CD Reviews - November 2010
by George Fendel,
Off The Cuff, Michael Zsoldos, tenor saxophone.
The sound made famous by old guard tenor men is a rarity these days. And so we must celebrate when a Michael Zsoldos comes along and reminds us of past heroes with names like Dexter, Little Giant and Clifford Jordan. Zsoldos keeps it right down the center of the mainstream highway, and you get the message from the opening notes of "Lullaby of the Leaves." The remainder of his eight song program consists of some welcome standards and two of his original compositions. One of those, "Affirmative," is a quirky, boppy, high-stepping melody line which is full of life. His other tune, "Strollin'," (not to be confused with Horace Silver's opus), is a jaunty outing with plenty of solo space for pianist Miro Sprague and bassist Martin Wind. Highlights from the remainder of the program include Duke's "Solitude"; Monk's "Evidence"; Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust"; and two obscurities from major jazz figures. "Barbara" is a Horace Silver composition with a lilting line, and "The Big Head" is a Coleman Hawkins medium tempo blues. Zsoldos delivers the tenor goods in the best of the tradition.
NBJ Music, 2010, 53:43.
A Beautiful Thing! Pete Malinverni, piano.
Every new recording by Malinverni is an event! He is one of those musician's musicians who is simply enveloped by music of nearly every genre. He's the cat who lives for music; the thinking man's pianist whose varied background sings through his every performance. Just listen to this CD. At one moment, he has the restrained Bud Powell thing well in hand. Next moment he's emotive and lyrical. And of course, he never forgets the power and the joy of swing. He knows it all, feels it all and plays it all. On this bright and buoyant CD, his trio includes Lee Hudson, bass and Eilot Zigmund, drums. The tunes run the gamut from some new and revisited originals to Bacharach and David's "A House Is Not A Home," the gospel standard, "Go Down Moses," and "La Vie En Rose." To complete the picture, the trio gives us a couple Songbook America gems. One listen and you'll understand how completely Malinverni is wrapped up in the art of jazz piano. He's put in the time and effort. But this CD, a beautiful thing indeed, is the result, and Malinverni is a unique, dedicated, exceptional jazz pianist.
Saranac Records, 2010, 53:23.
Lovefest At The PIZZArelli Party, Rebecca Kilgore, vocals.
On a Saturday afternoon last month I had a blast subbing on KMHD for Rebecca Kilgore. I've always loved the American Songbook as interpreted by great singers, so it was an absolute kick to play a few dozen of them on her program. I would have featured this CD most prominently, but it hadn't yet become available. Now here it is, and how much fun is it to hear her performances of an entire menu of tunes on a "love" theme. The frosting on this cake is she gets to do this with the Pizzarelli family: Bucky and John on guitars and Martin on bass. Toss in the incredible Harry Allen on tenor, Larry Fuller, piano, Aaron Weinstein, violin, and Tommy Tedesco, drums. But really, this is Becky's gig, and the classic sweetness of her voice is just dreamy on a dozen tunes, none of which would be considered overdone. To name a few: "How Are You Fixed For Love" (remember Jackie & Roy's version?); "That Tired Routine Called Love" (from master composer Matt Dennis); and "Hooray For Love" (Mavis Rivers lives!). There's generous solo space for all, and Allen, for example, is at his Ben Webster-ish best! Rebecca continues her never ending search for great tunes. And in this day and age, she sings them better than just about anybody.
Arbors, 2010, 60:11.
From His World To Mine -The Music Of Duke Ellington, Dan Block, saxophones, clarinet.
I don't know much about the leader, but I'd surmise he's invested lots of energy in the study of The Duke Ellington Orchestra. Block is featured with various-sized Gotham groups on renditions of Ellington-Strayhorn tunes, primarily, but not exclusively from the early period. I am a great admirer of Duke and Strayhorn, but am far from an expert. That considered, most of these tunes were unfamiliar to me: "New York City Blues," "Old King Dooji," "Suburbanite" and "Cotton Club Stomp," among others. The Ellington elegance is here, along with the shadow of Johnny Hodges or Jimmy Hamilton in Block's stellar interpretations. "Kissing Bug" and "Rocks in My Bed" were most familiar to me, dating back to vocal interpretations by June Christy and Joe Williams respectively. For a unique and thoroughly fresh look at the genius of Duke and Strays, this is an album to seek out. Kudos on the cover, which depicts an artist's conception of Duke's cats in 1930s sartorial splendor.
Miles High Records, 2010, 68:33.
Back To The Bridge, Dan Adler, guitar.
I first became aware of guitarist Adler through a previous CD which drew my attention due to the presence of tenor sax sensation Grant Stewart. This time around, Adler chooses a trio setting with Joey DeFrancesco on organ and Byron Landham on drums. Adler and DeFrancesco get into a nice groove on a few original tunes and several standards. In the latter category, there's "Oh, Look At Me Now," "A Beautiful Friendship," "I've Never Been in Love Before" and a couple jazz outings in an obscure Oscar Peterson blues, "The Smudge," and a fresh new tempo for Clifford Brown's classic, "Joy Spring." Among Adler's originals, I liked the swinging lines of a Horace Silver tribute, and the calypso-like feeling of "Between Jobs." What you have to like about Adler is that he never indulges in "guitar overkill," when a guitar no longer sounds like a guitar, and too many contemporary jazz guitarists practice it. Not so with Adler. There's a swinging sense of history in his every note.
Self-Produced, 2010, 63:53.
Decisions, Three As One.
Sometimes the jazz guys embark on a project with the idea of "swingin' the classics." Most of the time it doesn't work well because classical music does just fine without being monkey-ed around with. Born in Sweden but a longtime U.S. resident and music professor, Steffan Karlson leads a trio here that brings an invigorating dimension to selections by Bach, Beethoven and Chopin. To this add some varied and intriguing original trio music by either Karlsson or Lou Fisscher, the bass player. Both write "singing" melodies that borrow from the classical book but at the same time create a successful marriage of jazz and classical elements. Swinging the classics it is not, and you'll hear both depth and the tight communication evident in the playing of this trio. Subtle drummer Steve Houghton completes the trio. If "pretty" is a part of your jazz vocabulary, you'll certainly find this to be pretty music.
Summit, 2010, 44:12.
My Old Flame, Joe Magnarelli, trumpet.
String arrangements for horn players is not a new concept, but it's a rather rare present-day occurrence. Magnarelli, a first call trumpet fixture on the New York scene, makes the most of the violins, violas and cellos. He is a gifted player whose tone and phrasing are right up there with the all-time greats. No wonder he evokes such joy in playing with strings. The CD begins with the title tune, and I challenge you to come up with a more stirring version of the old standard. The CD continues with a mix of Joe's originals and a few evergreens such as "I'll Be Seeing You," "When Your Lover Has Gone" and a well-crafted Latin touch on Dave Brubeck's "The Duke." Among Magnarelli's compositions, I especially was drawn to the lively melody line of "Highbridge"; the quirky and intricate "Eracism"; and the boppy fun of "Bilbao." Magnarelli and friends also toss in a well-honed original called "Blues For 'Skee.'" The strings are subtle and never overbearing, a delicious backdrop for an obviously inspired trumpet.
Give & Go Records, 2010, 56:19.
When Lights Are Low, Denise Donatelli, vocals.
Usually we know within two tunes. Those of us who write reviews and/or host jazz radio programs are exposed to one female singer after another. Most often we can tell within two tunes if we're hearing a real deal or a "wanna be." Donatelli is the real deal, and for several reasons. Her vocal quality is relaxed and effortless. She understands the little subtleties and melody decorations (which can't be taught) in a jazz singer. She doesn't indulge in extraneous "show-biz" fluff. And she's fortunate enough to have hooked up with stellar players, including pianist and musical director Geoff Keezer. Donatelli's choice of tunes, also impressive, includes "It's You or No One," "Don't Explain," "When Lights Are Low," "Why Did I Choose You," "I Wish I Were in Love Again," and perhaps the surprise of the program, "The Telephone Song," a bossa nova first sung by Astrud Gilberto on one of those Stan Getz classics. All of these and a few newer compositions add up to a quality debut CD.
Savant, 2010, 52:48.
Moon Germs, Pamela Hines, piano.
On the heels of an earlier release of solo piano, Hines opts this time for a standard piano trio with guests on two numbers. She starts with the old stand-by, "Let's Fall in Love." But after that things change in a hurry with "Itchy," Hines' venture into funk. Greg Dudzienski and Darren Barrett pop in for some fun on tenor and trumpet. Back to the standard bag and a sleek version of "Fools Rush In." From this point on, it's primarily original compositions by the pianist. One exception is Bill Evans' rarely heard "Show Type Tune" and another is the rather intriguing title tune. I'll stand by my review of her earlier CD, which, in part, said, "Hines possesses surety of touch, authoritative lines, diligence with space and, what's more, she swings."
Spice Rack Records, 2009, 63:20.
This Could Be The Start Of Something Big, Aney Farber and his Orechestra.
I first got hooked on the Basie sound through Joe Williams and that less is more Basie piano, the pulse of Freddie Green's guitar, great charts by Hefti, Foster, Carter and Nestico. Timeless music such as this deserves to be carried forth by today's players. Enter Farber. He's got the Basie thing going with a high voltage cast of young musicians and guests like Jerry Dodgion on alto and a couple vocals from the great Jon Hendricks. Farber was smart not to simply make this a revisit to exclusively Basie tunes. Oh, there are a few of those, natch. But Farber has written some original material that Basie would have loved, with the hard to describe "Basie thing." To these add Hendricks vocals on the title tune and "Roll 'Em Pete"; a couple of Songbook America stan dards; and a Monk tune. Basie may be gone, but long live Basie. And thank you, Andy Farber.
Black Warrior Records, 2010, 59:14.
Brasilian Vibes, Arthur Lipner, vibes and marimba, Nanny Assis, vocals and percussion.
Fans of Brazilian music are sure to get a kick out of the varied offerings of Lipner, Assis, and a changing cast of players and singers. Much of the music offered here represents the union of Lipner's melodies and Assis's lyrics. Their compositions, plus those of others in the Assis family, all sound authentically Brazilian to my ear. The only familiar name was trombone master, Wycliffe Gordon, who guests on two tunes. One in particular is an album highlight, the distinctly non-Brazilian "Four Brothers." Gift wrapped in Latin lattice, JImmy Giuffre's opus has rarely had it so good, thanks in part to Gordon's hip scat vocal. That one cut is worth the price of admission. Anyway, there's a freshness and vivacity to all the music here. One can easily hear the dedication and the light-hearted fun they're having in communicating the joy of Brazilian music.
Mallet Works Media, 2010, 54:51.
Familiar Places, Matt Garrison, tenor and baritone saxophones.
A distinctive player and composer, Garrison is a new voice on the scene. His debut recording features mostly original compositions and utilizes the talents and the varied voicing of some stellar players such as Claudio Roditi, trumpet and flugelhorn; Michael Dease, trombone; Don Braden, alto flute; and Mark Whitfield, guitar. As a result, Garrison's original melodies sparkle with pleasant surprises. His compositions are so different one from another that one wouldn't expect they all came from the same source. His upbeat tunes are clean and fresh, and he allows space for all the guests here. His ballads are sparse, also allowing cats like Roditi to emote. Lastly, I was impressed with Garrison's approach to ensemble playing. His arrangements provide a scintillating balance between the ensemble passages and the solo work, both his own and that of his guests. There's a lot going on here — some hard bop, some ballads, some intricate and demanding orchestral stuff, and all the while, the sound of Garrison's crisp and captivating tenor.
D Clef Records, 2010, 58:47.
I Remember You, The Songs Of Johnny Mercer, Tom Culver, vocals.
Into the 21st century, Johnny Mercer's gift keeps on giving. A brilliant lyricist and frequent composer as well, Mercer was the ultimate "outdoor" writer. Tunes here, such as "Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe," "Skylark," "Harlem Butterfly," "Moon River" and "Midnight Sun" are all examples of Mercer's rural perspective. But he could also be the city sophisticate: just take "Drinking Again," a very adult composition. All of these and a dozen more (18 in all!) are handled with class and character by Culver. Based in Los Angeles, he brought to the recording session a host of Southland cats, all of whom provide crisp arrangements and strong support for Culver's energetic vocals. An obvious fan of Mercer, Culver said, about the recording process: "They had to put a restraining order on me or I'd still be in the studio."
Rhombus Records, 2010, 66:37.
Adverse Times, Carl Fischer, trumpet, flugelhorn, valve trombone.
As I perused the press release that accompanied this CD, my eyebrows must have widened as I read entries like "new jazz-funk improvisational vistas"; "performed in Billy Joel's band (!) the past five years"; "hard driving funk." There's even a couple of vocals from a singer who has all the funky licks in gear. To make matters worse, the guitarist definitely hails from rock and roll. To just about bet the farm that Fischer has played legit jazz in his career but is looking at increasing his bank balance with this effort. It's one thing when one can't play and makes a bad record. It's quite another when one can play and still makes a bad record.
Fischmusic Productions, 2009, 54:10.
Django Would Go, The Hot Club of Hulaville.
On the 100th anniversary of the birth of guitarist Django Reinhardt, this Honolulu-based group celebrates his renowned acoustic swing style. The theme here is a journey to many of the world's destinations; hence, music from such disparate places as Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, France, mainland U.S. and Hawaii . The tunes alternate between instrumentals and vocals by an energetic singer identified only as "Ginni." Much of the program was unfamiliar to me, but among the tunes from your past and mine, how about "Under Paris Skies," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Tico Tico," and, as part of a medley, Reinhardt's captivating "Nuages." If you're a devotee of this whimsical, happy style of music, you're sure to derive some delight in the Hot Club of Hulaville.
Self-Produced, 2010, 53:57.
Universe B, Will Swindler, alto and soprano saxophones.
I'd think this type of ensemble would be a huge kick for all the players. Imagine you're a well-schooled reader and sit down in your section to play charts with a Gil Evans kind of vapor. That's what Swindler has here. The only musician with whom I'm familiar is the startlingly good trumpet/flugelhorn player, Al Hood. He's from Denver, so I assume this is a Mile High City aggregation. The original music touches on all musical corners. Sometimes quirky and offbeat; sometimes lyrical and delicate; and sometimes sheer crazy fun! A number of the 14 players in the band get room for some luscious solo work, and the ensemble playing is crisp and bright. Some of the "odd for jazz" instruments here include euphonium, French horn and bass clarinet. Evans-like? Sure! Or maybe even a hint of creative arranger Billy May! The two evergreens are Miles Davis's "Miles Ahead" and Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing." Each is a great choice on this type of album because there's so much happening harmonically in both. The same may be said of the entire recording. Betcha the players got a big charge out of the whole thing!
OA2 Records, 2010, 64:55.
The Fifties, Carl Fontana, trombone.
Had he not played in the trombone sections of bands like Stan Kenton's, Carl Fontana would have achieved much more than the modest fame that came his way. From the first tune, "Lester Leaps In," you can't deny that Fontana's bop chops are dazzling. The material is from a 1958 airing of Bobby Troup's TV show, "Stars of Jazz." Following a ballad medley, Fontana, who co-leads with tenor man Vido Musso, plays "Intermission Riff." Another segment features Fontana with some Kenton cats on four selections. His solo on Bird's "Scrapple From the Apple" is a flag waver, and his portion of a four-tune medley, "Darn That Dream" is appropriately dreamy. Another highlight puts Fontana in Jimmy Cook's Big Band in 1960. His solo on "Soon" will make other 'bone players mutter obscenities. All of this clearly illustrates the musicianship of a guy not often mentioned on "great trombone" lists. He should be near the top.
Uptown, 2010, 65:19.
Return To Jazz Standards, Lisa Maxwell, vocals.
You're at the record store. A CD catches your attention. You look to see if there are any tunes you know. If so, your attention increases if you're like me. Well, I took an initial look and a first listen to singer Maxwell and liked what I heard. She and pianist-husband George Newall give us a nice, thoughtful selection of standards: "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," "Isn't It A Pity," "Meditation," "Lazy Afternoon," "What Are You Doing New Years Eve" and more. Some are done with basic piano trio — more compelling than the material with synthesizers. Maxwell handles a lyric with very natural instincts; phrases like an instrumentalist; and her enunciation is to be admired. Kudos on quality tunes.
Self-Produced, 2010, 37:29.
The Sky Cries, Chad McCulloch, trumpet and flugelhorn.
Seattleite Chad McCulloch enlists the help of Northwest stalwarts Mark Taylor, alto saxophone, Dave Captein, bass, and Matt Jorgenson, drums, in addition to European pianist Michael Vanoucek, on a selection of original material. McCulloch and Vanoucek's writing encompasses varied moods, tempos and sonic nuances. All the players have shining solo opportunities, but McCulloch's silvery tone stands out as something special.
Origin, 2010, 51:46.
Sketches Of Spain, Lew Soloff, trumpet, The Harmonic Ensemble of New York.
It seems impossible to believe that 50 years have flown by since Gil Evans and Miles Davis made jazz history with the original version. Fifty years, but what a perfect time to celebrate that triumph with a fresh, new version. Soloff is wise not to try to duplicate the intimacy, but he certainly brings own brand of beauty to these works. The accompanying orchestra is the brainchild of its conductor, Steve Richman. They succeed from every vantage point in breathing new life into a stunning classic.
NYSCA Records, 2010, 43:12.
La Voz De Tres, Bernal, Eckroth and Ennis.
Here is a skilled, tasty trio — Natalia Bernal, voice, Mike Eckroth, piano,and Jason Ennis, guitar — in a selection of Brazilian and other Latin bossas, tangos and even one jazz tune," Tenderly." Bernal possesses a bell-like clarity and interprets this menu of tunes with spot-on intonation and lots of feeling. No pretense or gimmicks here. Just a very attractive program of mostly "South of the Border" songs performed intimately but passionately.
Self Produced, 2010; times not indicated.
India And Africa: A Tribute To John Coltrane, Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra.
Interesting that a Coltrane tribute would utilize a shakuhachi, a tambura, a sarod and a tabla. While it's a far cry from jazz as we know it, some of it is quite compelling and some downright cacophonous. Still, as world music, it has moments of interest.
Water Baby, 2010, 59:19.
Tight Like This, Brad Goode, trumpet.
Chicago-based trumpeter Goode plays down the middle of the hard bop highway with a searing rhythm section of Adrean Farruga, piano, Kelly Sill, bass, and Anthony Lee, drums. The quartet explores a selection of standards, including "Reaching For the Moon" and "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise," but also takes flight on several originals. Goode has the goods: pace, timing, tone, flexibility and a bit of whimsy and wit here and there. This quartet seems to "breathe" together. Goode stuff, you might say!
Delmark Records, 2010, 58:50.
After Hours, Marrhias Lupri, vibraphone.
Back in the '50s, albums like this were released with names like "Music For Relaxation." Lupri's original compositions feature two prominent saxophone players in George Garzone and Mark Turner. The music is so laid back it comes perilously close to a New Age sound. But the solo work saves it. Personally, I'd rather "relax" to Ben Webster playing ballads.
Summit, 2010, 65:20.
by Kyle O'Brien
Cascades, The Kora Band.
Portland pianist Andrew Oliver takes on the music of west Africa with this ambitious project. The band fuses western styles and influences with the music of The Gambia, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast. The opener, "Sinyaro," features the band's kora (a 21-stringed instrument of the Mandinka people) player, Kane Mathis. While Mathis is a western musician, he learned the kora and the accompanying language he occasionally sings in The Gambia, and his mastery is what leads this group. "Sinyaro" sounds like a fusion experiment in the truest sense. There are elements of western jazz, African song and rhythm, and even Cuban music. The kora sounds a bit like a harpsichord, koto and sitar combined. It's a lovely sound, and one that makes the disc more folk-oriented. There are repeated phrases that build the energy, much like in African folk musics, but then there is the western influence and a compositional structure that takes it to North America. It's especially evident on the track "Over-Caffeinated and Under-Fed," which calls in more jazz. Oliver shines on a fiery piano solo over a Ghana-meets-samba beat. The other musicians, from Seattle, also shine in their roles, including trumpeter Chad McCullogh, who adds texture and melody, and drummer Mark DiFlorio. While this may not be a true jazz album, it does explore the roots of some jazz, and it uncovers an instrument most western ears may not have heard before.
2010, OA2 Records, 60 minutes.
Aurora, Avishai Cohen.
Many know Cohen as a masterful bassist and composer, first with Chick Corea, then on his own. Few knew, however, that this Israeli musician — who recently played Portland as part of the run-up to the Portland Jazz Festival — could sing. Cohen's voice, slightly gravelly and rough about the edges, manages to convey the emotion of his connection to the tunes he sings. Here, he is influenced by the Sephardic Jewish traditions and the Ladino (Spanish-based) language his mother used to sing, as well as Israeli folk music. His voice is plaintive as he sings on "El Hatzipor," a traditional folk tune over piano. But there is more than just Jewish tradition here; Cohen also adds Latin jazz and folk into his smart, sparse arrangements and compositions. And then there's Bach. The contrapuntal lines of baroque music wend their way throughout the disc. Singing may be a departure for Cohen, but this exploration of his youth, his musical influences and his traditions makes this an intriguing album worth a listen.
2010, Blue Note, 53:10.
Life Condition, Colin Stranahan.
Wunderkind drummer/composer Stranahan is no longer the 17-year-old kid from his debut CD, but his youthful energy keeps his music vibrant. That's evident on this disc of music influenced by his trip to India with Herbie Hancock and the Monk Institute band. This disc doesn't scream Indian music; instead Stranahan's sharp and sophisticated compositions extol a joy for music, with just a sparse trio of himself on drums, Chris Smith on bass and Ben Van Gelder on alto sax. Van Gelder's Paul Desmond-like tone drives the melody, but it's Stranahan's pointed drumming that propels the music, as on the light swing of Irving Berlin's "How Deep is the Ocean" and the ebulliently exotic, "The Birthday Song," by Van Gelder. Stranahan is a talent indeed, and this disc shows a growth of an already mature artist.
2010, Tapestry, 54 minutes.
It Would Be Easier If, Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast.
Saxophonist / bass clarinetist and composer Thomson's new project, Slow/Fast is more compositional and chamber jazz than his guerilla jazz outfit, Gutbucket. He calls this concept "21st Century Third Stream," which he claims means that it's appropriate for only this century. That means nothing to the listener, so instead listen to the compositions and decide for yourself. The compositions all hover at about the 10 minute mark, meaning they require a dedication by the listener to travel these mini journeys, full of textural swells, use of space, areas of dense cacophony, and tightly composed chamber nuances. They can, at times be quite interesting. The compositions are diverse enough to keep listening, and Thomson has arranged a band that sounds bigger than its five pieces. Thomson and trumpeter Russ Johnson sit at the top of the pyramid with their dual horn lines, which aren't traditional melodies. Rather, they play long lines or tight runs as the rhythm surrounds them. Other times, the feeling is light and sparse. While you won't be tapping your toes a lot to this music, it is always interesting.
2010 Challenge Records, 48:40.
Hear You Say - Live in Willisau, Ray Anderson - Marty Ehrlich Quartet.
The New Orleans, second line funeral-style "Portrait of Leroy Jenkins" begins this NOLA-meets-modern avant-garde jazz disc from trombonist Anderson and clarinetist/saxophonist Ehrlich. It's indicative of the collaboration between these two artists who both once played with Anthony Braxton. The sound can be brash and rough — it was recorded live in Switzerland — but the energy is captivating. Even as Anderson blows out of the stratosphere on "Hot Crab Pot," you can hear the crowd at the edges of their seats. Drummer Matt Wilson and Bassist Brad Jones provide a solid backing for these two soloists. The jagged precision of Ehrlich both clashes and meshes with Ander-son's blaring tone. It's what propels the energetic concert, especially on the stuff that takes music to the edge, as on Ehrlich's free-form "The Lion's Tanz." Not everyone can be a fan of this type of in-your-face jazz, but for those who don't mind some noise, this is a fine disc.
2010 Challenge Records, 60 minutes.
Tattooed by Passion, Matt Jorgensen.
The title alone is enough to give this one a spin. On closer look and listen, drummer Jorgensen's disc is a musical exploration of the paintings of Dale Chisman. The title is taken from Chisman's abstract impression of an upside down bass viol. The accompanying tune doesn't have the immediate impact as the painting, but the light tune does evoke a sense of wonder, as if you're looking at the picture, not a part of it. Trumpeter Thomas Marriott takes the melodies on most tunes, and his plaintive tone captures the color of Chisman's pieces and Jorgensen's interpretations, as on the sparse and lovely "Colorado." Jorgensen paints with more color than texture, opting for wide open sounds reminiscent of the Southwest and Rocky Mountain landscapes that inspired Chisman. Using strings on occasion gives the pieces some heft, but it's Marriott and guitarist Corey Christiansen who move the pieces along with their sturdy melodic sensibilities. Dave Captein anchors the rhythm with Jorgensen. One not familiar with Chisman's paintings would get the sense of their colors from this disc.
2010, Origin Records, 58:50.
Two Shades of Nude, Doug Beavers 9.
Trombonist Beavers is known for being a member of the Mingus Big Band and also for his association with Eddie Palmieri. On his second disc as a leader and composer, Beavers leads eight other fine musicians through a disc of originals and tightly arranged covers. It's a small, modern jazz big band that tackles the music with verve. The title track shows off Beavers' fortitude as a composer. Its long note theme soars over a bubbling bop, and his soloing is clear and inspired. When he arranges the tunes of others, they are full of life, as on the Latin version of Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me a Bedtime Story" and the wonderfully orchestrated version of Chick Corea's "Gemini," which is mostly horns and accented rhythm. Beavers has found his voice, and this group enables him to keep a hand in both the small group and big band worlds in which he seems to thrive.
2010, Origin Records, 59:20.
Azure Intention, the Lynn Baker Quartet.
Denver-based saxophonist Baker is the Director of Jazz studies at the University of Denver, and on this, his debut recording for OA2 records, he shows a sophistication and lovely tone. There is introspection on the opening tracks, "Color Line" and "Lament," which are both beautiful and melancholy. Baker's improvising is fluid and not flashy, even when the tunes get quick, as on "Into the Blues." He lets the chords move him through the pieces, giving way to the brilliance of Reggie Berg on piano for the faster stuff. The same smoothness arches over the disc and all the original compositions. There is an easiness throughout, which makes for a very listenable disc. It's not challenging, but it doesn't have to be.
2010, OA2 Records, 56:50.
Standard Transmission, Bruce Williamson Quartet featuring Art Lande.
Saxophonist Williamson and pianist Lande played together nearly four decades ago, but the Bay Area musicians went separate ways. Their musical connection never faded. The opener finds both players taking upbeat solos on a tune that walks back and forth between waltz and swing, Rodgers & Hart's "I Didn't Know What Time It Was." Joe Henderson's "Mamacita" is a fun, Latin-influenced number that gives Williamson a chance to show off an angular alto solo over Lande's tight chords. Bassist Peter Barshay and drummer Alan Hall keep the energy up, even on Williamson's slower, bluesy "Large Barge." Thankfully, the arrangements keep things from getting mired in sameness. "All of Me" gets a fresh new harmonic take, becoming a post-bop wonder rather than a tired old melody. This pairing of musicians is refreshing, even as it nears 40.
2010, Origin Records, 60 minutes.
Chill Morn He Climb Jenny, John McNeil & Bill McHenry.
The title is apparently an anagram. Take time to figure it out if you will, but it's the music that should cause you to play this. The songs are familiar in name if not totally recognizable in this form. Trumpeter McNeil and saxophonist McHenry take tunes like "Moonlight in Vermont" and "Batter Up" and turn them on their heads. The West Coast jazz sound is in there somewhere, as the two horn players dance around the melodies, but it's their improvisations — McNeil's understated but upbeat trumpeting and McHenry's muscular playing — that are showcased here. Drummer Jochen Rueckert and bassist Joe Martin provide a nice backdrop of bop, but the recording quality sounds like something from the '50s — flat and distant. It was recorded live in New York, but the sound is tinny, taking away from the immediacy of the recording. Too bad, since the playing and concepts are both solid.
2010, Sunnyside Communications, 62 minutes.
Quiz, Alexander McCabe.
McCabe is an alto saxophonist who likes a good melody and a bit more. His first solo disc in five years finds a decent blend of traditional melody-solo-melody but with a twist of changing time signatures and altered chords. His "Weezie's Waltz" seems innocuous, a major-keyed waltz, but with a 5/4 alteration that gives it some quirkiness. His alto sound is bold but smooth, again finding a balance between the modern sounds of Dolphy and the traditions of Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. McCabe enlists the help of pianist Uri Caine, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and drummers Greg Hutchinson and Rudy Royston to bring his vision to life. They are able to keep that sense of control just when things seem like they might teeter towards the avant-garde. It's an inspiring balance and one that makes it both modern and retro without being too far in either direction.
2010, Consolidated Artists Productions, 47:05.