CD Reviews - July 2010
by George Fendel,
A Sentimental Journey, Tim Warfield, tenor and soprano saxophone.
For starters, the title tune, ”Sentimental Journey,” is a
far cry from the old Doris Day version, as Warfield and friends give it
aNew Orleans, funeral march feeling. “I’ll Be Seeing
You” brings trumpet-flugelhorn wiz errell Stafford into focus,
and Warfieldpicks up the soprano on a nearly forgotten old warhorse,
“My Man.” Next is a rollicking “Crazy Rhythm,”
which gives both horn players a chance to work out with gusto.
“Speak Low” is taken at a jaunty clip, with both Warfield
and Staford playing it straight from the hip. Duke Ellington’s
“In A Sentimental Mood” is played with great respect and
reverence, and “Golden Earrings” gets a loose, slightly
funky treatment. The CD concludes with a slightly faster-than-usual but
still effective “Here’s That Rainy Day.” All great
tunes, to be sure, and Warfield and Staford play with all the
superlatives frmly in place. The quartet is completed by Pat Bianchi,
Hammond B-3 organ, and Byron Landham, drums. Bianchi keeps it subtle
and tasty, but you know me: I always prefer a piano to an organ player.
So, in my little jazz world, that’s what separates a very good
recording from what might have been a great
Criss Cross, 2010; 59:53.
Modern Romance, Dave Peck, piano.
I look forward with pleasure to every new recording from
Seattle’s premier pianist, Peck. He combines the harmonic
richness of Bill Evans with the informed frugality of Ahmad Jamal, but
always with the effervescent swing of, well, Dave Peck. On this
stunning set recorded live at Seattle’s Jazz Alley, Peck is in
high gear, taking full advantage of a dreamy Steinway and perfecto
playing mates in bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera. Not to
be too dramatic, let it simply be said that Peck explores six standards
here with a tantalizing balance of tension, beauty, and elegance. You
know all the tunes: “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “East of the
Sun,” “Lover Man,” “They Say It’s
Wonderful,” “If I Should Lose You” and “I Got
It Bad and That Ain’t Good.” What really pulls you in is
the freshness, the uniqueness, and sometimes even the fragile nature of
Peck’s beautifully lyrical interpretations. He strikes me as a
top-of-the-mountain pianist, dedicated to the real art of jazz. Peck is
one of its most refined contributors. If you admire a peerless piano
performance, purchase this
Let’s Play Stella Records, 2010; 60:43.
I Will Tell Her, Curtis Fuller, trombone.
Some two dozen years ago, Milt Jackson and Oscar Peterson paired up on
an album called “Ain’t But a Few of Us Left.” Today,
that’s more true than ever, but one of the icons of the post bop
era, Curtis Fuller, is still doing his thing, and doing it with the
flae and passion we know so well. On this scintillating two-CD set (one
in the studio and one live at Dazzle, a local jazz club), Fuller is
joined by the Denver’s best bop brigade: Keith Oxman, tenor sax,
Al Hood, trumpet; and a rhythm section of Chip Stephens, Ken Walker and
Todd Reid. They have all earned highest honors in and around the Mile
High City. And what a distinct delight to jam with Curtis Fuller! Among
the familiar tunes, you’ll find“Tenor Madness,”
“Minor’s Holiday,” “I Want to Talk About
You” and one of my personal faves from those glory years of post
bop, “Alamode.” The remaining compositions are Curtis
Fuller originals, and, for the most part, are bristling examples of
solid Blue Note style writing for a group that, to a man, has great
chops. A dedicated musician who has nothing to prove, Fuller
continues telling the story of American jazz from the perspective of
one of the few who indeed has been
Capri Records, 2010; 52:22 and 64:32.
Moody 4B, James Moody, tenor saxophone.
Okay, okay. Having said all of the above about ‘ain’t but a
few,’ what should arrive on the heels of Curtis Fuller but
another guy who was part of the scene way back when — James
Moody. A veteran of bop’s infancy, Moody is blowing tenor the
same as always. And it certainly doesn’t hurt when your pianist
is one of the two or three best in the world, Kenny Barron. Jazz stars
in their own right, Todd Coolman and Lewis Nash complete this made in
heaven quartet. The title, “4B,” may be explained
thusly: this is a quartet, hence the ‘4’; and the CD
is a following up their first, “4A.” Thee’s not a
single clam in the selection of real deal tunes, either. Just for
starters, how about “’A’ Train,” “Hot
House,” “Speak Low,” “I Love You,”
“Along Came Betty” and “But Not for Me,” among
others. But be clear, Moody’s thick, rich tenor would sound cool
and boppy if he were playing the Woodburn Yellow Pages. Barron is
simply top drawer; probing, creating, surprising, and always brilliant.
This record is what jazz history sounds like. And it sounds
IPO Records, 2010; 61:13.
Live At The Jazz Showcase, Ted Hogarth and The Mulligan Mosaics Big Band.
Gerry Mulligan’s fascinating Concert Jazz Band came along (early
‘60s) just as big bands were, for the most part, fading fast. And
it’s a shame that the CJB didn’t enjoy sustained success,
be-cause it was innovative and exciting. Mulligan applied his small
combo concept to a big band setting and worked miracles. Hogarth,
himself a baritone sax player, has embraced the CJB feel with open
arms, and his band takes on both Mulligan tunes as well as the works of
other composers which were also important vehicles for the CJB (such as
“Black Nightgown,” “All of You,” and “
Waltz for Ruth”). From his earliest days through Birth of the
Cool, the piano-less quartet, the Concert Jazz Band and countless other
classy musical assignments, Gerry Mulligan was an innovator who never
leaned on his laurels. Everything he did was worthy musically, and
it’s very nice to see that an ensemble such as the Mulligan
Mosaics recognize Mulligan’s lofty place in jazz history. They
honor him with this wonderfully crafted
Self-produced, 2010; 55:28.
In Stockholm & Hollywood, 1959, Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax; Art Farmer, trumpet.
I would think that collectors are going to welcome these rare sessions
featuring the groundbreaking Mulligan-Farmer Quartet. Half of the
fifteen selections were recorded live in concert in Stockholm, and the
remainder was originally a radio broadcast for “The Navy
Swings.” Unlike some recordings never intended for eventual
release, both of these sessions are very well recorded. The main
difference between the two appearances is in the length of the tunes.
As one might expect, the live recording gives the musicians more time
to stretch out solo-wise, where the radio gig goes the conventional
route of three minutes per tune. If you’re a Mulligan freak, you
know titles like “As Catch Can,” “Spring Is
Sprung,” “Utter Chaos,” “Walkin’
Shoes” and “Festive Minor.” A few standards round out
more than 75 minutes of total material. The Stockholm set is introduced
by Gene Krupa, after which Mulligan takes over as spokesman, briefly
intoducing each tune. The CD’s highlight is
“Blueport,” an original of Farmer’s that gets a
12-minute treatment featuring lots of interplay and obvious fun for all
comers. The quartet is completed by Bill Crow, bass, and Dave Bailey,
drums, and with the co-leaders, it’s a document of an important
and influential goup in jazz
Solar Recordings, 2010; 75:31.
For All We Know, Jose James, vocals, Jeff Neve, piano.
Recordings like this renew my faith in the idea that quality will
always prevail. Here are two artists giving their all on a voice and
piano duet of alarming sensitivity and intimacy. James is all heart
interpreting these American Songbook classics. And Neve provides a solo
piano accompaniment which is silky, subtle and virtually perfect for
the singer. In sports parlance, one might say that James and Neve leave
it all on the feld. This sort of performance is so rare these days that
when one happens by, it’s reason to celebrate. Nine sterling
examples of Songbook Americana include “Autumn in New
York,” “Body and Soul,” “Tenderly,”
“When I Fall in Love,” “Lush Life” and more.
James and Neve are relatively young cats, but they certainly caught the
feeling necessary to communicate intimately on songs they obviously did
not grow up with. James sometimes sounds more than a little like one of
jazzcom’s great singers, Bill Henderson. In an era of fash,
glitz, costumes and decibels, this is a disc that tells us
there’s still a place for simple beauty in American
Verve Music Group, 2010; 50:47.
Do Not Disturb, John Bunch, piano.
This was the last hurrah, the final studio ecording from late 2009 by
Gentleman John Bunch, as he was always introduced at The Otter Crest
Jazz Weekend. Bunch passed away earlier this year, but I can still
picture him seated at the piano, the epitome of elegance in freshly
pressed slacks and herringbone sport coat. And elegance was always the
essence of his piano craftsmanship as well. It holds sway again here
with Frank Vignola, guitar, and John Webber, bass, as Bunch’s
trio mesmerizes us on thirteen tunes. It’s all here — from
Sonny Rollins’ bop vehicle, “Doxy,” to Kern and
Hammerstein’s “Bill” from Showboat; from
“Anthropology” to Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet
Way”; from Duke’s familiar “Come Sunday” to his
obscure “Do Not Disturb”; and even his own composition,
“John’s Bunch,” covered so energetically years ago by
Al Cohn. These and more find Bunch in familiar territor, giving his
utmost in bringing pure pleasure to his
Arbors, 2010; 71:53.
Resonance, Yotam, guitar.
Seems to me that in the last half dozen or so years, the tiny country
of Israel has begun to churn out some major jazz talent. Well, mark up
one more in one of those one name only types known as Yotam. James
Moody called him “the kid who’s playing guitar like an old
man.” And I’m sure that Moody meant that as highest
praise. Just pick up on the opening moments of John Lewis’s
bristling version of “Two Bass Hit,” the out of the gate
choice on this CD. Yotam’s quartet includes Aaron Goldberg,
piano, Christian McBride, bass, Gregory Hutchinson, drums, and Roy
Hargrove guests on a couple tunes. You’d better be able to keep
up if you’re playing in that league. The staples on the CD
include Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud.” Monk’s
“Bye Ya” and Joe Henderson’s “Mamacita.”
The remainder of the recording is given over to various original tunes
by Yotam and other contributors. It pleases me to hear such a young
guitarist playing in the center of the jazz tradition. No electronic
excess here. Just straight ahead honesty. You gotta like
Jazz Legacy Productions, 2010; 60:58.
Spiral, Dave Wilson, tenor and soprano saxophones.
If might be said that Dave Wilson represents a new segment of jazz
musicians who test the ears of the listener nearly exclusively through
their own compositions. Wilson has roots in Coltrane, but I found his
actual tenor sound to have earlier inflences as well. While his
compositions would never be described as avante garde, they at times
test your ability to determine a melody line. Some of his compositions
were more reigned in than others, but overall, there’s a very
urban, brawny sound that he seems to favor. For this recording, Wilson
enlisted some top echelon talent in Phil Markewitz, piano, Tony
Martino, bass, and Adam Nussbaum, drums. If you’re looking for
Zoot, Ben or Getz, this won’t be you entree, but if you like
being inside the outside, these guys dig pretty
Summit Records, 2010; 55:31.
Inversions, Davie Hazeltine, piano.
There’s a certain little core of musicians who have found a nice
home on Gerry Teekens’ Holland-based jazz label, the prestigious
Criss Cross Records. David Hazeltine is one of them, and his colleagues
on this CD are equally well represented on Criss Cross. As on past
efforts, they succeed in bringing a center of the highway jazz sound,
yet never resort to cliches and always sound fresh and invigorating.
And they always sound like they’re having a great time playing
their music of choice. This time, the remainder of the club includes,
Eric Alexander, tenor sax, Steve Nelson, vibes, John Webber, bass, and
Joe Farnsworth, drums. The tunes include a Buddy Montgomery blues; four
originals by various band members; and three deliciously done standards
in “Lover Man,” “Everything I Love” and
“Tin Tin Deo.” No longer just the young lions, these guys
have established themselves as frontrunners in the present day race.
Listen to Nelson’s swinging subtlety; Alexander’s sense of
history; and Hazeltine’s versatility and bravado. This may be
another day at the office for this cew, but I’ll tell you what,
it was an exceptional day.
Criss Cross, 2010; 64:11.
Live At Sweet Rhythm, Richard Sussman, piano.
According to the information accompanying this CD, the quintet heard
herein was responsible for a classic dating back to 1976. I’ll
take their word for it, but I have no memory of such a release. The
same fve players, including trumpet innovator Tom Harrell and the
boundary stretching tenor of Jerry Bergonzi, play here as the Free Fall
Reunion Band. The opening tune, “Waiting,” gives notice
that this is a free flowing, take-no-prisoners goup.
“Mary’s Song” puts Bergonzi in the spotlight, and
once the rather attractive melody is stated, Bergonzi spirals into a
ripping solo. “Soultrane,” a staple in the jazz pantheon,
follows with Bergonzi sounding appropriately Coltrane-ish. Both
Bergonzi and Harrell solo with fie in their eyes on the next tune, the
oddly titled “Tiahuanaco.” The old stand by,
“What’s New” follows, and it’s a skosh faster
than usual. A nice workout for Harrell. “Lady of the Lake”
is something of a brief suite in one tune, with several distinct lines
divided among the players. Finally, there’s the 15-minute
“Free Fall.” I have little to no expertise in the area of
free playing, and while it usually doesn’t sustain my interest, I
can recognize chops when I hear them. This CD was a bit off my personal
diving board, but perhaps you’ll find yourself in safe
Origin Records, 2010; 57:08.
If You Could See Me Now, Audrey Shakir, vocals.
Through a series of unlikely events, Atlanta-based singer Audrey Shakir
recently entered my consciousness, and wow, am I glad! Audrey happens
to be the mother of Walter Blanding, tenor sax giant with the Lincoln
Center Jazz Orchestra. But this CD is all about Audrey the singer. She
puts you on immediate notice that hip things are about to unfold from
the opening notes of “It’s You or No One.” She scats
like a champ — easy, natural, nothing forced — and she
conveys the message of a ballad because, somehow, she’s been
there. If she reminded me of anyone, I’d suggest hints of
Michelle Hendricks and perhaps Betty Carter. And how can one argue the
inclusion of titles like “Blue In Green,” “Where or
When,” “Birk’s Works,” “Little Willie
Leaps,” “Never Never Land” and many more. The final
cowning touch here is the presence of Kenny Barron’s trio
accompanying Shakir. Barron has earned his place among the top jazz
pianists. He is joined here by Reginald Veal, bass, and Justin Varnes,
drums. Shakir has been an Atlanta jazz diva since her arrival there
twenty years ago. Unbelievably, this is her first ecording, but why not
start at the top?!
Hot Shoe Records; 2009; 50:56.
Back Home, Jamie Ousley, bass.
This rather intriguing album covers the gamut from Ousley’s fresh
originals to a prim and proper reading of a familiar Chopin Noctune.
Notable as a guest soloist is the versatile Ira Sullivan, who,
amazingly, plays saxophone, flute and flugelhorn, all witgreat skill.
The recording also features a few well-placed vocals, the best of which
was by LeNard Ethridge on Ousley’s stirring ballad, “So
Long.” Most of the tunes are originals by the leader, and it
should be said that he writes real melodies with, alternatively, charm
Tie Records, probably 2010; 51:23.
Midtown At Midnight, Richard Blake, guitar, bass.
Don’t be thrown off guard by the fact that Blake plays both
guitar and bass on this trio recording. He obviously has dubbed in the
bass, and it all works out quite nicely on a program of standards and
pop tunes and more. Blake sometimes reminds me somewhat of Howard
Roberts, especially from that period when Roberts did pop tunes for
Self-produced, 2010; 40:40.
A Fine Romance, Stacey Kent, vocals.
I rarely review compilation recordings, but this is one is worth the
effort. Kent is a singer with a contemporary edge to her voice. Trouble
is, she sings great songs and works with top flight jazz cats, so go
fige. These tunes, all drawn from previous albums, include “Fools
Rush In,” “I Won’t Dance,”
“Dreamer,” “More Than You Know” and more.
Kent’s hubby, Jim Tomlinson, drops by now and then for some lush
Getz-like tenor. Compilation it might be, but it all adds up to some
delicious straight ahead
Candid, 2010; 45:58.
Retta Christie with David Evans and Dave Frishberg, Volume 2.
Once again Christie has enlisted the formidable talents of tenor saxist
Evans and pianist Frishberg for Volume 2 of great standards with a hint
of Western Swing. You’ll say yahoo! when you hear them on
“Foolin’ Myself,” “Old Folks,” “For
All We Know,” “The Lonesome Road” and lots more. A
couple duos with Evans and Frishberg on “Sweet and Slow”
and “Only a Rose” elicit memories of Zoot Sims. As for
Retta — well, a tip of the ten gallon hat and a gentle poke with
Impromptu, Bob Mamet; piano.
A Chicagoan turned Southern Californian, Mamet writes and plays
swinging, attractive melody lines on a recording of ten original tunes.
Sometimes his very airy and fresh style reminded more than a little bit
of another LA swinging piano cat, the late Pete Jolly. Like Pete, Mamet
likes melody lines in the piano’s higher register. For this
outing, Mamet employs two of Smogland’s best in Darek Oles, bass,
and Joe LaBarbera, drums. If the timeless sound of a stylish piano trio
is your bread and butter, then here’s your
Counterpoint Records, 2010; 39:11.
When The Love Bug Bites, Dave Costa, guitar, vocals.
Anybody remember a guitarist named Johnny Smith? He was a standout
guitarist and a melody lover and musician who never failed to find very
petty chords. Well, Costa reminded me of Smith on a trio recording
which includes evergreens such as “What Is There to Say,”
“Perdido,” “Serenade in Blue,” “Autumn
Leaves,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” and many more.
Costa also sings pleasantly enough on a few cuts. But, as it should be,
the guitar’s the star here, and Costa plays it with
Self-Produced, 2009; 41:35.
Six, Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson Trio.
This polished piano trio recently celebrated twenty years together,
quite an achievement for any working jazz group. Michael Jefry Stevens,
the pianist, plays in a swinging, unpretentious style sometimes a bit
reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal. On this release, the trio balances
standards inclusdng “It Never Entered My Mind,”
“It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “Straight No
Chaser” and even “Tennessee Waltz” (!) with
well-crafted originals by various trio
Konnex, 2010; 66:24.
Speechless, Jackson Garrett, composer.
I think smooth jazz grew out of this kind of music, but to dub it
smooth jazz would be most unfair. It’s kind of pop jazz,
sometimes with a heavy back beat, and of course, lots of electric bass.
Actually, the players are pretty hip, and there are some nice
blues-drenched solos, notably by saxman Pat Rizzo. The melodies are not
always distinctive, and the mood of the CD is rather seamless and
predictable. I’ve reviewed scores of bad CDs, and this is clearly
not one of them. But the pop qualities didn’t resonate with
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 hard bop that still values solid melody lines, probing
improvisation, and, when called for, sheer beauty. Their original work
is presented on five selections and thee 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.” They are
drawing from the timeless well of jazz
Jaju Records, 2010, 61:04.
Into Somethin’, Beegie 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
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
Lucky Us Productions, 2007, 53:50.
by Kyle O'Brien
I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon, Ben Darwish.
Portland pianist, composer and vocalist Darwish is a diverse talent,
and this short EP disc is clearly a right hand turn from his last
recording, “Ode to Consumerism.” It is more focused on
melody, though the intense and sometimes dense nature of his
compositions comes out, as during the alternate time signature solo
section of “In Case I Find You, Here’s My Song.” One
might not know how to categorize Darwish’s music, and
that’s OK. It’s jazz-influenced for sue, but there are
elements of pop, rock, fusion and classical throughout these five
songs. The melodies are accessible, even with layers of complexity. The
head to “High and Mighty,” for instance, is entirely
hum-able, and as played by saxophonist Tim Willcox and the bowed bass
of Bill Athens, it is joyful in a chamber jazz fashion. Darwish holds
down bass lines and piano solo with ease, and his rhythmic style gets
you into a groove. Darwish is no great singer, though. His voice
doesn’t have great depth, but there is an earnestness in his
lyrics and delivery, and over his pounding piano, as on “No More
Lies,” it sounds a bit like pop-rock pianist Ben Folds. There is
youthful intensity to this music, and the rhythmic keyboard is often at
the forefront of his tunes, as on the lighthearted “Under the
Bright Red Sky,” which is accented by drummer Randy
Rollofson’s polyrhythms. The title track is the only one not
written by Darwish, and its childlike quality is a pleasant closer,
though the shortness of the disc makes one want
2010 Ben Darwish, 26:50.
Live at Sweet Rhythm, Richard Sussman Quintet.
Pianist and composer Sussman has gotten the band back together. The
band here is called the Free Fall Reunion Band. “Free Fall”
was the 1978 album that the group recorded together, which reviewed
well in Down Beat. The members of the group went their separate ways,
including Sussman, who became both a synth and piano sideman and also
an educator at the Manhattan School of Music. In 2003, the group
reunited for a gig in New York, and the resulting recording, just
released now, remains potent, especially with trumpeter Tom Harrell,
saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, bassist Mike Richmond and drummer Jeff
Williams. Sussman’s com-positions are rich with chords, and the
melodies, as played by the two horns, are powerful and relatively
timeless. They are modern hard bop with a twist, featuring pressing
rhythms, as on the burning “Tiahuanaco” and the wide-open
title track. The musician-ship is stellar all around, but
Sussman’s solos can seem a bit uneasy, not always locking in with
the rhythm. Still, it’s a heck of a
2010 Origin Records, 60 minutes.
New Strides, Jeb Patton.
Pianist and composer Patton is an accomplished player who an be heard
with many fine goups, including the Heath Brothers and vocalist Sachal
Vasandani. And the Heath Brothers do make an appearance here, though
this remains a tight trio recording for the most part. Patton’s
sharp lines and crisp playing are highlighted throughout, backed deftly
by bassist David Wong and drummer Pete Van Nostrand. It’s a tight
group — some might say almost too tight, to the point of
perfection. One almost wishes for a slipped note, but there’s
nothing wrong with this kind of precision. Albert “Tootie”
Heath plays drums on three tracks, including Patton’s “Sir
Roland,” which gets the group a bit looser, thanks to
Heath’s laid back feel. Jimmy Heath plays a lovely soprano sax on
“Last Night When We Were Young,” bringing a lyrical
quality. Patton is a fine leader and playe, and his technical ability
makes for a fine listen.
2009, MaxJazz, 63:46.
Live at Charlie O’s, The Trio.
With the accumulated years of experience of these three musicians,
there was no need for rehearsal before recording this gig live in
California in 2009. Bassist Chuck Berghofer, pianist Terry Trotter and
drummer Peter Erskine have earned the right not to rehearse —
they may be one of the best piano trios on the west coast. Erskine is
the consummate versatile drummer, and here he lets Trotter do the
melodic talking, using brushes while piano and bass solo, as on the
ultra-smooth “Afternoon in Paris.” When Erskine gets a
chance to solo, he is subdued and plays with taste. Trotter is a
wonderfully restrained pianist, able to swing hard while keeping the
trio polished. His sense of melody and his chordal structures make this
straight-ahead recording a laid-back pleasure. Perfect for a dinner
party or a casual listen.
2009, Fuzzy Music, 60 minutes.
Pretend It’s the End of the World, Bryan and the Haggards.
Merle Haggard is a country legend, but the tongue-in-cheek liner notes
claim he was infuenced by avant-garde jazzmen, including Charlie Haden.
That kind of humor also leads this group to call itself “New
York’s most decorated avant-country instrumental Merle Haggard
cover band.” Bryan is tenor saxophonist Bryan Murray. His
squawking, bending tenor takes over for the twangy vocals that
highlight Haggard’s unique Americana. But Murray takes
Haggard’s tunes a step or five furthe. Accented by Jon
Lundbom’s distorted guitar, bassist Moppa Elliott and Jon
Irabagon’s alto sax, and drummer Danny Fischer, this is country
like it’s never been played before. “Working Man
Blues” gets launched into the free jazz stratosphere, with a
blistering alto solo before finishing in twobeat country. But not all
is totally askew. “Miss the Mississippi and You” is done as
a lovely instrumental slow waltz. Still, it’s the ones that go
further afeld, as on the cacophony of “Trouble in Mind,”
that capture the spirit of the recording. Not sure how Merle feels
about his music going Ornette Coleman, but I’m guessing the
country renegade would love
2010 Hot Cup Records, 38:55.
82% Chance of Rain, Andrew Oliver Sextet.
Rain is an Oregon theme that was started on Oliver’s 2007
release, “Otis Stomp” which was named for the tiny, rainy
town near Lincoln City, and continues here in his latest sextet
recording’s title. The Portland pianist/composer and his group
have recorded a lengthy disc of original compositions that are at times
dense and intricate. The opener, “Inattentive Attendent,”
has a busy undercurrent, but it’s floating hythm makes for a
pleasing musical journey. Saxophonists Mary Sue Tobin and Willie
Matheis share the melodies, and their woodwinds bring texture to the
pieces, especially when Tobin picks up the clarinet. The compositions
were written by Oliver and other band members, including guitarist Dan
Duval, Matheis, and drummer Kevin Van Geem. This is not straight-ahead
jazz by any means. It is compositional and often quite complex. Van
Geem’s “Bolivar” is brash and angular, while
Duval’s “Only a Quality Lime for Eric Gruber #1” (in
reference to bassist Gruber) is a chamber piece that sounds like a
movie score condensed to less than three minutes. The contrapuntal
lines of Oliver’s “800 Turtles” makes it a playful
piece, while Matheis’s languid “I Am Yours” utilizes
space and melody to slow down the pace. While there are four composers
here, all the tunes fit nicely togethe. This is a side of Portland jazz
we don’t get to hear often but a welcome addition to the
area’s rich musical
2010 OA2 Records, 64 minutes.
Outlaw Tractor, Corey Christiansen Quartet.
Soul jazz has been updated again by Christiansen. His second recording
on Origin finds the hythmic guitarist mining the funky, organ-based
music made famous in the ‘60s and making it his own. With Pat
Bianchi on organ, David Halliday on sax and Matt Jorgensen on drums,
Christiansen — a teacher at Utah State University — is in
good company. The bluesy “Carefree” is a light romp that
gives both he and Halliday a chance to show off their chops.
Christiansen’s buoyant playing flows out of his fetboard with
ease. Soul Jazz can get repetitive, but Christiansen and his group
manage to make it interesting, adding chord alterations, like on the
bopping, minor-keyed “Starstepper,” or doubling up on the
melody with sax and guitar, as on the title track. Not ground-breaking,
but played with feel and
2010 Origin Records, 50:20.
Solitude, Phil Woods with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble.
There aren’t many working big bands left these days, so if you
have a hankering for composing big band music, a great place to try it
out is at America’s universities. That’s what esteemed
veteran saxophonist Woods has done here, and the result is a lively big
band disc played with youthful enthusiasm, even by Woods. His bouncy
alto highlights the 10 tracks, but it’s the compositions that
make this interesting. Woods knows how to write a tune, and here, with
the help of several arrangers, is charts get the royal treatment from
one of the better college bands in the nation. From the easygoing waltz
of “A Child’s Blues” to the Latin-inspired
“Brazilian Affair,” Woods is at his best. The power of the
big band pushes him to play in inspired fashion, as on the bopping
“Before I Left,” and the voicings for the instruments is
spot-on, as on the woodwind-flled “Nothing But Soul,” which
really swings. The band is more than able to keep up with Woods, and
there are a few standout players as well. Woods even knows how to kid
about his age, with the high-powered swinger, “Old Man,”
which features great ensemble work.
2010 JazzedMedia, 62 minutes.
Abacus, Frank Glover.
Soprano saxophonist and composer Glover plays com-positional jazz of
texture and soundscape with a small orchestra that at times sounds more
like contemporary classical music than jazz. The title track buzzes
with strings as a marimba sets the rhythm before the soprano comes in
with a melody that recalls the Orient. This may be better suited to the
concert hall than the jazz stage, but it is often quite interesting. At
times it is sparse and open, at others dense and brooding, as on
“Modern Times.” It’s highly original music; if you
like film scoes, this is up your
2010 OwlStudios, 45 minutes.
Out of the Shadows, Ran Blake & Christine Correa.
This is heady duo music. Mix one part cabaret with intense
compositional piano jazz and a dose of avant-garde interpretation, and
you have this disc, a collaboration between vocalist Correa and pianist
Blake. It’s more interesting than pleasurable. Blake’s
often dense, Monk-times-two chordal interpretations are impenetrable to
the average listener. He jabs at the keyboard with fervor, and
Correa’s colorful voice leaps around the melody. It’s a
winning combination for the style being played, but it’s
defnitely not for everyone. The two listen well to each other, so when
Correa wants to interpret “Goodbye Little Yellow Bird” in a
soft and tender moment, Blake pulls back his heavy hand. But when they
want, the volume increases and so does the intensity, as on the
2009 Red Piano Records, 57 minutes.