Tuesday, April 16, 2024

ANSWERS - Irving Berlin Titles:

     1.    Let's Face The Music And Dance

     2.    How About Me

     3.    Cheek To Cheek

     4.    How Deep Is The Ocean?

     5.    The Song Is Ended

     6.    It's A Lovely Day Today

     7.    Change Partners

     8.    I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm

     9.    Blue Skies

     10.  Alexander's Ragtime Band

Monday, April 15, 2024

Have Some Fun With George's Quiz!

Here are some songs written by Irving Berlin. Given a chunk of lyrics, how many titles can you identify?  

    1.    before the fiddlers have fled 

    2.    and maybe a baby

    3.    the cares that hung around me

    4.    how far is the journey

    5.    the melody lingers on  

    6.    whatever you've got to do  

    7.    the same fortunate man

  1.   weather the storm
  2.   smilin' at me

    10.  c'mon along

Geoffrey Dean; Foundations

Foundations is the ideal title for this Washington, DC based quartet. Why? Because they play a beautiful, much admired sense of tradition, balance, swing, and sensitivity. Pianist Gregory Dean is the leader and he is joined by Justin Copeland, trumpet; Harish Raghavan, bass; and Eric Binder, drums. Their approach is lyrical, melodic, and straight down the middle of the boulevard. This album is primarily polished originals and jazz classics like “Blue Minor” and a stirring, very slow “Naima”. Nothing flashy here. Just real deal jazz in the heart of the art form.

Amp Music & Records; 2024; appx. 43 min.

Friday, April 12, 2024


Atley King; Unconditional It seems like we don't see many CDs under the leadership of a vibraphonist these days. So you might want to check out Atley King's vibes on eight original, graceful, and lyrical creations. Brad Turner's flugelhorn adds a special luscious presence here. The one standard is John Coltrane's gorgeous classic “Naima”. Lots of sensitive content here. Listen closely. Cellar; 2023; appx. 55 min.

Sam Ross; Live At The Mira Room Vol. II

Sam Ross shows a very spirited, savvy piano style on three selections, but he and his group turn on the electricity with Fender Rhodes and electric bass on two more. On their next recording, Ross and friends might consider more than just the five tunes included here.

Self produced; probably 2023; appx. 30 min.

Ed Johnson & Novo Tempo

This is not a jazz album per se. But it features for the most part pleasant, nicely composed and well orchestrated material with generous acoustic guitar work, and both male and female vocals throughout. It has a lilting, Latin feel, maybe somewhere along the lines of Sergio Mendes from way back. A nice blend of world music and pop sensibility, and it's all very pleasant on the ears.

Cumulus Records; 2023; appx 58 min.

Doug MacDonald; Sextet Session

It seems that guitarist Doug MacDonald changes up with each new CD. This time he puts together a very swinging sextet on several originals and a few standards like “Whispering”; “You've Changed”; and believe it or not, Lawrence Welk's theme song “Bubbles In The Wine”! MacDonald is a terrific straight ahead guitarist, and his colleagues all keep this a well grooved date.

Self produced; 2023; times not indicated.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Ulysses Owens Jr. And Generation Y; A New Beat

If on occasion you're looking for a boppy, bluesy, soulful band in the spirit of the Adderley brothers, vibrant drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. has assembled a group bringing the groove directly into your welcome ears. I would assume that all of the players are young cats because all the names on this date are new to me. Cannonball's “Sticks” gets the session off to a rousing start and the power and punch never really lets up. The outstanding solo work is fiery and passionate throughout. Make no mistake about that. Most of the tunes are originals by heroes like Louis Armstrong, Jackie McLean, Roy Hargrove, Ray Bryant, George Cables, and more. This is tough guy jazz at its finest. A state of the art blowing session where every player is a star. Dig it! 

Cellar; 2024; appx. 53 min.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Vanisha Gould And Steve McCarthy

I can't explain it but I know it when I hear it. That to me is the difference between a jazz singer and a pop singer (even a good one). Without question, Vanisha Gould is a jazz singer. You can hear it from the opening of Bernstein and Sondheim's “Cool”. To this real deal singer, add the tasty, intimate piano of  Chris McCarthy, and you have something warm and personal. One look at some of the titles here and you'll understand that Vanisha Gould has done her homework. How about “What A Little Moonlight Can Do”, “No Moon At All”, “Monk's Dream”, and a couple of rarities in McCoy Tyner's “Aisha” and a stunning ballad done long ago by Billie Holiday called “No More”. Vanisha Gould is the jazz singer personified and Chris McCarthy provided accompaniment a la perfecto! Don't miss out on this one.

Fresh Sound New Talent; 2024; appx. 38 min.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Jill McCarron; Gin

If you're Jill McCarron and you're looking for something to raise your listeners' eyebrows on your CD, how about bringing in Vincent Herring on alto and tenor sax and Michael Brecker on trumpet? Well that's exactly what groovy pianist McCarron did. Of the thirteen tracks played here, Herring appears on four and Brecker on just one. McCarron herself is a bluesy, boppy, altogether terrific leader and pianist who chooses a number of rarely heard tunes by heroic players from the past. For example, there's Horace Silver's “The Jody Grind”; Kenny Dorham's “Monaco”; Gene Harris' “Blue Bells”; Bill Evans' “Waltz For Debby”; Junior Mance's “Jubilation”; plus some sophisticated originals by McCarron and various sidemen. Jill McCarron has it all at her fingertips. I'm convinced she's headed for a lengthy career, playing so exquisitely.

Jazz Bird Records; 2024; appx. 59 min.

Monday, March 25, 2024

The Rob Dixon / Steve Allee Quintet; Standards Deluxe

This is in a way, two albums in one. The first is devoted to forever-type standards featuring six tracks with extremely talented singer Amanda King. She's a real standout on “Caravan”, “Love For Sale”, “The Very Thought Of You”, “On Green Dolphin Street”, “Sway”, and “Our Love Is Here To Stay”. Then the proceedings take a complete turn and the tunes are originals by Rob Dixon, the sax player on the date. His writing is accessible, lyrical, and swinging. So we have two albums in one. An unusual concept to be sure, but both portions work so well that you'll be glad you put the disc in your player.

Self produced; 2023; appx. 60 min.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Xavier Hellmeier; X-Man In New York

Oh my goodness! Here are some of what I call “young veterans” who have come to the conclusion that there was some song writing worth revisiting in 2024. As a result, the X-man maneuvered some of New York's finest into the studio in Jeremy Pelt, trumpet; Eric Alexander, tenor sax; David Hazeltine, piano; and Peter Washington, bass. They deliver the big city goods on “I Could Write A Book”, “The Good Life”. “Midnight Waltz”; “The Nearness Of You”; and “Tune Up”, among others. I must say that Pelt and Alexander are a dream combination, and Hazeltine's piano is always on target. If you're still out there buying a CD now and then, this five-star session should be on your short list.

Cellar; 2023; appx. 53 min.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Sylvia Brooks; Sylvia Brooks Live with Christian Jacob

Sylvia Brooks leaves nothing to chance. She's a “belter” with a strong leaning in the direction of the blues. Recorded live at Herb Alpert's Vibrato Jazz Grill in Los Angeles, Brooks puts it across with style and when needed, power. Her very able accompaniment is provided by a quintet led by pianist Christian Jacob. Ms. Brooks makes it clear that she's hip to the American Songbook with choices like “When The Sun Comes Out”, “Blues In The Night”, “Guess Who I Saw Today”, “Night And Day”, and “Come Rain Or Come Shine”, among others. Here's hoping Sylvia Brooks continues climbing the jazz ladder. She's certainly worth hearing.

Rhombus Records; 2023; appx. 43 min.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Steve Ash; You And The Night

Lucky for all of us who still love a jazz piano, here's one to keep an eye out for. Pianist Steve Ash is a new name to me but he has the essence of the art form at his disposal. His trio is completed by veterans Harvey S on bass and Alvester Garnett on drums. The trio keeps the jazz flame alive on much admired material like “You And The Night And The Music”, “I'm Just A Lucky So And So”. “For Heaven's Sake”, “Dream Dancing”, and some bop staples by guys with names such as Parker, Powell, Tyner, and Shorter. Does all that sound like it just might fit the bill? Darn right!

Cellar; 2024; appx. 44 min.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Tucker Brothers; Live At Chatterbox

The Tucker Brothers, Joel on guitar and Nick on bass, co-lead this invigorating piano-less quartet for jazz lovers in Indianapolis. With colleagues Sean Imboden on tenor sax and Carrington Clinton on drums, the quartet performs seven selections, most of which are generous in length. Four of them are well known to you: “Skylark”, “Caravan”, “You And The Night And The Music”, and “I Got Rhythm”. There's a hard bop intensity here and perhaps it would be safe to say this is not for the Lawrence Welk fan club. 

So here's hard hitting, in the groove, Indiana jazz men putting it out there with no holds barred.

Self produced; probably 2024; appx. 56 min.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Neal Caine; Skip To My Lou

I kept waiting for the title tune to present itself like the “Skip To My Lou” from childhood. It really never happened but what DID was a mischievous quirky melody which I liked immediately. Bassist and leader Neal Caine mixes in some not often heard material like “Chim Chim Cheree”, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and “If I Only Had A Brain” with some intense and creative originals as well. All three trio members really turn up the heat here and yet I found this music to be quite accessible. Special thanks to pianist Andrew Fisher who was on target throughout. Drummer Henry Connerway III was alternately subtle and fiery when needed. This is a very well integrated trio which sounds like they've worked together for quite some time. 

Self produced; 2023; times not indicated

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Peter Hand; Blue Topaz

Are you into the tradition of the blowing sessions? It entails mostly original compositions with very generous solo work for all. If so, you're going to enjoy this hot cooking date led by guitarist Peter Hand. The players heard here seemingly touch upon the dependable Blue Note type groove with more than a smattering of blues and a nod to lyricism as well. It is, to be sure, a sort of jazz we grew up with and learned to love. For the record, the one standard on the session is a winner, “One For My Baby”. There's no attempt here at showmanship or anything extraneous. It's simply very skilled musicians doing what they do at a consistently high level. This is what the art form is all about. Peter Hand and friends are all doing the right stuff!

Whaling City Sound; 2024; appx. 58 min.

PS – I know I'm hinting at my age, but it's worth it when I tell you that the one tune I left out in the above review was a 1950's pop hit for a female vocal group called The Chordettes. No doubt some of you remember Mr. Sandman! Reborn here and what fun!

Friday, March 1, 2024

Andy Pratt; Trio

If like me you place a lot of value in revered tunes from the great American Songbook, you should check out guitarist Andy Pratt's excellent trio. His no frills, no gimmicks approach is completed by bassist Joe Policastro and drummer Phil Gratteau. Pratt sings on many of the selections in a pleasant musicianly manner. You'll know many of the tunes and among them are a few rare surprises, Consider the Gershwin classic “Soon”, the Tony Bennett “semi-hit” “When Joanna Loved Me”, a pop hit from the '50's called “Patricia”, and lots more. I for one would prefer a bit more of Pratt's super guitar work and a little less vocalizing. However, it was an upper to hear these songs from the past. Nice going, guys!

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Charles Chen; Charles, Play!

There's one new name here and that's the leader and very swinging pianist on the date, Charles Chen. The remaining members of the quartet have honored the jazz art for a long time. Consider Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums. But the big pleasant surprise is tenor sax man Ralph Moore. I've wondered about Moore for a couple of decades. He seemed to have disappeared, so what a delight to once again hear his very personal, in-the-pocket tone working with the above named threesome! Pianist Chen shows his prowess both on piano and as a composer on five of the selections heard here. He is featured on the standard “These Foolish Things”, and it's delicate, sensible, and perfect. Among his originals, I was particularly impressed with Chen's “Golson”. It focuses upon a medium tempo delight with a very lyrical melody line---just the way tenor giant Benny Golson used to write them. Really, all the originals were standouts. Other familiar fare are “How About You”, “Be My Love” (remember Mario Lanza?), and Charlie Parker's “Passport”. All told, this is the real thing. Welcome back to Ralph Moore and a high five to Charles Chen and the Washingtons!

Cellar; 2024; appx. 48 min.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Pianists Alphabetically

 Alphabetically, here are some jazz pianists I admire. Undoubtedly, I've overlooked a few. If you care to add names to this list, contact me at jazzfens13@gmail.com.

Thank you,
George Fendel
Toshiko Akiyoshi
Monty Alexander
Ehud Asherie
Kenny Barron
Count Basie
Shelly Berg
Alan Broadbent
Dave Brubeck
John Bunch
Dave Catney
Bill Charlap
Sonny Clark
Nat Cole
Duke Ellington
Bill Evans
Tommy Flanagan
Russ Freeman
Don Friedman
Red Garland
Errol Garner
Lorraine Geller
Darrell Grant
Tardo Hammer
Hampton Hawes
Tamir Hendelman
Eddie Higgins
Jutta Hipp
Elmo Hope
Keith Jarrett
Pete Jolly
Hank Jones
Oliver Jones
Roger Kellaway
Lou Levy
Adam Makovich
Pete Malinverni
Dodo Marmarosa
Jon Mayer
Bill Mays
Marion McPartland
Mulgrew Miller
Thelonious Monk
Dado Moroni
Phineas Newborn
Tony Pacini
Jeb Patton
Dave Peck
Oscar Peterson
Enrico Pieranunzi
Randy Porter
Sidney Porter
Bud Powell
Andre Previn
John Proulx
Jean Ronne
Jimmy Rowles
George Shearing
Don Shirley
Billy Strayhorn
Art Tatum
Billy Taylor
Lennie Tristano
McCoy Tyner
Fats Waller
Cedar Walton
Gerry Wiggins
James Williams
Jessica Williams
Claude Williamson
Richard Wyands
And finally, Denny Zeitlin

Monday, January 22, 2024


1.  Anything Goes
2.  I Get A Kick Out Of You
3.  Just One Of Those Things
4.  All Of You
5.  From This Moment On
6.  I Love Paris
7.  Easy To Love
8.  It's All Right With Me
9.  You're The Top
10. I've Got You Under My Skin

Sunday, January 21, 2024


We're supplying you with a list of partial lyrics to very well known American Songbook classics.How many actual titles can you identify? Hit melodies and lyrics ALL by Cole Porter:
1.   only use four letter words
2.   mere alcohol
3.   we'll meet now and then
4.   east, west, north, and the south of you
5.   no more blues songs
6.   every moment of the year
7.   it does seem a shame
8.   your face is lovely
9.   you're Mickey Mouse
10. use your mentality

Saturday, January 20, 2024


Janet Evra; Meet Me In Paris

As the title suggests, this is a charming recital with an accent on French material. There's a happy musicality here featuring singer and bassist Janet Evra. Both the familiar and the rather obscure are on board. A very hip little ensemble works seamlessly with the leader. This is a definite detour in the jazz world. But it works ever so intimately. 
Plum Jazz Records; 2023; times not indicated.
Joe Wittman; Trio Works
Jazz guitar fans need to check this one out! Joe Wittman leads a guitar-bass-drums trio on six of his own compositions plus two standards, “Sweet Lorraine” and Mel Torme's “Born To Be Blue”. Unlike the bevy of funk guitar things out there, this is simply a solid jazz group jammin' for fun.
Sol Records; 2023; appx. 45 min.
Constantine Alexander; Firetet
From the opening notes of this session, you'll understand why it's called Firetet. For the record, this is actually a quintet led by the trumpet and flugelhorn of Constantine Alexander. On seven originals, Alexander and friends present a contemporary hard bop that is challenging, swinging and authentic. Tempos vary, solos are demanding and vigorous, and all these new names are exuberant and fully involved as modern real deal players.
Self-produced; 2023; appx. 52 min.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Thomas Linger; Out In It

Speaking of new names, here's Thomas Linger. His quartet includes some seasoned players who know when to turn on the heat AND when to display a more modest but always swinging approach. Linger himself always sounds impressively right in the center of the jazz tradition. Joined by Peter Bernstein on guitar; Vasushi Nakamura, bass; and Joe Farnsworth, drums, this lyrical quartet tells the truth on nine fresh, invigorating originals and one classic standard: I always love hearing Billy Strayhorn's masterpiece, “Lush Life”. To put it simply, this is yet another jazz triumph for Cellar Music.

Cellar Music; 2023; appx. 56 min.

Antoine Drye; Retreat To Beauty

It's a rare occasion when any jazz musician gets an opportunity to record with strings. But thankfully, that was the case with the haunting and beautiful trumpet of Antoine Drye and a luxurious pairing of supporting jazz players and subtle strings, all arranged to perfection. As the album title tells us, beauty is the object here and it's in full flower from note one. Among many highlights are these: 1) the slowest and most heartfelt reading of Billy Strayhorn's “Isfahan” I've ever heard; 2) a charming revisit to the Louis Armstrong hit “When It's Sleepy Time Down South”; 3) Jimmy Rowles now classic “The Peacocks”; 4) Monk's stunning ballad “Reflections”; 5) “Goodbye”, a ballad from decades ago from orchestra leader Gordon Jenkins; 6) Drye's own creation, “Friend”, named for a musical colleague; 7) a near tear jerker in “Send In The Clowns”; and 8) Laura, a tune with special meaning for me. On every one of these and a half dozen more, Antoine Drye and his numerous friends recall a time when recordings like this were somewhat frequent, if not plentiful. Antoine Drye is a trumpet master to keep an eye on. He could make a dozen albums like this and I'd welcome each and every one.

Cellar Music; 2023; appx. 52 min.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

John Lang; Earotica

New York bassist John Lang has put together a scintillating ensemble larger than a “combo” but smaller than a big band. It is in fact comprised of trumpet, trombone, alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax, and of course a rhythm section including leader and bassist John Lang. All twelve tunes are originals and swing with resonating authority. And being that this group is as complete as it is, all players get generous opportunity to strut their stuff, solo-wise. There is a very “urban” contemporary feeling at work here. Now and then things get a tad more electric than my straight ahead veins can handle. Aside from that, this big-small band puts it all out there. I guess the term is muscular because these guys certainly work out!

Cellar Music; 2023; appx. 73 min.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Brad Turner; The Magnificent

And just who is the driving force behind the consistent quality of Cellar Music? It's their founder and yet another superb tenor sax man, Cory Weeds. I mention that because Weeds appears on this session which is actually under the leadership of Brad Turner on both piano and trumpet! Remaining players, all highly admired, are Peter Bernstein, guitar; Neil Swainson, bass; and Quincy Davis, drums. There are nine Turner originals here and they are bright, lilting, fresh examples of guys who are really good at the game! These are all musicians with lengthy resumes, and they undoubtedly reject the flash and formula in favor of the history, musicianship, and dedication served up here in every note.

Cellar Music; 2023; appx. 61 min.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Kelly Jefferson; Rituals

By now, Vancouver B.C.'s Cellar Music has established itself as a dependable, no-nonsense, high class record label. Among many things to be admired is Cellar's insistence on giving studio time to deserving new jazz talents. On what I assume is his debut CD, Jefferson's saxophone prowess and versatile compositions are heard in a riveting quartet setting featuring nine of his original compositions. Moods move from sprightly to mysterious, and often intricate and compelling. His colleagues, often providing strong support and prime solo work, include Amanda Tosoff, piano; Jon Maharaj, bass; and Norman Childs, drums. All are new names to me, but it's obvious that they are deeply embedded in the art of pure and meaningful jazz making.

Cellar Music; 2023; appx. 57 min.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Dave Stryker; Groove Street

Considering one “groove” CD after another, one might easily surmise the guitarist Dave Stryker is pretty locked in to this style. This time he brings veteran sax man Bob Mintzer along for the ride. There's always an organist on these dates and this time the steamy B3 in the hands of Jared Gold. Completing the quartet is McClenty Hunter on drums. The two familiar choices are Wayne Shorter's “Infant Eyes” and the standard “The More I See You”. All the players are really good in finding that “guitar-organ” thing. Granted, there's a sameness to these “groove-funk” outings. Call it what you want, but this format always finds its followers.

Strikezone Records; 2024; appx. 54 min.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Sarah McKenzie; Without You

Nine of the fourteen songs on this recording were composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim! That alone would catch my eye and pique my curiosity. Singer Sarah McKenzie interprets these Jobim gems and other similarly flavored choices with sincere straight forward dignity and beauty. She is accompanied by a small group featuring gentle, bossa-like contributions from piano, guitar, and reeds. The arrangements are never showy, but rather always tasteful and appropriate. To name a few of the AC Jobim tunes, how about “Quiet Nights”, “Wave”, “Dindi”, “Once I Loved”, and of course “The Girl From Ipanema”. All of these and more add up to a lovely rendering of unforgettable combinations of melody and lyrics.

Normandy Lane Music; 2023; appx. 48 min.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Bernie Senensky; Moment To Moment

Several years ago, a Portland friend (originally from Toronto) hipped me to fellow Canadian pianist Bernie Senensky. Finally here was my chance to hear him along a totally on board group of real deal players. Featured quite prominently is Eric Alexander, a fully engaged multi-talented tenor sax man. Bass and drums arrangements are divided between no less than five players and each is a true believer. Senensky is right at home in these various quartets on two standards, “Speak Low” and the Johnny Mercer rarity, “Moment To Moment”. The surprise of the set is the boppiest version yet on the Fiddler show tune “Matchmaker”. The remaining selections are originals, most from pianist Selensky. Alexander is as always, breathtaking and stunning---as complete a tenor player as there is on this planet. Senensky's solos are bright and optimistic, never flashy. This is an album of superb players performing the music they love to play. I'll bet you'd love to hear them!

Cellar Music; 2023; appx. 67 min.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024





1.   I’ve Got A Crush On You

2.   How Long Has This Been Going On

3.   Embraceable You

4.   The Man I Love

5.   They Can’t Take That Away From Me

6.   It Ain’t Necessarily So

7.   Summertime

8.   ‘S Wonderful

9.   I Got Rhythm

10. Liza


1.   A Fine Romance

2.   All The Things You Are

3.   I’m Old Fashioned

4.   The Way You Look Tonight

5.   Yesterdays

6.   Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man

7.   Remind Me

8.   Let’s Begin


1.   Anything Goes

2.   In The Still Of The Night

    3.   I Get A Kick Out Of You

4.   Let’s Do It

5.   Just One Of Those Things

6.   From This Moment On

7.   You Do Something To Me

8.   Easy To Love

9.   Night And Day

10. I Concentrate On You