Monday, December 26, 2022

PJ Perry; No Hugs

An alto saxophonist reaching more listeners by the day, PJ Perry delivers a bristling quintet performance of all originals. His colleagues, all new names to me, include Bob Tildesley, trumpet; Chris Andrew, piano; Paul Johnston, bass; and Dave Laing, drums. Trombonist Brad Shigeta is also on board for one of the eight selections. Perry and friends are keepers of the bop flame and are up to the task on generous, striking solo work. This is very accessible “feel good” music with well written ensemble passages and great teamwork. If you’re a hard bopper who recognizes stimulating talent and musicianship, you’d be well advised to check this one out. To my ear, PJ Perry is somewhat out of the Cannonball bag (probably among others). His is a big

sound— filled with excitement, complexity, and history. A delightful album from every perspective! Cellar; 2022; times not indicted

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Recollecting; Mathew Soucy

This is a debut album for gifted, young, bop-drenched guitarist Matheu Soucy. Eight of the nine tunes are originals of the leader. The one standard is “Where Or When”, and it features Caity Gyorgy who handles the task really well. She sings on one other tune, “A Thinker And A Fool," a very complex creation. She puts it over with ease and skill. And another highlight is Soucy’s beautiful solo rendition of the classic Monk tune “Reflections”. Soucy is melodically all over the map, at times sounding a bit “Monkish”. He and his colleagues bop away with imagination and solid energy. All told, this is an impressive introduction to a very talented jazz guitarist who has a lot to say. You would do well to listen.

Inner Bop Records; 2022; appx. 46 min.

Jason Marshall; New Beginnings

Since the loss of the big baritone sounds of the likes of Pepper Adams and Nick Brignola, I’ve sometimes wondered when the next player in that tradition will arrive. Well, here he is: Jason Marshall. With a sterling rhythm section of Marc Cary, piano; Gerald Cannon, bass; and Willie Jones III, drums; Marshall’s giant sound fills the room on a satisfying set of standardized jazz chestnuts. On this no holds barred yet very straight ahead session, Marshall and friends take on jazz treasures like “Airegin”, “Peggy’s Blue Skylight”, “Recordame”. Not about to stop, they also include American Songbook gems like “I Could Write A Book” and “I’ll Never Stop Loving You”. Jason Marshall is deeply embedded in the strong and swinging tradition of this art form. Keep an ear tuned to him. You’re sure to hear more!

Cellar; 2022; appx. 41 min.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Houston Person; Reminiscing At Rudy’s

Like the rain in my beloved hometown of Portland, Oregon, some things can simply be counted on, expected, even welcomed. With that in mind, we have come to expect an album or two per year from the bluesy veteran tenor man, Houston Person. This time, at Rudy Van Gelder’s famous New Jersey studio, he holds forth with an ever swinging group of much admired colleagues. Consider such heavyweights as Larry Fuller, piano; Russell Malone, guitar; Matthew Parrish, bass; and Lewis Nash, drums. Formidable lineup, wouldn’t you agree? Nash even gets a vocal opportunity on “Nothing Ever Changes My Love For You”. And behold, he does a silky sweet job on the ballad. Other evergreens (all instrumental, of course) include “Why Did I Choose You”, “Again”, “My Romance”, and even an uptempo take on “Moon River”. Person’s warm, intimate tenor simply envelops the listener, and his all-star compatriots are totally engaged

in an album of revered tunes played with all the caring and feeling they deserve. In closing, I’d say that Houston Person reminds me a bit of the much admired Gene Ammons, master tenor men both. There are still a handful of musicians playing the American Songbook. Houston Person is one of them. And for that we extend our thanks to this dedicated, great PERSON!
High Note; 2022; appx. 57 min.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Akiko Aoki; Pure Imagination

I’d have to lean a bit to call Akiko Aoki a jazz singer. The good news is that she sings worthwhile material and is provided with sensitive, quality accompaniment. She is surely not an improvisational singer, nor does her phrasing fit the jazz mold. But her choices of tunes are delivered with sincerity. That, in my book, would suggest that Aoki knows the “the book” and handles her material with a finely honed flair. Consider some of her selections: “Yesterday I Heard The Rain”, “Two For The Road”, “Pure Imagination”, “Smile”, “No More Blues”, and lots more— thirteen in all. Her colleagues include a very tasty and capable pianist in Tim Ray, a player to keep an eye on. Ms. Aoki is off and running on this, her second album. Self produced; 2022; appx. 57 min.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Fraser MacPherson; From The Pen Of...

Now here’s Fraser MacPherson, a very hip tenor sax man and native of Canada. That may have weighed in on his appearance on Cellar Records out of Vancouver, BC.. MacPherson checks in with a swinging menu of original compositions, all played by a bevy of distinctly skilled musicians. It should be noted that most of these tunes are led by the other sax players on this session. MacPherson, a tenor giant himself, has graciously handed leadership roles to his gifted colleagues. Among them are no less than Scott Hamilton, Grant Stewart, Harry Allen, and Cory Weeds. Pretty fair company, wouldn’t you say? The eleven tunes played here carry a distinctly bluesy quality, but in a very spirited, upbeat atmosphere. It should be emphasized that nearly all of the players here are natives of the North. Proof, as if we needed it, that there’s an abundance of jazz talent playing the real deal on the other side of the border.
Cellar; 2022; appx. 55 min.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Paul Marinaro; Not Quite Yet

Now and then I can simply glance at the tune list of an unfamiliar artist and get a pretty accurate idea as to the jazz chops I’m about to hear. Such was the case with the excellent singer Paul Marinaro. With accompaniment from groups ranging from a small ensemble to a strikingly well arranged big band, Marinaro tears it up with a jazz sensitivity on no less than fourteen well chosen songs. Those impressive choices range from “Born To Be Blue” to “Make Me Rainbows”; from “Remind Me” to “On A Wonderful Day Like Today”; and from “Taking A Chance On Love” to ”The Island”; and many more. I was particularly impressed with the bluesy tune, a Carroll Coates-Hub Atwood obscurity called “No One Ever Tells You”. That sometimes elusive jazz essence is right out front on every Marinaro effort, and his outstanding accompaniment and arrangements further enhance his vocal power and finesse. Paul Marinaro is a bright light who needs to be heard from again and again.

Self produced; 2022; appx. 72 min.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Loren Daniels; Ticket To Ride

Here’s a re-visit to Beatle songs by pianist and singer Loren Daniels. I personally never derived much musical pleasure from The Beatles. However, their songs are miles better than the pop dreck that surrounds us today. Daniels sounds like he knows his way around the piano. It is his vocalizing that betrays him. So if rather pedestrian singing, percussive backbeat, and other gimmickry are your cup of tea, this Beatles song session might actually work for you. For the record, tune choices include “Eight Days A Week”, “With A Little Help From My Friends”, “Come Together”, “Blackbird”, “I’ll Follow The Sun”, and others. Way back in the ‘60’s, I thought The Beatles haircuts were kind of cool and their tight outfits were something out of the ordinary. Aside from that, their music never grabbed me back then. Nor does it in this performance all these years later.

Self-produced; year and times not indicated.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Spike Willner; Spike Willner Plays Monk & Ellington

I believe that Vancouver BC’s Cellar Records is doing more to showcase young talent than any other current label. Pianist Spike Willner’s newest Cellar effort finds him covering classic compositions by two Hall of Famers, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. Willner is assisted here by two highly sought after colleagues, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth. From Monk's brilliance and individuality comes the familiar “Well You Needn’t” and “Pannonica”, and the slightly less well known “Let’s Cool One” and “Eronel” (try spelling it backwards). The Ellington selections should have recognized Billy Strayhorn in the album’s title as well because he wrote two without Duke, “UMMG” and “Intimacy of the Blues”. Duke, on his own, gave us two rarities here, “Gypsy Without A Song” and “Le Sucrier Velour”. An old pop hit, “Wonderful! Wonderful!”, is also included here. Perhaps it was chosen because it describes all of the music on this date. Willner avoids the flashy and fancy in favor of playing and improvising on these “greatest hits” with total honesty, charm, and always ever present swing. This is, from note one, ideal piano trio jazz in the best of that long honored tradition. 

Cellar; 2022; times not indicated.

Monday, August 15, 2022


A.  Gershwin Song Titles: 

1.  I’ve Got A Crush On You 

2.  Embraceable You

3.  Liza

4.  Love Is Here To Stay

5.  How Long Has This Been Going On?

6.  The Man I Love

7.  Someone To Watch Over Me

8.  Fascinatin’ Rhythm

9.  Of Thee I Sing

10. That Sweet And Low Down

B. First Names: 

1.  Edward

2.  Harry

3.  Julian

4.  Keith

5.  John

6.  Thomas

7.  John

8.  Edward

9.  Eddie

10. William

11. Bonus: Park

C. Dave Frishberg Song Titles:

1.  Our Love Rolls On

2.  Marilyn Monroe

3.  Play Ball

4.  My Attorney Bernie

5.  Van Lingle Mungo

6.  You Are There

7.  Zoot Walks in

8.  Dear Bix

9.  Heart’s Desire

10.  Matty

D. Duke Ellington Song Titles:

1.  Don’t Get Around Much Any More

2.  I Got It Bad

3.  Prelude To A Kiss

4.  I’m Just A Lucky So And So

5.  Mood Indigo

6.  Satin Doll

7.  Sophisticated Lady

8.  All Too Soon

9.  In My Solitude

10. Come Sunday

Sunday, August 14, 2022


A. Can you match these Ira Gershwin lyric portions to the titles of tunes written by brothers Ira and George?

1.  Could you coo?

2.  Don’t be a naughty baby

3.  And the clouds will roll away

4.  The Rockies may crumble

5.  Little wow

6.  Who would, would you?

7.  Put on some speed

8.  Won’t you take the day off

9.  Worthy of a mighty nation

10. You’ll dance until you to totter

B. What are the first names of the following jazz heroes?

1.  Duke Ellington

2.  Sweets Edison

3.  Cannonball Adderley

4.  Red Mitchell

5.  Dizzy Gillespie

6.  Fats Waller

7.  Zoot Sims

8.  Sonny Stitt

9.  Lockjaw Davis

10. Count Basie

11. Bonus: Pepper Adams

C. All of the lyrics below were written by the incredible composer-lyricist-pianist and singer Dave Frishberg. Can you match them up with their song titles?

1.  Even though some trouble comes along for the ride

2.  A Lorelei, a butterfly

3.  It’s April weather

4.  An office full of foxes

5.  Eddie Basinski

6.  When I stop to smell a rose

7.  He unpacks his horn

8.  No ordinary B run of the mill type of guy

9.  The choice we make, the chance we take

10. God had sent his right hand man

D. Can you match these lyrics with the following Duke Ellington titles?

1.  Heard they crowded the floor

2.  And Monday rolls around 

3.  A Schubert tune with a Gershwin touch

4.  The birds in every tree

5. That feelin’ goes stealin’ down to my shoes

6.  Careful, amigo

7. The years have changed you somehow

8.  The bottom fell from everything

9.  With gloom everywhere

10. See my people through

Friday, August 12, 2022


Jackie Messina; Necessary Arrangement Over the years I’ve often observed that a quick peek at the tune list of a given artist is a likely tipoff to the quality of the recording. With that in mind, here’s Jackie Messina singing a well-chosen menu of tunes covering Broadway faves, Songbook goodies, and even a couple from the Jazz Book in “Quiet Now” and “Little B’s Poem”. There are thirteen tunes in all, ranging from “Easy Street” to “I Believe In You”; or “Baltimore Oriole” to “Alfie” to “Show Me”. The biggest surprise was a well written blast from the past called “Wild Is The Wind”. Working with a subtle, sophisticated quartet, Jackie Messina is impressive with respectful and sincere renditions of these evergreens.Self-produced; 20ll but only recently made available to the public; appx. 54 min.

Honoring Pat Martino, Vol. 1 Believe it or not, this album showcases fourteen different guitarists in either solo or duo performances. All compositions are by Pat Martino, hence the title. Most of the guitarists are new names to me, the most familiar being Peter Bernstein and Russell Malone. Some material echoes jazz history while other selections are a bit “out” for this old guy’s ears. Guitar buffs, have at it. Here’s your chance! High Note; 2022; appx. 58 min.

Ricky Ford; The Wailing Sounds Of Ricky Ford: Paul’s Scene

Well now, if you’re one of those who opts for tenor with attitude, Ricky Ford just may be your man. He’s been around for many years, never hesitant to share his big, in your face but always in complete control sound. On this new get together, Ford brings us twelve tunes, and they are typical Ricky in their swinging, mellow coolness. No gimmicks here and no tomfoolery. Go Ricky, go!

Whaling City Sound; 2022; appx. 46 min. 

Doug MacDonald; Serenade To Highland Park

Although I lived in L.A. for two years way back when, I never really got to know Highland Park. But judging from this CD, it must be a very nice area. Guitarist Doug MacDonald’s trio gives us a resonant, beautiful journey through a total of twelve selections . Most are memorable standards like “Days Of Wine And Roses”, “Dearly Beloved”, “More Than You Know”, “Brazil” and lots more. Bassist Mike Flick and drummer Paul Kreibich form a cool and relaxed partnership to MacDonald’s in-the-pocket leadership.

Self-produced; 2022; appx. 56 min.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Steve Kaldestad; Live At Frankie’s Jazz Club

These “new guys” just keep showing up in my life! Here’s yet another one in tenor man Steve Kaldestad. Definitely a proponent of that big, confident, in-your-face sound, Kaldestad puts it all together before a live, enthusiastic audience. His quartet is completed by Chris Gestrin, piano; Conrad Good, bass; and Jesse Cahill, drums, all of whom are equally on the high burner. The session opens with a soulful Harold Mabern entry called “A Few Miles From Memphis”. It continues with a mixture of classics like “Con Alma”, “Invitation”, “If You Could See Me Now”, and a few lesser known but equally well chosen choices. There’s no frosting on this cake. Steve Kaldestad and friends are there to tell the real story. With strength and passion, they get the job done.

Cellar Music; 2022;  appx. 70 min.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Cory Weeds; Just Coolin’

Vancouver, BC tenor sax mogul Cory Weeds is right back at it with a new session, loaded with juicy straight ahead jazz gems. All one has to do is check out the names of the composers of these rarely performed selections. Immediately it becomes clear that there’s some super swingin’ bop happening here. Names like Hank Mobley, Carmell Jones, Ray Bryant, Cedar Walton, and Harold Lamb, among others. This time around, Weeds’ terrific, truthful tenor is joined by Tilden Webb, piano; John Lee, bass; and Jesse Cahill, drums---an equally swinging, solid rhythm section. As always, Weeds and friends do high honor to the jazz tradition on every tune in the set. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also call your attention to the cover art of Fujioka Takao, which brings to mind the hip work of David Stone Martin back in the day. Anyway, thank you, Cory Weeds, for keeping the real deal flame alive and well. May it always burn as brightly as it does here.

Cellar Music; 2022; appx 52 min.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Jeremy Pelt; Soundtrack

Based on his last few recordings, the brilliant trumpet monster, Jeremy Pelt, has apparently made a shift in his musical approach. On an album of all original material, Pelt continues to display amazing trumpet chops, well-oiled from the tradition of Clifford, Miles, Freddie and others. His tone is impeccable and his frequent sense of melancholy is much to be admired. The only distraction as I see it is the addition here and there of some electronic augmentation. This may act as an enhancement for listeners decades younger than yours truly. But even on those tracks where we hear electric bass, Mellotron and Moog Sub (whatever the latter two are), Pelt’s exuberant  trumpet sound is always there. All in all, mostly high praise here for a player who is deservedly growing in the wide world of jazz.

High Note; 2022; appx. 44 min.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Margaret Slovak; Ballad For Brad

Way back in 2002 I was admitted to the hospital for the first of three separate years of chemotherapy. I was acquainted with guitarist Margaret Slovak through Portland’s active jazz community. So imagine my delight when she would play beautiful solo guitar for the patients on the cancer floor! Some years later Margaret left the city, eventually ending up in Austin, Texas, which she still calls home. So after twenty years, what a pleasant surprise to receive her latest CD for review. On a program of ten intimate examples of her exceptional skills, she plays both acoustic nylon and electric guitars with her equally subtle and skilled trio mates Harvie S. on bass and Michael Sarin on drums. I remember Margaret as one who always played with a great depth of feeling on ballads, and real exuberance at faster tempos. She displays all these musical gifts on this stirring session. How wonderful it is to renew my connection with the warm, heartfelt guitar of Margaret Slovak.

Slovak Music; 2021; 52:21

Friday, August 5, 2022

Lenny Marcus Trio; When A Door Opens

Lenny Marcus is a pianist whose virtuosity had to have been shaped by both classical and jazz icons. He pays tribute to several of them on this stunning CD with titles like “Guaraldi’s Dilemma”, “Song For McCoy”, “Tune For Herbie”, and a medley of two Beethoven melodies. Perhaps my favorite was the very complex take on Dave Brubeck’s “Unsquare Dance” which Marcus titles “Twelve For Brubeck”. He puts a final stamp on all these tributes with another winner called “Ode To My Piano Heroes”. The pianist is joined here by bassist Zachary McDonald and drummer Denver Nuckolls. The communication between them is pinpoint perfect, suggesting that he and his colleagues have been together for a long while. Marcus, I might add, is totally immersed in the jazz wellspring at any tempo, any mood or feeling. Many wondrous players set the table for Lenny Marcus. He was only too happy to accept their offerings.

Self-produced; 2022; appx. 40 min.

Alan Broadbent Trio; Like Minds

If you were looking for the ultimate, brilliant, ideal jazz pianist of the present day, look no further than Alan Broadbent. With genuine loyalty and commitment, he simply captures it all. Jazz history stares you directly in the face when you hear this man play. He plays every note with honesty and integrity, and that results in a sense of perfection. Having said that, it really matters what songs he chooses to play. Just our luck that he leans toward revered Americana standards, jazz gems from the Real Book, and exquisitely crafted originals as well. He and his band mates, Harvie S on bass and Billy Mintz on drums, give us all that on a beautifully balanced program . It is as polished and perfect as any Broadbent recording of the past. So, piano lovers, get ready for a stirring trio set with jazz classics “Airegin”, “Yardbird Suite”, and a particularly nice surprise on Hank Mobley’s “This I Dig Of You”. To these, add standards “Stairway To The Stars”, “This Is New”, and a delicate waltz called “Dance Only With Me”. There’s even a Bud Powell rarity by the name of “Blue Pearl”. On all these and more, Alan Broadbent keeps it real and honest. In my eyes, he is the most complete and gifted jazz pianist on the planet.
Savant; 2022; apps. 59 min.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Tim Lin "Romance in Formosa"

Seattle based alto sax man Marc Fendel put his New York based friend tenor man Tim Lin in touch with me. He sent me his current CD for review and it is a big time winner, and for a lot of reasons. Right off the bat, Lin chooses mostly tunes revered for decades from the American Songbook. Hence, we are treated to such delicacies as “You’re My Everything”, “Long Ago And Far Away”, “My Foolish Heart”, “How Deep Is The Ocean”, and a personal fave of mine, “Weaver Of Dreams”. On these and more, Lin provides a beautiful, confident, historic tenor sound sure to please. His improvisations put a clear, complimentary, contemporary light on evergreen tunes. Adding to the real deal feel of this session is Lin’s Big Apple rhythm section of Andy LaVerne, piano; Jay Anderson, bass; and Billy Drummond, drums. Bob Sheppard, a veteran LA reed man, also appears as a featured guest. Not to be overlooked are two additional tunes, both up-tempo cookers: “Airegin” is by now a classic in the art form; the closer, “Pursuing Resolution”, is a bop drenched goody. This session is the very essence of jazz. It is music that will be listened to ten, twenty, fifty and more years from now, long after they’ve pulled the plug on all the electronic gimmickry we often hear today. Thanks, Tim! Keep the fire burning!

Linsanity Music; year not indicated; appx. 36 min.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Can You Match The Lyrics On The Left With The Song Titles On The Right?

1. “Your smile is just a careless yawn” a. Something’s Gotta Give 

2. “Count the raindrops falling on you” b. I Didn’t Know About You

3. “With hope you burn up” c. All The Things You Are

4. “You haven’t changed a bit” d. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love

5. “All my wildest dreams come true” e. What’s New

6. “Fight it with all of your might” f. The Night We Called It A Day

7. “Dream a while, scheme a while” g. You’ve Changed

8. “You are the angel glow” h. Little Girl Blue

9. “The sun didn’t rise with the dawn” i. The Nearness Of You

10. “Just taking my fun where it could be found” j. The Man That Got Away


In What Cities Are These Past And Present Jazz Clubs Located?

1.   The Blue Note

2.   Donte’s

3.   The London House

4.   Village Vanguard

5.   Keystone Korner

6.   The Jazz Bakery

7.   Storyville

8.  The Half Note

9.   Shelly’s Man Hole

10. Ronnie Scott’s

11. The Hobbit

Laura Stilwell; Out Of A Dream

How nice it is to encounter Portland singer Laura Stilwell on her debut CD. Lucky lady that she is, she had the honor of working with a polished and professional group of Northwest musicians including Tommy James, piano; Ron Steen, drums; and Dave Evans, reeds; and either Perry Thoorsell or Dennis Caiazza, bass. And Laura possesses the confidence, ease and a well-practiced, no frills presence on eight tunes you’ve known seemingly forever. How could she miss with such choices as “Day In, Day Out”, “If I Should Lose You”, “If You Could See Me Now”, “Out Of Nowhere” and more. There is nothing forced or excessive here. It’s a simple thing, really. Just combine a lovely, sincere voice with great songs and a thoroughly tasteful ensemble of accompanists, and you have Laura Stilwell and good friends.

Self-produced; 2022; appx. 35 min.

Rich Walker; Soul Crimes 3

Guitarist supremo Rich Walker was, I have to believe, the crème de la crème of his native Orlando, Florida. To our delight he moved to Portland, Oregon a few years ago, and now, despite the musical limitations brought on by Covid, is doing all he can to bring a new audience here. This CD, like the two that preceded it in this Soul Crimes series, was originally recorded with Walker adding solos in 2005 to background tracks from the 1980s and ‘90s that he and his fellow Orlando musician friends did, plus other tracks by Jamey Aebersold. This performance features Rich with various rhythm sections jamming with joy on thirteen tunes, nicely divided between Real Book faves: “Unit 7”, “Full House”, “Minority”, and “Jingles”, plus much admired Americana fare like “I Remember You”, “Come Rain Or Come Shine”, “I’m Old Fashioned” and lots more. Nobody tries to reinvent the wheel here. Instead, once again we are treated to a gifted jazz guitarist and like-minded friends in flight on songs they love to play. This recording was produced in very limited quantity. So if you’re interested in purchasing one, please call me at 503-244-0205. I will put you in touch with Rich.

Self-produced; 2022; times not indicated.

Giacomo Gates; You

If there was a course available on jazz swinging, I’m sure that the teacher would be Giacomo Gates. On yet another album for Savant Records, Gates takes on no less than eighteen tunes with his impeccable jazz phrasing, bop orientation, perfect scatting and great song selection. He is accompanied here by the rapidly rising Tim Ray on piano, along with John Lockwood on bass and James Lattini on drums. Whereas Gates usually concentrates on bebop classics, this time he throws us a little curve through the American Songbook. As a result, we are treated to such treasures as “Exactly Like You”, “It Had To Be You”, “I Remember You”, “Everything But You”, and many more. Get the drift? Every tune deals with YOU! And each of them is delivered with a hip turn of phrase, a bebop lick, some spoken words, or whatever comes out of Gates’ creative, jazz-drenched head. If there’s a more pure male jazz singer around today, well I haven’t heard him.

Savant; 2022; appx. 51 min.

Todd Zimberg; An Afternoon In Sellwood

This is definitely the mystery album of the bunch. The title refers to a very charming area of Portland, Oregon called Sellwood. Being a native Portlander, I have to admit to not being familiar with any of the players in this very cool, no trickery trio. Additionally mysterious is a reference to a label out of Vashon, Washington. So who are these guys and are they based in Portland or suburban Seattle? The answer came from my son Marc, an alto sax player and Seattle resident. It turns out that he and the pianist on the date, Michael Gotz (rhymes with ‘lots’) are longtime friends. So we can assume that this is a Seattle based trio. But back to the CD itself. The five tunes are all winners: “There Is No Greater Love”, “On Green Dolphin Street”, “Alone Together”, “Nica’s Dream” and “Stella By Starlight”. The trio, with Zimberg on drums and Perry Thoorsell on bass, is right on target throughout. Obviously, five tunes are not enough. We need to hear more from these guys. Their grasp on the tradition is easily heard and much to be admired.

Spring Beach Music; 2021; times not indicated.

John C. O’Leary III; The Sunderling

These piano solos and duets are not exactly jazz. But then they’re not exactly classical either. They seem to bring us elements of both. What can be said for sure is that they are gentle and romantic although there are moments of intensity as well. The other pianists here and there are Shaun Martin and Dick Hyman, both of whom share some duo appearances with O’Leary. Ten of the fourteen compositions included on this unusual but beautiful disc are written by O’Leary; one by Martin; and one by Hyman. The two remaining selections are works of Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II; and Duke Ellington. And performances are either solo efforts from O’Leary, or in some cases, inspired duos. The two familiar pieces here---just enough to please the jazz purist crowd---are “All The Things You Are” and “C Jam Blues”. The precision and musical presence of both artists shine brightly throughout this recording. There is a shimmering, timeless quality to it. To use a cliché, “it just might carry you away”.

Arbors Records; 2022; appx. 72 min.


Since we have in part reviewed several Cellar CDs, I want to bring your attention to three brand new releases from Cellar. All three feature artists who are new names to me; all are mainly geared to original compositions, and all swing with authority, as expected from a tradition well established by Cellar Records. Alphabetically, the leaders are Alexander Claffy, bass; Tom Keenlyside, flute; and Sam Kirmayer, guitar. Kudos to Cellar Music for its ongoing insistence on introducing us to worthy young musicians. Give ‘em a listen!

Sean Frye Quartet; Late Night

Cellar Records, out of Vancouver, BC, keeps churning out these ultra-fine performances by young artists who have fully digested the jazz tradition. And now they’re being given the chance to display their considerable chops. Another such group is the Sean Frye Quartet. All are new names to me but all have played right down the middle of the jazz boulevard. All compositions except one are composed by the pianist and leader, Sean Frye. His muse seems to be to write catchy, nicely swinging melodies that sound as though they may have come from the golden era of jazz, the 1940’s or ‘50’s. The one exception I alluded to is Billy Strayhorn’s masterpiece, “Lush Life”. It’s a stirring solo for Frey who handles it with appropriate intensity and respect. A special tip of the jazz cap to Sam Kirmayer whose warm sound adds a certain kind of perfection to the session. The younger generation is making its mark, that’s for sure. And you can hear it in every note from the Sean Frye Quartet. 

Cellar; probably 2021; appx. 50 min.

Sam Taylor; Along The Way

We should all be thankful that there are young guys coming up all the time who are dedicated and somehow destined to play in a jazz tradition that goes back almost one hundred years. Such a player is tenor sax man Sam Taylor. The good news here is that his basic quartet of tenor and rhythm section is augmented by Larry McKenna, another well-schooled tenor player, on five of this CD’s nine tunes. The pianist on the session is Jeb Patton, deservedly a rising presence in the jazz pantheon. Most of the selections hail from the standards book with the likes of “Make Someone Happy”, “People Will Say We’re In Love”, “Where Are You” and even “On The Trail”. This is a solid, dependable blowing session from players with everything to say and nothing to prove.

Cellar; 2017; appx. 55 min.

Jerry Cook; Walk In The Park

I guess I can’t express how much pleasure it brings me to hear a new musical acquaintance like tenor man Jerry Cook. His sound is consistently historic and excellent and never indulges in unnecessary fluff. To sweeten the deal, his four compositions (out of a total of ten), are well conceived with attractive melody and abundant solo space for his very capable colleagues, the names being all new to me. Cook and friends also manage to include some welcome standards like “Smile”, “Soul Eyes”, “Summertime”, and the lesser known but outstanding Charlie Haden tune “Hello My Lovely”. If Jerry Cook’s balanced and beautiful tone doesn’t delight you, I’d be very surprised. Additional special kudos to pianist Chris Gestrin who is kind enough to play all the right notes. Jerry Cook has given us a keeper. More please!

Cellar; probably 2021; appx. 60 min.

Lorraine’s Lullaby; Anthony Wonsey

It seems like a decade or more ago that pianist Anthony Wonsey had a very nice run in the recording studio with an impressive string of sessions. But I have heard nothing from him since, and so I’m so pleased to reacquaint with him via this new CD. Most of the tunes are his own creations and feature his scintillating bandmates Dmitri Kolesnik, bass, and Chris Beck, drums. A number of very welcome guests also pop in and out on trumpet, tenor sax, and one vocal. Wonsey himself brings a very steady, straight ahead presence with attractive, joyous harmonies and well written melody lines. Beyond all of the pleasurable original material here, there are two etched in stone standards in “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and “It Might As Well Be Spring”. There’s an inspirational freshness and somehow a “this is how it’s supposed to sound” feeling to Anthony Wonsey’s piano offerings, and I for one am so glad to be back in his company. 

Cellar; probably 2021; appx. 65 min.

Keith Oxman; This One’s For Joey

Here is a mainstay of the Colorado jazz community playing straight ahead style with longtime friends. Keith Oxman’s tenor sax has been heard any number of times on Capri over many years. He chooses a sound steeped in history---warm, exquisitely controlled, and consistently swinging. On twelve of the thirteen tunes heard here he is joined by equally skilled and enthusiastic colleagues: Jeff Jenkins, piano; Mark Simon, bass; and Todd Reid, drums. The album derives its name in loving memory of bassist and composer Joey Pearlman who passed away very early in life. In addition to his beautifully balanced playing, Oxman also contributes seven of his own creations, all presented with authority and classic good taste. Joining all the well-conceived originals are two overlooked but delicate standards, “Blame It On My Youth” and “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning”. This is real deal jazz played by dedicated and real deal musicians. Untarnished and gimmick free, these guys simply handle the gig with class. 

Capri; 2022; 75:57.

The Jazz Worms; Squirmin’

What?! Jazz Worms? I agree with you. Of all the names for a quintet, I wouldn’t have chosen that one. But there is a reason. It’s an anagram of the first letters of the last names of the five players. Their CD is comprised of eight original compositions by members of the quintet. Some may find this music to be a bit “out” but I think differently. To my ears the “worms” have taken us to the edge but we do not fall of the cliff. There is structure and harmonic sense here. On top of that, the players enjoy ample opportunity to shine as soloists. If you can stretch just a bit, you might discover that The Jazz Worms are more accessible and at times quite intriguing.

Capri; 2021; appx. 45 min.

Sheila Jordan; Comes Love: Lost Session 1960

Sheila Jordan was a singer much admired by her fellow jazz musicians and a core of fans. Her recordings, sad to say, were few in number. So this never before released session dating way back to 1960 will be a welcome addition to her limited discography. Unfortunately, we don’t know who provided her hip and sprightly accompaniment on piano and bass. If good would have prevailed over the jazz chaos we have all come to know, this highly admirable session would have been issued some 62 years ago! All the tunes are two to four minutes long and would suggest that this material was originally intended to be heard on LP. Jordan was especially effective on ballads. Hence we are treated to winners like “Don’t Explain”, “Sleepin’ Bee”, “My Foolish Heart”, “Glad To Be Unhappy” “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men”, and more. It should be said that Sheila Jordan was a natural jazz singer who never forced a thing or indulged in excess. Kudos to Capri’s Tom Burns for unearthing this hidden delight.

Capri; 2021; appx. 35 min.

Graham Dechter; Major Influence

Imagine the following: you’re a young jazz guitarist doing all the right things, studying with the best teacher in your city, immersing yourself in the history of jazz, listening to all the heroes of the past, and woodshedding and playing at every opportunity. Then one day you’re rewarded with a chance to record with three giants of jazz: Jeff Hamilton, John Clayton and Tamir Hendelman. I can’t say for sure, but this is how it may have played out for the sensational guitarist Graham Dechter. He has worked and recorded with the above named trio for several years now, and this is their most recent effort. Jeff, John and Tamir are devotees of the idea that “it has to swing” and/or “it has to sound pretty” and of course, the concept that every note counts. It’s obvious here that Graham Dechter is totally on board with these ideas. The album is comprised mainly of original tunes with the lone standard being “Pure Imagination”, a lovely melody becoming more entrenched in our consciousness as the years roll by. Every mood and tempo is explored here and with exceptional taste. My personal choices among the seven originals were “Bent On Monk”, a very effective tribute to the renowned composer/pianist, and “Billy’s Dilemma”, a dangerously ripping tempo to bewilder you. All that effort has paid big time dividends for Graham Dechter. You’ll hear the confidence and skill in every note.

Capri; 2021; 49:00

Keith Oxman and Frank Morelli; The Ox-Mo Incident

A pat on the back to whomever came up with the clever play on words which became the title of this CD. Keith Oxman and Frank Morelli are both Colorado based musicians. Oxman is a jazz fixture on tenor sax, and Morelli is a gifted classical bassoonist. But you’ll realize quickly that Morelli has comfortable, even formidable, jazz chops. Impossible on bassoon you say? I may have agreed before I auditioned this meeting. The two are joined by Denver stalwarts Jeff Jenkins, piano; Ken Walker, bass; and Todd Reid, drums. Probably taking into account Morelli’s background, many of the tunes here have roots in the classical arena. For example, consider “Full Moon And Empty Arms” based on a theme from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2; “Baubles, Bangles and Beads”, based on a theme from Alexander Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2; “Three For Five”, based on a theme from the third movement of Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 3; “Poor Butterfly”, inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly; “Stranger In Paradise”, based on a theme from Borodin’s Polovtsian Dance No. 2; and a lovely rendition of Gabriel Faure’s “Pavanne”. For good measure, toss in a couple resilient Oxman originals and three Broadway hits in, “Happy Talk”, Surrey With The Fringe On Top” and “I Could Have Danced All Night”. There’s nothing to guffaw about here. This is easily the best jazz bassoon record I’ve ever encountered. However, as good as it is, it may indeed be the only one!

Capri; 2021; 68:08

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The Mark Masters Ensemble; Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster

Arranger Mark Masters has for quite a few years been involved in tribute projects to revered jazz heroes. Two of my faves from past years honor Duke Ellington and Clifford Brown. 
This time Masters and “master” musicians return to Duke’s and Strayhorn’s brilliance. For this session there’s a new rub: The tunes played here all hail from 1940-1942, a period often referred to as the Blanton-Webster band, a very special time and platform for the miracle known as The Duke Ellington Orchestra. 
You’ll know most of the titles. They’re American classics like “All Too Soon”, “I Got It Bad”, “Passion Flower”, “Take The ‘A’ Train”, “What Am I Here For”, “In A Mellow Tone” and such. But the thing that makes Masters and colleagues so special is their magical ability to retain the historical and exceptional quality of these evergreens while carefully updating the arrangements. The trombonist Art Baron is indicated in the CD’s title, and the two Ellingtonians they “meet”, are the bassist Jimmy Blanton and tenor sax giant Ben Webster. The solo work is spot-on throughout, and the ensemble sound is simply perfecto! To sum it up, let’s just say that these much loved melodies still breathe beauty, sensibility and high artistic merit in the hands of Mark Masters. 
Capri; 2021; appx. 60 min.

Jeff Hamilton Trio; Catch Me If You Can

If I were to attempt to read Jeff Hamilton’s mind, I think I’d come up with concepts like: real deal; honoring tradition; giving it your best ALL the time; playing with equally gifted musicians; and probably a bunch more. And for these reasons, I’m delighted with every JH album that has come my way for about four decades! He and the pianist on the session, Tamir Hendelman, have worked together in the trio for twenty-two years. And it’s easy to distinguish their intimate, genuine, swinging communication from note one. This CD also introduces their new bassist, Jon Hamar, and he fits the proceedings as though he’s been around for twenty-two years as well. Most of the choices here are either originals by trio members or, in a few cases, refreshing under-performed material from other sources. Tempos range from crystalline and gentle to hard swinging bop in the test of that tradition. The three selections familiar to me all have big band history. All the more interesting that “Bijou” (Ralph Burns), “Big Dipper” (Thad Jones), and “Moonray” (Artie Shaw) are all arranged and performed to perfection by this peerless trio. Thank you, Jeff, Tamir and Jon for keeping it right down the center of the jazz highway. Long may you lead the pack! 

Capri; 2020; 58:02