Sunday, December 31, 2023


Roy McGrath; Menjunje

Saxophonist Roy McGrath leads an ensemble through high energy tunes, all originals of his and other band members. This is muscular, joyous and witty Latin music. There are even a few percussion cats playing instruments I’ve never heard of. It makes no difference! Everybody’s having way too much fun. So, if the Latin approach is your thing, have at it!

JL Music; 2022; appx. 62 min.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Maria Jacobs; Back At The Bop Stop

Here’s a singer who, to my ear, has done a lot of listening to the great Nancy Wilson. Her phrasing, occasional scatting, and even her vocal quality, remind me of Nancy. On most of the tunes heard here, she accompanies herself on piano, and that’s always the sign of a musician who has put in the time. Her instrumental colleagues are stellar and subtle throughout, and to add to the spirited atmosphere, Jacobs chooses excellent songs. For example, consider “Up Jumped Spring”, “If You Could See Me Now”, “Easy To Love”, and an etched in marble Nancy Wilson hit, “Never Will I Marry”. It’s a pleasure to hear these classic American gems done by a singer who is interpreting them with polish and jazz feeling.

iwarble music; 2023; 60:42.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Michael Rabinowitz; Next Chapter

Surely you all remember the bassoon. It usually appears in a symphony orchestra. But my guess is that Michael Rabinowitz occupies one of the very few jazz bassoonist chairs anywhere on earth! And most amazingly, it works quite well within a pure jazz setting. Rabinowitz composed six of the selections heard here. The other two were penned by the quartet’s pianist, Matt King. His accompaniment and solo work are straight down the jazz boulevard and he contributes a vital element in making this a legit, real dual session. As for Rabinowitz, he has great chops and a nearly uncanny ability to produce jazz out of a horn not accustomed to that sort of surrounding. The group is completed by Andy McKee, bass, and Tommy Campbell, drums. The rhythm section provides well crafted support to the leader and you may be assured that this album, bassoon and all, is a creative and often witty example of the jazz art.

Blue Ridge Bassoon Records; 2022; appx. 55 min.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Heather Keizur; I Remember You

Imagine my surprise recently when I received a CD with a return address of Portland piano stalwart Steve Cristofferson. It actually turned out to be a session featuring Steve’s peerless piano accompaniment to singer Heather Keizur. Also on board you’ll find Rose City favorites Dennis Caiazza on bass and Ron Steen on drums. The tunes are almost all sketched-in-marble gems. And interestingly, to me at least, Heather chooses to give us the lovely verse to many of them. That’s a bonus most singers overlook. In any case, consider such evergreens as “Midnight Sun”, “As Time Goes By”, “Stardust”, “The Very Thought Of You”, and even “Deep Purple”! Heather’s very sincere renditions pay deserved tribute to these American Songbook beauties. And pianist Steve Christofferson and his colleagues are subtle and elegant throughout.

Revemusic; 2022; appx. 50 min.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Doug MacDonald; Big Band Extravaganza

It was inevitable that a new generation would find its way into Los Angeles big band circles. And so it is with guitarist Doug MacDonald and his dynamic big band. Almost all young musicians pave the way here. There are a few vets though: guys like Kim Richmond, alto sax; Carl Saunders, trumpet; Bill Cunliffe, piano; Chuck Berghofer, bass; and Paul Kreibich, drums. The band holds forth on several originals, mostly those of the leader. The one standard is George and Ira’s classic “But Not For Me”. This is a jazz band in the best of that tradition. Superb arrangements and stirring solos abound. The versatile MacDonald, who frequently records in very diverse musical settings, has lit a fire. One hopes that his exciting big band will be heard frequently.

DMac Music; 2023; appx. 49 min.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Ed Cherry; Are We There Yet?

Despite my reticence regarding Jazz organ, I must admit that it works just fine on this album. I guess the difference is that this is purely a jazz album. Ed Cherry is a very capable, hip guitarist on the session, and his colleagues include Kyle Koehler, organ, Monte Croft, vibraphone, and Byron “Wookie” Landham, drums. The quartet is a finely honed jazz groove on two originals by Ed Cherry, and nine works by additional composers including one great standard, “Spring Is Here”. Much of the material is blues based and they all handle the assignment very well. Skilled musicians all, and they certainly provide a fun ride. 

Cellar Records; 2022; appx 63 min.

PS: I forgot to mention a certified jazz classic, “Holy Land”---a jumping cooker!

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Petra van Nuis & Andy Brown; Lonely Girl: I Remember Julie

If like me you’re a senior citizen, you might remember a quality singer named Julie London. Well, here is a long overdue tribute to Julie featuring one of my absolute favorite singers of this (or any) era, Petra van Nuis. Accompanied intimately and beautifully by her husband, guitarist Andy Brown, Petra interprets thirteen songs from Julie London’s impressive career. Something particular about Petra I love is her rare ability to convey the meaning of a lyric. Other singers, many of whom are very skilled, sing the song more than adequately. Bless ‘em for brightening our lives. But like Billie Holiday, Susannah McCorkle and very few others, Petra puts it over as though she’s lived it. Every tune is a “highlight”, but a few personal choices of mine were “Something Cool”, “Here’s That Rainy Day”, “I Should Care”, “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most”, “The Meaning Of The Blues”, and of course, Julie’s biggest hit, “Cry Me A River”. One more thought: Julie London’s accompaniment on her early Liberty albums was provided by the outstanding west coast guitarist Barney Kessel. So, lucky for us, we have another visit with the singer and her perfectly placed guitarist. Trust me, this album will stir your senses. A smile and a tear so close to one another. That’s Petra van Nuis.

String Damper Records; 2022; 53:42.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Mark Lockett: Swings And Roundabouts

Here is yet another excursion into all original music. The pianoless quartet here is under the leadership of drummer Mark Lockett. On nine examples of intricacy and explorative improvisation, Lockett creates these works with David Binney, saxophone, Duane Eubanks, trumpet, and Matt Penman, bass. Melody lines, if any, seem to rapidly disappear into lengthy and often highly impressive solo statements from all players. In all of its creativity and intensity, this isn’t exactly directed to a less initiated jazz audience. Having said that, this group is very good at what it is they do. I for one found it to be fresh and invigorating, albeit about as “out” as my ears will allow. 

Thick Records; 2022; appx. 42 min.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Skip Grasso: Becoming

Here’s a quartet comprised of two new names to me and two established veterans in the jazz biz. I was impressed with leader and guitarist Skip Grasso as well as pianist Anthony Pocetti. The familiar names on the session are Harvie S on bass and Billy Drummond on drums. The eight original tunes on the album are distinctive, airy, and often musically invigorating and rich. Pocetti could have chosen to stay away from the organ and the electric piano here and there. Aside from that, there’s a lot of musicianship and no frills versatility here.

Pathways Jazz; 2022; apps. 46 min.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Molly Ryan: Sweepin’ The Blues Away

If you’re a fan of ’30’s era jazz, you’ll want to check out the youthful and happy voice of singer Molly Ryan. Her album celebrates that time with a selection of familiar but rarely heard tunes. They are, one might say, rediscovered treasures, but certainly not obscurities. Among them are charmers like “A Cottage For Sale”, “You Turned The Tables On Me”, “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now”, and perhaps my personal fave, Meredith Wilson’s nearly forgotten “You And I”. Ms. Ryan is joined here by a very swinging quartet featuring tenor and clarinet man Dan Levinson and the rapidly rising swing era pianist Rossano Sportiello. Rounding out the group are Rob Adkins, bass, and Kevin Dorn, drums. This is the sort of material that a Maxine Sullivan or Rebecca Kilgore might choose. And like the two of them, Molly Ryan depends only on her pretty voice and her sincere presentation. Quality songs have staying power, thanks to recordings like this.

Turtle Bay Records; 2022; appx. 47 min.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Dave Stryker: Prime

Dave Stryker is a guitarist who quite some years ago established himself as a funk player. As he’s done for years, he’s in the company of an organist and drummer. I have not held jazz organ in the highest esteem for a long time, but organist Jared Gold can really produce its heavy duty funk sound. But to me the organ is mostly what one hears in church. The one familiar choice here is “I Should Care”, a gold standard from way back in the day. Other than that, this is rather predictable guitar-organ trio stuff. As is said now and then, if you’ve heard one, you’ve heard ‘em all. It has its followers, to be sure. And it’s way better than the ultimate insult, smooth jazz. But for me---well, give me a piano and not an organ. Nearly every time!

Strikezone Records, 2022, appx. 58 min.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Jim Snidero: Far Far Away

Alto saxman Jim Snidero continues his ascension of the jazz ladder with his most recent session for Savant Records. In a quintet setting he is joined by seasoned colleagues Kurt Rosenwinkel, guitar; Orrin Evans, piano; Peter Washington, bass; and Joe Farnsworth, drums. This meeting finds the group examining seven original compositions by Snidero, and one standard. The album’s title tune, “Far Far Away”, suggests something perhaps exotic or somehow other worldly. Not at all! The opener is a rip snortin’, in your face high altitude adventure. Things cool off considerably with “Infinity”, well named because of its “spacey” outdoor feeling. The standard, an alto and guitar duo, is “It Might As Well Be Spring”, done very impressively with no unneeded garnishes. The album continues with Snidero’s compositions, some accessible and creative, and others “out there” for my bop and swing ears. There’s no doubt however, that Jim Snidero is a monster alto player. Rosenwinkel’s guitar on the other hand is so electrified that it often sounds like an electric violin. Evans gets in some sparkling highlights here, such as on “Search For Peace”, Snidero’s statement of beauty and tenderness. For me, this is a mixed bag affair but then that’s truly in the ear of the beholder.

Savant; 2023; appx. 53 min.