Thursday, November 22, 2018

Petra van Nuis "Because We're Night People"

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

Alexander Claffy "Standards: What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?"

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

Denny Zeitlin "Wishing On The Moon"

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

Bootsie Barnes & Larry McKenna "The More I See You" (tenor saxophones)

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.