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.