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CD Reviews - November 2005
by George Fendel

Memoire; Joshua Breakstone, guitar. I've always thought that Josh Breakstone, á la Jim Hall perhaps, has one of the warmest jazz guitar sounds heard anywhere. His new album, recorded in France, with Louis Petrucciani on bass and Christian Ton Ton Salut on drums, presents the guitarist on four originals and four tunes from French songwriters. From the first group, I particularly liked the brisk opener, Airegla and the nice melodic groove on A Little Thing I Wrote. From the Frenchmen, there's a medium tempo Autumn Leaves; Django Reinhardt's dreamy Nuages; Michel Legrand's gorgeous You Must Believe In Spring, and perhaps the surprise of the set, the old chestnut, C'est Si Bon. The bass and drums provide soft and subtle support on most of these tunes, almost as though they realize this is Breakstone‚s album all the way. And to answer your question, "Yes", Petrucciani is the brother of the magnificent late pianist, Michel. Josh Breakstone's intimate, mostly single note style, is a thing of beauty. As I mentioned at the outset, there's a warmth in his playing that simply engulfs you. Capri, 2005; Playing Time: 62:21; ***1/2.

Blue York, Pamela York, piano. Not everyone gets the opportunity to cut a debut recording with the likes of John Clayton on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums. So for Pamela York, one can surmise that this represents her entry into the big leagues of jazz. And it all works out to everyone's pleasure with a menu of standards, a couple of jazz staples and a blues or two. Needless to say, York is in the best of musical company with big band buddies Clayton and Hamilton. A few highlights for these ears were these: a nicely controlled romp through Fascinatin' Rhythm; a welcome piano rendition of Tom Harrell's shining beauty, Sail Away; an upbeat but not overly fast version of Like Someone In Love; a quick-paced, sparkling Just One Of Those Things; a couple of classic ballads in Old Folks and Everything Happens To Me. On the latter tune, York surprises with a heartfelt vocal chorus. The CD is brought to an end with Intimacy Of The Blues, a rarely heard and most welcome line by the great Billy Strayhorn. Judging on York's swinging agenda here, we would most certainly expect to see a career unfold. Audiophoric, 2000; Playing Time: 55:13, ****.

Live At MCG; The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Having doffed their trio hats from the above review, here come John and Jeff once again, but this time with their other partner, Jeff Clayton and the shoutin' LA big band. And what an aggregation it is, combining the swing of Basie, the stunning arranging of John Clayton and the solo work of some scary-good players. After a center-of-the highway opener in Georgia, the atmosphere turns funky with Horace Silver's Jody Grind. Later in the program, there's even a Silver tribute in John's composition, Silver Celebration. Brother John is renowned as one of the premier arco bassists playing today, and his Nature Boy proves it. Lullaby Of The Leaves is a nice feature for pianist Tamir Hendelman with the band getting into a polite ensemble like groove. Captain Bill is a foot tapper with Count Basie in mind, and there's always room for a restrained, slightly Kenton-ish version of Mood Indigo. Monk's Evidence initially teases and taunts and then is delivered with gusto. The Claytons balance their musical landscape better than just about anyone, so it's just grand that this program winds up with a bossa, Like A Lover; Sonny Stitt's tour de force, Eternal Triangle; and a Johnny Hodges staple called Squatty Roo. Something for everybody is the key in these scintillating arrangements and crackerjack solos. Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, 2005; Playing Time: 70:02, *****.

The Battle, Eric Alexander, tenor sax; Vincent Herring, alto sax. If indeed there was a "battle" between these two bop mavens, both come out winners. Right from the beginning, the fire is kindled (at a club appropriately called Smoke) with a jam session staple called Blues Up And Down. Alexander and Herring bring to mind the battles of the tune's co-composers, cats with the names Ammons and Stitt no less! Next comes Wes Montgomery's Road Song, a medium tempo vehicle with both players boosting the intensity as their solos progress. Cedar Walton's Firm Roots returns both reedmen to a near furious pace and pianist Mike LeDonne is equally compelling at high gear. Speaking of LeDonne, he's been on the scene for some years now. So why isn't this monster pianist a household name? The quintet is completed by John Webber, bass and Carl Allen, drums. Along with their colleagues, they continue the set with a few originals which simply give credence to the old story that you'd better be ready for the battle if you're going to make it in New York. These guys were ready. High Note, 2005; Playing Time: 60:13, ****.

To Love Again, Chris Botti, trumpet. Its no secret that most of the smooth jazz guys can really play. But rarely do they get a chance to prove it. Well, Chris Botti does just that on this album. And his tunes of choice are timeless standards like My One And Only Love, Lover Man, Pennies From Heaven, Here's That Rainy Day and more. Only one problem. On nine of the 13 selections, Botti turns a vocal chorus or two over to some pop singers. Given the good material, some of them actually sound "okay." Michael Bublé swings effortlessly on Let There Be Love, and, while I never thought I'd say it, even Sting somehow gets through What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life without destroying it. But then, for example, there's someone named Steven Tyler crying his way through Smile and Jill Scott's no Lady Day on Good Morning Heartache. The CD is slightly saved by instrumental only versions of Embraceable You, What's New and I'll Be Seeing You. Botti's trumpet is restrained, lyrical and very pretty, and this could have been a stunning CD without the presence of about a half dozen banal singers. Columbia, 2005; Play Time: 59:40, **.

Groovin' To Marty Paich, Phil Woods, alto sax, clarinet. In the 1950s and ‘60s heyday of Los Angeles jazz, Marty Paich was all over the place, arranging and leading various sized groups. His writing was hip, airy and restrained, and it allowed room for soloists to do their thing. Paich was in great demand, especially from singers who clamored to work with him. But Paich made a few outstanding instrumental albums as well, and they hold up extremely well all these years later. Phil Woods is the primary soloist in this assemblage of some LA cats known as the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra. Recorded live before an appreciative hotel audience, the musicians roll out the Marty Paich arrangements skillfully and with feeling. Many of the tunes are the same Paich charts which appeared originally on the classic 1959 album Art Pepper Plus Eleven. Of course, the "eleven" were Paich's guys of that era. Marty's gone, and so is Art, but with Phil Woods at the helm, we are treated here to such staples as Groovin' High, Walkin' Shoes, Donna Lee, Moanin' Anthopology, Bernie's Tune, Airegin, Shaw Nuff, and, perhaps the CD's highlight and ballad feature, Violets For Your Furs. Good Woods. Jazzed Media Recordings, 2005; Playing Time: 53:05, ****.

First Takes, Shelly Berg, piano; Frank Potenza, guitar. On the heels of Shelly Berg's well received debut trio album, here's another one just sure to delight. This time Berg's elegant piano combines in a duo with the superb guitarist Frank Potenza. Notice the title of the disc, First Takes. Apparently that was pretty much the case, with only some structure worked out beforehand. In a duo setting, it helps a lot when the two musicians know one another's styles and nuances. So is the case with Berg and Potenza. So much so that these intimate duets are like private musical conversations which you and I are fortunate enough to "overhear." The tunes represent a mixture of standards (Wonder Why, Jitterbug Waltz, Yesterdays and You Must Believe In Spring); jazz compositions (Shorter's Virgo, Herbie's Driftin', Thad's Three In One and Ray Bryant's Tonk); plus Berg's quirky melody line on Oil And Water and a shimmery bossa in Tristeza. These two read one another with ease and authority, making this one of the better duo performances in recent memory. Azica Recordings, 2005; Playing Time: 61:13, ****.

At Carnegie Hall, Thelonious Monk Quartet With John Coltrane. This may well end up as the most hyped jazz recording of the decade, bringing together two jazz icons in an appearance never before issued in any form. Recorded live at Carnegie Hall on November 29, 1957, the concert finds the two superstars primed and ready, inspired to impress the audience at one of the world's renowned concert halls. The quartet, with Ahmed Abdul-Malik on bass and Shadow Wilson on drums, opens with Monk's Mood, a reflective near duo for the featured twosome. Then comes Evidence, and saxophone students everywhere are urged to listen to Coltrane slice through its changes like a sharp silver knife through cream cheese. And that is only the first of several other tenor solos which are equally searing. Try, for instance, Nutty, Epistrophy, Bye-Ya and Blue Monk. The pianist, too, is in high gear with a particularly riveting solo on Sweet And Lovely. A bonus here is the fact that the concert, for its time, is well recorded, and seemingly, balanced just fine. How this concert could have languished nearly fifty years in Blue Note's vault is anybody's guess. What's more important is that this time the deep sea divers came up from the depths of the ocean with a long lost treasure. Blue Note, 2005; Playing Time: 51:11, *****.

Just The Beginning, Julius Tolentino, alto saxophone. This is a debut album for the vibrant, soaring young alto saxophone whiz kid, Julius Tolentino. The music is essentially a modern hard bop session opening with the high flying title tune, Tolentino's original, Just The Beginning. The leader contributes two additional compositions, a nice groove on Shell Joy and his own ballad, Letter To Illinois. It seems obvious that Tolentino has listened to the music of the jazz masters, considering choices like Benny Golson's Domingo and Jackie McLean's Quadrangle. Two pop tunes add some luster here with Tolentino the feature player on I Want To Talk About You and the addition of trumpet ace Jeremy Pelt and trombone man Steve Davis on Make Someone Happy. Finally, there's a feature for Pelt on his own high octane Pharoah's Curse which is followed by an equally energetic Steve Davis composition entitled High Drama. Tolentino is a powerful presence on the alto and in Pelt and Davis, he brings on colleagues who can blow with the best. An on target rhythm section is comprised of Jeb Patton, piano; Vicente Archer, bass and Willie Jones III, drums. Sharp 9, 2005; Playing Time: 59:45, ***1/2.

Triskaidekaphobia, Ben Thomas, vibes, timbales. Right off the bat, let's get to this rather unwieldy title. According to the album notes, the group recorded an untitled tune in 13/4 time. Acknowledging the challenge of such a meter, one of the players stated "all the more reason to fear the number 13." And that, apparently, is what this 17 letter word means: fear of the number 13. Okay with me, although I couldn't find it in my dictionary. Anyway, it's nice to see a younger generation musician specializing in the vibes. Johnson varies the number of participants on this all originals program, performing his tunes in quartet, quintet and sextet settings. Clarinetist Eric Likkel plays on most cuts, and the sound of vibes and clarinet is one we don't often hear, and one which works very well. The tunes cover the gamut of styles and tempos, and some of the titles just beg for explanation. The following ones, for example, focus on animals: Things Happen To Bears, Where Did Those Chickens Come From and The Hat Of The Bearded Lizard. I'd love to hear what Thomas might do on a couple of standard bop tunes or ballads, but that will have to wait until his next CD. This time around, there's some energetic things happening. And not to bears. Origin Recordings, 2005; Playing Time: 57:00, ***.

Music Is The Magic, Kelley Johnson, vocals. Seattle area singer Kelley Johnson's new CD sparkles with personality and jazz chops, and no wonder. She takes advantage of a range other singers could only aspire to, and is particularly effective in the lower register. Her jazzy little liberties with the melody are always hip and never to the point of excess. She works here with some stellar musicians (not every guy on every tune) like Brian Lynch, trumpet; Geoff Keezer, piano; Steve Wilson, alto and some top of the hill Seattle cats as well. Her understated, natural, "this is easy" style is delightfully suited to her repertoire as well, with tunes like Lucky To Be Me, Old Devil Moon, The Tender Trap, Without A Song, God Bless The Child and several more. Hers is a clarity sometimes reminiscent of Irene Kral, and her quirky humor and phrasing now and then bring Annie Ross to mind. Kelley's been on the Seattle scene for several years, so why are we Portlanders only now learning of this first rate singer? Sapphire Records, 2005; Playing Time: 55:4, ****.

Artie's Choice, And The Naturals, Dick Johnson, clarinet; Lou Colombo, trumpet. Talk about an endorsement for Dick Johnson! How about this in a hand written letter from Artie Shaw: "he's the best I've ever heard. Bar nobody." And he may be the most versatile as well. Johnson, strangely under-appreciated for many years, co-leads this two CD session with the very lyrical trumpet ace, Lou Colombo. The tunes run the gamut from jazz vehicles like Groove Merchant, Walkin', All Blues, Shaw Nuff and Waltz For Debby to evergreens such as Young And Foolish, Emily, You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To, Stella By Starlight and even Take Me Out To The Ballgame. An additional treat here is the presence of Gray Sargent on some very tasty guitar solos. One of the throwbacks to stride era of smoky saloons and upright pianos, the hard swinging Dave McKenna makes his presence felt here as well. Throw in a few nicely interpreted vocals, and you have a well balanced set of some fine music. Make no mistake though, this is a showcase for two straight from the heart artists playing the music they love: silvery clarinetist, Dick Johnson and (he'll remind you of Bobby Hackett) Lou Colombo. Self-produced, 2004; Playing Time: 1st CD: 77:11; 2nd CD: 78:40, ***1/2.

Live At Port Townsend, Red Mitchell, bass; George Cables, piano. It was, most likely, a perfect Northwest summer day, July 25, 1992. Red Mitchell had only recently returned to the United States from a 25-year stay in Sweden, and was given a "welcome home" opportunity to play in a duo with the great pianist, George Cables. The setting was the annual Port Townsend Summer Jazz Festival, and in the spirit of the most creative innovators throughout jazz history, the two players stepped up and wowed the crowd without a moment of prior rehearsal. They had "talked", but had not played together. Ever. And you can just about feel the reaction of the large audience from the first notes of the opener, Autumn Leaves. This was followed by a thorough examination of Don't Blame Me; a sprightly Tangerine, and two more etched in stone standards, Body And Soul and Stella By Starlight. The set ender is Red's Big'N' And The Bear, on which he sings the praises of bassist from Count Basie's and Duke Ellington's Orchestras. Namely Walter Page and Jimmy Blanton. Musicians sometimes speak of "being in the zone." The phrase refers to those rare occasions when absolutely everything fits and cooks and swings and pleases. On this night, Red Mitchell and George Cables were in the zone. Challenge Records, 2005; Playing Time: 48:22, *****.

Grant Stewart + 4, Grant Stewart, tenor sax. Grant Stewart's third Criss Cross recording is, simply put, a terrific tour de force, straight-ahead CD. First, there's the roster of players. Stewart wisely includes guitarist Joe Cohn and pianist Bill Charlap. Just check the two of them out on the rip roaring opener, You ‘N' Me, a tune written by tenor legend, Al Cohn, Joe's late father. Joe's solo, along with that of Bill Charlap, will spin your jazz loving head around. Stewart then tackles the Kern evergreen, Yesterdays, taking it at an attractive medium tempo. A quirky, stop and go Joe Cohn blues, Cohn On The Cob is followed by a heated tempo on the old warhorse, Limehouse Blues. Another Kern beauty, The Folks Who Live On The Hill, is the ballad treat of the album, and is followed by a gentle, lesser known Jobim tune, Sabia. Leonard Bernstein's rarely heard Lonely Town is taken a scosh faster than usual, with a subtle, silvery solo from Bill Charlap. Bringing this swinging session to a close is an up tempo You Leave Me Breathless, with Stewart playing the changes effortlessly, and Charlap laying down a perfect, lively solo as well. The rhythm section is completed by Paul Gill, bass and Willie Jones III, drums. This CD celebrates the joy of communication among jazz musicians. It may be one of the best quintet dates of the year. Criss Cross Records, 2005; Playing Time: 60:34, *****.

Polyglot, Mike Van Liew, piano, arranger, composer. Look it up if you like, but "polyglot" is defined as speaking or writing in several languages. And that's just what Portlander Mike Van Liew does on a CD entirely comprised of original music. As its title indicates, it visits the many "languages" of tempo, style, and mood. To further add to its musical eclecticism, Van Liew distributes generous solo work among no less than nine players, all Portland based musicians. Most important, it swings and it challenges the listener to catch the subtle nuances of its crafty arranging and of Van Liew's stellar playing. Self-produced album, 2004; Playing Time: 44:46, ****.

Chasing Shadows, Pearl Django. This Seattle based group has garnered lots of attention playing in the style of its namesake, guitarist Django Reinhardt. Pearl Django is a swing group, somewhat along the lines of Portland's Everything's Jake, but without the vocals. Their instrumention is two guitars, violin and bass and they swing in a stylish and stylized manner on Bluesette, I Never Knew, Besame Mucho, September Song, and, in the spirit of Django himself, several French tunes. This is a niche kind of thing, but it can't be denied that these guys are very polished. Modern Hot Records, 2005; Playing Time: 49:14, ***.

Kaleidoscope, Jazz Meets The Symphony #6, Lalo Schifrin, conductor. Numero six in a series, Lalo Schifrin brings his orchestral jazz to the Sydney Opera House with an exciting, live performance with the Sydney Symphony (not to be confused with Symphony Sid!) As the title Kaleidoscope suggests, the music beams in on varied styles, notably pieces with a Latin character such as Peanut Vendor, El Salon Mexico and Slaughter On Tenth Avenue. Schifrin tries to make Gershwin's Prelude No.2 swing, and for this purist, that doesn't work. Aside from that, this performance, for what it is, comes through with authority. Aleph Records, 2005; Playing Time: 66:04, ***1/2.

Back On Top, Richie Cole, alto saxophone. One of the most fluid and ebullient alto players of his generation, Richie Cole continues carrying the mantle of bebop and ballads with his Alto Madness Jazz Orchestra, actually a pianoless septet of players right at home with Richie's exuberant style. Cole arranged all ten tunes heard here, rewarding his young colleagues with plenty of solo space on ten originals and standards Don't Misunderstand and Portrait Of Jenny. For the real Richie, check out his soaring solo on the title tune, Back On Top. Glad you're back, Richie. Jazz Excursion, 2005; Playing Time: 49:53, ***.

Rev-elation, Joe Locke, vibes. One of Milt Jackson's nicknames was "Rev", hence the fitting title for this CD tribute. Recorded live at Ronnie Scott's London jazz club, Locke's quartet includes Mike LeDonne, piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass and Mickey Roker, drums. All three of them are former Jackson quartet colleagues. Locke locks into the assignment on eight tunes, most of which were among Rev's favorites. Some of them include Milt's blues line, The Prophet Speaks; Horace Silver's Opus de Funk and the silky ballad, Close Enough For Love. And a loving tribute this is. Sharp 9, 2005; Playing Time: 58:10, *****.

Persephone, Ezra Weiss, piano. I guess the point of original music like this is that it's supposed to tell a story or create a musical portrait of some sort. Without a doubt, there are some formidable participants here. Michael Philip Mossman's trumpet, for example, is both powerful and delicate, depending on what is called for. Antonio Hart also has some stirring moments on alto and flute. And Weiss is a very percussive, no-holds-barred pianist in the performance of his own compositions. Many of them are, however, a bit on the dark and cerebral side, at least for this reviewer. Umoja, 2005; Playing Time: 56:30, **.

Live At Yoshi's; Steve Heckman, tenor and soprano saxophones. Before you start believing the jazz doomsayers, take a look at all the new names among this month's reviews. Well, by golly, here's yet another one. Steve Heckman is a free flowing saxophone player in the Coltrane hierarchy, even including Coltrane's Equinox in this live set at Oakland's most famous jazz club. Highlights from the rest of the set include Mal Waldron's Soul Eyes; a Monkish line called Theosphere, and two very attractive standards, Weaver Of Dreams and Blame It On My Youth. Keep an eye on Steve Heckman. He's well on his way. World City Music, 2005; Playing Time: 56:51, ***1/2.

Pag's Groove, Michael Pagan, piano, leader. This Colorado big band features the composing, arranging and piano of Michael Pagan and its dense, layered arrangements and exciting solo passages are in the mold of the challenging charts of supermen like Thad Jones and Bill Holman. Seven of the eight tunes presented here are Pagan's originals, and while he writes scintillating ensemble lines, he also leaves plenty of solo space for his talented cast of musicians. Incidentally, the only standard here is Never Let Me Go, featuring the rich tenor of Tom Myer, and the award winner for most outlandish song title is Waltz For A Bad Hair Day. Makes one wonder how Pagan came up with a name like that. Capri Records, 2005; Playing Time: 55:21, ****1/2.

Elton Exposed, Ted Howe, piano. I wouldn't know Elton John's music from that of my next door neighbor. So I decided, in reviewing this disc, to treat it as though these were simply original compositions of anyone's, even those of my next door neighbor. I DO know that Elton is a rock guy, so I must admit some surprise that these "originals" came off as well as they did. Part of the reason is that Ted Howe is a very swinging piano player. Also, it's never an insult to welcome bassist John Patitucci and drummer Joe LaBarbera to your trio. I hope Elton likes it and that his fans discover it. Summit Records, 2005; PT: 61:32, ***.

Jazz Stories, Lynn Darroch, writer. Kudos to Lynn Darroch, frequent jazz contributor to the Oregonian, and former editor of Jazzscene, for putting together some fascinating narratives and surrounding them with perfectly placed moods of tenorman Rob Davis and guitarist John Stowell. You'll hear the story of Charlie Parker as told by Red Rodney, a bop trumpeter who idolized Bird. And there's the colorful Seattle connection in the early career of Ray Charles and the learning experience of the youthful Phil Woods among his older heroes. Finally, there's Charlie Rouse on eleven years of making music with Thelonious Monk. I was mesmerized by these stories. You will be too. Self-produced, 2005; Playing Time: 75:30, ****1/2.

Yours, Sara Gazarek, vocals. A debut album for a singer who sings perfectly on key, and phrases a little like the late Susannah McCorkle. Her mix of standards and a couple tunes written by her pianist, Josh Nelson, work well. Gazarek's "got it" and one can only hope for good things ahead for her. Native Language, 2005; Playing Time: 51:00, ****.

That's Okay, Richard Glaser, piano. Here's a quartet performing an entire program of Richard Glaser's tunes, many of which have attractive, swinging melody lines. Singer Mary Apka needs to fine tune her enunciation. She was very difficult to understand. An all instrumental program might have worked better. Self-produced, 2005; Playing Time: 42:11, *1/2.

The San Francisco Chamber Jazz Quartet. Here is a group whose music touches on classical, New Age, vocal flourishes and even a hint of Klezmer here and there. Trying to be all inclusive often doesn't work, but in this case the SFCJQ pulls it off nicely. Reedman Steve Heckman provides the strongest jazz presence. Music Wizards, 2005; Playing Time: 59:27, ***.

Fat Lip, Hornheads. Hey, I have to admit that this group was a lot of fun to hear. Basically made up of two trumpets, two saxes and one trombone, (and no rhythm section at all), they are a tightly woven fivesome on several originals and Stevie Wonder and West Side Story medleys. Very hip stuff! Bone 2B Wild Records, 2004; Playing Time: 53:13, ***1/2.

The Nearness Of You, Sarah DeLeo, vocals. Give her credit for choosing some fine standards like If I Had You, The Nearness Of You, Angel Eyes, It's Easy To Remember and more. DeLeo sounds like the kind of nice, hometown singer you'd like to go hear in a jazz club in, say, Topeka, Kansas. Self-produced album, 2005; Playing Time: 48:15, **.

American All Stars In Paris, Sarah Morrow, trombone. Sarah Morrow plays an Al Grey-style "wah wah" trombone, and combined with Hal Siinger's bluesy tenor and Rhoda Scott on Hammond B3, there's a New Orleans parade-like feel to this CD. Lots of good tunes and a happy feeling, but the shuffle-beat rhythm can get a bit monotonous. O+ Music, 2004, **1/2.

Travis Shook Plays Kurt Weill, Travis Shook, piano. Travis Shook is a force on piano, and one deserving of wider recognition. His choice of Kurt Weill material is a good one, as Weill gave us great tunes like My Ship, Lost In The Stars, September Song and Mack The Knife. All of those and more are heard here with Shook's elegant piano sharing the bandstand with several guest artists. Full Gallop Entertainment, 2005; PT: 41:46, ****.

Cream Of The Crescent, Herlin Riley, drums. Drummer Herlin Riley hosts a session featuring a sextet of New Orleans natives with a front line featuring Wynton Marsalis, trumpet, Wycliffe Gordon, trombone and Victor Goines, saxophones. Together they examine a multitude of sounds deriving from the varied cultures of the area, including Cuban and samba styles, Indian chants and blues. Criss Cross, 2005; Playing Time: 61:03, ***.

Crypto, Scott Tiemann, drums; Matt Belzer, soprano and alto saxophones. Maybe the tip off on this CD is the actual title to the first tune, We're All Gonna Die Now. While that is not likely the case, the CD has little of interest to offer jazz lovers except two Monk tunes -- Evidence and Criss Cross. The rest of it just can't be carried with only saxophone and drums. Matobelu Music, 2004; Playing Time: 30:22; *1/2.

Blue In Green, Tom Ranier, piano, Glenn Cashman, tenor sax. Hand in glove: that's how these two players interact with one another on a set of duo performances of bop, bossa, ballads and blues. This is a program of spontaneous, skilled improvisation; a musical meeting of mostly first takes. Only in jazz, friends, only in jazz. Primrose Lane Records, 2005; PT: 74:04, ****.

The Houston Branch, Bob Dorough, piano, vocals. This CD is a bit misleading in that it is primarily a showcase for Dorough's daughter, flutist Aralee Dorough. The music is very well performed but only features Bob's fun loving voice on two selections, One Note Samba and September Song. Manna, however, for flute buffs. Dees Bees Records, 2005; Playing Time: 58:44, ** 1/2.

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