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.