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CD Reviews - May 2007
by George Fendel

Zoot Suite, Zoot Sims, tenor sax and soprano sax (one selection only). Zootophiles will salivate when they spot this previously unreleased performance awaiting them at their local record store. Zoot combined a light, Lester-based sound with a sense of swing which I doubt we’ll ever see the likes of again. This 1973 live date is thought to have been recorded on board a Caribbean jazz cruise. Zoot works in the company of Jimmy Rowles, George Mraz and Mousey Alexander; pretty heady musical colleagues, wouldn’t you say? The material is reliable, standard Zoot Sims fare such as Jitterbug Waltz, Do Nothin’ Til You Hear From Me, Tickle Toe, I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good, Honeysuckle Rose, Rockin’ In Rhythm, My Old Flame and In A Mellow Tone. One of the prominent jazz writers once referred to Zoot Sims as a “playing fool.” That doesn’t sound like a compliment, but what he meant was that Zoot was one of those old school guys who would unpack his tenor and play at the drop of a hat. So here’s John Haley Sims doing just that - playing some tunes he loved with like minded pals. If there’s one slight bug in the recipe, it’s that the sound quality is not quite up to today’s standard. Close, but not quite. Zoot and Rowles found some magic together. And they sure brew it up with enthusiasm and affection on this lively occasion. High Note, 2007, Playing Time: 59:56, ***1/2.

Blues Quarters Vol. 2, David Hazeltine, piano. There’s still a few of the old guard around and about on the bop scene. Guys who were there at or near the beginning. Guys like Hank Jones, James Moody and Sonny Rollins, to name a few. But mostly, the stunning bop baton has been passed to a new generation, and it’s players such as the ones on this album that maintain the tradition. As the title suggests, this is a follow up to Vol.1 from several years back. Except for the addition on three tunes of Jose Alexis Diaz, the personnel is the same as on the earlier effort. Joining Hazeltine are the brilliant Eric Alexander, tenor sax; Peter Washington, bass and Joe Farnsworth, drums. A few highlights include Hazeltine’s unhurried, fresh solo on Alexander’s Inner Circle; the tenor man’s Dexter-ish Embraceable You; an upbeat, Latin laced Unforgettable; a reminder of Zoot Sims and of the fact that Jimmy Van Heusen’s Suddenly It’s Spring is one of those unheralded but lovely tunes; and, true to the album title, a couple of tastes of classic blues changes on the pianist’s The Second Blues Quarters and Blues For Us. Hazeltine is right down the center of mainstream boulevard and Alexander just makes it all sound so easy that you want to slap him! Criss Cross, 2007; Play Time: 61:46, ****1/2.

Generations, Bucky and John Pizzarelli, guitars. Undoubtedly many of you remember some of those guitar meetings of players like Joe Pass, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel and Charlie Byrd. Well, this father and son duo keeps alive that very musical concept of the guitar duet. Regardless of who’s playing melody and who’s playing rhythm guitar, the evergreens heard here come off effortlessly and most attractively. The first tune, a Neal Hefti line called Fred (I think for Astaire) is a tune I associate with Jimmy Rowles and Zoot Sims. I’m not sure if anyone else in jazzdom has recorded it. Nevertheless, it’s a fine melody line that stays in your head, and it gets this CD off to a delightful start. Of the fourteen additional pop and son pieces heard here, I was drawn to: the jaunty melody line of Rose Room; the creative chord work of A Sleepin’ Bee; the improvisational possibilities explored in Avalon; the chordal texture of Early Autumn; the rarely heard verse to How Long Has This Been Going On; and the straight-forward honesty of The Way You Look Tonight. Given their relationship, it would be hard to imagine any two guitarists who know one another better than the Pizzarellis. It shows in the intimacy and the depth of musicianship heard here. Arbors, 2007; PT: 61:03, ***.

Jennifer Hall Meets ... ,Jennifer Hall, baritone sax. Not that it makes an iota of difference, but ruminate on this question for a moment...how many female baritone saxophone players are etched into your consciousness? If you’re like me, the answer was none. Until now, that is. Meet Jennifer Hall, who sounds, believe it or not, a lot like Gerry Mulligan. And so it’s no surprise that what’s likely her debut CD is a neat tribute to the baritone guru. Among other Los Angeles bright lights, Hall calls upon trumpet wizards Carl Saunders and Jack Sheldon for some top flight solo work, and Sheldon even manages a vocal on Judy Holiday’s lyric to Mulligan’s Summer’s Over. The other eleven tunes, ten of which are GM compositions, include Five Brothers, Elevation, Apple Core, Festive Minor, Line For Lyons, Walkin‚ Shoes and Rocker. We need for the lyricial and the smartly swinging tunes of Gerry Mulligan to somehow always be there for us to enjoy. Hats off to Jennifer Hall and her friends for doing their part in making this possible. SeaBreeze, 2006; Play Time: 61:18, ****.

Alone Together, Ben Aranov, piano and Jay Leonhart, bass. Ben Aranov may not be the most familiar name to you, but he’s been on the scene for some time now, however seemingly more frequently as a sideman. With the ever dependable and very busy New York bassist, Jay Leonhart, Aranov gets a rare opportunity here as a leader, and he (and Leonhart) make the most of it. The pianist opts for a light, exquisite, but sure touch, and his comping on Leonhart’s solos reflect a rare communication between the two players. Among the standout tunes: Alone Together gets the date off to an impressive beginning; Wayne Shorter’s theme-like Virgo is hauntingly beautiful; A Child Is Born is emotional and almost rhapsodic; Come Rain Or Come Shine is taken a touch faster than usual; Bye is Aranov’s spirited, rollicking original; Pettiford Brown is Leonhart’s salute to two of the all-time greats on bass; My One And Only Love is always a harmonic standout; April is Lennie Tristano’s changes on I’ll Remember April; and Leonhart’s Parallel Universes conjures a sense of mystery. It’s time for Ben Aranov to achieve greater recognition for his considerable artistry. He and Jay Leonhart have given us a “keeper.” Wolf Rose Records, 2006; Playing Time: 71:25, ***1/2.

Reflections, Frank Morgan, alto saxophone. Frank Morgan has come so close to the top echelons of jazz fame, but to this day lives in the shadow of his late brother, trumpeter Lee Morgan. It’s not for lack of talent. Morgan gets this thick, boppy tone on the alto, a bit akin to what Benny Golson achieves on tenor. Anyway, on this superb date, he once again joins forces with another under appreciated vet, pianist Ronnie Mathews. The quartet is rounded out by the presence of Essiet Essiet, bass and Billy Hart, drums. Morgan has seemingly always opted for standards and great jazz compositions as opposed to being a prolific composer. And that leaning is reflected here with Walkin’, Monk’s Mood, I’ll Be Around, Solar, Blue Monk, Crazy He Calls Me and Out Of Nowhere. Morgan must have a special affinity for the pop tune of years ago, Love Story. He’s recorded it a few times on other releases, and really digs in on the ballad this time around. Titles like those mentioned above constitute, for me, what the jazz art form is all about. Although without fanfare, Morgan has been a major contributor to jazz for many years. His music will stand the test of time; this album ranks up there with his very best. High Note, 2007; PT: 53:59, ****.

Song And Dance, Bobby Broom, guitar. Bobby Broom, a new name to me, brings us a feathery touch, and a very natural ease to his guitar playing. Presented here in a trio setting with Dennis Carroll, bass and Kobie Watkins, drums, there’s plenty of room for Broom to stretch out on some invigorating and creative solos. The tunes are a mix of pop vehicles (Can’t Buy Me Love, Where Is The Love, Superstar and, of all things, Wichita Lineman, of Glenn Campbell fame. When placed in the right hands, these pop items gain some legitimacy. Bobby Broom gives them energy and interest beyond their original recordings. Several of his own compositions also find their way into the mix. Among them, I particularly like the originality and oddly metered Blues For Modern Man and the plaintive melody line on Waiting And Waiting. Two choices from the American Songbook complete the album, Smile and You And The Night And The Music. This is a very listenable album with finely tuned communication among the players. Origin, 2007; Playing Time: 65:38, ***.

Listen Up, Jack Sheldon, trumpet. Here’s one of those infrequent opportunities to hear Jack Sheldon strictly as a trumpet player. No vocals here. Jack’s always fun and fun-loving as a singer, but this time, it’s that “saliva in the horn” sound (if you’ll excuse my crudeness) that we’ve all known and loved for decades. His current rhythm section is made up of Joe Bagg, piano; Bruce Lett, bass and Dave Tull, drums, all new names to me, and all capable and cookin’! The quartet gets things underway with a slow, dreamlike Isfahan, and then brings up the tempo with Miles’s So What. The Shadow Of Your Smile took me back to the 1965 soundtrack of The Sandpiper where Jack originally recorded his stunning version of the Johnny Mandel tune. Star Eyes is a staple which has seemingly been in Sheldon’s book forever, and Coltrane’s Lady Bird is given a fresh and lively run through. Bernie’s Tune, a frequent choice of jazz musicians follows and Cole Porter’s I Love You is another tune Jack returns to often. Another Miles evergreen, All Blues, leads Jack and company into a brief ‘Round Midnight to end the program. All of that makes for a classic quartet date led by a trumpet icon who remains a favorite of musicians and fans alike. Butterfly, 2006; PT: 65:52, *****.

Tenacity, Honolulu Jazz Quartet. And here we always thought that it was all swaying palms and tiny bubbles over there in paradise. Not quite. And why? Well, along comes the Honolulu Jazz Quartet to convince us that jazz is alive and well in 50th state. The HJQ is comprised of John Kolivas, bass and leader; Tim Tsukiyama, tenor and soprano saxophones; Don Del Negro, piano; and Adam Baron, drums. Nine original compositions by various group members make up this album. Kolivas’s title tune, Tenacity, gives Tsukiyama and Del Negro a chance to test their bop chops at high velocity. For contrast, try “The Indians,” a very lovely ballad featuring Tsukiyama’s tenor. Kolivas also contributed a blues, The Keez Is In The Car. Could that title be a salute to pianist Geoff Keezer? Chillin’ At The Club once again features Tsukiyama’s mellow tenor, a sound I much preferred over his soprano work. So, the next time you’re in the Islands, and thinking there’s no place to hear jazz within a five mile plane ride, check to see if the HWQ is playing someplace. It would be a nice bonus as part of your Hawaiian vacation. For more info on the HJQ, try www.honolulujazzquartet.com. Self-produced, 2007; Playing Time: 65:35, ***1/2.

Up And Running, John Fedchock, trombone, leader, arranger. If you’re thinking this big band is going is to make you misty eyed and nostalgic for the dance band era, you’ve got the wrong idea. This is, rather, the saber rattling, urban, “I can make it anywhere,” New York sound. You see, in the Apple, a veteran player/arranger such as John Fedchock has his choice from among the world’s best players. Face it, most of them are Gotham residents, and to survive there, you’d better be more than good. And you’d better have some swagger to go along with it. Fedchock takes no prisoners from the opening notes of his title tune, the sizzling Up And Running. And the band maintains that kind of excitement throughout with sterling performances of familiar material like Embraceable You, Moment’s Notice, Dedicated To You and Theme For Ernie. Fedchock also scores as a writer, and he and his colleagues deliver the goods on several originals, one of the best of which is the swirling J-Birds. Fedchock’s trombone solo ranks with the most fluid of history’s jazz trombonists. Having said that, check out his other new tunes, The Aristocrat and Mr. Dudley, for a different twist. These are demanding, tough charts, reminding me somewhat of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band. It takes skilled players to take on this material, but Fedchock’s aggregation strikes gold. Reservoir, 2007; Playing Time: 69:03, **** 1/2.

The Music Of Arthur Schwartz, Ray Kennedy, piano. If Arthur Schwartz didn’t quite achieve the lofty status of the Gershwins, Berlins, Kerns, et al, he’s right there on the next rung of the ladder among the standout composers of Tin Pan Alley. And Arbors Records just keeps on pulling marvelous, lesser known artists out of thin air. Ray Kennedy is one of them, and if you like the elegance of, say, Hank Jones or John Bunch, you’re going to enjoy the sophistication and charm Kennedy brings to these “all-time” melodies by Arthur Schwartz. Ray’s trio of brother Tom Kennedy, bass and Miles Vandiver, drums, is joined here by guitarist Joe Cohn. No less than twelve of the fifteen tunes were collaborations between Schwartz and lyricist Howard Dietz. And they include such timeless treasures as By Myself, You And The Night And The Music, Alone Together, Dancing In The Dark, Something To Remember You By and I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plan. Among the “sleepers” are gems like That’s Entertainment, Rhode Island Is Famous For You, and a real beauty which has been rediscovered in recent years, Haunted Heart. If you care about classic tunes like these, there’s lots to sink your teeth into, courtesy of Ray Kennedy and friends. Arbors Records, 2007; Playing Time: 64:19, ****.

Time And The Infinite, Adam Rogers, guitar. Rogers opts for the thick, semi-amplified sound which has found favor in recent years by many of the younger jazz guitarists. It’s hard to describe it in mere words, but it’s quite different from say, Kenny Burrell or Gene Bertoncini. Still, Rogers and his trio find some new energy in Night And Day, simplicity in Young And Foolish, bop chops in Bird’s Cheryl, improvisational vistas in Without A Song and a languid and lengthy I Loves You Porgy. Four Rogers originals add luster as the guitarist is joined by Scott Colley, bass and Bill Stewart, drums. Criss Cross, 2007; PT: 58:56, ***.

Livin’ On Love, Wesla Whitfield, vocals. For quite a while now, Wesla Whitfield has tread that fine line between jazz and cabaret, and has delighted audiences from both camps. Besides her totally distinctive voice, she chooses to give us juicy little extras like rarely heard verses to the wonderful standards she sings. With Mike Greensill’s arrangements for an octet that includes four French horns PLUS the solos of monster reedman Gary Foster, this album of fifteen timeless winners is both beautifully conceived and performed. In an American Idol world, Wesla, I’m Glad There Is You. High Note Records; 2007; PT: 6:45, *****.

Solo Thoughts, Shep Meyers, piano. One of the most satisfying experiences in jazz is to put on a solo piano disc by someone who can pull off the task. You see, there’s nowhere to hide when you go it alone. Either you’ve the chops or you don’t. Shep Meyers is a San Diego pianist who more than gets the job done on such winners as You Go To My Head, Have You Met Miss Jones, I Thought About You, Skylark, There’s A Small Hotel, and even Billy Strayhorn’s stunning Blood Count. A dozen more winners complete a beautiful, recital- like performance. For more info, check out www.shepmeyers.com. Self-produced, 2007; Playing Time 59:25, ****.

Family First, Mark Sherman, vibraphone. Judging from this CD, the name Mark Sherman is one we’ll look for on future recordings. He’s fleet, vital and impressive with the likes of New York cats Joe Magnarelli on trumpet and Allen Farnham on piano, among others. The music is comprised of nearly all original compositions with varied colors and tempos. Sherman’s solos, along with those of Magnarelli are inspired and direct. A inventively reharmonized We’ll Be Together Again is the CD’s one standard. Hats off to Mark Sherman and friends for keeping the flame burning. City Hall Records, 2007; Playing Time: 54:12, ****.

The Target, Kate McGarry, vocals. One thing you can say for Kate McGarry is that she chooses good songs. Fine fare such as The Meaning Of The Blues, It Might As Well Be Spring, Blue In Green, The Heather On The Hill, The Lamp Is Low and a clever tune I associate with Betty Carter called Do Something. McGarry sings nicely in tune, but the timber of her voice is such that it comes across in more of a pop-folk vein than as a jazz singer. In addition, her accompniment is too sparse and somehow too “outside” to adequately support these songs. Palmetto Records, 2007; Playing Time: 63:15, **.

The Jazz Album, Thomas Quastoff, vocals. Who would have known that Thomas Quastoff, a baritone-bass singer with an enormous following in the classical world, could put forth something so completely impressive in a jazz vein? Well, apparently jazz has been a lifelong passion for Quastoff, and with the arrangements of Nan Schwartz and Grammy winner Alan Broadbent, he succeeds here with flying colors. For starters, how about Can’t We Be Friends, Smile, They All Laughed, In My Solitude and much more. So this time, instead of Schubert and Strauss, it’s Duke, Gershwin and Legrand. Duetsche Grammophon, 2007; Playing Time: 49:12; ****.

Your Check’s In The Mail, Stan Bock, trombone, eumphonium, vocals. PDX trombonist Stan Bock has issued an album in which he just shines, to say nothing of top rate solo contributions from other esteemed Portlanders Paul Mazzio, Warren Rand, Renato Caranto, George Mitchell, Dave Captein and Mel Brown. Catch Mitchell sizzling on the title tune, Bock with a Latin touch on Green Dolphin Street; an inspired Mazzio on Night In Tunisia or the nice ensemble feel of I’ll Remember April. I could have done without the funnky James Brown-like The Godfather, still there’s lots to like in this roster of top echelon PDXers. OA2 Records, 2007; Playing Time: 66:29, ***1/2.

Furious Rubato, Hal Galper, piano. Hal Galper has embarked on a new path, and after seeing this exact same trio recently at LV’s Uptown, and hearing this recording, it just doesn’t resonate for me. Jeff Johnson is nothing short of brilliant on bass and John Bishop, although fine on the CD, was too loud for the room in person. Galper’s playing has become so dense, percussive and almost aimless, that it’s nearly impossible to follow the changes on tunes announced as standards. Many well schooled ears dug the live performance. I didn’t. And the same lukewarm water greets me on this CD. Origin Records, 2007; PT: 57:28, **.

Time Piece, Morrie Louden, bass. Wow, this guy could be the next bass virtuoso in our midst. His playing is sometimes furiously fast, and his up tempo (and I MEAN up tempo); runs by you at near “sheets of sound” velocity. And yet he turns the table around and writes haunting, expressive ballads. It’s not every cat on every track, but some of his colleagues here include Bob Sheppard, Seamus Blake, Alex Sipigian and some unbelievable piano from Edward Simon and Mike Eckroth. This music is not for everyone who purports to be a jazz fan, but I sure found it fascinating. MOSound Productions, 2007, Play Time: 67.00, ****.

Ends And Means, Vincent Herring, alto and soprano saxophones. The thing you notice about Vincent Herring’s alto is that even at fast tempos, he maintains a consistent, lovely tone. It’s absent of the sometimes acidic bite of other alto players, and it works well on this quartet/quintet outing. The up and coming Jeremy Pelt, a trumpet player of equal facility tone wise, joins the fray on four tunes, including sterling silver renditions of The Song Is Ended and Caravan. Other familiar vehicles include Norwegian Wood and Benny Golson’s Stablemates. Sounds like a nice day was had by all in the recording studio! High Note, 2007; Playing Time: 56:46, ****.

Never Open With A Ballad, Jim Pearce, piano, vocals. Jim Pearce puts aside one long standing, nearly universally accepted morés of jazz and that’s Never Open With A Ballad, his opener! Billed as a pianist-singer in the Frishberg-Dorough mold, I found him to be less specialized and somewhat less quirky. His quintet swings along with ease on some nicely crafted arrangements. Special kudos to trumpet man Joe Grandsen, whose tone and concept were impressive. The best of his four vocals was The Things I’ve Seen, a clever recitation of life events along the lines of Dorough’s Better Than Anything. Self-produced, 2007; Playing Time: 51:48, ***.

Angels Of Shanghai, Bob James, piano and synthesizer. Based on recent albums, I thought Bob James had returned to jazz. Wrong. This CD puts him right back in the so called smooth jazz camp. Only this time, he’s added some Chinese electronic effects and vocals. It’s better than most smooth jazz, but excuse me while I yawn. Koch Entertainment, 2007; Play Time: 54:24, *1/2.

Sketches Of Spain Y Mas:, Conrad Herwig, trombone. This is a great follow-up to Herwig’s previous release, Another Kind Of Blue. Both celebrate the music of Miles Davis with a distinctive Latin flavor. If you don’t think such an idea can possibly work, lend your ears to the excitement on Miles milestones like Solar, Seven Steps To Heaven and a 24 minute Sketches Of Spain. Even Miles would have to smile! Half Note Records,2007; Playing Time: 50:18, ****.

Far Away, Jose Duques, drums, percussion. This Latin Quartet of piano, bass, drums and guitar gets a groovy sort of energy into eight original compositions by leader Jose Duques. Speaking only for myself, I’m lukewarm at best when it comes to most Latin jazz, but this group has a nice presence and is smart enough not to surround the listener with extraneous percussive effects. Self-produced, 2006; Play Time: not indicated, ***.

Ballads And Burners, Dave Frank, piano. This is a solo piano effort, and Dave Frank puts power into the burners and passion into the ballads. With the exception of Cole Porter’s It’s All Right With Me, it’s all original compositions with odd titles like Allied Forces and Like People In Heat. Frank’s left hand lays the groundwork, and his right provides the virtuosity. As they say, something for everybody. Jazzheads Recordings, 2007; Playing Time: 54:25, ** 1/2.

Refugee, Hector Martignon, piano. This is high octane, propulsive Latin music which, frankly gets a bit too busy for my idle brain. It’s not to say that Martignon can’t play. He’s quite the spirited virtuoso. Spin my head around, but only once please. If you dug Bobby Enriquez, then Martignon may be your guy. Zoho, 2007; Playing Time: 54:27, **.

Live Sessions, Gilad Barkan, piano. A native of Israel and a product of Berklee College of Music, Gilad Barkan’s two CD set consists of original music for trio. To some degree, he seems to have followed the lead of Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, and perhaps even Bill Evans. This is very introspective music, a long way from, say, Gene Harris or Erroll Garner. New Step Music, 2007; Playing Time: CD #1: 48:31; CD #2: 47:3, ***.

New York Samba Jazz Quintet, Hendrik Meurkens, harmonica, vibes. Considered the heir apparent to Toots Thielemans on jazz harmonica, Hendrik Meurkens shows us another side with this quintet. He’s a cookin’ vibes player as well, and gives us generous helpings of both instruments all in tight, sensuous samba rhythms. You’ll recognize several tunes; if not by title, then by melody. And Hendrik Meurkens makes them all dazzle. Zoho, 2007; Playing Time: 51:06, ***1/2.

Other new cds which may be of interest to you:




Miscellaneous information

Right Where I Belong

Lauren Hooker, vocals

Musical Legends


Once More With Feeling

Phil Bodner, clarinet


(with Milt Hinton, Dick Hyman, more)

Way Out Willie

Seamus Blake, tenor

Criss Cross

(Quintet; 6 originals)


David (Fathead) Newman

High Note

(Sextet, 10 standards)

Climbing The Gates

Falkner Evans, piano


(Modern, fresh trio)

MM Honors B. French

Bob French, drums

Marsalis Music

( New Orleans style)

Sunshine Of My Soul

Jaki Byard , piano

High Note

(Solo; an eclectic hero)


Copyright 2007, Jazz Society of Oregon