CD Reviews - January 2010
by George Fendel,
A note from George: Every
December, we are sent fewer CDs for review than at any other time of
year. The likely reason for this is that the labels get their material
out in time for holiday shopping. As a result, you’ll find fewer
reviews from me than usual. Wishing you all a 2010 simply loaded with
great jazz ... both live and recorded.
New York State Of Mind, Harry Allen, tenor saxophone.
Harry Allen play brings reminders of past masters like Zoot Sims on
swinging vehicles and Ben Webster on ballads. Allen is nearly
single-handedly maintaining the tradition of playing melodies on the
tenor saxophone. With absolutely nothing to prove to anyone, he stays
on course with album after album of simply stunning saxophone sounds.
So go ahead and add this one to the list. As the title suggests, it’s
an ‘all Gotham’ menu with tunes that include “Autumn in New York,”
“Harlem Nocturne,” “Manhattan Serenade,” “Broadway Melody” and even
“Sidewalks Oo New York.” Joining the fun is Rossano Sportiello, (see
the review below), a pianist equally at home with stride, swing or
sizzle. Joel Forbes, bass, and Chuck Riggs, drums, complete the basic
quartet, with the versatile trombonist John Allred sitting in on about
half the tracks. If you’re one of those listeners who requires new
ground be tilled with each recording you buy, then you’ll want to go
elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you think there’s still a place in
your jazz arena for a lyrical and luscious player of real songs, then
Harry Allen is your man.
Challenge Records, 2009, 68:23.
The Flamboyan, Queens, NY, 1963, Kenny Dorham, trumpet.
Dorham and tenor great Joe Henderson worked together on no less than
six Blue Note sides during the years 1963-64. But imagine Dorham,
Henderson and a rhythm section featuring pianist Ronnie Mathews,
playing at this New York club for, as radio host Alan Grant, informs
us, ‘no cover charge and no minimum.’ Ah, those were the days! As great
as he was, Dorham’s career got sidelined for various reasons, and
Henderson went on to become much more recognized. But on this date, and
with Steve Davis, bass, and J. C. Moses, drums, rounding out the rhythm
section, the two horn players sample both some originals and dyed in
the wool evergreens like “I Can’t Get Started,” “Autumn Leaves” and
particularly riveting solos from both headliners on “Summertime.”
Dorham also contributes two originals, “Una Mas,” his slightly
harder-edged entry into the then popular bossa nova world, and Dorham’s
very familiar theme, “Dynamo.” Fortunately, this set was well-recorded
and preserved over the 45 years since it all went down. It constitutes
a welcome addition to the discographies of two thoroughgoing jazzmen.
And now you’re ‘right there’ at a small table down front.
Uptown, 2009, 53:15.
Sinatra: New York (4 CDs and 1 DVD).
know, I know. I reviewed a teaser disc of this incredible set in last
month’s issue, but now I have the whole megila in my hands, and let me
tell you, it’s better than I said. Without going into intricate song by
song detail, let’s just cover the venues: Manhattan Center 1955; United
Nations 1963; Carnegie Hall 1974; Madison Square Garden 1974; Carnegie
Hall 1984 and Radio City Music Hall 1980. For good measure, toss in a
DVD also from Carnegie Hall in 1980. Depending on which concert you’re
listening to, Frank’s accompaniment ranges from a simple solo piano to
a full orchestra. The four CDs run the gamut of Sinatra -- peerless
voice with a lots of banter and jokes with musicians and his audiences;
and including numerous little asides like occasionally forgetting a
lyric but covering for it as only The Leader could do. I would imagine
that there are loads of additional unreleased and pirate Sinatra
recordings out there in the hands of collectors. This set has all of
that sort of intimacy, personality and even a few flaws, but it’s
legal, it swings, it’s hip and, of course, it’s Sinatra.
Reprise, 2009, times not indicated.
Ten Cents A Dance: A Remembrance Of Lorenz Hart, Lynne Jackson, piano and voice; Mike Palter, bass and voice.
new CD from Jackson and Palter is reason to celebrate. This one,
recorded live, puts the sophisticated lyrics of Lorenz Hart into the
hands of a couple who understands and interprets them as joyously as
anyone on the planet. As has always been their strong suit with other
composers and lyricists, Lynne and Mike interweave narration on the
life and writing of Lorenz Hart with their performance of Hart’s witty,
literate lyrics. Simply stated, they deliver yet another intimate
performance, loaded with affection and admiration of the supreme art
that was the Great American Songbook. If you are also an admirer of the
‘great songs of our heritage,’ you’ll revel in such fare as
“Manhattan,” “Thou Swell,” “Mountain Greenery,” “Spring Is Here,”
“Little Girl Blue,” “I Could Write a Book,” “The Blue Room,” “Johnny
One Note” and lots more. Trust me, there is nobody better at these
wondrous recitals. They’ll climb right into your heart; command your
attention; and, if you share their message, bring a tear or two. Lynne
and Mike enjoy a loyal following in both the jazz and cabaret camps,
from people who ‘get it’ regarding just how important these songs are
in their lives. What more can I say other than this is a tender, loving
performance of the work of an true American genius by a couple who puts
it across like no other.
The Cabaret Consortium, 2009, apprx 52:00.
Pleased To Meet You, Hank Jones, piano and Oliver Jones, piano.
very different piano styles converge here when the elegant and frugal
Hank Jones crosses paths with the swinging virtuosity of Oliver Jones.
The eleven tunes are divided into various settings, including three as
a quartet; six as a duo with the two pianists; and two stunning solos
by Hank. Throughout, the Joneses are a joy to hear and are obviously
inspired by one another. This meeting also brings to mind the late
piano giant Oscar Peterson, a longtime great friend of both our stars,
and Oliver’s fellow Canadian. With OP in mind, they perform two of his
tunes, “Blues for Big Scotia” and “Cakewalk,” and Oliver contributes “I
Remember OP,” a shining ballad awaiting an appropriate lyric. Among
other delights, you’ll find “Groove Merchant,” a gospel-infused Jerome
Richardson tune; “Ripples,” a light and polite original of Hank’s; and
the required menu of standards such as “Makin’ Whoopee,” “I’ll Remember
April” and “Star Eyes.” And don’t overlook Hank’s solo on “Monk’s
Mood,” one of Monk’s rarely played but totally charming ballads. This
meeting of two highly respected and dedicated jazz pianists is a treat
worthy of a volume two. One can only hope that might happen sometime
Justin Time, 2009, 47:59.
Ballet Of The Bouncing Beagles, Phil Kelly, leader, arranger, composer.
out there needs to give some high fives to Phil Kelly. Really, it’s not
very common these days for anyone to release a big band CD this good.
And why? Well, among a plethora of highly skilled band barons, a few of
the all-star types include Jay Thomas, trumpet; Jerry Dodgion, alto;
Pete Christlieb, tenor; Bill Ramsay, baritone; Dave Marriott, trombone;
John Hansen, piano, and two Portland faves, Dave Captein, bass, and
Gary Hobbs, drums. You’ll know from opening notes of” Play Tonic Buds,”
a rewrite of “Just Friends,” that this is a sharply honed aggregation
playing stimulating charts and featuring cracker-jack soloists. An
album highlight was the only standard on the bill, “Limehouse Blues,”
played with vigor and musicianship worthy of a fella named Basie. The
title tune is named for Kelly’s two beagles who were apparently caught
on camera in mid-romp, mid-air. And so it goes through a tour of
Kelly’s scintillating, bright originals. Kelly, a resident of the
Seattle area, calls his band The Northwest Prevailing Winds. And
prevail they do!
Origin, 2009, 70:29.
It Amazes Me, Rossano Sportiello, piano.
a long list of great melody players, which would necessarily include
names like Wilson, Previn, Bunch, McKenna and Hyman, you can now add
Rossano Sportiello. Maybe it’s not the easiest name to remember, but
you’d do well by doing so. I can tell you this: it is a name I’m
beginning to see more often in various roles during the past year or
two, and for good reason. Sportiello shines in this solo piano
performance, playing with a gentle, feathery touch, but with a certain
sense of surety that is charming and refreshing. He opts mostly for
older but infrequently played standards including “I’ve Told Every
Little Star,” “What Is There to Say,” “Never Let Me Go” and the title
tune. But he digs back even further for such oldies as “Christopher
Columbus” (remember Fats Waller’s version?); “When I Grow too Old to
Dream” and the ancient “Sleep.” Every note has value in Sportiello’s
playing, and you’re gonna feel like he’s playing the family piano in a
recital exclusively for you.
Sackville, 2009, 61:21.
Look, Stop And Listen; Dameronia, Philly Joe Jones, leader, drums.
Dameron insisted from the beginning of his career that his goal was to
create beautiful music. Sure it had to swing, but most of all, beauty
was the goal. Dameronia, a working group for far too short a time,
devoted itself primarily to these beautiful Dameron compositions. This
edition of Dameronia featured a host of stars, including Johnny
Griffin, Don Sickler, Cecil Payne. Frank Wess and Walter Bishop Jr. To
underscore Dameron’s belief, one of the selections played here is
actually titled “Dial B for Beauty.” Perhaps the two most famous of his
tunes, also included here, are “Our Delight,” a bop staple for decades;
and “If You Could See Me Now,” which I like to refer to as the number
one bebop ballad of all time. These and some lesser-known Dameron gems
are played here with great affection and superb musicianship. Having
purchased this album years ago in LP form, I’m personally delighted at
its first appearance, complete with a couple of alternate takes, on
compact disc. Another bonus here is Uptown’s painfully meticulous,
32-page liner booklet, loaded with information and marvelous photos.
But it’s the music that counts, and this release helps keep accessible
a unique contributor to the jazz pantheon, Tadley Erwing ‘Tadd’
Dameron. He sought beauty, and he found it.
Uptown, 2009, 55:17.
Behind The Smile, Antoinette Montague, vocals.
is a singer who comes through with stellar delivery and on target
intonation, and she has done a bit of homework in her choice of tunes.
Among the most interesting selections were “Give Your Mama a Smile,”
from the old-time blues singer, Big Bill Broonzy; “Lost in Meditation”;
and Dave Brubeck’s sweet opus, “Summer Song.” These and others make up
an enjoyable pallet of tunes from Montague who, in another era, would
have been a standout ‘band singer.’
In The Groove, 2010, 51:59.
No Such Thing, Matt Vashlishan, alto, soprano and tenor saxophones.
from the get-go, one hears Vashlishan’s silvery tone, sometimes
reminiscent of Paul Desmond or Gary Foster. Most of the tunes here are
originals, but it’s interesting to note in particular a few which are
based on changes to well known standards. Hence, “Amalgamation” is
built on “Giant Steps””Solar”; “Lennie’s Place””Green Dolphin Street”;
and “Pieces” shadows “All the Things You Are.” Vic Juris’s guitar is
fine, but in groups such as this, I miss the sound of a piano. All in
all, a debut CD with some fine moments.
Origin, 2009, 58:42.
It’s Time For U, U. O. Project.
I first saw this album, I though perhaps it was a release from the
University of Oregon Music Department. Instead it’s a program of all
original soul-jazz under the leadership of the drummer Ulysses Owens
Jr. Therein lies the ‘UO.’ With the inclusion of Hammond B-3 and some
earthy vocals in the soul genre, this wasn’t exactly my entree. Still,
you’ll find “The Maestro Blues” to be invigorating and straight ahead.
For fans of the r&b-soul thing, this is better than most I’ve
heard. For more info, try www.usojazzy.com.
by Kyle O'Brien
New York State of Mind, Harry Allen.
the first breathy, legato tones of “Autumn in New York,” to the last
few bouncy strains of “Sidewalks in New York,” Harry Allen shows us
what it is to interpret a great melody. Allen, a tenor man known for
his exceptionally smooth tone, creates the jazzy New York of
yesteryear, all the while paying attention to the melodic structure of
the tunes. While listeners will be plenty familiar with the songs here
- “Harlem Nocturne,” “New York, New York,” “Autumn in New York” - the
songs seem fresh and alive, in a retro sort of fashion. Allen’s
exquisite phrasing and signature tone are highlighted in this New York
tour. Here he swings with abandon on “Down in the Depths of the 90th
Floor,” and brings haunting beauty to the title track. Joined by
trombonist John Allred and backed by a wonderfully attentive band, this
album is a winner all the way around.
2009, Challenge Records, 62 minutes.
Live at Caramoor, Jovino Santos Neto & Weber Iago.
being familiar with either pianist featured on this disc of piano solos
and duets, this was new territory, but one that became a joyful listen.
Recorded live at the Caramoor in New York, Iago and Neto both display
their grasp of multiple styles, from classical and jazz to Brazilian
and other world musics. Iago starts the disc with his chordal, rhythmic
style. Neto’s attention to melody and rhythm come next, and his South
American flair creates energy, especially on the bouncy “Lamentos
(Laments).” When the two join together, it gives them both the
opportunity to create rich music. Their styles mesh perfectly,
especially when joined by saxophonist Joe Lovano, who plays his soprano
in avant garde fashion as an intro to “Wave,” and the two pianists
create a rhythmic wall of sound on the Jobim classic. His reedy tone
brings a tonal complement to the two pianists and allows for a harmonic
convergence of sorts.
2009, Adventure Music, 50:45 minutes.
Perspective, Tom Tallitsch.
is a Philadelphia-based saxophonist with a sound that shows both
restraint and passion. His tunes are modern jazz through and through,
not adhering to genre or style in any significant fashion. The tune
“Conscious Contact” is an introspective minor melody that lets
Tallitsch’s soprano speak in cohesion with his group. Piano, guitar,
bass, drums and reeds build to a crescendo, and Tallitsch doesn’t let
loose until the tune is good and ready to speak up. His use of dynamics
and his restraint make his songs come alive. Some swirl and eddy, as on
the circular “Propellerhead,” while others bubble under, like “Red
Giant.” His tone is emotive and his compositions allow him to take us
on short musical journeys with his more than able band. Here’s a guy to
watch in the future.
2009, OA2 Records, 60 minutes.
Carswell, Tom Gullion.
is a muscular sax player, in the style of Michael Brecker or Donny
McCaslin. He pushes his horn from the first tune and doesn’t let up.
The disc, recorded in two sessions - in Wisconsin and Chicago - sets up
as a fusion album. The Chicago sessions feature the fiery drumming of
Ernie Adams, an impressive stickman that occasionally becomes the focal
point of the music. The Wisconsin sessions add trumpeter David Cooper,
giving more texture and chances for harmony. The electric tune,
“Monkey’s Tale,” features Cooper with an electronically altered
trumpet. It’s reminiscent of Randy Brecker, and it seems that’s what he
and Gullion are going for, but without as much precision. The melody up
front is brash and a tad sloppy. But the energy makes up for the
glitches. Gullion likes the ‘70s, retro electronic sound alterations,
which he brings to his soprano on “Hot Tin Roof,” and with electric
piano on several tunes, we quickly discover Gullion’s love for fusion
past. There are elements of Brecker Brothers, Return to Forever, Mike
Stern, Weather Report and Pat Metheny throughout Gullion’s original
music. Perhaps if he steps out of the past we can hear him in a new
light without comparison.
2009, Momentous Records, 55:50.
Ballet of the Bouncing Beagles, Phil Kelly & the Northwest Prevailing Winds.
Northwest doesn’t have a lot of big bands, so this group that
composer/arranger Kelly has pulled together is a welcome sound for our
little corner of the universe. Who cares that half the players are from
elsewhere? Bellingham resident Kelly has enlisted some L.A. and New
York cats, like saxophonists Jerry Dodgion and Pete Christlieb, and
Dallas players Randy Lee and Pete Brewer. Throw in Portland drummer
Gary Hobbs, noted Seattle trumpeter Jay Thomas, and guitarist Grant
Geissman, and you have a powerhouse big band. Let’s not forget Portland
bassist Dave Captein, who holds down the bottom end and brings together
these huge horns. Kelly has them swing with abandon on the classic
“Limehouse Blues,” then takes them down to New Orleans with the street
beat of “Ewe Doo on Bubbas Shoux.” The sound is big and lively, thanks
to Kelly’s firm hand as conductor, though at times it sounds like a
studio group - a bit too refined. Still, when he pulls out the Latin
rhythms, on “Estos Frijoles Causa Me Falta Pasar A Los Vientos,” with
horn punches and a great batch of solos, it’s a joy to listen to.
2009, Origin Records, 64 minutes.
Extended Shelf Life, Ramsey Embick.
Northwest jazz fans will know Embick for his Latin outings with Ramsey
Y Los Montunos. This is not that project. Here Embick shows off his
quiet and tender sides. We get to hear his control of the keyboard on
classic tunes that include “I Remember Clifford,” “Stardust” and
“Skylark.” There are some originals on here too, and they fit right in.
Embick draws out his chords and lets his fluid fingers explore the
length of the keyboard. It’s a simple concept and a simple setup, but
one that allows us into Embick’s world outside of Latin music. Though I
could have used a little more diversity -- the tunes are all rather
slow and there isn’t much rhythmic variety -- it’s a lovely album,
great for dinner parties or a romantic evening.
2009, Ramsey Embick, 59:30.
Joy Not Jaded, Josh Moshier & Mike Lebrun.
grads, pianist Moshier and saxophonist Lebrun have kept the musical
collaboration going past the classroom. Their tunes are sharp modern
jazz pieces, giving each the opportunity to say what they want
musically. Harmonically and rhythmically rich, as on Lebrun’s
polyrhythmic “Jambo,” these are two musically mature players. They’re
not concerned with cramming too many notes in, instead concentrating on
textures and melodies, as on Moshier’s “Saturnine,” which juxtaposes
full piano chords with John Moulder’s light guitar work. There is still
a little flash, as on “The Second Handers,” which builds with Lebrun’s
pointed soloing. With some touring on behalf of this impressive disc,
the two might just reach beyond the Chicago area.
2009, OA2 Records, 62 minutes.
Evolution, Jon Gordon.
jazz saxophonists don’t begin their discs with avant garde strings.
Luckily, altoist Jon Gordon doesn’t follow convention. This mish-mash
of styles somehow comes together, even though the strings sometimes
seem like an overlay rather than an integral part of the group. On the
title track, Gordon’s alto shines through, as does Sean Wayland’s
rapid-fire piano. Remove the strings and you have a completely
different mood, as on “Shane,” where Gordon is joined by Bill Charlap
on piano. It’s a winning combo, with Gordon playing a distant soprano
while Charlap comps quietly behind the melody. The larger group is an
odd sort of mix, but it works because the compositions allow for
multiple textures and colors. The tracks with Charlap work even better
in their sparseness, but Gordon takes some sonic risks overall and
comes out on top.
2009, ArtistShare, 60 minutes.
Sculptures in Time, GR Project.
first glance, this looks like something from the GRP label, but the GR
stands for Gabriel Riesco, a guitarist currently living in New York who
has performed around the globe. The disc, a tribute to the famous
sculptor Eduardo Chillida, was recorded with very little rehearsal,
which was supposed to capture the fresh feel of the project. While
there are some fresh modern sounds, there are also some transitions
that don’t work well, as on the opening track, where a rhythm
transition stops abruptly rather than flows. Never having seen
Chillida’s works, it’s hard to know how the music represents them, but
there is an artistic quality to it, and Riesco is a solid guitarist.
I’d call these more paintings than sculptures, but the sense of art in
Riesco’s music is in tact.
2009, WUC Records, 52:50.
Gypsy Rendezvous, Vol. 1, The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band.
time anyone calls their group Dynamic, it’s cause to put up a red flag
for cheesiness. But the rousing Gypsy jazz that comes from this group
is, well, rather dynamic. The disc came about during DeMerle’s vacation
to Maui, where he and Bonnie Eisele jammed with a local group. The
result is a modern Hawaiian Gypsy jazz disc with a bit of a surf vibe,
thanks to the dual guitars of Gypsy Pacific, Tom Conway and Phil
Benoit. DeMerle’s energetic drumming propels the music, especially on
the instrumental tracks that really cook. Eisele’s vocals aren’t the
strongest; her intonation goes awry a few times, but it does bring a
new dimension to the music. If you want to have fun and hear what
Django may have sounded like if he lived island style, this is a fun
2009, Origin Records, 60 minutes.