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

Reviews by George Fendel

Live At Gianelli Square, Vol. 1, Alan Broadbent, piano.
If you saw the baseball fantasy film "Field of Dreams," you probably recall Shoeless Joe Jackson asking, "Is this heaven?" Well, musical heaven, for me, is a new recording from Alan Broadbent. He's back again in a riveting live performance with his trusty and talented trio mates Putter Smith, bass, and Kendall Kay, drums. Said simply, they "breathe" as one. They are the essence and the beauty of the classic piano trio. On a menu of five standards and three stunning originals, Broadbent and friends provide yet another in a long line of definitive performances. The pianist brings to the bandstand years of classical study; a harmonic genius that has made him a first call arranger; and more than a passing nod to greats with names like Evans, Powell and Tristano. In addition, Broadbent believes his music must "sing" and forevermore, that "pretty" must have a place in jazz. From the standard book, the trio plays "Lullaby of the Leaves," "My Foolish Heart," "Alone Together," "Ghost of a Chance" and "Solar." His original compositions are typical Broadbent creations in that they're songs with real melodies. A rarity these days. The last of his originals is an upbeat entry, "I'll Be Alright." We are told that these were the final words of Bud Powell. More good news is the usage here of "volume one" in the title. That suggests future journeys to heaven.
Chilly Bin Records, 2010, 65:17.

Second Chance, Irene Kral, vocals.
If you're unfamiliar with this gifted jazz singer, please read on. Irene Kral lost her battle with cancer in her mid-40s. But during her brief time among us, she established herself as a singer that other singers were crazy about. Her two duo albums with Alan Broadbent are classic examples of perfect communication between singer and pianist. This CD is a follow-up to "Just For Now" and represents Kral's last known recording. Once again, Broadbent is on hand, but this time with Peter Marshall on bass and Frank Severino on drums. Recorded before a live LA audience in 1975, Krall defines the art of jazz singing. Among the fourteen selections heard here are standards such as "Something to Remember You By," "Oh You Crazy Moon," "Star Eyes," "Never Let Me Go" and "Nobody Else But Me." But Kral had the uncanny ability to unearth gems that other singers overlooked. In that vein, consider Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman's "It Isn't So Good It Couldn't Get Better" or Sergio Mihanovich's "Sometime Ago." The title tune is a gift from Andre and Dory Previn. This is her only recording of it, and it's a rare find. Of Kral, Shelly Manne said, "if you love music, you loved Irene Kral, and if you loved Irene Kral, you love music; it's just the way it is." Whether or not this performance wins any awards, it is the jazz vocal CD of the year. And you may quote me on that.
Jazzed Media, 2010, 54:32.

Down With It, Dmitri Baevsky, alto saxophone.
These deep-in-the-shed cats from across the pond just keep comin' our way. Baevsky grew up in St. Petersburg. Not the one in Florida, but that other one in Russia. At age 19, he made his way to these shores and soon found his way to the acclaimed New School. All you have to do is peruse the titles and composers of the tunes he chooses in this debut recording, and it's obvious that Baevsky has done his homework. The composers are among the greats of jazz history, but our leader chooses to play their lesser-known tunes. Among them: Bud Powell's "Down With It" and "Webb City"; Duke's :Mount Harissa"; Monk's "We See"; Clifford Brown's "Larue"; Gigi Gryce's "Shabbaz"; and Sonny Rollins' "Decision." To these, add a couple of time-honored standards. To add some luster to the proceedings, Baevsky is joined by some rapidly rising young talent in Jeb Patton, piano, David Wong, bass, and Jason Brown, drums. On three selections, one of the bright new trumpet voices, Jeremy Pelt, is a most welcome guest. Welcome to the jazz world, Dmitri Baevsky. Your initial recorded document will cause me to wait impatiently for your next one.
Sharp Nine, 2010, 59:29.

The Cookers, Warriors.
War and jazz really have nothing in common. One creates devastation and misery, and the other results in beauty and excitement. Still, there's always been the notion of jazz musicians "doing battle" to remain active in their beloved art form. And so we have an album entitled "Warriors." And no one can deny that these guys have steadfastly donned the post-bop uniform for, collectively, over a century and a half! That kind of dedication defines victory in the jazz trenches, wouldn't you agree? The players here are Billy Harper, tenor, Eddie Henderson and David Weiss, trumpets, Craig Handy, alto and flute, George Cables, piano, Cecil McBee, bass, and Billy Hart, drums. The music, with the exception of a Freddie Hubbard opener, was entirely created by the contributing musicians, with three tunes from McBee and two apiece from Harper and Cables. There's an amazingly high level of musicianship in this assemblage of all stars, and their East Coast high wire attitude comes boldly across in every passage, ensemble or solo. This is, for the most part, high-spirited, joyful (and sometimes playful) music. No gimmickry here; no "funny" instrumentation or electronic meanderings. These guys don't need to swim in those waters.
Jazz Legacy Productions, 2010, 54:24.

Twogether, John Hicks, piano, Frank Morgan, alto sax.
This recording, from two significant but undervalued players, was "pieced together" from material featuring Hicks in three solo performances and he and Morgan in four duo gigs. The proceedings begin with Hicks playing Bud Powell's buoyant opus, "Parisian Thoroughfare." But oddly, as an introduction, he plays one chorus of "I'll Take Romance." I tried to determine if both tunes were built on the same changes. Couldn't quite figure it out. Morgan then enters the fray on a stirring arrangement of "Night in Tunisia," and the two continue on a laid back and rather sensuous "My One and Only Love." Duke Pearson's little known "Is That So" puts Hicks back in the solo realm where he explores this tune with characteristic elegance. The Monk classic, "'Round Midnight," features both players in a highly emotive performance. Kenny Dorham's "N.Y. Theme" has been a closer for scores of groups over the last half century, and Hicks and Morgan explore its changes with exuberance. Finally, Hicks is in full recital-mode on Billy Strayhorn's gorgeous "Passion Flower." Both of these superb musicians died in 2006; Morgan at 73 and Hicks at only 64. It might be said that neither ascended to the top of the jazz mountain, but both excelled in their respective journeys.
High Note, 2010, 57:20.

New York Portraits, Alex Levin, piano.
It happens so rarely these days that it's always a welcome surprise when a new pianist comes along and plays wonderfully crafted standards with no pretense, no frosting and no attitude. Such a musician is Levin, and you've got to appreciate his trio's straight-ahead approach to some "forever tunes." With Michael Bates on bass and Brian Floody on drums, Levin makes it all work elegantly on a host of standards. Two of his original tunes complete the lineup. Levin is from the revered school that doesn't mess your head up with notes that don't count. He chooses all the right ones; perhaps drawing some inspiration from masters like Hank Jones or John Bunch. For me, the piano trio is the ultimate jazz expression, and Levin has it covered with, as the title suggests, a New York flair.
Alex Levin Jazz, 2010, times not indicated.

The Latin Side Of Herbie Hancock, Conrad Herwig, trombone.

Over the last several years, Herwig has applied his Latin leanings to the music of Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter and John Cotrane. Never a frothing fan of Latin music, I viewed the early efforts with caution. But I became a disciple once I heard them. So now it's time to "Latinize" Hancock. Herwig's basic septet is augmented by visits from Eddie Palmieri on piano and Randy Brecker on trumpet. With lots of vim and vigor, they all take on Herbie's hits. Tunes such as "Maiden Voyage," "Cantaloupe Island," and especially "Watermelon Man" have been done so often that there's a point at which they become rather weary. No need for concern about any such thing here, as Herwig and friends apply their distinct but never overblown percussive power to these tunes along with "Oliloqui Valley," "One Finger Snap," "Butterfly," "The Sorcerer" and "Actual Proof." It was all recorded live in August 2008 before a very enthusiastic audience at the famous New York club, the Blue Note. With this CD and the previous ones, Herwig has created a brisk and unique approach to the music of notable jazz composers. It's Latin, but it's still hard bop! I like it, I like it!
Half Note Records, 2010, 65:19.

Inner Mission, Richard Cole; tenor and soprano saxes.
A Seattle cat who, it might be said, travels the Coltrane Highway with a solid rhythm section of Bill Anschell, Chuck Deardord and Matt Jorgensen. Sometimes, for my ears, Cole steps over the cliff, as on the opener, "J & J." On five tunes, Cole brings in Randy Brecker on trumpet and flugelhorn. They fly first class on a trippy original. On "Slow Hot Wind," a Henry Mancini tune made famous by Sergio Mendes, Cole switches to soprano, and to good effect. The oddly titled "Rootrot" gets a little too much into the funk arena; "Try To Remember" (!) is taken way too fast, and "Come Together" is a third tier Beatles opus. On the plus side, Bobby Troup's "The Meaning of the Blues" is played with great feeling, and the closer is, believe it or not, a straight down the middle "Secret Love." If Doris Day had any hipness at all, she would have loved it. So, kind of a mixed bag for Mr. Cole. Lots to like and a detour here and there as well.
Origin, 2010, 65:03.

When Larry Met Harry, Larry Goldings, piano, vibes, organ; Harry Allen, tenor sax.
A couple decades ago, Harry Allen came to our attention as one of the few tenor sax guys who was not going to follow the path of John Coltrane. Instead, along with players like Scott Hamilton, he chose the school head-mastered by names like Webster, Young, Getz and Sims. That decision has proven to be a wise one, as Harry Allen has cut a wide swath through the jazz world with over thirty CDs! On this one, he's joined by the versatile Goldings, mostly on piano, in a quartet setting. The material heard here is mainly comprised of Goldings' politely swinging original compositions. A few familiar surprises include the rarely heard "Under Paris Skies"; the Bachrach and David pop opus, "The Look of Love"; and a tune that I didn't particularly care for years ago when it was sung by some whiny pop singer called "Morning Has Broken," and Allen and Goldings have turned this one time example of mediocrity into a freshly minted new reading. Incidentally, to quote a line from the movie of nearly the same name, "I'll have what they're having!"
CafÈ Society Records, 2010, 52:08.

The Live Takes, Toots Thielemans, harmonica.
On one of the most unlikely of instruments to satisfy a jazz listener, the great Thielemans, now 88 years young, has carved out a lengthy career. Still bending notes unlike practically any other player regardless of instrument, Toots is out there improvising with bravado on the up tempo tunes and melting hearts on the ballads. This CD is a gathering of highlights from several of Toots' concerts in his native Belgium. As such, it features a host of accompanying players. But in the midst of all that action, it's still Toots doing what only he can do. Five of the nine tunes were from the standard stock including a stirring medley of "I Loves You Porgy" and "Summertime"; a tender "Stardust"; another look at "Body and Soul"; and even a nostalgic wink at "All the Way." Other highlights included a stunning and emotive Ivan Lins tune called "Comecar De Novo." I believe I've also heard it under the title "The Island." Nobody has ever accused me of being a Paul Simon fan, but I must say that his "I Do It for Your Love" is pure candle light and wine. These and others give us what we have come to expect from Thielemans: beautifully crafted lyricism and romanticism on a little metallic gizmo imprinted with the name Hohner.
In & Out Records, 2010, 70:31.

Keeper Of The Flame, Leslie Lewis, vocals.
So many singers. So few jazz singers. Not to worry. Lewis proves once again that she can play in the big leagues. With a smoky, rather low-pitched edge to her voice, Lewis works a well-crafted set with a couple of LA players who too often fly under the radar. Gerard Hagen is a gifted, multi-purpose pianist who needs to be heard from more often. On alto sax and flutes, there's Gary Foster, a voice so distinct, airy and ethereal, he's instantly recognizable. The group is completed by Domenic Genova, bass, and Jerry Kalaf, drums. But back to Leslie. Following the title tune, she delivers a sensitive take on Ivan Lins' "The Island." Other Brazilian tunes appear here and there. Among them "A Felicidade," "Fotogaraphia," and "Chega De Saudade (No More Blues)." But Lewis hardly neglects the standard book, with the likes of "Spring Is Here," "Day By Day" and "You Don't Know What Love Is." Lewis scores throughout with a mature timbre and seemingly "built-in" jazz chops.
Surf Cove Jazz, 2010, 51:32.

Smiles, Terry Myers, tenor sax, clarinet, soprano sax.
We've all seen those guys at the beach, hoping to find a few coins with their metal detectors. Well, I'd just about bet that someone at Arbors Records has refined one of those gizmos to unearth heretofore unrecorded but deserving jazz musicians. In a long line of new voices from Arbors, Myers is yet another. Judging from the cover photo, he's been in the jazz trenches for a fair number of seasons, but this is his initial stint in the starting lineup. With swing sultans Johnny Varro, piano, Joel Forbes, bass, and Ed Metz, drums, Myers gets the session off to a flying start with "Them There Eyes." The tempos may vary from this point, but the song selection certainly stays with the tried and true, including these chart toppers: "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," "As Long As I Live," "It's You or No One" and, among others, even the old warhorse, "When Day Is Done." Perhaps my favorite tune on the date was a languid, juicy and altogether splendid reading of Gary McFarland's near-standard, "Blue Hodge." It epitomizes the entire set — it's beautifully crafted with satisfying solo work and a sense of the pure joy of playing jazz.
Arbors, 2010, 67:26 .

Flash Point, Randy Halberstadt, piano.
Seattle pianist Halberstadt is one of those rare, all-purpose cats who, when all's said and done, shines most brightly in a post-bop setting such as this. The quintet here includes Jeff Johnson, bass, and Mark Ivester, drums (his working trio), plus Mark Taylor on alto sax and Thomas Marriott on trumpet and flugelhorn. Of the nine tunes played here, six are originals by Halberstadt, so a brief examination of a few seems in order. The session opens with "Rigenia," a complex and invigorating vehicle, while "Five By Three" is more lyrical and ensemble-like. "Better Than One" is a rough-hewn blues with a Blue Note shadow lurking somewhere. The CD is completed by three tunes from the jazz book. "On Green Dolphin Street" and "Solar" are all dressed up in new harmonic and rhythmic attire, and the CD is completed by Sam Rivers' rarely heard entry, "Beatrice." Halberstadt swings mightily, but he also turns over plenty of solo space to two outstanding Seattle cats who seem to be showing up on recordings more frequently than ever. Taylor and Marriott are both heavy duty hard bop devotees who, along with the leader, account for themselves admirably. And don't forget Johnson. Simply stated, he's one of the world's premier bassists. Overlooked sometimes because he's a Seattleite. But brilliant just the same.
Origin, 2010, 65:26.

Swingin' High, Gust Spenos, tenor saxophone.
The liner notes didn't mention it, but I performed a "check up" on Dr. Spenos and found out that this swinging tenor man doubles as an Indiana neurologist. This two CD set is, as the title indicates, a happy, swinging session for Spenos and his Indianapolis based quartet, plus three hardy guests who, by all musical accounts, were tickled to participate. He may be a doc by day, but in the recording studio, he prescribed the right medicine by inviting Terrell Stafford, trumpet, Wycliffe Gordon, trombone, and Eric Schneider, alto sax and clarinet. No less than three compositions by tenor great Jimmy Heath are among the featured fare here. Other welcome surprises include Duke Ellington's "Main Stem" and a very rare Sonny Stitt chart called "Blue Mambo." The group looks to the standard bag as well with solid performances. Kudos to mostly anonymous arrangers as well, because this eight-piece group often sounds larger. Everybody plays with full tilt vigor, and the guest soloists turn on the jets. It would follow that Dr. Spenos is in charge here, because there's certainly some heady playing in the neurology ward.
Self-produced, 2009, CD1: 38:03; CD2:40:11.

Experiences, Tomas Janzon, guitar.
A native of Stockholm, Janzon grew up with both Bach and Bird. Now an active part of the New York scene, Janzon assembled a stellar cast for what I assume is his debut recording. His quartet includes veterans Art Hillery, piano and organ, Jeff Littleton, bass, and Albert "Tootie" Heath, drums. The quartet opens with a Wes-like "Here's That Rainy Day," taken a skosh faster than usual. Dave Brubeck's "Theme For Mr. Broadway," a big city blues, follows. Janzon's originals include "Float" in æ time; "Blue Bee," which arrived in Jazon's conception during a rehearsal; and "Messin'Around," a funky little blues line which the group has taken to using as an opener. Other familiar choices include Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'"; Wes's "Full House"; Bird's "Billie's Bounce"; and from the American songbook, "Polka Dots and Moonbeams." I would guess that Montgomery is the #1 inspiration for Janzon. His spirit lingers throughout this session. Janzon and his super colleagues succeed on every level. I look forward to hearing more.
Changes Music, 2010, 52:50.

From Point A To Point A, Reggie Pittman, trumpet, flugelhorn; Loren Daniels, piano.
If only we had the time and resources to truly celebrate all the great jazz talent out there. You know, the work-a-day guys who do anonymous section and studio gigs, write, arrange and usually teach. All with passion and talent and little notoriety. The names Reggie Pittman and Loren Daniels are brand new to me. But judging from this spirited, boppy quartet session, these are the players who are rewarded by the truth that they tell in their music. This varied session is made up of all original material with scrumptious playing, creative solo work and well-conceived melodies. Among many outstanding tracks, there are nods here to the likes of Bobby Timmons, Charlie Parker, Woody Shaw and a quirky Daniels vocal on a Monk-like opus called "It's All Thelonious." The quartet is completed by Bill Moring, bass, and Tim Horner, drums, and throughout this session, these guys excel at joyfully bringing buoyant bop to life.
Ivory Hornz, 2010, 63:02.

The New York Sessions, Bill Allred, trombone.
At age 73, Allred stays active in the two jazz arenas that have defined his musical life: trad and swing. Perfectly comfortable in both, Allred chooses the latter in this all-star collection. Making it a family affair, one of those players — on five cuts — is his trombone playing offspring, John Allred. Pop and son are augmented by Jeff Phillips, piano, Howard Alden, guitar, Nicki Parrott, bass, and Ed Metz, drums. Reliable ol' Warren Vache pops in for a cornet interlude on two selections. This is one of those sterling, relaxed yet vibrant sessions featuring evergreen tunes that all players have maneuvered around for years. A few highlights: the intro to {Day By Day" will make you think that the Four Freshmen are about to initiate a comeback. Dave Frishberg's witty "I Want To Be a Sideman" delights with a duo vocal by the senior Allred and bassist Parrott; and Hamp's "Red Top" is muted, reminiscent a bit of Al Grey. Vache brightens up the room with Bix's "Davenport Blues" and a saucy, swinging "Sweet Sue." Timeless music all of it, and in the hands of these peerless players, beautifully rendered.
Arbors, 2010, 67:01.

Around The Corner, Grant Stewart, tenor saxophone.
I've wondered at times what, if any, sacrifices a musician must make once he/she decides to forego whatever is "now" for what is timeless. Somewhere in his musical pathway, Stewart undoubtedly made the decision to pursue the heralded tradition of the real deal instead of the 'here today but forgotten tomorrow.' His latest release for Sharp Nine puts him the company of a guitar-based rhythm section with rising star Peter Bernstein along with Peter Washington, bass, and Phil Stewart, drums. The foursome pleases throughout with a program mixing standards and bop chestnuts. From the first category, try "Get Happy" and "Something's Gotta Give" from the older school, and the beautiful "Maybe September" from more recent times. But the bop staples abide here as well in Bud Powell's "The Scene Is Clean"; Dizzy's silky ballad, "I Waited For You"; and a Barry Harris rarity, the title tune. Talk about rare, how about Ellington's "Blue Rose" and Alec Wilder's "That's My Girl." Certainly Stewart has delved into the history! He's a natural. He'll play with disarming charm one minute and head-turning bop chops the next. Every album he's made has been reason to celebrate. In just that vein, he continues here.
Sharp Nine, 2010, 51:58.


Ashland, Alison Ruble, vocals.
It's possible to go a step too far in trying to bring a new look to familiar melodies. Ruble has an attractive, natural singing voice, but it's tough to improve on what the Gershwins, Porters, Arlens and Bobby Troups gave us. Also, selections by Bonnie Raitt, King Crimson and Bob Dylan beg the question, "do you want to be a pop/rock queen or a jazz singer? It was difficult to determine in which camp Ruble wishes to enroll.
Origin, 2010; 53:00.

Quiz, Alexander McCabe, alto sax.
McCabe came up listening to all the reed greats like Bird, Hawkins, Webster, Cannonball, McLean and more. Their imprint is etched in his playing, but he adds a nod to a free blowing as well. The standard "How Little We Know" was his most straight ahead tune, and an original entitled "Weezie's Waltz" had a winning way. Kudos also for pianist Uri Caine, who goes for the gusto here. Most of the material is original compositions, and McCabe is on target with an alto sound celebrating the past and incorporating the present.
Consolidated Artist Productions, 2010, 46:51.

Two Sides, One Story, The Mason Brothers: Brad, trumpet, flugelhorn and Elliott, trombone and bass trumpet.
Two more cats from the other side: the Masons hail from Norwich, England, and found themselves entrenched at Berklee on scholarships in the 1990s. Their debut recording is, from the opening note, cutting edge, hard bop excitement. Chops reign here, and you'd better have it together if the likes of David Kikoski, piano, Chris Potter, saxophones, and Joe Locke, vibes, all accept invitations to blow the roof off with you. This is not music for Aunt Margaret who dug Joe Feeny's violin on the Welk show. But there's virtuosity to go around for all the rest of us.
Self-produced, 2010, 68:10.

Fuerza Milonguera, Raul Jaurena and his Tango Orchestra.
It's not anything you're likely to hear on your neighborhood jazz station, but lots of folks like tango music. If you're among them, this briskly performed album should please you. Be forewarned: the accordions and the syrupy strings are waiting in the wings. But I must say, they sound altogether appropriate in this setting. So get out on the dance floor and show us how it's done.
Soundbrush Records, 2010, 52:36.

Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B, Freddy Cole, vocals.
Nat's younger brother warms up the room interpreting songs forever associated with Mr. B, the great Billy Eckstein. With a very polished quartet, Cole is further assisted on six selections by the 3 A.M. sound of tenor man Houston Person. Highlights include returns to Eckstein staples like "A Cottage For Sale" and "No Orchids for My Lady." Cole's intimate readings are most welcome. And his accompanying group is relaxed and rewarding.
High Note, 2010, 60:39.

Bridging The Gap, Terrell Stafford, trumpet and flugelhorn; Dick Oatts, alto sax.
Stafford and Oatts may be from different generations, but they're on the same page in this sizzling, classic Blue Note-style hard bop session. With a rhythm section of Gerald Clayton, Ben Williams and Rodney Green, Stafford and Oatts spin your head ten ways from Sunday in interpreting eight originals and one evergreen, "Cole Porter's I Love You." Great arrangements, real melody lines and inspired improvisation. It's all here.
Planet Arts, 2009, 58:06.

Reviews by Kyle O'Brien

Live/As Always, Dave Liebman Big Band.
Soprano saxophonist Liebman gets tonally expanded by this superbly refined big band made up of some of New York's finest players. On this disc, he has had six of his original tunes arranged by top arrangers, including bandleader Gunnar Mossblad, Pete McGuinness and Scott Reeves. McGuinness's smart reworking of Liebman's pensive "As Always" is a star, with Liebman soloing in his plaintive tone as the band ebbs and flows around him. Liebman has always been calculated and eclectic in his compositions, and here they take on more structure. The exotic meter of "Anubis" feels free but is sophisticated in its floating form, the horn section painting thick layers of color. The freest of them all, and one that shows off how versatile this band can be, is Mossblad's arrangement of the avant-garde, atonal "Philippe Under the Green Bridge," which manages to be starkly beautiful and ear bending at the same time, a chromatic lesson taught by the dual reeds of Liebman and oboist Charles Pillow. This is modern arranging at its finest by superior musicians.
2010, MAMA Records, 60:00.

What Did You Dream? Dan Gailey Jazz Orchestra.
Big bands may be a rarity as a professional touring concept, but in the university setting they thrive, thanks to exceptional teachers like Gailey, from the University of Kansas. Gailey's compositions and arrangements for this group, made up of polished professionals, bristle with electricity, as on the pounding swing and horn punches of the opener, "Audacity," which features counterpoint stabs of chordal fortitude. There are moments of lighter touch too, as on the meandering "Point No Point," which shows off the nimble guitar work of Steve Kovalcheck, and "Early Light," a rich ballad by tenor saxophonist Don Aliquo. But it's the bigger sounds that truly make this disc hop, as on the swinging "In a Big Way" and the modal "11th Hour (for Michael Brecker)" which captures the driving essence of the late saxophonist.
2010, OA2 Records, 51:30.

Like That, Jeff Richman.
Guitarist Richman doesn't have as big a name as some of the musicians on this recording, but his jazz fusion, Mike Stern-style sound are deserving of the talents of drummers Vinnie Colaiuta and Will Kennedy, percussionist Alex Acuna, organist Larry Goldings and bassist Dean Taba. The music isn't anything new; the sound is reminiscent of the fusion of the early '80s. But Richman and company play it with finesse and drive, as on the pulsating "Rock Tall" and the heavy rock of "Touch and Go." It's a fun disc with touches of sophistication and the right layer of grit.
2010, Nefer Records, 56:40.

Songs of Love and Destruction, Elisabeth Lohninger.
I was impressed by vocalist Lohninger's last recording, and this effort cements her fortitude as a vocalist. Her deep, sonorous alto has a lovely lilt, but she always seems in command of the melody, as on Joni Mitchell's "River," where the native Austrian shows off a near flawless American accent. She brings an intimate, breathy quality to k.d. lang's "Save Me," and she shows an impressive range as Ingrid Jensen plays a beautiful muted trumpet. Other guest musicians bring a heightened importance to the tunes, as Bruce Barth's pointed piano chords and Jordan Perlson's crisp drumming drive them. Saxophonist Donny McCaslin's offers muscular solos, especially on the slick arrangement of Lennon and McCartney's "Here There and Everywhere." Lohninger's own "Away and Away Again" fits perfectly with the cover tunes, a lovely light bossa with a lyrical simplicity that is approachable and melodic.
2010 Lofish Music, 60:00.

Django Would Go, Hot Club of Hulaville.
Django Reinhardt's influence traveled the globe, making the gypsy jazz guitarist one of the most covered musicians of all time. His jump swing even made it to the islands of Hawaii, where it inspired this group. Though they are based in Hawaii, they explore the many cultures that adopted elements of Reinhardt's music. There's the waltz of the French on "Sous le Ciel de Paris," the South American cadence of "Besame Mucho," sung in lovely fashion by vocalist Ginai. There's faux Italian with "Mambo Italiano" and traditional Hawaiian, as on the tender "Kalua" and "Hawaii, Land of Enchantment/Nuages." The Hot Club of Hulaville shows the influence and diversity of Django's music rather than just being a typical tribute group. A fine job from the islands.
2009, Hot Club of Hulaville, 53:50.

Wishing Well, Ellen Rowe Quartet.
Pianist Rowe is a sophisticated composer who knows how to use melody and space to create a full sound. With guest Ingrid Jensen on flugelhorn, the opener, a pensive version of "For That Which Was Living, Lost," becomes a piece of stark beauty. Jensen's solo builds as Rowe moves the modal tune with chordal substitutions. As a soloist Rowe is solid. Her swinging runs on the blues, "Lewisburg Bluesy-oo," are positively toe-tapping. Jensen again impresses on the lovely ballad "Longing," a pensive and haunting piece on which she and Rowe connect. The heavier "Sanity Clause" brings some funky diversity to the disc, while Rowe's arrangement of "Alone Together" shows that she can bring new life to an old standard, especially in the hands of her core quartet of saxophonist Andrew Bishop, bassist Kurt Krahnke and drummer Pete Siers.
2010 PKO Records, 62:00.

Jazz Mass, Ike Sturm.
Traditional church music and gospel has long had an influence on jazz, but this turns the concept around, with jazz influencing the direction of traditional liturgy. Bassist Sturm composed much of the music, which is built on the words of the church, including traditional sentiments like "Kyrie," "Gloria," and "Sanctus." For those not in touch with Christian traditions, there is still reason to listen. Sturm's arrangements are rooted in jazz and classical, and the musicianship is astounding, from the quietest whispers by singer Misty Ann Sturm to the fullest orchestral sounds by the band and choir. The core band features such notable players as Donny McCaslin on tenor, Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Ryan Ferreira on guitar and Ted Poor on drums. It's an impressive and lofty theme and actually transcends its religious overtones by being musically sound.
2009, Ike Sturm, 57:05.

A Time of New Beginnings, Chie Imaizumi.
Composer, arranger and conductor Imaizumi knows how to gather talent to show off her own. This disc features names like Randy Brecker, Gary Smulyan, Tamir Hendelman, John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton, Terell Stafford and Steve Davis, among others. The songs here are all Imaizumi's, from the touching and refined "Fear of the Unknown," with Clayton's bowed bass solo over Hendelman's chordal structure, to the upbeat sincerity of "My Heartfelt Gratitude," and the horn punches of the title track. The disc is serious but doesn't take itself too seriously, as the playfully frenetic "Run for Your Life" and the nearly silly "Fun & Stupid Song" shows. Imaizumi is a force in the New York scene, and her compositions are finely crafted while remaining purely listenable.
2010, Capri Records, 60:00.

Spiral, Dr. Lonnie Smith.
Smith has been putting out solid organ trio music for decades, and this continues his successful run. His discs are always full of groovy soul jazz, and here he plays the grooves in a trio setting with guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Jamire Williams. Smith is completely in his element here, cruising on the minor blues of "Mellow Mood," swinging lightly on "I've Never Been in Love Before," and doing his own bluesy thing on the title track. Smith has his niche, and for those who like jazz organ, he is certainly one of the tops in the business. He coaxes different tones from his Hammond B-3, as on the buzzing press of "Beehive" and the warm vibrato of "Sukiyaki." It's nothing cutting edge, but it is melodic and always groovy.
2010, Palmetto Records, 49:10.

Impromptu, Bob Mamet Trio.
The piano trio will never go out of style, especially if played as slickly as Mamet does with bassist Darek Oles and drummer Joe LaBarbera. The title track kicks off with a swinging attack, then lays back into the groove as Mamet lets his chords do the talking. Oles and LaBarbera push the beat ahead while never rushing. Mamet's tunes are straightahead jazz, but they have a tight sense of melody, as on the minor-keyed bop of "At Play," or the lazy-but-pretty "Until Morning." While much of this disc swings, there is enough to keep the listener interested, as on the modern Americana of "Illinois Road" and the bossa influenced "Danzon Allegretto." With this level of musicianship and smart tunes, the piano trio is always welcome.
2010 Counterpoint Records, 39:10.

Copyright 2009, Jazz Society of Oregon