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!