Wednesday, August 21, 2019
A new name to me, Mike Allen brings forth a very stately tenor sound rich in tradition. In this pianoless setting, Allen joins forces with two monsters of the Gotham midway, Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. You might remember a certain tenor player who was among the pioneers of a pianoless group; his name is Sonny Rollins. Allen and friends open with a Duke Pearson rarity, a medium tempo entry called "Big Bertha". The spirit of John Coltrane lurks nearby, as Allen and company perform a standard associated with Coltrane, "A Weaver Of Dreams", and "Miles' Mode", a Trane original. Two additional standards very reverently approached here are the Gershwin evergreen "Someone To Watch Over Me" and Duke Ellington's classic, "Solitude". Allen also delivers the goods with a few more of his creations in varying tempos and moods. The trio closes with a rarely heard Charles Mingus tune called "Jelly Roll". One might say that Mike Allen combines a sense of jazz and bop tradition with a contemporary creative edge. I think you'll find that it all works out very nicely.
Cellar Live; 2019; appx. 60 min.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
A few decades back we experienced a renaissance of the ragtime composer Scott Joplin. All these years later we still encounter occasional visits to Joplin's charming and unique compositions. Pianist and educator Tom McDermott has had a nearly lifelong love of the Joplin art. He displays it here on sixteen selections, most of which are Joplin's creations. McDermott explains that he takes some liberties (well chosen, I might add) here and there. Be that as it may, this in its entirety comes off as a lovely tribute to the ragtime master. No doubt the two most familiar tunes are "The Entertainer" and my personal favorite, "The Easy Winners". Tom McDermott honors the genius of Scott Joplin with every note.
Arbors Records; 2019; appx. 72 min.
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
One of the most important contributors to a very cool and restrained form of jazz was the brilliant, blind composer, pianist and teacher, Lennie Tristano. A "school" of players was built in Tristano's shadow, and a few whom he influenced were Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Alan Broadbent, and Gary Foster. In the case of Foster, he's been acclaimed as a "do anything" alto player for decades. But early on he came under Lennie's spell. And this two CD set proves that present day Gary Foster is still drawn to the Tristano connection. His tenor playing partner here is Mark Turner. Although he's more contemporary, he demonstrates great skill with the Tristano repertoire. The bassist Putter Smith is a longtime member of the aforementioned Broadbent trio. As such, he too is well acquainted with Lennie's musical journey. The drummer is Joe La Barbera, a master in the LA jazz panorama. Recorded live way back in 2003, this first ever [?] release features long cuts (a total of just seven selections on two CD's!). So if you're a Lennie admirer, you'll recognize titles like Marsh's "Background Music", Konitz's "Subconscious Lee", Tristano's "Lennie's Pennies" and perhaps his best known composition "317 East 32nd Street". Turner and Foster are just about perfect in interplay AND polished and groovy in generous solo adventures. Although Lennie was a pianist, it makes sense that there's no piano here because Marsh and Konitz often recorded in a pianoless setting. Kudos to Tom Burns and Capri Records for this masterful glimpse into a very important segment of jazz history.
Capri Records; 2 CDs; 2019; appx. 52 min. and 37 min.
Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Here is yet another big band to turn your head. The Interplay Jazz Orchestra is based out of Long Island, New York and has earned high marks for its invigorating arrangements and its exciting sound. Co-led by trumpet ace Gary Henderson and trombone maven Joey Devassy, this sixteen-piece juggernaut presents an eleven-tune display of well crafted musicianship and impressive arranging and solo work. Most of the tunes are enduring standards like the title tune, "On The Sunny Side Of The Street", as well as evergreens such as "Caravan", "Time After Time", "Tangerine", "Invitation", and a personal fave, "I'll Close My Eyes". Among the originals, I was most impressed with Devassy's sensitivity on his ballad called "Broken". All in all this CD provides further proof that there are exceptional though under recognized players virtually everywhere.
Self-produced; 2018; times not indicated.
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Tenor sax man Jordon Dixon leads an energetic quartet through its paces on eight compositions, adding trumpet player J.S. Williams on two additional selections. All ten are Dixon's originals. He provides very nice balance in tempos with high wire swinging material and some thoughtful ballad work as well. Clearly, it should be noted that Dixon takes a cue from the soulful segment of alto AND tenor players---names like Cannonball Adderley, Stanley Turrentine and Eddie Harris, to name a few. As a result it follows that while this music has more than a hint of hard bop in its offerings, there is also the ever present blues on board here as well. No pretense, no overkill here. Instead you'll find the soul-drenched Dixon in fine company, in what might be called a modern day blowing session.
Self-produced; 2019; appx. 58 min. https://www.jordondixon.com/
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
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
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.