The Sesjun Radio Shows, Bill Evans, piano.
Time for celebration, Bill Evans fans! I know there are a lot of not so well-recorded Evans bootlegs floating around, but this one is distinctly not in that category. It's comprised of two CDs with perfect sound quality, recorded live in The Netherlands in the 1970s. The first of the three sets finds Evans in a duo setting with bassist Eddie Gomez; drummer Eliot Zigmund is added in the second set, turning the duo into a trio; and the third set features the last of Bill's trios with Marc Johnson, bass, and Joe LaBarbera, drums. That trio is joined by harmonica wizard Toots Thielemans on five of their nine selections. All of this music was recorded by Netherlands Radio, one in a series by classic jazz musicians currently being released for the first time. While Evans never gave up on the standard repertoire, during this period (1973-1979), he was concentrating quite consistently on his own compositions. So, we're looking at titles such as "Time Remembered," "Twelve Tone Tune," "The Two Lonely People" and "Sugar Plum," mixed in with the likes of "Some Other Time, "Up With the Lark" and "Blue In Green" There are 19 selections in all, and while Evans recorded most of these tunes on previous occasions, Evans "completists" are going to welcome this gem with open arms. Have you ever seen those guys on the beach will metal detectors? Well, this is what they should be seeking.
T2 Entertainment, 2011, times not indicated.
Born To Be Blue, Ed Reed, vocals.
A fixture in San Francisco jazz circles for a long time, 82-year-old Reed made his recording debut only four years ago, so this is disc number two — at 82! Well, judging from the contents, he should have started recording long ago! Reed has deep affection for singer Bill Henderson, and I find similarities between the two. Call me crazy, but I also hear a shade of Jack Sheldon, the singer, in Reed's approach. A special treat is the presence of Portlander Randy Porter leading a quartet that also includes Bay Area cats Anton Schwart(z tenor sax), Robb Fisher )bass) and Akira Tana (drums). Reed gets the session underway with Nat Adderley's "Old Country," a tune with which Henderson had some success. Another Henderson staple, "Never Kiss and Run," is also included. Other well-chosen selections include Mel Torme's title tune, Bobby Troup's "You're Looking At Me," Cahn and Van Heusen's "All My Tomorrows," a tune that I recall from a June Christy record, "Wee Baby Blues," and even a tip of the hat to Thelonious Monk with "Monk's Dream." At 82, Reed has it all together with performances of great tunes full of feeling and a solid quartet.
Blue Shorts Records, 2011, 57:27.
Blues For Pekar, Ernie Krivda, tenor saxophone.
I'm convinced that they're everywhere. In this case, "they" are those world class musicians who choose not to live in New York or LA, resulting in near anonymity in the rest of the jazz world. In the case of Krivda, it's Cleveland! As the saying goes, "Cleveland's gain Ö" Well, Krivda has hired another "homey" rhythm section, this time from Detroit, and adds either Sean Jones or Dominick Farinacci, both trumpet-flugelhorn cats, on four of the seven selections. The session gets underway with a ripping excursion more than 10 minutes long on "The End of a Love Affair." Krivda sometimes reminds a bit of Sonny Rollins, and in fact he includes one of his standout tunes in "Valse Hot." Other entries in this very satisfying, straight down the middle session include a deep, in the shed "More Than You Know"; a nod in the direction of Dexter Gordon with "Fried Bananas"; a lovely reading of "Darn That Dream"; and "One for Willie," Krivda's changes on "Out Of Nowhere," a tune that his friend and colleague, saxman Willie Smith, loved to play. You may also like to know that this album was created from a tax levy on tobacco products in the city of Cleveland. Pretty smart of them in turning something dreadful into something artful.
Capri Records, 2011, 69:15.
The Time of the Sun, Tom Harrell, trumpet and flugelhorn.
It'd no secret by now that Tom Harrell is considered one of the trumpet masters of this or any era. His original compositions can range from challenging, up-tempo creations to melodies of tenderness and beauty. His latest effort presents his present-day quintet of Wayne Escoffery, tenor saxophone, Danny Grissett, piano, Ugonna Okegwo, bass, and Johnathan Blake, drums. The nine originals here are delivered in a vital, fresh and exuberant style. This is gimmick-free, non-confining post-bop with generous solo opportunities for every player. While Harrell leaps to the top of the mountain, you'll find the gritty, high-flying solowork of Escoffery and Grissett to be right in the pocket as well. Perhaps the most "straight ahead" cut on the album was a free flowing, sophisticated entry titled "Modern Life." As compared to past efforts, Harrell displays a bit more funk and groove orientation on this outing. He is a marvel of intricacy and — let's call it what it is — chops! There are few, if any, who can measure up to a riveting Tom Harrell solo!
High Note Records, 2011, 62:12.
Live In Montreal 1965, Oscar Peterson, piano.
By the 1965, Oscar Peterson's drummer of many years, Ed Thigpen, had established residence in Europe. He was replaced by another formidable figure in the jazz world, Cannonball Adderley's main man, Louis Hayes. And in the summer of 1965, this new trio would play a live concert in Oscar's hometown, Montreal. That concert appears here on CD for the first time ever, so OP fans, take note. The recording quality is exceptional, and the trio, as always, simply dazzling on standards such as "My One and Only Love," "Corcovado," "Younger Than Springtime," "Satin Doll," "Yours Is My Heart Alone" and "Robbin's Nest." The trio also swings with authority on three less famous tunes — Milt Jackson's "Reunion Blues," which Oscar recorded with Jackson on a couple of occasions; "You Look Good to Me," a tune which builds in intensity, making it a "natural" for Oscar's virtuosity; and "Hallelujah Time," an OP original totally unknown to me and easily an album highlight. There are certain musicians throughout the history of jazz who achieve godlike status. Most deservedly, Peterson was one of them. For me at least, the discovery of a previously unreleased OP trio gig is part of the good life.
Lone Hill Jazz, 2011, 64:20.
The Proper Time, Shclley Manne And His Men.
No doubt many of you are well acquainted with a series of recordings from Contemporary Records titled "Live At The Blackhawk." They featured the same group heard here with one exception: pianist Victor Feldman did most of the Blackhawk sides, while Russ Freeman is featured on keyboard here. It's very much a jazz album, but in its vinyl days, it was probably "hidden" in the "soundtracks" section of your local record store. It appears here on CD for the first time ever. Manne wrote all the music for this 1960 date, which also features highly acclaimed players like Joe Gordon, trumpet, Richie Kamuca, tenor sax, and Monty Budwig, bass. Nine of the 18 cuts are less than two minutes in length, obviously "background" for what was happening on the screen. That may be a red flag to some, but fact is that the writing is so compelling and the playing so perfectly hip, that even the "shorties" hold up just fine. The big bonus is the very fact that this legit jazz soundtrack has been rediscovered, and what a pleasure it is to hear all of these players. In particular, Gordon, whose accidental demise was a tragic blow to the trumpet fraternity, and Kamuca, a beautifully balanced tenor player descending from Lester Young. There are riches here for you to discover.
Solar Records, 2011, 48:46.
In My Room, Larry Goldings, piano.
Right off the bat, let me say how nice it is to hear Goldings play the piano. You see, in recent years he's concentrated pretty much on organ music, and you know how I feel about that. The little sticker that was attached to the shrink wrap indicated that we'd hear music by Brian Wilson, Joni Mitchell and The Beatles. Said George, "Uh oh." Well, there a lot of songs I don't know on this album, and they must be the ones contributed by Brian, Joni and the Fab Four. But there are some highlights — the unlikely inclusion of "Beautiful Dreamer," for instance, or the equally unlikely "Take Me Out to the Ballgame!" The only entry on the record that might be termed a jazz standard is Matt Dennis's ballad, "Everything Happens to Me." Otherwise, Goldings offers titles like "Crawdaddy," "All I Want," "All My Born Days," "In My Room," and others new to me. Goldings's performance is intimate and recital-like. It ain't Wynton Kelly, but in places, it has its charm.
BFM Jazz; 2011, 56:15.
Songs Of Mirth And Melancholy, Branford Marsalis, saxophones,
Joey Calderazzo, piano.
There's a prominently displayed quote in the liner booklet to this recording that is worth sharing. It's from composer Darius Milhaud, and in part it reads, "... technique is a lesser essential. Melody alone permits a work to survive." I couldn't agree more. And so it is that Marsalis and Calderazzo get together in a duo setting that is in turn riveting and intimate. With the exception of two detours into the music of Johnnes Brahms and Wayne Shorter (talk about versatility!), the selections are written exclusively by one or the other of the two participants. A few standouts include a bluesy opener, "One Way"; a minor key Calderazzo work, "La Valse Kendall," which would have worked as a movie theme; a poignant Marsalis melody called "Precious"; and an upbeat and complex closer called "Bri's Dance." But what clearly "leaps off the page" is the uncanny communication between these two artists. Sure, it's almost a "must" in any duo recording, but it doesn't always happen. It does here, though, and as Milhaud wisely said, it's really all about melody.
Marsalis Music, 2011, 54:33.
1910, Les Doigts de l"Homme.
It seems to me that in the last half dozen years or so, the jazz world has rediscovered the invigorating music of guitarist Django Reinhardt. It has even garnered its own monicker, "gypsy jazz." The group's name – a play on "The Rights of Man," means "The Fingers of Man." The three guitarists and one bass player (with a guest or two here and there) are absolutely on target in presenting Django-like versions of both well known and rather obscure songs. The album title, 1910, is the year in which Reinhardt was born. So what we have here is three skilled acoustic guitarists playing melody line, rich chords, rhythm guitar, harmonics here and there, and throughout, much fun. The standards, played with so much joy in this style, include "Blue Skies," "Ol' Man River," "I've Found a New Baby," "Blue Lou" and "There Will Never Be Another You." To these, add several Reinhardt compositions. In essence, we have here a charming detour on the jazz highway. Oh, and dance if the feeling hits you!
Alma Records, 2011, 63:19.
Signature Time, Laszlo Gardony, piano.
Hungarian born pianist Laszlo Gardony draws upon a wide circle of musical sources on this "mostly trio" CD. His colleagues include esteemed players John Lockwood, bass, and Yoron Israel, drums; tenor saxman Stan Strickland guests here and there, most effectively on Billy Strayhorn's infectious "Johnny Come Lately" (the most straight ahead effort on the date). With the exception of a very unusual take on George Shearing's "Lullaby of Birdland" and two Beatles tunes, the remainder of the album is highly charged original music. Regarding the Beatles input, "Eleanor Rigby" is a well-written tune but "Lady Madonna" much less so, and the rocky approach mars this CD. Among Gardony's original compositions, I particularly liked the well-conceived melody line on "With You at the Bridge" and the rollicking good fun of "Bourbon Street Boogie."
Sunnyside, 2011, 49:17.
The Jazz Ballad Songbook, Randy Brecker, trumpet.
I'll readily admit that I've never uttered the phrase "Randy Brecker and standards" in the same sentence. Brecker has gained his fame on a much more contemporary path than the one I've traveled. So, what a grand surprise to see him as soloist with two premier European jazz bands on a pallet of songs inspired by some of Songbook America's greatest names. Working with the DR Big Band and The Danish National Chamber Orchestra, Brecker is front and center, playing with passion and authority on tunes ranging from "All or Nothing at All" to the "Theme From Goldfinger"; from "Cry Me a River" to "'Round Midnight"; and from "Someday My Prince Will Come" to "Skylark." This is a big time detour for the trumpet icon, and while we're at it, let's not overlook some stirring arrangements from our European big band cats. Suffice to say that Brecker pours his very essence into every piece, and it all comes off with both passion and precision.
Half Note, 2011, times not indicated.
Sentimental Swing, Duane Padilla, violin.
If you've read my reviews for any length of time, you're certainly aware that I don't get all frothy about jazz violin. Certainly a staple of classical music, the occasional use of violin in jazz is for me a pleasant diversion. But now and then, something like this comes along, and it sounds just oh-so-right. Padilla, a resident of Honolulu, is a classically trained concert violinist who makes his jazz debut as a leader with this effort. In a trio setting, he is joined by the subtle piano of Tennyson Stephens and the effective bass of Stephen Jones. While the pianist gets some jaunty solos along the way, this is mostly about the violin, and Padilla's tender tone and easy improvisation is solid all the way on a menu of American Songbook classics. If, like me, you revere these "forever" tunes, you'll enjoy Padilla's understated beauty on the likes of "How High The Moon," "Cry Me a River," "There Will Never Be Another You," "Body and Soul" and "Green Dolphin Street." No ground broken here, but a sincere presentation of much loved tunes that have always worked well for me.
Self-Produced, 2011, 44:42.
The Point Of The Moon, Falkner Evans, piano.
Generally known as a trio pianist, Evans tries his hand at a quintet setting by adding tenor sax man Craig Handy and trumpet ace Ron Horton to the basic trio of Belden Bullock, bass, and Matt Wilson, drums. And it seems to work to perfection. Seven of the nine selections here are the leader's original compositions. What I found to be quite striking is Evans's consistency in writing for an ensemble, with challenging voicings for trumpet and tenor. This is not a loose, freewheeling "blowing session" but an exercise in reading intricate, twisting and turning melody lines, and then improvising on them. And make no mistake, there's plenty of opportunity to create. There are also two standards included here. Antonio Carlos Jobim's exquisite ballad, "O Grande Amor," and Alec Wilder's forever tune, "While We're Young," played a skosh faster than usual. A note of local interest is the presence of former Oregonian Gary Versace sitting in on two tracks on organ and accordion. All in all, a high five to Evans, who has crafted a quintet of startlingly good players and fresh, invigorating charts.
Consolidated Artists Productions, 2011, 46:52.
Winters And Mays, Aimee Allen, vocals.
I'd imagine that at some point it's going to be decision time for Allen. She has a very pleasant vocal quality, and her intonation is consistently on target. So, what's the decision? With all these strong vocal gifts, Allen needs to decide if she's going to be a "singer-songwriter" or a jazz singer. Of course, my vote would be for the latter. And Allen shows she's up to the task on entries like Dave Frishberg's "Peel Me a Grape"; a stellar medley of "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "It Could Happen to You"; and a Henry Mancini masterpiece called "Two for the Road." Nearly all the remaining cuts on the album represent her original writing, some of which is actually quite nice. She's accompanied by a guitar-led group that accounts for itself very well. However, if she eventually makes that decision to go the jazz route, I'd prefer to hear her with a piano-based backing. Sounds to me like the vocal tools are all in place. What remains now is the "decision."
Azuline Music, 2011, 55:57.
Unconditional, Silvano Monasterios, piano, keyboards.
A native of Caracas, Venezuela, piano virtuoso Monasterios now makes his home in Miami. On this, his debut for the highly respected Savant label, Monasterios draws upon his South American musical upbringing in bringing a distinctly Latin flavor to seven original compositions and one by fellow pianist Phil Markowitz. The quartet heard here includes Troy Roberts, saxophones; Jon Dadurka, bass; and Rodolfo Zuniga, drums. A few guests perform on selected tracks. The leader's writing is often zesty and high-spirited, but this is more a "jazz record" than a Latin jazz record. In that vein, you'll hear hearty musicianship from all of the players on hand. Monasterios himself is a virtuoso who hails to some degree from the land of Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. I think that an accurate barometer of his piano skills might lie in a trio recording sometime in the future. Until such time, this high-powered example will do just fine.
Savant, 2011, 46:23.
Hi Fly, Sachal Vasandani, vocals.
Remember when we used to get a fifty cent piece in change at the grocery store? A rare occurence today. Nearly as rare is the male jazz singer. An exception to the rule and an exceptional jazz singer is Vasandani, whose career seems to be on the rise. He really mixes up the repertoire, going from higher quality pop tunes to standards that include "The Very Thought of You," "I See Your Face Before Me" and "All The Way," as well as jazz compositions such as "Babe's Blues." The surprise of the set has to be two entries from "Porgy and Bess," one a staple from the opera and one somewhat obscure. "There's A Boat That's Leavin' Soon for New York" is known to almost everyone, but "Here Comes the Honey Man" is mainly know P&B freaks such as yours truly. How nice that Vasandani included these rich melodies among his choices! An additional treat is the presence of the iconic singer Jon Hendricks, who drops by to scat his way through "One Mint Julep" and "Hi Fly." I received an advance copy of this CD, so the information on the very hip trio at work here was nowhere to be found. As for Vasandani, well, keep an eye on him. He's doing it the right way. Oh, and next time you're in the grocery line, ask the clerk for a 50 cent piece in your change. And good luck with that!
Mack Avenue Records, 2011, times not indicated.
Common Ground, Gary Burton, vibes.
The always forward thinking Burton returns here to a vibes-guitar-bass-drums format for the first time in some 15 years. On this, his first recording for Mack Avenue Records, Burton is heard in performance of nine originals, mostly contributed by past and present band members. The one standard on the date is the evergreen, "My Funny Valentine." Burton meshes hand in glove with guitarist Julian Lage and is provided fine support from Scott Colley, bass, and Antonio Sanchez, drums.
Mack Avenue Records, 2011, 65:13.
Sudden Appearance, Danjam Orchestra; Daniel Jamieson, conductor.
Here's a New York-based big band led by Toronto-born Jamieson. Most of the album consists of his original writing for this ensemble, and it is varied in tempo, mood and style. I liked the linear feeling of "Song for Anna" and the "rush" of "Sudden Appearance." The originals are surrounded by the opener, a very dissonant "Alone Together," and the closer, a richly harmonic version
OA2 Records, 2011, 64:56.
Joy Luck, Peter Erskine, drums.
The brief liner notes to this album describe it as improvisational chamber music, and that's about as accurate a term as any I could come conjure up. This is a recording debut for Erskine's new trio with Berklee product Vardan Ovsepian on piano and Erskine's nephew and PDX resident, Damian Erskine, on bass. With the exception of a fresh new take on Frank Loesser's "I've Never Been in Love Before," it's all original music. At times airy and delicate; at other times more intense; and almost always, very pretty.
Fuzzy Music, 2011, 59:53.
Relaxin' On The Edge, Mark Moultrup, keyboards.
Give keyboardist Moultrup some credit for writing and arranging original music, but the eight compositions on this offering were to my ears not "on the edge" but over it. It sounds like Moultrup knows what the "real deal" should sound like as he arranges for an ensemble that includes trumpet and tenor, often a good sign of an arranger's skills. But he takes it a step too far in his attempt to be contemporary.
Self-Produced, 2011, 50:16.
Mongorama, Jose Rizo, bandleader.
It's about time that sometime came up with a tribute to Cuban-born conga master Mongo Sanamaria. To this day, he remains very much an influence in the Afro-Cuban music sphere. This recording offers a spirit of authenticity without pouring it on. All the songs were unknown to me, but if you're a Latin music buff, I'd bet that you'll know some of them. The band plays and sings with energy and enthusiasm. Rhythm is king in Latin music, and there's a healthy, joyous dose of it right here.
Saungu Records, 2011, 63:30.
Plays the Music of Rufus Wainwright, Vicious World.
Usually, when a band records a songbook of a particular artist, the artist is long gone, extremely famous, or has a gigantic catalog. Pop-folk-rock singer-songwriter Wainwright is none of those things. However, he has written and recorded some memorable songs, delivered in his highly unique vocal style. The vocals are gone here, replaced by woodwinds and trombone, backed by strings and rhythm. Considering the sometimes poignant and melancholy nature of Wainwright's tunes, the instrumentation is fitting. Saxophonist/clarinetist/flutist Aaron Irwin and trombonist Matthew McDonald have put together a lush landscape for these simple but melodic tunes. The lovely "Going to Town" and "Leaving for Paris" get a textural treatment with strings and horns, while a few upbeat tracks, including the rocking "Memphis Skyline" and the marching "Matinee Idol," keep the disc from becoming too soft. It's an impressive jazz turn on pop music that doesn't lose the integrity of the songs.
2011, Spinaround Records, 51 minutes.
Blues for Pekar, Ernie Krivda.
Harvey Pekar was the quirkiest of modern American icons. His comic book series, "American Splendor," became a cult classic and spawned a biographical movie of the same name. Known as the "Cleveland Curmudgeon," Pekar was a staunchly independent person who lived in the downtrodden city on Lake Erie. Another Cleveland resident and Pekar friend, Ernie Krivda, pays tribute to the late comic artist on this disc. Pekar called Krivda "one of the best tenor sax men in the world," and while that might be a minor overstatement, this disc shows that regional talent reaches beyond its borders. He is note-y and strong, with a deep-rooted bop sensibility as he plays both bop covers and his own retro-sounding tunes. He's joined by a batch of Detroit boppers, including 78-year-old pianist Claude Black. It's a fine group playing approachable tunes, like Dexter Gordon's fun "Fried Bananas" (which includes slick solos by Krivda and guest trumpeter Sean Jones), and Sonny Rollins's "Valse Hot." The title track is a blues groover that features a smokin' solo by guest trumpeter Dominick Farinacci Overall, it's a good chance to hear this upper Midwest talent paying tribute to a true, one-of-a-kind personality.
2011, Capri Records, 68 minutes.
Requiem for a Pit Viper, Rich Halley Quartet.
Portland saxophonist Halley never takes the easy route to good music. Though rooted in bop, he has always courted the jagged edges of jazz, sprinkling in avantgarde, world rhythms and a free-form attitude. The music can be brash at times, but the high quality musicianship and "where will they go next" guessing game keeps the music interesting. Following up his last CD, "Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival," this studio recording replaces cornetist Bobby Bradford with fiery trombonist Michael Valtkovich, and the result is a powerful burst of musical energy. Halley's brawny playing anchors his original tunes, and Vlatkovich adds muscle and tonal variation. Carson Halley is a well-rounded drummer, able to play both the drum kit and various percussion instruments with ease and tact. Bassist Clyde Reed gets plenty of chances to shine on solos, and his lurking low notes, as on "Snippet Stop Warp," bridge the louder sections nicely. Some of it gets frenetic, as on "View From the Underpass," and this isn't music for everyone. But it is always interesting and often fun, as on the funky "Squeaker," and the Latin-tinged "Afternoon in June."
2011, Pine Eagle Records, 60 minutes.
Until the Sun Comes Up, Atsuko Hashimoto.
Soul jazz is alive and well in the hands of B-3 organist Hashimoto. The Osaka player and arranger is well-versed in the music of her predecessors, including Jimmy Smith and Brother Jack McDuff. Here she is teamed with drummer Jeff Hamilton, who found Hashimoto on a tour of Japan years back, and young guitar phenom Graham Dechter. The trio was originally put together for the Frank Demerio Festival in Seattle, and the vibe was so good they decided to hit the studio. It's an organ trio recording at the highest level. Dechter's deep guitar sound and technical brilliance mesh perfectly with Hashimoto's soulful swinging. Hamilton tops it off with subtle and refined drumming. Tunes range from hard bop ("So in Love") to shuffle blues ("Blues for Naka") to funky ("Cherry"). It's diverse enough to be interesting and soulful enough to please the blues heads.
2011, Capri Records, 64 minutes.
Billy Bang - Bill Cole.
The digeridoo and double reeds are not jazz instruments, and the violin is at the edge of jazz. But violinist Billy Bang and Asian double reed master Bill Cole have combined their oddly textured instruments into an interesting blend of avant-garde colors. The disc, recorded live at the University of Virginia Chapel, is haunting at times, and the echo-filled chapel a perfect setting for unencumbered music. Much of the disc is improvised, with the two guiding each other in various directions, all of them outside the musical norm. Some are sparse and spacious, like "Shades of Kia Mia," while others are thick and reedy, as on the flurry called "Poverty is the Father of Fear." This music is probably more interesting
live. This isn't an easy listen, but it is unique.
2010, Shadrack, Inc, 42 minutes.
Point of the Moon, Falkner Evans.
Evans expands his usual trio format for this quintet/sextet disc of straight ahead originals. Pianist Evans is accompanied by bassist Belden Bullock and Matt Wilson, and he adds Greg Tardy on tenor and Ron Horton on trumpet. The double horns give him a chance to create harmonies and melodic differentiation. There's still a soft and sophisticated trio sound, but the horns allow for more dynamic arrangements. It's refined jazz, tightly arranged and relatively quiet. There are occasional flourishes, especially by Tardy, as on the hard-bopping "Cheer Up," but most of the disc is restrained, as on the jazzy version of Jobim's "O Grande Amor." Gary Versace adds some soul on organ on the slow groover, "Off the Top," and he plays Mediterranean-style accordion on the title track.
2011, CAP, 50 minutes.
Hot Lovin', Midnight Serenaders.
Old timey music doesn't have to sound old, and Portland's Midnight Serenaders make sure that '20s and'30s-style jazz sounds as up-to-date as possible. The band channels the feel-good sounds of yesteryear, but they also write a considerable amount of their own tunes, making this disc fresh and fun. Vocalist Dee Settlemier composed a handful of tunes that could easily have been hits in the early 20th Century. "I've Got a Hankerin' (For Some Love)" is a suggestive bluesy romp, while "Victim of Love" is a fine minor-keyed duet with Settlemier sharing vocals with guitarist Doug Sammons. This hot disc is a toe-tapping pleaser, played smartly by Sammons, Settlemier, Hawaiian-style guitarist Henry Bogdan, bassist Pete Lampe, saxophonist David Evans and trumpeter Garner Pruitt. The cover tunes mesh perfectly with the originals, from the tiki sounds of "Hawaiian War Chant," to the bluesy "That Ain't Right" by Nat King Cole, to Fats Waller's jump-swing tune, "What a Pretty Miss." This is fun music played very well. Who cares about the decade.
2011, Midnight Serenaders, 63 minutes.
Lollipopcalypse, Sam Trapchak's Put Together Funny.
Young bassist Trapchak is a forward thinking composer who combines many influences into a mash of American-rooted world jazz. There are Afro-Caribbean influences, modern compositional tunes, urban sounds, hard rock jabs, avant-garde tinges and thick chords throughout. Alto saxophonist Greg Ward is a standout with his tempered tone and exacting phrasing, though the entire quartet, including drummer Arthur Vint and guitarist Tom Chang, are all strong. The tunes are surprisingly cohesive, though their modern nature doesn't have a strong sense of melody. There is a generous use of dynamic range and space. The ballad, "Losing You," is lovely, featuring the musical musings of Ward while Chang, Vint and Trapchak create a soft bed of tones under him. Trapchak has a fine future as long as he keeps growing as an artist.
2010, Raw Toast Records, 42 minutes.
Free for All, Jim Stranahan.
Some music makes you think, some makes you sad, and some makes you happy. This disc falls into the latter category. It's joyous music played well. The fairly large band, led by saxophonist Stranahan and his son Colin on drums, offers a romp through original jazz, Latin and funk tunes. Multi-horn lines punctuate most of the melodies, and the elder Stranahan's alto and soprano work pushes the tunes forward, as on the punchy, "When the Funk Hits the Fan." "I've Got No Rhythm in My Feet" is a "Rhythm" changes alteration with big horn arrangements over a bop beat. The unison horn lines can get a bit cumbersome at times, as on the "Autumn Leaves"-style "Leaves Must Fall," but this disc has such good energy that minor mishaps are forgiven.
2011 Tapestry Records, 55 minutes.
Uncivilized Ruminations, Frank Carlberg.
I may not particularly like the music on this experiment that melds poetry with avant-garde compositional jazz, but I respect what pianist/composer Carlberg is doing. He takes verse and mashes it with his own dense compositions. The opener, "Lunatics," is a swirling mass of jazz, punctuated by excerpts from an 1852 medical manual. The jazz gets a boost from saxophonists Chris Cheek and John O'Gallagher, while the words fall to the amazingly rhythmic vocalist Christine Correa, who attacks them like a bop drummer. Finnish poet Kai Nieminen provides the lyrics for many pieces in the form of just a few phrases, which Correa twists and stretches with her pliable voice, as on the hauntingly whimsical "Posthumous Success." It's odd and unique music, but it's executed so well that — even though a bit grating at times — it's a successful concept.
2011, Red Piano Records, 64 minutes.