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.