Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Rich Walker "Lazybird Revisited"

Once in a while I encounter a recording from the past that I was previously unaware of. And when they're as good as this one, I like to bring them to the attention of my readers, hoping of course that they can score a copy floating somewhere on the internet. Formerly a resident of Orlando, Rich Walker is now a Portlander, and you should watch out for local gigs starting to materialize. On this session Walker joins forces with a bevy of Orlando cats for a Blue Note-like gathering of originals featuring mind blowing soloists, excellent "real deal" writing, and a high spirited, hard bop approach. Walker at times displays his profound leaning toward the blues, and even sings a bit here and there. Put simply, Rich Walker's guitar is right there alongside the best in the business.
Self-produced; probably 2003; times not indicated.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Five Play, featuring Sherrie Maricle "Live From The Firehouse Stage"

If you're a student of jazz history you're probably aware of the female bands that dotted the landscape, mostly in the heyday of big bands. Well, that phenomenon survives to this day. In fact, Sherrie Maricle has led such groups for quite some years. Before you dismiss this as some kind of novelty, give these gals a listen. These are well-honed players with experience and massive chops. And they swing big time. The tunes are primarily originals by various band members. Melodies are well stated, solos are spot on, and there's a joyful feeling throughout in this live performance. Incidentally, the standards here are Duke's "Just Squeeze Me"; Van Heusen's hit for one Frank Sinatra, "Nancy With The Laughing Face"; and an etched in marble standard, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." Solid sounds all the way. That's the order of the day, and Sherrie Maricle and friends fill it with pleasure for all.
Self-produced; 2019; appx. 66 min.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Philadelphia Heritage Art Ensemble "Crossing The Bridge 2"

The city of Philadelphia has contributed numerous outstanding jazz musicians over the course of many years. This superb sextet is led by trumpet master Fred Adams. The trippy thing is that these guys succeed in combining the bop tradition with a wholesome lyricism and first class arranging. Of the seven selections heard here four are Adams originals. The solo work is always ear-catching, distinguished and often quite unique. For the record two of the remaining tunes are from the great tenor hero Hank Mobley, and the remaining one is by trumpet icon Lee Morgan. The Philadelphia Heritage Art Ensemble may be traveling a familiar road but they find fresh and new ways to take us on their journey.
Heritage Sound; 2018; times not indicated.

Monday, May 27, 2019

George's Briefs!

The Briefs:  

Native Soul: What Is That Isn't?
Here's a hard boppin' quartet which, in three of the eleven selections heard here, becomes an equally hard boppin' quintet. I am unfamiliar with all of them but that makes no difference. Their program of mostly original compositions includes exhilarating solo work, strong melodic content and, by the way, they swing hard!
Cellar Music; 2019; appx. 72 min.

Lined With A Groove; Pete Coco, bass
This CD marks a debut for New York bassist Pete Coco and his trio. It consists of thirteen tunes, nearly all of which are composed by Coco's bass playing heroes, names such as Chambers, Brown, Mitchell and Hinton, among others. The trio's pianist, Sullivan Fortner, adds dramatic elegance, and veteran drummer Matt Wilson brings his usual expertise to the session. Great trio stuff throughout!
Self-produced; 2018; times not indicated.

Infinity; Tom Harrell, trumpet and flugelhorn
This CD continues Tom Harrell's lengthy association with High Note Records---over ten albums to date. In this case he opts for Charles Altura's guitars (rather than a piano), and the tenor sax of Mark Turner on ten Harrell originals. Together, they once again spotlight his entire scope. Harrell is and always has been a major innovator and influence in the jazz art.
High Note; 2019; appx. 66 min.

Jim Snidero "Waves Of Calm"

Alto marvel Jim Snidero is back with us on a new CD comprised of eight tunes, four of which are performed as a quartet. The remaining four add the peerless trumpet of Jeremy Pelt. It seems that more often in the past, leaders will open with tempos other than the usual fast-paced romp. Such is the case with the title tune, "Waves Of Calm". Three additional Snidero creations in various moods demonstrate his composing prowess. Perhaps my preference among the originals was "Dad Song". It boasted a more distinctive melody line than the other three, and it also featured an acoustic piano as opposed to the Rhodes heard on the other originals. Standards beautifully examined here include "Old Folks", "I Fall In Love Too Easily", and a real charmer in "If I Had You". Snidero covers the whole gamut here with his usual vitality, passion and heavy duty musicianship.
Savant; 2019; appx. 50 min.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Peter Clark "The 20-Man Music Machine"

Before you dismiss big bands as obsolete as an eight track, you should understand that there remains to this day scores of dedicated cats who happily participate in big bands much like this one. These guys play invigorating arrangements of standards, originals and even charts based on the changes to familiar works. Two complete examples of the latter would be "All The Things You Aren't" (get it?) and "Swansong" which you'll know from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake". Other dependables include "Love For Sale", "Caravan", "Autumn Leaves", "Teach Me Tonight", and even "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"! Solid musicianship abounds here and widespread solo work is first class. One can hear that these guys and gals are having a blast! The band reminds me a bit of Rob McConnell's high flying ensembles---where everyone gets a chance to blow and have a grand time doing so. Hats off to those dedicated musicians keeping big bands alive and vibrant. People like THIS.
Summit Records; 2019; appx. 74 min.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Cory Weeds "Live At Frankie's Jazz Club"

I really think that all I'd need to do would be to glance at the names of the composers on this CD and it would get my nod of approval! Consider these names: Lee Morgan, Mal Waldron, Tina Brooks, Jackie McLean, George Robert, and Walter Davis, Jr. All of the titles would probably be termed underdogs. Despite strong melody lines, plenty of solo space and brimming excitement, these are not well known compositions. And what, may I ask, does this tell us of leader and alto star Cory Weeds? It tells us that he's done his jazz history work, resulting in these nine overlooked gems. All of them are potent examples of the jazz book, but perhaps my favorite is a Tina Brooks delight called "Up Tight's Creek". Another winner (among all winners) is "Formidable" by the under appreciated pianist Walter Davis, Jr. Cory's brilliant alto is joined by Terell Stafford, trumpet; Harold Mabern, piano; Michael Glynn, bass; and Julian McDonough, drums. The music just bristles with exuberance and joy. Thank you, Cory, for all you do in both the musical and business aspects of jazz. You are doing all you can to keep the music alive. We all get the message by listening to sessions such as this.
Cellar Live; 2019; appx. 65 min.