Wednesday, December 12, 2018
This Colorado based aggregation brings us eight David Caffey originals loaded with superb solo work and invigorating arrangements. The sound draws from bands as disparate as Rob McConnell (fun, spirited, cooking) to Thad Jones-Mel Lewis (challenging charts, a sense of daring, versatility). The tunes have distinct melody lines, and believe it or not, sound like real "songs"! Imagine that! This sort of band is becoming rare, but thanks to people like David Caffey for staying with his muse.
Artist Alliance Records; 2018; appx. 65 min.
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Here's a hip singer who phrases, scats, sings spot-on-key and chooses great material. In addition to that he welcomes to this session such heavyweights as Mike Renzi, piano; Harry Allen, tenor sax; Bob Cranshaw, bass, and Buddy Williams, drums. Porcella is impressive on "Dream Dancing", "It Don't Mean A Thing", "My Romance", "Here's To Life", "I Remember You", and more. He's got the chops and the feelings. Give him a shot!
Self-produced; 2018; times not indicated.
Thursday, November 22, 2018
I'm almost always? affected and sometimes amazed by certain characteristics of some singers. First of all, let's look at the songs of choice. If a few "unlikelies" or delicious obscurities make the list, I have to look more closely. Petra van Nuis has underground items like "Night People", a tune I associate with June Christy. Or how about "The Piano Player (A Thousand And One Saloons)", a gem from singer-pianist Meredith d'Ambrosio. Or consider a delight from Bob Dorough, "Small Day Tomorrow". And while we're at it, there's the intro, rarely sung, to "Street Of Dreams" (which was new to me!). And hats off for "Moonlight Savings Time", a nearly forgotten day brightener that I seem to recall from Billie Holiday. And most importantly, like Lady Day, Blossom Dearie, Lynne Jackson and very few others, Petra conveys the meaning of a lyric in a very direct manner. Other songs in this intimate, live performance include "Dreamsville", "No Moon At All", "The Night We Called It A Day", and "Black Coffee". The accompaniment is limited to the solo piano of Dennis Luxion, who is subtle and a picture of perfection. This is one of those rare recordings that just grabs you and holds on until the last note. Petra van Nuis is a singer who gets it and puts it across to the listener. I hope to hear more from Petra and would suggest this to her: don't change a thing.
String Damper Records; 2018; appx. 59 min.
Thursday, November 15, 2018
Think about it. In an age where jazz musicians are largely insistent on sharing their original music with the world (and that's perfectly okay), it's something of a rarity to see an entire album of standards. But here they are, under the leadership of bassist Alexander Claffy and with some top of the mountain talent along for the ride. Among others, David Kikoski on piano, Kurt Rosenwinkel on guitar and, guesting on a few tracks, Joel Frahm on tenor sax. The standards chosen for this session cover several decades of writing, and include music from Cole Porter to Wayne Shorter; from Michel Legrand to Duke Pearson, and from McCoy Tyner to John Lennon. The arrangements, not too surprisingly, are quite contemporary and occasionally a bit adventurous for me. Be that as it may, "Blues In The Closet", Devil's Island", "Just One Of Those Things", "You Must Believe In Spring", etc., are classics, and can sustain an examination from the outside in.
SMK Jazz; 2018; appx. 66 min.
Thursday, November 8, 2018
He's been an active and creative contributor to the jazz art for the better part of sixty years, yet Denny Zeitlin sounds as fresh and refreshing as he did back on Columbia in '58 or '59. Today he records now and then for New York's Sunnyside label, and this session catches him in a live performance at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola. His workmates are the formidable jazz vets Buster Williams on bass and Matt Wilson on drums. Their menu of tunes includes an eleven minute examination of all the possibilities present in Cole Porter's "All Of You"; a dreamy original title tune, "Wishing On The Moon"; Jule Styne's rarely heard "As Long As There's Music"; and even a scamper through, of all things, "Put Your Little Foot Right Out". On these and a few more originals, Zeitlin's piano magic is front and center. If by some quirk you've never heard of him, consider this an assignment!
Sunnyside Communications; 2018; appx. 60 min.
Thursday, November 1, 2018
The tenor saxophone teams have dotted the jazz landscape for decades. Certainly you recall twosomes like Sonny Stitt and Johnny Griffin, or Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, or even occasional meetings like those of Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. Well, in that spirit, here's Bootsie Barnes and Larry McKenna. The main difference between this and the above named pairings is the presence of organist Lucas Brown, as opposed to mostly pianists in the earlier dates. The organ also gives this a more soulful sound on "Real Book" entries like Jimmy Heath's "For Minors Only" and Hank Mobley's "The Break Through". Add a couple of surprises in this tenors-organ get together with choices like "Mr. Lucky" and "Sunday In New York" plus one original by each of the co-leaders, and you have a cool example of a long admired musical concept. The ballad for the album is "My Ship", played here with a pinch more attitude than usual. All in all this is a worthy addition to the two tenor meetings of an earlier time. Cellar Live; 2018; appx. 63 min.
Thursday, October 25, 2018
This CD is very well titled, as singer-saxman Danny Bacher takes off on a dozen mostly happy, feel-good songs. Surrounded by a sextet including pianist Allen Farnham and tenor ace Harry Allen, Bacher puts his pleasant vocal stamp on such classy titles as "Hooray For Hollywood", "Lucky To Be Me", "Lazy Afternoon", "Get Happy" and two tunes that I associate with Billie Holiday, "Getting Some Fun Out Of Life" and "Laughing At Life". Perhaps my favorite cut was Bacher's rare vocal on Clifford Brown's masterpiece, "Joy Spring". Bacher is also a skilled and clever writer, as evidenced by "In Spite Of All This, "I'm Still Happy". It's a tune which addresses many annoyances and disappointments in life, while maintaining a happy spirit in spite of them. His "here and there" soprano sax is perfectly placed, along with solos from Farnham, Allen, and trumpet/flugelhorn man Charles Caranicas. If you want to spark up your day, this is a session you'll surely enjoy. Whaling City Sound; 2018; 65:40
Thursday, October 18, 2018
If, like me, you lean in the direction of bright, joyous, boppy piano trios, you need to check out Jeb Patton. This is the first effort for the excellent Cellar Live label, and it has a lot to be admired. Joined by David Wong, bass, and Rodney Green, drums, Patton opens this live performance with a bop-drenched, Bud Powell-like Thad Jones burner called "Zec". Two Patton originals follow. The first of them, entitled "Tenth" is yet another rapid flight, and the next one, "Third Movement", is a medium tempo groove with an attractive melody line. From here, Patton and pals begin a succession of standards starting with a swinging "This Can't Be Love". The next three choices are from that miracle known as the Ellington-Strayhorn organization. In order, a Duke rarity called "Reflections in D"---I haven't heard it played since Bill Evans gave it life, and Patton does equal honor to its serenity and beauty; an Ellington staple, "Sophisticated Lady", comes next in all its splendor; finally, there's "Johnny Come Lately", a classic "smile inducer" from Duke's second in command, the brilliant Billy Strayhorn. "I'll Never Stop Loving You" is an overlooked ballad beautifully interpreted by the trio, and a medley of "Royal Garden Blues" and Wynton Kelly's "Kelly Blue" finds Patton at his Tatum-esque best. The album's closer, "Overtime" is an inspired, full-of-fun romp. Patton is the complete trio pianist: true to the tradition, but still looking forward. Jeb Patton is a joy to hear.
Cellar Live; 2018; appx. 58 min.
Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Since I first heard Jeff Clayton way back in 1985 at the Otter Crest Jazz Weekend, I've considered him a gifted player and a person of the highest integrity and spirituality. On this album, the first under his name in quite a spell, Jeff offers nine selections ranging from funky groove stuff to vibrant, joyous straight ahead compositions, to one or two "tear you apart" ballads. Here and there, the addition of a singer who goes by the name of "Mz Val" adds some luster to the proceedings. She's especially on target with "Guess Who I Saw Today", a tuned owned by Nancy Wilson, but handled with great feeling by this vocalist. Clayton's peerless alto is heard in various musical settings with brother John on bass; nephew Gerald on piano; and other L.A. stalwarts impressively on board here and there. Jeff Clayton is deep into his jazz heritage, and his love for his "job" is infectious. Aside from that, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
Claytonomics Music; 2017; appx. 38 min.
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Don't ever lose track of the name Randy Ingram. He is a pianist in the league of Bill Evans, Fred Hersch and Enrico Pieranunzi. In other words, emotion is everything and every note has meaning. It is unusual to find such wondrous beauty in a young pianist. He has in fact been mentored by Hersch, and you're going to hear it in his rapturous touch, gorgeous phrasing and lyrical compositions. His originals often sound like the themes for European art films, much like those of the aforementioned Enrico Pieranunzi. On this stunning session he weaves his musical spell only with veteran bassist Drew Gress. It is, to be sure, intimacy, beauty and artful communication of the highest caliber. In addition to his creative and versatile original works, Ingram brings a few jazz standards. Among them is the masterpiece by Jimmy Rowles, "The Peacocks". It has by now become a staple in the jazz "book", and Ingram brings to life the obligatory gentle spirit of this work. Cole Porter's "Dream Dancing" is examined with affection, and "Show-Type Tune" is a Bill Evans creation with a charming, optimistic melody line. Simply put, Randy Ingram has it all going for him. He's a shoo-in for a Classic Pianos live date, and you may quote me: it WILL happen.
Sunnyside Communications; 2017; appx. 61 min.
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Jimmy Rowles spent much of a busy career as a sideman in great demand. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to work with Jimmy. But he also recorded as a leader quite frequently. Trouble was that many of his sessions were on obscure, hard to find labels. Likely released in 2009 or 2010 on the Jazz Ball label, I stumbled upon it recently. It features Jimmy in two settings plus a couple of bonus tracks. Some of the material has never been issued on compact disc, making this a real treat. Jimmy was, of course, a master of subtlety and the best ever at making dissonant chords sound absolutely great and oh-so-right. With Rufus Reid, bass, and Mickey Roker, drums, he plays four tunes from Miles' "Birth Of The Cool": Namely, "Jeru", "Venus De Milo", "Godchild", and "Darn That Dream". On the other session he's joined by George Mraz and Leroy Williams on "Here's That Rainy Day", "I Can't Get Started", "In The Still Of The Night", and the surprise of the set, "Stars And Stripes Forever", of all things. These and more find Jimmy in primo piano posture. It'll be a tough one to find. But Jimmy Rowles always made it worth the search.
Jazz Ball; probably 2009 or 2010; 66:25.
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
I wouldn't bet the condo on it, but I have a feeling that Jerry Weldon had a semi-soul/R&B notion in mind in the planning of this CD. You want my evidence? Well, first there's the inclusion of a Hammond B3 organ on this session. And secondly, Weldon has decided on some pop material of the last few decades; they are songs which practically call for a B3 approach, like "Strangers In The Night", "Walk On By", "The Sermon" (a Jimmy Smith tune), and "Those Were The Days". Rounding out the menu are a couple of distinctively non-soulful things including the ancient "Rosetta" and my personal fave, "This Is Always". My first awareness of Jerry Weldon was through his association with The New York Bop Quintet, a steaming, bristling emsemble where Weldon was featured in a setting quite different from this one. It should be said, however, that he's one of those guys deserving of more recognition. Perhaps this CD will bring it his way.
Cellar Live; 2018; appx. 56 min.
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Peter And The Wolf; The New England Jazz Ensemble
This famous classic by Serge Prokofiev is put into an excellent jazz setting by the New England Jazz Ensemble. Arrangements are full of spicy fun and crisp narration is by Giacomo Gates, in his own right one of the world's gifted bebop singers. A bit of a departure perhaps, but this session is very well crafted.
Self-produced; 2018; appx. 64 min.
Eyes Wide Open; Jamie Shew, vocals
The menu reads like this: sing quality songs and hire the best cats available to accompany. It seems Jamie Shew has done this with "Easy Living", "Mountain Greenery", "Thou Swell", "Detour Ahead", Charlie Haden's gorgeous ballad "First Song (For Ruth)" and more. Backed by a stellar L.A. quartet, Ms. Shew takes it straight ahead, never forcing the issue. She reminded me just a bit of Jackie Cain, the distinctive singer of Jackie & Roy fame. I would hope to hear more of Ms. Shew in the future.Self-produced; 2018; appx. 63 min.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
It was way back in 2002 that Mike Jones hooked up with the world's most magic act as pianist and musical director. Penn and Teller has over the years become a Vegas legend. But who knew that Penn Jillette, half of that entertaining duo, was also a formidable bass player! Jones has also plied his piano prowess in Sin City, and made several recordings along the way. To my knowledge, this is his first effort with Jillette. The two players work seamlessly on eight long-admired standards and one Jones original. Style wise, Jones is focused, entertaining and exuberant; Jillette is steady and dependable. Among the familiar fare offered here, you'll find "Broadway", "But Not For Me", "Have You Met Miss Jones", "Tangerine", "Exactly Like You" and more. There's no disappearing act here. The magic is in the music.Capri; 2018; 60:38.
Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Seattle-based pianist Bill Anschell's latest CD, Shifting Standards, is very well suited to the title. He and his trio colleagues offer some melodic invention, rhythmic twists and fresh takes on nine celebrated standards. His bassist, Jeff Johnson, has been a Seattle treasure for many years. Drummer D'Vonne Lewis, a new name to me, offers subtle but strong support. The essence of these nine classics is examined with care and cohesiveness, and the creative efforts always leaves their revered melodies intact for us to enjoy. On tunes as varied as "Night In Tunisia", "Cheek To Cheek", Soul Eyes", "Jitterbug Waltz", "All Of You" and lots more, Bill Anschell and associates have provided us with a breath of fresh air on an album of true American gems.
Origin; 2018; appx. 61 min.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
I think that lots of folks wanted to get into the act in the 1920's and 1930's. After all, one big hit could put a guy on easy street! So these ditties, novelty tunes with corny lyrics, appeared by the hundreds. And some were well written and destined for a long life. Others were period pieces, but usually full of fun and frolic. Many of them featured better than average singers on board. This two-CD set features a total of thirty selections, most of which are from the obscure arena. Arrangements are all together appropriate but never "campy" or over indulged. Some of the more colorful titles include "Just Like A Broken Record", "When I Get Low I Get High", "The Little Orange Man", "Shorty's Got To Go" and many more. These are authentic treatments of foot tappin' tunes. Nostalgic? No question. Fun? By the truck load.
Self-produced; 2018; 2 CDs; times not indicated.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
If you're seeking some straight ahead, unadorned and reliable trio sounds, this will likely fill the bill. Pianist Oscar Perez and colleagues Kuriko Tsugawa, bass and Brian Woodruff, drums, (hence, OKB) are right in the pocket on five originals and five standards ranging from "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter" to "Please Send Me Someone To Love"; and from "I Remember You" to the ancient rock and roll opus "High Heel Sneakers"! Real deal piano trio music always remains refreshingly relevant. And here's a finely honed example of it.Queens Jazz OverGround; 2018; appx. 70 min.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Jubilation! celebrates the 90th birthday of the late alto sax giant Cannonball Adderley. In that role we find a present day gifted alto sax man, Jim Snidero. His co-leader on the date is trumpet sensation Jeremy Pelt who assumes the role of cornetist Nat Adderley. The quintet is completed by three more of today's all-stars: David Hazeltine, piano; Nat Reeves, bass; and Billy Drummond, drums. Most of the chosen selections were composed and/or performed by the Adderleys. Examples are the familiar "Sack O' Woe" and the feel good melody line of "Wabash", both Cannon's creations, and the jazz mega-hit "Work Song" by brother Nat. The one choice from Songbook America is "Stars Fell On Alabama", played with great feeling by both co-leaders. One of my personal faves, "Del Sasser", is a jazz staple from bassist Sam Jones. Its infectious melody line is a winner, and its odd title is a reference to Irene Del Sasser, a dear friend of the composer. On all these and others, the quintet keeps it straight ahead and purely Adderley all the way. What a delightful tribute!
Savant; 2018; appx. 53 min.
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Perhaps you've never given it too much thought, but records like this are becoming a rarity. Think about it: A swinging little jazz quartet, with Allan Vaché's clarinet in a leadership role; and piano, bass and drums helping out on ten etched-in-stone classics, every one of which you know. The synthesizer got locked up; the electronics were unplugged and the singer had laryngitis. So happily we're left with Allan Vaché and three new names in the Arbors Records family---Mark McKee, piano; Charlie Silva, bass; and Walt Hubbard, drums. All work hand in glove with Vaché on these much loved classics. Vaché, it should be noted, doesn't subscribe to the DeFranco/Giuffre bebop school of clarinet players. He's from the swing school, the lineage of Goodman and Shaw. And his tune selections reflect that glorious era of quality songwriting with choices like "Poor Butterfly", "Air Mail Special", "Cheek To Cheek", "You Took Advantage Of Me", "Out Of Nowhere" and lots more. So, in this era of 20,000 sheep storming huge arenas to willingly get their hearing loss underway, there are still a few records like this one. It gives me a ray of hope. And it brightened my day.
Arbors; 2018; appx. 54 min.
Monday, April 23, 2018
New Jazz Standards, Vol. 3; Roger Kellaway, piano
Could it possible be that you don't know the name Roger Kellaway? The only explanation might be that he has quietly worked for more than fifty years with names like Burrell, Rollins, Sims, Webster, McRae, Murphy, Darin, Montgomery, Brookmeyer, Witherspoon and dozens more! He also wrote the "out" theme for All In The Family and well, he can do anything from stride to blistering bebop. I have witnessed him going for a percussive "shocker" by playing whatever notes possible with his entire forearm---elbow to wrist! Kellaway is a virtuoso who can play cascades of notes like a gigantic summer rain and then catch you off guard with a body-slam blues that can simply amaze. On this session Kellaway is joined by esteemed veterans Jay Leonhart on bass and Peter Erskine on drums. The trio takes on fifteen works by another brilliant player you need to know about, trumpet ace Carl Saunders. A major presence on the L.A. jazz map for years, Saunders is a scary presence on trumpet and flugelhorn. He can dazzle on ripping, fast passages and he can also handle dreamy, reflective things like few others. He's worked in nearly every musical context, from leading his own big band to small groups to studio work. He deserves superstar fame as a player, but now shows another side as a composer. It may be old school thinking, but Saunders writes a real melody line combined with a bridge and a return to the melody. I for one am all for that. Many of these songs are simply waiting for a lyric. In fact, one of them, "Is That Asking Too Much", contains a brief lyric which may call Mose Allison to mind. The songs vary in tempos and mood, but Kellaway, Leonhart and Erskine are equal to the task throughout. You may have noticed that this is volume three. Well, judging form this album, I'd love to get my hands on volumes one and two!
Summit; 2018; appx. 72 min.
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
- Now and then a recording deserving of a review escapes my attention. This superb 2013 trio session is led by Tardo Hammer and includes Lee Hudson on bass and Jimmy Wormworth on drums. I review it here because, if you're lucky enough to find it, it's worth the search. Hammer is guided by luminaries such as Bud Powell and Barry Harris. He is an absolutely illuminating bebop pianist, entirely devoted to his chosen muse. One listen to his lean lines and savory swing, and you'll get it. Tardo Hammer is a master of his craft. On this eye opening album the trio tackles some rarely heard material by such jazz heroes as Kenny Dorham, Ahmad Jamal, Cedar Walton, Sonny Clark and Horace Silver, among others. The one Songbook standard is Jerome Kern's beauty, "The Folks Who Live On The Hill". This session, to my way of thinking, exemplifies a certain standard for piano trio albums. The recipe is simple: great tunes that mean something from a jazz perspective. Honest dedication and communication among the players, all the while providing pleasure and chops galore to the listener. Tardo Hammer has it all in tact here---and there's more good news. His trio, with Hudson on bass and Steve Williams on drums, will be here in Portland at Classic Pianos, Tuesday, May 8 at 7 PM. I can hardly wait! Cellar Live; 2013; appx. 62 min.
Wednesday, April 4, 2018
- Through the intense dedication and most likely the frequent struggles of believers, big bands like this one find a way to keep the flame alive. In this case it's through the tireless southern Californiabig band of Ira B. Liss. He's been at the helm of this striking ensemble for nearly four decades, employing the efforts of some exciting and talented soloists and ensemble specialists. The happy, high rung sound of this band makes it clear that these guys love this gig. So if you were a player in this setting, you'd take delight in a repertoire that features American Songbook classics. You'd be lucky enough to give it your all on gems like "You Don't Know What Love Is", "Early Autumn", "Over The Rainbow", "Oleo", "I Didn't Know What Time It Was", and a bunch more. This is, plain and simple, a gathering of first rate players soaring on fresh, stimulating, and often challenging arrangements. A real treat for big brassy band believers. But don't expect Lester Lanin or Freddy Martin!
Tallman Productions; 2017; appx. 57 min.
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
- Ponder this for a moment: When was the last time a Portland, Oregon jazz artist was nominated for a Grammy Award? Not as long ago as you might think; Esmeralda Spalding and Thara Memory together won a Grammy in 2013, and Spalding won her first one in 2011. You might also recall that Nancy King and pianist Fred Hersch were nominated in 2006. And now Nancy's at it again as a guest on Randy Porter's Grammy nominated "Porter Plays Porter". Cole, that is. Congrats to the two of them on this well deserved honor. It's all the more amazing given the fact that this is a straight ahead jazz effort in an era dominated by original material, and rather meandering, somewhat formless music. Randy has, of course, been a "do everything" piano fixture for years in Portland. And Nancy just keeps on rollin', sounding as great as she did forty some years ago as a kid singer with the Tom Albering trio! On the nine cuts heard here, eight are by the great composer-lyricist Cole Porter. Nancy sings on five of those AND on Randy's own stirring ballad "Inside Your Mind" The other vocals, all Cole's creations, include "I Concentrate On You", "Just One Of Those Things", "All Of You", "Night And Day", and "Every Time We Say Goodbye". Randy's trio includes John Wiitala on bass, and Todd Strait, drums. This superb, balanced threesome is heard on "I Love You", "Why Can't You Behave", and "Get Out Of Town". Hats off to all four of them on this rich and real Cole Porter tribute. And kudos to the Grammy people for getting it right. Heavywood Music; 2017; times not indicated.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
- Why is it that female singers of standards (mostly wanna-be's) are a dime a dozen, but classy male vocalists are as rare as an Underwood typewriter? I can't answer that one, but I can tell you that Tony DeSare is that rare male singer you need to hear. He never indulges in excess or in show biz tactics. Instead he's a lyric storyteller who breathes sincerity in every note. On this lovely duo with subtle and sympathetic guitarist Edward Decker, Tony caresses nine tunes, mostly standards, and as a matter of fact, a few that go way back in time. Consider such titles as "Angel Eyes", "You Go To My Head", "Memories Of You", "Deep In A Dream", and "One For My Baby". There are also two solo opportunities for Decker's heartfelt guitar on "A Cottage For Sale" and a DeSare original called "I'll Get You Through The Night". On these and more, DeSare and Decker provide an intimacy that one rarely encounters in today's music scene. I, for one, love it...and that's me hollering, "More, Tony, more! AJD Entertainment; 2017; appx. 33 min.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Records like this give me positive vibes about the future of jazz. Here are six players, only one of whom, bassist John Wiitala, is a familiar name to me. Shulman is responsible for seven of the nine selections, and his compositions flow with the essence of jazz: fresh and exciting melody lines, strong, confident improvisation, and a wealth of ideas. The album's only standard is a great one, Matt Dennis' "The Night We Called It A Day". Get ready for six youngsters brewing up a hard bop that's sure to please.
Cellar Live; 2017; appx. 67 min.
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
In the liner notes to this disc, pianist Ben Paterson recalls his initial encounters as a young teenager with piano giants Nat Cole and Oscar Peterson. He was drawn to the incessant swing of both these icons and decided that this was the path he would choose. On this CD, Paterson's third in my personal collection, he takes an important cue from Nat and Oscar. Like his two heroes did in their early careers, Ben's trio is comprised of piano, guitar and bass. Guitarist Chris Flory's resume includes many jazz stalwarts of the last few decades. Bassist George Delancey helps out in the subtle, highly musical and pleasing groove established here. And once again, like Nat and Oscar, Paterson sings ever so nicely on a few selections. His actual tune choices are kinda all over the map. They range from oldies "Some Of These Days" and "When I Grow To Old To Dream" to Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" and even a Bob Dylan opus with a bit of country flavor, "Make You Feel My Love". Add dyed in the wool standards like "I'm Old Fashioned", "You And The Night And The Music", "Over The Rainbow", "The Best Thing For You", and the especially gorgeous "My Ship", and you have a session that shines in a proud tradition. Nat and Oscar, I'm sure, would have given Ben Paterson a "standing O".
Cellar Live; 2018; appx. 53 min.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Multi-reedman Adrian Cunningham is back at it, this time with a swingin' septet. And once again he shows us the delight of finger snapping rhythms and tunes older than your grandma's antique samovar. Whichever instrument Cunningham chooses on a given song, he's a marvelous, spirited player and a virtuoso technician. He even sings a bit as you'll discover on "I Can't Give You Anything But Love", "Caldonia", "Be My Life's Companion", and even "Waltzing Matilda". On the instrumental side of the ledger, he and his enthusiastic friends cook up oldies like "Stompy Jones", "All Of Me", "Caravan", and even Jackie Gleason's TV theme, "Melancholy Serenade". The arrangements sometimes dip a bit into a happy Dixieland bag, but for the most part this is feel good music that swings effortlessly from note one. Cunningham's musicianship and devotion to his chosen style speak for themselves.
Arbors, 2017; appx. 56 min.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
I've heard it said that the hottest current musical (?) is called Hamilton. Well, not to be out of the loop, here's yet another "Hamilton" review. This time it's Scott Hamilton, a tenor player who in his youth chose not to tread on Coltrane Blvd. Instead he followed the style of luminaries like Don Byas, Coleman Hawkins, Guy Lafitte, and most of all, Ben Webster. On this stunning live performance he heads a trio with the rapidly rising Rossano Sportiello on piano and J. J. Shakur on bass. Scott is a longtime devotee of the American Songbook. So it's no surprise that we are treated to such gems as "Tangerine", "Three Little Words", "Darn That Dream", "Old Fashioned Love", "You Do Something To Me", and a pop chart from back in the day, "Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blue" (aka "Volare"). A more recent arrival on the list of unforgettable tunes is "Estate"; Scott's breathy version is something to behold. Sportiello, an expert in the stride-swing arena, provides solid, literate, subtle accompaniment, and his solos sparkle with delight. The same may be said for bassist J. J. Shakur. Hats off to Scott Hamilton for his dedication to the music he loves. The world needs to know that musically, he and his namesake, Jeff, are the Hamiltons worthy of the world's attention.
Cellar Live; 2017; appx. 72 min.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
When a new Jeff Hamilton Trio album comes along we know for sure what we're gonna get. Unrelenting swing, the highest caliber of musicianship, real deal jazz from note one, and a guarantee that we'll be happier and musically fulfilled after note last. Jeff has pulled off this miraculous task with every pianist he's ever worked with from Gene Harris to Monty Alexander to Larry Fuller and now to the phenomenal, Oscar influenced, Tamir Hendelman. Hamilton's bassist, Christoph Luty, brings a Ray Brown-like enormous and rich sound to the proceedings. And then there's Jeff, the peerless drummer who toils in the spirit of his hero, Shelly Manne. On this beautifully conceived set, Jeff, Tamir and Christoph cover all the bases. In the groove department there's the opener, "Sybille's Day" a tour de force written by Jeff for the wife of a personal friend. Or how about Monk's "In Walked Bud", which starts rather sedately; then Tamir turns up the heat and, well, hello Bud! Two John Clayton pieces follow: John wrote the soulful back beat feature "Gina's Groove" for his daughter, and "Brush This" is John's ode to his great friend Jeff. Without a doubt the surprise of the set was "Gary, Indiana" which many of you will remember from Meredith Wilson's The Music Man. The trick here is that "Gary, Indiana 2018" comes to us wrapped in joyful Latin attire. On all these and more, the Jeff Hamilton Trio has struck gold again. But then, don't they always?
Capri; 2018; appx. 59 min.
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
This is a recording of distinctly Jewish music, but unlike other attempts at this sort of thing it does not come off like your cousin's Bar Mitzvah band. Not when the arrangements are so well crafted, the ensemble work so intricate, and the solos so skilled and respectful. Edgar Steinitz has reached out to some sympathetic players including Portland bassist David Friesen and Seattle phenom Jay Thomas on trumpet, flugelhorn, flute and tenor sax. Thankfully, the "Jewish national anthem", "Hava Nagila", is nowhere to be found here. But Israel's national anthem, Hatikvah (The Hope), is played here; and even with a bit more tempo than usual, it's a winning rendition. Other highlights, both from the Shabbat (Sabbath) service, included "Oseh Shalom" (Peace And Wholeness) and "Mi Shebeirach", a prayer for the healing of mind, body and spirit. The thing that is so impressive here is that these songs are approached seriously and fully within the jazz context. Very hip Jewish music this is, but the Mickey Katz hi-jinx was set aside for another time.
OA2 Records; 2018; appx. 58 min.
Monday, February 5, 2018
Let's start out by wondering if the title of this CD is a veiled reference to one Thelonious Monk. Must be, in my not so humble opinion. Be that as it may, rapidly ascending New York drummer Phil Stewart has assembled some fellow Gotham monsters for this session. Probably the two most familiar names are Stewart's brother, Grant, a sensational tenor sax man, and trumpet great Joe Magnarelli. The remainder of this equally impressive cast includes Chris Byars who alternates with and sometimes joins Grant Stewart on tenor; in the pocket pianist Sacha Perry; and another new name to me, bassist Paul Sikive. Three bop era classics are featured here. Dizzy's "Manteca", Bud Powell's "Dance Of The Infidels", and the aforementioned Monk's rarely heard "Eronel" (spell it backwards!). An absolute fave is George Coleman's "Apache", a ripping rewrite on the changes to "Cherokee". The surprise of the disc is the former Tony Bennett hit "This Is All I Ask", featuring Grant's sensuous tenor sax. All told this is a no gimmicks, straight ahead jazz performance by gifted players, all of whom are keeping the flame bright and alive.
Cellar Live; 2017; appx. 66 min.
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
I have occasionally thought about the millions of hours of live jazz that ascend to the heavens unrecorded, and thus are enjoyed by only those there to hear it. Slightly better is the music recorded but never released; at least there is the possibility that one day it may reach our ears. This exquisite trio session "sat in the drawer" since it went down way back in 2001 in La Jolla, California. It features Jon Mayer who extracts the best of the boppers and the romanticists, and he makes it truly his own. His trio colleagues are Darek Oles, bass, and Roy McCurdy, drums. Both are sought-after, esteemed veterans of the Southland jazz community and they work hand-in-glove with Mayer. He's always been inspired by the American Songbook, especially ballads. And he covers several here, including "All The Things You Are", "My Foolish Heart", "Tenderly", "The Touch Of Your Lips" and "Young And Foolish". A couple of originals also dot this landscape. "Shari's Bolero", Mayer's dedication to his wife, is complete with Bolero-like percussion from McCurdy, and "Lakeside" is the sprightly composition of fellow L.A. pianist Bill Cunliffe. Perhaps my personal fave was the Real Book classic "Minority". This is a timeless trio performance. How fortunate we are that it escaped an eternity in the atmosphere and finally found its way to this most welcome CD.
Self-produced; 2017; appx. 57 min.
Thursday, January 4, 2018
The Colors Of A Dream; Charles Thomas, bass
Sometimes something just clicks on an album by musicians virtually unknown
playing music also unknown (except "My Foolish Heart"). This disc features three different groups under
the leadership of bassist Charles Thomas. What makes it unique is the quality of the writing. The tunes
sound like REAL songs. The players all offer both ensemble passages and solos that are enthusiastic and oh
so musical. It never falls off the cliff. And all of that is what makes it truly special.
Sea Tea Music; 2017; appx. 55 min.
My Point Is...; Willie Jones III, drums
Here's yet a second album produced by and featuring drummer Willie Jones III. He is in the company
of modern day master Eddie Henderson, trumpet; Ralph Moore, tenor sax; Eric Reed, piano; and Buster
Williams, bass. Each player contributes to six original compositions featuring fiery solos from all, particularly
Henderson and Moore. Two non-originals complete the album: Herbie Hancock's "The Maze" is a rarely heard
choice and Horace Silver's "Peace" has by now become a jazz classic. There's superb heavyweight jazz playing
from the outset. Highly recommended for hard boppers!
WJ3 Records; 2014; appx. 54 min.
Moving Picture; Tom Harrell, trumpet and flugelhorn
On the back cover of this CD, you'll find a photo of Tom Harrell with a prominent, pure white beard. That seems
impossible to me because, wasn't Harrell a wunderkind of the trumpet just "a few years" ago? Well, wunderkind then,
modern master now. So here he is leading his rhythm section on ten original tunes. The years may have passed, but Tom
Harrell remains in the forefront of today's greatest trumpet innovators.
High Note Records; 2017; appx. 67 min.
Falando Docemente; Gil Spitzer, alto saxophone
Now this is an oddity. Zoho Records is nearly exclusively a Latin jazz label. Toss that all out the window because
here's alto man Gil Spitzer leading a group of a dozen colleagues (not every guy on every cut) on a dozen standards
and jazz tunes. Titles range from Hank Mobley's "This I Dig Of You" to Gershwin's "Embraceable You"; from
Sonny Rollins' "Valse Hot" to "Early Autumn"; and much more. No timbales here, but sure a lot of pretty playing.
Zoho Music; 2017; appx. 56 min.
Jazz Horn Redux; Ken Wiley, horn
Here's an entire CD of "greatest hits" by any standard of judgment. Horn player Ken Wiley has gathered a bevy of
colleagues to bring us fresh new versions of eleven evergreens, many of which have helped shape history. Think o
f titles like "Bags' Groove", "All Blues", "Scrapple From The Apple", "Freddie Freeloader", "Oleo" and lots more. I would
have deep-sixed the electric piano and electric bass in favor of their acoustic cousins on three selections. Other than
that, there's some fine playing here and, I must add, we never grow weary of these tunes. Wouldn't You Agree?
Krug Park Music; 2014 (but released recently); times not indicated