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.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Doug McDonald "Organisms"

As you probably know by now I'm not the most wild-eyed fan of organ jazz. But it's easy to recognize when it simply works. Carey Frank is a Hammond B3 player of uncompromising skill and subtlety. And it should be added that leader Doug Mc Donald and Frank are very much on par in communicating musically. Veteran L.A. tenorman Bob Sheppard adds an appropriate bluesy contribution, and drummer Ben Scholz adds supportive zest. The ten tunes examined represent a balanced selection of standards and blues infused choices. Perhaps my two favorites are the mostly overlooked ballads "Sometime Ago" and "Too Late Now"; both are examples of top echelon songwriting. How nice to hear them once again. Other familiar "hits" include "It's You Or No One"; "Poor Butterfly"; "On The Alamo"; a medley of "Nina Never Knew" and "Indian Summer"; and Harry Edison's evergreen, "Centerpiece". Doug McDonald's superb musicianship, along with that of his colleagues, is something to be admired.
Self-produced; probably 2019; appx. 44 min.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Ehud Asherie "Wild Man Blues"

I'm happy to say that Ehud Asherie adheres to a long admired tradition that informs us that it's okay to swing. And on his latest CD he does exactly that on a menu of eight tunes covering a wide array of eras and tempos. He is joined by two highly regarded stars of the New York jazz family in Peter Washington, bass and Rodney Green, drums. There are numerous highlights here, so let's examine at least a few! The title tune, "Wild Man Blues", is a rather rare entry from two jazz giants, Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. It is followed by one of two Charlie Parker tunes, "Parker's Mood", a staple in the Bird book. The other Parker composition is "Chasin' The Bird", a complex little melody line which, I would imagine, many other pianists would be hesitant to take on. Other favorites include classics "Flying Down To Rio", the exquisite "Autumn Nocturne", and a heartfelt ballad version of "Oh, Lady Be Good". Finally, there's an infrequently heard Dizzy Gillespie tune with a distinctively Latin tinge, and with the odd title "And Then She Stopped". Let's be clear: Ehud Asherie is a piano marvel who has done his homework. He plays all the right notes and no tune worthy of playing is outside his sphere.
Capri Records; 2019; 46:47

Monday, April 15, 2019

Bill Mays "Live At COTA"

Bill Mays is the optimum musician's musician. As a pro for fifty-five years, he's done it all: house parties; cruises; Bar Mitzvahs and weddings; long-standing studio work; accompanist to singers; film and TV composition; extensive arranging; and club and concert gigs---literally all over the world. He's absolutely A+ as a trio leader, and that's how we get to hear him, live at COTA, the Celebration Of The Arts Jazz Festival in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. He's joined by Martin Wind, bass, and Matt Wilson, drums, at the east coast club, the Dear Head Inn. The trio opens with a "dream" medley of "Darn That Dream", and the famous prom closer (in my era), "Dream". Tender and beautiful stuff. Mays then turns a famous standard on its head with "Sun Of The East", his boppy, infectious tribute to Boston piano icon Lennie Tristano. And speaking of tributes the trio continues with another of them. This time it's Bill Evans who is remembered in another medley with his original "Your Story", and a tear-jerker by Phil Woods titled "Goodbye Mr. Evans". Other choices include another Mays creation called "Next Right Thing---An Extravagant Soft Shoe"; the ballad entry in a sparkling "Never Let Me Go"; and a Wayne Shorter classic, "Infant Eyes". The closer is a surprise and a delight. It's Bob Dorough's spritely, optimistic love song "Nothing Like You". Bill even takes a vocal chorus, and then swings to the end of this bright melody. Bill knows the following remembrance, but perhaps you don't, so here goes. In an interview with Bud Shank, I asked, "if you could only work with one pianist for the rest of your career, who would it be?" Without hesitation, he answered "Bill Mays". 'Nuff said except this: you need to buy this CD!
No Blooze Music; 2019; 55:45.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Charlie Porter (self titled)

Some of you old guys (like me) might remember a unique Benny Golson album called Take A Number From One To Ten. On it, Golson opened with a tenor sax solo. From there he added one player on each selection until there was a total of ten. Interesting concept, right? Well, Portland player supreme Charlie Porter has done just that on ten original tracks plus one by Duke Ellington. He employs a bevy of Portland's finest musicians. Among them are Mel Brown, Alan Jones, David Greenblatt, David Evans, Chuck Israels, Tim Gilson, Dan Gaynor, George Colligan and a lot more. Porter's writing is clear and contemporary, yet he finds a way to stay in the middle of the tradition. His own sound is as pure and beautiful as any trumpet player I've ever heard. A lot of planning and effort went into this project. From a musician's standpoint it's very thoughtful music, and from a listener's view, very thought provoking. I would go so far as saying that Charlie Porter sounds like what Clifford Brown may have developed into had he lived longer than twenty-five years. Porter brings intensity, lyricism, creativity and chops to the table. This meeting of Portland jazz giants is a must-hear session.
Self-produced; 2018; appx. 60 min.

Monday, March 4, 2019

"New Dedications and Latin Moods" Chip White

Chip White is a veteran East Coaster with years of experience, and with many highly esteemed jazz stars. He also is an excellent poet, and here on volume five in a long series, he demonstrates his compositional and poetic skills at their best. His nine originals on one of two CDs finds him in the company of superb talent such as Terell Stafford, trumpet; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone; Bruce Williams, alto and soprano saxes; Renee Rosnes, piano; and other star power players. White's writing is very much along fiery, Blue Note-like bop with heavy duty solo opportunities for nearly all. CD#2 is a showcase for White's poetry, all of which is delivered with a swingin' background. It is here that he honors jazz heroes such as Count Basie, Benny Golson, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon and lots more. And don't lose sight of the fact that this marks the fifth time Chip White has offered this music in poetic format. This one, like the four that preceded  it, offers both superb music and poetry that reads like jazz history condensed. I can think of nobody else who has ever taken this approach. So from just about every other standpoint, this is well worth hearing. And you'll likely learn something, too.
Dark Colors; 2017; 2 CDs: 54:56 and 14:03.