CD Reviews - November 2007
by Kyle O'Brien & George Fendel
by Kyle O'Brien
Prog, The Bad Plus.
The groundbreaking trio sets themselves up again with smart covers of pop and rock tunes, but peppers them with originals that are even more intriguing than their covers. The pounding “Physical Cities” captures the pure energy with which the group always plays live. “Giant” is a lighter but no less infectious tune, with a discernibly light melody, while “Thriftstore Jewelry” courts a jaunty Latin rhythm. The originals are mostly written by bassist Reid Anderson, but the group plays like all three wrote them instantaneously. The covers are fun, with a pretty version of the Tears for Fears hit, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” sharing space with the Rush hit, “Tom Sawyer.” While the rock hits are a bit of fun, they aren't taken quite far enough outside the norm to be viably different, and they lose the punch, especially on Burt Bacharach's “This Guy's in Love with You,” which, except for a bit of bombast at the tail end, isn't too far from the original. The Bad Plus is best when keeping the energy high and the listener guessing what's next. 2007, Heads Up. Playing Time: 64 minutes. ***1/2
School's In, Maceo Parker, saxophone.
Maceo has always been a funk saxophonist, from his time with James Brown to his years with Parliament/Funkadelic to his many solo discs. He always gets a smokin' good band to back his vibrant playing. This is good-time groove music, buoyed by Maceo's rhythmic playing, the infectious beats and slapping bass. Here he's backed by a strong horn section, creating one of his funkiest solo albums in years. Fellow alto player Candy Dulfer, who Parker toured with as part of Prince's band several years back, joins him, giving a 1-2 alto punch, along with filling out the vocal section. There's nothing terribly deep here. Lyrics are present more for pumping up the music rather than adding message, much like a lot of funk and soul from the 70s. The cover of the Jackson 5's “ABC” is slower, funkier and more groovalicious than the original, if that's possible. Parker even shows off a fine tone on the ballad “Song for My Teacher.” It's a different side we don't usually hear, and it fits nicely in the middle of the disc. Sam Cooke's “What a Wonderful World” contains the only lyric of substance, and that's still on the lighter side. Deep it's not, but this is a darned fun album, listenable from track one through to track 10. 2006, BHM Productions. Playing Time: 57 minutes. ****
Sound Grammar, Ornette Coleman, alto saxophone.
Coleman hasn't put out an album in quite a while, but with “Sound Grammar,” a live album recorded in 2005, the wait seems worth it. The music here works at a feverish pitch and recalls his early free jazz work. This is a two-bass quartet (Gregory Cohen and Tony Falanga), one picking and one bowing, making for a tension-tension-release texture that fills out the lack of chordal instruments. With son Denardo Coleman on drums, Ornette is free to explore his instruments (he also plays trumpet and violin, with mixed effect). The frenetic “ Jordan ” bleeds into the elastic “Sleep Talking” with Coleman showing an affinity for melody even in the fluid and occasionally cacophonous proceedings. There are a few familiar tones here, with the free-meets-soul jazz of his 1959 tune, “Turnaround,” and the blistering “Song X” from his 1985 disc with Pat Metheny. Coleman has lost none of his edge, though he's now in his 70s. His sound may be a little more methodic, melodic and less crazed, but the youth of his quartet keeps this disc alive and kicking. 2006, Phrase Text. Playing Time: 59 minutes. **** 1/2
Live at Yoshi's, Be Bread, Demo.
Pianist Myra Melford, a former Washingtonian, has made a name for herself in the jazz world with her genre-embracing, full-bodied jazz sound. With this quintet, Melford combines influences of western jazz and eastern music, mostly culled from her time spent in India . There's also plenty of avant-garde, atonal blues, muted tones, lengths of silence, and contemporary compositional jazz. Melford's vision is big and wide, and her compositions are lengthy affairs, traveling distances to reach multiple touch points. Her band is up to the task – trumpeter Cuong Vu, guitarist Brandon Ross, bassist Stomu Takeishi and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee – all venture through the same forest, journeying with Melford. It's approachable if occasionally long-winded music, with a sense of melody and discovery.
2007, no label given. Playing Time: 66 minutes. ***1/2
Back East, Joshua Redman, saxophones.
The always evolving Redman courts both tradition and experimentation on this disc that finds him back in New York with three different trio settings. But this album is much more than just a platform for Redman's fleet-fingered talents. It's a chance for him to reconnect with his New York ties, after some years back in his hometown Bay Area. It's a way for him to explore some eastern modalities, as on “Zarafah,” where he uses his soprano to make plaintive calls while Brian Blade's subtle drumming accent Christian McBride's bass work. Two sopranos are utilized to excellent effect on the eastern-flecked “Mantra #5,” as Redman and Chris Cheek trade lines over a simple set of changes while Ali Jackson plays his drum set with his hands. The two sax theme carries throughout the album, save for a few tunes. Joe Lovano and Redman go tenor to tenor on Wayne Shorter's “Indian Song,” sharing melodies and intersecting sometimes dissonant lines. But the best and most poignant is saved for last, as this album becomes a final connection between father and son. Dewey Redman joins his son on what would be one of Dewey's last sessions before his death in 2006. The more muted tone of Dewey and the fuller tone of Joshua are surprisingly complementary on an upbeat take of Coltrane's “ India .” Dewey still has fire in his solo, even if his sound isn't as strong, and Joshua gives him plenty of room. On alto, Dewey closes out the album with the sparse “GJ,” where he is allowed to go it alone until the song's nearly mournful, abstract end. The elder Redman does great justice to this album with his playing, while Joshua does great justice to his father on this parting musical gift. 2007, Nonesuch Records. Playing Time: 63 minutes. ****
Tree of Life, Cecil Taylor, piano.
For many, Taylor will be impenetrable. The disc, recorded live in 1990, is a tribute to Berlin , where he had just finished a six month stay. It starts with a barely heard series of yelps and vocalizing in an empty space. It morphs into “Period 2,” a slowly building, atonal piece that moves from long tones to rapid-fire runs and dissonant harmonies. Taylor works the entire length of the keyboard, often in frenetic fashion. He is clearly influenced by 20th Century European composers (Webern and Stockhausen come to mind). The piece winds on for nearly 45 minutes, and this is not for those for whom melody is a central point in music. The phantom vocals return in “Period 3,” and the focus is slightly more western, though still as forceful and conceptual. There are bits of Monk in here, but it is still all Taylor . The final few minutes are decidedly more lighthearted. Through all the obscurity, we can pick out elements of stride piano, flashes of jaunty melody, free improvisations and pensive tones. This is no easy album. It can be harsh, unforgiving and downright cacophonous. But there is no doubt that Taylor is one of the most technically proficient and forward thinking artists in jazz. For those who like to live on the edge, this does not disappoint. 1991, Fmp. Playing Time: 73 minutes. ***
Songs and Melodies, Jillian LeBeck, piano/vocals .
LeBeck is a young Vancouver , Canada artist who favors a mellow approach, but certainly not easy. She's quick with a chord change on electric piano, especially on her own tunes. Her voice is an intriguing mix of Blossom Dearie, Patricia Barber, Joni Mitchell and Norah Jones. It is plaintive, whispery and sweet but with the right touch of melancholy to bring depth to the lyrics. She shows a sense of whimsy with the playfully surreal, “Round and Round,” which features clarinet and electric piano lobbing lines back and forth. Her cover of Lennon & McCartney's “Julia” is a beautiful duet with the right balance of pop, folk and jazz. The combination of instruments (saxophones, clarinets, cello, flute, electronics) makes for unique textures, and the mood is often near midnight. An artist deserving to be heard outside her native land. 2007, Talie Records. Playing Time: 59 minutes. ****
By George Fendel
Influences, Bryant Allard, trumpet.
Portlander Bryant Allard obviously believes that there's still a place in this world for lyrical, swinging, sensible, straight ahead jazz, and he gives us just that on this showcase for his outstanding quartet. A couple of Bryant originals, “Balmer's Mood” and “Remembering Hollis,” get this session off the ground in fine fashion. Tenor titan David Evans guests on the latter tune and returns later on a scintillating version of Gershwin's “Who Cares.” The remainder of the CD is divided thoughtfully between standards (“I'll Close My Eyes”); jazz gems like Jobim's “Triste” and Benny Harris's bop anthem, “Crazeology”; Blue Mitchell's attractive medium blues, “Sir John”; and two more Bryant originals with strong melody lines. Allard never forces the issue and does not indulge in high note bravado. Rather, it's almost as though the trumpet plays itself, sometimes reminding me a bit of Art Farmer, one of the most lyrical cats to ever blow trumpet. The quartet is completed by Greg Goebel (piano), Dan Presley (bass) and Dave Avere (drums). I would like to have heard a bit more acoustic piano, but Goebel is subtle and straight down the middle on the Fender Rhodes cuts. All in all, this is one of the top releases of 2007. PHD Music, 2007, 52:57 ****
Just Friends, Mel Martin, tenor saxophone and flute; Benny Carter, alto saxophone.
Benny Carter was a true jazz giant in every respect. His serene alto sound was immediately recognizable; his arranging put him in a position to work with countless other great artists, and his compositions bear both strength and beauty. This recording, a live performance at Yoshi's in Oakland, California, features the then 87 year old Benny playing like he was fifty years younger. The co-leader on the date is Mel Martin, a fine tenor and flute player who greatly admired Carter. The two struck up a friendship resulting in this appearance. Roger Kellaway, Jeff Chambers and Harold Jones form a supportive rhythm section as the group gets the fires burning with “Perdido.” Carter's “People Time” is a feature for Martin's silvery flute and Kellaway's beautiful piano. “Secret Love” gives the co-leaders a chance to interweave some creative patterns and Martin's Sprightly follows in medium tempo. “Elegy In Blue,” an album highlight, is a classic blues with an appealing Carter melody line. Everybody contributes to a swinging “Just Friends,” and there you have it — one marvelous set by musicians who obviously enjoyed every minute. I think you will too! Jazzed Media, 2007, 62:53 ****
Look, Stop and Listen, Tardo Hammer, piano.
Tadd Dameron etched a place in jazz history primarily as a composer and arranger for bebop ensembles, whether large or small. He was a more than capable pianist, but his legacy will forever be connected with his composing and arranging prowess. One of his most famous tunes, and one done with great feeling in this collection, is “If You Could See Me Now.” It's often referred to as the all-time bebop ballad. Dameron has been honored on other albums, but always in small group settings such as Dameronia: a standout group from some years back. This recording is, to the best of my knowledge, the first Dameron piano trio tribute. And Tardo Hammer, a force in New York jazz circles, takes on the task with precision and on-target swing in the bop genre. Hammer's trio includes John Webber, bass, and Joe Farnsworth, drums, and these guys work a taut, crisp groove with the pianist. The other tunes most familiar to jazzers are probably Hot House and Our Delight. But don't miss the title tune, “Look, Stop and Listen,” for a textbook example of superb bebop piano. Hammer has hit the nail on the head. This is great bebop journey. Sharp Nine, 2007, 59:38 *****
Cyrus Plays Elvis, Cyrus Chestnut, piano.
Couldn't Cyrus Chestnut come up with someone to honor other than Elvis Presley? I could present you with a staggering list of deserving folks. But Chestnut decided here to try for the dollar tree, and thus we are looking at banal tunes like “Hound Dog” and “Don't Be Cruel.” Chestnut has nothing to prove. He has demonstrated over a decade or more that he has major league chops. And to be completely truthful, he swings hard on these tunes. Probably, most of them will never sound better. But, believe it or not, there were those of us who thought that Elvis was nice to his mom and to Colonel Parker, but didn't consider him much of a singer. And didn't consider much of his material first class songwriting. So give Chestnut and his group credit for overcoming the obstacle of dealing with decidedly second quality tunes and making them sound this good. Which brings up the question, who's going to buy this? Jazz fans? Probably not, because jazz fans are not too into Elvis. Rock fans? Probably not, because they have no idea who Cyrus Chestnut is. Koch Records; 2007; 55:24 ** 1/2
Love Is What Stays, Mark Murphy, vocals.
I like the title of this album, but, let's face it: Mark Murphy has also stayed on the scene and in our consciousness as one of the truly great jazz singers for nearly a half century now. And he's still got the chops as evidenced from his very hip opener, “Stolen Moments.” And you certainly know the tunes, “Angel Eyes” and “My Foolish Heart.” But did you ever hear the intro on them? Never knew there was one, right? Me either. Til now, that is, thanks to Mark Murphy. He tries to transform Johnny Cash's “So Doggone Lonesome” into a jazz setting, a difficult task which almost works. But for one that works with an exclamation point, catch “The Interview,” Murphy's chance to recite some startlingly good original poetry, followed by several swinging scat choruses. Several ballads are delivered here with such feeling that they'll give you absolute chills. A word or two is deserved by the two arrangers, Til Bonner and Nan Schwartz, whose work obviously provides inspiration for the intensity that Murphy brings to this performance. Verve, 2007 **** 1/2
Live At MCG, Billy Taylor, piano and Gerry Mulligan, baritone saxophone.
Now just where has this wonderful, ebullient concert been hiding all these years? I guess it makes little difference, because here it is newly available. And just how great is it to hear the most lyrical and musical baritone in jazz history taking off with an inspired rhythm section of Billy Taylor, Chip Jackson and Carl Allen? We'll let Mulligan and friends answer that question for you once you hear them working out on no less than ten etched-in-stone winners. The tempos vary, from the swinging opener, “Stompin' At The Savoy” to Muliigan's suave solo on “Darn That Dream”; from a rollicking “Just You, Just Me” to a gentle swing on the Raksin-Mercer classic, “Laura.” The quartet hardly stops there, however. Just catch their Bach-like voicing of “All The Things You Are.” The great balance of material is completed here by “Body and Soul,” “Indiana,” “Come Sunday” and finally, Taylor's closer, the well-named bell ringer “Capricious.” Hearing this previously unreleased treat is a reminder of the giant once among us by the name of Gerry Mulligan. Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, 2007, 68:46 ****
One Night, Marsha Heydt, saxophones, flute.
Marsha Heydt tries to be all things to all people, but there's a little too much of a smooth jazz and pop feeling to this CD to make me comfortable. It begins with a pleasant enough Latin touch, then Marsha is featured on flute with a nice enough string arrangement of “On Green Dolphin Street.” The CD then takes a header with the wah wah pedal on “You Don't Know What Love Is.” Please! This is followed by “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” a tune that held little interest for me even when Cannonball Adderley did it. The pop orientation continues with Heydt's okay vocal on anoriginal. Finally, we return to some particularly nice trumpet playing on “Days Of Wine And Roses.” And so it goes, from sugary pop to a waltz tempo version of “Well, You Needn't” that nearly works. Even “Georgia On My Mind” is taken with a heavy backbeat and too much electricity. A note of local interest is the presence of former Portland violin virtuoso Rob Thomas on three selections here. Heydt plays nicely enough, but needs to decide whether she's going to pursue pop or jazz. Blue Toucan Records, 2007, 52:07 **
Music From Guys And Dolls, Harry Allen, tenor sax, Joe Cohn, guitar.
Ask yourself: how often does a jazz version of a 50-some year old musical get released on a major label these days? Not often, that's for sure. So kudos to Arbors for keeping the faith by bringing us this delightful new look at Frank Loesser's Guys And Dolls. Co-leaders Harry Allen and Joe Cohn get it done with a piano-less quartet, and are joined by Joel Forbes, bass, and Chuck Riggs, drums. An absolute treat is the addition of Eddie Erickson and/or Rebecca Kilgore on no less than nine of the 15 tracks. And the ensemble covers all the tunes, both famous and obscure, from this memorable show. Among the less familiar melodies from this score, special charm is reserved for Eddie and Rebecca on “Sue Me.” And try Rebecca on “Marry The Man Today” or the quartet's nicely swinging “Take Back Your Mink.” Or Allen's dreamy tenor on one of the all time pretty ballads, “I'll Know.” All are presented with warmth and much love for the great composer and lyricist, Frank Loesser. I wish this was my line, but I'll quote it anyway: whoever said, “Loesser is more,” was right! Arbors, 2007, 72:05 **** 1/2
Floating On The Silence,Tom Wolfe, guitar and Gene Bertoncini, guitar.
Tom Wolfe is a new name to me, but Gene Bertoncini has been long admired in hip jazz guitar circles. The two work beautifully together on acoustic guitars, reading one another's moves like long-standing playing mates. Their impressive programm is made up of ten tunes in all; eight standards and one original composition from each guitarist. They begin with a animated and squeaky clean version of Tadd Dameron's “On A Misty Night.” “I'll Remember April” is taken at a relaxed, medium tempo, and Jobim's “ Corcovado ” is played to perfection. The title “For My Lady” may not ring a bell, but it's one of those ”you'll know it when you hear it,” charming melody lines from Toots Thielemans. “For Chet” is Bertoncini's tribute in waltz time to the trumpet champion Chet Baker. Dizzy's “Con Alma” here becomes a guitar tour de force, and “The Nearness Of You” takes on a bit more tempo than usual. “A Moment Alone” is Wolfe's thoughtful ballad entry, and “How Insensitive” is taken legato before achieving its usual Brazilian feel. Finally, there's “Like Someone In Love,” one of the great American ballads, but this time it's played in a bit more of a zesty treatment. Wolfe and Bertoncini work, somewhat miraculously, as nearly one voice. That's how together they are in executing their ideas. True guitar lovers, not the rock crowd, will both understand what a feat this is and will receive much pleasure from it. Summit , 2007 ****
So Many Stars, Jon Mayer, piano.
Piano trio fans -- get with Jon Mayer. He's done several albums on Reservoir, all of them terrific examples of what it is you're looking for. He's a bop maven on such fare as Cedar Walton's “ Holy Land ,” Horace Silver's “Nica's Dream,” Duke Pearson's “Jeanine” and his own line, called “Bopzila.” His other original, “Rip Van Winkle,” refers to a long period where Mayer was not heard from, a loss of major proportions considering that he once recorded with John Coltrane. Anyway, this performance, along with his others on Reservoir, makes up for that absence with perfecto ballad playing on “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most.” Other standards include the title tune, a beautifully crafted “So Many Stars.” As any jazz pianist worthy of the name would do, Mayer gives you a sprightly blues, Miles Davis's rarely heard “Blues By Five.” Adding much vigor and veteran talent to this album is the presence of Rufus Reid, bass, and Roy McCurdy, drums. Adding to his Reservoir arsenal, Jon Mayer and his colleagues give us a first cabin jazz trio performance in the very best of that tradition. Reservoir, 2007, 63:23 **** 1/2
I Wish You Love, Rebecca Kilgore, vocals, Lyle Ritz, ukulele.
Leave it to Rebecca Kilgore to try her hand at something really different. And leave to jazz ukulele master Lyle Ritz to make sure it works. You see, Ritz plays the uke as though it was simply a little smaller guitar. With Rebecca herself playing rhythm guitar, Ritz has plenty of room to give us single note improvisation in just the way a guitarist would. A very good guitarist, that is. And all of Ritz's chord work is rich and royal. As for Rebecca, well, between her own CDs, her work with B.E.D., and her guest appearances on one Arbors CD after another, she's becoming one of the most prolifically recorded singers of the present day. And with her relaxed, unhurried, chocolate mousse voice and her talent for finding neglected gems of Songbook America , Becky certainly deserves the newly found exposure. Among those gems on this recording are “That Old Gang Of Mine,” “I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues,” “Sway,” “Reaching For The Moon,” “Then I'll Be Happy,” and, of course, “I Love A Ukulele.” These and a half dozen somewhat better known standards add up to yet another joyous recording for Rebecca. Kudos too for Mr. Ritz. I never thought I'd say it, but, he cooks on ukulele! PDX Uke, 2007, 43:09 ****
Trombone Heaven, Frank Rosolino, trombone and Carl Fontana, trombone.
Trombone troops — get ready to celebrate! Here come two of the all-time greats playing a live gig in 1978 at the Bayshore Inn in Vancouver, B. C. This is an extraordinary, one-time only meeting of trombone titans pulling out all the stops in a previously unreleased performance which will spin your head around. They find themselves in the stimulating company of an international rhythm section in American pianist Elmer Gill, Danish bassist Torban Oxbol and Canadian drummer George Ursan. Rosolino gets the program underway with a surprisingly quick “Here's That Rainy Day,” and Fontana comes in for the second part of the medley with an equally swinging “Stardust.” The two then break loose on a 16 minute “Well, You Needn't” that will leave you breathless. They follow that with an equally brilliant 15 minute romp through “All Blues.” An apparent love of fast tempos and the sheer joy of two giants communicating on the bandstand brings on yet another sizzler in “Just Friends.” They finally give the audience a chance to breathe on a ballad medley. This incredible session finally comes to an end with Dizzy Gillespie's “Ow,” one of those bop-drenched dreams for trombone players. Is there a trombone heaven? Yes, and this is it! Uptown Records, 2007, 79:09 *****
Perfect Circularity, Gary Foster, woodwinds, Putter Smith, bass.
I have long sung the praises of Gary Foster, both in previous reviews and for more than two decades on the radio. He is one of the most versatile and complete musicians I've ever heard. While he's often recorded, it's rarely in a prominent role. This time, however, Foster is featured on alto, tenor and flute, along with his good friend and longtime L.A. bassist, Putter Smith. Together they soar on a menu ranging from Bird's “Relaxin' At Camarillo” to Bach's “Siciliano.” In between, we are treated to “You Must Believe In Spring,” “Oleo,” “I Remember You,” “Blue Hodge” and other delicacies. This is, perhaps, as close as you'll ever come to a heartfelt recital in your own living room. I stand by my words. As the younger generation might put it, Gary Foster's the bomb. American Jazz Institute, 2007, 58:50 *****
Quartets, Leslie Pintchik, piano.
Leslie Pintchik brings a crystalline touch and impressive chops to her second CD as a leader. Two quartets perform; one features Steve Wilson on alto and soprano saxophones. The album is heavy into original compositions but begins with a restrained “Happy Days Are Here Again.” From there, Pintchik moves into a swift, Latinized “Too Close For Comfort.” The other familiar tune is a sensitive reading of Leonard Bernstein's “Somewhere.” The originals played here boast attractive melody lines, and Steve Wilson sounds so doggone pretty on soprano that you nearly forget how much smooth jazz has ruined that instrument. I would have liked to have heard Pintchik really break out on one or two bop staples, but perhaps she'll save that for her next album. For now, she certainly sounds like a comer with significant piano wisdom. For more info, try www.lesliepintchik.com Ambient Records, 2007, 57:07 *** 1/2
Suggestions, Bob Lark, trumpet, flugelhorn.
Chicagoan Bob Lark has put together a formidable straight down the middle quintet and offers a quality selection of standards and a few originals. As a matter of fact, four of the ten tunes feature Lark in a duet setting with pianist Jim McNeely, a primo piano man and the best known player in the group. They sure choose great ones in “Lover Man,” “ Joy Spring ,” “A Child Is Born” and “All The Way.” The quintet chimes in on “You And The Night And The Music” and “Star Eyes.” The CD is completed by a dependable blues called “Old School,” a second Lark original in waltz time, and McNeelyÌs complex mover, “Gracie's Tune.” This strikingly good group deserves more to be heard from more often. Jazzed Media, 2007, 57:41 ****
When I Look In Your Eyes, Amy London, vocals.
In Amy London, we have a new voice of superb confidence, maturity, control, and just enough jazz chops to please the most demanding listener. You can't be just so-so to attract talent like Lee Musiker and the late John Hicks on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, Leroy Williams on drums, and Roni Ben Hur, guitar; as well as several sharp horn players. And London is positively solid on such demanding tunes as Dizzy's “Woody ‘n You” (here it's titled “Wouldn't You”); Elmo Hope's flag-waver, “It Could Be So Nice”; a couple of Cy Coleman winners in “With Every Breath I Take” and “The Best Is Yet To Come,” and the title tune, a charmer from Dr. Doolittle, of all places. Amy London's a “finished” singer on what I assume is her very first CD. She deserves to be heard from again. Motema Records, 2007, 51:10 ****
A Different View, N. Glenn Davis, drums.
Maybe Cleveland wouldn't be your first response to the words “jazz mecca,” but Cleveland 's home to the N. Glenn Davis Quartet, and that's a feather in their hat. This quartet plays it straight down the middle on a selection of original compositions. Joining Davis are Dave Sterner, saxophones, Larry Porter, piano, and Dallas Coffey, bass. Among several standout tunes, I particularly enjoyed the opener, “The Happy People,” a medium tempo vehicle based loosely on “I Got Rhythm” changes; a boppy, quick-paced “Slidin'”; a dissonant, cleverly conceived “Passion Walk”; and “It's Late,” an after hours, easy-going tune featuring Sterner's finely honed tenor. These and more make up a CD with solid writing and impressive playing by all participants. Jazz Media, 2007, 59:18 *** 1/2
Quartet, McCoy Tyner, piano.
With this CD, Tyner reinforces that which we've all known for over forty years: he's a force in American jazz, one of the few remaining giants. And his present group still plays with the muscular enthusiasm which has been a Tyner trademark over the years. His quartet now includes Joe Lovano, tenor, Christian McBride, bass, and Jeff Tain Watts, drums, all of whom have also made it to “the show.” It's no secret that Joe Lovano's inspiration is John Coltrane, and Lovano brings it on Tyner classics like “Walk Spirit Talk Spirit,” “Passion Dance” and “Blues On The Corner.” A real treat is the closer, a solo piano version of “For All We Know,“ and McCoy brings all his strength to it in a brief but virtuoso performance. This may be a bit edgy for some, but the edge of the diving board is at times an exciting place to be. Half Note Records, 2007, 66:57 *** 1/2
Homecoming, Eddie Daniels, tenor saxophone, clarinet.
In recent years, we've heard Eddie Daniels almost exclusively on clarinet. And why not, considering that he's one of the few and one of the best still playing that much maligned instrument. But for this quintet appearance at Gotham 's Iridium, Daniels brings both horns, and the highly regarded company of Joe Locke, vibes, Tom Rainier, piano, Dave Finck, bass, and Joe La Barbera, drums. The group really gets a chance to stretch out with some generous solo space, and, as you might expect, everyone carries the ball. “Falling In Love With Love” gets things off to a kicking start, and the players just go from there. A few other familiar tunes include “Django,” “ Warm Valley ” and “Night And Day.” But the newer compositions here make you sit up and take notice, running the gamut in tempo and emotion. Daniels's first big time gig was the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. You gotta have chops to get that gig. Enough said. IPO Recordings, 2007, 2 Cds: 52:27 and 43:16 ****
East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon, Laverne Christie, guitar.
Jazz in Las Vegas ? But if you take one of those red eyes to Vegas, look between the tables for the Laverne Christie trio. With Mark Ruben, bass, and Mike Candito, drums, Christie gives the standards a nice workout. The tunes run the gamut, from Bird's bop delight, “My Little Suede Shoes,” to “Stardust,” to “Be My Love,” a tonsil-tester associated with the late Mario Lanza. Christie utilizes a very mellow, single note style, punctuated with lovely chord work in just the right places. Other tunes on the bill include “Pick Yourself Up,” “Well, You Needn't,” “Dolphin Dance,” and “Line For Lyons.” There are no fence busters here, but it's an album full of nice music. Quiescent Records, 2007, 49:23 ***
All In, Westchester Jazz Orchestra.
The Westchester Jazz Orchestra has been in existence some five years, and this is the debut CD from this New York area conglomeration. The players have combined big band credentials taller than Greg Oden, and as you know, the faint of heart don't last in The Apple — not even in its suburbs. Instead of detailing the titles of the songs, you'll get the idea of the quality of this disc from the names of the composers: Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Bill Evans and even George Harrison! Under the direction of Mike Holober, these guys represent a slice of the top caliber jazz musicians in greater New York . And I emphasize “greater”! These are the cats who, when playing in a big band, do it mostly for pure joy. Thank goodness the concept of the modern big band (Holman, Florence , Fedchock, etc.) remains accessible for musicians and fans alike. Long may they play! Find out more at www.westjazzorch.org WJO Productions, 2007, 61:11 **** 1/2
Back To Back; Mr. B, piano and Bob Seeley, piano.
If you like a boogie woogie session now and then, give these guys a spin. The idea here is that Mr B plays a particular tune, and that is followed by Bob Seeley performing the same tune. All the performances are piano solos, so you can compare the styles of the two boogie cats. Much fun here! Megawave Records; 2006; 67:10 ***
A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening; Calabria Foti, vocals
Now and then a singer comes along who seems to separate herself from the competition. Calabria Foti does many things well: great intonation, natural and never overdone scatting ability, superb phrasing, and that certain something that says “jazz singer” so clearly. To all of this, add a great selection of evergreen tunes and solid recommendations from the likes of Johnny Mandel and Sammy Nestico. And for those who care, she's gorgeous! MoCo Records; 2007; 49:45 **** 1/2
Duos And Trios; Noah Peterson, alto and soprano saxophones.
PortlandÌs Noah Peterson scores nicely on this album in some meetings with Jay Stapleton, guitar; Janice Scroggins, piano and either Dennis Caiazza or Dave Captein, bass. I personally opt for the alto over the soprano, so among the fifteen selections, I felt strongest about Sugar, Surrey With The Fringe and Harlem Nocturne. Among several originals of various moods and tempos, I was most impressed with a pleasant little rhythmic line called Sunshine. This is a nice start for Peterson, but IÌd like to hear him blowing some bop with a rhythm section! You can learn more at www.petersonentertainment.com. Peterson Entertainment; 2007; 52:35 *** 1/2
A Song In Jazz; Debbie Poryes; piano.
A new name to me, but a veteran of many years of teaching and recording in The Netherlands, Bay Area pianist Debbie Poryes possesses a lovely and lilting touch on a host of standards like “A Wonderful Guy,” “I Hadn't Anyone Till You,” “Alone Together” and more. This is straight to the heart, finely honed piano trio music, and I think you're gonna like it. For more info, try www.debbieporyes.com Self-produced; 2007; 58:57 *** 1/2
Alone; Matt Schiff, guitar.
Thankfully, there are still guys like Matt Schiff around who maintain the honored tradition of jazz guitar. This CD gives Matt the chance to strut his stuff unadorned by other instrumentation, and he makes the most of it. The tunes are almost all classics of the jazz repertoire. If you dug the solo outings of, say, Joe Pass , then you're going to find a lot to like in the solo adventures by Portland 's Matt Schiff. Saphu; 2007; 60:22 ****
1000 Kilometers; Oregon .
I know this group has been around for decades, has toured the world playing to loyal fans, and even bears the name of our beloved state. Their music, highly original and sometimes sounding as though its roots are in the classical arena, is usually a bit too cerebral for me. To be blunt, I find myself asking, “when do they swing?” On the positive side, Paul McCandless could give lessons on soprano sax to all the smooth jazzers, and Ralph Towner contributes some solo piano work that one has to admit is impressive. CamJazz; 2007; 62:06 **
Night Moves; Kurt Elling, vocals. <> This may well be Kurt Elling's best album to date. A singer obviously inspired by Mark Murphy, Elling keeps it very accessible on this outing, with tunes like Betty Carter's “Tight”; a combined “If You Never Come To Me” and “Change Partners”; Jimmy McHugh's gem, “Where Are You”; a stirring new version of “Body And Soul” and Duke Ellington's beauty, “I Like The Sunrise,” among others. Elling is growing in the music and this album brings him a good distance on the journey to becoming one of todayÌs major jazz singers. Concord Jazz; 2007; 71:39 ***