto”), an original number apiece, and the free-form “Improvisation.” The interplay between the two musicians is enjoyable to hear and the main reason to acquire this fine CD. The Song Is You is easily recommended and available from www.amazon.com.