Thursday, June 29, 2017

Bill Mays "Front Row Seat" 2 CDs

Throughout an illustrious career Bill Mays has become one of the definitive players. He chooses songs worth keeping in our consciousness and his chords are a source of strength, with a little dissonance here and a dash of tenderness there. His improvisations are always highly creative, often exciting, and never too far out for our ears. In other words, Bill Mays is your "jazz pianist ideal". On this not quite brand new (but his latest) release, Bill plays completely solo on a two CD session. This is what you'd hear if you were that fortunate fly on the wall in Bill's private music room. It's straight to the heart intimacy on ballads such as "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life", "Waltz For Debbie", "This Is All I Ask", "Sophisticated Lady", "Lush Life", and more. The second CD includes a few alternate takes. Bill questioned their inclusion, but the producers insisted that their very  different approaches made them indispensible. And they were right! Bill Mays can always be called upon to make you breathless. That's just what he does on this welcome recording.

Self-produced; 2015; CD #1: appx. 72 min; CD #2: appx. 72 min.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mark Lewis (alto sax and flute) "The New York Session"

Let's put it this way. If you could go into the studio with George Cables, piano; Essiet Essiet, bass; and Victor Lewis, drums, you might be shaking like a leaf but I'll bet you'd do it. Well, that's what alto guru Mark Lewis did in a Brooklyn studio. And this CD is the result. Lewis offers a freewheeling but light touch on eleven originals with widely varying tempos and moods. What is consistent is Lewis' flawless sound, ease of delivery, and complete lack of showy excess. Pianist Cables, whom Art Pepper once described as "Mr. Beautiful", is a dream come true as both accompanist and soloist. His section mates, Essiet and Victor Lewis, are by now seasoned players ready for any assignment. From first note to last, this is the very definition of jazz, the essence of the art form.

Audio Daddio; 2016; appx. 64 min.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Doug Munro "The Harry Warren Songbook"

Harry Warren was a prominent composer during the 1920's, '30's and into the '40's. Just one look at all his hits and you'll be quite amazed, especially if his name is only vaguely familiar. Warren was also the great uncle of guitarist Doug Munro who has put together this Warren tribute. Munro decided on a swing style session in the manner of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. Nearly all the music was composed during that period, so it fits hand-in-glove as swing material. Munro plays with four different groups, all guitar dominated. Now to these Harry Warren titles. An impressive list it is, with such evergreens as "Jeepers Creepers", "I Only Have Eyes For You", "The More I See You", "September In The Rain", "At Last", "Serenade In Blue", and loads of others. If you love the Django era and style, grab this one up. It's great fun!
Got Music Records; 2017; appx. 57 min.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Jeff Rupert "Imagination"

No doubt you remember the very lilting, personal and consistently beautiful sound of tenor giant Stan Getz. Well, Jeff Rupert will captivate you with a Getz-like tenor that, in a word, is gorgeous. In a live performance for an enraptured audience Rupert works seamlessly with pianist Richard Drexler. The two communicate flawlessly on an often breathless set. Just eight tunes get thorough recital-like treatments on this "must hear" pairing. Included are "Without A Song", "Imagination", "Soul Eyes", and perhaps my two choices, Claude Thornhill's "forever" tune, "Snowfall" and Dave Brubeck's rarely heard beauty "Strange Meadowlark". The level of communication between Rupert and Drexler is simply something to behold. I'm glad that records like this are still being made.

Rupe Media; 2016; appx. 58 min.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Northern Adventures "The Canada Sessions Vol.1"

Al Muirhead, trumpet, bass trumpet, and flugelhorn

Is there still a little room on your plate for a dozen etched-in-stone American songbook standards? If so, you might want to cue up this session under the leadership of Al Muirhead. He is heard here working with two all Canadian groups, the crème de la crème of the North. Among them are multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson and trumpet and flugelhorn ace Guido Basso, both of whom had length ties with the late bandleader Rob McConnell. Muirhead, at 81, has spent a lifetime in music and takes on these classics with obvious affection and pure musicianship. Every tune is a winner, but to name a handful, how about "They Can't Take That Away From Me", "I've Never Been In Love Before", "Emily", "You'll Never Know", and "Nice Work If You Can Get It". One can easily tell that Al Muirhead and friends are having way too much fun. I'll bet that you will too!

Chronograph Records; 2017; appx. 57 min.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Bob Dorough "Live At The Deerhead Inn"

Surely you've heard of sportscasters say of superstars, "you can't stop him; you can only slow him down". At age 93 (well, only 92 at the time of the concert) nobody's able to slow down Bob Dorough. His ultra-hip voice is off of center but always playful. It just sneaks up on you and reels you in. On this delightful session he's joined by trio mates Steve Berger on guitar and Pat O'Leary on bass. Special guests Aralee Dorough, Bob's daughter on flute, and Larry Fink, harmonica, help out on selected tracks. But it's mainly Bob, the ultimate jazz hipster, who is all over the place on a wide variety of tunes. He opens with two standards, "The Touch Of Your Lips" and "Flamingo", and then reprises an old Sinatra hit, "Learnin' The Blues". From here he goes deeper into the blues well. "Casanova's Lament" is a Jack Teagarden blues with some not so subtle "R rated" innuendo. "Wily Wily Woman" is a Dorough original blues complete with enthusiastic audience participation. Other selections from diverse points on the musical map include "Alfie", "The Sweetest Sounds", and among others, Dorough's signature song from about 1955, "Devil May Care". Bob Dorough has for decades brought me as much pure jazz pleasure as anybody I can think of. May he be blessed with many more unstoppable years.

Deer Head Records; 2016; appx. 54 min.