Monday, March 11, 2019

Charlie Porter (self titled)

Some of you old guys (like me) might remember a unique Benny Golson album called Take A Number From One To Ten. On it, Golson opened with a tenor sax solo. From there he added one player on each selection until there was a total of ten. Interesting concept, right? Well, Portland player supreme Charlie Porter has done just that on ten original tracks plus one by Duke Ellington. He employs a bevy of Portland's finest musicians. Among them are Mel Brown, Alan Jones, David Greenblatt, David Evans, Chuck Israels, Tim Gilson, Dan Gaynor, George Colligan and a lot more. Porter's writing is clear and contemporary, yet he finds a way to stay in the middle of the tradition. His own sound is as pure and beautiful as any trumpet player I've ever heard. A lot of planning and effort went into this project. From a musician's standpoint it's very thoughtful music, and from a listener's view, very thought provoking. I would go so far as saying that Charlie Porter sounds like what Clifford Brown may have developed into had he lived longer than twenty-five years. Porter brings intensity, lyricism, creativity and chops to the table. This meeting of Portland jazz giants is a must-hear session.
Self-produced; 2018; appx. 60 min.

Monday, March 4, 2019

"New Dedications and Latin Moods" Chip White

Chip White is a veteran East Coaster with years of experience, and with many highly esteemed jazz stars. He also is an excellent poet, and here on volume five in a long series, he demonstrates his compositional and poetic skills at their best. His nine originals on one of two CDs finds him in the company of superb talent such as Terell Stafford, trumpet; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone; Bruce Williams, alto and soprano saxes; Renee Rosnes, piano; and other star power players. White's writing is very much along fiery, Blue Note-like bop with heavy duty solo opportunities for nearly all. CD#2 is a showcase for White's poetry, all of which is delivered with a swingin' background. It is here that he honors jazz heroes such as Count Basie, Benny Golson, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon and lots more. And don't lose sight of the fact that this marks the fifth time Chip White has offered this music in poetic format. This one, like the four that preceded  it, offers both superb music and poetry that reads like jazz history condensed. I can think of nobody else who has ever taken this approach. So from just about every other standpoint, this is well worth hearing. And you'll likely learn something, too.
Dark Colors; 2017; 2 CDs: 54:56 and 14:03.

Monday, February 25, 2019

"I Always Knew" Jay Thomas

Seattle's Jay Thomas is a sensational musician, equally brilliant on brass and reeds. On this scintillating new CD he is found in the company of the Oliver Groenewald Newtet, a nine-piece ensemble supporting Thomas at every curve in the road. All of the arrangements---perfectly designed---are those of Groenewald, himself a trumpet and flugelhorn player. The twelve tune session includes slightly lesser known but outstanding compositions by luminaries like Lee Morgan, Dexter Gordon, Lucky Thompson, Billy Strayhorn, Chick Corea, Tadd Dameron and Duke Ellington! Sounds like a winner already, doesn't it? Well, to these add a few standards in "Born To Be Blue", "You Don't Know What Love Is", and "Stardust"---plus a couple of well conceived Groenewald originals---and you have a triumphant album. Of course, over the last thirty or so years it's always something very special when the great Thomas is featured in a central role. Thanks, Jay, for all you've given us.
Origin; 2018; appx. 70 min.

Monday, February 18, 2019

"A Thing Called Joe" Guilhem Flouzat

The liner notes on this CD were very limited and there was no bio sheet included. I was able to determine that drummer Guilhem Flouzat is from Paris and now lives in New York, but little else. It matters not. What IS important here is that his trio plays a classy, straight ahead program of eight standards with great taste and lyricism. His trio is completed by pianist Sullivan Fortner and bassist Desmond White. I must say that the real "star" here is pianist Fortner whose understated style is direct and altogether pleasant. The tunes run the gamut, from a nearly forgotten ballad, "There's No You", made somewhat famous by Frank Sinatra; to a pure Monk obscurity oddly titled "Oska T". Other standouts include "When I Fall In Love", Joe Zawinul's lovely "Midnight Mood", and even the whimsical "Walkin' My Baby Back Home". There's no new ground broken here, nor does there need to be. This is simply some dependable, listenable piano trio work and it's well worth hearing.
Sunnyside; 2017; appx. 40 min.

Monday, February 11, 2019

"Montreal Memories" Frank Morgan & George Cables

Let it be clear right off the bat that alto sax giant Frank Morgan was first and foremost a dedicated bebopper. Sure, he made entire albums of beautiful ballads, but bop was #1. Just look at the list of tunes on this exciting duo with the marvelous pianist George Cables. To name a few, how about "Now's The Time", "A Night In Tunisia", "'Round Midnight", "Confirmation" and a medley of "Nefertiti" and "Billie's Bounce". The occasion was the 1989 Montreal Jazz Festival where Morgan and Cables took the stage for this previously unreleased romp. Cables had of course been the pianist of choice for another alto great, Art Pepper. So he maneuvers in familiar territory for the gifted alto playing brother of trumpet hero Lee Morgan. The two of them communicate effortlessly but vigorously on the above named tunes and lots more. Frank Morgan may not have achieved the acclaim of his brother, but the equivalent talent was obvious. Just the two of them---Morgan and Cables---delivering the intimacy that often happens in a duo performance. And you can be sure that it happened on this July night in Montreal.
High Note; 2018; appx. 60 min.

Monday, February 4, 2019

"If You Could See Me Now" Joe Magnarelli

It might be a simplistic way of saying it, but to me, Tadd Dameron's music is somehow bop and beauty, as close as the two can be. Putting these nine Dameron treasures in the hands of Joe Magnarelli and friends is a triumphant idea. First of all, these timeless Dameron creations deserve sympathetic tratment from the best musicians available. And we got exactly that as Magnarelli's brilliance is joined by Ralph Moore on tenor sax; Anthony Wonsey, piano; Dezron Douglas, bass; and George Fludas, drums. Trumpet, tenor and rhythm---the ideal and classic ensemble to honor this exceptional material. Among the more familiar choices there's the title tune "If You Could See Me Now" plus winners such as "On A Misty Night", "The Tadd Walk", and "Super Jet". Lesser known but extremely well written gems fill out the menu. Magnarelli, it should be noted, is always in groovy melodic form, regardless of tempo. And how nice it is to get reacquainted with the premier tenor sound of Ralph Moore. I for one can never get enough of Tadd Dameron's music, and having said that, I'm sure that this album would rank on my fantasy top ten list of 2018.
Cellar Live; 2018; appx. 61 min.

Monday, January 28, 2019

" Epilogue" Frank Cunimondo

It seems to me that every city of any size boasts guys like Frank Cunimondo. In this case, the city is Pittsburgh where Frank Cunimondo has been one of jazzdom's favorite sons for decades. Stylistically I'd put him in the elegant Hank Jones / Eddie Higgins bag. Straight ahead, gimmick-free, beautiful chords and, I might say, music for people who are all grown up. To that, add a perfect menu of standards and jazz hits including "Strollin'", "Song For My Father", "Con Alma", "Lush Life", "Blues March", "Giant Steps", "Tenderly", "Stella By Starlight", and more. He is heard here in trio settings with various bassists and drummers. Frank Cunimondo is one of those "where has he been all my life" kind of players. If you ever visit Pittsburgh check him out. He'll surely be found in Steel City's best "room".
Manchester Craftmen's Guild; 2018; appx.73min.

Monday, January 21, 2019

"Love Is Here To Stay" Tony Bennett & Diana Krall

Both Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett have spent the the senior part of their careers recording duos with younger vocalists, often pop stars of the day. Some of these efforts emphasized the great gulf between the banal pop personality as compared to sophisticated Frank and Tony. But finally, with this album Tony gets it right---and for three reasons: first, his vocal partner is Diana Krall and she's a good enough singer so as not to place ill founded ingredients in the soup; second, the material is exclusively the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, and "who could ask for anything more?"; third, the two singers are accompanied by The Bill Charlap Trio, and that is the essence of elegance for this classic material. At ninety something, Tony's still got it, and Diana is smart enough to defer to this master of American song by not seeking to top him in any way. Gershwin is timeless; Charlap and the trio are a ten, and the two singers express all the love they feel for these great tunes. Indeed, "'S Wonderful"!
Columbia; 2018; appx. 37 min.

Monday, January 14, 2019

"Long Ago And Far Away" Charlie Haden & Brad Mehldau

The riveting duo of Charlie Haden and Brad Mehldau was recorded back in 2007 at a European jazz festival, and got stuck in the atmosphere for better than a decade until becoming recently available. Much credit goes to Impulse! Records because the shortest of the six cuts is 9:30 and the longest is 15:11. That doesn't make this CD exactly radio friendly. Despite that, here it is, as Haden and Mehldau get plenty of stretch out room in "Au Privave", "My Old Flame", "What'll I Do", "Long Ago And Far Away", "My Love And I", and "Everything Happens To Me". Mehldau remains very active today but Haden has passed on since these thoughtful, artful live performances. To be sure, this is a riveting, understated, communicative pairing; they give it every ounce of their collective emotion. "Hearts on their sleeves" sort of stuff, one might say. And we don't encounter that sort of thing all that often these days.
Impulse!; 2018; appx. 72 min.

Monday, January 7, 2019

George's Briefs January 2019

Friends On The Moon; Dan Adler, guitar
The ten tunes played by the Dan Adler quartet are all originals by either Adler or his bass player, Arnon Palty. For the most part they sound like they're based on the changes to classic jazz tunes. It's all very well played, with juicy, straight solo work, and consistently fine musicianship. Kudos also for pianist Donald Vega and drummer Byron Landham, both of whom add class and pizzazz to the proceedings.
Self-produced; 2018; times not indicated.

Standard Deviations; Tobin Mueller, piano, organ, synths
Deviations indeed. These guys have taken twenty-four perfectly good classics of the American Songbook and put them in an electronic smooth jazz blender. This in my view is disrespectful to the likes of "St. Louis Blues", "Moanin'", "Blue Monk", and even "Stardust" and "Moon River" (to name a few). If one young person comes away thinking that this travesty is the way these songs are supposed to sound, then an unfortunate service has been done to jazz.
No label name found; probably 2018; 2 CD's; no times indicated.

The Monk; Live At Bimhuis; Metropole Orkest Big Band; arranged and conducted by Miho Hazama
Thelonious Monk's miraculous music actually lends itself to widely varying interpretations, but it's rare to hear it in a big band setting. The Netherlands' Metropole Orkest, a longtime contender for high honors, keeps it all T. Monk on seven of his classics including "Ruby My Dear", "Hackensack", "Epistrophy", and more. Stunning musicianship and searing solos all add up to a formidable recording. Monk Lives!
Sunnyside; 2018; appx. 50 min.

Spotlight On Jazz; Simone Kopmajer, vocals
This sprightly young singer proves to be an excellent songwriter as well. She writes tunes that swing and are well structured. They sound like songs from the great era of the '30's and '40's. She also includes timeless items like "Pennies From Heaven", "Poinciana", "Exactly Like You", and more. Accompaniment, led by the full bodied tenor of Terry Myers, is perfectly suited to the upbeat, lively vocals.
Lucky Mojo Records; 2018; appx. 60 min.

Exactly Like You; Alyssa Allgood
Okay, let's get the obvious pun out of the way right now. This hip jazz singer is, you guessed it---ALLGOOD. On a program of mostly standards like "The More I See You", "Alone Together", "Darn That Dream", "Yardbird Suite" and more, Alyssa Allgood expresses the essence of jazz singing. Her accompanists are spot on. I'd love to hear her with a pianist in charge as opposed to the very competent B-3 organist heard here.
Cellar Music; 2018; appx. 50 min.

"Dave McKenna In Madison"

If you've ever witnessed ocean waves in their relentless pursuit of the shore, you might find a comparison in the piano marvel known as Dave McKenna, especially in his left hand where those never ending "waves" just keep rolling in. Thanks to Arbors Records who somehow found this well recorded live solo concert by the late piano phenom, we are privileged to hear Dave McKenna's unique magic one more time in this previously unreleased gem. A peerless melody player who knew a "zillion" tunes, McKenna loved to play medleys of long admired standards. On this disc, he gives us a few of them including one on Vernon Duke tunes like "Autumn In New York", "April In Paris", "I Can't Get Started", "What Is There To Stay", and "I Like The Likes Of You". Or how about another medley centered around tunes dealing with "time". Hence we have "Time On My Hands", "Bidin' My Time", "Some Other Time", and "Time After Time". Other highlights include non-medley entries like "Exactly Like You", "Detour Ahead", "Too Marvelous For Words", and a certified romp on the bop staple "Crazeology". Mc Kenna was an immediately recognizable treasure of the American Songbook. Hearing him once again in this delightful concert setting is something akin to a rich dessert!
Arbors Records; 2018; appx. 63 min.