CD Reviews - September 2009
by George Fendel, and Kyle
by George Fendel
The Scene, Jimmy Rushing, vocals.
This late ‘60s gem easily wins the surprise of the month
award as the great blues belter Jimmy Rushing breaks it up with an all
star group featuring Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Dave Frishberg.
It’s a typical set by Mr. Five By Five and Friends, with
Jimmy in cruise control on tunes he could do in his sleep. Among them
are “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You,”
“I Want AaLittle Girl,” “Goin’
to Chicago,” “I Cried For You,”
“Everyday I Have the Blues” and several more. The
obvious rapport between Jimmy and his colleagues is heard here in
little asides, hurrahs and encouragements that spice up a live date.
There are a couple of instrumentals. The sound quality is not pristine,
but it’s certainly at a standard that makes it eminently
listenable. Portland’s Dave Frishberg must take a lot of
pride in having worked with giants like Zoot, Al and Jimmy.
Rushing’s devotees are going to celebrate this previously
unreleased document of his greatness.
Maynard Ferguson, trumpet, bass trumpet, valve trombone.
Long before Maynard Ferguson began to unleash Cat Anderson-like high
note bombs on us, he took this excellent West Coast aggregation into
the studio for a nice blowing session. The album could have easily been
named “Maynard Plays Bill Holman,” or some such,
because seven of the eight tunes are Holman creations. That alone adds
interest to the music here. The one exception is the old warhorse,
“Autumn Leaves.” Holman tunes now and then travel
to new places on the map, but they always come home with flair. And one
look at the top players Maynard hired is really all you need to know.
How about Conte Candoli, Milt Bernhart, Herb Geller, Georgie Auld, Bob
Gordon, Red Callender, Shelly Manne, and the only unknown on the date,
pianist Ian Bernhard. The session dates to 1955, undoubtedly one of
Ferguson’s first efforts in his name. This was the LA thing
back then, and it holds up so very well all these years later.
Up Bones, Bucky
Pizzarelli, guitar, with the West Texas Tumbleweeds.
According to Rebecca Kilgore, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli has always
wanted to do a country swing recording. And apparently it took Matt and
Rachel Domber, owners of Arbors Records, no time at all to say, why
not? So here it is, and to my surprise, Bucky is heard here only on
acoustic rhythm guitar. He’s joined by a host of string
players, including electric guitar, pedal steel, violin, mandolin and
bass. Several of those dudes chime in with vocals, but the best of
them, six in all, are from Portland’s own Rebecca
‘Becky Lou’ Kilgore. Fortunately, the players
don’t take themselves too seriously, and everybody seems to
be getting quite a kick out of this Arbors departure! It
ain’t bebop, but it sure swings!
Florence Limited Edition.
Talk about a kid in a candy store, Bob Florence had the creme de la
creme of Los Angeles musicians to choose from for his big band, the
Limited Edition. Every CD they put out was an event of sorts, and this
one, sadly his last, is no exception. Just think of it ... you have
privilege of assembling players like Carl Saunders, Kim Richmond, Bob
Efford, Scott Whitfield, Ron Stout and Alan Broadbent, to name a few.
You put some challenging, fresh, startling new charts in front of these
guys, and you’re in big band heaven. Florence’s own
writing and arranging always allowed generous room for improvisation in
a peerless big band setting; as always, there’s plenty here.
In addition to his bristling original compositions, we are treated to
the likes of “A Train,” “I’m
All Smiles,” “The Theme From MASH,”
“You Must Believe in Spring” and a poignant
“ Auld Lang Syne.” Greatly admired by both
musicians and fans, the name Bob Florence will long be an honored one
in Southland jazz.
Records, 2009, 63:29.
Shank, alto sax.
I clearly remember an interview about twenty years ago in which Bud
Shank told me that if he could only work with one pianist from that
time forward, it would be Bill Mays. So it is fitting that on his final
recorded musical statement, Bud works his magic with Mays, Bob
Magnuson, bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums. Recorded live at The Jazz
Bakery in LA, Bud plays an array of Songbook America and a couple jazz
evergreens. Interesting to note that “Over the
Rainbow” has long been the property of another revered alto
player, Art Pepper. Both invest great passion in the tune, but from
quite different perspectives. The other hit tunes are “Night
and Day,” “Fascinating Rhythm” and
“Lover Man,” tailor made fare for Shank. From the
jazz composers, Bud chooses Thelonious Monk’s “In
Walked Bud” and Dizzy Gillespie’s
“Manteca.” The set is completed with two tunes
possessing more than a touch of Latin finery.
“Chicane” is a Shank original and a medley of
“Lotus Bud” and “No More Blues”
is equally impressive. The sound of the Shank alto evolved over the
years to a height of fire and passion. He was a thoroughly dedicated,
100% jazz guy who never gave less than his best. Indeed,
‘Fascinating Rhythms’ were the ones Bud Shank gave
us for more than a half century.
Media, 2009, 78:35.
Standards, Alan Pasqua, piano.
Okay, I know this album dates to 2007, but it just recently entered my
consciousness. With apologies for this late review, it’s a
lovely album and you should be aware of it. Pasqua is a pianist gaining
the jazz public’s awareness over the last few years. He seems
to be a product of the Bill Evans school, and that’s not a
bad place to come from. His colleagues on this delicious set are Dave
Carpenter, bass, and Peter Erskine, drums, and as the title informs us,
it’s an entire program of dyed in the wool standards. These
are tunes that have deservedly lived a long life and most certainly
will continue as examples of great songwriting. Pasqua has a beautiful,
serene touch, and economy and elegance are his friends. The ten tunes
heard here include “The Way You Look Tonight,”
“Deep in a Dream,” “It Never Entered My
Mind,” “I’m Glad There Is You,”
“I’m Old Fashioned” and “I
Could Have Danced All Night.” If, like me, you find solace
and richness in the piano trio genre, this will be a great find. For
Nostalgia, Andrew Scott, guitar.
The title of this CD does not refer to a trip back in time. Hardly.
Instead, our “Nostalgia” is the name Fats Navarro
gave to his bop changes on the chords to “Out of
Nowhere.” So this is nostalgia in name only because this
music is pure, joyous timeless fun. Once again, Scott scores a fine
effort for Sackville Records with music that has a pulse.
Scott’s quartet brings in a couple of guests in Jon Erik
Kelso, trumpet, and Dan Block, tenor clarinet. They lead off with a
totally relaxed groove on Ben Webster’s “Did You
Call Her Today,” a reworking of “Rose
Room” and “In a Mellow Tone.” As
a matter of fact, all of the sextet’s choices are
restructured gems. To name a few, there’s “On a
Misty Night” (“September in the Rain”);
“Hot House” (“What Is this Thing Called
(“Embraceable You”) and lots more. Let me simply
say that we need more recordings like this, because what Scott and
company gives us is the real deal. Like the orange juice in that
commercial, this music is “un-fooled around with.”
I wish there were more guys doing it just this way.
recorded in 2008, 55:37.
Here’s a guitarist who brings subtlety, originality and
musicality to his original compositions. His style is understated,
silvery precision, and his writing might be described as creative but
never edgy. He joins forces here with Scott Colley, bass, Marvaldo Dos
Santos, percussion, and David Binney, alto sax and flute, and the
result makes you sit up and take notice. Incidentally, the one standard
is Horace Silver’s “The Jody Grind,” a
most pleasant surprise in this setting. Impressive stuff all around.
I first encountered the music of Bill Carrothers a couple years ago via
an impressive two CD set which dealt with musical portraits of American
history. This time around, his trio (Gary Peacock, bass, and Bill
Stewart, drums) presents some similarly well-written originals and a
few standards, including “My Heart Belongs to
Daddy,” Monk’s “Off Minor,”
“Lost in the Stars” and Ornette Coleman’s
“When Will the Blues Leave.” Carrothers is a
riveting, probing artist, with a lot to say.
Heart And Soul of Mel Carter, Mel Carter, vocals.
Mel Cater’s CD is, in part, a revisit to some old doo-wop and
r&b golden oldies. Carter gives it a genuine, bluesy, r
& b focus on such tunes as Heart And Soul, It May Sound Silly,
Tomorrow Night, I Worry About You, Where Or When, The Glory of Love and
such. To consider Carter a jazz singer would be a stretch. But one
can’t deny that he brings vitality and energy to his craft.
If this is your thing, I think you’re gonna dig him!
by Kyle O'Brien
Until It’s Time, Jack Wilkins.
Wilkins begins his disc with an unfortunate opener, a Brazilian-style
cover of “Arthur’s Theme,” which makes him sound like a smooth jazzer.
It’s not until the fast jazz waltz of “Show Me” that we realize that
Wilkins is more than just elevator jazz. His hollow-body guitar tone is
indeed smooth, but his licks are inspired. Wilkins, though, seems to
like both sides of the jazz world, since he returns to a pop-ier sense
on James Taylor’s easygoing “Blossom.” Nowadays, when going the
smoother route, an artist needs to establish chops up front for true
jazz fans; otherwise, the results can be dismissed. Luckily, Wilkins
can swing, as he shows on a grooving version of “Walk Don’t Run,” and
“Airegin.” He definitely has quirky and varied tastes, toying with
classical on “Fur Elise,” and Latin on a searing version of “Tico
Tico.” It all seems to work somehow, though tenuously at times.
2009, MaxJazz, 69:34.
Music Update, Jason Marsalis.
may know the youngest Marsalis brother as a superb drummer, but here he
hands over the sticks to David Potter and picks up the vibe mallets to
show off his melodic and compositional skills. He still plays the kit
on a few tracks, but this is mostly about Marsalis’s music. Along with
Austin Johnson on piano and Will Goble on bass, this quartet toys with
New Orleans rhythms, new modern fusion (“Offbeat Personality”), and
terpsichorean-inspired march (“Ballet Class”). Marsalis proves himself
to be a superb vibraphonist. He doesn’t have the flash of a Stefon
Harris, nor the subtlety of a Bobby Hutcherson, but he is finding a
voice. He gives plenty of soloing time to his pianist, and the two
chorded instruments manage to work together nicely, neither getting in
the other’s way. When Marsalis takes a percussive approach, as on the
rhythm-only “Discipline Returns Once Again,” it seems to be more
interlude meant to show that he’s still a drummer at heart. It’s the
compositions for vibes that work best -- chordally-rich tunes like
“Characters” and his cover of “Midnight Sun” -- that establish him as a
player in the modern jazz world. It will be fun to see Marsalis’s
growth as a solo artist, composer and arranger in the coming years.
2008, ELM Records, 54:20.
Homecoming, Eddie Harris & Ellis Marsalis.
Classics has just re-released this 1985 album, a duo of Harris and the
Marsalis patriarch. While this album seems to have passed me by the
first time around, it’s a wonderful disc that sounds like it hasn’t
aged a bit. This could be a new disc and be just as vital on the jazz
scene. Harris and Marsalis create a musical intimacy, Harris with
melodic, nimble playing and Marsalis with full sound and rich chordal
structure. While most of the tunes are easy to hear, the duo takes it
outside on the improvisational “Ethereal Moments 1 & 2,” showing
that these veterans like to experiment. Plus, there’s enough reverb on
the instruments to shake a house, making the ethereal effect even
greater. We hear percussion on sax keys on the Latin-lite “Out of This
World,” and Marsalis shows off his stride on the jaunty “Have You Met
Miss Jones.” While the original album only went seven tracks, this
reissue, produced by Jason Marsalis, adds five extra tracks, including
new duets with Marsalis and rising New Orleans pianist Jonathan
Baptiste, plus a quartet track adding Jason Marsalis and bassist Jason
Stewart, an old-style blues with Batiste on the plaintive melodica. The
duets between Harris and Marsalis are the meat of the disc, but the
added tracks make this a must-have.
2009, ELM Records, 65 minutes.
Baker’s Dozen (Remembering Chet Baker), John Proulx.
pianist and vocalist Proulx released his debut on MaxJazz in 2006, he
was lauded as the next Chet Baker. While he doesn’t play the trumpet,
Proulx’s high tenor was a spitting aural image of Baker’s smooth
delivery. Now he has taken the comparison to the next level with a
tribute to the late artist. It starts, predictably and fittingly, with
one of Baker’s signature tunes, “Let’s Get Lost,” and his vocals are
Baker-esque - soft, warm and inviting. Dominick Farinacci does a
fabulous job on flugelhorn, playing with restraint and clarity. Proulx
has the advantage over Baker in that he can play and sing at the same
time, setting his vocals up with new arrangements and chords that
highlight his laid back phrasing. Chuck Berghofer and Joe LaBarbera set
the grooves and let Proulx’s vocals - including a fine job scatting on
several tracks, including trading licks with Farinacci on an upbeat
bopping version of “But Not for Me.” The arrangements and musicianship
are different enough to have this not be a note-for-note tribute, and
Proulx even adds one of his own tunes, “Before You Know It,” to state
that this is his album and that, while he has many similarities to
Baker, he is his own musician. We anxiously await Proulx’s next outing.
2009, MaxJazz, 61:10.
Urban Myths, Joel Harrison.
Harrison made an impressive debut several years back with “Free
Country,” sounding like an updated version of Pat Metheny with a
pop-folk twist. On this disc he goes more electric, revisiting the
sounds of the hard fusion ‘70s, updated with original compositions. The
opener, “You Must Go Through a Winter,” fuses Miles Davis with Ornette
Coleman, John McLaughlin and Frank Zappa for a searin,g psycho-fusion
tune, with Christian Howes doing his best Jean Luc Ponty on violin and
David Binney tearing up the alto sax. Harrison is a superb guitarist
but an even better composer/arranger. The diversity of his tunes and
his attention to detail make him a singular talent. The album shows the
harder side of fusion, with interesting time feels -- the 5/4 float of
“Mood Rodeo” being the most intriguing -- and tones that recall
Scofield and Stern in their earlier days. The only recognizable melody
is the flurry of notes of Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser.” Harrison has
altered the tune to fit an obtuse aesthetic, with a heavy funk beat and
frenetic feel. Harrison’s compositions may recall a past time in jazz,
but the feel is so updated that it becomes merely a nod to the ‘70s
rather than a trip back in time.
2009, Highnote Records, 55:30.
Declaration, Donny McCaslin.
has established himself as the powerhouse tenor man today, taking the
reins from the late Michael Brecker. Here he brings in a larger
ensemble than his last trio outing. Upping his group to a sextet and
adding a quintet of brass guest artists lets McCaslin experiment with
more textures and colors. His playing is just as strong, and the
expanded lineup allows him to improvise to an even greater extent. The
brass pads out the chords but also takes a secondary role as harmonic
and melodic interlude players. McCaslin is still the dominant tone
here. His muscular sound flies over the top of the brawny-yet-pretty
“Declaration” and punches out the angular melody on the beefy “Rock
Me.” There are moments of beauty here, as on the tender “Jeanina” and
the melancholy “Late Night Gospel,” but McCaslin isn’t known for his
ballads. He’s a bold player with an even bolder sound. Here we get some
diversity, thanks to the brass and bigger group, which rounds him out
as an artist.
2009, Sunnyside Records, 60 minutes.
Jack of Hearts, Anthony Wilson Trio.
is a classic B-3 Organ trio disc, but with two distinct feels, and the
feature artist isn’t the organ player. Larry Goldings is certainly a
featured artist, of course, but it’s Wilson, with his chunky guitar
chords and inventive soloing, who stands out. Goldings and Wilson
co-wrote several of the tunes, including the Latin-funky opener,
“Mezcal,” and Goldings adds considerable depth to the disc. On the more
swing-oriented numbers, like Wilson’s title track, Jeff Hamilton
provides the groove while on the funkier, more contemporary numbers,
Jim Keltner takes over on the set, as on the Latin-folk shuffle of
“Vida Perdida Acabou.” The two drummers bring different feels to the
disc, but both fit so well into their categories that the album becomes
cohesive. There’s also an organic, analog feel throughout, giving the
disc an intimacy and lively nature, as on the funk-driven “Harajuku.”
The blending of Wilson and Goldings with the two drummers makes this a
2009, Groove Note Records, 58 minutes.
New York Rendezvous, Irene Atman.
Atman’s voice is rich and emotive. Her delivery is articulate and
clear, with a lilting vibrato. Backed by pianist Frank Kimbrough,
drummer Matt Wilson, bassist Jay Anderson and saxophonist Joel Frahm,
Atman has assembled an all-star crew to let her reinterpret classic
tunes like “Taking a Chance on Love,” “Time After Time,” and “Charade.”
Her lengthy phrasing is better suited to slower tunes, including “Why
Did I Choose You,” a lovely ballad where Atman caresses the melody.
When the tempo speeds up and swings, she seems less in her element.
Luckily, the rest of her band picks up any slight downward trend here,
as Frahm’s inventive soloing proves. Atman is mostly playing to her
strengths, including her nearly flawless Spanish accent on “Somos
Novios.” When the swing is slower in tempo, as on “Time After Time,”
her phrasing works much better. Atman excels on torch songs and
ballads, and when she sings them, as on “Alfie,” she is a true talent.
2009, Irene Atman, 48:30.
Entre Cuerdas, Edmar Castaneda.
harp isn’t supposed to be a jazz instrument. It’s too bulky, too odd,
too, well, pretty. But not under Colombian native Castaneda’s able
fingers. He brings out a completely different side of the
multi-stringed instrument. Rather than annoying glissando’s or syrupy
ballads, Castaneda makes the harp a rhythmic solo instrument. He is
able to wow with fleet-fingered runs, rhythmic comping and a sense of
excitement. Yes, excitement from a harp. His core trio features
trombonist Marshall Gilkes and drummer/percussionist Dave Silliman, but
he’s also joined by John Scofield on guitar, who rips a solo as
Castaneda’s deft comping provides a new-sounding base and bass. There
are times when the harp becomes more a thing of beauty, as on the
haunting “Jesus de Nazareth,” but it’s when it becomes a Latin jazz
tool that Castaneda really shines, as on the driving “Colibri,” which
features an added chordal texture with Joe Locke’s exceptional vibes.
Castaneda can even swing, as he shows on the good-natured “Colombian
Dixie.” The harp as a jazz instrument works here and it’s a heck of a
2009, Arpa y Voz Productions, 59 minutes.
Rocket 88 - Tribute to Ike Turner, Mr. Groove Band.
Turner will never be thought of as a humanitarian, nor as an
exceptionally good person. But he was a heck of a bandleader for a good
amount of time. He helped promote R&B to a place on the radio
charts, and he helped launch the career of Tina Turner. Here, an
all-star band pays tribute to his musical contributions. It’s a
rollicking good time, with plenty of guest artists, including Audrey
Turner, Bonnie Bramlett, Tim Smith and Roddy Smith. A full horn
section, led by fiery sax player Tim Gordon, blasts out R&B horn
lines with vigor, and Smith’s guitars groove out the tunes. Darryl
Johnson takes the lead on vocals for the most part, and his voice is a
bit nasally compared to Ike’s deep baritone, somewhere between Ike and
Tina in timbre. Some tracks, like Ike’s driving “Funky Mule,” work
well, while some others just don’t have the raw energy, like “River
Deep, Mountain High,” which doesn’t have the verve of the original.
“Proud Mary” doesn’t have that frenetic energy like the original did,
but the new arrangement it’s jazzier. Not sure that Ike deserved a big
tribute album, but this one’s done with a punch of energy and groove
that would have made him proud, I’m guessing.
2009, ZOHO Music, 49:50.