JAZZ CD REVIEWS FOR MARCH 2017
Charles Mingus & The Jazz Workshop All Stars
The Complete 1961-1962 Birdland Broadcasts
The Jazz Messengers store in Barcelona has an extensive catalog that includes many previously unreleased sessions by American jazz greats along with a countless number of rarities. Be sure to check them out at www.jazzmessengers.com One of their most valuable recent additions is this three-CD set which fills in an important gap in the career of Charles Mingus. During this period, the bassist recorded the last of his Atlantic albums (Oh Yeah) and was preparing for what would be an overly ambitious and somewhat disastrous Town Hall concert.
The performances on the seven radio broadcasts from Birdland were mostly out previously on bootleg Lps but with poor recording quality. Happily this CD box has greatly improved recording quality and, while the quality dips a bit in spots on the third CD, all of the music is quite listenable. Three different overlapping groups are featured, none of which made studio recordings with the exact same personnel.
The first three numbers feature a band with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef and trombonist Jimmy Knepper in the frontline along with bassist Doug Watkins and drummer Dannie Richmond. Mingus is heard on piano rather than bass; “Ecclusiastics” is the highlight. The next four broadcasts team together the always passionate tenor-saxophonist Booker Ervin with the greatly underrated trumpeter Richard Williams and altoist Charles McPherson. Jaki Byard is the main pianist but a young Toshiko Akiyoshi is on some of the selections and is showcased on a trio rendition of “Reets And I.” Along the way one hears a few versions of the sometimes-riotous “Eat That Chicken” (which Mingus was using as a theme song), along with a lengthy “Take The ‘A’ Train” “Fables Of Faubus” a great interpretation of “Peggy’s Blue Skylight” and the hard-swinging “Monk, Funk Or Vice Versa” which is based on “Well You Needn’t.” One of the broadcasts has Dannie Richmond absent and Mingus utilizing Henry Grimes as the second bassist. Their version of the only live recording that exists of “Ysabel’s Table Dance” is quite stirring.The third disc features a Mingus group with flugelhornist Edward Armour, Charles McPherson, baritonist Pepper Adams, Don Butterfield on tuba, Jaki Byard and Dannie Richmond. While it repeats some of the earlier titles, this band displays plenty of spirit and McPherson’s playing in particular is brilliant. The Complete 1961-1962 Birdland Broadcasts is a must for lovers of Charles Mingus’ music. Scott Yanow
Unheard Bird – The Unissued Takes
Charlie Parker’s recordings for Norman Granz (1949-54), which were originally issued on Mercury and Clef and later consolidated on Verve, have been released many different ways through the years including as a ten-CD set that included not only his released sides but quite a few alternate takes. Until recently, it was believed that that box had every Bird side that existed from this period.
But now a variety of new material held by the late Granz has been released on this two CD set available from the Spanish Jazz Messsengers store (www.jazzmessengers.com ) and through Universal. Under the direction of Phil Schaap, this twofer has alternate takes, false starts and incomplete versions of 18 songs along with the originally issued versions. While some of the false starts are a bit frivolous to include (particularly ones that only last a few seconds), the alternate versions are often quite intriguing and there are quite a few.
The great altoist is featured on five renditions (three of which are complete) of “Okiedoke” with Machito’s Orchestra, septet numbers with trumpeter Kenny Dorham and trombonist Tommy Turk, “If I Should Lose You” with strings, a few quartet pieces, “Bloomdido,” “An Oscar For Treadwell” and “Mohawk” with a quintet also featuring Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, Latin numbers with a combo, and three standards with a big band from 1952.
Most intriguing are the many versions of “Blues,” which in its original release was a themeless jam. However listening to the earlier takes, Charlie Parker had an unusual melody in mind that one could imagine Ornette Coleman playing later in the decade. Obviously more general Charlie Parker fans should get his Savoy, Dial and regular Verve recordings first. But true Bird fanatics will have to pick up this valuable addition to his musical story.Scott Yanow
Donny Most, a mature vocalist who loves Bobby Darin, Sinatra and others of the era, is a swinging crooner. He puts plenty of personality into the lyrics of the standards he sings. His voice is friendly and pleasing and he clearly conveys the love that he feels for these vintage songs.
On Mostly Swinging, Most is joined by a big band filled with all-stars from the L.A. studio scene. The joyful arrangements of Willie Murillo are so spirited that they border on the riotous at times with the emphasis on faster tempos and extroverted ensembles. It helps that he has a killer trumpet section led by Wayne Bergeron plus plenty of notables including trombonists Andy Martin and Alan Kaplan and saxophonists Rusty Higgins and Brian Scanlon.
Such songs as “Lover Come Back to Me,” a Latinized “Let’s Fall In Love,” “After You’ve Gone” and “Day In Day Out” are given rousing treatment by Danny Most and the ensembles. His tribute to Bobby Darin on “Clementine” is a definite highlight. This fun album is available from www.summitrecords.com.Scott Yanow
A Tribute To The Jazz Poetry Of
Don Joseph (1923-94) was a cool-toned cornetist and trumpeter who was most active in the 1950s. His lyrical solos and quiet sound are a bit reminiscent of Chet Baker and he was always capable of providing fresh ideas to any session. Unfortunately his heroin habit resulted in him going into obscurity by the end of the 1950s, only re-emerging on records in 1984 for his lone album as a leader.
Jordi Pujol of the Fresh Sound label has compiled a definitive single CD of Joseph’s best recordings of the 1950s. The cornetist is featured on four rare selections originally under drummer Art Madigan’s leadership in 1954 that also feature tenor-saxophonist Al Cohn. In addition, Joseph soloes on five numbers from 1957 with a pair of sextets led by guitarist Chuck Wayne, three songs with Gerry Mulligan’s all-star 15-piece big band (also from 1957) and on three songs from a live session from 1952 led by altoist Dave Schildkraut that is erratically recorded. Jackie Paris sings one of the tunes from the latter set.
Throughout these vintage cool jazz performances, Don Joseph takes thoughtful solos that sometimes become quietly heated; all are a joy to hear. The liner notes (the ones for the original Lps plus some humorous stories by Bill Crow) are a perfect addition to the excellent collection.
This CD, available from www.freshsoundrecords.com , is highly recommended and does justice to the musical legacy of Don Joseph.Scott Yanow
Something To Believe In
Carmen Lundy, who has one of the strongest and most powerful voices of any jazz-based singer on the scene today, is at the top of her game throughout Something To Believe In. She is joined by pianist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Curtis Lundy (her brother), drummer Victor Lewis, percussionist Mayra Casales and occasionally violinist Regina Carter and Mark Shim on tenor and soprano.
The program consists of six songs that the singer wrote or co-composed plus four standards.
Among the highlights, Carmen Lundy shows how hard she can swing on “In Love Again.” She creates a fresh and atmospheric version of “Windmills Of Your Mind,” is dramatic and adventurous on “Wild Child” (which has some intense and exciting soprano-sax soloing from Shim) and is tender during the first part of “I Loves You Porgy” (taken as a duet with pianist Wonsey) before it swings a bit with Shim on tenor. “Moody’s Mood For Love” is given a slightly unusual treatment in that Lundy sings the bulk of the piece (which is usually sung by a male) while the female part is taken instrumentally by Carter on violin.Whether performing folkish originals, passionate romps or a heartfelt ballad such as the title cut, Carmen Lundy deserves to be recognized as one of today’s greats. Something To Believe In is easily recommended and available from www.justin-time.com www.justin-time.com. Scott Yanow
(Big Modern Music)
Gabrielle Stravelli is a very talented musician who obviously has a great future. She has the powerful voice of a cabaret singer or a Barbra Streisand-type performer yet also swings and improvises well. For her most recent CD, Dream Ago, she wrote lyrics for nine of the dozen songs and the music for seven of those. Bassist Pat O’Leary contributed the arrangements and Ms. Stravelli’s group also includes Art Hirahara on piano, drummer Eric Halvorson, Scott Robinson on both reeds and brass, and guest appearances for keyboardist David Cook, guitarist Saul Rubin and singer Kenny Washington who is on “Bicycle Blues.”
From the start, when Ms. Stravelli creates an overdubbed heavenly chorus on “Dream Dancing” and scats on “Cake Of My Childhood,” it is obvious that this is going to be a continually surprising and stimulating set. On “Little Zochee” she interacts with the late Thomas Chapin whose flute playing is taken from 1985. A swinging version of Bob Dorough’s quirky and witty “Where Is The Song” (which comments on the tune that she is singing) precedes her atmospheric love song “If Only Love Was Blind.”
Among the other pieces are a surprisingly hard-swinging “It Might As Well Be Spring” (which includes some impressive long notes from the singer), a duet with pianist Cook on “Dream Ago” (an emotional ballad written for the singer’s late father), the passionate jazz waltz “Prism,” and “More” on which Stravelli performs as an unaccompanied choir.
Dream Ago (available from www.gabriellestravelli.com ) is filled with fresh, melodic and unpredictable music from a brilliant and inventive singer who is still in the early stages of her career.Scott Yanow
(Whaling City Sound)
Guitarist John Stein’s Tones can be thought of as modern cool jazz. His quietly inventive playing at times recalls Jim Hall although he has his own musical personality. Trumpeter Phil Grenadier’s tone is not that far from Chet Baker’s. Fernando Brandao on flute, alto flute and bass flute is a very fluent soloist who adds a great deal to the color of the ensembles. Bassist John Lockwood and drummer Ze Eduardo Nazario swing hard but at a low volume. Every musician makes perfect use of space and every note counts.
But beyond the musicianship and the fine playing are the compositions. John Stein contributed all but one of the 11 selections (a faster-than-usual version of “Angel Eyes”). A fine songwriter, Stein’s tunes have excellent melodies, set moods, employ catchy basslines and rhythms, and inspire the musicians. “The Commons” could easily become a standard in the future, “New Shoes” is likable and playful, “Five Weeks” is a medium tempo blues and “Jo Ann” is a warm ballad. Even the heated and fairly free “Neck Road” has a relaxed feel to it. Adi Yeshaya’s arrangements for three of the pieces add harmonies to the themes and set up the solos well.
John Stein’s Tones is melodic, concise (none of the pieces exceed 6:14 in length) and quite enjoyable. This fine example of cool jazz for the 21st century is easily recommended and available from www.whalingcitysound.com .Scott Yanow
Burak Bedikyan, who is based in Turkey, has been a top-notch modern jazz pianist for the past two decades. Awakening is his third CD as a leader for the Steeplechase label.
On Awakening, Bedikyan is joined by altoist Loren Stillman, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Donald Edwards. The music is post-bop jazz with the pianist contributing all nine pieces. In most cases, the themes are brief and set the mood before being followed by stirring alto and piano solos. Among the highlights are the opener “Idee Fixe” which serves as an excellent introduction to the group, the melancholy ballad “Mother Earth,” a driving “Unfair Blues,” the picturesque “Memory Of A Fading Dream” “Ad Infinitum” with its mysterious feel, and the quiet waltz “Awakening” which has one of the leader’s finest piano solos. The date concludes with the forceful and memorable “The All Seeing Eye.”
While the atmospheric originals challenge the musicians, the main reasons to acquire Awakening are for the colorfully individual solos of Bedikyan and Stilmman who effortlessly glide over the often-complex chord changes and the hard-swinging playing of Okegwo and Edwards. Awakening is available from www.statesidemusic.com .Scott Yanow
Kansas City Here I Come
An exciting and swinging veteran jazz singer, Deborah Brown was born and raised in Kansas City. However she has spent much of her career overseas, singing in over 50 countries, which is why she is not as well-known as she should be in the U.S.
Kansas City Here I Come was recorded in Poland. Guest Kevin Mahogany joins the singer for vocal duets on “Teach Me Tonight” and “My One And Only Love” and Ms. Brown is assisted by a mixture of American and Polish musicians including the fine tenor-saxophonist Sylwester Ostrowski, pianist Rob Bargad, either Essiet Essiet or Joris Teppe on bass, drummer Newman Taylor Baker and, on three songs, a chamber orchestra.
From the start, an uptempo version of Thelonious Monk’s “Ask Me Now,” Deborah Brown sounds quite exuberant, scatting up a storm. She has a strong and very appealing voice, can belt out lyrics with the best, and seems capable of singing anything that she spontaneously thinks of. On “Lullaby Of Birdland” and “Summertime,” she really cooks. She is rollicking on “Kansas City Here I Come,” easily holds her own with Mahogany on the two vocal duets, and displays the beauty of her voice (along with her range) on an emotional version of the ballad “How Deep Is The Ocean.” Sylwester Ostrowski, a world-class player, takes several concise tenor solos and the rhythm section is solid and supportive throughout.
Kansas City Here I Come may be a difficult recording to locate but it is worth the search. Contact www.deborah.jazzvox.com for more information about this highly recommended CD.Scott Yanow
Kenny Barron Trio
Book Of Intuition
It is easy to take pianist Kenny Barron for granted. He has been so consistently brilliant during the past 50 years that one automatically expects each of his recordings to be very rewarding. Book Of Intuition is no exception and it has the added plus of seven enjoyable Barron compositions.
Performing with his regular trio of the past decade (bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Johnathan Blake), a unit that surprisingly seems to have not recorded together before, Barron is heard at the peak of his powers. While his best-known original is “Voyage,” on this set he performs seven other superior compositions plus Charlie Haden’s “Nightfall” and a pair of rarely played Thelonious Monk songs (“Shuffle Boil” and “Light Blue”).
To name a few highlights of this delightful outing, “Magic Dance” is so light-hearted and appealing that it should be performed by others. “Bud Like” captures the spirit of Bud Powell while the gentle yet danceable light bossa “Cook’s Bay” has a groove that Ahmad Jamal would enjoy. “Lunacy” is an intense uptempo romp.
This CD does bog down a bit at its conclusion, closing with three straight ballads: “Dreams,” “Prayer” and “Nightfall.” However, on a whole, Book Of Intuition is a typically strong and quite enjoyable Kenny Barron outing. It is available from www.impulse-label.com .Scott Yanow
Peter Erskine and the Dr. Um Band
In his career, drummer Peter Erskine has played in a wide variety of creative jazz settings, from the Stan Kenton Orchestra and Weather Report to his own projects for ECM, ranging from bebop to funk and beyond. On Second Opinion, a quartet album with saxophonist Bob Sheppard, keyboardist John Beasley and bassist Benjamin Shepherd, Erskine performs nine songs (six originals by band members and three standards) that cover most of the bases.
Second Opinion begins with “Hipnotherapy,”a blues with a relaxed groove. The funky fusion piece “Eleven Eleven” has Beasley on electric keyboards and hints at Weather Report. “Street Of Dreams,” which is dedicated to Kenton, is spacey and dreamlike. “Not So Yes” offers some light funk while Sheppard’s “Did It Have To Be You?” (great title!) is a disguised “All Of Me” that gives each of the musicians opportunities to shine. “Lida Rose,” is a modern Beasley ballad. Sheppard’s “Solar Steps” (which combines aspects of “Solar” and “Giant Steps”) has a particularly rewarding solo by the composer. A floating version of Henry Mancini’s “Dreamsville” utilizes Beasley’s electronics creatively. Second Opinion concludes with a 5/4 rendition of “Willow Weep For Me” (dedicated to Joe Morello) that features Sheppard on soprano.
Everything works well throughout this fine CD, Peter Erskine’s latest accomplishment, which is available from www.petererskine.com .Scott Yanow
Guitarist Larry Coryell was one of the most important early pioneers of fusion, He made his first recording on a Chico Hamilton album in 1966, led the legendary if barely documented fusion group Free Spirits during 1966-67, made influential recordings with vibraphonist Gary Burton during 1967-68 and was at the head of the Eleventh House in the early-to-mid 1970s.
In addition, before the Eleventh House, Coryell led a series of recordings for the Vanguard label during 1968-71. His album Coryell was, until its recent reissue by the Real Gone label, the rarest of these early recordings. Those listeners who are mostly familiar with Coryell’s more recent work will be surprised by much of the music on Coryell which was recorded in 1969.
The opening “Sex” (which is a bit of a parody on the subject) and “Beautiful Woman” not only have Coryell’s guitar but his so-so vocals and, on the latter tune, his piano. The music is rock-oriented, reminding one that, unlike most of the famous fusion innovators, Coryell’s original roots were in rock rather than jazz. “The Jam With Albert” is the set’s highpoint, with Coryell spontaneously jamming over Albert Stinson’s very active bass playing on the lengthy track “Elementary Guitar #5” completely changes the mood during its first part with Coryell’s guitar hinting at Bach before the piece gets a bit bluesy and funky. Coryell also plays passionately on “No One Really Knows,” the intense “Morning Sickness” and the brief and crowded “Ah Wuv Ooh.” The other musicians on this set are organist Mike Mandel, drummer Bernard Purdie, either Stinson, Ron Carter or Chuck Rainey on bass and, on “Ah Wuv Ooh,” Jim Pepper on flute. While the music is a bit dated and very much of its period, it displays plenty of fire and creativity and points the way towards fusion of the 1970s.
Since his fusion days, Larry Coryell has recorded in a wide variety of settings ranging from acoustic guitar groups to straight ahead jazz. Coryell, which is available from www.realgonemusic.com , shows how the guitarist sounded near the beginning of his career.Scott Yanow