text Waxing Poetic Reviews



Canned Heat
Finyl Vinyl
(Ruf Records)

Canned Heat formed in 1965 by blues record collectors, Bob (The Bear) Hite- vocals/guitar/harmonica/flute and Alan (Blind Owl)  Wilson-vocals/guitar/harmonica was initially an acoustic jug band. As blues revivalists they focused on pre-WWII material. With added players they shifted to being amplified, but took a while to gel, suffering from personnel changes, inconsistent gigs, few fans and a shelfed project produced by R&B legend Johnny Otis in 1966.

Despite all those issues, the next year the band’s eponymous album was released, Adolfo de la Parra became their drummer and they performed at the ground breaking Monterey Pop Festival, documented by D.A. Pennebaker. Subsequent 1968 albums included two of the group’s best known and chart-topping hits “On The Road Again” and “Going Up The Country.” In 1969, the rowdy So Cal band was part of the monumental Woodstock Festival, but omitted from the original film and then included in the 25th Anniversary Director’s Cut.

Admirably, since those first records and film appearances, Canned Heat has survived and thrived, albeit without Wilson (died 1970) and Hite (died 1981). de la Parra has anchored the band and he co-produced Finyl Vinyl, possibly the band’s last recording with Skip Taylor and Jimmy Vivino.

The project is contemporary blues oriented, but with a reverence for tradition. Guitarist/keyboardist Vivino’s dusty vocals lean slightly more to classic blues through “One Last Boogie,” “Going To Heaven (In a Pontiac)” and proclamation “When You’re 69.” Contrarily, harmonica player Dale Spaulding is higher pitched and more energized for “Tease Me,” “A Hot Ole Time,” and “Independence Day.”  Moreover, Dave Alvin plays guitar and does beat-like spoken word on “Blind Owl” honoring Wilson, Joe Bonamassa rips on guitar for “So Sad (The World’s In A Tangle,” and instrumental “East/West Boogie” adapted from “Theme From Tehran” scorches. For more info go to: cannedheatmusic.com.


Matt Wilson
Good Trouble
(Palmetto Records)

Drummer Matt Wilson is a vibrant force on the New York City jazz scene and his new album is a trifecta. It honors the late great Congressman and Civil Rights Activist John Lewis, celebrates the bandleader’s 60th birthday and is his 14th Palmetto Records project. Joining Wilson for the momentous occasions are alto saxophonist Tia Fuller, pianist/vocalist Dawn Clement, tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Jeff Lederer and bassist Ben Allison. Together they take a proactive approach to Lewis’ directive and musically create post-bop Good Trouble.

The three-part title suite gets underway with “RBG” a bold thematic saxophone driven piece honoring the renowned Supreme Court Justice who died several months after Lewis in 2020. Solemnly played “Walk With The Wind” with gospel touches is derived from the Congressman’s 1998 autobiography Walk With The Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. The final namesake suite selection is a downhome romp featuring Fuller tearing it up, with the other band members happily supporting.  

Besides the tribute to Lewis, “Fireplace” is a Monk-like homage to departed pianist/composer Gerri Allen, featuring offsetting tenor and alto saxophones forays. From a free jazz standpoint is Ornette Coleman’s “Feet Music” with an extensive solo bass section, and bluesy “Albert’s Alley” by Lederer was inspired by his dog and the memory of free jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler.

Bandleader Wilson known for being a joyful spirit also shook things up with his New School in New York student Akihito Gorai’s introspective ballad “Be That As It May” and John Denver’s optimistic “Sunshine On My Shoulders.” They were both gorgeously sung by Clement, with low key underscoring from the other players.

Rounding out the thoroughly engaging record is Gary Bartz’s “Libra” that showcases Wilson’s fiery drumming and Lederer’s Coltrane-like runs. Closer “CommUnity Spirit” starts hymn-like and ends being jubilant. For more info go to: www.mattwilsonjazz.com.


Amber Weekes
A Lady With A Song Amber Weekes Celebrates Nancy Wilson
(Amber Inn Records)

The new millennium launched the recording career of Los Angeles/Harlem (spiritually)-based singer Amber Weekes. Since the inception, she has been developing and honing her craft through three very different albums and many live performances. As a protégé of Three-Time Grammy Nominee Sue Raney, Weekes has taken a less-traveled route of singing limited amounts of standards. Instead, she interprets songs that ignite her passions and/or what she finds relatable. In that list were poignant songs by Oscar Brown Jr. and music from her grandparent’s Harlem luncheonette customers Lena Horne, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

Weekes’ tribute to Nancy Wilson, who unquestionably strongly influenced her, includes more standards than the LA singer’s previous records. Alternatively, it features several of the icon’s obscure, yet very appealing tunes. Producer/arranger and violinist Mark Cargill, who’s worked with Weekes on two other records brilliantly brings the singer’s dream to light.

Additionally, a cast of stellar musicians are assembled for the sessions. Among them are guitarists Russell Malone and Paul Jackson Jr., tenor saxophonists Gerald Albright, Rickey Woodard, Jacob Scesney and Justo Almario (also plays flute), pianists Tony Capodonico and Andy Langham, bassists Jeff Littleton and John B. Williams, drummers Fritz Wiser and Oscar Seaton, and percussionist Mynungo. Further garnishing things were trumpeters Ray Monteiro and Mike Cordone, and trumpeter Tashawn Ross.

Weekes superbly renders Wilson’s soul/jazz chestnuts “Save Your Love For Me” with edginess from Malone, and sultry breathiness for “Guess Who I Saw Today” adorned with strings and Almario’s gentle saxophone. Not as well-known was the title song, anti-feminist “10 Good Years” and loungey “I’m Always Drunk in San Francisco.” The crown jewel of the collection is Irving Berlin’s veiled “Suppertime,” about a lynching that predated Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” by six years, and Wilson recorded it three times. For more info go to: amberweekes.com.


Lee Ritenour & Dave Grusin
(Candid Records)

Grammy-winners guitarist Lee Ritenour and keyboardist/composer/arranger Dave Grusin have collaborated since the ‘70s on numerous recordings, film scores and tours. They reunited for a Brazilian themed project and their similar outing was Ritenour’s 1979 Rio. Encouraged by the guitarist’s Brazilian wife Carmen, and their drummer son Wesley’s activities and connections in her homeland, they decided to make a record in São Paulo.

Injecting vibrance and clarity were emerging players, drummer Edu Ribeiro, bassist Bruno Migotto, percussionist Marcelo Costa and vocalist Tatiana Parra.

Guitarist/vocalists Chico Pinheiro, who’s a generation older, and Celso Fonseca, closer in age to the principal artists also participated. The cultural exchange was rounded out with harmonica genius Grégoire Maret, and lauded Brazilian vocalist/pianist/composer/songwriter Ivan Lins. He won a Grammy with the Ritenour and Grusin for their 1986 Harlequin album.

The project flows seamlessly, with the emphasis on intuitively interacting and showcasing the native musicians.  Concurrently, enchanting songs by esteemed South American musical statesmen Milton Nascimento and Jobim are highlighted, along with new instrumentals by the record bandmates. Among them were jazz themed “For The Palms” featuring Ritenour and Maret, and Grusin’s signature sounding bossa “Canto Invierno (Winter Song).”

Parra serenely sings Nascimento’s percolating samba/bossa “Cravo E Canela (Clove And Cinnamon)” that’s further enlivened by stirring sols from Ritenour and Maret. She also angelically accompanies Lins for his touching ballad “Vitoriosa (Victorious),” Fonseca for his silky “Meu Samba Torto (My Crooked Samba)” and wordlessly on Ritenour’s cool grooving “Lil’ Rocky Way.”

Pinheiro who’s guitar playing resembles Ritenour, but slightly rawer, shines on Jobim’s classic “Stone Flower.” His own bubbly bossa “Boca De Siri (Keep it Quiet)” also showcased his sugary vocals. The merging of the celebrated veterans and the youthful Brazilians yielded a very palatable and soothing collection of tracks that will appeal to anyone who loves bossa.

Etienne Charles
Creole Orchestra feat. Rene Marie
(Culture Shock Records)

Creole Orchestra | ETIENNE CHARLES | Etienne Charles

Creole Orchestra ain’t your grandfather’s or dad’s big band—unless they’re from Eastern Caribbean islands Trinidad and Tobago. Trumpeter/composer/bandleader/percussionist/singer/educator Etienne Charles grew up there. His family of musicians went back four generations and he became steeped in island music, first playing cuatro and steel drums.

Still, jazz trumpet became his passion, with him winning Provincial Cup Competitions while attending nearby Fatima College. In the U.S., Charles studied at Florida State University under renowned pianist Marcus Roberts, and was appointed Brautlecht Scholar of the College of Music. He earned a Master of Music at Julliard and received its William Schuman Prize. Furthermore, he won the National Trumpet Competition, Jazz Division Winner, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2015.

Professionally, Charles worked with Wynton Marsalis, Monty Alexander, Roberta Flack, the Count Basie Orchestra, Maria Schneider, Johnny Mandel, Benny Golson, and Rene Marie. In fact, Marie was the impetus for Charles big band explorations, assigning him to arrange big band tunes for her tour.

Through that high pressure experience Charles realized he could write large ensemble charts and inject his flair. Purists might gasp at the thought of a 22-piece band with islanders such as drummer Obed Calvaire, bassist Jonathan Michel, trumpeter Giveton Gelin, and saxophonist Godwin Louis, along with Venezuelan cuatro wizard Jorge Glem and New Orleans pianist Sullivan Fortner melding diverse elements.

Amazingly, the bandleader presents it with panache and very imaginative arrangements, beginning with calypso-flavored “Old School.” Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison” features Charles’ student, MC Brandon Rose and DJ Logic with the band roaring away. The bandleader pays homage to former employers with a ripping/Caribbean version of Alexander’s “Think Twice,” “Holy City” is loaded with Schneider-like supple touches, and Marie’s “Colorado River Song” and “Take My Breath Away” feature her sophisticated and effortless vocals. For more into go to: www.etiennecharles.com.


By Dee Dee McNeil


Billy Childs, Bill Cunliffe, Banks Sapnar, composers; Temple University Studio Orchestra; Jose Luis Domingue, conductor; VIOLIN 1: Alexandr Kislitsyn, concertmaster; Luliia Kuzmina, assoc. concertmaster; Yuan Tian, asst. concertmaster; Zi Wang, Irina Rostomashvili, Taislya Losmakova, Samuel Allan-Chapkovski, Suhan Liang, Minghao Zhu, Sofiya Solomyanskaya, Alexander Covelli, Juan Yanez, J. Pelton, Eunice China, Kyungmin Kim. VIOLIN II: Andrew Stump, Abigail Dickson, Sherry Chen, Kyle Stevens, Ryujin Jensen, Yucheng Liao, Katherine Lebedev, Congling Chen, Esmeralda Lastra, Linda Askenazi Mochon, Alysha Delgado, Alyssa Symmonds, Nicholas Sontag. VIOLA: Adam Brotnitsky, Jasmine Harris, Aria Anderson, Meghan Holman, Tara Pilato, AJ Stacy, Shannen Merlino. CELLO: Leigh Brown, Brannon Rovins, Samuel DiVirgilio, Lily Eckman, Max Culp, Alfonso Gutierrez, Marcela Reina, Chloe Kranz, Gevon Goddard, Lily Perretta, Alison Park, Samay Ruparelia, Yohanna Heyer, & Jonah Rose. DOUBLE BASS: Jia Binder, Mohan Bellamkonda, Daniel Virgen, Sophia Kelsall. FLUTE: Samantha Humen, Nicole Hem, Melinda Lisette, Annabel Torres. PICCOLO: Annabel Torres. OBOE: Kay Meyer, Eleanor Rasmussen, Amanda Rearden. CLARINET: Wendy Bickford, Anthony Bithell, Sihon Chen, Antonello DiMatteo. BASSOON: Rick Barrantes Agüero, Adam Kraynak, Joshua Schairer. CONTRABASSOON: Joshua Schairer. HORN: Hannah Eide, Olivia Martinez, Aidan Lewis, Amanda Staab, Jordan Spivack. HARP: Tina Zhang. PERCUSSION: Scott Breadman, Garrett Davis, YoungGwang Hwang, Alvin Macasero, Milo Paperman, Alex Snelling & Yeonju You. JAZZ BAND: RHYTHM SECTION: Anthony Aldissi, piano; Mike Raymond, guitar; Dan McCain, bass; Maria Marmarou, drums. SAXOPHONES: Christian Ertl, Adam Abrams, Evan Koppelman, Jason Blythe, Zachary Spondike. TRUMPET: John Brunozzi, Nick Dugo, Andrew Esch, Banks Sapner. TROMBONE: Drew Sedlacsik, Laura Orzehoski, Michael Kaplan & John Kim.

The opening tune is composed and arranged by the Grammy winning arranger and pianist, Billy Childs. What Childs wrote in the liner notes of this album completely explain his original tune and concept.

“Labyrinth, a piece for big band, rhythm section and orchestra, was composed as a feature for Terell Stafford (trumpet) and Dick Oatts (alto saxophone).  It is so titled because I was hoping to create a maze-like sense of imbalance through constantly shifting meters.  I wanted the piece to start out feeling like it is in a triple meter (6/8 in this case.)  But, actually being in multiple meters (6/8, 5/8, 2/4 and 9/8 in various configurations, there by giving the listener, hopefully, a feeling of unpredictability while maintaining a logical continuum.  So, the rhythm section starts out with this asymmetrically metered groove, with various chordal punctuations from the orchestra and big band. Terell and Dick then enter with a trumpet and alto sax melody that begins with a quartal phrase and is then followed by other melodic material – these melodic fragments are used later in shout choruses and tutti passages as a means to develop the piece,” Billy Childs explains his music and concept.

Honestly, when Dick Oatts enters on his saxophone and tenderly plays a melody during the ballad tempo of this time-changing arrangement, I am smitten.  His solo is so poignant and beautiful.  The music grows like a plant in fast-motion, and the crescendo builds.  Who is that on those powerhouse drums? Justin Faulkner? The drum solo bursts free of the orchestra with fluid energy and tenacity. 

“So, in my mind, the big band took on the role of the symphonic brass and woodwind sections,” Childs continues his explanation of this unusual musical composition and unique arrangement.

“Structurally, the piece is basically in two parts: the labyrinthine first part with the shifting meters, the trumpet solo section in 6/8 and the contrapuntal tutti section; and a slower, ballad-like section, which features the alto saxophone, later joined by the trumpet,” Billy continues.

Yes, I clearly hear his words and they describe the action of his arrangement in great detail.  But when you hear the music, it is quite overwhelming in an artistic and exciting way.  Terell Stafford is masterful on trumpet and matches the intensity of the orchestra with his own tenacious trumpet solos.  Then comes that sweet saxophone entrance by Oatts that settles everything down, like desert dust after the windstorm disappears.  The music settles over me like a warm blanket. 

Another contributed piece was composed by Grammy Award-winning arranger, Bill Cunliffe.  His composition is titled “Rainforests,” a piece that explores three movements.

“For years I’ve been intrigued by trees.  … Trees keep us safe and healthy such as the tropical mangrove.  Its tangle of roots allows the trees to handle the daily rise and fall of tides and slows the movement of tidal waters, causing sediments to build up the muddy bottom,” Cunliffe explores his love and appreciation of trees in the liner notes.

His composition is plush with percussion at the introduction.  The horns enter with gusto and the drummer strongly propels the arrangement forward.  Then a horn solo brings a hush to the energy during a beautiful solo.  The piece goes from blustering energy to a quiet space in a forest.  I always enjoy an inspirational piano solo.  It enters like a sexy breeze blowing through the rainforest leaves.  The horns make the wind blow harder.  The solos calm the moments and bring beauty to the project. 

Cunliffe’s three-movement composition is performed by the Temple University Studio Orchestra with solos by trumpet master, Terell Stafford, alto saxophone icon, Dick Oatts, Tim Warfield shines on tenor sax, pianist, Bruce Barth, Mike Boone on bass, and drummer, Justin Faulkner.  The conductor is Jose Luis Dominguez. The final movement has a rich Latin feel to the arrangement that prompts me to get up from my desk and dance to the bold rhythms. This part of the arrangement reminds me of a street party.  There is joy in Cunliffe’s music. I can reach out and touch it, pull it close and soak up the happiness he spreads.

Finally, Banks Sapnar offers us “Red Braid” like a gift wrapped in bright, colorful music paper.  The arrangement dances.  Inspired by a masterclass from bassist and composer, John Clayton, Sapnar arranged this composition for the Temple University Jazz Band in one obsessive week.

“This piece was first performed at the TUJB winter concert at the Temple Performing Arts Center. … In the weeks leading up to the competition, the tune was workshopped and experimented with before becoming the final version it is today,” Sapnar shared.

I enjoy the counterpoint of a wild piano solo against the busy drumming of the band’s percussion expert. Maria Marmarou is impressive and solid on drums. The Temple University Jazz Band does a tremendous job, under the direction of Terell Stafford. They make Banks Sapnar’s composition come alive!

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Bay Blue | Patrick Wolff Quintet | Patrick Wolff

Patrick Wolff, alto & tenor saxophones; Keith Saunders, piano; Eric Markowitz, bass; Evan Hughes, drums; Mike Olmos, trumpet.

In 2009, Patrick Wolff relocated to San Francisco, playing in several popular West Coast bands.  Wolff has released seven albums as a bandleader, often featuring his original music. As a respected woodwind player, Wolff is competent on saxophones and clarinet. He has a long history of playing on the jazz scene in both New York City and Northern California, recording with Albert “Tootie” Heath, Matt Wilson, Grant Stewart, Louis Moholo-Moholo, Dena Derose, and several other notable names. 

You will hear four of his original songs on this “Bay Blue” album.  The first track that Wolff composed is called, “Cool Stones.” It’s a fantastic piece of Straight-ahead excitement and energy.  He is joined by the spontaneous Mike Olmos on trumpet.  Keith Saunders takes a notable piano solo, introducing us to his flying fingers and flighty improvisations. The band trades fours with their dynamic drummer Evan Hughes.  Underneath all the excitement, Eric Markowitz holds the rhythm section tightly in place on his double bass.  This is the kind of Bebop jazz I love.

When Wolff is not recording or touring, he shares his knowledge with students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the College of San Mateo.  He teaches jazz history, composition and heads ensemble classes.

The second track on this album is “Some of Frank’s Things,” another original ‘swing’ tune by Wolff.  The tone and technique that Wolff brings to the spotlight on both his alto and tenor saxophone takes me back to the 1960s when jazz was king and folks like Benny Carter, Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Heath and Lester Young were setting the standard.  His music and tone takes me back to when John Coltrane was king, and Ornette Coleman was breaking rules and making history. Wolff brings that kind of greatness to this project. The title tune (Bay Blue) is rooted in the blues and is another original composition by Wolff. 

This is a spirited production, showcasing Patrick Wolff’s great composing talents and spotlighting his super-hot quintet.  Every tune is brilliantly performed, well-written, and showcases the individual talents of these fine musicians.

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Nica Carrington Productions LLC | New York NY

Veronica Thomas, vocals; John Proulx, piano; Mike Gurrola, bass; Kevin Van Den Elzen, drums; Bob Sheppard, saxophone/flute.

Although Veronica Thomas lives in New York City, she chose to record in Los Angeles, California, using some of the top West Coast jazz players. This is her sophomore album.  She not only changed cities to record, but she changed her name too.  The debut album “Times Like These” was released in 2022 and received rave reviews under the name Nica Carrington. She was accompanied by John Proulx on piano, Chuck Berghofer on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums. Nica, (now adopting her birth name of Veronica Thomas) found a comfort level with Proulx as her musical director, vocal coach, and pianist.  It began when Veronica Thomas chose him online as a vocal instructor. Proulx was impressed with her sultry, emotional sound and she was comfortable with his coaching and easy manner.

One of their arrangements on the first album borrowed the Nancy Wilson arrangement introduction to “Wish I Knew” and surprised me when they morphed into the familiar, “When Sunny Gets Blue” tune. You can hear Veronica’s warmth and honest delivery on this debut album.

They open this new album with a swing arrangement of “Almost In Your Arms” by Livingston & Evans, followed by a slow shuffle of the more familiar Cole Porter standard, “Get Out of Town.” Bob Sheppard puts his indelible mark on the Porter tune when he offers a brilliant saxophone solo. With Proulx’s encouragement, Veronica tackled more upbeat material on this album, than the former that featured a slew of torchy ballads. I enjoy the Thomas rendition and arrangement of “Invitation.”  It’s quite unique.

Thomas is a film lover and she enjoys pulling songs from motion pictures. For example, “Almost in Your Arms” comes from the 1958 movie “Houseboat.”  The “Invitation” composition by Bronislau Kaper can be heard in the opening titles of the film “A Life of Her Own.”  It would later become a jazz standard. Jazz singers fell in love with its honest lyrical story and beautiful melody.

Thomas captures all the nuances and melodic challenges in the song “They Say It’s Wonderful” that Johnny Hartman made so popular on his album with John Coltrane.  The style and vocals of Veronica Thomas are well-suited to the popular Jobim song, “Dindi.”  Her tone and sincerity have a way of calming the moment and selling us the lyrics.  She and Bob Sheppard’s flute scat- sing in unison, and she flutters like a bird on “Speak Low.” Veronica Thomas is vocally unpretentious and believable. The John Proulx and K. Laurence Dunham composition, “Stuck in a Dream” is a great melodic adventure. Proulx is not only a competent pianist, accompanists and bandleader, he is a superb composer.

Veronica Thomas offers twelve songs, most of them you know and love, that are wonderfully performed by her all-star group of musicians under the direction of Southern California’s own John Proulx.   This album will be available to the public on July 12, 2024.

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Jon De Lucia
The Brubeck Octet Project
(Musaeum Clausum Recordings)

The Brubeck Octet Project | Jon De Lucia

During much of his lifetime and in the years since, Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) has always been one of the most famous names in jazz. He is best known for leading his quartets, particularly the ones during 1951-67 that featured altoist Paul Desmond. Many of his fans might not know that during 1950-51 he led a trio that recorded for the Fantasy label and was popular. Fewer probably know about his first group, his experimental octet.

The Dave Brubeck Octet, which was inspired by his lessons with the open-minded classical composer Darius Milhaud, had three recordings sessions resulting in eight numbers apiece in 1946 and 1950 and two in 1949. Because their music, which sometimes found them playing in two keys at once or in unusual key signatures, was considered experimental (even though it often swung), the group had few gigs and was succeeded by the more accessible Brubeck Trio. Considering that many of the musicians in the group had long lives, Desmond and Cal Tjader (then mostly a drummer) were on the 1950 session, and clarinetist Bill Smith (a part of a much later version of the Dave Brubeck Quartet) and tenor-saxophonist Dave Van Kreidt would record separately with Brubeck, it is surprising that the pianist never had a recorded reunion of the full group or explore their music in the decades that followed.

In more recent times, altoist Jon De Lucia discovered the arrangements that Dave Van Kreidt wrote for the octet in the archives at Mills College. As he explains in the brief liner notes to The Brubeck Octet Project, the arrangements were in a mess with many errors. De Lucia corrected the mistakes, put together a similar octet, and this CD is the result. It consists of seven arrangements by Von Kreidt, one from Bill Smith, and three (including the brief opening and closing themes) by Brubeck. Most of the arrangements are from the 1950 session with two from 1946 along with a previously unrecorded version of “Love Me Or Leave Me.”

Lucia is joined by trumpeter Brandon Lee, trombonist Becca Patterson, tenor-saxophonist Scott Robinson, Jay Rattman on clarinet and baritone, pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Daniel Duke, and drummer Keith Balla. The soloists are all excellent and sound as if they are advanced improvisers from the early cool jazz era. Scott Robinson gets to stretch out a bit on “I Hear A Rhapsody” but, even with the many fine individual moments, the focus is on the adventurous arrangements including a rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight” that at times gives one the impression that the melody is turned inside out. Some of Von Kreidt’s arrangements sound a bit like something that Lennie Tristano might have written while the relatively straight ahead “Love Me Or Leave Me” could almost pass for a Gil Evans chart, but in general the unpredictable music still sounds fresh and original today. Among the many highlights are Van Kreidt’s “Fugue On Bop Themes,” Smith’s “IPCA” (which is based sort-of on “Indiana”), “Let’s Fall In Love,” and “Love Me Or Leave Me.”

Since eight songs recorded by the Dave Brubeck Octet are not on this set, it is very good to read in Jon De Lucia’s brief liner notes that there will be a volume two someday. All of the overlooked arrangements are well deserving of being revived. These new renditions add to the legacy of the largely forgotten Brubeck group. The Brubeck Octet Projects is highly recommended and available from www.jondelucia.com.


Eric Alexander
Timing Is Everything
(Cellar Music)

Eric Alexander has been a major tenor-saxophonist since the early 1990s. While influenced a bit by John Coltrane, he is also inspired by a variety of other hard-toned and forward-looking tenor players. Alexander frequently stretches the boundaries of hard bop and occasionally plays a bit outside while swinging hard and with passion.

On Timing Is Everything, the tenor is joined by pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Alexander Claffy, and drummer Jason Tiemann with a few guests on one song apiece. Typically, he recorded the entire album in less than two hours with all of the performances on the CD being first takes.

Alexander brings back the spirit of Coltrane on “After The Rain,” takes “But Beautiful” as a mostly out-of-tempo explorative duet with Germanson, and welcomes flutist Jed Paradies and guitarist Rale Micic to Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Serenade To A Cuckoo.” The other selections include the rapid sheets-of-sound melody of George Coleman’s “Big G.’s Monk,” a fairly concise “Sasquatch” which is based on “Giant Steps,” the medium-tempo blues “Timing Is Everything” during which Alexander hints at Sonny Stitt in spots before tearing into the piece, and a warm vocal feature for “Alma Mimic” on “Evergreen.” Timing Is Everything (which is available from www.cellarmusicgroup.com) serves as an excellent introduction to Eric Alexander’s playing for those not familiar with him, and a happy acquisition for his long-time fans.


Conrad Herwig
The Latin Side Of McCoy Tyner

Trombonist Conrad Herwig has worked in his career with such notables as Clark Terry, Joe Henderson, Tom Harrell, the Joe Lovano Nonet, Eddie Palmieri, and the Mingus Big Band in addition to leading at least 27 albums of his own. However he is probably best-known for his “The Latin Side Of” recordings. Starting with The Latin Side Of John Coltrane in 1996, he has since recorded Afro-Cuban recordings dedicated to the repertoire of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Horace Silver, Miles Davis, and Charles Mingus. While practically any song can be turned into Latin jazz, Herwig treats the vintage songs with respect and deep knowledge of both their original versions and of Afro-Cuban jazz in general.

McCoy Tyner’s music fits very easily into this idiom. Whenever the great pianist-composer occasionally led a big band, his orchestra treated his modal originals as African-oriented jazz, looking towards the post-bop approach of the late 1960s/early ‘70s. Herwig, while adding a strong Latin tinge to the music, follows a similar approach on such Tyner pieces as “Passion Dance,” “Four By Five,” “Fly With The Wind,” and “Reaching Fourth.”

In addition to the leader’s high-powered trombone solos, there are plenty of worthy improvisations by tenor-saxophonist Craig Handy (who takes many stormy solos), trumpeter Alex Norris, and pianist Bill O’Connell who, along with Herwig, co-wrote the arrangements. Bassist Ruben Rodriguez, drummer Robby Ameen, and Camilo Molina (who sings/chants on the opening “African Village”) on congas and bata form a mighty rhythm section. Eddie Palmieri guests on piano during the blues “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit.”

McCoy Tyner would have not only enjoyed this recording but he would have wanted to sit in with the impressive band. The Latin Side Of McCoy Tyner is available from www.jazzdepot.com.


Monday Orchestra
Un Poco Loco
(Ultra Sound)

It has often been stated that jazz is a universal language. The Monday Orchestra from Italy is a 17-piece band that has world-class musicianship, consistently superior soloists, and is virtually unknown in the United States.

Un Poco Loco features the big band performing a set of Bud Powell songs. One of the most important jazz pianists of all time and one who virtually invented the bebop style of piano, Powell (1924-66) composed many rewarding songs but very few were performed by a group larger than a small combo during his lifetime. While “Bouncing With Bud” nearly became a standard for a time, most of his pieces have only been performed and recorded on a rare basis since his passing.

With arrangements by its leader Luca Missiti, the Monday Orchestra performs eight of Powell’s best songs including “Celia,” “Tempus Fugit,” “Un Poco Loco,” “Parisian Thoroughfare,” and “Bouncing With Bud.” “Glass Enclosure” is played in four brief and dramatic parts as interludes between some of the songs. None of the soloists (there are 11) are recognizable names in the U.S. but all are excellent. Pianist Antonio Vivenzia, who is in the spotlight during “Dusk ‘n’ Sandy,” does a fine job of displaying Powell’s influence without directly copying him.

Since the liner notes are in Italian (and there is little about this ensemble online), the background of the Monday Orchestra is difficult to find. But its music on the well-conceived release is excellent and easy to enjoy. Un Poco Loco is available from www.ultrasoudrecords.eu.


Antonio Adolfo
Love Cole Porter
(AAM Music)

Pianist Antonio Adolfo grew up in his native Brazil enjoying the songs of Cole Porter. So did Antonio Carlos Jobim, who considered Porter and George Gershwin to be among his inspirations in the formation of bossa-nova. As Jobim realized early on when he recorded a few of his songs, Porter’s music is easily adapted to bossa-nova and Brazilian music.

Antonio Adolfo, who is now 77, has been making significant music in his native Brazil for 60 years, recording many albums including tributes to Wayne Shorter, Milton Nascimento, and Jobim. For his Cole Porter set, he chose ten well-known songs, wrote swinging arrangements for his four-horn tentet, and clearly had a fun time playing and recording some of his long-time favorites.

The musicians in Adolfo’s group are all top-notch. There is plenty of solo space for trumpeter Jesse Sadoc (blazing on “Just One Of Those Things”), trombonist Rafael Rocha, altoist Danillo Sinna (who recalls Phil Woods at times), tenor-saxophonist Marcelo Martins (including playing soprano on one song and taking an excellent flute solo on “I Concentrate On You”), and guitarist Lula Galvoa. The rhythm section (which includes two percussionists on six of the songs) is tasteful and Adolfo’s melodic solos are always pleasing.

The music on Love Cole Porter is essentially straight ahead jazz with a Brazilian tinge. It is one of many easily recommended Antonio Adolfo albums; it is available from www.aammusic.com.


Simon Lasky Group
For The Dreamers
(Ubuntu Music)

Keyboardist-composer Simon Lasky was an important contributor to the London jazz scene for 15 years until moving to Florida in recent years. He had previously recorded two fine albums for the 33 Jazz label.

For the Dreamers has Lasky joined by guitarist Peter Mongaya, electric bassist Elias Tona, drummer Jonathan Thomas, and a few guests including singer Ona K. They perform five of the leader’s originals plus personal versions of three standards. Some of the music is orchestral and reminiscent of the first version of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever although without the Brazilian influence.

“Everyday Hero” (which features colorful interplay between Mongaya and tenor-saxophonist Paul Booth) finds the group sounding much larger than it actually is. “The Outsiders” has an attractive hard bop groove, “Half A World Away” is a thoughtful piano-guitar duet with some quietly dramatic moments, and “Tampa Strut” is a straight ahead cooker. Some other highlights include “Human Nature,” one of four songs that feature Ona K.’s singing, is given a happy treatment, “Closer To The Sky” has a fine spot for guest soprano-saxophonist Tim Garland, “Bye Bye Blackbird” is modernized and given a treatment that is a bit downbeat, and Joe Sample’s “One Day I’ll Fly Away” is a tribute to Chick Corea.

Throughout the set, Simon Lasky takes many fine solos and oversees a program that is full of variety, creative playing, and subtle surprises. For The Dreamers, which makes for an enjoyable listen, is available from www.weareubuntumusic.com.


Clifford Jordan
Beyond Paradise 1969-1970
(Nederlands Jazz Orchief)

Clifford Jordan – Beyond Paradiso 1969-1970 LP – Aguirre Records

Clifford Jordan (1931-93) was a forward-thinking hard bop tenor-saxophonist who always had his own distinctive sound. He recorded for Blue Note as early as 1957, held his own next to Eric Dolphy (no easy task) as a member of the Charles Mingus Sextet in 1964, and worked with Randy Weston and Cedar Walton’s Eastern Rebellion in addition to leading his own groups. He made a large assortment of rewarding recordings during his career.

The previously unreleased and well recorded music on Beyond Paradise is taken from two concerts performed in Holland; one apiece from 1969 and 1970. Jordan is joined by pianist Cees Slinger, either Ruud Jacobs or Jacques Schols on bass, Han Bennink or Martin van Duynhoven on drums, and (for the earlier date) Steve Boston on congas.

Jordan starts the 1969 concert by stretching out on a pair of medium-up originals (“Vienna” and “Impressions Of Scandinavia”). Most memorable from that set are his warm playing on his ballad “Doug’s Prelude,” and the cooking minor-toned piece “Ouagadougou” which has some fine interplay with the colorful drummer Bennink. The 1970 performance has particularly passionate playing from Jordan (sometimes a bit reminiscent of Dexter Gordon) on a medium-tempo version of Cecil Payne’s “Girl, You’ve Got A Home,” a lyrical “I Can’t Get Started,” and a surprisingly uptempo rendition of “The Girl From Ipanema.” Martin van Duynhoven does his best to keep the bossa-nova rhythm going on the latter despite the faster than usual tempo. It should be mentioned that the playing order of “I Can’t Get Started” and “The Girl From Ipanema” is the reverse of what is listed on the CD.

The music is excellent throughout Beyond Paradise and gives listeners a rare dose of “new” Clifford Jordan. The set is available (along with some other gems) from www.jazzarchief.nl.


Tomasz Stanko Quartet
September Night

Tomasz Stanko (1942-2018) was Poland’s best known jazz trumpeter during his lifetime. While associated with the avant-garde, he also enjoyed embracing his own picturesque melodies, exploring a variety of moods ranging from introspective to quite fiery.

The previously unreleased music of September Night was recorded at a concert in Munich on Sept. 9, 2004. Stanko leads his regular quartet of the time which includes the inventive soloist and complementary accompanist Marcin Wasilewski on piano, bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz, and drummer Michal Miskiewicz. His sidemen are perfectly attuned to Stanko’s style and the wide range of emotions that he expressed.

The trumpeter’s six originals and a free improvisation set moods rather than focus on memorable melodies. Stanko’s music is quite cinematic and would serve as a perfect soundtrack for a dramatic film; “Euforila” with its racing tempo could be ideal for a chase scene. The performances on a whole form a suite and feature each of the musicians playing at their most creative.

Fortunately Tomasz Stanko performed at the Jazz Bakery on an annual basis for a time, so Southern Californians could experience his unique and surprisingly accessible music firsthand. Acquiring September Night (which is available from www.amazon.com) is the next best thing.


Petra van Nuis & Dennis Luxion
From Me To You
(String Damper Records)

This is an easy album to review. Petra van Nuis is a top-notch singer with a fetching voice and her own jazz phrasing. Pianist Dennis Luxion is an excellent accompanist who also takes rewarding solos. The singer and the pianist have had many duo gigs in the Chicago area and their performances on From Me To You are a good example of how they sound live.

The emphasis is on romantic ballads with most of the songs are taken at slower thoughtful tempos with an occasional medium-tempo piece included for variety. The tunes are taken from a wide variety of sources and include such numbers as Irving Berlin’s “I Get Lost In His Arms,” “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” “Whatever Lola Wants,” “Rainy Days And Mondays,” “Too Darn Hot,” “Last Tango In Paris,” and a particularly touching version of “You Better Go Now.” Also included is a song apiece from a pair of Chicago artists (Marc Pompe and Bob Dogan) who recently passed away.

Petra van Nuis’ beautiful and inviting voice along with Dennis Luxion’s tasteful playing make From Me To You a rewarding listening experience. The CD is available from www.petrasings.com.


Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra
Groove Junkies

In the liner notes to Groove Junkies by Harry Schnipper of Blues Alley Jazz, the music of arranger-composer Ben Patterson is accurately described as “hard-driving, bone-chilling, electrified funk. While there is no shortage of contemporary funk recordings, 13-horn 17-piece ensembles that perform in this style are not exactly common.

The Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra, which is based in Washington DC, plays five originals by its leader and Chris Potter’s “Exclamation” with plenty of feeling, high-level musicianship, and passion. In addition to Patterson who has two exuberant trombone solos, the other key soloists are tenor-saxophonists Tedd Baker and Xavier Perez, altoist Antonio Orta, trumpeters Alec Aldred and Luke Brandon, trombonist Kevin Cerovich, keyboardist Chris Ziemba, and guitarist Shawn Purcell with electric bassist Paul Henry and drummer Todd Harrison really driving the rollicking ensembles. Percussionist Fran Vilema is a welcome guest on three numbers including the modern Afro-Cuban jazz of “Espiritu Valiente.” Baker and Orta in particular really turn up the heat during their spots.

Even while the rhythms are funky rather than sticking to swing, the music on Groove Junkies is never predictable or repetitive. The performances with its often-raging ensembles are consistently high-powered and often explosive, making this outing by the Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra quite memorable. It is available from www.originaarts.com.


Afro Peruvian New Trends Orchestra
Cosmic Synchronicities
(Blue Spiral)

Corina Bartra has gained recognition as an important jazz singer originally from Peru. However in recent years she has displayed another musical talent as an arranger-composer for her Afro Peruvian New Trends Orchestra. For the instrumental album Cosmic Synchronicities, she contributed all but two of the 13 compositions and shared the arranging duties for the five-horn nine-piece ensemble with several other musicians.

The music is ensemble-oriented with strong themes, many arranged choruses, and concise solos that are consistently heated. Most impressive of the individual voices are the

altoists (it does not say whether Marvin Carter or Cecilia Tenconi is the main soloist), tenor-saxophonist Dave Morgan, trombonist Erick Storckman and pianist Holman Alvarez.

Bartra’s songs are rhythmic and catchy, the playing is infectious, and the musicians display plenty of spirit along with a consistent happiness that is sometimes celebratory. The joyful music on Cosmic Synchronicities, which is available from www.amazon.com, is easily recommended for fans of South American and Afro-Cuban jazz. Its release is a milestone in the career of Corina Bartra.


James Hall Trio
Hall Aboard!

Download James Hall album songs: Hall Aboard! | Boomplay Music

Listening to pianist James Hall’s Hall Aboard, one could be excused for thinking that these performances were led by a veteran player in his fifties. Hall performs 19 of his compositions. 16 are trio numbers with bassist Charlie Silva and drummer Greg Parnell, one is a duet with Silva, and two are thoughtful solo piano performances. The music ranges from classic bebop (including “Hall Aboard,” the cooking minor blues “Kickin’ Over The Traces,” and “Offbeat & Groovy”), some Latin tinged pieces (including Hall switching to electric piano on “Caryota Cha-Cha”), and thoughtful ballads, to picturesque songs (most notably “Thoroughfare After Dark”) and quietly dramatic music.

James Hall, who had previously led three CDs of his own, was only 18 at the time of this 2022 set. His playing shows obvious maturity, he makes creative use of space (avoiding the pitfall of having his music dominated by youthful energy), and plays with consistent inventiveness within the bebop/hard bop tradition. While he shows quite a bit of potential, in reality his playing is already at a high level. Hall Aboard, which is available from www.jameshalljazz.org, is an excellent introduction to the Florida-based pianist.


Denny Zeitlin

Veteran pianist Denny Zeitlin, who has been recording rewarding and inventive music since 1964, recently went through his archives. He came up with a dozen performances that had never been released before and now comprise the single-CD Panoply.

The music features Zeitlin in three different settings. There are three unaccompanied piano solos from 2012 including a dazzling workout on “Cherokee” and a sensitive rendition of the Bill Lee ballad “Only One.” Four numbers from 2019 with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Matt Wilson, taken from the same sessions that resulted in Sunnyside’s earlier release Live At Mezzrow, are top-notch trio explorations. That project is highlighted by an adventurous “Weirdo” (a song that soon after its debut became “Walkin’”), an extended, episodic and quite unpredictable rendition of Billy Strayhorn’s “Johnny Come Lately,” and a relaxed and swinging “I Was Doing All Right.”

The wild cards of the CD are five freely improvised duets with drummer-percussionist George Marsh that span the 2013-23 period. In addition to his acoustic piano, Zeitlin utilizes synthesizers and electric keyboards. Since the programming jumps around between the three settings, some of the electronic pieces at first seem a bit jarring, particularly when “Excursion” follows “I Was Doing All Right.” However with repeated listenings, one can enjoy the duet performances not just for contrast but for their own quality. Best are the intriguing “Music Box,” and the atmospheric “A Raft, A River.”

60 years after his recording debut, Denny Zeitlin is still creating innovative and original music, even when playing a standard. Panoply, which is well worth exploring, is available from www.sunnysiderecords.com.


Chet Baker & Jack Sheldon
In Perfect Harmony: The Lost Album
(Jazz Detective)

Chet Baker and Jack Sheldon were good friends starting in the 1950s when Baker was making it big with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet and Sheldon was an up-and-coming trumpeter. Despite their long-time friendship, they were only previously documented playing together during three songs at a 1952 jam session and on five numbers from a Sheldon album in 1959.

In 1972, Jack Sheldon was featured regularly on the Merv Griffin Show and often as a leader in Southern California clubs. Baker, who had had some of his teeth knocked out in 1966 and was getting used to dentures, had only recorded twice during the six years since, making: a couple of unfortunate commercial albums (Albert’s House and Blood, Chet And Tears) strictly for the money. He was in the early stages of a comeback that would really get going in 1974.

Sheldon persuaded Baker to make an album with him, jokingly saying that the hesitant Baker would only have to play half the time. After its completion, it was shopped around by guitarist Jack Marshall (who produced the session) to some labels without success. After Marshall passed away in 1973, the tapes were forgotten and lost for decades. After being rediscovered and cleaned up, the recording was almost put out a few years ago by another company but now Zev Feldman’s Jazz Detective is finally making the music available.

The resulting album has its moments although its main significance is being historic. Baker and Sheldon are joined by Marshall, pianist Dave Frishberg, bassist Joe Mondragon, and drummer Nick Ceroli, none of whom get any solos. Some of the performances sound as if they are just rehearsals and several of the numbers end prematurely or inconclusively.

Still, the overall results are interesting. While Baker plays in the medium-register and sings as if he is a dreamy teenager, Sheldon’s solos are often a bit spectacular with fiery leaps into his upper register, and his vocals typically find him sounding a bit like a wise guy.

The opening “This Can’t Be Love” (which just consists of one vocal chorus apiece by Sheldon and Baker), a surprisingly brief “Just Friends,” Baker’s vocal feature on “I’m Old Fashioned,” and the closing “Evil Blues” are all under three minutes in length. “Too Blue” has a section where the two trumpeters jam together although it does tend to wander. Best are “But Not For Me,” “Historia de un Amor,” the contrast between the trumpeters on “Once I Loved,” Sheldon’s reading of the fast lyrics on You Fascinate Me,” and the medium-tempo version of “I Cried For You” which has the two trumpeters trading off.

Fans of Chet Baker and Jack Sheldon will find In Perfect Harmony to have enough highlights to make it worth acquiring. It is available from www.thejazzdetective.com.


Nick Finzer
(Outside in Music)

J.J. Johnson (1924-2001) could be considered the savior of the trombone. When bebop, with its rapid tempos and complex chord changes, burst upon the scene in the mid-1940s, many listeners and some musicians feared for the future of the trombone. The instrument would have survived as part of big bands, but would it have a future in small groups, or would it become a relatively minor instrument in modern jazz like the clarinet? J.J. Johnson came up with the technique that allowed him and others to keep up with saxophonists at raging tempos, playing with the fluency of a trumpeter. He became the main influence on modern jazz trombonists, and 80 years later he is still a major inspiration.

Nick Finzer, whose mentor is Steve Turre, pays tribute to J.J. Johnson on Legacy. Not only does he play in a style that is strongly touched by Johnson, but he performs four of the trombonist’s originals, reminding listeners that in addition to “saving the trombone,” Johnson was a fine composer.

Finzer, who has a warm sound, impressive technique, and a boppish style, is showcased in a quartet with pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Lewis Nash. In addition to Johnson’s most famous composition “Lament” (which concludes with an endless note from Finzer), he performs three other Johnson songs: the happy “Say When” which deserves to catch on as a standard, the jazz waltz “Shortcake,” and a medium-tempo blues “Fatback” (reminiscent of Horace Silver’s “Come On Home”). The quartet also performs “Pennies from Heaven” (which is given a slightly different melody line), two songs by Finzer and Rosnes’ warm ballad “Malaga Moon.”

Legacy reminds listeners of J.J. Johnson’s vast contributions to jazz, and alerts those not familiar with him of Nick Finzer’s brilliant playing. It is available from www.outsideinmusic.com.