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.