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CD Reviews - June 2010
by George Fendel, and Kyle O'Brien

Reviews by George Fendel

Falling In Love With Oscar, Oscar Peterson, piano.
Perhaps 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 copies.
Jazz Door, 58:21.

Someday My Prince Will Come, Alexis Cole, vocals.
Alas, 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!
Venus, 2009.

Live At Music City 1955 & More, Clifford Brown, trumpet.
Listen 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.
A 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.
I 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.
Apparently, 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 well.
Dreyfus Jazz, 2010, 54:47.

In The Back Room, Ray Bryant, piano.
If 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.
The 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 trumpet standouts.
Origin, 2010, 47:45.

Light Touch, David Sills, tenor saxophone, flute.
If 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.
I’ve 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.
Denny 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.
Well, 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.
The 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.
Male 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.
To 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.
A new voice out of Seattle, Carrie Wicks’ debut CD scores from several 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 include “Everything I’ve Got,” “Ill Wind,” “Comes Love,” “I’m Lost” and “I’m Old Fashioned,” among others. She works effortlessly with Seattle vets 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.
A 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.
Self-produced, 2009.

Plenty Swing, Plenty Soul, Eric Reed, piano, Cyrus Chestnut, piano.
This 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.
Much 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.
Chalk 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.
Jeff 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.
If 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.
It’s 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 subjects.
Lucky Us Productions, 2007, 53:50. 

Reviews by Kyle O'Brien

Timbasa, Mark Weinstein.

Calling 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.
Good 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.
The 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.
Growing 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. 
This 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 finest.
2010, Weltschmerz Records,  59:30.

Adverse Times, Carl Fischer & Organic Groove Ensemble.
This 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 horn.
2010, Fischmusic Productions, 54:20. 

In Session, Adriano Santos.
With 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.
Antoniuk 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.
The 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.
The 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 table.
2010, Sargent Jazz Records, 53:40.

Copyright 2009, Jazz Society of Oregon