JAZZ CD REVIEWS FOR APRIL 2017
Saxophonist and flutist Maurice Gainen has always believed in true world music. His previous CD, Youth Movement, found him interacting with musicians and singers recorded in Kenya, Argentina, India and Los Angeles. On Eight, he again utilizes performers from many countries along with a mixture of acoustic and electronic instruments while always including the improvisation and spirit of jazz.
Eight begins with the exciting “Modern Africa,” a combination of African rhythms, funky bass, background vocalists and the leader’s wailing soprano. “Tango Mumbai” has his pretty flutes, a couple of eerie-sounding violinists from India and a tango rhythm. Voices (including Mighty Mo Rodgers) are used creatively on the catchy “Falling Softly” while “I Will Return” looks towards Ethiopia in its dialogue, vocal, and the use of Amadou Fall’s kora.
Maurice Gainen’s journey through the world continues on “Unrequited Fantasy” which has brief dialogue in Japanese and Shelly Ren on erhu. Gainen gets to stretch out on flute, alto and tenor during “Cobrinha,” a melodic and rhythmic number from Brazil. “Rise & Shine” is a return to India with electronic percussion and Gainen’s soprano being joined by violin and other unclassifiable sounds. “Rush” has a bit of Gainen’s tenor interacting with a pair of Argentinian musicians. “Nota Singular” is an eccentric bossa-nova that teams the leader’s flute with pianist Jamieson Trotter. The colorful program concludes with a dreamy version of “Isn’t It A Pity,” Maurice Gainen’s debut as a singer.
All in all, Eight is a continually surprising set of music that is easily recommended and available from www.mauricegainen.com .Scott Yanow
Kei Akagi Trio
Contrast & Form
(Time & Style Jazz)
Kei Akagi is a very inventive pianist who always plays and records stimulating music. In his career he worked for seven years with Airto and Flora Purim, nine with Stanley Turrentine, had associations with Jean-Luc Ponty, Allan Holdsworth, James Newton and Al DiMeola, and was a member of Miles Davis’s last group. He also led at least 13 CDs prior to the new one.
Contrast & Form features Akagi with the trio that he has had since 2000 which also includes bassist Shunya Wakai and drummer Tamaya Honda. They perform nine of the pianist’s originals plus Wayne Shorter’s “Limbo” and nearly all of the pieces on the CD are first takes. Akagi often contributes fairly simple themes but with unlimited potential for growth and development.
The pieces include the distinguished and stately theme “In The Fold,” a repetitive and playful childlike melody (“Playground – The Dog And The Snake) that builds and builds, two songs in different time signatures (“Simply Five” and “Count Nine”) and the three-part “Contrast & Form.” The latter has a brief solo piano section, the rhythmic “Part 2” and a fiery “Part 3” which includes a drum solo a bit reminiscent of Elvin Jones in its use of polyrhythms.
Throughout Contrast & Form, the musicians form a tight trio that often seems to think as one. While there are some brief touches of early Keith Jarrett and McCoy Tyner in spots, Kei Akagi’s playing is distinctive and quite original. The result is a high-quality set of creative and thought-provoking post-bop jazz. Contrast & Form, which is easily recommended, is available from www.cdbaby.com .Scott Yanow
Duets With My American Idols
(Time Out Media)
Oleg Frish appears frequently as a host on radio and television in the New York area. Born in Russia and a long-time lover of the Great American Songbook, Frish is also a personable singer with an appealing voice and a smile in his sound.
On this CD, Oleg Frish is featured on one vocal duet apiece with Gary U.S. Bonds, Peggy Marsh, Ben E. King, B.J. Thomas, Chris Montez, Lainie Kazan, Tony Orlando, Melissa Manchester, Lou Christie and Bobby Rydell. While the other singers are fine, adjusting their styles to fit whatever song they are interpreting, the host is the main star throughout. The singers are backed by a few overlapping combos that often include John Oddo or Kenneth Asher on piano, guitarist Bob Mann, George Rabbi on trumpet and saxophonist Lawrence Feldman.
Oleg Frish, who also has four solo pieces, is in fine form throughout. He obviously loves the music, his enthusiasm is infectious, and his singing is full of joy. Whether it is “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You,” “Day By Day,” “Hello Dolly,” “When You’re Smiling” or the one obscurity “Bagel and Lox,” this is fun set of lively and classic music. It is available from www.olegfrish.com .Scott Yanow
One Night Of Sin
(Dance Me To Stardust Records)
A fine jazz/blues singer based in Los Angeles, Mary Bogue has performed frequently during the past decade. She recently released two EPs that total around 25 minutes apiece, giving listeners a strong sampling of her talents.
Blue Smoke has the singer joined by pianist Steve Rawlins, guitarist Grant Geissman, bassist Richard Simon, drummer Gordon Peeke and occasionally trumpeter Nolan Shaheed. After a swinging “No Moon At All,” Mary Bogue is featured on a pair of Tom Culver originals: the warm ballad “Blue Smoke” and the Brazilian-flavored “Endlessly.” She is in particularly excellent form on the sly “Must Be Catchin’” which sounds like a relative in its sentiments to “Comes Love.” Ms. Bogue concludes the set with the love ballad “My Superman” and a fine version of “In A Sentimental Mood” which also features Shaheed.
While Blue Smoke is enjoyable, One Night Of Sin gets the edge due to its superior material and the occasional contributions of tenor-saxophonist Rickey Woodard. With pianist Karen Hernandez, bassist Brad Bobo and drummer Jack Le Compte completing the quartet, Mary Bogue is in bluesy form throughout the date. “Sneaking Around” is a swinging piece about hiding an affair. Woodard makes his presence felt on the blues ballad “Night Life” and the singer really digs into the lowdown blues “Rock Me Baby” and the country ballad “One Night Of Sin.” She is in expressive form on “Don’t Explain,” is in top form on the Linda Hopkins piece “I’m Going To Cry You Right Out” and finishes the all-too-brief set with “Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast.”
Mary Bogue has a distinctive and inviting voice and swings at every tempo. Her performances throughout these two sets makes one want to see her perform live. These EPs are easily recommended and available from www.marybogue.com .Scott Yanow
Rebecca Kilgore and Bernd Lhotzky
This And That
For the past couple of decades, Rebecca Kilgore has been one of the finest jazz singers on the scene. She can sing a song fairly straight, sticking to the lyrics and the melody, and still swing as hard as anyone by perfectly placing her notes. She also improvises with subtlety, has a very attractive voice, and uplifts every song that she interprets. While she is usually heard with larger groups, Rebecca Kilgore excels on this duet project with pianist Bernd Lhotzky. The swing-based pianist provides a gentle stride, and on some of the faster numbers he creates hot solos that are also melodic. Lhotzky’s piano playing is all of the accompaniment that the singer needs.
One of the main joys of this set, in addition to hearing the two performers, is that the majority of the 15 vintage selections are rarely performed today. It is particularly wonderful hearing “I’m Shooting High,” “Flying Down To Rio,” Duke Ellington’s “Grievin’,” “I Hear The Music Now” and “You Can’t Lose A Broken Heart.” In most cases, Rebecca Kilgore starts off by singing the verse, which tends to be even lesser-known than the chorus. Other highlights include a pair of Billy Strayhorn ballads (“Lotus Blossom,” “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing”), “Who Cares” and “Sweet And Lovely.”
This And That is a typically excellent Rebecca Kilgore outing and is highly recommended to lovers of the Great American Songbook. It is available from Arbors ( www.arborsrecords.com ).Scott Yanow
The Jazz Couriers
Live In Morecambe 1959 – Tippin’
During 1957-59, the Jazz Couriers was arguably the top British jazz band. Co-led by a pair of great tenor-saxophonists (Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott) and anchored by a top-notch rhythm section (pianist Terry Shannon, drummer Bill Eyden and several bassists including Jeff Clyne), the Jazz Couriers played high-energy hard bop. While somewhat forgotten today, they could hold their own with their American counterparts.
Fortunately the Jazz Couriers made several studio albums and were also captured live on a few occasions. This CD reissues a live Lp that was first put out five years ago by the Gearbox label ( www.gearboxrecords.com). Unfortunately readers need to use a magnifying glass to appreciate the microscopic liner notes. (reprinted at a much smaller size than on the Lp) or look on their website, but otherwise there are no reservations about this exciting music.
The Couriers perform an uptempo version of Horace Silver’s “Tippin,’” a straightforward reading of “For All We Know,” a feature for Hayes’ vibes on “Embers” and a rapid rendition of “Cherokee.” While the bassist is largely inaudible on the latter, otherwise the recording quality is excellent for a live set from the era. Tubby Hayes displays his ability to perfectly articulate every note at the fastest tempos (a skill that he shared with Johnny Griffin and Sal Nistico), Ronnie Scott puts plenty of personality into his solos, and the friendly competition between the two tenors result in lots of stirring music.
Fans of hard bop and hard-swinging jazz should go out of their way to collect the recordings of the Jazz Couriers including this excellent CD.Scott Yanow
Till They Lay Me Down
Tenor and baritone-saxophonist David Wise makes his recording debut as a leader on “Till They Lay Me Down. Born and raised in Virginia, he graduated from Oberlin College, studied with Gary Bartz, and has appeared on several recordings since 2907. A resident of Los Angeles, Wise is a member of Bruce Forman’s Cow Bop.
Till They Lay Me Down teams the saxophonist with guitarist Forman, bassist Alex Frank, drummer Jake Reed and several guests. The first number, “What More Could One Man Want,” finds Wise playing colorfully on an r&bish piece that has vocals by Jason Joseph and Laura Mace. The mood and style shifts with a brief but heartfelt rendition of “Sylvia”; cellist Mikala Schmitz is an asset on that track. “Here’s That Rainy Day,” one of only two numbers on the set not composed by the saxophonist, is given a surprising cooking treatment with Wise (on baritone), Forman and bassist Frank taking fine solos. It certainly casts new light on the song.
“Home,” an original that is a bit reminiscent of “I Remember Clifford,” has an excellent ballad statement by Wise on tenor. He plays some unaccompanied baritone on the mellow “Kol Nidre,” digs into the slow blues “Till They Lay Me Down,” and duets with Forman on “Lullaby.” The program concludes with the three-part “Life Is But A Song,” a simple and likable melody on which Wise sings.
All in all, this is an impressive debut by a laidback but creative saxophonist. David Wise’s CD is available from www.davidgwise.com.Scott Yanow
Carsten Dahl Trio
An excellent jazz pianist, Carsten Dahl was born in Copenhagen 49 years ago. Originally a drummer and a studio musician by the time he was 14, he switched to piano when he was 21. Dahl was working professionally as a pianist by the early 1990s. He has since mastered the bebop vocabulary while also developing his own voice. In addition to Danish musicians, he has also had opportunities to work with drummer Ed Thigpen (who had been one of his early drum teachers), Joe Lovano, Billy Harper, Dave Liebman, Eddie Gomez, Jerry Bergonzi, Johnny Griffin, and Jim Snidero among many others.
Simplicity is comprised of 16 Dahl originals that he performs in a trio with bassist Lennart Ginman and drummer Frands Rifbjerg. While the music (ranging from joyous romps to brooding ballads) may at first seem to be straight ahead bebop that is inspired by Bud Powell, a closer listen reveals that Dahl utilizes his own original chord changes and chord voicings. The music, while built from the past, is quite modern and filled with unpredictable moments. The performances are mostly pretty concise and the playing fits such song titles as “A Minor Mood For You,” “Monk’s Skunk,” “Dark Moments,” “Prelude and Blues,” “Flying Birds,” “Fragility” and “Beautiful.”
Simplicity features Carsten Dahl in top form, making it obvious that he is an important jazz artist who Americans should discover. This CD is available from www.storyvillerecords.com .Scott Yanow
Noumea To New York
(American Showplace Music)
Many observers love to claim that jazz is “America’s only art form,” a debatable claim that overlooks the fact that ragtime, the blues, tap dancing, and the movies are four other American art forms. It also greatly underrates the contributions of non-Americans to jazz’s development. Jazz has been an international music ever since recordings became widely available in the early 1920s.
Michel Benebig, who was born in New Caledonia, is a top-notch jazz organist. While he spent time in his early years playing classical piano, electric bass and accordion, by 1993 (when he turned 29) he was a fulltime jazz organist. He has toured internationally, visited the United States many times, and utilized American musicians on some of his sessions.
Noumea To New York has Benebig leading a quartet also featuring guitarist Carl Lockett, drummer Lewis Nash, and the great tenor-saxophonist Houston Person. Whenever Person appears on a recording, it is a strong clue that the music is special and that is certainly true of Noumea To New York. While performing mostly original material, Michel Benebig shows that he is a master of blues, ballads and swinging originals. Although he is clearly inspired by the earlier jazz organists and his mentor Rhoda Scott, Benebig has his own sound and approach to playing hard bop and soul jazz.
Guitarist Lockett contributes some excellent solos, Nash keeps the music tight and swinging, and Person (with his huge tone) is in typically soulful form, Noumes To New York (available from www.amazon.com ) is a must for fans of the jazz organ. Michel Benebig deserves to be much better known in the U.S.Scott Yanow
The Mark Masters Ensemble
A very skilled arranger and head of the American Jazz Institute, Mark Masters previously had recorded projects of the music of Jimmy Knepper, Clifford Brown, Porgy & Bess, Dewey Redman, Lee Konitz, Duke Ellington’s saxophonists, and Steely Dan. Blue Skylight is a bit unusual in that it alternates between songs composed by Charles Mingus and Gerry Mulligan.
The five Mingus pieces feature a septet comprised of trumpeter Ron Stout, trombonist Les Benedict, altoist Gary Foster, Jerry Pinter (tenor and soprano), pianist Ed Czach, bassist Putter Smith and drummer Kendall Kay. In addition to “Peggy’s Blue Skylight” and “Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love,” the group performs three lesser-known Mingus compositions: the swinging “Monk, Bunk And Vice Versa,” “So Long Eric” and the haunting “Eclipse.” While the ensembles do not become quite as adventurous and wild as Mingus’ bands, there are plenty of stirring moments with Gary Foster and Jerry Pinter often taking solo honors.
For the six Mulligan works, Foster, Pinter and the rhythm section return and are joined by Gene Cipriano on tenor and baritonist Adam Schroeder. “Apple Core” and “Motel” are the best known of the mostly obscure pieces. Schroeder emulates Mulligan a little on “Strayhorn 2” and “Motel,” each of the horn players have spots (with Cipriano on “Out Back Of The Barn” and Foster throughout starring), and Jeru’s legacy is well served.
Blue Skylight is another fine recording from Mark Masters, who has compiled quite a memorable body of work in his career. Get this one, available from www.caprirecords.com .Scott Yanow
Tina May Meets Enrico Pieranunzi
Home Is Where The Heart Is
Long one of Great Britain’s finest jazz singers, Tina May has recorded a wide variety of projects during her career. Home Is Where The Heart Is is both intimate and quietly creative.May and pianist Enrico Pieranunzi perform seven duets and (with the inclusion of Tony Coe on soprano) two trios. The co-leaders contribute five originals (music by Pieranunzi and lyrics by May), Pieranunzi wrote two others (one with lyrics by Lorraine Feather) and they also perform “Day Dream” and “This Is New.”
While the emphasis is on ballads with a few exceptions (most notably the closing “This Is New” and “The Night Bird” which has May’s vocalese to a Chet Baker solo), the music holds one’s interest throughout. Tina May always had a beautiful voice and she digs into the meaning of the lyrics. Enrico Pieranunzi’s playing throughout is quite sensitive yet never obvious, both anticipating the singer’s directions and inspiring her to take even more chances. Tony Coe’s soprano on “The Night Bird” and “Day Dream” adds variety and fire to the set.
Home Is Where The Heart Is grows in interest with each listen and fortunately the philosophical and thoughtful lyrics are included in the inner sleeve. This fine project is well worth exploring and is available from www.33jazz.com .Scott Yanow
A major modern jazz pianist and composer, Billy Childs’ writing has sometimes overshadowed his very original piano playing. While Rebirth has six of his originals, the focus is on his piano in a quartet with Steve Wilson (alto and soprano), bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Eric Harland.
Both Childs’ solos and his pieces are harmonically advanced and challenging to musicians although quite listenable. “Backwards Bop,” while not quite living up to its name (an intriguing thought), has a strong forward momentum, an eccentric theme, an opening spot for Glawischnig and heated solos by Childs and Wilson on alto. “Rebirth” features Claudia Acuna’s wordless singing in the ensembles, stirring piano and soprano solos, and a spot for trombonist Ido Meshulam who is just on this piece. The ballad “Stay” puts the focus on guest singer Alicia Olatuja’s pleading and effective vocal.
Of the other originals, “Dance Of Shiva” is a bit intense and finds the trio swinging hard, “Tightrope” is an advanced jazz waltz and “The Starry Night” includes adventurous piano and soprano solos. Rebirth concludes with a stormy version of “The Windmills Of Your Mind” (as if the John Coltrane Quartet had tackled it in 1965) and an alto-piano duet on Horace Silver’s “Peace.”
Virtually every Billy Childs recording is well worth acquiring. Rebirth is most notable for his consistently creative piano playing. It is available from www.mackavenue.com .Scott Yanow
Clarice Assad & Friends
Live At The Deer Head Inn
(Deer Head Records)
A very talented singer, pianist and composer, Clarice Assad was born and raised in Brazil. Her musical family includes her aunt singer Badi Assad, her father guitarist Sergio Assad and her uncle guitarist Odair Assad. While many of Clarice Assad’s compositions have been performed by orchestras, the spotlight on her Deer Head release is on her singing.
Four selections are duets with percussionist Keita Ogawa including a medley of Antonio Carlos Jobim songs and “Aquarela do Brazil” which has some brilliant scat-singing in addition to Assad’s piano. “Invitation” and Milton Nascimento’s “Maria, Maria” have her singing with a quartet comprised of tenor-saxophonist Adam Niewood (who takes several passionate solos), keyboardist Richard Burton, bassist Tony Martino and drummer Bill Goodwin. A special treat are “Corcovado” and “Vera Cruz” for those two numbers team her with her fellow singer Nancy Reed, whose English vocals contrast well with Assad’s vocalizing in Portuguese.
All in all, this is an enjoyable release that can serve as a fine introduction to the artistry of Clarice Assad. It is available from www.deerheadinn.com .Scott Yanow
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