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.