CD Reviews - October 2011 

by George Fendel, and Kyle O'Brien

Reviews by George Fendel

Roy-alty, Roy Haynes, drums.
You have to kinda like the fact there's still someone making music that matters and who was doing just that with Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, to say nothing of Coltrane, Monk and Miles. It's Roy Haynes, of course, and at age 86, he's found the fountain of youth. In fact, his new band goes by that name, and with a few added guests, they give us a powerhouse new CD. The Fountain of Youth band includes Jaleel Shaw, alto; Martin Berjerano, piano; and David Wong, bass. Roy Hargrove is featured in a guest role, and even Chick Corea shows up to reaffirm his bop chops on a couple of cuts. There's a sense of history here with Haynes and company treating us to classics such as "Off Minor," "Tin Tin Deo" and "Milestones." Sonny Rollins' "Grand Street" and McCoy Tyner's "Passion Dance" are eventual classics as well, and the ballad choice here is "These Foolish Things." Hargrove's gentle flugelhorn is really something on the latter. Perhaps the surprise of the set is Lerner and Lowe's Broadway ditty, "They Call The Wind Maria." Unfettered, no excuses, no pretense, real deal jazz. Just what we'd expect from Roy Haynes, a guy who "was there" and now, is here!
Dreyfus Jazz; 2011; 68:24.

The Revolution Will Be Jazz; The Songs of Gil Scott-Heron, Giacomo Gates, vocals.
Gil Scott-Heron was many things to many people: poet, songwriter, social activist and author. Gates is the ideal singer to interpret his compositions. Gates has strong bebop roots and often is called today's Eddie Jefferson. Scott-Heron wrote many songs and poems dealing with the social turbulence of the '70s, and Gates interprets these with ease, polish and more than a hint of his beloved bebop. A few highlights include "Show Bizness"; "This Is A Prayer For Everybody To Be Free" — an album highlight and moving experience; "Lady Day and John Coltrane," a loving tribute to the two jazz icons; and "Madison Avenue," which pokes fun at the wool being pulled over our collective eyes by the advertising world. Scott-Heron's "Is That Jazz" examines our reverence for Basie, Duke, Lester, Billie and others, asking, "Is that jazz" of the love, tenderness and communication they expressed. These and others express both social commentary and the lighter side of Scott-Heron, whodied this year. Gates provides a fitting tribute to an artful writer who deserves to be remembered.
Savant, 2011, 52:54.

Hi Fly, John Stein, guitar.
Hey, perhaps you remember some of those guitarists from years past who had this funny habit of making the guitar sound like, well, a guitar. Guys like Kessel, Ellis, Montgomery. Welcome to the club, John Stein. Indeed, Stein is making inroads in jazz circles with one straight ahead album after another. This time around, he employs rhythm section mates Jake Sherman, piano; John Lockwood, bass; and Ze Eduardo Nazario, drums. The ten selections are neatly divided up: five standards and five originals. From the standard bag, Stein and crew give us "Speak Low," "Hi Fly," "Lazy Afternoon," "Laura" and "Love Letters." From the original bin, I enjoyed the boppy enthusiasm of "Skippin'"; a blues titled "Plum Stone," on which Sherman's funky switch to Hammond organ fits well; and "Sea Smoke," a vigorous, inyour- face blues. Stein's quartet plays with precision and taste but has no problem getting to your "gut" now and then. Stein swings hard. And that's still a good thing, isn't it?
Whaling City Sound, 2011, 57:33.

Out Of This World, Ted Rosenthal, piano.
It's becoming increasingly rare in the present day jazz environment to encounter an entire album devoted to the wealth of treasures we refer to as the American Songbook. Today's musicians often opt for personal music statements, leaving behind this glorious era of songwriting. So it's especially rewarding when a program such as this comes along from respected New York pianist Rosenthal. Some of you may remember him from an impressive stint with the later groups of Gerry Mulligan. Rosenthal's trio includes Noriko Ueda, bass, and Quincy Davis, drums, and they take on these prized melodies with a different melodic twist here and a new rhythmic turn there. In addition to the title tune, Rosenthal and company give us fresh looks at "So In Love," "Have You Met Miss Jones," "People Will Say We're in Love," "Cry Me A River" and "In The Wee Small Hour Of The Morning." Gershwin freaks (like me!) are rewarded three times with "Embraceable You," "Prelude #2" and "How Long Has This Been Going On." Another tune which always tugs at me is Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom," a delicacy if ever there was one. So, thanks Mr. Rosenthal. We still need music to lift our spirits. Timeless music to celebrate, and this is it.
Playscale Recordings, 2011, 64:48.

A Family Affair, Ira Sullivan, trumpet, flugelhorn and saxophones, Stu Katz, vibes, piano.
At the Otter Crest Jazz Weekend, I once had the amazing experience of witnessing Sullivan alternate between brassy things and reedy things. The only other guy I can think of who plays trumpet and saxophones really well is Seattle's Jay Thomas. Many remember Sullivan from a lengthy partnership with trumpeter Red Rodney. But live at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase in his native Chicago, Sullivan rekindles a boyhood friendship with vibist Stu Katz. To make it truly a family affair, Katz's son, Steve, sits in on bass on Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train." With a sympathetic and swinging group of Chicago players, Sullivan plays tenor, alto and soprano as well as trumpet and flugelhorn! The two Chicagoans give us a straight ahead set with generous solo contributions on dependable fare such as "Pennies From Heaven," "Scrapple From The Apple," "Lullaby Of The Leaves" and "Stablemates." Sullivan offers a couple of originals as well, one of them titled "Gee, Matthew," Sullivan's tip of the hat to the rather obscure bebop trombonist Matthew Gee. All told, a refreshing and satisfying set from players who know how to deliver the goods.
Origin, 2011; 70:25.

Anticipation, Colin Stranahan, drums.
The bio sheet that accompanied this CD listed the drummer first, but this is called a "leaderless" trio. In truth, it's a piano trio CD, and like most of them, the pianist is "the man." And quite an impressive man he is. Having said that, it's interesting to note that all three musicians — pianist Glenn Zaleski, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Colin Stranahan — contribute original compositions. The most fetching of Zaleski's originals was "On The Road," a quirky, quick-stepping, finger snapping, percussive thing which gains in speed and intensity as it unfolds. The liner notes don't give a clue, but I wonder if Rosato's shimmering ballad, "Clark," is named for the late pianist, Sonny Clark. These and other originals suggest this trio has much to offer both as composers and players. The three standard tunes here are "All The Things You Are," "I Should Care" and "Boplicity." The latter was particularly honest and as fine a piano version as I've ever heard. Zaleski is blessed with a silvery touch, even at fast tempos. This is a rarity among pianists, but pick up on "Boplicity" and you'll hear clearly that Zaleski has put in the time. This is a lovely marriage of tradition and contemporary craftsmanship. I liked it a lot!
Capri Records, 2011, 50:46.

American Road, Tierney Sutton, vocals.
Well, let's put it this way: you can't hit a home run every time. Sutton is a gifted singer with spot on intonation and a sixth sense for jazz feeling. Here, she and her accompanists, led by talented pianist Christian Jacob, try to "re-invent" songs which span the history of American music. Trouble is, they don't need reinventing. They start with folk songs "Wayfaring Stranger," "Oh, Shenandoah" and "The Water Is Wide"; all nice tunes, but Sutton's not a folksinger. "On Broadway" is next, and if you can get past the percussive bombs, well, good for you. "It Ain't Necessarily So" is similarly ruined with unflattering percussion, but "Summertime" is done with respect (although Sutton's slight alteration of Gershwin's melody is unnecessary). Finally, there's "My Man's Gone Now," also from Porgy and Bess, and once again, the pop beat sounds forced and totally out of place. Similarly, the mood music approach to "Tenderly" doesn't quite work, and "Something's Coming" (from West Side Story) sounded like a funeral dirge. The CD ends, thankfully, with "America The Beautiful." And that's where Sutton finally gets it right. If this is the American Road, I'm taking a detour.
BFM Jazz, 2011, 61:19.

Three Musicians, Joan Stiles, piano and arrangements.
I don't know a lot about Stiles, but I'd bet I could say with some accuracy that she loves what she does. You see, it's all there in the music. Her ear for "things that go together" is quite unique. On a previous CD, she found common ground between Monk's "Brilliant Corners" and Johnny Hodges' "The Jeep Is Jumpin'!" Brilliant indeed! And this CD wastes no time getting back into the Monk thing with both "Introspection" and "Nutty." But back to her clever combination of songs. This time, it's "My Funny Valentine" and "Sunshine Of Your Love," and, believe it or not, "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" with, of all things, "Can't Buy Me Love." But that's not all. Stiles handpicks other winning entries including "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "You Don't Know What Love Is," "Lucky To Be Me" and "All The Things You Are." A couple tunes deserving special accolades are Mary Williams rarely heard blues, "O.W.," and Strayhorn's final work, the haunting "Bloodcount." Finally, Stiles offers two of her compositions whose titles speak for themselves: "West End Boogie" and "Bebopicity." Before I forget, let's work into the equation the presence of Joel Frahm on tenor and Matt Wilson on drums. A thoughtful, witty, musical, highly enjoyable CD.
Oo-Bla-Dee Music, 2011, 51:20.

Speak Low, Swing Hard, Art Abrams Swing Machine Big Band.
The glorious big band era may well be decades in the past, but there's nothing that quite compares to a fresh, crisp arrangement from a big band with all cylinders aglow. Former LA big band trumpet ace and longtime Portlander Abrams knows all the little nuances which create success in a big band setting. On this, his fourth big band outing, Abrams once again employs much of the crËme de la crËme of Portland area big band players to bring us 15 vigorous examples of brawny big band bravura. There's not a bad apple in the bunch, but several really resonated for me. One was Ray Brown's "Dejection Blues," with some stellar work on baritone sax by Pete Boule and trombonist Ed Green on trombone. "Pete Kelly's Blues" features a bright trumpet solo from the leader himself, and "Speak Low," always a great vehicle for big band, puts alto man John Nastos in the spotlight. Mike Horsfall, a double threat on both vibes and piano, is featured on a lilting "Time After Time," and "I Remember Clifford" starts with a reference to Brownie's "Joy Spring." It's an album highlight featuring David Graham on flugelhorn. Jeff Homan, sparkling on tenor sax, is featured on several tunes, with an especially cooking solo on "I Hear A Rhapsody." All these and lots more add up to another adventure in "How To — big band." Abrams has the recipe.
AYA Records, 2011, 75:14.

Play The Blues, Wynton Marsalis, trumpet, vocals, Eric Clapton, guitar, vocals.
Even his detractors have to admit that Marsalis has done as much to preserve jazz as anyone. His leadership of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra is a cultural phenomenon and absolutely critical to the health of jazz. And, like it or not, the guy plays historical, heavenly trumpet. So why would he bring rock-blues guitarist Eric Clapton to the bandstand? Wouldn't the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra soloists be more than capable of presenting a vital program of blues? So why give top billing to a rock icon? Most of the tunes here are rhythmic wonders, and many are staples in the blues arena. Everybody sounds as though they're into it, and they're having a grand time performing before a sold out audience. Then there's Clapton, whose guitar simply sounds like rock, and whose voice simply sounds forced and second-rate. Because Marsalis has been such an articulate and important spokesman for jazz, to say nothing of his musical prowess, he gets a "pass" on this one. We'll just pretend it never happened.
Reprise, 2011, times not indicated.

Warren Wolf, vibes, marimba.
"I'm trying to bring forth what most cats did back in the day, coming out right at you swinging, nice and hard, not a lot of hard melodies or weird time signatures. I like to play really hard, fast and kind of flashy." So says 31-year-old Wolf of his self-titled debut album. And apparently, some of his impressive peers agree that Wolf is something special. Hence the presence of like -minded cats Christian McBride, bass, Greg Hutchinson, drums, Peter Martin, piano, Tim Green, saxophones, and (on two cuts) the startling Jeremy Pelt, trumpet. Wolf names Milt Jackson as a primary influence, although he sounds a bit more percussive than did Bags. The opener, "427 Mass Avenue," is a burner. Pelt comes roaring in with bristling hard bop on "Sweet Bread," and Wolf shows his ballad sense on "How I Feel at this Given Moment." Other highlights include the quirky melody, "Eva," the race car tempo of "One For Lenny" and the one standard, a beautiful"Emily."
Mack Avenue Records, 2011, 59:31.

The Bouncer, Cedar Walton, piano.
After more than four decades of accompanying more jazz greats than Carter has pills, and leading his own groups with great success, Walton could hit the easy chair for the balance. Thankfully, he's as busy as ever, performing, recording and composing. This CD puts him in three settings, and one gets the idea that's how he likes it. Cedar's trio includes David Williams, bass, and Willie Jones III, drums. Here and there the group becomes a quartet with the addition of sax and flute maven Vincent Herring, and trombonist Steve Turre joins the fray on two cuts, enlarging the mix to a quintet. The title tune, incidentally, has no connection with the burly guy at the door. Instead, it's a "bouncy" tune. J. J. Johnson's "Lament" has become a standard, and Walton and the trio give it a tender reading. Other gems include his Milt Jackson tribute, "Bell For Bags," and a sweet, waltzing "Halo," which features Herring's silvery flute. "Willie's Groove" is a straight ahead trio outing giving some "showtime" to drummer Jones III. The trio ends the date with "Martha's Prize." Martha, of course, is Walton's wife, and, wouldn't you know it, he's the prize! It's a fresh, medium tempo workout, and a nice way to end the album. As long as Walton stays on this path, the easy chair can wait.
High Note, 2011, 50:22.

Reviews by Kyle O'Brien

The Moon is Waiting, Tim Hagans Quartet.
Trumpeter Hagans says he isn't comfortable making comfortable music. Nobody would accuse him of settling into a musical rocking chair on this disc, which begins with an angular composition, "Ornette's Waking Dream of a Woman," a free-ish take on fusion, with jumpy phrasing and guitar and trumpet bursts by Vic Juris and Hagans. The music may be uneasy at times, as on the free-flowing mash of "The Moon is Waiting," but it remains engaging throughout. Hagans has a full, powerful tone, and backed by players like Juris, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer/pianist Jukkis Uotila, there is cohesion within the loose structures. It's not as blatantly cerebral as Anthony Braxton, nor as cacophonous as later Coltrane. Hagans' music retains a tonal center that is approachable, especially when it keeps a steady beat, as on the bopping "First Jazz." There are even times of beauty, as when Juris plays lightly on "What I'll Tell Her Tonight." There is an immediacy to this music, beyond just energy, which keeps the listener's ears perked up.
2011, Palmetto Records, 60 minutes.

Mozik, Mozik.
Pianist Gilson Schachnik and drummer Mauricia Zottarelli are both Brazilian natives, but it wasn't until the two got to Berklee College of Music in Boston that they found their calling — to play Brazilian music without the traditional trappings. That means incorporating the music that influenced them that wasn't from their home state of Sao Paulo (including Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, along with rock, blues and classical influences). They gathered an international band, including Russian flutist Yulia Musayelyan, Brazilian guitarist Gustavo Assis-Brasil and Argentine bassist Fernando Huergo, and made a clean, crisp album that is heavily South American but with a few touches to make it less traditional. The first two tracks are fairly straightforward samba-meets-bossa, with Musayelyan's lovely, assured flute anchoring the melody. For guys who didn't want to go the traditional route, it's surprising that they chose so many Jobim tunes, including the ubiquitous "Desafinado." Luckily, they've transformed the tune with Afro-Cuban rhythms in the mix, along with chord alterations. They also take Monk's "Pannonica" and add layers of backbeat and polyrhythm, then make Hancock's "Eye of the Hurricane" a Brazilian fusion samba. It's not a huge departure, but it does keep the tunes fresh, and the expertise of the musicians keeps it integral.
2011, Mozik, 55:10.

Easier Than it Looks, Freddy V.
Freddy V tours and records with the Average White Band, and has also played with many rock and soul acts over the last few decades, so one would expect his debut solo album to feature a funky sound. But unlike the Average White Band, there seems to be little gritty funk and more polished contemporary jazz here. It's essentially a funky smooth jazz disc, and there isn't much for the hardcore jazz fan — mostly instrumental pop/R&B played well but with little substance. Freddy V isn't a bad player, but this disc could have just as easily been released in 1990, when it would have had much more relevance. We've heard this before: easy melodies with a lightly funky backbeat, smooth tones, and crystal clear production. The only tune with some substance is the heavily funked up "Sandbag (for Hiram)." Otherwise, there's not much reason to give this one a spin.
2008, Watersign Production, 60 minutes.

J'ai Deux Amours, Heather Keizur.
Keizur is a Northwest artist with a love for the French language, as she displays on more than a handful of tunes on her latest recording. It's a language she not only embraces but interprets with emotion and deft phrasing which falls somewhere between European and American. Keizur's relaxed delivery puts the listener at ease, so when she switches between French and English, as on the playful "Comment Allez-vous," it's easy to go right along with her. Keizur has also backed herself with quality musicians, including master accompanist, the pianist Steve Christofferson. Other session players include bassist Michael Zisman, drummer Akira Tana, and percussionist Derek Rolando. Keizur's French interpretation isn't strictly Parisian, and that's kind of the charm. It's an appealing delivery for non-French speaking listeners. Even if we may not understand the lyrics, as on Michel Legrand's "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg," we can understand the emotion behind the tune. The only knock on Keizur would be that sometimes she is too relaxed and her tonality wavers a bit. But it's infrequent enough to make the whole disc enjoyable, and perfect for an evening in Paris or San Francisco.
2010, Revemusic, 60 minutes.

Home, Shirley Crabbe.
Vocal jazz fans should thank Crabbe's surgeon. Crabbe was a trained vocalist preparing for a career in music when she got a devastating vocal chord injury. She had successful surgery in 2006, and this is her debut. Her re-trained vocals are strong, clear, lilting, confident and lovely as she sings a mix of standards and jazz tracks. The fitting "Lucky to Be Me" opens the disc, with Crabbe singing with a rich tone and clarity of phrasing. It's obvious that she has some musical theater in her training, since her delivery is expressive, as on the ballad, "Home." But she's just as at home with jazz, as her unconventional version of "Summertime" shows. Crabbe is backed by an impressive band that lets her vocals shine, including pianist Donald Vega and drummer Alvester Garnett, plus a fun guest turn by saxophonist Houston Person. Crabbe is a talent worth waiting for.
2011, MaiSong Music, 44:10.

Anticipation, Stranahan, Zaleski, Rosato.
Drummer Colin Stranahan, pianist Glenn Zaleski and bassist Rick Rosato are a piano trio, but this isn't your typical standards trio. Instead, the three fiery musicians take standards and turn them sideways, like the bizarrely staccato version of "All the Things You Are," which becomes a rhythmic exercise done with panache. Miles Davis's "Boplicity" is pared down, concentrating the horn lines on Zaleski's thick chords. In between are originals written by all three members. Highlights include a bopping, punchy "On the Road" by Zaleski, a lushly complex "Origami" by Rosato, and a textural "First Rain" by Stranahan. If this is the future of piano trios, it's a mighty fine future.
2011, Capri Records, 51:25.

Just Remember, Mike Cottone.
There's something to be said for putting out good, accessible jazz. New York trumpeter Cottone has done just that on his debut disc, a mix of jazz standards and originals that feature dual horns, tight harmonies and slick arrangements. It's highly accessible modern jazz with just enough edge to make it interesting and engaging. Cottone has a warm, fluid tone which meshes nicely with his saxophonist, Jeremy Viner, as the two snake through the melodies and shine on the harmonies of originals like the majorkeyed title track and the dense "Selah." Cottone's playing is clean and crisp - no botched notes, no unflattering transitions. Jazz fans of all ages can appreciate and enjoy this disc, especially tracks like the exotic blues, "Gyroscope," the stark beauty of "When Sunny Gets Blue," and the driving rhythm of Freddie Hubbard's "Dear John." An impressive debut from an artist we're sure to hear more of in the future.
2011, Self produced, 51:10.

Pianist, Alex Brown.
This disc is actually titled, "Paquito D'Rivera presents..." which gives Brown an instant voucher from an established artist. And it's on D'Rivera's label. That sets up expectations that we'll hear something like D'Rivera would play. Both are viable points, and the fact that D'Rivera himself performs on the recording lends credibility. But it's Brown's playing, composing and arranging that take center stage here. The disc starts off with an intriguing marimba riff that carries into the Afro-Cuban, funk-jazz tune, "Prologue." Brown lights the keyboard on fire on his solo, and the marimba by Warren Wolf carries through. The disc is full of polyrhythms and smart arrangements, including his Latin version of "Just One of Those Things," which electrifies the standard. Brown has already made his mark on Latin jazz with this debut. It will be interesting to watch where he goes.
2010, Paquito Records, 60 minutes.

Solo/Duo, Tosh Sheridan.
Very few people play acoustic nylon string jazz guitar, and even fewer play it well. Tosh Sheridan appears to be one of those doing it right, especially since the guitarist has enlisted the help of masters Gene Bertoncini and John Stowell to fill the "Duo" part of this disc. Sheridan shares a bouncy duet with Stowell on "You Stepped Out of a Dream," and the result is an impressive back-and-forth of comping, strumming and soloing. Sheridan also shows his own chops on plenty of tunes here, including the right balance of single note lines and chord fills on Bill Evans's "Very Early." He takes an ambitious turn with Coltrane's "Giant Steps" that doesn't quite pay off, since it strays too far from the original, but he recoups with a gorgeously lush version of "Prelude to a Kiss" with Bertoncini, and a mellow "Jitterbug Waltz."
2011, Tosh Sheridan, 57:05.

Plain 'n' Simple, Chuck Loeb.
Veteran guitarist Loeb, of Steps Ahead, Stan Getz and Fourplay fame, returns to the roots that inspired him — the organbased soul jazz groups of Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff. Here he enlists drummer Harvey Mason and organist Pat Bianchi to groove along with him. It begins with a blues, "D.I.G. (Deep Inner Groove)," which lives up to the name and the vibe of earlier organ trios. It gets more complex with "Organeleptic," a mash between Chick Corea and Wes Montgomery that hums along at bop pacing. Loeb doesn't stay too simple, adding horns by Nathan Eklund and Eric Marienthal on "Red Suede Shoes," but who cares? It's a fun disc played by a fantastically talented guitarist returning to some bluesy roots. Vocals are added by Carmen Cuesta on the Brazilian tune, "E Com Esse Que Vou Eu," to give some extra texture, and Loeb's daughter, Lizzy Loeb, lends her breathy vocals to "Skylark." But the best stuff is when the trio zings through the changes, as on the swinging "Annie's Song," bringing a modern twist to the historic organ trio.
2011, Tweety Records, 62 minutes.