Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Jon Mayer, piano "Live At The Athenaeum"

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