Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Doug MacDonald "Califournia Quartet"

Attention, jazz guitar enthusiasts! You'd be well advised to check out the underappreciated southern California guitar maven Doug MacDonald. He and his quartet take us on a ten song tour, split nicely between familiar fare and snappy, fresh originals. Along for the ride are the versatile So Cal alto man Kim Richmond; solid bass vet Harvey Newmark; and much in demand drummer Paul Kreibich. The opening tune, "Beautiful Friendship", informs us that we're in for a swingin' ride down the mainstream boulevard. Other standards examined most artfully include "If You Could See Me Now", "The Things We Did Last Summer", and "Tenderly". Several well crafted straight ahead MacDonald creations complete this highly enjoyable session. MacDonald is, as you will discover, a first cabin musician. The same may be said for his quartet mates, especially Richmond who has spent a career as an extraordinarily creative presence.

dmacmusic; 2019; appx. 40 min.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Carlos Franzetti "Ricordare"

I have been aware of Carlos Franzetti as a pianist of depth and beauty. He has long been an admirer of European film music, especially that of celebrated composer Ennio Morricone who is responsible for the very impressionistic title tune of this session. Franzetti is in superb trio company here, working with highly regarded David Finck on bass and Eliot Zigmund on drums. In addition to the Morricone opener, Franzetti, with unerring taste and lyricism, examines other film music plus five of his own silvery, full-of-feeling originals. The three standards on the album are well loved: "When You Wish Upon A Star", "Danny Boy", and "Over The Rainbow". This is music to make you sigh in appreciation that some things in life can still be beautiful and full of wonderment.
Sunnyside Communications; 2019; appx. 60 min.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Al Hood "Jazz Muses"

To be very clear right off the bat, Al Hood is a monster trumpet player. Because he's not based in New York (Denver is his home), he may be a new name to you. He has gorgeous tone, complete control and fluidity rarely heard. On this exceptional CD, Hood and his quintet present ten tunes, nine of which were composed by trumpet heroes of years gone by. How about names like Clark Terry, Blue Mitchell, Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard and more. The only exception is Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" which is often attributed to another trumpet player by the name of Miles Davis. Among my personal faves are two luscious ballads: Bobby Shew's "Nadalin" and Clifford Brown's "LaRue" are both standout melodies and both deserve to be wider known. Hood's masterful Mile High City colleagues include Dave Hanson, piano; Peter Sommer, tenor sax; Will Swindler, alto sax; Ken Walker, bass; and Paul Romaine, drums. This is nothing less than a stunning and beautiful bebop feast. If I were to submit a top ten list of jazz CD'd of 2019, this sterling session would most assuredly be there.
Aquarian Records; 2019; appx. 66 min.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

George's Briefs!

Stories Told; Dave Zinno, bass
Bassist Dave Zinno leads a standard quintet of trumpet, tenor and rhythm section on a pallet of mostly original tunes conveying more than a tip of the hat to a Latin-Brazilian spiciness. The two familiar selections are big hits "Michelle" and "Triste". This group packs a punch and the Latin influence is only subtly present. Solid playing here.
Whaling City Sound; 2019; appx. 66 min.

The Lonely Sailor; James Fernando, solo piano
Here's some solo piano music, mostly slow and expressive original music. There's a mysterious and sad quality to much of it, as if it could have had a soundtrack to an arty European film. This may not be everyone's cup of tea. But regardless of the emotions it may bring on, it's effectively done.
Self-produced; 2018; times not indicated.

What's New: Reimagining Benny Goodman; Oran Etkin, clarinet, bass clarinet and tenor saxophone
Are you brave enough to hear some Benny Goodman classics turned upside down and inside out? 'Cause that's what happens here, and it mostly works! Etkin demonstrates a boatload of creativity on Goodman fare like "Dinah", "Running Wild", "King Porter Stomp", "After You've Gone" and more. Considering that Goodman's heyday was some eight decades ago, this may be a bit odd, but it's accessible.
Motema Music; 2015; appx. 51 min.

To And From The Heart; Steve Kuhn, piano
If you love sophisticated piano trios (and who doesn't!), three New York veterans offer some highly recommended artful music on this lovely session. Along with Steve Swallow on bass and Joey Baron on drums, Steve Kuhn's delicate touch and winning melodic beauty are found in abundance on "Never Let Me Go", "Pure Imagination", and some impressive original music as well.
Sunnyside Communications; 2018; appx. 46 min.

But Beautiful; Darren Barrett, Trumpet and Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI), Vocals, Keyboards
As the title indicates, Barrett's trumpet sound is truly beautiful. Too bad he had to ruin each and every track with a truckload of electronic effects. It's an insult to otherwise great tunes like "Con Alma", "Nica's Dream", "Invitation", "Everything Happens To Me", and other classics. Filet mignon and Alpo should never be combined.
DB Studios; 2018; times not indicated

Jump Up; Brad Turner, trumpet and flugelhorn
A new name to me, Brad Turner demonstrates a vitality and wide variety of feeling on no less than nine original compositions. Tenor man Seamus Blake is an ideal partner in this quintet as they present material to make you sit up and take notice. Perhaps the most accessible piece was "The Enthusiast", a boppy opportunity for the two to indulge in some high powered and jovial interplay.

Cellar Live [Cellar Music?] ; 2019; appx. 70 min.

Nicki Parrott "From New York To Paris"

Over the last decade or more, Nicki Parrott has distinguished herself as a gifted bassist and a perky singer as well. Now I guess if half of your fourteen-song menu deals with Paris, you'd be hard pressed not to include an accordion on the gig. But take a deep breath---it's pretty subtle. On a further instrumental note, Harry Allen's brilliant tenor sax reigns supreme here, and the arrangements on both vocals and instrumentals are well crafted. Among the New York tunes are "There's A Boat That's Leavin' Soon For New York", "Broadway", "The Brooklyn Bridge", and Dave Frishberg's wonderful "Do You Miss New York", among others. The Parisian bill brings us "I Love Paris", "I Will Wait For You", "Under Paris Skies", "If You Love Me", and more. Nicki Parrott and colleagues are in fine form on an album of standards we always enjoy hearing.
Arbors Records; 2019; appx. 59 min.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Yoko Miwa "Keep Talkin'"

Born In Japan, but now Boston based and a faculty member at Berklee College of Music, Yoko Miwa gives us a tour de force of big time chops, melodic sensibility, and impressive communication with her trio colleagues. Six of the eleven tunes are her own creations. I must say that it's a breath of fresh air to hear clearly stated melody lines and imaginative but controlled improvisation. Just the way it should be, one might say. I thought the outstanding cuts included Miwa's title tune and opener, a slick, fast paced blues, "Keep Talkin'". Other winners here were Monk's classic "In Walked Bud" and a rather rare Mingus creation called "Boogie Stop Shuffle". On all these and more, Yoko Miwa is definitely in the big leagues.
Self-produced; 2019; appx. 73 min.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Chuck Redd "Groove City"

This CD is well titled because as much as anything, Chuck Redd epitomizes the groove. A double threat guy equally skilled on vibes and drums, Redd has spent a career on the straight ahead highway. He's a believer in the real deal, and this CD once again provides proof. Redd's basic quartet includes John Di Martino, piano; Nicki Parrott, bass; Lewis Nash, drums; and on a few selections, Jerry Weldon, tenor sax. The eleven tune playlist includes several rarely heard (but most welcome) items like "The Great City", "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying", Billy Strayhorn's triumph "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing", and Ornette Coleman's emotional opus "Lonely Woman". From the standard book, there's "All Or Nothing At All" as well as a ripping take on Monk's classic "Evidence". On all these and more, Chuck Redd and friends---again and with ease---find the groove. I think it must be in his DNA!
Self-produced; 2018; total 64 min.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Larry Fuller "Overjoyed"

Overjoyed is a completely fitting title for this former Seattle resident who follows the premise that it's okay to swing! Proof lies in Fuller's lengthy associations with Ray Brown and Jeff Hamilton, both of them among jazzdom's swingingest. Fuller is, to my ear, a disciple of a jazz god named Oscar Peterson. On this delicious CD, Fuller honors Oscar with Bossa Beguine, one of Oscar's choice but lesser known compositions. Keeping things in the family, he also pays tribute to bassist Brown with Ray's tune "Lined With A Groove". Among the standards here are delicately rendered choices like "How Long Has This Been Going On", "Mona Lisa", and "Never Let Me Go". And Fuller's trio, with Hassan Shakur on bass and Lewis Nash on drums, also finds time for a few from "The Real Book" in Wes Montgomery's "Fried Pies"; Ray Bryant's rarely heard "Cubano Chant"; and even the jazz hit "Got My Mojo Workin'". A few of Fuller's well crafted originals complete the album of twelve titles in all. As he has done on previous releases, Larry Fuller keeps the faith, playing great tunes within an honored jazz tradition. Capri Records does it again!
Capri Records; 2019; appx. 54 min.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Greg Abate "Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ The Z"

I've seen the name Greg Abate (pronounced Ah-BAH-tay) "just around the corner" in the jazz world for a number of years. But this is my first chance to put him to the test. He's a hard bopper to be sure and takes no prisoners in this exuberant live performance. Eight of the eleven tunes are his own creations and he blows four instruments here. I heard the likes of Phil Woods, Pepper Adams, Cannonball Adderley and even Richie Cole all hovering somewhere nearby. The two standards covered here couldn't be more different: Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" and Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge". Abate works flawlessly with a spirited rhythm section led by high flying pianist Tim Ray. The quartet is completed by bassist John Lockwood and drummer Mark Walker. This very versatile bop maven and his colleagues offer a swinging, satisfying performance. It's real deal excuses and no pretense!
Whaling City Sound; 2019; 71:59

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Coniece Washington "Shades Of Shirley Horn"

Not many would take on a project honoring singer-pianist Shirley Horn. She was the ultimate sensuous straight to your heart singer, and a pianist of great skill and feeling as well. So, Coniece Washington, thank you for honoring the music of Shirley Horn with this exceptional performance. I might add here that her accompaniment, led by the understated piano of Vince Evans, is very much like Shirley's long time trio mates. Some of the deeply felt tunes covered here include "Here's To Life", "The Island", "Dindi", "How Am I To Know", and "A Time For Love", to name a few. Shirley Horn was a jazz goddess with a one of a kind ability to reach the listener with her musical gift. Kudos to Coniece and friends for this lovely session in Shirley's honor.
Self-produced; 2019; appx. 60 min.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Barbosa-Lima "Delicado Carlos"

Most Latin or Brazilian recordings, as beautiful and exciting as they often are, don't get reviewed here because I consider them world or ethnic music rather than jazz. That may be my own "mishegas" but here's one that works as a gorgeous guitar recital of mostly familiar bossa and standard Latin fare like Tico Tico, Delicado, Manha De Carnaval, Samba De Orfeu and others. Barbosa-Lima works to perfection, both individually on some selections, and with fellow guitarist Larry Del Casale on others. The other decision which makes this session differ from most Latin fare, is the exclusion of highly percussive instrumentation. As a result, this comes off more as a very attractive guitar recital than anything else. The group is completed by piano, bass and percussion, but not every guy plays on every track. There are fifteen tunes in all and each is a joy to hear.
Zoho Music; 2019; appx. 51 min.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Mike Allen "Just Like Magic"

A new name to me, Mike Allen brings forth a very stately tenor sound rich in tradition. In this pianoless setting, Allen joins forces with two monsters of the Gotham midway, Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. You might remember a certain tenor player who was among the pioneers of a pianoless group; his name is Sonny Rollins. Allen and friends open with a Duke Pearson rarity, a medium tempo entry called "Big Bertha". The spirit of John Coltrane lurks nearby, as Allen and company perform a standard associated with Coltrane, "A Weaver Of Dreams", and "Miles' Mode", a Trane original. Two additional standards very reverently approached here are the Gershwin evergreen "Someone To Watch Over Me" and Duke Ellington's classic, "Solitude". Allen also delivers the goods with a few more of his creations in varying tempos and moods. The trio closes with a rarely heard Charles Mingus tune called "Jelly Roll". One might say that Mike Allen combines a sense of jazz and bop tradition with a contemporary creative edge. I think you'll find that it all works out very nicely.
Cellar Live; 2019; appx. 60 min.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tom McDermott Meets Scott Joplin

A few decades back we experienced a renaissance of the ragtime composer Scott Joplin. All these years later we still encounter occasional visits to Joplin's charming and unique compositions. Pianist and educator Tom McDermott has had a nearly lifelong love of the Joplin art. He displays it here on sixteen selections, most of which are Joplin's creations. McDermott explains that he takes some liberties (well chosen, I might add) here and there. Be that as it may, this in its entirety comes off as a lovely tribute to the ragtime master. No doubt the two most familiar tunes are "The Entertainer" and my personal favorite, "The Easy Winners". Tom McDermott honors the genius of Scott Joplin with every note.
Arbors Records; 2019; appx. 72 min.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Mark Turner Meets Gary Foster

One of the most important contributors to a very cool and restrained form of jazz was the brilliant, blind composer, pianist and teacher, Lennie Tristano. A "school" of players was built in Tristano's shadow, and a few whom he influenced were Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Alan Broadbent, and Gary Foster. In the case of Foster, he's been acclaimed as a "do anything" alto player for decades. But early on he came under Lennie's spell. And this two CD set proves that present day Gary Foster is still drawn to the Tristano connection. His tenor playing partner here is Mark Turner. Although he's more contemporary, he demonstrates great skill with the Tristano repertoire. The bassist Putter Smith is a longtime member of the aforementioned Broadbent trio. As such, he too is well acquainted with Lennie's musical journey. The drummer is Joe La Barbera, a master in the LA jazz panorama. Recorded live way back in 2003, this first ever [?] release features long cuts (a total of just seven selections on two CD's!). So if you're a Lennie admirer, you'll recognize titles like Marsh's "Background Music", Konitz's "Subconscious Lee", Tristano's "Lennie's Pennies" and perhaps his best known composition "317 East 32nd Street". Turner and Foster are just about perfect in interplay AND polished and groovy in generous solo adventures. Although Lennie was a pianist, it makes sense that there's no piano here because Marsh and Konitz often recorded in a pianoless setting. Kudos to Tom Burns and Capri Records for this masterful glimpse into a very important segment of jazz history.
Capri Records; 2 CDs; 2019; appx. 52 min. and 37 min.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Interplay Jazz Orchestra "On The Sunny Side"

Here is yet another big band to turn your head. The Interplay Jazz Orchestra is based out of Long Island, New York and has earned high marks for its invigorating arrangements and its exciting sound. Co-led by trumpet ace Gary Henderson and trombone maven Joey Devassy, this sixteen-piece juggernaut presents an eleven-tune display of well crafted musicianship and impressive arranging and solo work. Most of the tunes are enduring standards like the title tune, "On The Sunny Side Of The Street", as well as evergreens such as "Caravan", "Time After Time", "Tangerine", "Invitation", and a personal fave, "I'll Close My Eyes". Among the originals, I was most impressed with Devassy's sensitivity on his ballad called "Broken". All in all this CD provides further proof that there are exceptional though under recognized players virtually everywhere.
Self-produced; 2018; times not indicated.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

On! Jordon Dixon

Tenor sax man Jordon  Dixon leads an energetic quartet through its paces on eight compositions, adding trumpet player J.S. Williams on two additional selections. All ten are Dixon's originals. He provides very nice balance in tempos with high wire swinging material and some thoughtful ballad work as well. Clearly, it should be noted that Dixon takes a cue from the soulful segment of alto AND tenor players---names like Cannonball Adderley, Stanley Turrentine and Eddie Harris, to name a few. As a result it follows that while this music has more than a hint of hard bop in its offerings, there is also the ever present blues on board here as well. No pretense, no overkill here. Instead you'll find the soul-drenched Dixon in fine company, in what might be called a modern day blowing session.
Self-produced; 2019; appx. 58 min.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Rich Walker "Lazybird Revisited"

Once in a while I encounter a recording from the past that I was previously unaware of. And when they're as good as this one, I like to bring them to the attention of my readers, hoping of course that they can score a copy floating somewhere on the internet. Formerly a resident of Orlando, Rich Walker is now a Portlander, and you should watch out for local gigs starting to materialize. On this session Walker joins forces with a bevy of Orlando cats for a Blue Note-like gathering of originals featuring mind blowing soloists, excellent "real deal" writing, and a high spirited, hard bop approach. Walker at times displays his profound leaning toward the blues, and even sings a bit here and there. Put simply, Rich Walker's guitar is right there alongside the best in the business.
Self-produced; probably 2003; times not indicated.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Five Play, featuring Sherrie Maricle "Live From The Firehouse Stage"

If you're a student of jazz history you're probably aware of the female bands that dotted the landscape, mostly in the heyday of big bands. Well, that phenomenon survives to this day. In fact, Sherrie Maricle has led such groups for quite some years. Before you dismiss this as some kind of novelty, give these gals a listen. These are well-honed players with experience and massive chops. And they swing big time. The tunes are primarily originals by various band members. Melodies are well stated, solos are spot on, and there's a joyful feeling throughout in this live performance. Incidentally, the standards here are Duke's "Just Squeeze Me"; Van Heusen's hit for one Frank Sinatra, "Nancy With The Laughing Face"; and an etched in marble standard, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love." Solid sounds all the way. That's the order of the day, and Sherrie Maricle and friends fill it with pleasure for all.
Self-produced; 2019; appx. 66 min.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Philadelphia Heritage Art Ensemble "Crossing The Bridge 2"

The city of Philadelphia has contributed numerous outstanding jazz musicians over the course of many years. This superb sextet is led by trumpet master Fred Adams. The trippy thing is that these guys succeed in combining the bop tradition with a wholesome lyricism and first class arranging. Of the seven selections heard here four are Adams originals. The solo work is always ear-catching, distinguished and often quite unique. For the record two of the remaining tunes are from the great tenor hero Hank Mobley, and the remaining one is by trumpet icon Lee Morgan. The Philadelphia Heritage Art Ensemble may be traveling a familiar road but they find fresh and new ways to take us on their journey.
Heritage Sound; 2018; times not indicated.

Monday, May 27, 2019

George's Briefs!

The Briefs:  

Native Soul: What Is That Isn't?
Here's a hard boppin' quartet which, in three of the eleven selections heard here, becomes an equally hard boppin' quintet. I am unfamiliar with all of them but that makes no difference. Their program of mostly original compositions includes exhilarating solo work, strong melodic content and, by the way, they swing hard!
Cellar Music; 2019; appx. 72 min.

Lined With A Groove; Pete Coco, bass
This CD marks a debut for New York bassist Pete Coco and his trio. It consists of thirteen tunes, nearly all of which are composed by Coco's bass playing heroes, names such as Chambers, Brown, Mitchell and Hinton, among others. The trio's pianist, Sullivan Fortner, adds dramatic elegance, and veteran drummer Matt Wilson brings his usual expertise to the session. Great trio stuff throughout!
Self-produced; 2018; times not indicated.

Infinity; Tom Harrell, trumpet and flugelhorn
This CD continues Tom Harrell's lengthy association with High Note Records---over ten albums to date. In this case he opts for Charles Altura's guitars (rather than a piano), and the tenor sax of Mark Turner on ten Harrell originals. Together, they once again spotlight his entire scope. Harrell is and always has been a major innovator and influence in the jazz art.
High Note; 2019; appx. 66 min.

Jim Snidero "Waves Of Calm"

Alto marvel Jim Snidero is back with us on a new CD comprised of eight tunes, four of which are performed as a quartet. The remaining four add the peerless trumpet of Jeremy Pelt. It seems that more often in the past, leaders will open with tempos other than the usual fast-paced romp. Such is the case with the title tune, "Waves Of Calm". Three additional Snidero creations in various moods demonstrate his composing prowess. Perhaps my preference among the originals was "Dad Song". It boasted a more distinctive melody line than the other three, and it also featured an acoustic piano as opposed to the Rhodes heard on the other originals. Standards beautifully examined here include "Old Folks", "I Fall In Love Too Easily", and a real charmer in "If I Had You". Snidero covers the whole gamut here with his usual vitality, passion and heavy duty musicianship.
Savant; 2019; appx. 50 min.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Peter Clark "The 20-Man Music Machine"

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

Cory Weeds "Live At Frankie's Jazz Club"

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

Doug McDonald "Organisms"

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

Ehud Asherie "Wild Man Blues"

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 "Live At COTA"

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

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.