Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Samara Joy; Linger Awhile

Recently my wife Laura and I were invited by friends to dinner. At a certain point, our hosts said, "You have to listen to a young singer we've discovered". I thought to myself, "Be polite, George". It was my first introduction to Samara Joy, a 23-year-old sensation. At that tender age, she has absorbed an entire earlier generation of jazz history's greats, such as Sarah, Ella, Billie, and Carmen. It's almost miraculous that someone so young has been able to engage an important and revered part of jazz history. And she does all this with spot on phrasing, incredible scatting, and a once in a lifetime dreamlike voice. In addition to all that, she chooses tunes that her predecessors leaned on but keep in mind, she is ALL Samara Joy at the same time. There are ten tunes in all (twenty would have been even better!) including "Can't Get Out Of This Mood", "I'm Confessin'", "'Round Midnight", "Misty", and the title tune, "Linger Awhile". A few that particularly spun my head around were "Sweet Pumpkin", a charmer I associate with the underrated great singer Bill Henderson; a Betty Carter winner called "Social Call"; the Tadd Dameron classic "Nostalgia"; and a revisit of the Nancy Wilson hit, "Guess Who I Saw Today". Samara Joy is a modern miracle who draws upon the prime jazz singers of the past, but she adds her very own brilliance at every special turn of a phrase.

Verve; 2022; appx. 45 min.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Nightcrawlers; Get Ready

The descriptive note enclosed with this CD describes this group as greasy, a complimentary term in jazz circles. I may take the liberty of going a step further by calling them a funky, boppy ensemble. Anyone who has read my reviews for any length of time knows that I'm far from a proponent of "organ jazz". Well, here's the exception. This group, so heavy into the blues, could ONLY work with the featured role for organist Chris Gestrin. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he performs alongside other dedicated players like Cory Weeds, tenor sax; Nick Hempton, alto sax; and Dave Sikula, guitar. The group is completed by Jesse Cahill, drums, and Jack Duncan, percussion. Seven of the eight tunes heard are groove specials dripping with with fun, excitement, and exuberance. The only standard in the set is the Gershwin brothers' "A Foggy Day". And don't miss out on "Tin Tin Deo", a certified bop creation done to perfection in this funky setting. Hats off to Cory Weeds, owner of Cellar Records. He just keeps on exploring every real deal aspect of jazz. He's one of the few these days, and a real breath of fresh air.

Cellar Records; 2022; appx. 62 min.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Marc Jordan; Waiting For The Sun To Rise

I was vaguely familiar with the name Marc Jordan. But in reading about him, I learned that a couple of decades ago he was associated with rock musicians. His slightly grainy voice might suggest such a background. But he puts his all into this set of originals of his and others. The lyrics to these songs are heartfelt and often quite poetic. The orchestral arrangements are dramatic but never excessive. Guitarist Jordan has found a new means of expression. It's jazz with a touch of pop. For some reason, it works; maybe because it's virtually all ballads and pretty stuff, and for that reason I surprise myself by saying I liked it!

Cafe Records; 2023; appx. 58 min.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Lafayette Harris, Jr.; Swinging Up In Harlem

Recordings like this remind me that the glorious, renowned, historic piano-bass-drums is alive and well. In this case, Lafayette Harris, Jr. leads a formidable group featuring all-stars Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Harris has all the tools. An elegant touch which brings thoughts of Hank Jones. A touch of the blues when applicable and of course, jazz chops influenced by generations of great piano giants. Harris opens with the title tune, a cousin, one might say, of Tadd Dameon's "Nostalgia" which was in turn inspired by "Out Of Nowhere". Most of the remainder of the album is given to "forever" choices like "The Nearness Of You", "Stardust", "Over The Rainbow", and "Solitude". Harris and friends even hearken back to the 1950s with two hits of that era: "Teach Me Tonight" and "It's All In The Game", a hit back for singer Tommy Edwards. Remember him?! For me, a superb piano always resonates. This one will warm your heart.

Savant Records; 2023; appx. 55 min.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Matt Barber; The Song Is You

How often do young MALE singers come along, singing everlasting American Songbook material? Not very often, I'm sorry to say. Well, here's one who puts his all into a menu of tunes deserving of their "forever" status. Want proof? Okay, how about "Oh Look At Me Now", "The Song Is You", "East Of The Sun", "I Remember You", and much more. Barber is accompanied by horns and various rhythm sections. All are perfectly up to the task at hand. Suffice to say that Matt Barber is a musician who navigates his way through these wonderful tunes with ease and sincerity.

MB Records; 2022; times not indicated.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Jeremy Pelt; The Art Of Intimacy, Vol. 2: His Muse

Somehow I missed out on volume 1, but I'm sure thrilled that I got my hands (and my ears!) on volume 2. The sensational trumpet player Jeremy Pelt meets up here with gorgeous strings and a sympathetic rhythm section to give us the gift of his Miles-like sound on a dozen ballads. Whether playing muted or open horn, Pelt feels the depth and passion of these exquisite selections. Among the familiar but not often heard songs, consider "Slow Hot Wind", "If I Ruled The World", "When She Makes Music", "Two Different Worlds", and one of my personal faves, "Two For The Road". His vocal on the latter tune is sheer beauty, and no doubt composer Henry Mancini would have loved it. In addition to the subtle backdrop of strings, Pelt works to perfection with jazz pals Victor Gould, piano; Buster Williams, bass; Billy Hart, drums; and Chico Pinheiro, guitar. On these and all other equally beautifully performed tunes, Jeremy Pelt and friends give us a rare lesson in what heartfelt music is all about.

High Note Records; 2023; appx. 51 min.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Mike Allen; To A Star

Tenor man Mike Allen makes his own very personal and creative musical statements on this quite remarkable recording. Performed before a live audience at the Vancouver international Jazz Festival, Allen is joined by veteran all stars John Lee, bass and Carl Allen, drums. Notice: no piano. And that very fact raises the directness and intimacy level of this stirring trio. I am reminded a little of the tenor work of Warne Marsh who sometimes worked without a piano and dug deeply into the heart of every song he played. Mike Allen's intense but accessible improvisation is the driving factor. Never excessive but always exploratory and a joy to hear, Allen, Lee, and Allen find every fascinating nook and cranny on standards "Invitation", "What Is This Thing Called Love", "Stars Fell On Alabama", and "Isfahan". Especially disarming and imaginative standards complete what I think of as a real deal jazz album.

Cellar Records; 2023; appx. 68 min.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

The Las Vegas Boneheads; Sixty And Still Cookin'

I guess I'm revealing my own senior citizen status by mentioning that I recall an aggregation from decades ago called Trombones Unlimited. Turn the clock to 2023 and poof!---they're reborn as The Las Vegas Boneheads. Comprised of multi trombones and a swinging rhythm section, the Boneheads apply their improvised ensemble work and scintillating solos to such well chosen fare as "Ceora", "Skylark", "I Thought About You", "Cherokee", "Giant Steps", and more. Two tunes which deserve particular attention are "Al Cohn Tune" and "Carl".I can only guess that composer Bill Rogers may likely have had affection for the late tenor giant Al Cohn and hence the title, "Al Cohn Tune". "Carl", on the other hand, is a tribute to trombonist Carl Fontana who was a staple in Vegas music circles. The name "Boneheads" might sound a bit unflattering, but you may be sure that these guys are strong in classy arrangements and stellar musicianship throughout!

Self-produced; 2022; appx. 54 min.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Mark Lewis; Sunlight Shines In

If you haven't checked out underrated sax man Mark Lewis and his sophisticated sidemen, you'd be well advised to do so. Lewis floats through a delightful session devoted to his lovely, nearly gregarious tone on alto sax. For good measure, he tosses into the mix the same skill and fluency on tenor sax and flute here and there. Let's also be clear in stating that Lewis writes fresh, buoyant melodies that leave plenty of room for just the right amount of improvisation. Ten of the eleven choices here are originals. The one standard is the dependable old "Ghost Of A Chance". His very capable colleagues (not every guy is on every cut) include Ron Kobayashi, piano; Baba Elefante, bass; Steve Dixon, drums; and Nolan Shaheed, trumpet. Every player has exceptional moments, all adding up to a very tasty, straight ahead session.

Audio Daddio; 2023; appx. 51 min.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Bill Evans; Morning Glory

Thanks to the efforts of Resonance Records producer Zev Feldman, a number of divine Bill Evans concerts have been discovered in recent years, and here are two more of them. Both were recorded in Buenos Aires: Morning Glory from 1973, featuring Eddie Gomez on bass and Marty Morell on drums; and Inner Spirit is from 1979, with Marc Johnson, bass, and Joe Labarbera, drums. Both performances are two CD sets, giving us a generous sample of these exquisite, passionate Evans groups. As one might expect, the tunes are typically Bill’s staples over many years. But newly heard versions are always welcome. Thus the four discs include “Turn Out The Stars”, “Up With The Lark”, “Emily”, “The Two Lonely People”, “Waltz For Debby”, “My Foolish Heart”, and so much more. The recording quality is pristine, and we Evans fans hope that Mr. Feldman and Resonance keep releasing newly discovered treasures.

Resonance Records; both 2022; Inner Spirit – appx. 86 min.; Morning Glory – appx. 87 min.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Sweet Megg and Ricky Alexander; I’m In Love Again

Now and then I’m in the mood for a taste of authentic sounding 1920’s foot tapping jazz. If you’re like minded in that regard, you should give this happy session a spin. Co-leaders Sweet Megg on vocals and Ricky Alexander on various reeds will surely get your blood circulating with a sincere and swinging reading of eleven old-time tunes sure to please. How can you lose with such evergreens as “Squeeze Me”, “Last Night On The Back Porch”, “Angry”, “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good”, “Ragged But Right”, and much more. This is the kind of music that your great Uncle Charlie used to play for you on good ol’ 78 RPM records. The surface noise is all gone now but the music remains knee slapping fun! 

Turtle Bay Records; 2020; appx. 38 min.

Friday, February 24, 2023


Steve Gadd; Center Stage

Drummer Steve Gadd has always favored a contemporary sound and that same preference is heard here with Gadd and friends working over some pop material and original works with the acclaimed WDR Big Band. It’s still a bit too obviously commercial for my ears. The band sounds tight and well rehearsed, and baritone vet Ronnie Cuber delivers some appropriately hot solo work. There’s also a lot of gritty guitar and organ solo work here, but I guess that’s nearly a requirement on these kinds of sessions. Not my cup of tea, but it may well be yours.

Leopard Records; 2022; appx. 55 min.

Fun House; David Blake

Vancouver, BC guitarist David Blake leads a quintet of local pals on a bristling session of mostly original music, and they definitely turn up the heat. Much of the music is both intricate and demanding, and features especially dynamic solo work from Blake, trumpet ace Thad Bailey-Mai, and riveting pianist Brad Turner. A haunting highlight and the only standard on the session is Blake’s tender solo performance of the Ellington-Strayhorn beauty, “Single Petal Of The Rose”. Some of this music won’t be meant for your aunt Lillian, but it is thoroughly creative, sometimes intense, and to me, highly listenable.

Cellar Music; 2022; appx 71 min.

Out In It; Thomas Linger

So many outstanding jazz pianists, and even more impressive, there is an ever growing number who are true to the tradition and will keep it going! Such a player is North Carolina born Thomas Linger. He and his quartet concentrate on swingin’ originals with one exception: Billy Strayhorn’s classic “Lush Life”. This session celebrates the pure joy of making jazz music. Thomas Linger is his name; you’re going to be hearing it again and again.

Cellar Music; 2022; appx. 58 min.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Richard Baratta; Music In Film: The Sequel

Do you remember that song your mom used to sing to you when you were three? Itsy Bitsy Spider! Yes, that one! Well, it’s actually the opener from this Latin-tinged group led by drummer-percussionist Richard Baratta. The theme for this invigorating session is film music. Examples are “The Theme From Pink Panther”, “Out Of This World”, “Smile”, “Pure Imagination”, and others. Don’t overlook the scintillating piano of Bill O’Connell; the highly energetic alto sax of Vincent Herring; or the heated solos of guitarist Paul Bollenback. These guys leave no prisoners on this spirited group. Let your ears be the judge.

Savant Records; 2022; appx. 60 min.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Craig Davis; Tone Paintings: The Music Of Dodo Marmarosa

Michael “Dodo” Marmarosa may not be the most familiar name among history’s important jazz pianists. Born in 1925, he was a prime participant in the early days of bop. It’s probably safe to say that his composing skills may have been secondary to his playing. So it comes as a real delight that pianist Craig Davis, bassist John Clayton, and drummer Jeff Hamilton take on eleven of Dodo’s original works. There is a spirit of optimism and pure fun present in much of Maramosa’s writing. And Craig Davis (a new name to me) makes clear the joy he’s experiencing playing this “feel good” music. Add the musical expertise of John and Jeff to the project, and you have both: a rare part of jazz history and an absolute delight to the ear.

Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild; 2022; appx. 52 min.

Sunday, February 19, 2023


  1. Close Your Eyes

  2. Love Walked In

  3. I Only Have Eyes For You

  4. Summertime

  5. Here’s That Rainy Day

  6. Almost Like Being In Love

  7. Love You Madly

  8. Angel Eyes

  9. Too Close For Comfort

  10. Out Of This World

  11. Night In Tunisia

  12. Whisper Not

  13. Skylark

  14. The Lady Is A Tramp

  15. There Will Never Be Another You

  16. How Long Has This Been Going On

  17. Sophisticated Lady

  18. I Love Being Here With You

  19. You’re A Sweetheart

  20. I Don’t Know Why

Bonus: Big Spender

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Jeremy Wong; Hey There

I know that we don’t spend endless hours worrying about such things, but do you reflect on the dearth of solid male singers working today? Talented women are everywhere, many of whom concentrate on worthy, artful songs. But what of the guys? Well here’s a real good one in Jeremy Wong. His new CD on Cellar Records is chock full of admired standards performed with ease and honesty. The quintet accompanying Wong works seamlessly and swingingly on ten winners like “Where Or When”, “Invitation”, “Easy To Love”, “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most”, “Days Of Wine And Roses”, and lots more. His very natural, totally unforced vocal style is something similar to Jack Jones or perhaps John Proulx. His brand new CD gives me renewed hope that there’s a segment of the younger generation that recognizes quality writing and interprets it with sincerity.Cellar Records; 2022; appx. 53 min.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Tom Harrell; Oak Tree

At my age, I still think of Tom Harrell as one of the “young cats” out there. But here’s his latest CD with a cover photo of the salt and pepper Tom Harrell. Mostly salt, I might add. Things haven’t changed: his magnificent tone and lyrical, masterful compositions are still intact. On this session his quartet rewards with eleven T H originals ranging from the swinging to the nearly sorrowful. The opening, entitled “Evoorg”, is Harrell’s playful, boppy turnaround on the word “groove”. I couldn’t zero in on which standard it’s based. Like so many before it, perhaps the root is Gershwin’s classic “I Got Rhythm”. Sometimes Harrell’s melodic ideas are a bit spacey for me. But there’s no denying the depth of his creativity or his high caliber musicianship.

High Note; 2022; appx. 56 min.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Petra van Nuis; Lonely Girl: I Remember Julie

Over the course of many years we’re blessed with dozens of exceptional singers who have thrilled us or touched our hearts with their multi-faceted gifts. Given all of that, only a few have possessed the rare quality of putting over the meaning of a lyric. Those who come to mind include Billie Holiday, Lee Wiley, Irene Kral, Judy Garland, and Meredith d’Ambrosio. The same could be said for male singers Tony Bennett, Tony DeSare, Mark Murphy, and some guy named Sinatra. On this occasion, Petra van Nuis is accompanied beautifully and intimately by her guitarist husband Andy Brown on thirteen songs associated with yet another sensuous singer, Julie London. So we are treated to such evergreens as “It Never Entered My Mind”, “Here’s That Rainy Day”, “Blues In The Night”, and of course Julie’s mega-hit, “Cry Me A River”. Other highlights include “Something Cool” (remember June Christie’s classic on that one?), and my fave on the date, “The Meaning Of The Blues”. Petra and Andy simply “get it”. Feeling is what can’t be taught. But in every note we hear from Petra van Nuis, that elusive quality simply defines her.

String Damper Records; 2022; 58:42

Sunday, February 12, 2023


Can you identify the song titles below from a portion of their lyrics? Answers next week! 

  1. it’s love’s holiday

  2. though not a word was spoken

  3. you are here, so am I

  4. fish are jumpin’

  5. that worn out wish

  6. from the way that I feel

  7. sounds like a lyric to a song

  8. have fun, you happy people

  1. when to say when

  2. no mortal ever knew

  3. the cares of the day

  4. you forgave, I forgot

  5. have you anything to say

  6. won’t go to Harlem

  7. other songs to sing

  8. listen sweet

  9. smoking, drinking

  10. the thrill of New York shows

  11. if ever there was one

  12. when we’re dancing

Bonus: a man of distinction

George's Briefs


Conrad Herwig; The Latin Side Of Mingus
Over the last decade or more, trombonist Conrad Herwig has released several CDs presenting Latinized works of jazz idols such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and more. This time Herwig brings his unique twist to the compositions of Charles Mingus. Trumpet aces Randy Brecker and Alex Sipigian join the fray on some extended and gritty solo work. The music brings the dense, busy works of Charles Mingus to a new height of excitement. Mingus fans would be wise to check it out!
Savant; 2022; appx. 56 min.

Alex Tremblay; Thoughts and Images
This is a well conceived album of contemporary jazz under the leadership of bassist Alex Tremblay. Most of the all original menu is upbeat heat with scintillating solos from every member of this quintet. Perhaps my favorite selection was an absolutely blistering, boppy thing called “Karma”. Another high point was two vocals on the session from a singer named Vanisha Gould. Her very hip and natural jazz feeling marked another highlight on a ballad called “The Yellow Rose”. All told, there are some very exciting performances by the young musicians assembled here.
La Reserve Records; 2022; times not indicated