CD Reviews - November 2011 

by George Fendel, and Kyle O'Brien

Reviews by George Fendel

Audrey - Live in Toronto, 1975, Paul Desmond, alto saxophone.
Miraculously, there are still previously unreleased treasures languishing out, awaiting commercial pressings and the eventual glee from folks like me. When Paul Desmond recorded outside the Dave Brubeck group, it was, by agreement, done without a pianist. Hence, Desmond found the company of stalwarts like Gerry Mulligan, Jim Hall, and in this case, his sympathetic and glorious "Canadian Quartet." That group included Ed Bickert, guitar, Don Thompson, bass, and Jerry Fuller, drums. The music here was part of a performance that appeared on a couple earlier albums, but this particular set is "mint." It opens with "Too Marvelous For Words" and continues with the title tune, "Audrey," a silvery original written for Audrey Hepburn. "Line For Lyons," a staple in Desmond's book, is next, and it is followed by the alto player's first ever recording of "When Sunny Gets Blue." The set closer is yet another evergreen, "Darn That Dream." So here it is. Desmond in pure and perfect fidelity with three Canuck pals making great music at a Toronto club called Bourbon Street. Desmond fans, this one's a must have!
Domino Records, 2011, 46:00.

The Sound Of Music, Harry Allen, tenor sax, with Rebecca Kilgore and Eddie Erickson, vocals.
Some of us remember when jazz versions of Broadway musicals were "just the thing." There was even a time when the Shelly Manne trio claimed the #1 selling jazz album of all time with their take on "My Fair Lady." Following earlier releases of "Guys And Dolls" and "South Pacific," it's now time for "The Sound Of Music." Harry Allen is the tenor sax player keeping alive the tradition of greats like Hawkins, Webster and Byas. And Kilgore and Erickson play it (or should we say "sing it") to perfection both on vocal duets and individually on a few songs. Keep in mind we're not simply dealing with the "greatest hits" from the musical. Sure, "Do Re Mi," "Climb Every Mountain," "Edelweiss" and "My Favorite Things" are here. But along with those "hit tunes" we're treated to some obscure delights including "How Can Love Survive," "Something Good," "No Way To Stop It," "I Have Confidence" and "An Ordinary Couple." It's common knowledge that Kilgore is simply one of the vocal treasures of this era, and Erickson's vocals are totally complimentary. To this add Allen's silky smooth tenor and his quintet featuring Rosanno Sportiello's Teddy Wilson-ish piano and Joe Cohn's tasty guitar. It's all fresh, exhilarating and fun. I'd suggest that "The Sound Of Music" never had it so good.
Arbors, 2011, 72:12.

Encore, Phil Norman Tentet.
Don't ever cast stones at the "small" big band. After all, with such a group Miles Davis once gave us the groundbreaking "Birth Of The Cool." And Marty Paich and his Dektette traveled in fast West Coast company for many a year. In that tradition, here's Phil Norman with a band of 10 sterling L.A. cats who can read anything and also provide mind-blowing solos, all within a strong jazz context. This is the fourth "Phil" in my collection, and every one of them is a musician's delight. How can it be otherwise with players that include trumpet maven Carl Saunders, trombone ace Scott Whitfield, first call guitarist Larry Koonse and piano wizard Christian Jacob, among others. Jumping off the page for me were two Alan Broadbent compositions, the upbeat, melodic "Sonny's Step," written, I believe, for Sonny Clark. "Mendocino Nights" is another Broadbent beauty in æ. The arrangements are ideally suited to both the ensemble and solo skills of the players, and what great tunes to "blow" on. How about "In Your Own Sweet Way," "Bernie's Tune," "Surrey With The Fringe On Top," "The Touch of Your Lips" and "Billie's Bounce," among others. One of those is "Dear Mr. Florence," Saunders' tribute to the late pianist-band leader Bob Florence. This is five star stuff. Real music and no grandstanding.
Mama Records, 2011; 73:44.

Live at the Library of Congress, Eddie Daniels, clarinet and Roger Kellaway, piano.
I think the expression is "cut from the same cloth." Had Daniels and Kellaway never played together, it would be one of those 'it's only a matter of time" things. The two are among the most adventurous musicians I've ever encountered, and, as they have on several previous recordings, they're a riveting duo again here. Both musicians are absolutely fearless. They'll rain cascades of notes upon your head at the blur of a feather. And they do it with such heavy-duty musicianship that it can only make you shake your head in wonder. Each contributes an original or two in this startling performance, and the rest of it ends up as varied as "Strike Up The Band," on one hand, and "Rhythm-A-Ning" on the other. You'll also hear familiar fare such as Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story gem, "Somewhere"; a go-for-broke version of the aged-in-marble standard, "Just Friends"; and a medley of three tunes starting with the prettiest patriotic song of them all, "America The Beautiful." This incredible journey comes to a close with a Kellaway creation called "50 State Rambler." It's textbook rapid-fire communication between two guys who are not supposed to be able to do this stuff. But take a deep breath and enjoy it. Because they do!
IPO Recordings, 2011, 56:31.

Chris Connor Sings Gentle Bossa Nova, Chris Connor, vocals.
This is a reissue of an ancient LP from the ABC-Paramount label. The album title is a bit deceiving because it would be a stretch to suggest that all of these songs are being presented in bossa nova style. And right off the bat, let's be clear that Connor was one of a select group of great (not just good, but great) jazz singers. But even her intimate, husky vocals can't overcome some of the material on this CD. She was probably persuaded by a producer to do some pop songs of the day. No doubt they sounded much better as sung by Chris than on any of the originals. Still, it's hard to get much out of "A Hard Day's Night," "Downtown," "Baby, The Rain Must Fall" and "Stranger On The Shore." The program is somewhat rescued with "A Taste of Honey," "The Shadow Of Your Smile," "Feelin' Good," "Who Can I Turn To" and "Dear Heart." In an attempt to put the bossa nova stamp on this, Connor also does the eminently forgettable "Can't Get Over The Bossa Nova," a one time tongue-in-cheek hit for Eydie Gorme. The arrangements by Pat Williams are just vanilla enough to fit the material. Connor, however, handles this challenging task about as well as anyone possibly could.
Just A Memory, 2011, 35:30.

At the Crossroads, James Carter, tenor sax and other reeds.
Just what we need. Another gritty tenor-organ-drums record, right? Wrong. It's not that the music doesn't cut a sharp curve in the "groove" department. It succeeds there. But just how much honking saxophone and organ riffs does one need before saying, enough! Carter is a recognized presence in the more contemporary jazz arena, and on this CD he invites an assemblage of blues guys from Detroit in for the session. From worst to best: the low point of the album is a forgettable R&B thing called "The Walking Blues." It features a vocal by one Michele Braden. Let's put it this way: she'll never rival Dinah Washington. The one song worth hearing is Duke Ellington's classic, "Come Sunday." But even that is troubled by an uneven vocal by drummer Leonard King, Jr. He's no Joe Williams.
Emarcy-Decca Records, 2011, 77:01.

The Love I'm In, Kate Reid, vocals and piano.
I can't quite figure out just what the subtleties might be that drive me to rally around the cause of singers who accompany themselves. Kate Reid plays a fine, swinging piano, and sings like, well, a jazz singer should sing! This is her second CD, and it's every bit as good as her first, "Sentimental Mood." If you lean in the direction of a sultry low voice along the lines of Julie London or Shirley Horn, you're going to love Reid — although she sounds only like Kate Reid. And wow, does she choose great standard tunes! Consider such winning items as "Just Squeeze Me," "The Lamp Is Low," "So In Love," "Nice And Easy," "I'm Through With Love," "I Love You Porgy" and "Nobody Else But Me," among others. Reid also gets to the heart of more recent ballads like "Where Do You Start" and "Close Enough For Love," both highlights. And don't miss her jazzy take on "Something Good" from The Sound of Music. Her accompaniment is provided primarily by her piano trio with guests Ernie Watts on tenor sax and Steve Reid on trumpet. Reid's the real deal: a thoroughly gifted jazz singer who respects lyrics and interprets them as well as anyone singing today.
Self-Produced, 2011, times not indicated.

Fuego, Joe Cohn, guitar.
It seems as though Cohn is making more frequent appearances, both as sideman and leader, for Criss Cross Records, the fine, straight ahead label from Holland. This time Cohn leads a quartet of Peter Beets, piano, John Weber, bass, and Kenny Washington, drums. A quick word about Beets, the Dutch "monster" still waiting to be fully embraced in this country. Because this CD was recorded in New York, Beets asked Cohn why he didn't use a New York pianist. "You're my favorite piano player, so you're on it," said Cohen. What does that tell us about Peter Beets? The quartet takes on a menu of tunes nearly all of which were written by fellow musicians. Thus we have two Thad Jones creations, "Bluish Grey" and "Lady Luck"; "Little Melonae" by Jackie McLean; "Call It Wachawana" by Johnny Griffin; and a rare George Shearing line called "She." Other delights include "The Underdog," a piece written by Cohn's father, tenor giant Al Cohn. It was originally known as "Ah Moore," for Joe's mom, singer Marilyn Moore, then Dave Frishberg put a lyric to it and it became much better known by its present title. Cole Porter's "Love For Sale," taken at a jaunty tempo, is the only American songbook item here. Cohn, it should be said, has a scintillating, finely crafted tone, and he never plays a note you don't need.
Criss Cross, 2011, 68:19.

Lovers After All, Deborah Winters, vocals.
It seems every time something arrives for review from Jazzed Media, I don't just put it on the pile. Instead, I put it IN the CD player. You see, in its few years of existence, the label has consistently churned out one solid disc after another. But watch out! Here's a singer on Jazzed Media! Can she meet the challenge? Well, you're darn right she can! Furthermore, she doesn't even accompany herself on piano (often my "fave" singers accompany themselves). Winters impressed me for lots of reasons. Her choice of tunes is flawless. The title tune, "Lovers After All," is a Johnny Mandel gem which needs to be covered more often. Other absolutely terrific choices, 11 in all, include "How Am I To Know," "Haunted Heart," "Come Sunday," "For All We Know" and "I'll Close My Eyes." Winters put the orchestral arrangements in the hands of an outstanding trumpet ace named Peter Welker, and it all comes out very grown up, sophisticated and swinging. Winters never piles on any unnecessary histrionics. Instead, she nearly lets these songs sing themselves. I've reviewed hundreds of singers over many years. Let's say Winters compares favorably to any of them.
Jazzed Media, 2011, 60:36.

To My Surprise, Mike Longo, piano.
If you put a ton of "jazz credence" into the classic quintet of trumpet, tenor, piano, bass and drums, but you also value the evergreen sound of a piano trio, then this is a CD you're going to welcome. Here indeed, is that classic quintet with Jimmy Owens, trumpet and flugelhorn; Lance Bryant, tenor sax; and a battle-tested rhythm section of Longo on piano, Bob Cranshaw, bass, and Lewis Nash, drums. The CD is divided into six original compositions: five by Longo, one by Owens and six standards. Longo's contributions are distinctly varied, ranging from the in-your-face opener, "A Picture Of Dorian Mode," to a classic blues called "New Muse Blues," and finally to what is perhaps his most attractive melody line, "Alone Again." A few standards and a couple of "jazz hits" round out the CD. "I Hadn't Anyone Til You" is taken at an attractive, medium tempo and is a feature for the trio. Ditto "Old Devil Moon." Jimmy Owens wrote "Magic Bluze," a heavy-handed, down in the cellar blues. The CD also includes a very tasty trio version of "You've Changed" and Longo's delicate solo piano on "In The Wee Small Hours." Finally, Wayne Shorter's waltz, "Limbo," and Herbie Hancock's brisk "Eye Of The Hurricane" are always great to hear. In short, this is a trio CD with Owens and Bryant as guests. It's straight down the middle of the highway, and it still travels well.
CAP (Consolidated Artist Productions) 2011, 61:58.

Home, Shirley Crabbe, vocals.
Those female singers keep coming my way, and one who handles the task with both jazz feeling and spot-on intonation is Crabbe. With a basic piano trio led by Donald Vega, and here and there several guest horn players, Crabbe has put together an attractive CD which very nicely balances some valued standards with several new and well-written songs. From the standard bag, she gives us Leonard Bernstein's "Lucky To Be Me"; and she alters the tempo bit on "You Taught My Heart To Sing," "Detour Ahead" and "Summertime." But there are new sounds here as well. The title tune speaks of a place where there's "love overflowing." What a lovely thought! "Seasons" is a charming and nostalgic piece by pianist Roland Hanna, and "Strong Man" was written by the late singer-composer Oscar Brown Jr. And there's "Not While I'm Around," another ballad and a beauty from Stephen Sondheim. Crabbe is a breath of fresh air who interprets these songs as though she's lived them. There are still quality female singers out there and she is definitely one of them.
Self-Produced, 2011, 45:01.

Ballads, Michael Pedicin, tenor saxophone.
Dr. Michael Pedicin has a private psychology practice that specializes in helping "creative people get through life in a non-artist friendly society." And when he's not doing that very honorable work, he's playing tenor sax. An unabashed admirer and musical disciple of John Coltrane, Pedicin's sound is very much in the Coltrane camp. This is his first venture into an all-ballads album, but surprisingly, he opts for only one standard, "You Don't Know What Love Is." He does, however, choose his remaining material with great care and knowledge of such underplayed beauties as Hank Mobley's "Home At Last," Wayne Shorter's "Virgo" and McCoy Tyner's "Search For Peace." Three originals, one by Pedicin and two by the guitarist on the date, John Valentino, complete the album. Two pianists, Barry Miles and Dean Schneider, split the Steinway chores, and the group is completed by Andy Lalasis, bass, and Bob Shomo, drums. Interestingly, Coltrane himself once made an album titled "Ballads." So, I'd imagine that for Pedicin, something of a milestone is hereby achieved in his career.
The Jazz Hut, 2011, 55:13.

Maureen Choi Quartet, Maureen Choi, violin.
Look out! The next jazz violin virtuoso may be discovered in these grooves. Nobody's ever suggested that I'm a violin groupie, but now and then I can recognize talent deserving recognition. And Choi's got it! First of all, she chose not to surround herself with any additional (and unnecessary) instrumentation besides the superb rhythm section here. Also to be considered is her wise choice of tunes we know instead of trying to impress us with a spate of original compositions. As a result, we are treated to "Caravan," "No More Blues," "At Las,t" "In A Sentimental Mood," "Round Midnight," 'On Green Dolphin Street" and "Donna Lee," among others. And don't take lightly her musical colleagues. I was so impressed with her pianist, Rick Roe, that I'm wondering where his debut CD is lurking. His mates include Rodney Whitaker, bass, and Sean Dobbins, drums. But it's Choi who serves notice here that she swings with authority on an instrument not usually associated with it. The violin "club",,to date in the hands of Venuti, Nance, Grapelli and Regina Carter, now opens its doors to Choi. Welcome!
Self-Produced, 2011, 53:55.

Sagacious Grace, Dee Bell, vocals.
It took 21 years for some technical problems to be solved, but finally here is Bell on a set of jazz vocals recorded way back in 1990 that sees the light of day here for the first time. Working with the late San Francisco arranger-pianist, Al Plank, and other stellar cats like Houston Person, tenor, and Portland's John Stowell, guitar, Bell's solid and pure voice scores on some well chosen tunes. Tell me, what does it say about a singer when she chooses top-of-the-mountain writing like Dave Frishberg's "Dear Bix," or Strayhorn's "Isfahan," or Don Sebesky's rarity, "You Can't Go Home Again." How about Jimmy Rowles' masterpiece, "The Peacocks." It says, plain and simple, that the singer has done her homework. To all these add some Songbook America blue ribbons like "Watch What Happens," "You're My Thrill," "I Remember You," "If Dreams Come True" and "I'll Never Be The Same." Bell and friends put all the pieces together with some fine arrangements, "Bell"-like intonation, and winning material. Sorry it took so long to resolve a microphone problem, but glad to finally hear this outstanding recording.
Laser Records, 2011, 49:30.

In The Bubble, Mary Louise Knutson, piano.
Is there a jazz scene in Minneapolis? Of course, and judging from the piano prowess of Knutson, it's likely a very healthy one. On this recording, Knutson teams up with Gordon Johnson, bass, and (count 'em) no less than three Twin Cities bass players. The ten tracks are evenly divided between standards and her own works, as she opens with a swinging "It Could Happen To You." Toots Thieleman's "Bluesette" follows, taken at a languid, easy and very effective tempo. "Bernie's Tune" has always been a great blowing vehicle, and Knutson and company unravel all of its improvisational possibilities. Two ballads — "That's All" and "You Don't Know What Love Is" — complete the menu of standards. The pianist also cleverly combines a children's tune, "You Are My Sunshine," with her own composition, a politely swinging thing with a little hint of gospel called "Luminous." Among her other originals, I particularly liked the quirky, bluesy melody line of "Can You Hear Me Now?" All told, Knutson sounds very much like a musician you'd make a beeline to hear if you were visiting Minneapolis.
Meridan Jazz, 2011, 65:21.

Sing Along with Mitch, Mitchel Forman, piano.
Forman has worked with straight ahead giants that include Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. But he's also done a lot of work with the purveyors of electricity like John Scofield and John McLaughlin. So" Forest Gump," in that you never know what you're going to get. Certainly the title of this CD will bring back memories to those of you who have attained a certain age. But Mitch Miller didn't make this date. Instead, there's no less than eight singers, five of whom do two songs each. Tierney Sutton, the best of the lot, does a pop sounding thing called "Turning into Blue," but then makes amends with "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life," although she sings it agonizingly slow. Singer Joy Burnworth tries to be way too hip on "Sleepin' Bee," and then reverts to pop syrup on "I Won't Last a Day Without You." Several other American Idol types take on material with a pop orientation. Through all of this pain, there's Forman, a pianist who can hold his own with just about anyone. He tries valiantly to save the day here, but alas, not even his piano prowess can overcome singers who just don't get it. In a weird sort of way, I hope he was paid a ton of money to do this project.
Marsis Jazz, 2011, 54:03.

Sure Thing - The Music of Jerome Kern, Rebecca Kilgore, vocals.
Okay, here's one from 2009 that somehow escaped my attention. It's so fine, still available, and deserving of review. It's also a double dip for Kilgore, whose new album with Harry Allen is also reviewed this month. Any fan of hers knows she's a student of the American Songbook, reveres all of it, and just happens to sing it better than just about anybody. With a trio headed by LA pianist Chris Dawson, and the sultry and silvery tenor and clarinet work of Anita Thomas, Kilgore caresses the exceptional melodies of Jerome Kern and all his lyricists (like Hammerstein, Mercer, Gershwin and Fields). So here's Kilgore, relaxed and regal, on "Why Do I Love You," "Dearly Beloved," "Bill","Nobody Else But Me," "The Folks Who Live on the Hill", "You Couldn't Be Cuter," and a half dozen more. As always, her definitive versions just brim with sophistication and class. An interesting note to locals is the presence of Portland area tenor phenom David Evans on board here in an arranging capacity. Nice going, David. Oh, and you too, Becky!
Audiophile, 2009, 59:3.9

At the Crystal Gardens, 1952, The Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Surely there are some Salem, Oregon residents who remember The Crystal Gardens, a dance hall at the corner of Liberty and Ferry Streets. Well, the Duke Ellington Orchestra was there on March 22, 1952, and admission was two bucks, or $1.80 advance! The organization had taken a major blow a year earlier when Johnny Hodges and Lawrence Brown departed. Both eventually returned. But many other of Duke's star players were on hand that night in Salem, and they're all captured with surprisingly good fidelity on a two-CD set. There are 26 tunes in all, and they range from obscurities such as "Fancy Dan," "The Hawk Talks" and "Skin Deep," to Ellington classics such as "Take The 'A' Train," "Mood Indigo," "I Let A Song Go Out of My Heart" and more. A highlight is Duke's reference to "Warm Valley," which, he tells us, "was written in the state of Oregon in 1941." And he pronounces Oregon correctly! Good going, Duke! In fact, much of the charm of this set lies in the delightful "between tune chatter" from the leader. Even though Hodges and Brown were missing from this cast, you still get to hear some timeless solos from the likes of Cat Anderson, Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves, Jimmy Hamilton, Willie Smith, Ray Nance and many more. As you listen to this set, close your eyes and imagine all those Salemites dancing the evening away!
Hep Records, 2011, 2 CDs: 64:33 and 47:43.

Personal Dedications, Chip White, drums, vibes, poetry.
It's not absolutely unheard of for musicians to be blessed with great talent in other artistic pursuits. Consider the outstanding painting of Tony Bennett or Meredith d'Ambrosio, or the breathtaking sculpture from bassist John Heard. But how many jazz cats have doubled as poets!? But drummer White has taken care of that. Volume III of his adventures in music and poetry provides compelling listening in both arenas. The music part of this two CD set features nine White originals, some of which are bristling bop lines and others representing his lyrical, lilting side. Among an impressive cast of colleagues, White teams up with Steve Wilson, saxophones; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone; Rene Rosnes, piano; and Peter Washington, bass. Then the poetry: great little one-minute vignettes quickly underscoring the essence of drum heroes Jo Jones, Kenny Clarke, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Haynes, Alan Dawson, Billy Higgins, Ben Riley, Mongo Santamaria and one non-drummer, Sonny Rollins. These are mini jazz history lessons, and they compliment the music admirably.
Dark Colors Records, 2011, music: 58:53, poetry: 9:57.

Fluteus Maximus, Mindy Carter, flute, keyboards, Hammond B3, vocals.
There are all kinds of places I could go with the colorful title of this CD, but I think I'd rather just sit on them. This is a soulful quartet featuring the flute of Carter. While it would be safe to say there are more vigorous flute fans than yours truly, these folks do what they with panache. The rest of the quartet consists of Denny Geyer, guitar and vocals; Paul Smith, bass; and Roy Blumenfeld, drums. They all hit a nice little groove on well chosen hits such as "Watermelon Man," "Memphis Underground," "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," "High Heel Sneakers," "Funny How Time Slips Away" and "Hallelujah I Love Her So." Some vocals here and there add a little spice. Anyway, just when you think this funky, understated groove is well in place, the quartet surprises us with three tunes many miles from this style. How about "Sixteen Tons" (remember Tennessee Ernie Ford?), "Over The Rainbow" and (I'm not kidding) "Happy Trails." As unlikely as it may sound, it works nicely. These guys are not in the game to spin your head with funky pyrotechnics. They simply play tunes for the sheer fun of playing them. And there's nothing wrong with that.
Self-Produced, 2011, 52:24.

Play Song, Dan Jacobs, trumpet, flugelhorn.
In this game of reviewing of jazz records, one can often make some determinations before ever hearing the disc. One look at an artist's play list can speak volumes. In the case of Jacobs, every tune but one represents an undervalued work from such admired musicians as Bobby Shew, Wayne Shorter, Bill Mays, Harold Danko and Frank Strazzeri. What does that tell us of Mr. Jacobs? Well, it says he's spent time listening to the work of others. And with the exception of "Speak Low," the one standard on the date, these are not tunes one hears everyday. But Jacobs has unearthed some gold and deserves kudos for it. Leading a quartet that offers generous solo opportunities to pianist Gerard Hagen, Jacobs is the purveyor of a warm, lyrical sound. Whether playing trumpet or flugelhorn, muted or not, he's in total control; he never goes for showy technique, always preferring musicality. The only troubling aspect of this album is the fact that, in some 25 years of playing, it's his first. One can only hope it's the first of many more.
Metro Jazz Records, 2011, 67:17.

Twin Bill, Alan Pasqua, piano.
For any unfamiliar with the expression "twin bill" — it refers to a doubleheader in baseball. Los Angeles pianist Alan Pasqua, like most of us, "worships" at the alter of Bill Evans. Pasqua has given us, in essence, a "conversations with myself" album of Evans originals and pieces closely associated with the piano icon. I'd guess that this duo piano concept, essentially pioneered by Evans, is something that has been brewing in Pasqua's consciousness for a long time. And let me say that Pasqua's "conversations with himself" are every bit as compelling as those from Evans lps of long ago. How thrilling it is to hear, in essence, two piano versions of such prized Evans material as "Very Early," "Time Remembered," "Turn Out The Stars," "Funkallero," "Interplay" and "Walkin' Up." The surprise of the set is a Swedish traditional song which Sweden's Monica Zetterlund once sang on an album with the Evans trio. The closer is Pasqua's own "Grace," a bit of melancholy in the Evans tradition. Pasqua's passion for Evans and all he brought us is beautifully exhibited. He succeeds in honoring Evans through his own distinctive and lyrical approach to elegant, artful selections.
BFM Jazz, 2011, times not indicated.

Happy, Lisa Maxwell, vocals.
If you get to the point where you can gig with pianist Keith Ingham, you're in heady company. That's what Maxwell has accomplished on what I assume to be her debut CD. Ingham, you see, has accompanied such gifted singers as Maxine Sullivan and Susnnah McCorkle, so he knows all the subtleties of his craft. Maxwell has a rather soft, slightly Blossom Dearie-ish voice and seems to convey the meaning of a lyric in a very honest and direct fashion. Certainly it doesn't do any harm to Maxwell's effort when she gives us a selection of both honored evergreens ("I'll Take Romance," "It Might as Well Be Spring," "Someone To Watch Over Me," "Blue Moon" and "Skylark"). Along with these, Maxwell mixes in a few lesser known goodies including "You Can't Lose A Broken Heart" and others. I would have omitted the pop opus "Going Out Of My Head"; a tune that doesn't quite meet the standard of the rest. Maxwell doesn't force a note, nearly letting the music somehow "sing itself." And that's a pretty good trick.
Self-Produced, 2011, 45:39.

Message From Mars, Echoes of Swing.
Here to delight you with some authentic sounding early-style jazz is Echoes of Swing, a group comprised of Colin T. Dawson, trumpet; Chris Hopekins, alto sax; Bernd Lhotzky, piano; and Oliver Mewes, drums. These guys play with gusto, and their enthusiasm, totally sincere and not over-the-top or "show-bizzy," is infectious. And one glance at the list of composers here will give you a clue to the versatility of this foursome: Dmitri Schostakowitch to Billie Holiday; Fredric Chopin to Richard Rodgers; and Fritz Kreisler to Duke Ellington to Red Norvo and Teddy Wilson. Trumpet ace Dawson sings on a couple of tunes, and is at his Chet Baker-ish best on "Don't Explain." With the exception of the standard "Spring Is Here," most of the menu is comprised of little riff tunes, bluesy numbers and catchy melodies with names like "Goon Drag," "Bughouse" and many more. The main thing to keep in mind is that an era is being represented here, but not for nostalgic reasons. The music is charming, entertaining, seriously performed and musically legitimate. Oh, and always fun!
Self-Produced, 2011; 58:39.

Resilience, Tim Mayer, tenor saxophone.
As long as the younger generation keeps playing bristling bebop, I'll continue to believe, as the title says, in the resilience of real jazz. So welcome to the world of significant jazz makers, Tim Mayer. He must have turned some heads already to have hooked up with a rhythm section of George Cables, piano, Dezmon Douglas, bass, and Willie Jones III, drums. To that high-brow list add a few guests in Claudio Roditi, trumpet, Mark Whitfield, guitar, and Michael Dease, trombone. As you look over the tune list, you can't help but be impressed with contributions from such jazz stars as Kenny Dorham, Fats Navarro, Lee Morgan and Thelonious Monk. The one and only tune from the standard book is Jule Syne's luscious ballad, "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry." On this and a host of rarely heard gems, Mayer holds forth as a new voice worth hearing. His bop chops sound engrained. He knows the language, and gorgeous tone and ethereal phrasing pour our of his horn. And he doesn't have to turn your head around with flash and fancy.
Jazz Legacy Productions, 2011, 61:49.


Radio Silence, Neil Cowley, piano.
I always get a kick out of the descriptive info that accompanies a new CD when it's described in rock terms that I know nothing about. This CD, apparently, has the "attitude of Motorhead" and sounds like "Ben Folds 5 without the vocals." Uh, yeah. That tells me absolutely nothing. So I put on the CD, and it's a mixed bag of original music that sometimes makes melodic sense and at other times is played without respect for the piano. "Experimental, third stream, out there," sure I'll give 'em all a chance. But this stuff, even though it's all acoustic, fell off the diving board.
Naim Jazz; 2011, 55:59.

Reviews by Kyle O'Brien

Family, 3 Cohens.
While siblings Avishai (trumpet), Anat (tenor saxophone and clarinet), and Yuval (soprano sax), all have respectable solo careers, they have a synergy when playing together. The Israeli-born trio has traveled the world as a group and as touring musicians for others, which brings a wealth of world music knowledge. But it's western jazz that still shapes their collective efforts. On their latest disc, the cohesion between the three is obvious from the tight shuffle of the opener, "Shufla de Shufla," a smoking tune that lets the three horn voices coalesce into a single entity. "Blues for Dandi's Orange Bull Chasing an Orange Sack," is an intriguing take on a blues-based groover, in that it speeds up on purpose and then settles into a comfortable pocket. "With the Soul of the Greatest of Them All (Dedicated to Charles Mingus)" captures Mingus's intense close rhythms and swinging harmonies, letting Yuval's vibrato-laden soprano lead the way. When all three are playing together, the interplay is incredible, and the backing band of pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Gregory Hutchinson lets the trio shine, accenting with punches and steadfast rhythms. Channeling the Duke on "The Mooch" lets the high harmonies of the woodwinds shine, and the modern take on the classic, "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans," brings the Crescent City into a new era. Vocal legend Jon Hendricks lends his distinctive scatting to "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "Roll 'em Pete," but it's the interplay of the three Cohens that makes this a gem, as on the middle eastern-inflected version of "Tiger Rag." Plenty of fun.
2011, Anzic Records, 61:40.

Alma Adentro, Miguel Zenon.
Alto saxophonist and composer Zenon has risen up the ranks of the jazz hierarchy and now stands as one of the top modern players and composers. This disc does nothing to topple his rise. "Alma Adentro" is a tribute to the music of his homeland, Puerto Rico, and a loose and very modern interpretation of the "songbook" of the island . Zenon's writing is highly composed, mixing modern jazz with classical elements as well as Latin jazz and folk. Here he arranges and explores the music of five legendary Puerto Rican composers: Bobby Capó, Tite Curet Alonso, Pedro Flores, Rafael Hernández, and Sylvia Rexach. Not being familiar with the composers, I assume Zenon's inter-pretations are complex versions of their visions. He leads with a lyrical alto, tone is wide and full, with a smoothness that lets the melodies glide over the orchestral arrangements. He plays plaintively at times, as on the opening of "Temes," then powers through dense lines with his small brass and woodwind chamber group, as on the soaring "Silencio." His core group of Luis Perdomo on piano, Hans Glawischnig on bass and Henry Cole on drums makes for a solid base on which Zenon launches his ambitious compositions, like the classical Latin-meets-progressive jazz of the title track. Zenon's music is fully realized in his arrangements, and surely the Puerto Rican composers would ap-preciate the thought that went into updating their tunes. There's beauty in Zenon's music, and his explorations bring to light a style most Americans may not think about, but should.
2011, Marsalis Music, 69 minutes.

Crosstalk, Marc Copland.
Pianist Copland has been prolific in his album output over the last several years, indicating that the introspective modern jazz pianist has plenty to say, and this disc, bolstered by alto saxophonist Greg Osby, bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Victor Lewis, is at the front edge of modern. It's a live recording with dense chords and a heavy dose of improvisation. Osby is one of the best at taking it outside while remaining accessible. His ear for comprehendible atonality makes him a key player here, but it is based on the interplay of all musicians, led by Copland's metered yet inspired piano. "Diary of the Same Dream" is a swirling, dizzying composition, while "Ozz-Thetic" is a tense, modern bopper. The standard "Tenderly" pops up in the middle, and the melody serves as a familiar interlude to the intensity on both sides. It's an intriguing album where nothing seems easy but everything is captivating.
2011, Pirouet Records, 53:50.

In My Room, Larry Goldings.
Goldings may best be known for his organ work, but here he is solo on piano, interpreting song classics and a few originals. There are moments of stark beauty as he plays tender versions of Joni Mitchell's "All I Want" and Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer," but one wonders why we need a somewhat sappy solo piano take on "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" or a similar take on the title track (a Beach Boys ballad). This disc works best when Goldings plays his original tunes, like the lovely and simple, "The Flower Song," or the quietly dense "Roach," a tribute to Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln. Goldings shows off his fine piano playing here, with a great attention to the melodic thread, but at times it gets a bit self-indulgent.
2011, BFM Jazz, 56:45.

Phil & Bill, Phil Woods & Bill Mays.
Mays is a perfect counterpoint for Woods, because Mays plays a metered, controlled piano, which keeps the sometimes exuberant Woods in line. Not that the expert Woods needs to be controlled, but Mays provides a subtlety on this duo disc that brings balance. Woods has a beautiful style and his bopping is some of the finest in the jazz world, but his playing can be forward and occasionally brash, which Mays corrals and tempers with his fluid keyboard work. The interplay between the two is fun to hear, as on tracks like the swinging "Do I Love You?" and Woods's "Blues for Lopes." Their version of "How Long Has This Been Going On" is a pretty one, and "Our Waltz" is a lovely finish. Woods is served well by this duo setting, which allows the contrast and blend of styles to stand out.
2011, Transdreamer LTD, 56.35.

Bassoon Goes Latin Jazz, Daniel Smith.
For an instrument more associated with Tchaikovsky than jazz, Smith has certainly carved a niche. Is it one that needed to be filled? Perhaps not, but give Smith credit for bringing this awkward instrument to the Latin jazz realm. The bassoon's somewhat pinched, reedy tone doesn't lend itself to the big sound it gets in an orchestra setting. His melodic line in Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" gets lost in trombonist Roswell Rudd's harmony. Smith's backing band lays down spicy Latin rhythms, giving him a platform to jazz up the bassoon. But the horn just doesn't lend itself to the music. It seems forced, even if Smith is an adept player. His licks fit right in, yet the tonality is just odd and a tad off-putting.
2011, Summit Records, 53:15.

Catch a Corner, Cinque.
The musical firepower behind Cinque is pretty incredible.Steve Gadd lays down his signature jaw-dropping rhythms, Joey DeFrancesco adds soul with his B-3 organ, John Johnson brings melody with his saxes, Robi Botos complements DeFrancesco with keyboards and piano, and Peter Cardinali holds the bottom on bass. It's a warm and soulful album with a funky backbeat. It was apparently written by ideas raised on the spot during the recording process, which gives it an organic feel. Aside from the layered sax lines. It's not a complicated album, but that's part of the appeal. It feels like the listener is in the studio, hearing the invention, as on the engaging shuffle of "Geppetto's Blues." At times it goes a little too retro-smooth, like on the Grover Washington-esque "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning"; but again, it's difficult to dislike this music. It just grabs your ears and makes you groove. The jazz waltz of "Over the Humpty Dump" is particularly whimsical. This would probably be a great live band, so here's hoping they'll tour.
2011, ALMA Records, 51:30.

Forever Lasting, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra Live in Tokyo.
Big bands are making a resurgence. Maybe not the Duke and Dorsey heydays, but all-star groups like this are popping up more frequently, and this one is a fine example of what a modern jazz band should sound like -- polished, tight, and loaded with talented soloists and section players. Some big names on this double live disc are saxophonist Dick Oatts, tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, bari saxophonist Gary Smulyan, trumpeter Terell Stafford and trombonists John Mosca and Luis Bonilla. They take standards like "All of Me" and play them with panache and verve. Other standouts are "One Finger Snap," and Thad Jones's blistering "Fingers." Jones is visited often, meaning the horn sections get a workout, which is what you want to hear on a big band album. It's a players' album, which makes for a lively listen.
2011, Planet Arts, more than two hours.

This Side of Strayhorn, Terell Stafford.
Stafford is one of the leaders of the modern trumpet, and this exploration of Billy Strayhorn keeps him ahead of the pack. It's all Strayhorn, but save for a subdued version of "Lush Life," it's not the usual fare. Tunes like the ultra cool "Smada" and the laid-back blues wail of "Multicolored Blue" give a new view of this oft-covered songwriter. Stafford's bold sound propels the music, and Tim Warfield's sax backs it up. Bruce Barth on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Dana Hall on drums bolster the updated small group arrangements. The bouncy "UMMG" is an eye opener, and "Lana Turner" is as seductive as the actress. This is a new take on Strayhorn that stays in tune with the originals.
2011, MaxJazz, 69:50.

Triple Play Plus Three, Bill O'Connell.
Pianist O'Connell takes a non-traditional approach to Latin jazz, infusing it with subtlety and subtracting the trap drum set from the equation. It's definitely a blend of modern American jazz with Latin rhythms. O'Connell's energetic piano leads with chordal and melodic strength, while guest players like clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera, flutist Dave Valentin and vibraphonist Dave Samuels take turns adding texture and solos. All the while, conguero Richie Flores keeps the rhythm lively. The rotating trio makes the album interesting throughout. Samuels and O'Connell aren't at odds, rather they combine their sounds to create one that is larger than the power of three. Valentin brings a South American flair with his expressive, accented flute on "Crazy Samba," then D'Rivera softens it up on a light Latin version of "Round Midnight." O'Connell and Flores are the thread that brings all the tunes to light, including the soothing closer, "La Playa."
2011, Zoho Music, 60 minutes.