I Like Men; Rebecca Kilgore, vocals.
Back in the 1950s, Peggy Lee did an album for Capitol called “I Like Men.” Each song dealt with “the guys,” and the album remains a standout in the Lee repertoire. All these years later Kilgore has reprised Peggy’s concept. She got some big time help from Harry Allen, tenor sax, Rossano Sportiello, piano, Joel Forbes, bass, and Kevin Kanner, drums. As for Kilgore — well, all she does is solidify her standing as one of today’s sweetest, swinging-est, no nonsense singers in the business. Give her any tempo and a good set of literate lyrics, and she’ll make it definitive, personal and oh, so rich and right. With this “made in heaven” quartet accompanying her, Kilgore examines evergreens like “The Boy Next Door,” “The Man I Love,” “The Man that Got Away,” “The Gentleman Is a Dope,” and even the ancient, “I’m Just Wild About Harry!”
But that’s not all. For a long time, Kilgore has had a particular interest in lesser known tunes and true obscurities. Among them are the likes of “Marry the Man Today,” “He Needs Me,” “One Man Ain’t Enough” and “Down Boy.” In the “simply gorgeous” department, check out Allen’s silvery tenor solo on “Ballad of the Sad Young Men.” And in the surprise department, how about “Goldfinger.” Back to Peggy Lee: two of her compositions are also included — the title tune and “He’s a Tramp”. Fifteen tunes, and every one a winner. Rebecca Kilgore knows no other way.
Arbors, 2014; appx. 62 minutes.
Music For Peter Gunn; Harmonie Ensemble/New York.
Well, as coincidence would have it, here’s another update on an equally popular album from the 1950s. If you sport a bit of gray at the temples, you might recall the old RCA Victor soundtrack from the 1958-61 TV series, “Peter Gunn.” Back then of course, these charts were in the talented hands of LA studio greats like the Candoli brothers, Bud Shank, Howard Roberts, Red Mitchell, Russ Freeman, Frank Rosolino and other giants. In its new and fresh attire the Mancini magic emanates from New York. A few of the better known cats include Lew Soloff, trumpet, John Fedchock, trombone, Lew Tabackin, reeds, and Victor Lewis, drums. The entire orchestra is a quite remarkable 21 pieces with basic horn and rhythm sections enhanced by four French horns! Henry Mancini had a knack for writing some of the most sophisticated melodies of his time. Always accessible but consistently jazz based, Mancini’s “formula” was unique and highly musical. And of course, it served him well and deservedly so.
So here we have it, Peter Gunn’s “greatest hits.” A total of 16 tracks. A few of my personal favorites are: “Peter Gunn Theme,” “The Brothers Go to Mother’s,” “The Floater,” “A Profound Gass,” “Brief And Breezy” and of course, the now timeless “Dreamsville.” Various players give us generous solo time, yet these gems are respected throughout and are offered with joyous affection. If you missed the original, here’s your chance to find the acclaimed Peter Gunn sound for yourself.
Harmonia Mundi USA, 2014; 51:06.
Larry Fuller; Larry Fuller, piano.
“I’m drawn to pianists like Oscar Peterson, Gene Harris, Monty Alexander and others who always swing because that is the ultimate objective in my own playing — to swing!” says Larry Fuller. And he’s right! Fuller extends this brilliant tradition of hard swinging pianists. And while one can easily hear their significant presence in his work, he’s still very much his own man. Like his piano heroes, he also understands the importance of the blues as a partner in his musical agenda. To be very clear, let’s just say this is a straight down the middle piano trio album. You know, the way they used to make ‘em. Fuller and colleagues Hassan Shakur on bass and Greg Hutchinson on drums feature 11 standout jazz tunes and one head scratcher. Everyone wins with “Daahoud,” “Django,” “Hymn to Freedom,” “Old Folks,” “Old Devil Moon,” Bud Powell’s rarity, “Celia,” and lots more. The “scratcher” was “Both Sides Now,” a pop tune which isn’t in the same league as the rest of the program. Highlights include a medley of Duke Ellington’s “Reflections in D” and “Prelude to a Kiss”; played solo, it’s a gorgeous reminder of our debt to the Duke. Fuller, who has worked in the past with luminaries like Ray Brown, Jeff Hamilton and Ernestine Anderson, is doing his part to keep alive a valued tradition of noholds- barred piano. And he’s about as good as they get!
Capri Records, 2014; appx. 60 minutes.
My Shining Hour; Bobby Broom, guitar.
Bobby Broom’s last few albums for Origin Records have, to the best of my memory, leaned rather strongly in the direction of funk — guitar-organ trio type things. Well, he detours this time, moving down “standard boulevard” with his trio of Dennis Carroll, bass and Makaya McCraven, drums. Additionally, this is a very unusual release for Seattle’s Origin in that it does not include any original compositions. Nine out of nine, folks, all standards that you know. Consider these titles: “Sweet And Lovely,” “My Ideal,” “Just One of Those Things,” the title tune, “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “Lady Be Good.” A few mild but welcome surprises include Fats Waller’s “The Jitterbug Waltz,” and two even more unlikely entries: Lerner and Lowe’s hit from “Brigadoon” is an album highlight; and somehow, “The Tennessee Waltz” (of all things), found its way on to the session. I can’t express how nice it is to hear Broom and friends take on these treasures of the American Songbook with total taste and affection.
Origin, 2014; appx. 57 minutes.
Tuesday Night; Gordon Lee, piano, composer, arranger; and the Mel Brown Septet.
Mention the names Gordon Lee and Mel Brown to just about any Portland jazz fan, and a spirited response will be the result. The two have faithfully collaborated in the city’s hard bop arena for the better part of two decades. Most of the personnel has changed, but the dedication to a swinging, engaging style remains. Pianist Lee is a master of his craft, writing real melody lines which are adventurous but eminently listenable. He often utilizes twists and turns and surprising rhythmic and harmonic content, taking us to unexpected places. But it’s all within a crafted framework which translates to solid jazz writing at its best. Brown is by now a Portland icon who, had he chosen New York over the Rose City, would surely have gained greater national attention but would have sacrificed a lifestyle he values. The rest of the Septet, all Portland stalwarts, includes Renato Carranto, tenor sax; John Nastos, alto sax; Derek Sims, trumpet; Stan Bock, trombone; and Andre St. James, bass.
Do yourself a favor. Get down to Jimmy Mak’s on a Tuesday night and catch this well honed septet. They anticipate one another’s every move, but there’s always “breathing room.” And do yourself another favor: buy this record!
OA2 Records, 2014, appx. 58 minutes.
Together Again – Live In Concert; Wynton Marsalis, trumpet, Marcus Roberts, piano.
Not for a minute do I buy into all the verbal abuse Wynton Marsalis has endured. Beyond being one of the truly greats of all time, he’s successfully taken on the assignment of keeping jazz accessible and available to perhaps millions of people. And I further love it when he releases an album of enduring American standards. This time out, he and another dedicated real-deal player, Marcus Roberts, co-lead a quartet that also includes Roland Guerin, bass, and Jason Marsalis, drums. Recorded live for a large and enthusiastic Florida audience in 2007, it is released here for the first time. Seven tunes in all, and Marsalis is in great form, totally in command as he mesmerizes the crowd. He is, plain and simple, one of the jazz giants who could play the Gearhart phone directory and make it sound good!
As for the tunes, well, Wynton and friends maneuver their way through “Blue Skies,” “Giant Steps,” “Embraceable You,” “New Orleans Blues,” “East of the Sun,” “Black and Tan Fantasy,” and even “When The Saints Go Marching In”! I would have loved being in Tallahassee that night for what was obviously a terrific and beautifully balanced concert. Considering his position as Musical Director of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and all his work in smaller jazz settings — plus his brilliant work in classical music — I salute and thank him. He deserves everything that comes his way, and I hope his new disc sells a couple of zillion copies!
J-Master Records; 2013; appx. 57 minutes.
A Swingin’ Life; DIVA (a big band).
What makes DIVA unique is, as the name implies, it’s an allfemale big band. Gimmicky? No sir, and I’ll tell you why. It’s still a fact of life in the jazz world that female musicians (with the possible exception of pianists) still often draw the short straw in getting gigs. It’s not right, heaven knows, but it pervades. So here’s an opportunity for some gifted women to strut their stuff. And they do just that on six instrumentals and five vocals. We’ll get to the singers in a moment, but first it should be made clear that there’s some solid ensemble work, stellar arranging, and nifty solo work on choices ranging from “The Very Thought of You” to “Blues for Hamp,” and from “Pennies from Heaven” to a Chopin nocturne. Two veteran singers, Nancy Wilson and Marlena Shaw, help out on five tunes. Wilson’’s take on the Cahn- Van Heusen gem, “All My Tomorrows,” is perhaps the standout, but she also picks up the tempo nicely on “All of Me.” Shaw, always more steeped in the blues, offers a medley of classics in that genre, plus well-performed versions of “Wonder Why” and Alex Wilder’s obscure “Blackberry Winter.” All told, there’s some consistently solid, straight-ahead music making here. What more could you ask for?
Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild; 2014; appx. 54 minutes.
I Love Music; Mike LeDonne, B3 organ.
No knock on Mike LeDonne. He’s made a lot of records on organ. But since I’m not a B3 fan, I prefer his always scintillating piano playing. Here, instead of the usual “organ trio” with guitar and drums, LeDonne has added the gifted tenor sax man Eric Alexander. The other guys on the date are no slouches as well — Peter Bernstein on guitar and Joe Farnsworth on drums. The seven tunes are varied approaches to the blues, and why not? These players can kick up a blues riff as easily as you can slip on your sneakers. The one standard on the session is a slow and greasy “Put on a Happy Face.” The slower tempo certainly fits well with the heavy duty blues feel of the entire recording. While I’d love to hear this same quartet with LeDonne on piano, he kinda sneaks up on you on the B3. Subtle and never over the top, he makes it work very well. And Alexander always adds an A+ presence to any session., as he does here, for sure.
Savant Records; 2014; appx. 53 minutes.
Alana’s Fantasy; Justin Robinson, alto sax.
A very real concern in the jazz world in recent years is the number of quality independent labels that have called it a day. Thankfully, one of the best, Holland’s Criss Cross Jazz, has stayed the course. They continue to give deserving younger musicians a chance to bring their music to the world. Take Justin Robinson — a virtuoso alto player whose music will sometimes test you. That’s because he himself is testing just how far he can push the boundaries of the instrument. His new recording also features two more youthful players in Michael Rodriguez on trumpet and Sullivan Fortner on piano. More battle tested are the late Dwayne Burno on bass and Willie Jones III on drums.
There’s a well conceived balance of tunes here, featuring three under-recorded jazz gems: Jackie McLean’s “Little Melonae”; Monk’s “Eronel” (spell it backwards!); and a Sonny Stitt rarity called “Answering Service.” Two standards are also included — “Just One of Those Things” and “For Heaven’s Sake.” To these, add a few of the leader’s originals and some varied material from other sources. If Robinson’s alto sometimes falls off the diving board, he always manages to to stay afloat. And I’ll bet that even Michael Phelps would love this record.
Criss Cross Jazz; 2014; 63:29.
Frank Kimbrough Quartet; Frank Kimbrough, piano.
Frank Kimbrough has been somewhere in the middle ground between the straight ahead and the avant garde worlds — at least to these ears. No doubt a pianist of immense creativity, he has concentrated on original compositions over a lengthy career. For this session, he is surrounded by heavyweight talent in Steve Wilson, saxophones, Jay Anderson, bass, and Lewis Nash, drums. Among the seven original works here, a few deserve high marks. “November” is a delicate tone poem featuring Wilson in prime ballad form. “Kudzu” is a rollicking toe tapper. And “Beginning” is an exercise in calm and serenity. The three tunes from sources other than the pianist include John Lewis’ “Afternoon in Paris.” It is examined here in a very free and loose manner. Rodgers and Hart’s classic, “It Never Entered My Mind” gets a sincere and lovely take; and Alex Wilder’s “Trouble Man” is a ballad worth hearing more frequently. There is quite a palette of sounds here, often quite beautiful and lyrical. Kimbrough is a pianist of depth and intensity.
Palmetto Records; 2014; appx. 57 minutes.
Standards, Vol. 1; Chris Greco, reeds.
One of those multi-reed guys, Greco shows off his chops on every one of them: tenor sax, soprano sax, flute, clarinet and bass clarinet. It’s not by chance that I leaned towards his clean lines on tenor, as illustrated on Sonny Rollins’ “Solid”; Monk’s rarely heard “Bye-Ya”; and clearly the high point of the CD, Wayne Shorter’s “Yes And No.” “Well You Needn’t,” “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” are “forever” tunes, but they didn’t resonate with me when performed on soprano sax. All’s well, however, on “Goodbye, Porkpie Hat,” as Greco overdubs the two clarinets in stunning fashion. The flute is also showcased here on “Mood Indigo” and “You Don’t Know What Love Is.” Greco receives excellent support from Tom McMorran, piano, Chris Colangelo, bass, and Otis Hayes, drums. He is something to be reckoned with on all of these instruments. But I’d love to hear him playing great songs like these on tenor exclusively.
Four Winds Records; 2014; times not indicated.
Ain’t That Right! - The Music Of Neal Hefti; Adrian Cunningham, saxes, clarinet, flute.
If Neal Hefti had been a baseball player, he’d have been one of those valuable “utility” guys who can help out at any position. Composer, arranger, conductor, and occasional player, Hefti lent a hand to icons such as Sinatra, Herman and Basie, among dozens of others. Ultimately, writing for movie and television soundtracks was his forte. He wrote melodies you’ve heard a thousand times but never knew their names. But Hefti struck gold on a handful of them.
There are examples from the well-known and the obscure on this very swinging and delightful CD. Probably the best known titles are “The Odd Couple,” “Girl Talk” and several that he wrote and arranged for Count Basie, including “Scoot,” “Cute,” “It’s Awfully Nice to Be with You” and “Li’l Darlin’.” Tunes like these helped Basie make substantial bank deposits. There are a total of 13 selections, many less familiar than the ones already mentioned. The project is led by Australian reedman (now residing in New York) Adrian Cunningham. He works hand in glove here with Dan Nimmer, piano; Corcoran Holt, bass; and Chuck Redd, drums. A perfect choice as guest on four tracks is the ever-ready Wycliffe Gordon on trombone. Never widely known to the audience who loved his lively melodies, Hefti’s following was solid among jazz people. He left us at 85 in 2008, but his music is more secure as a result of this fine and very first tribute to him.
Arbors; 2014; 60 minutes.
Junity – Duo and Quartet; Hendrik Meurkens, harmonica, and Misha Tsiganov, piano.
Some 20 years ago, we became aware of a jazz harmonica virtuoso whose presence doubled the number of icons on that little vest pocket instrument. You may have heard the “other” guy, Toots Thielemans. And when it comes to lyricism and sheer beauty on the harmonica, well, Hendrik Meurkens, like his elder mentor, is a joy to hear. On this new disc, Meurkens and pianist Misha Tsiganov play seven tunes as a duo and add bass and drums on a half dozen more. As you might expect, there is a strong sense of intimacy on the duo takes, with the two players in gorgeous musical communication, mainly on original works. When the duo becomes a quartet, the material shifts to standards such as “Pent Up House,” “Close Enough For Love,” Wes Montgomery’s “West Coast Blues,” and even two Beatles memories, “Blackbird” and “Norwegian Wood.” Like Toots, Meurkens gets that plaintive sound that is one of those you-know-it-whenyou- hear-it kind of things. And you should hear what Meurkens is up to on this delicacy.
HMS Records; 2014; 62:00.
We Won’t Forget You – An Homage To Shirley Horn; Dena DeRose, vocals, piano.
It’s a miscarriage of justice when a singer like Shirley Horn lingers in the shadows. But until the last decade of her life, that’s what happened. When she finally “hit” with some help from Miles Davis, she became a “star” in the jazz world. So it’s totally appropriate that another singer-pianist, Dena DeRose, should pay tribute to her. On this, her first album for High Note, DeRose displays both vocal and piano gifts deserving your attention. Her trio includes Martin Wind, bass, and Matt Wilson, drums, but some high profile guests show up, including Eric Alexander, tenor sax, Jeremy Pelt, trumpet, and Gary Smulyan, baritone sax. And with no frosting on the cake, DeRose performs 11 elegant entries recalling Horn. How can you miss the target with “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” “Sunday in New York,” “Quietly There,” “The Great City,” “You’re Nearer” and more. DeRose, without fanfare and with sincerity and skill, brings a loving tribute to the late musical treasure, Shirley Horn.
High Note; 2014; appx. 52 minutes.
Whispering of the Stars; Tommy Smith, tenor sax, and Brian Kellock, piano.
Ever heard of Tommy Smith? Well no, he’s not a second baseman for the Mariners. He is in fact a heavenly tenor sax man from Scotland and one of Europe’s most admired and versatile players. A frequent colleague of his is another Scotsman, pianist Brian Kellock. If you’re in the mood for “pretty,” you’d better get your hands on this album. Smith has a woody, warm sound all his own, and Kellock reads every move to perfection. And when I say “pretty,” well, how could it be otherwise with tunes such as “You Must Believe in Spring,” “Stardust”, “It Could Happen to You,” “Warm Valley,” “The Summer Knows,” “You’ve Changed” and more. There’s even a lengthy medleyof tunes from Ellington to Bacharach, Rowles to Bricusse, and Strayhorn to Arlen to Monk! As for Smith, he plays in the long line of ballad experts: Ben Webster to Scott Hamilton to Harry Allen to Tommy Smith. He doesn’t sound like any of the others, but I guarantee you, he does sound gorgeous. No he doesn’t play second base for the Mariners, but he sure does PLAY!
Spartacus Records; 2014; 55:31.
Fast Friends; Wayne Coniglio, bass trombone and Scott Whitfield, trombone.
Want to try something a little out of the ordinary? How about two trombones and a rhythm section? I’ll make it clear right now: trombone people are a special breed. Those who love trombone are almost protective of that unwieldy monster so important to a big band. I’ve seen Whitfield’s name all over the place in the last few years, but Wayne Coniglio is new to me. His bass trombone, heard on nine of the 11 cuts here, is gurglingly (is that a word?) low enough as to sometimes sound like a different instrument entirely. Anyway, with a cooking rhythm section led by pianist Ken Kenner, the two bones embark on a no-holds-barred swing session with “When I Look In Your Eyes,” “Bernie’s Tune,” “I’m Confessin’,” an entry or two built on the blues, and other assorted riffs. Great fun. No back talk.
Summit Records; 2014; appx. 63 minutes.
Shades Of Gray; Gary Gray, clarinet.
Gary Gray holds all the cards. I’d doubt that he or anyone else would call him a jazz player. But on this totally riveting album, he’s a classical clarinetist playing a number of works by jazz composers. All save one are duets with some pretty high profile colleagues, including Kenny Burrell, Gary Foster and Bill Cunliffe. Some of the more familiar works are Gershwin’s “Three Preludes” and “Rhapsody In Blue”; Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life”; and Kenny Burrell’s “Blue Muse.” There’s a high degree of musical communication going on here as well as some intricate, challenging, and I must say fascinating music. You’ll understand why Gray is a UCLA faculty member, a participant in numerous classical ensembles and orchestras in the LA area, and a contributor to more than 1000 movie and TV soundtracks. That gets a — Wow! And this record does too.
Centaur Records; 2013; 68:52.
The Mike Longo Trio Celebrates Oscar Peterson; Mike Longo, piano.
Back in the 1960s, the young pianist Mike Longo enjoyed the privilege of six months of intensive study with none other than Oscar Peterson. And although Longo spent much of his own lengthy career as pianist and musical director for Dizzy Gillespie, his admiration for Peterson has remained an inspiration. So much so, that on June 25, 2013, his trio gathered at New York’s Bahai Center for the concert you’ll hear on this CD. Longo, bassist Paul West and drummer Ray Mosca had a concept in mind: to play tunes associated with Oscar Peterson. They arrived at the hall with no rehearsal. “I just showed up with a list of tunes and we started blowing,” says Longo. “Everything was improvised.” And isn’t that, after all, at the heart of jazz? So I advise you to say “yes” to this swinging, straight ahead trio performance of O.P. favorites such as “Love You Madly,” “A Child Is Born,” “Tenderly,” “Yesterdays,” “52nd Street Theme,” “I Remember You,” “Daahoud” and a half dozen more. Understand that Longo in no way tries to “do” Oscar. Who could? But his trio in its own way captures the sense of magnificent swing that was the essence of Peterson. Hey, Mike! What a great album!
Consolidated Artists Productions; 2014; appx. 74 minutes.
Most Triumphant; Walter White, trumpet and flugelhorn.
Now here’s a guy who has been part of the New York scene for the better part of two decades. His tone is true and gimmick free. His choice of tunes reflects attention and devotion to jazz history. And his original compositions will keep you listening. So, with all this going for him, why have I never before encountered Walter White? His playing mates include Gary Schunk, piano, Miles Brown, bass, and Sean Dobbins, drums. The quartet takes on five White originals, all worth hearing; I was particularly engaged with the high-wire opener, “Spring Ahead”; the somewhat Tom McIntosh-like sense of pride and a certain nobility on the title tune; and the serene, theme-like quality of “Ballade No. 1.” Five additional selections come from other sources, and two of those are from the standards book. “Indiana” is updated a bit with a contemporary rhythmic setting, and “Bye Bye Blackbird” is done à la Miles Davis, as White plugs in the mute. “Joy” is one of those regal melodies you’ll recognize from the original Chuck Mangione version. And “The Beehive,” written by pianist Harold Mabern, is one of those hard bop delights with lots of movement and some tricky changes. And perhaps to show just how wide his musical horizon extends, White and his colleagues close the session with a beautiful Chopin prelude. The entire album is very straight ahead and uplifting, with no cheap tricks or foolish detours. Pardon the dreadful poetry, but I had to do it: White takes flight and it’s all right!
Summit Records; 2014; appx. 55 min.
To Lady With Love; Annie Ross, vocals.
Yes, all these years later, it’s Annie Ross. The same one we all loved back in the days of the most ahead-of-their-time vocal trio ever, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. On her first recording in years, Ross takes a heartfelt look at songs associated with her idol, Billie Holiday. The intimacy level is at its highest with the accompaniment of father and son guitarists Bucky and John Pizzarelli. There are 12 tunes in all, and a few highlights include “Violets for Your Furs,” “You’ve Changed,” “It’s Easy to Remember,” “Travelin’ Light” and “I Get Along Without You Very Well.” Her finale, fittingly, is “Music Is Forever,” for which she supplied a poignant lyric to the melody of the late pianist Russ Freeman. It is in fact a tune I ended my tenure with at two radio stations, KOPB in 1995, and KMHD in 2014. As is often the case as the years pass, there’s a bit more vibrato present now, but Ross and her guitarists put it all out there — straight from the heart. PS: this is a two disc set, the other a live performance on DVD!
Red Anchor Records; 2014; appx. 52 minutes.
Sketches Of Spain Revisited; Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble.
No one will seriously deny that Miles Davis and Gil Evans created a jazz masterpiece in “Sketches of Spain.” And so one might easily argue that you don’t mess with perfection and there’s no reason to revisit it. But another argument, and one that makes good sense, is simply that you can’t get too much of a good thing. Orbert Davis is composer, arranger and conductor for the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble. What they’ve done here is to start the program with the very familiar and utterly beautiful “Concierto de Aranjuez,” the triumph of the Davis and Evans original. Once again, there is poignant and powerful trumpet and guitar work with. of course, emphasis on new solo statements. The piece receives a long and loving treatment, nearly 48 minutes in all. The entire work is in five parts, the same as the original. Orbert Davis adds two of his own compositions, “Muerte del Matador” and “El Moreno,” both of which retain the strength and overall feeling of “Sketches.”
Completing the album are two more emotionally charged pieces in “El Albaicín” and Gil Evans’ “Solea.” The outstanding musicianship displayed throughout by the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble answers our original question. This is a freshly minted version, and it’s fully deserving of great praise, and, in my house, repeated listenings.
316 Records; 2014; appx. 75 minutes.
Introducing The Laura Dubin Trio.
It’s quite amazing just how much of the piano jazz tradition Dubin has absorbed at the tender age of 24. Her piano heroes have names like Peterson, Brubeck, Evans and Garland, but I hear more Oscar and a smidge of Monty Alexander in her playing. Her all-originals debut album swings with authority.
Self-produced; 2013; times not indicated.
10 Degrees South; Sherie Julianne, vocals.
If you’re into Brazilian music, singer Sheri Julianne takes on some Brazilian hits with a rare freshness and vitality. Some of the tunes are familiar but somewhat neglected, like “O Pato,” “Bonita,” “So Many Stars” and “O Barquinho.” These and other Brazilian melodies are joined by “yankee” tunes like “The Look of Love” and “Watch What Happens.”
Azul do Mar Records; 2014; appx. 52 minutes.
Duologue; Steve Wilson, alto sax; and Lewis Nash, drums.
Alto saxophone and drums. That’s it. Can it sustain your interest? Yes, but only in the hands of two very strong players. It helps also to play good tunes with lots of room for creative adventure and no tomfoolery, such as “Caravan,” “The Mooche,” “Jitterbug Waltz,” “Woody ‘n’ You,” a couple of Monk medleys, and more. Everything falls nicely into place!
Manchester Craftmen’s Guild; 2014; appx. 49 minutes.
Roads Less Traveled; Michael Lake, alto trombone, percussion, keys, sound design; Gerry Pagano, bs trombone.
Among this month’s reviews we looked at a two trombone and rhythm section disc. Well, here’s another “bone” CD, this time with some overdubbing to provide texture. I usually balk at such things, but it all works well here in the hands of Lake and Pagano. And what well chosen tunes! Thirteen in all, including “Yardbird Suite,” “The Two Lonely People,” “Moment’s Notice,” “Darn That Dream,” “Night In Tunisia” and “My Ship.” This may be a bit off the beaten track, but it’s not show-offy at all and actually, it works quite well.
Redlake Records; 2014; times not indicated.
Migration To Higher Ground; Jim Stranahan, saxophones.
Denver area saxman Stranahan presents both “a little big band” and a sextet, dividing up nine sections with loads of color and texture, a hint of Latin here and a Monkish tidbit there. It’s mostly original tunes except: “In Your Own Sweet Way,” “St. Thomas,” and “Donna Lee”. Judging from these energetic tracks, there’s striking musicianship in Colorado.
Tapestry Records; 2014; appx. 54 minutes.