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.