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

HAVE SOME FUN WITH GEORGE’S QUIZZES

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.


LAST MINUTE ARRIVALS

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

 



INTRODUCTION:

In recent months I have received several CDs on two excellent jazz labels. Both Tom Burns of Capri Records and Cory Weeds of Cellar Music are to be lauded and thanked for their consistent quality and taste in the production of jazz recordings. Hence, here are a number of reviews mainly devoted to Capri and Cellar.

Happy reading and listening!

George Fendel