Monday, May 13, 2019
Before you dismiss big bands as obsolete as an eight track, you should understand that there remains to this day scores of dedicated cats who happily participate in big bands much like this one. These guys play invigorating arrangements of standards, originals and even charts based on the changes to familiar works. Two complete examples of the latter would be "All The Things You Aren't" (get it?) and "Swansong" which you'll know from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake". Other dependables include "Love For Sale", "Caravan", "Autumn Leaves", "Teach Me Tonight", and even "When Johnny Comes Marching Home"! Solid musicianship abounds here and widespread solo work is first class. One can hear that these guys and gals are having a blast! The band reminds me a bit of Rob McConnell's high flying ensembles---where everyone gets a chance to blow and have a grand time doing so. Hats off to those dedicated musicians keeping big bands alive and vibrant. People like THIS.
Summit Records; 2019; appx. 74 min.
Monday, May 6, 2019
I really think that all I'd need to do would be to glance at the names of the composers on this CD and it would get my nod of approval! Consider these names: Lee Morgan, Mal Waldron, Tina Brooks, Jackie McLean, George Robert, and Walter Davis, Jr. All of the titles would probably be termed underdogs. Despite strong melody lines, plenty of solo space and brimming excitement, these are not well known compositions. And what, may I ask, does this tell us of leader and alto star Cory Weeds? It tells us that he's done his jazz history work, resulting in these nine overlooked gems. All of them are potent examples of the jazz book, but perhaps my favorite is a Tina Brooks delight called "Up Tight's Creek". Another winner (among all winners) is "Formidable" by the under appreciated pianist Walter Davis, Jr. Cory's brilliant alto is joined by Terell Stafford, trumpet; Harold Mabern, piano; Michael Glynn, bass; and Julian McDonough, drums. The music just bristles with exuberance and joy. Thank you, Cory, for all you do in both the musical and business aspects of jazz. You are doing all you can to keep the music alive. We all get the message by listening to sessions such as this.
Cellar Live; 2019; appx. 65 min.
Monday, April 29, 2019
As you probably know by now I'm not the most wild-eyed fan of organ jazz. But it's easy to recognize when it simply works. Carey Frank is a Hammond B3 player of uncompromising skill and subtlety. And it should be added that leader Doug Mc Donald and Frank are very much on par in communicating musically. Veteran L.A. tenorman Bob Sheppard adds an appropriate bluesy contribution, and drummer Ben Scholz adds supportive zest. The ten tunes examined represent a balanced selection of standards and blues infused choices. Perhaps my two favorites are the mostly overlooked ballads "Sometime Ago" and "Too Late Now"; both are examples of top echelon songwriting. How nice to hear them once again. Other familiar "hits" include "It's You Or No One"; "Poor Butterfly"; "On The Alamo"; a medley of "Nina Never Knew" and "Indian Summer"; and Harry Edison's evergreen, "Centerpiece". Doug McDonald's superb musicianship, along with that of his colleagues, is something to be admired.
Self-produced; probably 2019; appx. 44 min.
Monday, April 22, 2019
I'm happy to say that Ehud Asherie adheres to a long admired tradition that informs us that it's okay to swing. And on his latest CD he does exactly that on a menu of eight tunes covering a wide array of eras and tempos. He is joined by two highly regarded stars of the New York jazz family in Peter Washington, bass and Rodney Green, drums. There are numerous highlights here, so let's examine at least a few! The title tune, "Wild Man Blues", is a rather rare entry from two jazz giants, Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. It is followed by one of two Charlie Parker tunes, "Parker's Mood", a staple in the Bird book. The other Parker composition is "Chasin' The Bird", a complex little melody line which, I would imagine, many other pianists would be hesitant to take on. Other favorites include classics "Flying Down To Rio", the exquisite "Autumn Nocturne", and a heartfelt ballad version of "Oh, Lady Be Good". Finally, there's an infrequently heard Dizzy Gillespie tune with a distinctively Latin tinge, and with the odd title "And Then She Stopped". Let's be clear: Ehud Asherie is a piano marvel who has done his homework. He plays all the right notes and no tune worthy of playing is outside his sphere.
Capri Records; 2019; 46:47
Monday, April 15, 2019
Bill Mays is the optimum musician's musician. As a pro for fifty-five years, he's done it all: house parties; cruises; Bar Mitzvahs and weddings; long-standing studio work; accompanist to singers; film and TV composition; extensive arranging; and club and concert gigs---literally all over the world. He's absolutely A+ as a trio leader, and that's how we get to hear him, live at COTA, the Celebration Of The Arts Jazz Festival in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. He's joined by Martin Wind, bass, and Matt Wilson, drums, at the east coast club, the Dear Head Inn. The trio opens with a "dream" medley of "Darn That Dream", and the famous prom closer (in my era), "Dream". Tender and beautiful stuff. Mays then turns a famous standard on its head with "Sun Of The East", his boppy, infectious tribute to Boston piano icon Lennie Tristano. And speaking of tributes the trio continues with another of them. This time it's Bill Evans who is remembered in another medley with his original "Your Story", and a tear-jerker by Phil Woods titled "Goodbye Mr. Evans". Other choices include another Mays creation called "Next Right Thing---An Extravagant Soft Shoe"; the ballad entry in a sparkling "Never Let Me Go"; and a Wayne Shorter classic, "Infant Eyes". The closer is a surprise and a delight. It's Bob Dorough's spritely, optimistic love song "Nothing Like You". Bill even takes a vocal chorus, and then swings to the end of this bright melody. Bill knows the following remembrance, but perhaps you don't, so here goes. In an interview with Bud Shank, I asked, "if you could only work with one pianist for the rest of your career, who would it be?" Without hesitation, he answered "Bill Mays". 'Nuff said except this: you need to buy this CD!
No Blooze Music; 2019; 55:45.
Monday, March 11, 2019
Self-produced; 2018; appx. 60 min.
Monday, March 4, 2019
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Arbors Records; 2018; appx. 63 min.