Saturday, December 31, 2016
Latin Jazz Project Vol. 1; Ray Obiedo, electric and acoustic guitar
Right off the bat, I'll remind you that I usually hesitate to review Latin jazz. As exciting and wonderfully rhythmic as it usually is, to my way of thinking it's world music and therefore, outside of my wheelhouse. But here's an exception and I'll tell you why. Ray Obiedo's concept is much more restrained and subtle than the fiery, percussive heart of this music. With the exceptions of "Caravan" and "St. Thomas", all of the remaining nine tunes are less well known, although written by some prominent composers. This is sophisticated material with some finely honed, precise solos and unforced, well crafted arrangements. Obiedo's guitar is well suited to the assignment and never goes overboard. A San Francisco Bay Area resident, he records fairly frequently, and of those that I've heard, this may be his best work to date.
Rhythmus Records; 2016; appx. 52 min.
Friday, December 30, 2016
Sunday, December 25, 2016
There are many reasons to recommend guitarist Joshua Breakstone. But there are two that stand out for me. Long ago, Joshua settled on a tone that conveys a special warmth like no other guitarist. Secondly, he has always opted for superb if underappreciated material from the outstanding repertoire of jazz history. On this session he honors pianists by playing their compositions. Among those in the mix are Sonny Clark, Elmo Hope, Mal Waldron, Barry Harris, Tadd Dameron and Lennie Tristano. Most of the tunes by these and other piano heroes are obscure choices. And to me, that's a direct reference to the work Breakstone has put in studying the compositions of these player-composers. Probably the best known tunes would be Waldron's "Soul Eyes"; Dameron's "If You Could See Me Now"; and Tristano's "Lennie's Pennies", based on "Pennies From Heaven". As always, Breakstone works effortlessly with his trio mates, Lisle Atkinson, bass, and Andy Watson, drums. Adding some lustre to the session is cellist Mike Richmond. Joshua Breakstone only knows one way: warm, beautiful, resonant guitar. If perchance you've never checked him out, it's time to do so.
Capri Records; 2016; appx. 63 min.
Thursday, December 22, 2016
Dave Stryker, guitar;
There's no way that Metallica would take on Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite". Nor would Pearl Jam tackle Monk's "Straight No Chaser". And I can't imagine Taylor Swift testing her lack of chops on Wardell Gray's "Twisted". So tell me, why is it that jazz musicians occasionally turn their attention to the questionable quality of rock and pop? Well, that's what the three above musicians have done. Guitarist Dave Stryker brings us material by Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Zombies, Prince and Cream. Should I continue? Okay, consider the work of bassist and trio leader Joe Policastro. He brings us the efforts of these not-so-notables: Neil Young, The Pixies, The Bee Gees, Pink Floyd and The Cars. I could rest my case here, but c'mon, I'm on a roll. So finally there's Tierney Sutton, a formidable jazz singer, with a new CD devoted entirely to the meanderings of something called Sting. Kinda makes you hunger for "Bruce Springsteen sings Johnny Hartman". Right?
Stryker: Strikezone Records; 2016; appx. 66 min.
Policastro: JeruJazz Records; 2016; appx. 70 min.
Sutton: BFM Jazz; 2016; appx. 56 min.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
The tentet is not a new concept. Decades ago, big band leaders often had to reduce expenses, and trimming their numbers was one way of doing it. An exception to this practice was the very creative Marty Paich Dek-Tette which flourished in the fifties. Paich was based in L.A., as is Phil Norman. In this deep well of jazz talent, Norman has handpicked some premier players like Carl Saunders, trumpet; Scott Whitfield, trombone; and Christian Jacob, piano, among others. The CD begins with the very familiar "Johnny's Theme" which opened Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show for many years. Among other highlights are a Shearing-esque "Lullaby Of Birdland"; a tip of the hat to Ahmad Jamal on "Poinciana"; a nifty take on Gerry Mulligan's "Line For Lyons"; and welcome revisits to jazz standards such as Miles Davis's "So What", Benny Golson's "Killer Joe"; and Dizzy's "Manteca". On these and lots more---twelve in all---Phil Norman and friends stay right on course with innovative arrangements and outstanding solo work. Straight ahead stuff, extremely well-performed. That's what's going on here!
Mama Records; 2016; appx. 70 min.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Clifford Brown was one of the great Jazz trumpet players of all-time. Sadly he died at the young age of 26 in an auto accident. The good news is that there are surprisingly several recordings of this legendary artist. Here's a rare video that I found on Youtube, I wanted to share with you. Brownie Lives!
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Spotlight On Standards; Jerry Bergonzi, tenor saxJust ask nearly anyone in Boston's jazz community. You'll learn that Jerry Bergonzi has been a local hero for years. A highly respected faculty member of Beantown's Berklee College Of Music, Bergonzi has earned his high standing. On this CD he takes a slight detour from his usual path of original compositions. He actually takes on five well known standards including the Sinatra hit "Witchcraft" and solid staples like "Dancing In The Dark", "Out Of Nowhere", "Come Rain Or Come Shine" and even "Stella By Starlight". The remaining four tunes are Bergonzi's own creations, hence the album title Spotlight On Standards. He works in a trio setting with Renato Chicco on B3 organ and Andre Michelutti on drums. Notice, interestingly, the absence of a bass player on the session. Chicco is a crafty organist who doesn't fall into the soul attire of too many B3 guys. That said, I'd have preferred a piano over organ. Bergonzi, to be sure, offers a spicy presentation, employing a thick tone sometimes a bit like that of Joe Henderson. So go ahead and find out what Bostonians have known forever---that Jerry Bergonzi is a monster of the tenor saxophone.Savant; 2016; appx. 63 min.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Arrhythmia; Jimmy O'Connell, trombone
Detroiter turned New Yorker in 2009, Jimmy O'Connell is one of the new generation of super jazz talents who abound in the Apple. His no nonsense, no goofiness "sixtet" is made up of equally enthusiastic young players on alto, guitar, piano, bass and drums. O'Connell's eight tune menu is nicely balanced between five of his own compositions and three from others composers. As an example, the disc opens with "Lament", a tribute to one of his icons, trombone master J.J. Johnson. Completing the familiar fare are Cedar Walton's "Bolivia" and a tender O'Connell feature on "In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning". It is also worth noting that O'Connell's five originals reflect solid melody lines, a slice of wit here and there, and the primo musicianship so easy to spot among dedicated, honest, straight ahead jazz cats like these!
Outside In Music; 2016; appx. 57 min.
Friday, December 9, 2016
This is Marc Fendel here, filling in for my dad's blog. I had to share this with you, because this blog would not be complete without featuring Alan Broadbent. Alan is my dad's favorite living pianist, and there's a good reason why! This video has some amazing playing on it, and the interview is very insightful. I hope you enjoy it!
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
John Beasley, piano and arrangements
Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the last big band leader to take on a full set of Monk tunes was Bill Holman. And that widely acclaimed album, Brilliant Corners, dates way back to 1997. Well, in a fair and just jazz world, this Monk effort should be similarly praised. Beasley flies high with some spicy, saucy arrangements. There are lots of impressive ensemble passages and some sound intricate and downright difficult enough to call Thad Jones-Mel Lewis to mind. In this atmosphere it's easy to understand that the solo work is often challenging and in-your-face. Among the nine Monk classics examined here, you'll find "Epistrophy", "Ask Me Now", "Little Rootie Tootie", "Coming On The Hudson" and of course, "Round Midnight". Other less well known but uniquely Monk tunes complete the program. Monk's music lends itself well to varied interpretations. It sure works well in this roaring big band setting.
Mack Avenue Records; 2016; appx. 48 min.
Friday, December 2, 2016
I just ran into this amazing video of Bill Evans in a rehearsal with Eddie Gomez and Alex Riel. Apparently this video is from Riel's personal collection. What a treat to see Bill Evans talk about his music and show the songs to the drummer. Amazing stuff. This is a rare opportunity to see a true Jazz master at work. Enjoy...
Live At The 4 Queens; Shirley Horn, Piano and Vocals Shirley Horn was one of those exceptional jazz singers who unfairly flew under the radar for far too long. When she wasn't a stay-at-home mom she managed to record a handful of albums, none of which got very much attention. That all changed in about 1987 with the first of many sessions for Verve. Suddenly, Shirley Horn was no longer the exclusive darling of musicians and the hippest of jazz fans. This previously unreleased gem was captured at The 4 Queens, a Las Vegas casino, in 1988 (imagine! Jazz in Vegas!). Shirley and her long time colleagues, Charles Ables on bass and Steve Williams on drums, deliver a memorable set of nine tunes: six vocals and three instrumental pieces. She gets things underway with Randy Weston's classic "Hi-Fly". Next comes her vocal on "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To". As always she's about a mile behind the beat, but she's the only singer who makes this little trick work to perfection. Other vocals include "Lover Man", "Just For A Thrill", and my personal fave, the rather obscure "Something Happens To Me". She also works her vocal magic on two Antonio Carlos Jobim evergreens, "Meditation", and "Ipanema". The date closes with an Oscar Peterson burner, "Blues For Big Scotia". And don't lose sight of a fifty-six (!) page booklet loaded with info, photos and interviews. Resonance Records just keeps coming up with one unreleased treasure after another. And Shirley Horn, the brilliant, unique and uncompromising jazz diva, was herself, a treasure. Resonance Records; 2015; appx. 50 min.