CD Reviews - June 2010
by George Fendel,
Falling In Love With Oscar, Oscar Peterson, piano.
we may think of this as our ‘mystery album of the month.’ The liner
notes are brief and non-specific. The label, Jazz Door, has no contact
information, and in the small print, we are told that the concert
occurred ‘live in Florida, USA, ‘94.’ Fortunately, Oscar’s group is
identified: Lorne Lofsky, guitar; Martin Drew, drums; and Niels Henning
Orsted Pederson, bass. This one must have gotten away from Norman
Granz, Peterson’s longtime producer for both Verve and Pablo. But it’s
well recorded, and Oscar shines, as always, on standards including
“Falling In Love with Love,” “Stella By Starlight and “Secret Love.”
Oscar’s beautifully crafted originals are also performed here. From his
masterpiece, “Canadiana Suite,” there’s an extended version of
“Wheatland.” The ballad side of the virtuoso pianist includes “Why
Think about Tomorrow,” and Oscar brings on a classical flair on “A
Salute to Bach.” I found this sterling CD new and sealed at a bargain
price at Music Millennium. Move quickly; I think they had a few more
Jazz Door, 58:21.
Someday My Prince Will Come, Alexis Cole, vocals.
if I could only read Japanese, I could tell you at least something
about Cole. But this CD was produced by Venus Records, a fine label out
of Tokyo. So, the music will speak for itself,as it’s easy to translate
quality. Cole is a gifted, no gimmicks singer with perfect intonation
and a voice somewhat reminiscent of Sue Raney or Ethel Ennis. On this
lovely album, Cole presents a menu of gorgeous, virtually unknown
ballads, all of which hail from the soundtracks of children’s movies
(of all things!). The song titles will mean nothing to you, but names
like “The Parent Trap,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Robin Hood” and “Peter
Pan” will ring a bell. Don’t be mistaken in thinking that these are
children’s songs. They’re beautifully performed love songs,
unquestionably for people who are all grown up! Cole’s stunning vocals
attracted the attention of some outstanding accompanists in Fred
Hersch, Steve LaSpina and Matt Wilson. Guests here and there include
Gregoire Maret, harmonica, and Don Braden, reeds. I want to hear more
from Alexis Cole!
Live At Music City 1955 & More, Clifford Brown, trumpet.
up, Clifford freaks! These gems just keep popping up, and this one’s a
keeper. It features Clifford Brown and a lively Philadelphia quartet in
a May 31, 1955 club performance. Highlights include extended
performances of “Walkin’,” “Night In Tunesia” and “Donna Lee.” And,
hurray, the sound quality is pretty good. The additional material is
recorded live in New York with the Max Roach gang and includes
previously unreleased performances of “I’ll Remember April,” “More Than
You Know,” and others. The fidelity doesn’t hold up quite as well on
the New York material, but Clifford collectors will be fine with it.
There’s also a bonus here. Portland’s bop professor and longtime KBOO
jazz jock, Don Manning, is heard in a three-minute-plus phone interview
with the trumpet star. Genius arrives infrequently. Clifford Brown,
taken tragically from us in an auto accident at age 25, was, at the
least, an inspired artist. In my mind, he was an unparalleled genius.
And so, any previously unheard Clifford Brown material will always be
on my must hear list.
RLR (Rare Live Recordings) Records, 2010, 78:24.
Turn Up The Quiet, John Stein, guitar, Ron Gill, vocals.
guitarist in the classic sense, Stein has come into my consciousness
through three or four excellent CDs. Gill is an alarmingly good jazz
singer, known to me through a previous all-Billy Strayhorn date. The
two of them team up for some very intimate performances of dependable,
straight to the heart songs, some of which are rarely heard. Gill is a
no-frills singer who has hosted his own jazz show for many years on
Boston’s WGBH. Joined by pianist Gilad Barkan on select tunes, Gill and
Stein deliver the goods with style and superb taste on such finery as
“Weaver of Dreams,” “Detour Ahead,” “Love Dance,” “Wonder Why,” “Gentle
Rain” and more. Don’t miss one more Strayhorn beauty, the album
highlight, “So This Is Love.” Since encountering Gill’s Strayhorn disc
a couple years ago, I’ve been wondering if we’d hear from him again.
Well, here he is -- and in the select company of two artists who share
his penchant for beauty and intimacy.
Whaling City Sound, 2009, 74:05.
Incorrigible, One For All hard bop sextet.
still think of these guys as the young cats of hard bop, but the
accompanying publicity informed me that One For All has been a working
sextet for 13 years! This CD marks their debut for an impressive new
label, Jazz Legacy Productions. The group is well named because there’s
a tight musical alliance in place here. They just ooze that
hard-to-define New York swagger. You know it when you hear it. Call it
confidence, deep-in-the shed swing, or perhaps today’s evolution of the
Blue Note sound. In basketball, they call it chemistry. And that’s One
For All: Eric Alexander, tenor sax, Jim Rotondi, trumpet and
flugelhorn, Steve Davis, trombone, David Hazeltine, piano, John Webber,
bass, and Joe Farnsworth, drums. They’re a cut above, and one can hear
it on a selection of eight originals and one standard, a spirited
version of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” This music is straight
down the center of the jazz tradition. It’s skillfully presented in
both ensemble and solo work. And it’s exactly what we have come to
expect from some of the finest Gotham has to offer.
Jazz Legacy Productions, 2010, 49:07.
Lennie’s Pennies, Rosario Giuliani, alto saxophone.
Giuliani is one of Europe’s best kept secretsone can only wonder why,
with ten CDs as a leader, he hasn’t become better known in the states.
Perhaps this recording will give him some juice here, as the alto
saxophonist plays an intriguing menu of both his own original
compositions and a few from the pianist on the date, Pierre De
Bethmann. With Darryl Hall on bass and Joe La Barbera on drums, the
quartet warms the room with a few standards as well. “Love Letters,”
“How Deep Is the Ocean,” and Jimmy Rowles stunning “The Peacocks” are
nicely woven into the program. Giuliani, just the other side of 40, has
listened to many alto heroes, but the name Lee Konitz comes primarily
to mind as a likely influence. I heard a bit of Art Pepper here and
there as well. Among his original tunes, I liked the continental
feeling of “Picchi” and the energy of the oddly titled “Goldfish.”
Pianist De Bethmanns varied tempos are in turn lyrical and steamy!
Giuliani needs to be picked up by someone doing a major jazz festival
on this side of the pond. He puts big time chops on display here,
regardless of tempo. From hard bop to breathy ballads, it all works
Dreyfus Jazz, 2010, 54:47.
In The Back Room, Ray Bryant, piano.
he only knew how many fans he has in Portland, Ray Bryant would be here
in a Jet Blue minute! But until that day arrives, we must be happy with
occasional new releases as melodic and delightful as this! Always
recognizable with his bluesy approach, his clean, open chords and his
unabashed joy in playing, Ray Bryant hits the bullseye on this 2008
disc (only unearthed recently by your review squad). The selections
here were, for the most part, recorded live at Rutgers University as
part of a festival honoring Thomas Fats Waller. Hence, we are treated
to “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now,” “Black and Blue,” “Jitterbug Waltz,”
“Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose.” Standards “If I Could Be
with You” and “Easy to Love” are just that: easy to love! This
scintillating solo set is completed with Bryant originals which
spotlight, as always, his gifts as a composer of melodies where every
note counts. Through the glory years of modern jazz, Ray Bryant
appeared in a supportive role on dozens, maybe hundreds of classic lps.
But he was equally admired as a unique piano soloist, one who always
had something truly his own to say. That continues here.
Evening Star, 2008, 59:42.
East-West Trumpet Summit, Ray Vega, trumpet, Thomas Marriott, trumpet.
two-trumpet ensemble is not a new thing in jazz, but it sure is a good
thing in the hands of New Yorker Ray Vega and Seattleite Thomas
Marriott. Their paths had crossed on both coasts over recent years, and
a friendship and mutual respect developed. Resulting, of course, in
this recording. Former Seattle pianist (now New Yorker) Travis Shook
leads a rhythm section that also boasts two Seattle aces, bassist Jeff
Johnson and drummer Matt Jorgensen. The quintet leads off with a couple
well known vehicles in “It’s You or No One” and Horace Silver’s opus,
“Juicy Lucy.” Things pick up from there with Marriott’s original,
“Pelham Gardens,” a hard bop thrasher. It’s followed by “Bishop
Island,” another Marriott creation, this time in waltz tempo. Two of
Ray’s tunes come next. “Only For A Season” suggests Tom Harrell’s “Sail
Away” to these ears. “It’s A New York Thing” is a high energy
powerhouse. It’s followed by a medley of evergreens with Ray on Monk’s
“’Round Midnight” and Thomas on Duke’s “In A Sentimental Mood.” Just
gorgeous. The session’s closer is Marriott’s tune, “Big Brother,” a tip
of the hat to his colleague on this very satisfying meeting of two
Origin, 2010, 47:45.
Light Touch, David Sills, tenor saxophone, flute.
David Sills had been born 25 years earlier, his name would be marquee
material in the jazz world. Every album he’s done has reflected his
obvious care and feeding of the jazz art. His tune selection is always
thoughtful and his writing is melodic and sensible. Sills, one might
say, is a musician’s musician, so it’s a treat when he makes a slight
shift in his regular routine as he does here. His colleagues on this CD
are Chris Dawson, piano, and Darek Oles, bass. That makes this a
drummer less trio, a decided detour from past Sills recordings. The
familiar fare on the date reads like a greatest hits of jazz menu. How
about two Horace Silver gems in “Strollin’” and “Peace”; Strayhorn’s
gorgeous “Chelsea Bridge”; Bird’s rarely played “Blues For Alice”; a
couple of Cole Porter gems in “Love for Sale” and “Everything I Love”
and Charles Mingus’ touching “Goodbye Porkpie Hat.” These and more give
us a performance that may very well have been done with a couple pals
in your living room. Intimate, personal, to-the-heart music. Sills is a
dedicated LA cat whose playing warrants one of those ‘where has he been
all my life’ responses.
Dasil Jazz, 2010, 59:15.
Spiral, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Hammond organ.
said it before, but perhaps it bears repeating. I am anything but a
flag-waving fan of organ jazz. But when it’s as good as this, I have to
be at least able to recognize it and review it without bias. Smith
works here in a trio setting with emerging guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg
and drummer Jamire Williams. Off the top, there’s “Mellow Mood,” a
medium tempo ear-opener that tells you that this is a jazz session and
not your usual funk-organ-trio. That notion is confirmed by a politely
swinging “I’ve Never Been in Love Before”; a classic, ever-so-slow,
“Frame for the Blues”; and a rip roaring “I Didn’t Know What Time It
Was.” Perhaps my favorite track was a straight down the middle “Sweet
and Lovely.” Three original compositions from various composers round
out a CD that I was ready to rail against. Instead, considering my
limited knowledge of Smith, this may well be his best recording to date.
Palmetto Records, 2010, 49:19.
Precipice, Denny Zeitlin, piano.
Zeitlin records only occasionally, so his many fans will welcome this
stunning solo piano concert recorded live in Santa Barbara in 2008. The
well runs deep in the mind and the hands of this virtuoso pianist. One
might even say that -- if it can be accomplished on the piano -- Dr.
Zeitlin will undertake it. With that in mind, sometimes Zeitlin’s
improvisational prowess finds me drifting a bit, not quite knowing
where he’s going nor where he’s come from. But chalk that up to the
fact that he’s a dynamo of creativity, which often results in an
amazing outpouring of notes. Zeitlin has always struck me as one who
was grounded in classical piano, and then found he needed to tell the
jazz story on his own terms. On this sometimes mind-blowing outing,
Zeitlin tackles primarily original compositions, sometimes at tempos
where no on else should go, and at other times seeking and finding
intimacy and beauty. His standards include an incredible three-part
“What Is this Thing Called Love”; a gorgeous 5/4 re-harmonization of a
memory from Oklahoma called “Out of My Dreams”; and a bristling romp on
Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo.” Zeilin’s his own man, and he can pull you in and
refuse to let you go.
Sunnyside Communications, 2010, 67:49.
Roman Nights, Tom Harrell, trumpet, flugelhorn.
maybe I’ve figured it out in regards to Tom Harrell. I’ve always
considered him in the brilliant brigade, but now I know why. Maybe.
I’ve never heard it before, but on this CD, Harrell’s gorgeous,
poignant sound brings to mind one of my trumpet-flugelhorn heroes, Art
Farmer. Granted, he brings a more contemporary approach to his music,
but that haunting sound of Art’s is lingering somewhere here. This is a
quintet outing for Harrell, and he is joined by Wayne Escoffery, tenor
sax, Danny Grissett, piano, Ugonna Okegwo, bass, and Johnathan Blake,
drums. All compositions are creations of the leader, and the tempos and
moods vary as Harrell spins his magic. A few standouts include the
title tune, a stunningly beautiful ballad that is deserving of
immediate attention. On the other hand, there’s “Bird in Flight,” on
which Harrell and company try to convey both birds in flight and Bird
in flight. The final tune, “Year of the Ox,” is an Eastern-flavored
vehicle, hence the reference to the Chinese year 2009. There’s always a
sense of freedom and freshness to both Harrell’s composing and playing.
I know for a fact that his every release is celebrated among musicians.
And the critics who count have proclaimed him ‘the premier trumpeter of
his generation.’ It’s all affirmed here.
High Note, 2010, 62:57.
Modern Life, Ehud Asherie, piano, featuring Harry Allen, tenor sax.
cover features a handsome photo of a young man who is apparently very
busy playing elegant piano at various New York City venues. His name is
Ehud Ahserie, and this CD marks my initial awareness of him. Although a
quick Google indicated the influence of Erroll Garner and Thelonious
Monk, I heard the elegant touch of a Hank Jones or perhaps a John
Bunch. Be that as it may, you’d better be able to row the boat if tenor
sax whiz Harry Allen is along for the ride. Add Joel Forbes, bass, and
Chuck Riggs, drums, and you have a tasty, seasoned quartet. The tunes,
I might add, are peeless, including “I’ve Told Every Little Star,” “No
Moon at All,” “The Trolley Song,” “Soon” and “A Flower Is a Lovesome
Thing.” Two nice surprises were “He Loves And She Loves,” a delicious
Gershwin dessert nearly forgotten these days, and “Vignette,” a Hank
Jones creation whose distinct and pleasing melody line evokes memories
of Coleman Hawkins. The quartet also gives new life to “Casbah,” a Tadd
Dameron cousin to “Out of Nowhere.” Two Asherie originals complete an
altogether lovely, classic jazz album. One more thing: kudos to Allen,
a tenor player in the tradition of the all-time greats.
Post Tone Records, 2010, 61:17.
S’cat Got My Tongue, Ori Dagan, vocals.
scat singers are an endangered species in today’s world. Jon Hendricks
is still in the game. Ditto Mark Murphy. And, among the present
generation, Giacomo Gates is a solid scatter. But now, perhaps it’s
time to focus on Ori Dagan. Born in Israel but a Canadian since
childhood, Dagan has sought the best music education possible. And now
we have the finished product, his first CD. How can you argue when
Dagan opens with a steamy “Four Brothers,” even including the name
‘Anita O’Day’ in his scat improvisation! The album continues with some
straightahead singing on the likes of “Dindi,” “My Favorite Things,”
“Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “Swinging on a Star,” “Here’s That
Rainy Day,” and lots more. But it’s on the scat material that Dagan
really shines. He’s a pure and natural jazz singer; nothing is forced
and nothing’s phony. Try Bird’s “Quasimodo,” a challenge to play, let
alone sing. There are two more artful scat contributions here, and both
are Ori’s originals. The title tune explains the Dagan philosophy and
the joy of scat singing. Finally, there’s “S’Qua Badu Bop,” a bristling
bop duet with one Sophia Perlman, an equally effervescent scatter. Many
have come to the party, but Dagan sounds to me like he’s one of the few
who will stay.
Scatcat Records; 2009, 59:51.
Second Chance, Hector Martignon, piano, accordion.
be honest, I was pretty much ready to dismiss this as another ‘you’ve
heard one, you’ve heard ‘em all’ Latin album. But what struck me almost
immediately is that this is a bright, buoyant, exciting jazz album with
some Latin accents. Columbia born pianist Martignon, a mainstay in New
York Latin jazz circles, weaves ten fiery musicians in and out of a
program of mostly original music. What struck me as different from the
usual is the solid, jazz-based solo work of these musicians, none of
whom are familiar names to me. Two tunes are from sources other than
band members. “Hatari” is a Henry Mancini motion picture theme, and
“Alone Together” is the album’s only sampling from the American
Songbook. In addition to his sometimes electrifying piano work,
Martignon’s ballad writing is also quite compelling. What’s that old
saying about judging a book by its cover? Well, there’s a good lesson
for me in that this turned out to be a well-balanced program of fine
writing, imaginative arranging and stellar musicianship. And, really,
it’s a jazz album!
Zoho, 2010, 68:28.
I’ll Get Around To It, Carrie Wicks, vocals.
new voice out of Seattle, Carrie Wicks’ debut CD scores from
standpoints. Wicks doesn’t go for the gusto, and that’s a
good thing in
a jazz singer. In addition, she’s chosen quality tunes that
“Everything I’ve Got,” “Ill Wind,”
“Comes Love,” “I’m Lost” and
Old Fashioned,” among others. She works effortlessly with Seattle
Bill Anschell, piano, Jeff Johnson, bass, Bryon Vannoy, drums, and the
Joe Henderson-ish Hans Teuber, tenor sax and clarinet. Remember the
name, because Wicks’ first effort is a winner!
OA2 Records, 2010, 53:11.
Jazz Shaped, Dave LeMieux, tenor, keys, with House of Soul.
couple alerts come to mind in the above title: the word ‘keys’ suggests
the use of electric keyboards, and the word ‘Soul’ suggests, well, soul
music. And while this CD has a leg up on just about any soul record,
it’s very much into the funky, urban sound of, perhaps, ‘70s jazz.
“Strange Fruit,” “Giant Steps” and “My Funny Valentine” try to rescue
this session, but while many have tried, the blending of jazz and soul
usually ends up as just another soul record.
Plenty Swing, Plenty Soul, Eric Reed, piano, Cyrus Chestnut, piano.
high velocity, two-piano duo obviously had a ball performing this set
live at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola last year. Their quartet is rounded out
by Dezron Douglas, bass, and Willie Jones III, drums. On extended
versions (more than twelve minutes each) of “I’ll Remember April,” “All
the Things You Are” and “Two Bass Hit,” Reed and Chestnut go for broke
with high octane solos, very much in line with New York piano
tradition. I might have omitted two religious choices, but everything
else here swings with the authority of the two piano mavens in charge
of the session.
Savant Records, 2010, 73:29.
Origine, Aldo Romano, drums, guitar, vocals.
of the music on this CD has that ethereal, noir, move feeling. The
selections are all originals by the leader, and he writes melody lines
that breathe life. Special kudos to Stephane Belmondo, the trumpet and
flugelhornist who is the primary soloist on the date. Much of this
music is rich, layered and lovely. Perhaps it combines European
romantic notions with the American jazz tradition. In any case, it sure
adds up to some beautiful music for people who are all grown up.
Dreyfus, 2010, 56:45.
My Mother’s Songs, Kirsten Rian, vocals.
up another polished singer right here in Puddle City. Kirsten Rian’s
debut recording features seldom heard choices such as “Great Day,” “So
Many Stars,” and a very obscure Andre Previn tune titled “Why Are We
Afraid.” Two instrumentals from Rian’s accompanists also fare well
here. A lively Hank Jones line called “Allison’s Uncle” and Oscar
Peterson’s great chart, “L’Impossible” work well in the hands of a
finely-honed quartet led by PDX star pianist, George Mitchell. We’ll
all follow the road taken by Kirsten Rian with hopes that it will lead
her to more destinations such as this.
Wynscope Records, 2010.
Brotherhood, Jeff Antoniuk, tenor and soprano saxes.
Antoniuk and the Jazz Update are frequent and admired contributors to
the Washington, DC jazz scene. This is a quartet steeped in a 21st
century style of hard bop that still values solid melody lines, probing
improvisation, and, when called for, sheer beauty. Their original work
is presented on five selections. In addition, there are freshly minted
renditions of Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan”; Cole Porter’s “All of You”;
and a nifty Dameron-Monk medley of “Hot House” and “Evidence.” These
guys are drawing from the timeless well of jazz tradition.
Jaju Records, 2010, 61:04.
Into Somethin’, Beebie Adair, piano.
you like your jazz light and polite, Beebie Adiar’s piano stylings will
provide nifty background music at dinner time. Her selections range
from Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty” and “Stablemates” to music
associated with Hank Williams, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Wonder. Now
that’s a wide range. A few guests show up on some vocals, the best of
whom is Jim Ferguson, who sings Adair’s lovely tune, “Miss Ferguson I
Presume.” It was written years ago for Lili, Ferguson’s daughter. Adair
won’t bop you into submission, but she plays pretty piano.
Adair Music Group, 2010, 53:12.
License To Swing, Jim Altamore, vocals.
obvious that Jim Altamore is joined at the hip with Frank Sinatra. But
what you’ve got to like about Altamore is that, while he communicates
some of the legendary Sinatra hip-chic, he doesn’t try to lay Sinatra
on you. Nobody can do that, so Altamore delivers a dozen tunes from the
FS book and does it on his own terms. With a tasty and swinging small
group backing him, Altamore’s on target with “All of You,” “Nice ‘N’
Easy,” “Call Me Impossible,” “Learnin’ the Blues,” “Just One of Those
Things” and more. Frank was king, but Altamore is one of his loyal
Lucky Us Productions, 2007, 53:50.
by Kyle O'Brien
Timbasa, Mark Weinstein.
oneself a “former trombonist, now flautist” is odd, but this “now
flautist” seems to have hit his niche at the age of 69. His style is
fiery and his licks are fleet of finger. Here, he mines music that’s
been conquered by many before -- Brazilian jazz. It’s nothing new, but
the change of instrument and musical genres works. His cover of
“Milestones” is pepped up with percussion and rhythm, and his flute
work is inspired. The percussionists are actually featured more
prominently than Weinstein’s flute, and bandmate and percussionist
Pedrito Martinez seems to be the one in charge. He and the other rhythm
section players light up this disc with in-your-face beats that propel
Weinstein’s flute. It’s a disc worth checking out for its steadfast
attention to the beat.
2010, Jazzheads, Inc, 60:00.
Inside Out, Damian Erskine.
fusion is hard to come by, but thanks to people like bassist Erskine,
it’s making a comeback. Playing with locals like spot-on drummer
Reinhardt Melz and montunos master Ramsey Embick, among others, Erskine
is in good musical company. The tunes are all Erskine’s, and they are
Latin-inspired funk goodies. The opener, “Inside Out,” absolutely
lights up the night with intense rhythms and Erskine’s busy-but-steady
bass work. He lets out a bit of Afro-Cuban on the darker “American
Gyro,” and goes polyrhythmic with “Creep.” Erskine balances melody
playing with holding down the bass line, and he has the chops to do it.
His style mixes Jaco Pastorious with others in the modern jazz genre,
and it’s refreshing to hear a bassist step to the front with aplomb.
Fusion may have been harmed by the elevator jazz of the ‘90s, but
Erskine is doing his best to bring credibility back to the genre.
2010, DE-02, 54:20.
Foreign Legion, Tin Hat.
Tin Hat Trio has expanded on this disc of exotic retro music, but the
refreshing blend of violin, acoustic guitar, clarinet and other
assorted oddities, including pump organ, glockenspiel and dobro, makes
this an album that stretches well beyond jazz. It’s chamber
music-meets-jazz and various folk musics in-between. There are gypsy
jazz influences, as on the opener, “Helium,” and the sense of
playfulness runs throughout. Things get a bit free on “A Fata Morgana,”
and Eastern European folk makes itself known in bits and pieces, as on
the sparse “Company.” Tin Hat has always stayed well outside the norm,
and it’s a good thing. This disc is highly textural and it feels good.
2010, BAG Production Records, 62:00.
Tivoli Trio, Frank Carlberg.
up in Helsinki, Carlberg was inspired by a local carnival group called
the Tivoli Trio. He takes that playful inspiration and puts it into
jazz compositions that travel the fringes of avant garde. The intrigue
and uncertainty of the carnival atmosphere are tempered by
well-rehearsed musicians -- Carlberg on piano, John Hebert on bass, and
Gerald Cleaver on drums. The music sounds bigger than three people, due
to Carlberg’s compositional largesse. To recreate the carnival, he
fills the spaces with angular notes, keeping everything on a bit of a
tightrope, as on the tense “The Chase.” It’s fun and intriguing
throughout, like the many acts of a traveling circus, and it’s executed
beautifully by Carlberg and company.
2010, Red Piano Records, 57:10.
Mazurka for a Modern Man, Thomson Kneeland.
album is bittersweet for bassist Kneeland. Drummer and percussionist
Take Toriyama took his own life just shortly after recording this disc,
and the loss for Kneeland was devastating. But the recording is a
fitting tribute to his talents. His drumming and percussion work is
inspired -- impressive and energetic without being overbearing. But
this disc isn’t just about the rhythm behind it -- it’s full of
Kneeland’s multicultural compositions. Inspiration from the corners of
the world, like Indian, Eastern European folk, jazz, electronica and
rock, makes for a disc that could be much more disconnected than it is.
But Kneeland blends the styles seamlessly so they fit together like a
difficult puzzle. With trumpeter David Smith guiding the often dense
melodies along with guitarist Nate Radley, Kneeland’s compositions come
to life with precision and intensity. This is modern jazz at its
2010, Weltschmerz Records, 59:30.
Adverse Times, Carl Fischer & Organic Groove Ensemble.
disc was inspired by earlier fusion artists: John Scofield, Miles Davis
and Mike Stern come to mind. But trumpeter and composer Fischer adds
enough modern elements to keep it from being a total retro-nod. Fischer
is flashy. The Billy Joel sideman plies the upper register of his horn,
sometimes too often, but he is an impressive talent. The production is
clean, often too clean for its own good. This is a funk album first and
foremost. Then there’s the vocal overdub on the title track -- it
mentions blatantly obvious “adverse times” like September 11 and the
stock market crash. It’s a sledgehammer over the head that doesn’t need
to be there and it distracts from what is a pretty decent funk-jazz
disc. When Fischer and company get down to grooving, it’s invigorating,
as on the in-front groover, “Open Up,” and on Marcus Miller’s “TuTu.”
Fischer needs to stay away from the social statements and just play his
2010, Fischmusic Productions, 54:20.
In Session, Adriano Santos.
so many American musicians trying their hand at Brazilian music, it’s
nice to hear it done by an actual Brazilian native. Santos is a
polished drummer, and his disc is full of energy and exceptional
playing. Along with saxophonist David Binney -- who shines here --
pianist Helio Alves, bassist David Ambrosio and percussionist Dende,
Santos is surrounded by a band that moves his music. The tunes are full
of rhythm, pushed by Santos and his lively drumming. He takes tunes
from some of the best Brazilian composers, including Milton Nascimento
and Airto. With Binney guiding the melodies with his alto and soprano
saxes, this is a Latin-jazz disc you’ll want to savor.
2009, Kingjazzad Music, 59 minutes.
Brotherhood, Jeff Antoniuk and the Jazz Update.
is a fine saxophonist, and the D.C. resident has gathered an equally
fine group of musicians to show off his talents. While the musicianship
is impressive, some of the tunes lack a level of engagement. A handful
of Antoniuk’s originals are fairly pedestrian, like the two openers,
including the title track. Things get more interesting with the angular
“Meet Me at the Ponderosa,” a playful romp that meshes his native
Canada with New Orleans groove. Antoniuk and company are much better
when they stray into more exotic territories, like the West
African-tinged “Global Village” and the Joe Lovano-inspired “Mister No
Bones.” Antoniuk should continue to color outside the lines to pave his
way in the jazz world.
2010 Atonal Licks Music, 60 minutes.
Go Home, Ben Goldberg.
players should be reason enough by themselves to give this disc a spin.
Clarinetist Goldberg has gathered some of the best players in the
modern jazz world -- Charlie Hunter, Scott Amendola and Ron Miles --
for this urban take on funky jazz. It’s both loose and tight at the
same time, with a funky feel combined with the dual horns taking the
melodies. Having clarinet on a groove disc might seem out of place, but
Goldberg’s compositions make it all right. Hunter holds down both the
chords and the bass lines, letting Miles and Goldberg trade solos and
wax eloquent on melodies. It’s a combination of instruments not
normally heard in jazz, but it works on many levels -- as a
compositional jazz disc, as an improvisational outing, and as a
textural recording. It has both grit and polish, and for those who like
their modern jazz a bit funky, this is a winner.
2009, BAG Production Records, 65 minutes.
A New Day, Phil Sargent.
sophisticated compositions of Sargent immediately remind me of Pat
Metheny: complex, floating rhythms, lyric-less vocals, and occasionally
dense chord structures. It’s not a bad thing to be derivative when
you’re this good. Aubrey Johnson’s vocalese adds rich color to
Sargent’s compositions, as on the melodically haunting “Kelita.”
Sargent’s guitar can be rough and rocking or polished and poignant,
depending on the composition. It’s a compositional disc throughout, but
the musicianship brings out passion, so it’s not just about the notes.
Sargent may be Metheny-esque, but he brings his own fortitude to the
2010, Sargent Jazz Records, 53:40.