CD Reviews - July 2005
by George Fendel
Now And Again, Dick Hyman, piano and Randy Sandke; trumpet. This intriguing duet will illustrate how much music can be made by just two guys who are absolutely immersed in their respective musical pursuits. In fact, there's a recital-like atmosphere here with Hyman and Sandke reading each other with uncanny, seemingly effortless precision. The fact that they do this so well on such a diverse menu of tunes speaks to their individual and collective musicianship. I have often, in fact, thought of Dick Hyman as the musical "chameleon" because he so easily and effectively changes his musical colors. And Sandke simply proves that he's up to the task at hand. They just make it sound so easy (and it's anything but that) on tunes ranging from Cole Porter's You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To to Clifford Brown's Joy Spring to Leonard Bernstein's Lucky To Be Me; Gershwin's obscure Bronco Busters and Jelly Roll & Satch's Wild Man Blues; not to mention King Oliver's Weatherbird and Walter Donaldson's Makin' Whoopee. In fact, this combination works so well that you won't miss the presence of additional personnel. Dick Hyman and Randy Sandke have everything under control. Arbors, 2005; Playing Time: 64:19, ****.
The Jerome Kern Songbook, Ella Fitzgerald, vocals.
From several standpoints, this longtime out of print performance is a pure gem. First and foremost, there's Ella. When this, her seventh composer songbook was recorded in 1963, the First Lady of Song was still at the top of her game. Secondly, there's the orchestra and arrangements of Nelson Riddle, to this very day, one of the first cabin cats at backing singers. And then there's the exceptional writing of Jerome Kern, a titan of Tin Pan Alley. An extra treat here is the inclusion of rarely heard Kern winners like Let's Begin, I'll Be Hard To Handle, You Couldn't Be Cuter, She Didn't Say Yes, Remind Me and Why Was I Born. Along with these delights, toss in some standards like A Fine Romance, All The Things You Are, I'm Old Fashioned, Yesterdays, The Way You Look Tonight and Can't Help Lovin' That Man. If all this is not enough to wet your whistle, Ella makes sure she receives your stamp of approval by including many of the obscure verses (aka introductions) to these standout songs. We can thank producer Norman Granz for his vision in recording these definitive songbooks by the great Ella Fitzgerald. Forty plus years after they were recorded, they remain timeless treasures, and this one's on par with its predecessors. Verve, 2005; Playing Time: 42:21, **** 3/4.
Groove Juice Special; The Flat Foot Floogie, Slim Gaillard, guitar, vocals.
I can't say for sure if Slim Gaillard is an acquired taste. Seems to me I personally dug him from the first time I heard him. It's hard to know for sure if Slim was a good, but not highly accomplished guitarist who figured he could catch the fancy of his listeners with his own brand of scat language (Vout-o-rooney, Bingy Bingy Scootie and Vol Vist Du Gaily Star among many others). Or, perhaps he was an accomplished guitarist who just couldn't resist the temptation to bring out the humor that was simply bored into his being. Whatever the case, Slim Gaillard did indeed find that loyal group of fans who still recognize his musical value, his joy in performing and, most of all, the madcap humor of Looking For A Place To Park, A Tip On The Numbers, Ferdinand The Bull, Dopey Joe, Chicken Rhythm and Matzoh Balls, to say nothing of the memorable Vout Boogie. Here's the good news: these are budget priced CDs and they give you a lot for a little. Here's the bad news: no indication of other personnel, recording dates, etc. Still, if you spot these and you want a good chuckle, I can assure you that Slim Gaillard will provide it. Proper Records, 2003; Playing Time: Groove: 75:21, *** 1/2; Floogie: 71:58, *** 1/2.
The Classic Concert Live, Mel Torme, vocals; Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax, vocals; George Shearing, piano, vocals.
Together on the Carnegie Hall stage in 1982, and released here for the first time ever, we are treated to the genius of three acknowledged musical giants (jazz or otherwise). You may have heard a few rare Shearing vocals over the years, but have you EVER heard Gerry Mulligan SING? Well, he does just that, joining his two pals on I've Heard That Song Before and "working the crowd" with Mel on his own famous tune, Walkin' Shoes. Believe me, it has that "not to be missed" charm. In addition to Shearing's vocal mentioned above, George gets his encore with his two pals on The Song Is Ended. However, as one might expect, this is mainly Mel's gig and he revs up the excitement with Sent For You Yesterday, What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life, Blues In The Night, Lady Be Good, Round Midnight and a medley of Duke Ellington gems. An additional touch tests Mel's jazz chops on Mulligan's originals, Jeru and the snappy wordless vocal on Gerry's classic Line For Lyons. Torme's rapport with both his audience and his piano and baritone buddies is just the right mix of showmanship and jazz. Sometimes, you know, the combination can work. As it does here. Concord Jazz, 2005; Playing Time: 59:48, *****.
New York Trio Page 3, Peter Beets, piano.
In a review of an earlier Peter Beets CD, I described Peter Beets as "the most sensational bop, ballads and blues pianist to have 'arrived' in the decade of the 2000's." His third CD for Criss Cross affirms my prior statement with enthusiasm. His trio, with Reginald Veal, bass and Herlin Riley, drums, opens with Chopin's Prelude in E Minor with more than a hint of a certain Mr. Jobim and How Insensitive. You have to hear it to believe just how perfectly it works. The Judge, one of several originals here, is a sweeping, blazing bebop trio romp. Another Beets creation, Degage, is French for "you're kidding" and its medium tempo is in the center of the groove. Tristity is a poignant Beets ballad, but you'll have to check the liner notes for the derivation of the title. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm is taken at breakneck speed with Beets and company spinning your head around, but always firmly in control. John Lewis' modern day classic, Django, is performed with beauty, honesty and intensity and the capper is Passport, a Charlie Parker line. Its fast moving changes are a piece of cake for this trio. And there you have it. Peter Beets brings it all to the bandstand: relentless swing, arresting solos and balanced communication with his colleagues. Simply put, he is a marvel and I can't wait for New York Trio Page 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,.... Criss Cross, 2005; Playing Time: 60:00, *****.
Occasion, Harry Connick Jr., piano.
In the liner notes to this major departure for song stylist Harry Connick, he refers to playing in a duo setting as "a dance, a tug of war, an embrace and a musical tete à tete." The other participant here is the versatile saxophonist, Branford Marsalis. Indeed the two of them tackle a baker's dozen Connick originals in hopes of surviving the steep musical cliff that simply IS a duo performance. This was, as Connick continues, "truth or dare between two friends with nothing to lose." While a few of the tunes may be a bit cerebral, for the most part, this idea works well and the communication of the two players is mostly relaxed and successful. A few of the tunes which I thought stood at the head of the pack were Spot, Occasion and Good To Be Home, all different examples of the melodies Harry Connick conjures up. All in all, this is a nice meeting on new terms for a couple of guys who haven't tread this ground in the past. Next time, I'd like to hear how they'd approach a book of standards. Marsalis Music, 2005; Playing Time: 64:56, ***.
Signature, Roni Ben-Hur, guitar.
From the first few bars of Ben-Hur's opener, Mama Bee, a burner on the changes to All God's Children Got Rhythm, anyone with an ear for jazz guitar will know that this guy is something special. Of course, it doesn't hurt to be working with New York monsters John Hicks, piano; Rufus Reid, bass; Leroy Williams, drums; and the additional percussion here and there of Steve Kroon. To keep you on your toes, Ben-Hur tests the classical waters with two pieces by Villa-Lobos, both expertly delivered. Next comes an effective shuffle beat on Harold Arlen's Blues In The Night. Eretz, a melancholy prayer for peace, follows from Ben-Hur, a native of Israel. The title translates literally into the word "land" or perhaps for purposes of expression, THE land. John Hicks contributes Slowly But Surely and his catchy melody line is not as slow as you might think. The standard Time On My Hands is a finely crafted delicacy, and Luiza is one of the lesser known gems from Antonio Carlos Jobim. The CD comes to a close with a straight ahead take on Cole Porter's So In Love. Roni Ben-Hur's single note playing is always richly surrounded by just the right chords at the right time, and his improvisations are clear, concise and attractive. No wonder the guy is attracting so much attention in the Apple. Reservoir, 2005; Playing Time: 62:05, **** 1/2.
The Art Of Romance, Tony Bennett, vocals.
This is the way they used to make records. A great singer; superb songs that reflect those select songwriters who took pride in their product; an arranger with few peers in the business; and instrumental soloists who add a touch of class to the overall product. The singer? Tony Bennett. His voice may be a tiny bit more raspy than in his youth, but guess what? He's still one of the few who can put over a set of lyrics as though he means it. And, undoubtedly, he does. The songs? Well, how can you beat Close Enough For Love, I Remember You, Where Do You Start, All In Fun, Gone With The Wind, a Bennett lyric set to Django Reinhardt's Nuages and renamed All For You and Dave Frishberg and Johnny Mandel's "old-new" delight, Little Did I Dream. The arranger? Mr. Mandel himself, and it doesn‚t get any better than that. The soloists? Alto legend Phil Woods, still one of the most sought after players on the planet. And pianist Lee Musiker who doubles here on a few of the stellar arrangements. A note of interest: the strings you hear here are strings, not synthesizers. All's well with the world in knowing musical accomplishments such as these can still happen in 2005. Tony Bennett, always a champion of these sorts of concerns, remains a guardian of quality songs. A true survivor, Tony Bennett has given us a gorgeous new recording. Columbia Records, 2004; time not indicated, *****.
Home Of My Heart, Chris Walden Big Band, Chris Walden, arrangements.
If there are any among you who would allege that the big band is completely the darling of days gone by, well, you need to hear this scintillating new recording. Chris Walden succeeds in writing charts which breathe with intensity and musicianship. If fact, I am reminded here and there of bands like John Fedchock‚' crackerjack New York aggregation or even some of Rob McConnell's best work from north of the border. Of the sixteen selections, most are original compositions, some of those by Walden himself. Of the more familiar tunes, Cherokee burns but doesn't scorch; the theme from Star Wars is updated with a change in tempo; Here's That Rainy Day is taken a scosh faster than usual and features a luscious solo by trombonist Bob McChesney; and singer Tierney Sutton visits for one tune and really means it when she asks How Long Has This Been Going On? The other "oldies" are You Took Advantage Of Me and Stolen Moments. Beyond the sterling arrangements which are consistent throughout, Walden is fortunate enough to have on board outstanding talent like Pete Christlieb, Bob Sheppard, Wayne Bergeron, Carl Saunders, Bobby Shew and a host of less well known but equally shining lights. Origin, 2005; Playing Time: 79:30, ****.
Sammy's Back On Broadway, When The Feeling Hits You, Sammy Davis Jr., vocals.
There's a bunch of these spirited Sammy Davis recordings finally reissued from his days on Sinatra's Reprise label. They represent some of his most consistent work with material worthy of his great talent. The first CD features a rousing big band led by Claus Ogerman with great Broadway tunes from "the day" with such fare as On A Wonderful Day Like Today, I Want To Be With You, Sunrise Sunset, Look At That Face, Do I Hear A Waltz, The Joker and a half dozen more. The second one, with backing by Louie Prima's ol' main man, Sam Butera & The Witnesses. Not surprisingly, it has a little more of a Vegas loungy feeling to it, but still includes some terrific tunes like Don't Cry Joe, There Will Never Be Another You, April In Paris, I Should Care, This Is Always and a bunch more. Most Sammy fans will acknowledge that he couldn't sing like Sinatra, dance like Astaire or do impressions like Rich Little. However, he was so loaded with talent at all of these skills and more, that he deserved all the accolades he received as one of our great show biz talents. We are unlikely to ever again see the likes of Sammy Davis Jr. Collector's Choice Music; 2004; times not indicated, Broadway: ****; Feeling: ***.
The Four Of Us, Mort Weiss, clarinet.
If you're looking for the old "licorice shtick" sound of the swing era, you may want to look elsewhere. Because here's the sound of joy and bebop as closely aligned as they can be in the person of Mort Weiss. After forty years of raising a family and running a music business, he's picked up the clarinet again and his career is off and running. Why? Because like clarinet mavens Buddy DeFranco and Jimmy Giuffre, Weiss finds the irrepressible improvisational possibilities in this most difficult of all reeds. He brings them to the bandstand with ease and the immense joy of playing timeless songs such as those found in this set. Recorded live at SoCal's Steamers Jazz Club and Café, Mort is joined by veteran music makers Ron Escheté, guitar; Dave Carpenter, bass and Roy McCurdy, drums. This was the first time this quartet had EVER played a note together, but you'd never know it. They hit the grand slam from the first notes of The Song Is You, and the excitement continues through I Thought About You, East Of The Sun, Over The Rainbow, St. Thomas, Stella By Starlight, Embraceable You and Blues In The Closet. See for yourself a bit later this month when Mort headlines the Saturday evening stage at the Cathedral Park Jazz Festival. His name is Mort Weiss and he's the real deal! SMS Jazz, 2005; Playing Time: 61:19, *****.
Live At The Blue Note, Arturo Sandoval, trumpet.
Sometimes I think of Arturo Sandoval as the Latin Jazz version of Maynard Ferguson or Cat Anderson on trumpet. He seems bound and determined to knock your socks off with trumpet technique, ultra high notes and showmanship. Granted, some of it's darned exciting, and the guy does possess unlimited energy. If he doesn't turn your head around on the first tune, don't worry, he has another one waiting in the wings. Of the eight on this recording, six are Sandoval originals. The fire burns and sears nearly throughout, but maybe my favorite was Sandoval's Dizzy-inspired scat vocal on the appropriately named Blues For Dizzy. It‚s full of fun and shows off Sandoval's range as well as his wit. Sandoval's colleagues, Phil Magallanes on piano and Felipe Lamoglia on saxophone are featured on the best of two ballads in the set, A Lovely One. The two build the intensity on this piece, but at a certain point, both fall off the cliff into a screechy unpleasantness before returning to sanity. A point of interest here is the presence of a DVD in addition to the CD. Arturo Sandoval brings a lot of heat to the furnace, but I sometimes wonder if he occasionally turns the thermostat up a bit too high. High Note, 2005; Playing Time: 72:08;, ** 1/2.
Quiet Now, Gene Bertoncini, acoustic guitar.
If I ever get around to preparing a list of the "pretty" albums of 2005, surely this one will rate among the highest on such a list. Gene Bertoncini is an artist who always reminds us that the guitar, so often the most maligned of instruments, can be, in the right hands, a thing of sheer beauty. As clearly proven here, those hands belong to Gene Bertoncini. From the opening strains of Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life and Isfahan, you just know this is pure, intimate solo guitar music to just wrap yourself around. Among the additional nine delicate treasures here, how about My One And Only Love; Schumann's Traumerei; a rare Jobim tune called Olha Maria, Denny Zeitlin's title tune, Quiet Now; and three stunning medleys as follows: Giant Steps/On A Misty Night; So In Love/The More I See You; and Waltz For Debby/Very Early. This is music to touch the heart and renew the spirit. Gene Bertoncini tells a story of rare beauty in every note. Ambient Records, 2004; PlayingTime: 41:21, *****.
Tea For Two, Walt Weiskopf, tenor sax, Andy Fusco, alto sax.
Just wondering, how long has it been since we've seen a recording co-led by a tenor and an alto duo? I can't remember the last one, but I certainly welcome this pairing of two gifted players who like to find the little edge in standards and can offer substantive originals as well. Just listen to the little detours of the title tune, Tea For Two. It‚s hardly "tea at the Empress Hotel" and in its new attire, it‚s completely freshened up. Next comes Bud Powell and Miles Davis' Budo, a bop chestnut with a quirky, satisfying melody line. Cole Porter's So In Love follows and the two sax men bring forth its multitude of harmonic possibilities. Jimmy Rowles' modern classic, The Peacocks, follows with sensitive solo statements from both players. Weiskopf contributes three originals to the date, the first of which, Sweet Melissa, finds him in fine form on a confident solo statement. Next is his Waltz For Judy, a more contemporary look at 3/4 time, to be sure. Adios, another Weiskopf creation, should not be confused with the old swing era tune. This one goes in some rather unexpected places, but all's well because it ends well. Keith Jarrett's Shades Of Jazz is intricate in both melody and rhythm, and Walt and Andy maneuver their way with assurance. The aptly titled Unison is co-composed by the two reed wizards and if you listen closely, you may hear Avalon somewhere in there. The group is completed with Joel Weiskopf, piano; Paul Gill, bass; and Billy Drummond, drums. Ageless bop; high creativity; boundless joy and some darn good blowing. It's all here. Criss Cross, 2005; Playing Time: 55:35, **** 1/2.
Bluestate, Doug Wamble, guitar, vocals.
This CD marked my first acquaintance with guitarist-singer Doug Wamble. His all original music is hard to catagorize, offering elements of jazz, blues, pop, funk and even a tad bit country. His guitar sound is at times a little too "in your face" for me, but on a few select cuts, his writing offered attractive melody lines and his guitar stayed close to the middle of the highway. On the few tunes on which he sings, Wamble reflects the philosophy of his generation: sing at all costs. Somebody will like it. Marsalis Music, 2005; Playing Time: 74:15, **.
Trumpet After Dark, Randy Sandke, trumpet, featuring Bill Charlap, piano.
With this excellent combination of Sandke, Charlap and the quartet, combined with four well placed violins, you have a unique listening experience coming your way. Sandke's very modern and expressive melodies combine elegantly with such beauties as Star Crossed Lovers, A Blues Serenade, Lush Life, Soul Eyes and much more. His trumpet tone is something to behold and of course, the presence of Bill Charlap guarantees high marks to any recording session. This CD, along with two additional but more adventurous Sandke efforts, marks the debut of the new label, Evening Star. Judging from this music, I'd say it's an auspicious one. Evening Star, 2005; Playing Time: 66:45, ****.
Have You Heard, Javon Jackson, tenor sax.
I guess perhaps Javon Jackson is simply a product of his generation. His latest album is a mundane collection of back-beat boredom with a couple forgettable vocals by one Lisa Fischer. The ultimate insult is Gershwin's classic, Summertime, which is totally demolished in barrage of electric guitar misery. Saddest of all, Jackson possesses a rich and royal sound on the tenor. But it's lost here in a sea of "does anybody really care?" Palmetto Records, 2005; Playing Time: 53:29, *.
Live From Las Vegas;, Frank Sinatra, vocals.
Remember this: Frank Sinatra in decline could still throw a musical punch most other singers would want no part of. This previously unreleased Golden Nugget casino concert may not be peak FS, but the chairman still delivers pizazz enough to make your spine shiver. Predictable Frank fare like Luck Be A Lady (this is Vegas, after all), Crush On You, I Get A Kick Out Of You, My Way, I've Got You Under My Skin and New York, New York puts the man in your very own speakers. Sinatra, with showmanship and swagger intact, could still electrify the room. Capitol, 2005; time not indicated, *** 1/2.
Noche Inolvidable (An Unforgettable Night), Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.
Here's an intriguing, often exciting collection of original music played by some super Big Apple Latin cats live at the Rose Theater, home of Jazz At Lincoln Center. It's all under the direction of Arturo O'Farrill and if this is your bread and butter, you're bound to like what's happening here. The ensemble sound is crisp and clean; the solos likewise and some apropos vocals are turned in by Herman Olivera and Claudia Acuna. Palmetto, 2005; Playing Time: 59:57, ** 1/2.
Get Happy, Kristin Korb, vocals.
It seems there's a ton of brave female singers vying for a share of the "big bucks" in jazz. Some are okay, and others, like Kristin Korb, possess a natural sense of phrasing, clear enunciation and the built-in knowledge of when enough's enough. With a trio featuring two bassists and a drummer, Korb ascribes to the school of "just sing the song and forget the frosting." I wish more singers would "enroll"! Her material ranges from Moon River and When You're Smilin‚ to a Sam Jones bop classic which will remain unnamed until you hear it all dressed up with a new lyric as If You Never Fall In Love With Me. Grace Base Productions, 2004; Playing Time: 59:02, *** 1/2.
New For Now, Jonathan Kreisberg, guitar.
Jonathan Kreisberg will surely gain further attention as a result of his second CD for Criss Cross. This time he brings on Hammond B3 man Gary Versace, a player with strong Oregon connections. But Versace doesn't treat this gig as a typical "funky organ date". With the trio completed by Mark Ferber on drums, Kreisberg's nicely balanced originals are complimented by a fresh look at standards such as Stardust, Ask Me Now, All Or Nothing At All and Gone With The Wind. There is a high level of intimacy and communication here. Criss Cross, 2005; Playing Time: 56:48, *** 1/2.
The Frank And Joe Show, Frank Vignola, guitar; Joe Ascione, drums.
These two versatile players lead a pleasantly swinging session full of twists and turns. Vignola is a guitarist rooted attractively in the traditional arena and he represents that style with finesse and feeling. Ascione has participated in many diverse musical projects and no doubt has fun with 13 tunes ranging from After Hours to Hungarian Dance No. 6 to Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans. An album highlight is the angelic voice of Jane Monheit on a newly devised Manhattan. Hyena, 2005; Playing Time: 47:27, ***.
Swingin' Stuff, Stuff Smith, violin.
OK, I admit I'm not a wild-eyed fan of jazz violin. But for a change of pace, Stuff Smith sure fills the bill. This material appears here for the first time on CD, adding over 30 minutes of previously unreleased "Stuff." And he's joined here by a top drawer Euro rhythm section in Kenny Drew, Niels Henning and Alex Riel. With flair and focus, they entertain such fare as Caravan, ŒA‚ Train, Mack The Knife, C Jam Blues and S'posin'. Smith even sings in a Milt Hinton-ish voice on My Blue Heaven. This swinging get-together, recorded back in 1965, is sure to put some sunshine in your day. Storyville, 2005; PlayingTime: 72:21, ****.
Beach Walker, Herb Silverstein, piano.
This self-produced CD contains a dozen original compositions by pianist Herb Silverstein. They range from delicate balladry to free flowing bop lines. Silverstein gives the CD some real clout by adding Jack Wilkins on reeds and a silky string quartet on four selections. Self-produced, 2005; Playing Time: 74:13, *** 1/2.
Jibaro, Miguel Zenon, alto sax.
Miguel Zenon shows considerable technical facility on the alto saxophone as he plays ten originals in a style which is representative of Puerto Rican musical culture. This is a CD which most likely will have more appeal to the world music crowd than it will to jazz people. Marsalis Music, 2005; Playing Time: 68:55, **.
Remember Love, Mary Stallings, vocals.
Dinah Washington and Nancy Wilson come to mind as two inspirations for the fine singer, Mary Stallings. She impressively takes on a menu of rarely heard tunes and does so with the savvy of a veteran who knows the ropes. Adding some spark to the flame are Geri Allen, piano; Frank Wess, tenor and flute; Vincent Herring, alto and Wallace Roney, trumpet. Half Note, 2005; Playing Time: 63:28, ****.
Reimagining, Vijay Iyer, piano.
Maybe the avante garde devotees will find something to latch onto here, but I found this piano-led quartet to be a nearly aimless, wandering aggregation with an often foreboding sound. It's more interesting than smooth jazz, but beyond that, it sure didn't grab me. It is, incidentally, quite a departure for the mainstreamers at the Savoy Jazz label. Savoy Jazz,2005; PlayingTime: 55:39, * 1/2.
Like A Dream, Darek Oles (Oleszkiewicz), bass.
Before you dismiss this as another album with overly lengthy bass solos, catch Oles in the three combinations herein. The first puts him in a duo with the mighty Brad Mehldau on five tunes with sometimes shimmering, lyrical results. Two additional tunes turn the spotlight on Chuck Manning's saxophones and the guitar of Larry Koonse, again to superb effect. For the last five selections, pianist Adam Benjamin makes it clear that we need to hear more from him. Cryptogramophone, 2004; Playing Time: 67:15, ****.
The Johnny Griffin Quartet, Johnny Griffin, tenor sax.
One of the earliest releases from the "little Giant," this 1956 session puts Johnny Griffin in the company of the bluesy piano ace Junior Mance and his trio. The order of the day puts Griffin in charge on ballads and burners like I Cried For You. Yesterdays, The Boy Next Door and These Foolish Things. An assortment of blues completes a brief but fine blowing session. Verve (originally Argo), 2004; Playing Time: 25:59, ***.
Rive Gauche No, Celso Fonseca, guitar, vocals, sampler (whatever that is).
As in the review immediately above, this CD of Brazilian music will have its backers. Fonseca brings a Jobim-like vocal quality and a bossa rhythm acoustic guitar to these originals. The combination of guitar and flute works quite nicely with Fonseca's pleasant vocals. Six Degrees Records, 2005; Playing Time: 47:34, ** 1/2.
Radiance, Keith Jarrett, piano.
After several recent trips to the rich tapestry of American standards, Jarrett returns here in a two CD solo performance of all original material. The entirety of it is titled Radiance and instead of song titles, it's divided into Parts 1 through 17. At times, this is sheer piano poetry. ECM, 2005; Playing Time: 2:19:41 (total time for two CDs), ***.
This Is Always - The Ballad Session, Eden Atwood, vocals.
Eden Atwood turns her attention to the pretty stuff and to emphasize that point, she turns over some stunning solos to Tom Harrell, trumpet and flugelhorn and Bill Cunliffe, piano. But it's mainly the warm voice and sensitive phrasing of Ms. Atwood which will please you on winners like Blame It On My Youth, You're Nearer, Serenata, For All We Know and lots more. Groove Note, 2004; time not indicated, *** 1/2.