Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Five Of My Favorite BILL EVANS Recordings In No Particular Order:

THE COMPLETE VILLAGE VANGUARD RECORDINGS – 1961

The successor to the original single LP, this three-CD set presents everything played by the short-lived but long admired Evans trio of that period. Surrounded by Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums, this group brings Evans along the road toward the super stardom he would eventually earn. Tragically, Scott LaFaro’s death from an auto accident made these sides even more important and I might add, treasured. The trio is peerless and is paving new jazz roads on nearly two dozen day brightening choices. LaFaro would change the role of the bass player forever. And Evans would grieve his loss for a long, long time. But this historically important set still stands as a groundbreaking, magnificent and timeless event.


MOONBEAMS – Riverside

After Scott LaFaro’s tragic loss, it was about a year until Evans would record again and when he did, this 1962 all-ballad studio set was the result. Present day Portland bassist Chuck Israels appears here with Evans and Motian on ten emotive beauties like “If You Could See Me Now”, “Very Early”, “Stairway To The Stars”, “I Fall In Love Too Easily” and more. Bill was always moved by emotion and romanticism. You’ll find both in abundance on this beautiful session.


ALONE – Verve

Bill Evans once told Marian McPartland on her radio program Piano Jazz that he loved the freedom and creative opportunities to play solo piano. This gorgeous effort finds him in sheer perfection on a wealth of material such as “Here’s That Rainy Day”, “A Time For Love”, “Midnight Mood”, “On A Clear Day” and others. On the CD version there are three bonus tracks for you to devour. It’s pretty much a given that Bill Evans playing solo was as close as we could ever get to musical heaven.


YOU MUST BELIEVE IN SPRING – Warner Bros.

Towards the end of Evans’ short life of fifty-one years, his trio underwent more changes in personnel. Eddie Gomez remained on bass, but Eliot Zigmund assumed the drum chores. The year was 1977 and Bill had discovered Michel Legrand’s new masterpiece “You Must Believe In Spring”. By this time Evans had become much more orchestral in concept, and this session illustrates that rhapsodic magnificence. Other emotional outpourings include “The Peacocks”, “Sometime Ago”, “B Minor Waltz” and more. Great art is almost always easily recognizable. And here it is.


LIVE IN BUENOS AIRES, 1979 – West Wind

Bill’s very last trio was highly acclaimed and featured virtuoso Marc Johnson on bass, along with Joe LaBarbera who added new pleasures on drums. This live two-CD set, recorded about a year before Evans was lost to us in 1980, continues his incredible orchestral approach on both newer and longstanding favorites. I don’t know if he was aware that his time was running short. But Bill Evans puts it all out there, perhaps more than ever before.


Five Of My Favorite OSCAR PETERSON Recordings In No Particular Order:

WE GET REQUESTS – Verve

A relaxed but constantly swinging trio session with Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen. This is the essence of piano trio communication with quality pop songs of the era like “Quiet Nights”, “Days Of Wine And Roses”, and “Have You Met Miss Jones”. The highlight however, is a John Lewis blues called “D&E”. Bob McAnulty used to play it at the old KLIQ studio in Portland, Oregon’s Oaks Park!


CANADIANA SUITE – Limelight

This is Oscar’s loving tribute to his Canadian homeland. It also features Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, and finds the pianist running the table from joyous and swinging to luscious and elegant. It reminds us that, in addition to his piano virtuosity, Oscar Peterson was a first rate, formidable composer. My treasured copy is autographed by the master himself.


THE LONDON HOUSE SESSIONS – Verve

This fine CD set was recorded live at Chicago’s premier jazz club, The London House. It is a spectacular example of three musicians---Oscar, Ray and Ed (again)---at their peak and before a live, adoring audience. Stunning, brilliant performances, beginning to end. Hard to find but worth the search!


THE TRIO – PABLO

This CD puts Oscar in the company of guitarist Joe Pass and bassist Niels Pedersen. I remember playing it one day for a jazz pianist friend of mine. Although he loves Oscar, he went into a profanity-laced tirade---all in red-faced jealousy of the genius at the piano. OP’s “Blues Etude” will leave you shaking your head in how-can-that-be-possible amazement! And it just continues from there.


BLUES ETUDE – Limelight

This time we go from the song title “Blues Etude” to an album with that same name, but on a different label and in new company. Two Peterson trios share the riches, one with Sam Jones and Louis Hayes, and the other with Ray Brown and Louis Hayes. The nine tunes are divided between amazing OP originals and perfectly realized standards.

 

GEORGE’S BRIEFS

Jill McCarron; Jazz Motif

So here’s the story: I encounter this CD by a pianist I’ve never heard of, Jill McCarron. I take a glance at the tunes and composers, and I see names like John Lewis, Kenny Dorham, Ray Brown, Horace Silver, Bud Powell, Al Cohn and more. Just about automatically I know that Jill McCarron is the real deal. Her trio is augmented by the very hip alto sax and flute of Will Anderson. Let’s simply say that Jill McCarron has done her homework and the swinging results are a pure delight.

Self-produced; 2021; appx. 60 min.

       

Jerry Cook; Walk In The Park

And speaking of new names, how about the big and bountiful sound of tenor sax man Jerry Cook. On his new album for Vancouver, BC’s Cellar Live Records, Cook and colleagues deliver ten selections, opting for a well balanced menu of standards and freshly minted originals. Consider these favorites like “Smile”, “Summertime”, “Soul Eyes” and “Hello My Lovely”. Added to that are Cook’s own creations, complete with attractive, vibrant melody lines and inspired improvisation. The real jazz voices always manage to come through. And Jerry Cook is definitely one of them.

Cellar Live Records; 2021; appx. 64 min.


Medeljazz  Quartet; Versature

Now here is a well entrenched quartet of guitar, piano, bass and drums, playing ten original compositions. They seem to convey a strong “all for one” feeling in a session of accessible yet creative and quite contemporary nature. Although the leadership role seems to be that of guitarist Laurent Melegi, all participants enjoy both solo opportunities and ensemble importance. There is a quiet intensity to this music. It just may grab you right where you listen!

Self produced; 2021; times not indicated


Shawn Montero; You Are There


For the last decade or more I’ve been aware of Shawn Montero as a very hip jazz singer. This CD as a matter of fact is the third of her discs in my own collection. There are a lot of things to like about her. First and very importantly, it’s apparent to me that Montero is an admirer of Carmen McRae. There’s a distinct Carmen-like quality to her voice and her phrasing. For what it’s worth I can also hear a hint of Chris Connor in her vocal timbre. Secondly, Montero chooses songs worthy of being “out there” and deserve to be heard a great deal more. Among these are Blossom Dearie’s wistful “Inside A Silent Tear”; and a gorgeous thing “You’ll See” by the English composer Carroll Coates. To these, add two gems by Portland’s own Dave Frishberg, “Let’s Eat Home” and the tender tear jerker “You Are There”. But there are evergreens here too. How about these: “Dearly Beloved”, “How Deep Is The Ocean”, “The Shadow Of Your Smile” and more. Accompanying Ms. Montero is a peerless group led by the gifted pianist Kenny Barron. I’ve known of her for quite a while, but now it’s your turn to discover Shawn Montero.

Whaling City Sound; 2021; 65:07.

The Piano Music Of Dick Hyman Performed By Steven Harlos




I’ve always referred to pianist Dick Hyman as a jazz chameleon. You see, he can do it all: From ragtime to stride; from swing to bebop; as an accompanist to singers; or in any legitimate musical context. He even experimented way back in the late 1950’s with a new technological advancement called “stereo”! On this exhilarating date his widespread talent as a composer is handed over to pianist Steven Harlos who handles the assignment as though these luscious compositions were his own. Yes, we’ve known of Dick Hyman’s piano gifts for over a half century. But now we are the lucky beneficiaries of his solo piano brilliance. Thank you, Dick Hyman, and thank you, Steven Harlos. Arbors; 2021; 61:36.

Houston Person; Live In Paris


Tenor sax man Houston Person has enjoyed a nice association with High Note Records for some years now. His latest CD finds him in a live performance in Paris, and very much blues drenched as usual. Adding to that approach are Ben Paterson, B3 organ; Peter Bernstein, guitar; and Willie Jones III, drums. True to that R&B spirit, Person chooses tunes like “Sunny”, “Since I Fell For You” and a steamy original, “Sweet Sucker”. He is also quite comfortable with a bossa feel on “Only Trust Your Heart” and bops with ease and pleasure on “Lester Leaps In”. His take on “The Way We Were” didn’t float my boat but only because of its association with a certain singer that never resonated for me. Person might be compared to sax stars such as Gene Ammons or Stanley Turrentine from a standpoint of bluesy feeling in most of what they do. If that style is where you hang your hat, then this CD will most assuredly be an entrĂ©e for you.

High Note; 2021; appx. 59 min.

 

Anthony Wonsey; Lorraine’s Lullabye


It seemed like pianist Anthony Wonsey had somehow disappeared from the scene for quite some years. So you can imagine my pleasure in reacquainting with him via his brand new recording. He appears here in every context from solo piano to standard trio setting, to occasional horn players here and there. And I must say that Wonsey still displays a gorgeous touch, lush harmonic sense and of course, solid, swinging chops. You can hear how deeply rooted he is in the jazz art, and I might add that he never “wastes” a note; he is clear and concise, loaded with history, yet very contemporary. Wonsey is an expressive artist at any tempo and he says it all on a program of well conceived originals and a few standards in “Sweet Lorraine”, “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and “It Might As Well Be Spring”. He’s all skill and no frill, and I’m so glad to reconnect with him.

Cellar; 2021; appx. 65 min.