Sunday, April 30, 2017

Echoes Of Swing "Dancing"

Small group swing is alive and well in 2016. Here's a group out of Europe which is truly all over the place in the swing idiom. The co-leaders of the quartet are trumpeter and occasional vocalist Colin T. Dawson and alto sax man Chris Hopkins. Rounding out the quartet are Bernd Lhotzky on piano and celesta and Oliver Mewes, drums. Their bill of fare ranges from J.S. Bach to James P. Johnson; from Scott Joplin to Cole Porter; from Sidney Bechet to Glenn Miller to Rodgers & Hart and lots more. Sixteen tunes in all, many of which are familiar to you. And all of which are presented with style, swing and savoir-faire.
Act Music; 2015; appx. 62 min.

Friday, April 28, 2017

June Bisantz Sings Chet Baker, Vol. 2 It's Always You

Chet Baker's legacy is safely secured in American jazz history. But some of us lose sight of his tender vocalizing and only think of his lyrical, very personal trumpet sound. So along comes singer June Bisantz to celebrate the vocal side of the troubled trumpet star. I missed out on volume one of this tribute, but this CD shows Bisantz as a comfortable and relaxed singer very much in the Baker realm. Her two accompanists, Alex Nakhimovsky on piano and Norman Johnson on guitar, are appropriately sensitive in the backing of the singer. Chet "owned" most of the standards on the album, but there are a couple of obscure beauties which deserve comment. "Forgetful" is a typical C B sorrowful ballad, and "Everything Depends On You" is a nearly forgotten gem with a catchy melody line and a hopeful lyric. June Bisantz keeps it close to the vest with no extraneous theatrics, and that's just as it should be when it comes to the great Chet Baker. Self-produced; probably 2016; appx. 41 min.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mose Allison: American Legend, "Live In California"

It's a pretty sure bet that the best known son of Tippo, Mississippi is Mose Allison. Still going strong and sounding great as he approaches his 80th year, Mose and his trio cook up a typical bluesy main dish in this live appearance. Over the last decade or more Mose has recorded with some horns and reeds. They're all good sessions, but Mose has always been at his best in a trio setting. That Mississippi back roads piano is just too cool and gritty to be relegated to a supportive role. With Bob Douglass on bass and Pete Magadini on drums, that classic Mose Allison piano magic is once again in the forefront. There are nineteen tunes in all and the majority of them are familiar Mose originals. Interesting to note that his two biggest hits, "Parchman Farm" and "Seventh Son", are not included in the set. Perhaps it was time to "retire" those evergreens. One little moment that you have to catch is Mose's yodeling at the end of "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me"---believe it or not. So here he is, Mose Allison, the pride of Tippo, Miss, sounding as fit and fabulous as ever. Thanks, Mose!
IBis Recordings; 2015; 54:36

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Tribute To Herbie +1; Dick Oatts / Mats Holmquist New York Jazz Orchestra

As good as these tunes sounded in Herbie Hancock's small group setting of the 1960's, they take on new luster and excitement in this big band edition. Dick Oatts is of course a multi-reed veteran of many big bands. On this session he is heard on both alto and soprano saxophones. Mats Holmquist, a new name to me, is in charge of the arrangements and his writing is dense and orchestral in nature, perhaps reminiscent of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. The "+1" in the album title refers to "Steve R", Holmquist's composition, and the only one not written by Hancock. Herbie's "greatest hits", "Cantaloupe Island", "Dolphin Dance", "Maiden Voyage", and "Watermelon Man" are joined by lesser known of his works with a bristling, take no prisoners attitude featuring fiery, full flavored passages and very generous solo space. Besides the solo from Oatts, trumpet ace Joe Magnarelli is on the gig as is Gotham tenorman Walt Weiskopf. The piano work of Adam Birnbaum was also solid throughout. So it's a new attire for all these Herbie Hancock creations. And it wears extremely well.
Summit; probably 2016; appx. 71 min.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sarah King And The Smoke Rings

Judging strictly from Sarah King's high-pitched, 1920's style vocal quality, one could get the idea that this is a recording intended to reflect that era. Not so, at least in my opinion. While some of the songs go back almost that far ("Jersey Bounce", "Tea For Two", "Lazy River", etc.) they don't have that oop-oop-ee-do feel present. Besides, there are a couple of other choices, namely "Caravan" and "Some Other Spring" which would not draw impressions of the flapper era. Still, on these and other evergreens, King and her trio of Alex Levin, piano; Scott Ritchie, bass; and Ben Cliness, drums, are in the midst of a party-like performance sure to please devotees of the style. Levin, it should be said, is a lyrical wonder based on a few of his own albums in my personal collection.
Alex Levin Music; probably 2016; appx. 46 min

Monday, April 17, 2017

Nancy Erickson "While Strolling Through The Park"

There are several considerations which would suggest that you pay some attention to Seattle area singer Nancy Erickson. For starters, Erickson's vocal quality is sweet and lilting, reminiscent somewhat of the late Karen Carpenter. From a stronger jazz perspective, there's a little Sue Raney present as well. Then there's the prominent Seattle musicians on board for this recording. Among others, how about former Portlander Darin Clendenin on piano, the great double threat monster Jay Thomas on tenor sax and trumpet, and master trombone maven David Marriott also along for the ride. Finally, Erickson's interesting variety of tunes need to be looked at. When, for example, was the last time a jazz singer took on "While Strolling Through The Park (One Day)"? Or how about a nearly forgotten ballad originally done by the rich baritone of Johnny Hartman? It's called "I Just Dropped By To Say Hello", and how nice to hear it again. Incidentally, bassist Clipper Anderson offers a pleasant vocal quality, joining Erickson on that song. The set closer is the French opus "La Vie En Rose", a shimmering duo of voice and bass. On all these and more tunes you know well---plus a few hearty originals, Nancy Erickson has put all the pieces together to produce a thoughtful and highly musical recording.

Vital Flame Productions; 2016; times not indicated.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Ray Vega, trumpet and flugelhorn; Thomas Marriott, trumpet "Return Of The East West Trumpet Summit"

New York (Vega) and Seattle (Marriott) renew their earlier meeting on Origin Records with this quartet outing. Also on board are Matt Jorgensen, drums; and Portland's own George Colligan, B-3 organ. It is, for the most part, a revisit to some hard bop and jazz classics, but one which puts them in a new and different setting. We are treated to renowned works of jazz heroes such as Curtis Fuller, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton and Charlie Parker. Rounding out the menu are standards "Misty" and "What Is This Thing Called Love". An original of Marriott's completes the session. Vega and Marriott are right on target, trading solos, utilizing mutes on occasion and, all in all, bringing invigorating encores to some under-performed jazz classics.
Origin; 2016; appx. 42 min.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Suite For Flute And Jazz Piano Trio-Symphonic Arrangement - Steve Barta, arranger; Hubert Laws, flute

530. That's the number of weeks that Claude Bolling's original version of this suite stayed on the charts at Billboard magazine. It was, in 1975, something fresh and invigorating. A cordial meeting of jazz and classical called "crossover". Well, for the present day, Steve Barta has re-arranged the suite for jazz quartet, string quartet and orchestra. The obvious choice for the flute work was Hubert Laws. His masterful sound is complemented by pianist Jeffrey Biegel and others well suited to the task. Even if you're not familiar with the original recording (now over thirty years old), you'll enjoy Claude Bolling's classical notions in a vital jazz setting. This is beautiful music to be savored and enjoyed.
Steve Barta Music; 2016; appx. 40 min.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Rossano Sportiello "Strictly Confidential"

If you have not yet encountered pianist Rossano Sportiello, I'd advise you to do a little skating around the internet and check him out. I think you'll love what you hear. The first thing that struck me about this album is how different it is from Sportiello's past efforts. On those sessions he displayed a stronger image as a stride/swing pianist. And I might add, to very impressive effect. But on this trio date he dons the hat of a traditional modern jazz pianist and once again, with great success. His trio colleagues are Nicki Parrott, bass; and Eddie Metz, drums. Parrott also sings on "What A Difference A Day Made", "Hallelujah, I Love Him So", "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life" and "Close To You". The instrumental cuts are the real stars of the show as Sportiello explores the works of such diverse composers as Duke Ellington, Bud Powell, Leslie Bricusse, Frank Foster and Teddy Wilson. Speaking of Wilson, Sportiello displays the economy and the elegant touch that were the hallmarks of Wilson's style. I look forward to future albums by the versatile and impressive Rossano Sportiello.

Arbors; 2016; appx. 73 min.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Anandi " Anandi" (self-titled)

Some years ago, Anandi switched her allegiance from songwriter-pop to jazz singing. Now three albums into that decision, it's easy to see that it was a very good one. On her new CD she works with pianists and arrangers Mike Horsfall and Jasnam Daya Singh along with Portland veterans Dave Captein on bass and Charlie Doggett on drums. Anandi takes some new roads on old standards now and then. The opener, "Unchained Melody", made famous by the great Al Hibbler, is taken at an almost brisk tempo and includes a bit of vocal overdubbing. And "My Funny Valentine" gets all dressed up with a funky backbeat! There are a few surprise choices such as Meredith Wilson's "Till There Was You"---a very pretty tune, but not one usually found in the jazz arena. Or how about her comfort and skill with Brazilian fare such as "Quiet Nights" and "Tristeza". Film composer Dimitri Tiomkin wrote "Wild Is The Wind" and Anandi gives it a dramatic treatment. On these and other well chosen tunes in a variety of tempos, Anandi continues to impress as a singer to be recognized and admired.
Lake Lady Music; 2016; 55:05 min.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Nicolas Bearde "Invitation"

Much admired in San Francisco jazz and r & b circles, singer Nicolas Bearde comes through with strength and style on his first jazz album. Bearde's soulful side is clearly present. In fact, if he could be compared to anyone, it might be to the earlier work of crossover singer Lou Rawls. Backed by a trio led by pianist Nat Adderley, Jr., and with several Bay Area guests weaving in and out of the nine selections heard here, Bearde keeps it appropriately close to the vest on these well chosen tunes. A note of interest is the presence of guest alto sax star Vincent Herring on "Come Back To Me", and "Invitation". Other standards include Billy Strayhorn's classic "Lush Life" and Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage". The latter tune includes a lyric by Herbie's late sister, Jean Hancock. Never before had I encountered words to Herbie's famous composition. If you like a dose of soulful feeling in your jazz serving, Nicolas Bearde is your man.
Right Groove Records; 2016; appx. 46 min.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Joseph Howell "Time Made To Swing"

The clarinet, that tricky reed instrument, obstinately hangs in there. Nearly run asunder by the popularity of the saxophone, the clarinet still occasionally pleads its case. And Joseph Howell is clearly in charge on this clarinet-led quartet session. No knock on Cory Pesaturo who leads the rhythm section on accordion. That's right! The much maligned squeeze box! He's a very spiffy player with boppy solos, even on jazz classics like Bird's "Confirmation", Monk's "Let's Cool One" and John Lewis' "Milestones". Pardon me for being a purist, but a piano's a piano and an accordion is, well, great for the Poulsbo Polka Festival. Beyond the jazz compositions named above, Howell's quartet swings its way through a dependable set of standards and one blues. Howell has chops---no doubt about it. As for the accordion chap, he's hip!

Summit; 2016; appx. 64 min.