Sunday, October 17, 2021

Rossano Sportiello; That’s It!

Speaking of things Italian, let’s take a look at a new CD by pianist Rossano Sportiello.  A specialist in stride piano, Sportiello’s elegance goes far beyond that. He is an obvious melody lover and seems altogether comfortable with the notes not played as he is with those he gives us. I would guess that his allegiance lies somewhere in the school of players like George Shearing, Teddy Wilson, John Bunch and the like. On this stirring solo effort, Sportiello performs no less than seventeen superb examples of his virtuosity. Every tune could be a highlight but just to name a few, how about “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, “Stars Fell On Alabama”, “Fine And Dandy”, “Thou Swell”, and a bona fide treasure in “How Do You Keep The Music Playing”. Several of Sportiello’s melodic originals also add frosting to this cake. Lovers of intelligently and elegantly played solo piano, this one’s for you.

Arbors; 2021; appx. 63 min.

Cory Weeds; “O Sole Mio!”

The sensational alto sax man from Vancouver, B.C. kind of shakes things up on his latest effort. The album’s subtitle is ‘Music From The Motherland”. And so it is that all the tunes seem to have an Italian connection; hence the title tune “O Sole Mio” and others like “Estate”, “Theme From The Godfather, “Torna A Surriento”, and Henry Mancini’s “Mr. Lucky”. Weeds give his pianist the day off and instead uses Mike LeDonne on organ, and to very polished results.  Other monsters on the date include Eric Alexander, tenor sax; Peter Bernstein, guitar; and Joe Farnsworth, drums. Weeds offers his consistent jazz expertise on alto, and all the players seem to be getting a kick out of all this music with Italian roots. Recommended!

Cellar Live; 2021; appx. 60 min.

Diego Figueiredo; “Antarctica”

A native of Brazil, Diego Figueiredo is an acoustic guitarist who is a master of Brazilian and other South American music. He also composes heartfelt originals, and now and then he is totally comfortable with a Bird or Monk or Miles classic. I brought him to Portland’s Classic Pianos years ago and we added extra chairs to accommodate an audience that fell in love with him his music from the first note. His latest CD for the Arbors label is simply a thing of beauty. His skill, craftsmanship and tenderness ring through on every selection. You’ll find yourself shaking your head in amazement and thinking “where has this guy been all my life?!”

Arbors; 2020; appx. 57 min.

Bill Evans, Behind The Dikes: The 1969 Netherlands Recordings

Forty-one years after the tragic death of Bill Evans, these “impossible” recordings just keep appearing. This previously unreleased two-CD set finds the pianist in the company of Eddie Gomez, bass and Marty Morell, drums. Evans by this time had a reliable repertoire that he leaned on. So it should probably be noted there are quite a few titles that he had recorded frequently. It makes little difference though because this, as on numerous sessions over the last decade or so, is a Bill Evans a concert which has never before seen the light of day! So it is that Bill stays with the tried and true on evergreens like “Emily”, “Turn Out The Stars”, “Waltz For Debby”, “Very Early”, “Quiet Now”, and a whole lot more. Of particular interest is the one tune that Evans apparently never previously recorded. Duke’s “I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart” is a surprising and welcome choice and it alone is worth the price of admission. Gomez and Morell are flawless as well throughout the two discs. So here is the brilliant Bill at the peak of his short life. This is clearly another inspiring buried treasure. It took fifty-one years to reach us but now, here it is for us to savor.

Elemental Music; 2021; 2 CDs; appx. 58 and 59 min.

Together Live: Rebecca Kilgore,vocals; Andy Brown, guitar

Those of us who live in Portland, Oregon consider Rebecca Kilgore a vocal treasure of
long standing. She displays her vocal elegance and unrivaled great taste in a live
concert at Portland’s Classic Pianos before an appreciative audience in this intimate
setting. She is accompanied here by Chicago guitarist And Brown and he is perfection
personified in his role. His solo work is stunning and exquisitely tasteful. As is always
the case, Rebecca is simply a “ten” on a program of revered standards and a few
extra special surprises. Among them are “A Woman’s Intuition, a superb ballad dating
back to another beloved singer, Lee Wiley. Another highlight in an emotional beauty,
you are there from Johnny Mandel and another Portlander, the much celebrated Dave
Frishberg, among a total of 12 beautiful choices. Other gems include Better Than
Anything, a tune usually associated with the late singer Bob Dororgh. Or how about
such winners as the Touch of Your Lips, Rock Me To Sleep, The Gentle Rain and a
couple of rarities in Destination Moon and Where Can I Go Without You, a lovely
collaboration of Victor Young and Peggy Lee. Rebecca Kilgore always hits the bull’s
eye, and with the brilliant and sensitive Andy Brown on guitar, she’s done it again.
This kind of music occupies rare art today. So don’t miss this one !
HEAVYWOOD Records: 2020, Approx. 47 min.