Sunday, December 21, 2014



Best Jazz 2014 by WORLDJAZZ

Jazz Record of 2014
- Ellis Marsalis & Makoto Ozone - Pure Pleasure For The Piano

Top 10 Jazz Records of 2014
- Alexi Tuomarila Trio - Seven Hills
- Enrico Pieranunzi - Stories
- Claudio Fillipini Trio - Breathing In Unison
- Martin Wind & Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana - Turn Out The Stars
- Jacob Young - Forever Young
- Peter Bernstein/ Larry Goldings/ Bill Stewart - Live At Smalls
- Stan Getz & Kenny Barron - People Time - The Complete Recordings
- Fred Hersch Trio - Floating
- Ahmad Jamal featuring Yusef Lateef - Live At The Olympia

Artiste du Jazz 2014
Peter Bernstein & Ellis Marsalis

Saturday, December 13, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part Fourteen

Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band
Life In The Bubble

By Giovanni C. Washington-Wright 
"Life In The Bubble": Gordon's masterpiece?
Yes. The new Big Phat Band album,"Life In The Bubble", is Gordon's masterpiece. This album is different than the last two releases in several ways. Firstly, its compositions are a little more dark and subtle than previous albums. It seems as though Gordon was purposely taking things in a different direction. It's so nice to see a composer as accomplished as Gordon push himself and try new things. Also, I think that part of the new approach to business is the fact that the band was recorded at EastWest (my new favorite room in LA) instead of Capitol. This completely changes the sound of the BPB - adding a new dimension of warmth. To my ears, it's almost a Brian Wilson approach - like the studio is the 19th member of the band. Next, this album is a lot more soloist intensive. The band is filled to the brim with world-class jazz soloists, and they really have a chance to stretch out and blow on this record - which is a thing of beauty. Now, let me get more specific.
"Life In The Bubble", the opener, is a very sly, almost malevolent funk. Gordon employs electronic noise in the chart which something, save "Get In Line", that I've never really heard in a BPB tune. A great, SUPER hip tenor solo by Brian Scanlon on this one.
"Why We Can't Have Nice Things" is a standard BPB flag-waver. BURNIN' solos by Kevin Garren on alto and Andy Martin on trombone. The development /outro section section of the tune is one that you won't want to miss. Some really incredible ensemble playing (with Bernie Dresel playing on the side of drums). One of the finest up-tempo GG tunes I've heard in a while.
"Synolicks" is a feature for guitar wunderkind Andrew Synowiec - he plays his butt off. This tune features one of the most incredible rhythm / ensemble solis that I've ever heard in a big band chart. A great, bluesy chart.
"Years Of Therapy" is the chart that, in my opinion, steals the show. It's the kind of performance that will make Wayne Bergeron even more of a living legend than he already is. This chart features two things I've never heard before: #1.) Gordon writing in a baroque style and #2.) Wayne Bergeron playing piccolo trumpet (and B-flat trumpet). The tune is a LONG blow for Wayne (clocking in at almost 8 1/2 minutes) during which Wayne switches from piccolo to B-flat, blows a lengthy jazz solo, plays lead in a shout section, and finishes in Baroque style on B-flat. All and all, the tune sounds like something Hank Mancini would have written as theme for a BBC comedy (which is a GOOD thing). This chart is worth the price of the CD alone. Wayne's performance and the piece are both Grammy-worthy.
"The Passage" is a rare BPB ballad. It's built to showcase Eric Marienthal's beautiful alto playing. Eric takes a wonderful solo on the tune, with some pretty direct allusions to Bird and Cannonball. The chart itself is almost noir-sounding, a la Bernard Hermann or John Barry - with drop-dead gorgeous changes. Wayne Bergeron on the shout section of the chart is one for the ages.
"Garajo Gato" ("Garage Cat") is a REALLY nice Latin chart named after Gordon's recently-deceased cat, Jasmine. It features great playing from everyone (including a smokin' development section). It features Joey DeLeon on vocals and percussion, Francisco Torres on trombone, and Gordon on tenor.
When I first heard "Does This Chart Make Look Phat?", I didn't know whether to think "Gordon Nestico" or "Gordon Hefti". I decided that this is a pretty wonderful tribute to Sammy Nestico. Straight -up retro, with cigarettes, martinis, and all. It features a pretty smokin' plunger solo by trumpeter Willie Murillo (who obviously has been checkin' out Snooky Young) and smooth, Frank Wess-ish turn by Jeff Driskill on tenor.
"Get Smart" was originally written for the film on which Gordon worked (with Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway). I'm a pretty staunch Irving Szathmary fan, so I was pretty tough on this one going in. I was pleasantly surprised. There are some very interesting melodic and harmonic twists in the chart that drew me completely offsides. A nice solo by Eric Marienthal and incredible lead trumpet playing by Wayne Bergeron round it out.
"Green Dolphin Street". This chart was originally released on November 13, 2013 as a single. This arrangement is based a piano solo by the legendary Oscar Peterson. This incredible arrangement also earned Gordon his 3rd Grammy. It features Gordon on piano and the great Bob Summers on trumpet.
"Party Rockers" is the closing track on album. Judith Hill (from "The Voice" and the LA studios) is guest singing on the track and the tune's composer - with the arrangement by Gordon. This track is amazing. Judith is a vocal freak and a force to be reckoned with - and the band is in excellent form.
I don't think that the Phat Band has had a release this strong, top to bottom, since 2003's "XXL". To my knowledge, Gordon himself has won 3 Grammys (2 for the BPB and 1 for his work on "The Incredibles") and had 7 arranging nominations for the BPB . Although the band has received 2 "Best Large Jazz Ensemble" nominations (one for "XXL", one for "Act Your Age"), they've never won. I think they're about due - and this album is THE one. Outstanding effort, 
Gordon and fellows! Outstanding effort, Gordon and fellows!

Tim Lapthorn Trio
Natural Language

By Jack Kenny, Jazz Views
“ a smart, lively and entertaining set….this optimistic and accomplished session has the feel of both work in progress and a strong well-turned result. Originals such as ‘ Loose Connection’ are interleaved with the odd jazz standard and a collector’s choice of jazz themes, such as Steve Swallow’s ‘ Falling Grace’ and Bill Frisell’s ‘Strange Meeting’. It’s busy and precocious, and as a trio they get a singing quality into their collective sound” BBC Music Magazine, Dec 2004

Hanging influences round a young pianist’s neck is a little like garlanding them with an albatross. It is also lazy thinking. So throw out the shorthand comparisons with Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett and listen. It is hard enough trying to say something new in the trio format that so many great musicians have developed over the years without having to work in shadows of genius.
I watched a young pianist recently who tried to pack so many notes into a bar that the music became indigestible. That does not happen here. It really is brave to eschew the obvious virtuoso effects. The overall impression of this album is thoughtfulness, meditation and reflective improvisation. Tim Lapthorn can also write good themes: listen to the great melody “Loopy”.
On the faster pieces the tempo is such that the lines can be distinguished clearly. Bass player Tom Herbert plays a very conventional accompaniment. In harmony with Lapthorn’s music the bass playing is restrained. Both Herbert and drummer Patrick Levett shine on the reserved reading of Bill Frisell’s "Strange Meeting", because they show their artistry rather than their techniques.
“I Hear a Rhapsody”, “Bemsha Swing”,“My Wild Irish Rose” enable the listener to hear how the improvisation is shaped around the melody. The introduction to “Bemsha Swing” is one of the high lights of the record, completely unlike anything that Bill Evans or Jarrett would do. “My Wild Irish Rose” is a gentle piano solo keeping just clear of sentimentality.
Should you buy the CD? Yes! This is piano trio jazz at its best, played with love and respect.
A final plea: don’t use fade outs. It sounds as though some one has become bored and is unable to appreciate the architecture of the improvisation.

Ahmad Jamal featuring Yusef Lateef
Live At The Olympia - June 27, 2012


By Raul Da Gama
    Most musicians get tired and slow down with age, but Ahmad Jamal shows no sign of either. His playing is vigorous; still spry and minimal and best of all his intellect is agile and he is witty, full of ideas and his music is continuously breathtaking. Mr. Jamal has been praised as one of the greatest musical innovators over his exceptionally long career lasting over five decades. Ahmad Jamal entered the world of jazz in the wake of bebop greats Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie who had established a music where speed and virtuosic improvisation were their norm. Mr. Jamal, however, took steps in the direction of a new movement, later coined by the phrase “cool jazz” – in an effort to move jazz in the direction of popular music. He emphasized space and time in his musical compositions and interpretations, something that was diametrically opposed to the blinding speed of bebop. His music drew a group of musicians and helped pave the way for Miles Davis—who came to exemplify the cool style—as well as Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans and McCoy Tyner. In truth Mr. Jamal was second only to Thelonious Monk in innovation and creativity and in his use of time and space in music. 
    This enormous set is practically the next best thing to a small boxed set as it contains a generous helping of music both on CD and on DVD. The music on CD was all recorded on June 27, 2012—one day—that speaks volumes for the youthful energy of the pianist, now over eighty years old. The videos of the songs were recorded at the same time and later edited into this seamlessly beautiful film. If the musicians all draw attention to themselves for their soaring virtuosity the central character remains Ahmad Jamal, who draws not only the musicians but the appreciative audience to himself. Upon reflection it is possible to describe this package as one of the finest of Mr. Jamal’s music made in the decades since he has been performing, hence the belief that the pianist has turned, like a rare vintage, more exquisite with age. It contains over 10 of his recordings; the most popular works of the pianist, each of which is well represented in his catalogue of decades. It is in every one that Ahmad Jamal offers either a benchmark or a version to stand with the very best. To wit, his performances of “The Gypsy” and “Laura” compare with some of Thelonious Monk’s performances of his classic pieces, in the majestic unfolding of themes and the credible dispatch of vaunted arpeggios of the notoriously difficult right hand. 
    His elementally beautiful version of the chart made famous by Sammy Davis Jr. is among the most exquisite on this repertoire—a miracle of poetry, heady bravura and structural command. And then there is the special guest, the 91-year-old Yusef Lateef who takes the stage and if music could get any more grippingly exciting, then that would be in this CD 2 of this set. The presence of Mr. Lateef makes this a near-mythical set. The winds player brings his saxophones, flutes and grisly voice to several charts and his version of “Brother Hold Your Light” is affecting and melancholic. The rippling textures that Mr. Lateef and his array of instruments brings to the music on which he is featured, is utterly exquisite and showcases his greatness on what turns out to be a short feature, but which raises the ante of the concert considerably. Mr. Lateef is extraordinary on “Exatogi” and his other extraordinary composition, “Masara,” both of which draw the percussionist Manolo Badrena into centre stage again. There is no centrepiece of the performance but if one were to be considered for the overall package then that would be the DVD. This is exquisitely photographed and edited, with several cameras and the visuals are stunning. It also brings to life the performances of players not normally noticed when someone as stellar as Ahmad Jamal is performing and that means his bassist, Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley and the celebrated percussionist Manolo Badrena, who are all absolutely brilliant throughout and serve the master well. 
Track List: 
CD1: Autumn Rain; Blue Moon; The Gypsy; Invitation; I Remember Italy; Laura; Morning Mist; This is the Life; 
CD2: Exatogi; Masara; Trouble in Mind; Brother Hold Your Light; Blue Moon; Poinciana; 
DVD: Autumn Rain; Blue Moon; The Gypsy; Invitation; I Remember Italy; Laura; Morning Mist; This is the Life; Exatogi; Masara; Trouble in Mind; Brother Hold Your Light; Blue Moon; Poinciana. Personnel: 
Ahmad Jamal: piano; Reginald Veal: double bass; Herlin Riley: drums; Manolo Badrena: percussion; Yusef Lateef: saxophones, flutes, vocals.

Tord Gustavsen Quartet
Extended Circle

By Brian Whistler VINE VOICE 
I should start out by saying I'm a real fan of Gustavsen. I love his touch, his keen melodic sense and his spare aesthetic, all of which are represented here. So why only three stars? I have all of Gustavsen's albums and I still think Changing Places is the best, because for one, I prefer the trio setting for this artist and two, the writing on that album was much stronger than anything he has followed it up with. When I first heard Changing Places I was immediately struck by how the tunes had that quality of already being strangely familiar; so inevitable were the harmonies and melodies, they seemed to come right out of the pure ground from which all music springs. I felt that the following two trio albums, Being There and The Ground had similar purity and inspiration. That trio was gold- It seemed as if Gustavsen was mining a particular vein wherein classical, jazz , gospel and Latin elements found common ground- it appeared he had found the motherlode.
Forgetting for a moment the ill conceived Restored, Returned, it seemed that with The Well, Gustavsen had come back to form. Adding the sax player, who reminds me of a sort of Jan Garbarek light, made the obvious debt Gustavsen owes to Jarrett all the more obvious. Not that there's anything wrong with being influenced by one of the greatest European jazz quartets of all time, but with this second quartet album, I feel that absolutely nothing new is happening that we didn't hear on The Well. Part of it is in the writing; we've more or less heard all these changes and tunes before and as far as instantly recognizable tunes go, in contrast with Changing Places gossamer miniatures, there's nary a melodic shell worth picking up and examining closely in your hand. Indeed , many of the pieces are really not so much compositions as sketches without much substance. Thus, listening to this gorgeous sounding album was a curiously flat experience for me.
Not to say it isn't pleasant listening experience. After all, it's Tord Gustavsen. And it's an ECM disc. I'm just beginning to feel I'm hearing his limitations as a composer. I like the sound of this music very much and will listen to it again. I just feel it's lacking a bit in musical nutrition and more importantly, inspiration. And I feel Gustavsen can do a lot better than this. That being said, I am still looking forward to seeing this group next week in SF. But to tell the truth, I have lowered my expectations.
Note:just gave this album a second listen with undivided attention and I have to say that when I came to the last little gospel ballad (that would've fit in perfectly on any of the first three trio albums,) I am underwhelmed. For those who are just coming to know Gustavsen's work, I strongly recommend you start with the first three trio albums. For fans, I still give a somewhat tepid thumbs up.
Track Listing: 
Right There; Eg Veit I Himmerik El Borg; Entrance; The Gift; Staying There; Silent Spaces; Entrance, var.; Devotion; The Embrace; Bass Transition; Glow; The Prodigal Song.
Tore Brunborg: tenor saxophone; Tord Gustavsen: piano; Mats Eilertsen:double bass; 
Jarle Vespestad: drums.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part Thirteen

Fred Hersch Trio

By Dan Bilawsky
Live albums and studio albums can by miles or millimeters apart in terms of presentation, conception, quality, layout and reception; it all depends on the circumstances and intentions when a record is made. Pianist Fred Hersch's Floating, for example, nearly erases that potential divide.
While it's against his very nature, Hersch could've haphazardly thrown together a random list of tunes and gone into the studio cold, using an ad hoc group to flesh out this album. In the end, he did the exact opposite. Hersch took his rightfully acclaimed working band—the Fred Hersch Trio—into the studio right after a run at New York's Village Vanguard, the recording sight of his two previous records. Then, he put together a playlist that mimics the nature of one of the trio's live sets, starting with a standard, moving on to originals, throwing in a dose of classic balladry, and ending with a taste of Monk. The end result is a studio album that sits well next to the pianist's live dates.
The aforementioned album-opening standard is "You & The Night & The Music." Here, this warhorse is transformed by the ceaselessly choppy-and-rolling, Latin-inflected 12/8 feel that the trio adopts. Restlessness and respect are the two qualities that shine through as Hersch and company stay faithful to the music in certain ways, yet remain consistently on the move. The title track comes next, occupying a completely different space; it lives up to its name as it drifts and glides along.
Hersch's penchant for penning tributes is well-known at this point, so it should come as no surprise that this album contains more than its fair share of such pieces. Hersch pays respects to his mother and grandmother with a brief episode of beauty ("West Virginia Rose"), tips his cap to this group's bassist—John Hebert—with a swampy-and-groovy show ("Home Fries"), and delivers an airy and loosely flowing tribute to gone-too-soon pianist Shimrit Shoshan("Far Away"). Other works in this category include a dynamic-yet-sensitive nod to bassist Esperanza Spalding("Arcata"), a gentle piece written in honor of Finnish artist Maaria Wirkkala, and a swirling, almost-swinging piece for pianist Kevin Hays("Autumn Haze"); Hersch and Hebert fall into line on that last one, but drummer Eric McPherson cunningly circumvents the feel for the majority of the tune.
The end of the journey—a gorgeously enthralling take on "If Ever I Would Leave You" and a hip run through Monk's "Let's Cool One—further illustrates Hersch's genius and the rapport that exists between these three simpatico travelers.
Track Listing: 
You & The Night & The Music; Floating; West Virginia Rose (For Florette & Roslyn; Home Fries (For John Hebert); Far Away (For Shimrit); Arcata (For Esperanza); A Speech to the Sea (For Maaria); Autumn Haze (For Kevin Hays); If Ever I Would Leave You; Let's Cool One.
Fred Hersch: piano; John Hebert: bass; Eric McPherson: drums.

Christoph Stiefel & Inner Language Trio
Big Ship

By Bruce Lindsay
Big Ship is the latest album to grace the extensive discography of Swiss pianist Christoph Stiefel and the fourth release from his Inner Language Trio. Stiefel is an underrated pianist. He lacks, so far, the public profile of other European players such as Joachim Kuhn or Michael Wollny but that's no reflection on his talent—as Big Ship clearly shows.
For some time Steifel has been working with the concept of isorhythms—a musical strategy that dates back to mediaeval composers. On albums such as Live! (Basho Records, 2012) Stiefel has signposted this concept by sub-titling his compositions as "Isorhythm #19," "Isorhythm #28" and so on. Tellingly, there's no such numerical classification on Big Ship—isorhythms still influences some of his writing (notably the immediately engaging groove of "Attitudes") but it's no longer as critical a force.
This lineup of the Inner Language Trio features bassist Arne Huber alongside Kevin Chesham, who made two appearances on Live!, on drums. Hopefully this combination will stay together, for Huber and Chesham form a tight and responsive rhythm section.
Stiefel's writing continues to produce tunes full of surprising rhythmical twists and turns—such as "Big Ship" and "The Dance"—but some of Big Ship's finest moments arise in the quieter, less frenetic, compositions. The delicate "First Blossom" is a brief piano solo that's characterised by the calm spaciousness of an Erik Satie composition. "South" is another slow tune, combining a flowing melody and pleasing harmonies. The lovely "Solar Glider" features Stiefel's percussive left-hand patterns, as well as some of Huber and Chesham's most atmospheric playing. "Elegy" is the most striking of these tunes, its flowing beauty the result of a fine ensemble performance.
Out on the oceans, a big ship can seem ungainly and slow to respond. No such problem for this Big Ship. Throughout the 11 tunes the Inner Language Trio demonstrates a masterly command of rhythm and dynamics—shifting direction and pace with the agility of a speedboat one moment, then gliding sedately with the grace of an ocean liner the next.
Track Listing: 
Thalatta; Attitudes; Elegy; Pyramid; New May; Big Ship; First Blossom; The Dance; South; Angel Falls; Solar Glider.
Christoph Stiefel: piano; Arne Huber: bass; Kevin Chesham: drums.

Ellis Marsalis Trio
On The Second Occasion

By JimsJazzNotes
This is the latest release on the resurrected ELM label. Produced by drummer Jason Marsalis, this is a sequel to the 2013 ELM release, On The First Occasion. That disc contained music recorded in 1998. This sequel disc consists of music recorded in 2003. In a recent reply to my review of the first album, producer Jason Marsalis explained how that music had been released once before on CD but only in the local New Orleans market. As far as I know the music on this second recording has never been released before. Like the previous recording, it’s a collection of standards, but as Jason explains in the liner notes it’s meant to contrast with the first release in terms of tempo; consisting primarily of medium to fast tempo tunes. Thanks Jason for bringing this new release to my attention! I promptly purchased it. How’s that for easy sales? :) Once again the musical execution is absolutely exquisite! This recording is a perfect example of the difference between a working band and one time studio sessions. No one time gathering of musicians could ever produce this level of refinement, this consistency of aura, or this degree of clarity.
Ellis is a joy to listen to because his playing is so full and well rounded. He easily goes back and forth between a chord based two handed sound that is full and encompassing, and one handed fiery solos. Bassist Bill Huntington consistently reads and contributes to the particular mood being created by the leader; adding foundational structure, rhythmic intensity, or gut bucket swing, as called for. He also takes a handful of lovely solos, such as on the last cut. Drummer Jason Marsalis assumes a rather large role in this musical outing, consistently taking really powerful solos which often serve to significantly alter the mood or direction of a given tune midway through. His playing seems to really accentuate the difference in sound from one drum to another and at times it almost sounds melodic!
This CD is full of little undocumented surprises. On first listen I noticed at least three small fragments of tunes that are discretely inserted here and there sort of like easter eggs. The final one requires a measure of patience just to find it. :) On another note, unfortunately, this CD is so new that when I went to transfer it to my computer so I could put it on my portable player Gracenotes didn’t even recognize it. I’ve had that happen with a couple other CDs from another label recently as well. Perhaps if I wait a bit longer the data will show up. Anyway, thanks to Ellis Marsalis and his trio for another fabulous recording, and thanks to Jason for putting it all together and sharing it with the rest of us!

Jim Black Trio

By Winter & Winter
Drummer Jim Black, born in 1967 in Seattle, Washington, and residing in New York, forms his first classical piano trio with the almost one generation younger pianist Elias Stemeseder (born in 1990 in Salzburg) and bassist Thomas Morgan (born in 1981 in Hayward, California). Jim Black – who also leads the group AlasNoAxis, plays a major role in Human Feel, creates an exciting new interpretation of Mahler, Mozart and Gershwin with the Uri Caine Ensemble, and belongs to John Zorn's Masada – discovered Elias Stemeseder a couple of years ago during summer classes. From this first meeting a close collaboration develops itself. With Thomas Morgan, performing at that time with Paul Motian, Black finds an ideal partner for the bass. The foundations for this trio are laid in 2010 and already in 2011 appears the debut album »Somatic« on Winter&Winter. Downbeat writes in June 2012: "Black has assembled a remarkably intuitive group here that brings an effective mixture of accessibility and elusiveness to his compositions, a combination that keeps the listener engaged, guessing and surprised."
In January 2014 the Jim Black Trio records its second album »Actuality« live-to-analog-two-track at Sear Sound Studio in New York. All compositions are penned by Jim Black. The album opens with silent, melancholic tones. Jim Black emphasises especially the fine nuances. The concentrated and sensitive interaction of the three musicians, who are excellently connected, is convincing in every phase. The concept of the album resembles a song cycle without words. Jim Black lets his music breathe, gives time and space, opens subtle tones with rich sounds and allows a wide and dynamic spectrum.
A few weeks before the studio production, the trio went on a tour in Europe and gave several live concerts in New York before the first studio day. Jim Black, Elias Stemeseder and Thomas Morgan build an extraordinary unity. It is not surprising that Paul Motian's music has influenced the young Jim Black. In the same way as Paul Motian has shaped the Bill Evans Trio, Jim Black as well does not take the role of a time keeper, but instead plays with his very own, distinctive melodies on his drums and cymbals and remains alway very closely interrelated with piano and bass. Black unfolds a soulful and melodious playing, and Elias Stemeseder and Thomas Morgan make room for these delicate yet powerful sounds. This trio has a particular feeling for overtones and refined nuances. The album ends with the piece "Should Be Painless". From the first to the last resonating tone the Jim Black Trio performs at the highest level.
Jim Black impresses with his musical creativity and endless curiosity, he is one of the most demanded drummers of the jazz world. In 1991 Jim Black moves to Brooklyn, where he has been living until now. In the year 2000 he released his widely acclaimed debut CD »AlasNoAxis« (called by The Wire "a masterpiece of future jazz"). »Actuality« is his ninth leader album on Winter&Winter.
Thomas Morgan starts at seven with the cello, which he will continue until the age of 14 when his attention turned to the double bass. In May 2003 he receives his bachelor of music at the Manhattan School of Music. Thomas Morgan has collaborated with important artists such as Paul Motian, John Abercrombie, David Binney, Joey Baron and Steve Coleman.
Elias Stemeseder decides from the early age of nine to concentrate on the piano as his main instrument. After dedicating himself exclusively to classical music for four years, he develops a deep interest for jazz and launches his first band. At only 15 he is accepted at the Bruckner Conservatory in Linz for the study of jazz piano. His trio receives the prestigious Joe Zawinul Award in 2008.

Dave Liebman Big Band
A Tribute To Wayne Shorter

By Jack Bowers
In a career spanning almost half a century, soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman has appeared on more than five hundred recordings including seventy as leader of various groups. His latest, A Tribute to Wayne Shorter by the Dave Liebman Big Band, may well be the best one yet. Why? Because every single component, from choice of material to arrangements, performance to production, is no less than superlative. In other words, there is simply nothing on this brilliantly conceived and splendidly consummated album that warrants censure of any kind.
In saluting one of the twentieth century's most resourceful and respected jazz musicians, Liebman has chosen (wisely) to focus exclusively on Shorter's more temperate and melodic treasure trove from the mid-1960s, a time during which he wrote such classic themes as "Infant Eyes," "Nefertiti," "Black Nile" and others. A second decision, perhaps even wiser than the first, was to assign arranging duties to Mats Holmquist, a Swedish master who leads his own ensemble and has literally written the book (well, a book) on big-band arranging, "Great Band ABZ." Holmquist's charts are, in a word, sublime, renovating Shorter's compositions, originally designed for quartets or quintets, to make them seem as though they'd been written explicitly for full-size bands.
A third decision, to open the album with a ballad ("Infant Eyes"), could have been less rewarding save for the excellence of the band, Holmquist's wonderful arrangement, and bewitching solos by Liebman and pianist Jim Ridl. Liebman solos on every track, and the thought that arises after listening is "why isn't this guy winning polls?" That's no spur-of-the-moment impression; on soprano sax, Liebman is as sharp and perceptive as anyone you'd care to name. Pay heed, for example, to his dazzling sorties on the fast-paced "Black Nile" and "Yes or No." Improvisation doesn't get much better than that. Speaking of which, there are splendid solos along the way by guitarist Vic Juris("Speak No Evil"), trombonist Tim Sessions and drummer Marko Marcinko("Yes or No"), trombonist Jason Jackson("Nefertiti"), alto / music director Gunnar Mossblad ("El Gaucho"), flugel Scott Reeves and bassist Tony Marino ("Iris") and tenor Dave Riekenberg("Black Nile").
In his liner notes, Liebman affirms "what a pleasure [it is] to play this timeless music with my big band." The pleasure is ours, Dave. Five stars for Dave Liebman, the band, Mats Holmquist and especially Wayne Shorter whose singular talents made this superlative recording possible.
Track Listing: 
Infant Eyes; Speak No Evil; Yes or No; Nefertiti; El Gaucho; Iris; Black Nile.
Dave Liebman: leader, soprano sax, wooden flute soloist; Mats Holmquist: arranger; Gunnar Mossblad: music director, alto, soprano sax, flute; Bob Millikan: trumpet, flugelhorn; Brian Pareschi: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Ballou: trumpet, flugelhorn; Danny Cahn: trumpet, flugelhorn; Patrick Dorian: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tom Christensen: alto sax, flute; Dave Riekenberg: tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Tim Ries: tenor sax, clarinet; Chris Karlic: baritone sax, clarinet; Tim Sessions: trombone; Scott Reeves: trombone, alto flugelhorn; Jason Jackson: trombone; Jeff Nelson: bass trombone; Jim Ridl: piano; Vic Juris: guitar; Tony Marino: bass; Marko Marcinko: drums.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part Twelve

Gwilym Simcock

By John Kelman
It's rare when an artist emerges to accolades like "the most important new pianist on the British scene," and even rarer when such praise is justified. It's rarer still when it's an artist like Gwilym Simcock who, at twenty-six, has won a bevy of British awards despite coming to jazz from a classical background less than a decade ago. For an artist so young, Simcock has racked up a staggering array of accomplishments—a member of drummer Bill Bruford's Earthworks and co-member, along with Earthworks saxophonist Tim Garland, in bassist Malcolm Creese's trio Acoustic Triangle. Simcock is also a significant composer, writing for groups ranging from trios to a forty-piece ensemble featuring a gospel choir and strings.
Too many young artists step out as leaders far too soon. Still, Simcock has paid plenty of dues in a short time span, including Acoustic Triangle's sublime Resonance (Audio-B, 2005), drummer Spike Wells' intimate Reverence (Audio-B, 2007) and Garland's ambitious If the Sea Replied (Sirocco, 2005). With Perception, Simcock debuts as a leader, and it's every bit as ambitious and mature as one might expect—and hope.
Revolving around a core trio of bassist Phil Donkin (another youngster at twenty-seven) and drummer Martin France (an exceptionally flexible drummer who's become ubiquitous on the British scene over the past two decades), Simcock's front-and-center on this album of largely original material that also features a few high profile (at least, on the British scene) guest appearances. "A Typical Affair" opens on a demanding Latin-esque note but, with complex shifts in meter that make it a challenge to "find the one," it remains accessible nonetheless. Simcock builds his opening solo carefully, as much a function of rhythm as melody, but with a deep sense of harmony that swings through his tough-to-navigate changes.
Saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, guitarist John Parricelli and percussionist Ben Bryant (heard here on vibes) flesh things out to a sextet for "Sneaky," a buoyant tune that references the knotty yet groove-heavy writing of the late Michael Brecker, and features a robust solo from Donkin as well as a brief but gritty solo from Parricelli. The romantic classicism of "Time and Tide," with Paricelli's nylon-string guitar, Sulzmann's soprano and Bryant's percussion, feels like Oregon at times, but with France's strong backbeat propelling parts of the tune, it's more grounded, less rarified. The rubato "Almost Moment" is darker but no less beautiful, with Sulzmann's tenor and Parricelli's electric swells creating long tones over which Simcock and France layer more fluid expressionism.
Simcock closes the set with two standards—a 10/4, wildly contrapuntal take on "The Way You Look Tonight" and a solo version of "My One and Only Love" that proves Simcock as capable without accompaniment as he is with. It's a fitting closer to a debut that makes it clear just how far-reaching this young pianist is. While he's already delivering on promises suggested by his emergence earlier this decade, Perception augurs much more to come.
Track Listing: 
A Typical Affair; Sneaky; And Then She Was Gone; Time and Tide; Almost Moment; Voices; Affinity; Message; The Way You Look Tonight; My One and Only Love (live).
Gwilym Simcock: grand piano; Phil Donkin: double-bass; Martin France: drums; Stan Sulzmann: tenor and soprano saxophones (2-5, 7); John Parricelli: acoustic and electric guitars (2, 4, 5, 7); Ben Bryant: tuned and untuned percussion (1, 2, 4, 5, 7).

Lili Araujo
Casa Aberta

By Mauro Ferreira
Cantora e compositora carioca, Lili Araujo descende da linhagem nobre de Joyce e Rosa Passos. Não é por acaso que Joyce avaliza o segundo álbum de Araujo, Casa Aberta, em texto escrito para o encarte do CD. O samba que abre o disco, exaltando a alma africana da Bahia, Negro Coração (Alegre Corrêa e Raul Boeira), poderia figurar no repertório de qualquer álbum mais recente de Joyce pelo balanço que remete de imediato ao cancioneiro desta conterrânea de Araujo. Quatro anos após lançar seu (bom) disco de estreia, Arribação (Oficina Records, 2008), trabalho em que filtrou o samba e o choro pela estética do jazz, a artista continua envolvendo a música brasileira em atmosfera jazzy, sem jogar nota fora, sem abrir espaço para improvisos exagerados. A boa influência do jazz é perceptível em todo o disco, mas notadamente em certas passagens de Até Quando Durar (Daniel Santiago e Mauro Aguiar) e da faixa-título Casa Aberta (Lili Araújo), destaques do disco produzido pela própria cantora (e cada vez melhor compositora) com o guitarrista Daniel Santiago. O piano de João Donato imprime em Não Tem Nada Não (João Donato, Eumir Deodato e Marcos Valle, 1973) o tom latino típico do músico. A faixa é outro trunfo de disco que reitera o apego de Araujo ao samba, ritmo recorrente ao longo das 11 faixas de Casa Aberta. Um desses sambas, Não Tem Perdão, é da safra inicial de Ivan Lins, parceiro de Ronaldo Monteiro de Souza no tema lançado por Leny Andrade no álbum Alvoroço (EMI-Odeon, 1973). Outro, Onde Estiver (Chico Pinheiro e Paulo Neves), é cantado em ritmo veloz por Araujo em fina demonstração de sua destreza vocal. Um terceiro, Vai Saber (Lili Araujo), confirma a evolução da compositora, que também assina Pra se Lembrar de Mim, balada interiorizada (e menos envolvente no confronto com outros temas do disco). No todo, Casa Aberta hospeda a boa influência do jazz (e de Joyce) na música brasileira, sinalizando a desenvoltura de Lili Araujo em gênero hoje mais recebido no Exterior do que na sua humilde residência. Entre com ouvidos abertos para o samba jazzy...

Janis Mann & Kenny Werner
Celestial Anomaly

By Christopher Loudon
Five years ago, L.A.-based vocalist Janis Mann paid exquisite tribute to timekeepers, alternating among a quartet of preeminent drummers on A Perfect Time. Now, two albums later, two of the four—Roy McCurdy and Joe LaBarbera—return for the equally sublime Celestial Anomaly. This time, though, co-billing is ascribed to pianist Kenny Werner. Bassist Hamilton Price, as impressive as his better-known bandmates, completes the rhythm section.
Astronomically speaking, the title refers to an apsis, the farthest point between two bodies in elliptical orbit, which seems an odd insinuation. If the two bodies are Mann and Werner, then their union couldn’t be closer—a masterful fusion of musical minds. And though Werner’s playing is expectedly brilliant, the entire ensemble, whether anchored by McCurdy or LaBarbera, is tight and interdependent.
Mann is often likened to Sarah Vaughan, and certainly shares Sassy’s dark, rich texture and her versatility. But Mann adds an enticing air of mystery, a dusky hint of veiled possibilities. She is not only one of the most skilled vocalists around, but one of the most alluring as well. Her excellent taste in standards here extends from a smoky “So in Love” and an intriguingly propulsive “Early Autumn” to an entrancing “Wild Is the Wind” and spellbinding “Throw It Away.” More contemporary material is as shrewdly interpreted, including gorgeous readings of Elton John’s “Come Down in Time” and Sting’s “Fragile.”

Andre Vasconcellos
+ Brasileiro

By Kees Schoof
This is bassist André Vasconcellos’ fourth album. 2, also reviewed on our site, easily gained international success. The bass style of André Vasconcellos (Brasília, 1979) attracts many jazz fans and critics. After 2 there was a live album in 2012. Now we’re pleased to hear + Brasileiro, on which the bassist is surrounded by a bunch of musicians who are all among the best and most promising in their field. On piano is David Feldman, who studied with the great Luiz Eça (1936-1992). The influence of Eça is quite noticeable in Feldman’s playing on this album. On drums is the promising rising star called Rafael Barata; he seems to be everywhere these days. On four tracks drummer Xande Figueiredo is in charge. We already know him from his work on the album Amicizia from the jazz group 8VB. Guitarist is Pedro Martins, whose striking album Dreaming High was recently reviewed on our website. Then there are the talented saxophonists Josué Lopez (Rio, 1980) on tenor and Danilo Sinna (Rio, 1987) on the alto. They all mean serious business on André’s recording date! Their eagerness is heartwarming. It’s how good friends make good music, with fun and dedication. The compositions of André Vasconcellos give space for each musician to show why they’re so in demand. They don’t shy away from complicated harmonic and rhythmic challenges, like in “Meio Sem Fim” and “Um Girassol da Cor do Seu Cabelo.”
The bassist is also know from his work with Hamilton de Holanda. Hamilton is guest on “Tempo de Partir.” “Sem Adeus” features another member of the Hamilton de Holanda group: Gabriel Rossi on harmonica. Third guest is flutist Eduardo Neves on the sunny “Bolero.”
On + Brasileiro André Vasconcellos gives us the confirmation that jazz is alive in Brazil. Jazz with an unmistakably Brazilian touch. The bassist/composer dedicates the music on this album to the musicians and composers from Brazil’s artistic fruitfully 1970s and 1980s. A mission that’s completed in a more than fantastic way.

Helge Lien Trio
Badgers and Other Beings

By Jakob Baekgaard
Since he signed to Dagobert Böhm's Ozella Music, Norwegian pianist Helge Lien has reached a new artistic plateau with his trio. Hello Troll (Ozella, 2008) was an immediate success that showcased the group's lyricism and tight interplay and the spacious beauty of Natsukashii (Ozella, 2010) added new colors to a wide musical vocabulary rooted in the Nordic aesthetic.
Badgers and Other Beings continues the trio's journey in sound and like the previous releases, it has been superbly sculpted by famous engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug in his Rainbow Studio in Oslo. However, there is a significant change. Drummer Knut Aalefjær, who has been with Lien for 13 years, has been replaced by Per Oddvar Johansen. In many ways, this signals a new era, just like it did when drummer Jorge Rossy left pianist Brad Mehldau's trio and was replaced by Jeff Ballard. But like the case of Mehldau, it is a matter of nuances and not a complete artistic transformation. There's still a sense of continuity, but of course, Oddvar Johansen, a highly skilled drummer who has played with pianist Christian Wallumrød and saxophonist Trygve Seim, brings something new to the table.
The most important thing is that he is a dynamic drummer, who is able to navigate in complex situations and change between introspective and expressionistic approaches. He is a sophisticated player who doesn't make the obvious choice in a given situation. For instance, when Lien builds a powerful crescendo with minor chords on "The New Black" where Frode Berg's buzzing bass adds to the drama, Oddvar Johansen doesn't emphasize the mood with thundering strokes on the kit, but plays contrapuntally with understated swing and light splashes on the cymbals. It is a perfect way to build tension and avoid the threat of a bombastic musical statement.
It is characteristic of Lien that he isn't afraid to move into highly emotional territory, but his great gift is that he avoids sticky pathos. Few pianists are able to write a composition about their mother without plunging into the depths of sentimentality, but Lien's bittersweet "Mor" ("Mother") balances the delicacy of a simple singing melody with a tinge of sadness, but most of all adds a warmth that reflects a love that is built like a gentle thread of memories.
While it is true that Lien plays in the great tradition of the piano trio, the trio has its own sound. There's a specific Norwegian sensibility where the folk-melodies of classical composer Edvard Grieg echo through the hills and mountains. Lien's dictum seems to be that he should be able to sing his compositions. This is also the case with a pianist like Keith Jarrett, but whereas the collective unconscious of Jarrett is based on the blues and the standards, Lien's sound is born out of a tradition that is distinctly Nordic. This doesn't mean that he avoids inspiration from outside his country. He knows standards, he knows the blues. The trio even has its own take on calypso on "Calypso in Five," but here the warm sounds of the West Indies are also filtered through the sweet melancholy of the North.
Underneath it all is a life-affirming rhythmic energy that confirms that Helge Lien's trio is here to stay and among the most exquisite proponents of the noble art of the piano trio. Badgers and Other Beings isn't the sound of a trio that has become tired, but rather the evidence of a group that has realized its enormous potential and is still hungry for more.
Track Listing: 
Mor; Joe; Hoggormen; Hvalen; Folkmost; Early Bird; Knut; Calypso in Five; The New Black; Badger's Lullaby.
Helge Lien: piano; Frode Berg: bass, Per Oddvar Johansen: drums. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part Eleven

Gary Peacock & Marilyn Crispell

By Thom Jurek
The release of Azure, a duo recording by bassist Gary Peacock and pianist Marilyn Crispell, may have been inevitable, but it sure was a long time coming. Peacock and Crispell have played together on tour for years, but this is their first opportunity to record as a pair. Under Crispell's leadership, they teamed with the late Paul Motian on two of the finest piano trio offerings of the last two decades: Nothing Ever Was, Anyway and Amaryllis. There are three tunes composed by each artist, three duo improvisations, and each has a solo track. Crispell's "Patterns" opens the proceeding on a lively note. A complex, knotty, muscle-flexing duet that is full of quick call-and-response motivic thought and counterpoint, it reveals the duo's considerable dialogic power. On the other end of the spectrum is Peacock's lovely, melodic "The Lea," which extends naturally from both the folk and blues traditions. He opens with his solo; it states its loose theme followed by his improvisation upon it for half the tune's length. When Crispell enters, she underscores the song-like nature of the piece, painting its frame with melancholy, minor-key chord voicings, and brief, luxuriant fills. The set's longest cut, "Waltz After David M," by Crispell, is elliptical and graceful with a gorgeous melody. Peacock's support offers avenues for more expansive -- yet subtle -- thought in the middle's long improvisational section. Though these pieces are quite satisfying, the duo's real poetic is displayed in their improvisations, especially the hypnotic "Blue," with Crispell's Monk-tinged chords and tight, angular lines. Peacock's playing reveals so much wood in his tone that it feels percussive -- despite his continual bluesy, swinging riffs and vamps. The title cut that closes the proceeding is crystalline, full of space, elegance, and grace. It sounds like the seamless interplay between the two is not improvised but composed and arranged. On Azure, the effortless communication between these players is like a conversation that is so intimate it can, at times, feel as if the listener is eavesdropping. Hopefully these two will be motivated to do this again.

Misha Tsiganov
The Artistry Of The Standard

By Edward Blanco
Veteran Russian pianist Misha Tsiganov has an extensive discography featuring original compositions and, like most musicians, blending a few standards for familiarity along the way. With The Artistry Of The Standard, the pianist presents an entire album of standards reprising the music of jazz greats Wayne Shorter, Charlie Parker, Wes Montgomery and John Coltrane among others. Jazz standards however, is not the only genre represented on the nine-piece repertoire as Tsiganov also includes music from the Great American Songbook drawing songs from Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Jerome Kern as well as an uncommon pop tune from Stevie Wonder ("Make Sure You're Sure").
Two elements that make this an exceptional outing are, Tsiganov's superb arrangements making much of the tunes sound like new instead of warn out renditions. The other obvious key to the success of this effort, is the collection of A-list players helping him interpret the standards. Performing with a quintet that features a horn section of saxophonist Seamus Blake and trumpeter Alex Sipiagin—both blowing the house down on the nine-minute version of "Get Out Of Town," is just one indication of how good this album is. The horns are silent on the Kern standard "The Song Is You" as Tsiganov takes charge with bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Donald Edwards providing all the background support the pianist needs as he delivers one masterful performance providing one excellent treatment of a beautiful time-honored standard.
The pianist's affinity for the music of saxophonist Wayne Shorter is evident as he opens the music with a blistering read of the icon's "Fall" and continues with another lively read of the familiar "This Is All For Albert" showcasing another gorgeous piano solo, a Sipiagin push and more from tenorist Blake. With the pianist leading the way, the oft-recorded "Falling In Love With Love" is almost unrecognizable with terrific improvisational twists and changes disguising the melody and making this version quite unique. Tsiganov's talents as a bebop and post-bop player and interpreter are on display on the very boppish Coltrane tune "Mr. Day" as are the appreciable chops of saxophonist Blake with some steamy solos.
Jazz pianist Misha Tsiganov long ago cemented his place in the jazz world and certainly deserves recognition as one of the most celebrated jazz pianist of our time as the music of The Artistry Of The Standard truly attests. Leading an outstanding cadre of jazz musicians—all major players in their own right—this quintet is one formidable ensemble that plays tight and delivers the music with gusto. The standards have never sounded as robust and challenging as the way Tsiganov arranges and presents here, exemplary on all fronts.
Track Listing: 
Fall; Get Out Of Town; The Song Is You; Ah-LeuCha; This Is For Albert; Four On Six; Falling In Love; Mr. Day; Make Sure You're Sure.
Misha Tsiganov: piano; Alex Sipiagin: trumpet, flugelhorn; Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Boris Kozlov: bass; Donald Edwards: drums.

Stan Getz & Kenny Barron
People Time - The Complete Recordings ( 7 CD's )

By Geoffrey Himes at JazzTimes
When a jazz musician crosses the boundary of 60, he or she must decide what to do with phrases already played thousands of times. Do you just keep playing them with less and less emotional force? Do you replace them with a whole new bag of tricks? Or do distill your playing like whiskey, getting rid of the superfluous notes so only the highest-proof music remains?
The last four years of Stan Getz’s life were devoted to such a distillation. Five months after he turned 60, the tenor saxophonist brought his quartet to Copenhagen’s Café Montmartre on July 6, 1987. No longer did Getz seem to be exploring for the right notes by sending out search parties in all directions; now he went directly to the right phrase at the right time. The sharp focus was reinforced by the forward push from drummer Victor Lewis, a master of the cymbals; bassist Rufus Reid, a master of melody; and pianist Kenny Barron, a master of turning single-note lines into harmony.
The radio broadcast from that evening was so fruitful that it yielded not just one of the Getz’s best albums but two: Anniversary, released in 1989, and Serenity, in 1991. The saxophonist began to think of the Danish nightclub as a good luck charm and returned there in March 1991, for four nights of duo performances with Barron, released a year later as People Time. Except for one night in Paris, these would be Getz’s last public performances, for he would die of liver cancer on June 6.
It’s unclear whether or not he knew he was dying. Barron says he talked to Getz in May about a summer tour that was to begin in July. It’s clear, however, that the saxophonist was very sick; he often had to pause to catch his breath and conquer his pain between tunes, and he cancelled the eighth show of the four-day run for health reasons. It’s also clear that the process of distillation had proceeded even further since the 1987 dates. Getz’s lines had grown even cleaner and leaner, sculpted by pauses into thin phrases of pure lyricism.
The original two-CD set, People Time, offered 14 of the week’s 48 performances. Now all 48 numbers (covering 24 different tunes) have been released as a seven-CD box set, People Time: The Complete Recordings, one disc for each of the seven sets. Also in the box is a long essay by Gary Giddins, making the argument that all 48 numbers deserve to see the light of day. It’s not, he concedes, that Getz and producer Jean-Philippe Allard made the wrong decisions in picking the 14 best tracks for the original release. Rather, Giddins argues, this is one of the unacknowledged high points of jazz history, and hearing it unfold over seven sets and four days is an unparalleled pleasure.
Perhaps it’s a matter of personal taste. The box set provides a superb listening experience, but neither it nor the original two-CD set would be a desert-island disc for me; in fact, I prefer the muscularity of the 1987 quartet sessions to the intimacy of the 1991 duo dialogues. One can’t deny Giddins’ argument, however, that the seven discs unfold like a story of two men growing closer and closer together until they reach a rare telepathic rapport on the final three sets.
On the first set of the third night, an ailing, dissatisfied Getz replaced the reed on his horn. He tested out the new reed on “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” and then threw off all concerns about health and equipment for a sublime reading of Benny Golson’s elegy for Clifford Brown, “I Remember Clifford.” Perhaps the autumnal twilight of this ballad fit Getz’s frame of mind, because his famously tender tone had seldom worn the bruise of loss so revealingly. And Barron was right there with him; his chording never fell into a repeating pattern but moved with the sax as if offering consolation to every painful phrase. The set ended with a spirited version of “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top”; Getz ratcheted up the tension by chopping out pieces of the familiar melody while Barron pursued a duet between his funky left hand and lyrical right.
Giddins calls the second set of that evening “one of the great Stan Getz sets, one of the great Kenny Barron sets, and arguably the best of the Getz-Barron sets.” Four of the six numbers wound up on the original album, and the other two are nearly as good. Getz’s distillation of his sound didn’t reduce the forcefulness or exuberance of his playing, but merely gave it better framing by clearing away the clutter, as he proved on “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)” and “Night and Day.” But the highlight of the set, of the entire week, and perhaps of Getz’s career is the version of Charlie Haden’s “First Song.” Introduced by Barron’s spare, mood-setting piano, this ballad tribute to Haden’s wife, Ruth Cameron, became, in Getz’s emotionally naked, pause-punctuated solo, an admission of every regret and gratitude he has accumulated during his long life.
It’s worth noting that most of the highlights of this box set are neither show tunes nor Getz originals but rather compositions by distinguished jazz musicians: Haden, Dizzy Gillespie, Thad Jones, Eddie Del Barrio, Mal Waldron, Benny Carter (who wrote the title tune) and Golson, who contributed three different titles. Golson is a lovely saxophonist but he could never play like Getz, while Getz could never write like Golson. They needed each other, and jazz needs more such symbiotic relationships between writers and players.

Paul Bley
Play Blue - Oslo Concert

By Mike Shanley at JazzTimes
Paul Bley’s 1973 album, Open, to Love, set a precedent as both a document of the pianist’s skill in the solo setting and for the rich production that has become an expectation with ECM Records. Despite that artistic success, Bley wouldn’t release another solo album for ECM until 2007, when he returned with Solo in Mondsee. Thankfully, it wasn’t as long of a wait for this third solo piano recital, taken from a performance at 2008’s Oslo Jazz Festival.
Hearing Bley in action, applying his own sense of order to various approaches, still feels electrifying. In Way Down South Suite the blues shows up twice, just long enough for him to twist it around. In the early minutes, he plays a melody in the upper register, giving it a feeling of innocence. Later in the 15-minute piece, he interrupts a different blue line with a dissonant turn, as if to talk himself out of it.
In between, he creates drama with a pregnant pause and muffles piano strings with one hand while striking the keys with the other. The equally lengthy “Far North” springs from a simple chordal riff, where his hands chase one another and briefly lapse into an off-kilter stride; the energy is high even when Bley just lets chords resonate gently. Following a 90-second ovation, the set closes with a rapid upper-register version of Sonny Rollins’ “Pent-Up House,” to which Bley adds some avant-garde thunder for punctuation.

Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, Bill Stewart
Ramshackle Serenade

By Chris M. Slawecki
Like just about every historically great organ trio, these three expert musicians are strongly rooted in funk and jazz: Organ player Larry Goldings and drummer Bill Stewart both spent time smoking riffs for saxophonist Maceo Parker (not at the same time), while no less an authority than Jim Hall
once called Peter Bernstein the most impressive jazz guitarist he'd ever heard. These shared roots especially grow through this set's "Mr. Meagles," through which Goldings and Bernstein respectively move and groove like Jimmy Smith and Grant Green.
"Sweet and Lovely" is more than a standard lovingly rendered by these six capable hands—it's an accurate summation of this entire set. "We have developed a group sound in a completely natural way instead of having a sound that is dominated by the organ," Goldings suggests. "Maybe it's because of the respect we have for one another as musicians with strong personalities."
They respectfully open their Serenade with Goldings' tribute to drummer Max Roach. Organ and guitar riffs stroll into and then jump out of this leisurely glide, move to swap brassy chords (which sound like they'd be the horn chart in a larger ensemble) and then open up for increasingly long and complex drum rolls and cymbal splashes that honor this tune's namesake. In another namesake tribute, Goldings' chords wrap up and nestle Bernstein's opening guitar like luxurious bedclothes as it dances through all the beauty and romance of Antonio Carlos Jobim's ballad for his youngest child, daughter "Luiza." These three voices sing the title track "Ramshackle Serenade" in a truly singular voice that radiates the warmth of jazz from the American heartland nurtured by Pat Metheny, Bruce Hornsby and similar mainstream artists. "We all wanted it as the album's title," Goldings explains. "I think that sometimes we as a band let feelings of dissolution and chaos meet up with strength and beauty. It's fun to take something beautiful and harmonically and rhythmically turn it around so that certain darker shadows mix in. Tension is crucial when you want to make good music."
Stewart builds up "Blue Sway" upon guitar and organ chords that rock it back and forth, its melody and rhythm as perfectly titled as "Sweet and Lovely" and as the serene and floating rendition of Horace Silver's "Peace" which closes this set.
Track Listing: 
Roach; Luiza; Simple as That; Ramshackle Serenade; Mr. Meagles; Sweet and Lovely; Blue Sway; Useless Metaphor; Peace.
Larry Goldings: Hammond organ; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Bill Stewart: drums

The Stanley Clarke Band

By Thom Jurek
The 2010 self-titled release by the Stanley Clarke Band is aptly titled; it actually feels more like a band record than anything he's done in decades. This isn't saying that Clarke's solo work is somehow less than, but when he surrounds himself with musicians that are all prodigies in their own right, the end results tend to be more satisfying. Produced by Clarke and Lenny White, his band is made up Compton double-kick drum maestro Ronald Bruner, Jr., Israeli pianist/keyboardist Ruslan Sirota, and pianist Hiromi Uehara (aka Hiromi) who plays selectively but is considered a member. There are guests, too, including a horn section, a couple of guitarists in Rob Bacon and Charles Altura, and saxophonist Bob Sheppard. Clarke plays his usual arsenal of basses. Sirota and Hiromi also contribute compositions to the album. They include the former's set opener "Soldier." While its intro is quiet and melodic enough, it evolves, first into a modal study with Clarke playing the melody before it kicks into jazz-rock overdrive with Altura playing a distorted rhythm guitar to Clarke's Alembic tenor bass. Dynamics shift and turn; they make the track a multi-faceted investigation with Sirota's piano solo sourcing both McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock. Hiromi's "Labyrinth" melds elements of "My Favorite Things" to modern post-bop and classical architectures; the breakbeats by Bruner add a funky touch, and Clarke's layered basses become a focal foil for the piano. There is also an updated reading of Chick Corea's "No Mystery," from Clarke's days with Return to Forever, that captures the tune's near transcendent curiosity without trying to re-create it. The drama brought by Clarke's bass is tense and declamatory. "Sonny Rollins" contains the theme from "Don't Stop the Carnival" and is Caribbean-flavored, but pays tribute to the saxophonist's entire career. Written by Clarke, it contains wonderfully knotty passages on acoustic as well as electric basses; Sheppard's fine soloing and fills make it a jumper. "I Wanna Play for You Too" is funkily self-explanatory for Clarke fans, while "Bass Folk Song #10" is a gorgeous solo piece. "Fulani" is an excellent piece of contemporary fusion, where "Larry Has Traveled 11 Miles and Waited a Lifetime for the Return of Vishnu's Report," dedicated to Joe Zawinul, is a clumsy, failed attempt at summing up the music's history to date. The ballads, including "Bass Folk Song No. 6," which closes the set, work less well, but these are minor complaints on an otherwise fine recording.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part Ten

Martin Wind Quartet & Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana
Turn Out The Stars: Music Written or Inspired by Bill Evans

By Mark Corroto
Has an artist ever been characterized as a hopeful romantic? If not, then let us nominate Martin Wind, not as hopeless, but a bullish and inspiring romantic. His quartet and the 36- piece Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana tribute to pianist Bill Evans Turn Out The Stars marries his talents, both as a jazz bassist/bandleader and orchestral arranger.
Besides leading his own quartet, and working in trio with Bill Mays and Matt Wilson, and in the guitar/bass duos with Philip Catherine or Ulf Meyer, Wind is an in-demand sideman featured in multiple projects, including Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts and bands led by, Ted Nash, Gary Smulyan, and Pete Mills, to name just a few. He released two stellar recordings in 2013, the CD Ulf Meyer and Martin Wind At Orpheus Theater (Laika) and an audiophile LP Remember October 13th (Edition Longplay).
Recorded live at the Theatro Rossini in Pesaro, Italy, Wind's quartet includes his regular partners, saxophonist Scott Robinson and pianist Bill Cunliffe, plus drummer Joe LaBarbera, who was Bill Evans' drummer in the pianist's final trio (1978-1980). This homage to Evans is enhanced by the gorgeous and passionate arrangements Wind wrote for conductor Massimo Morganti's orchestra. The disc opens with the title track, an overture in full bloom that gives way to the quartet's recitation of melody with Robinson's saxophone laying down velvety notes. Each piece— such as the spry rendition of "The Days Of Wine And Roses," performed by the quartet or full orchestra—is dexterously accomplished. Wind has the knack for extracting the sweetest juice for each piece written by Evans or written in tribute to the great one. La Barbera's composition "Kind Of Bill" opens with a piano and bowed bass duo, then lingers in that romantic atmosphere Evans loved to reach for.
Even in full orchestra, the quartet is never overwhelmed. The luscious arrangement of "Blue In Green" plays off of the contrasts of lightness and dark, the orchestra a pastoral landscape for the quartet to rollick. The tricky "Twelve Tone Tune Two" pushes the orchestra into a challenging interchange with La Barbera's drums and the coughing horn of Robinson. At the center of this gorgeous evening is the stalwart bass of Wind, the infrastructure upon which both a quartet and a very large orchestra is held by his passionate zeal.
Track Listing: 
Turn Out The Stars; My Foolish Heart; The Days Of Wine And Roses; Jeremy; Memory Of Scotty; Kind Of Bill; Blue In Green; Twelve Tone Tune Two; Goodbye Mr. Evans.
Martin Wind: bass; Scott Robinson: tenor saxophone, C melody saxophone; Bill Cunliffe: piano; Joe La Barbera: drums; Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana - Massimo Morganti: conductor.

Dena DeRose
We Won't Forget You... - An Homage to Shirley Horn

By DustyGroove
Dena DeRose serves up a tribute to the great Shirley Horn – and works here with the kind of hip jazzy combo that Horn definitely would have loved! Like Horn, DeRose both sings and plays piano – plus a bit of Hammond on a few tracks too – and in addition to core trio instrumentation on bass and drums,t he set also features tenor work from Eric Alexander, trumpet from Jeremy Pelt, and baritone from Gary Smulyan – each players who drop in on certain tracks and make things shine wonderfully – like those key instrumental solos on later Shirley Horn records for Verve. Dena's own vocals and piano are great, though – perfectly timed to replicate that soulful swing that always set Shirley apart – a richness of feeling that's never overdone, and which always knows how to groove even at the most expressive moments. Titles include "Sunday In New York", "Big City", "Don't Be On The Outside", "Quietly There", "A Time For Love", "The Great City", and "Wild Is Love".

Christian Jacob
Beautiful Jazz: A Private Concert

By Dan Bilawsky
There was a time when pianist Christian Jacob thought he'd be making his mark as a classical pianist. That's perfectly understandable considering the fact that he was playing piano at age four and studying at the Metz conservatory at age six. By the time he was in college, studying at the Paris Conservatory, he was winning awards and prepping for piano competitions.
Jacob was following the prescribed course that classical piano hopefuls typically follow, but his destiny was with jazz. Jacob was taken with the work of Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson and other jazz luminaries early on, but it took him some time to realize that this music was his true calling.
Nowadays, it's hard to imagine that Christian Jacob could've ever doubted that his fate was tied to jazz. As a sideman, Jacob has worked with a long list of greats, from trumpeter Maynard Ferguson to vibraphonist Gary Burton to arranger/bandleader Bill Holman. He's inextricably linked to the acclaimed Tierney Sutton Band, working side by side with the nominal leader on her incredibly well-received albums, and he's gained some traction as a leader through his work with the Christian Jacob Trio. He's even worked with symphony orchestras on occasion. In short, he's done a hell of a lot for a guy who didn't figure on a career in jazz, but he's never put out a solo piano disc; that is, until now.
Beautiful Jazz: A Private Concert is Jacob's love letter to the genre that whisked him away from the waiting arms of the classical world. He tackles old favorites here, revisiting and/or revising some of the very material that drew him toward jazz in the first place. Jacob brings a sense of wonder to "How Long Has This Been Going On?," tackles "That's All" in seven, muses on "My Romance," and delivers an information-dense "Surrey With The Fringe On Top." Jacob also tips his cap to pianist Bill Evans with "I'm Old Fashioned," references his classical upbringing through Stravinsky's "Etude No. 4 in F# Major," and delivers a wonderful "September Song" arrangement that's devoid of improvisation.
This whole program was recorded at a private concert at Zipper Hall in Los Angeles, with Jacob playing on a Hamburg Steinway Model D Grand. Both the scene and the instrument helped to shape this album, but it's Jacob who delivers on the promise of the title. Beautiful Jazz it is.
Track Listing: 
How Long Has This Been Going On; That's All; It Might As Well Be Spring; Etude No. 4 In F# Major; My Romance; Surrey With The Fringe On Top; Tea For Two; I'm Old Fashioned; One Note Samba; Body And Soul; September Song; Giant Steps; Till The Clouds Roll By.
Personnel: Christian Jacob: piano.

Jacob Young
Forever Young

By John Kelman
While all groups aim for the kind of collective chemistry that can make, for example, five people speak with a single voice, how they get there can vary significantly. In some cases there's instantaneous chemistry; in other cases, it comes from pre-existing relationships amongst various permutations and combinations of its members; in still other instances it is something that simply develops over time. On Forever Young, guitarist Jacob Young leverages both the relationships that have come before amongst the members of his quintet and a clear and immediate connection shared by its five members. A fine addition to an ECM discography that began with Evening Falls (2004) and continued with Sideways (2008)—two recordings that featured a completely different lineup—Forever Young leverages the strengths of what came before while simultaneously asserting its own independence.
If anything, Forever Young provides Young with even greater freedom than on his previous ECM outings, where he was the sole chordal instrument. Here, Young recruits pianist Marcin Wasilewski's trio—a group that, despite being on the shy side of forty, has been together for two decades and has, consequently, evolved both a chemistry and a language all its own, both in collaboration with trumpeter Tomasz Stanko on recordings including Suspended Night (ECM, 2004) and Lontano (ECM, 2006), as well as with its own triptych of superlative standalone releases (also on ECM), the most recent being Faithful (2011).
With a second chordal instrument in the mix, Young is relieved of the responsibility of constantly supporting his fellow band mates, though it's not as if he's abandoned the role entirely; in fact, one of Forever Young's biggest strengths is how Young and Wasilewski manage to continually complement each other without ever running into one another, a rare quality also shared by guitarist John Abercrombie and pianist Marc Copland on 39 Steps (ECM, 2013). On the deceptive "Sofia's Dance"—deceptive because, although it's largely based on a simple, two-chord Phrygian vamp with a theme that begins as a similarly straightforward melody, its conclusion adds an unexpected Mid-Eastern-tinged twist—Young's nylon-string guitar meshes empathically with Wasilewski's accompaniment during saxophonist Trygve Seim's characteristically taciturn solo, and gently underscores the pianist's own feature.
But the chemistry doesn't stop there. Seim—an ECM leader in his own right, with a slowly growing discography that includes the masterful large ensemble music of Sangam (2005) and more intimate duo date with pianist Andreas Utnem, Purcor: Songs for Saxophone and Piano (2010)—has a shared history with Young on the guitarist's pre-ECM recordings Pieces of Time (Curling Legs, 1997) and Glow (Curling Legs, 2001), as well as with Wasilewski and his trio's bassist, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, as members of drummer Manu Katche's quintet heard on Playground (ECM, 2007).
The intervening years since Sideways have seen Young demonstrate a much broader, more electrified purview, in particular in his collective trio with expat British keyboardist Roy Powell and Norwegian drummer Jarle Vespestad (Tord Gustavsen Quartet, Farmers Market), first with Anthem (PVY, 2011) and, more recently, with the trio renamed as InterStatic and releasing even more extreme music on the upstart British label RareNoiseRecords. But here, on Forever Young, while the guitarist does mix some electric guitar work with the acoustic instruments that have helped to define his previous two ECM recordings, like Evening Falls and Sideways, it's a warmer, hollow body tone that continues to assert the importance of the late Jim Hall on Young's formative years.
While there are hints of the darkness and melancholy that made his previous ECM outings so appealing, with Wasilewski's trio in tow Forever Young also demonstrates a more outgoing nature on tracks like "Bounce," where Young's muted electric guitar chords drive a change-heavy song with a brighter disposition. "We Were Dancing" follows, with Young employing a similar supporting approach before opening up into one of his most impressive solos of the set, a slightly tart-toned electric feature that allows the guitarist's virtuosic abilities freer rein.
If Forever Young proves anything, it's that the tendency to whitewash anything coming out of Norway as "Nordic Cool" is just that: whitewashing. Young may adhere to a generally sparer approach with his ECM recordings, but if there's a single word to describe his music it's warm, whether it's his own tone, the refined elegance of Wasilewski's trio or the patiently unfolding energy of Seim's playing throughout the set. It's also a recording whose language speaks clearly to at least some adherence to the American tradition, especially on pieces like the brighter "1970" and "Time Changes."
For those unfamiliar with Young's extracurricular activities, Forever Young demonstrates an ability to simmer in a way that his previous ECM recordings did not. It also represents a first outing by a quintet with plenty of potential; hopefully six years won't have to pass before this intimate yet delicately expressionistic quintet can once again reconvene.
Track Listing: 
I Lost My Heart To You; Therese's Gate; Bounce; We Were Dancing; Sofia's Dance; Comeback Girl; 1970; Beauty; Time Changes; My Brother.
Jacob Young: guitars; Trygve Seim: tenor and soprano saxophones; Marcin Wasilewski: piano; Slawomir Kurkiewicz: double bass; Michal Miskiewicz: drums.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part Nine

Marc Copland
Some More Love Songs

By Dan McClenaghan
Pianist Marc Copland—who, oddly, began his jazz career as a saxophonist—took an artistic leap forward with his three New York Trio recordings on Pirouet Records. Employing a rotating crew of bassists with Gary Peacock, Drew Gress, and drummers Paul Motian and Bill Stewart, the pianist rose to a higher profile via his nearly unsurpassed musical excellence. The pianist interpreted standards (and some not-so-standards), along with his own top-flight original compositions, in conjunction with an astute marketing choice of releasing, over the course of three years, this triptych of similarly handsomely packaged outings, much in the fashion of Brad Mehldau's five Art of the Trio (Nonesuch Records, 2011) recordings.
Before the New York sets there was the perhaps overlooked Some Love Songs (Pirouet Records, 2005), that included transcendent explorations of tunes by Joni Mitchell, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, Richard Rodgers and Victor Young—a recording that rivaled almost any of iconic pianist Bill Evans' best work. Now Copland follows Some Love Songs with Some More Love Songs.
It's hard to imagine the success of Copland without Evans' ground-breaking, his strong contribution to trumpeter Miles Davis' classic Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959), and the subsequent consistency of his superb trio recordings over a more-than twenty-year run, from the late fifties until the pianist's untimely death in 1980. Copland has taken Evans' approach of trio democracy, sonic luminosity and harmonic depth and created his own personal language on this—the high point for now—musical journey.
The set opens with Joni Mitchell's lovely and fragile "I Don't Know Where I Stand," a re-visitation of the tune Copland recorded solo on Alone (Pirouet, 2009). This version benefits from the nuanced accompaniment of his trio mates, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Jochen Rueckert. The mood is floating and uncertain, mirroring the lyrical content of Mitchell's version, leading into an up-tempo, beautiful and brash take of the classic "My Funny Valentine," with its implacable momentum.
"Eighty One"—from the songbook of legendary bassist Ron Carter and Miles Davis' ESP (Columbia, 1965), the debut from what would become the trumpeter's second great quintet—is cool and mysterious, the interplay highly nuanced. "Rainbow's End," Copland's lone original composition, shimmers like late afternoon sunlight reflecting off the facets of wavelets on a wind-ruffled pond, while Cole Porter's ever-familiar "I've Got You Under My Skin"—a 1956 masterpiece by Frank Sinatra, who sounded supremely suave and confident on his take—gets a wandering and impressionist treatment by Copland's trio, with the heart of the melody slipping in and out of the shadows.
The set closes with one of its most tender moment, Victor Young's "When I Fall In Love," brimming with sparkling optimism and a fitting wrap-up to what may be Copland's finest trio outing to date.
Track Listing: 
I Don't Know Where I Stand; My Funny Valentine; Eighty One; Rainbow's End; I've Got You Under My Skin; I Remember You; When I Fall in Love.
Marc Copland: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Jochen Ruekert: drums

Dave Frank
Portrait Of New York

By Dan Bilawsky
Jazz and New York are like hot dogs and baseball, or peanut butter and jelly. The Big Apple has been the epicenter of so many important movements and moments in jazz, that it's hard to think of any other place—save perhaps New Orleans—that deserves the honor of being captured in song. Pianist Dave Frank, widely recognized as a premier jazz educator and performer, pays tribute to New York with solo piano paintings of various streets and locales, and four reworked standards, on Portrait Of New York.
Frank's steady and creative left-hand lines—juxtaposed against a right hand that can be alternately relaxed or off-the-charts fast—is his calling card. A strong blues-affinity resides within his creations, but his ability to modernize older forms with slight abstractions—be it an altered chord progression or oddly angular intervals in his steady bass lines—is what makes this music so engaging. "Full Force NYC" opens the album and Frank's right hand seems to represent the hustle and bustle of New York life, as he throws out some jaw dropping runs. "Broadway Boogie-Woogie" is a bit more traditional in nature, but Frank's faster-than-usual take on "Perdido" breaths some fresh air into that well-worn classic.
While most of the originals refer to places, Frank does pay tribute to two piano giants with "McKenna/McCoy." The forward momentum found on this particular piece makes it a winner, though it never hints at the percussive power in McCoy Tyner's playing. Frank's slow, bluesy-woozy "Lower East Side Shuffle" is a real treat, though this track could have also benefited from some heavy-handed heft.
While Frank's flashier tendencies occasionally come to the fore during the more excitable songs, he proves to be a masterful ballad sculptor as well. Pangs of sadness, loss and regret come through on his emotionally reflective performance of "This Nearly Was Mine." Mysterious melodic threads are sewn in the upper regions of the piano as "My Man's Gone Now" begins. Some depression sets into the music and rubato rears it's head here, though this track eventually takes on a more defined rhythmic direction than the Richard Rodgers tune. Frank's own "Manhattan Moonlight" is pretty and classy, in an unassuming way.
Portrait Of New York paints a wonderful picture of solo piano possibilities and Manhattan-themed melodies, but it also serves as a portrait of Dave of the most creative pianists around today.
Track Listing: 
Full Force NYC; Broadway Boogie-Woogie; This Nearly Was Mine; Midtown 9 AM; Perdido; My Man's Gone; Lower East Side Shuffle; McKenna/McCoy; Manhattan by Moonlight; Bowery Blues; You And The Night And The Music; Times Square.
Personnel: Dave Frank: piano.

Cécile McLorin Salvant
Woman Child

By Alison Bentley
American singer Cécile McLorin Salvant's début album WomanChild reveals a voice with a deep, knowing side, as well as a childlike playfulness. Still in her early 20s, she was winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2010 and is already being fêted as the heir to the great jazz singers. Her repertoire and style are cool and modern as well as reaching back into jazz history.
There are two Bessie Smith covers: St. Louis Gal and Baby Have Pity on Me. McLorin Salvant sings with Smith's bluesy phrasing, laid-back but gentler, less raunchy. Every characterful detail is exposed by James Chirillo's lovely understated guitar- he plays on these two tracks only. There are two songs taken from popular early African American performers, which are full of humour. Nobody was sung by Bert Williams in the 1900s and is reworked with some excellent stride piano from Aaron Diehl. McLorin Salvant brings out the song's wry humour: 'When life seems full of clouds an' rain/ and I am filled with naught but pain,/ who soothes my thumpin' bumpin' brain ?/Nobody!'
Valaida Snow's You Bring Out the Savage in Me is sung with exquisite humour, over a fiery Afro-Latin groove. McLorin Salvant plays with vocal tones, from a Judy Garland drawl to a Blossom Dearie whisper. As McLorin Salvant puts it: 'I think you can make fun of the idea of jazz as “savage music” even while wanting to be primal'. Abbey Lincoln inspired her to 'go for it' as a singer, and she has a little of Lincoln's declamatory style in John Henry, a traditional song about the death of a railway worker. There's a toughness to the voice over the New Orleans-ish fast groove, with percussive piano.
Born in Miami to a French mother and Haitian father, McLorin Salvant’s first language was French. She's set Haitian poet Ida Faubert's poem Le Front Caché Sur Tes Genoux to music with a 6/8 jazz feel. She sings the emotive lyrics with a low, affecting vibrato. She's been studying Classical singing as well as jazz in France, and her own song Deep Dark Blue has long, beautifully-controlled vocal notes over Ravel-like dramatic piano. Her song WomanChild is autobiographical, 'Woman child falters/Clumsy on her feet/ Wonderin' where she'll go...', but it also, she's said, expresses her view of art- how it should be adult and childlike at the same time. The band moves from a McCoy Tyner-like swagger to compelling swing. Sarah Vaughan was an early influence on McLorin Salvant, and like Vaughan, her voice flickers between a full-powered tone and a mischievous, girlish sound.
The standards bring out the most modern aspects of McLorin Salvant's voice. I Didn't Know What Time it Was frames the voice with rhythmic stops, and McLorin Salvant sounds uncannily and beautifully like 60s Betty Carter. Her sense of swing is surefooted with a mixture of delicacy and confidence. There's a fine boppy melodic bass solo from Rodney Whitaker and sparkling piano solo from Diehl. There's a Lull in My Life is prefaced by Prelude, an instrumental section which displays the talents of the virtuosic and versatile piano trio. An excellent subtle backbeat and 12/8 feel from drummer Herlin Riley brings in the vocals. McLorin Salvant's said she wants '... to get as close to the centre of the song as I can,' and her expressive diction brings out the meaning brilliantly; as she sings 'the clock stops ticking' right behind the beat, you can almost hear the clocks slowing down. McLorin Salvant accompanies herself on piano on Jitterbug Waltz; she sings with such spontaneous, gamine glee, you feel you're waltzing with her.
Her rendering of What a Little Moonlight Can Do (much performed by Betty Carter) shows McLorin Salvant's full range- vocally and emotionally. She told one interviewer: 'When I sing I try not to think too much, and get into the story of the song...I get into that moment and just go.' There are swathes of long, improvised notes, haunting and intimate, over the piano trio's free-ish modern harmonies. They're interspersed with passages of fast swing, underpinned by Whitaker's immaculate bass. McLorin Salvant chokes comically and touchingly on the words '... all day long you'll only stutter, your poor tongue- it will not utter the words'.
McLorin Salvant matches playfulness with superb technique; devil-may-care performance with dedicated love of jazz. I can't wait for the next album.

The David Hazeltine Trio

The David Hazeltine Trio successfully undertakes well-known classical works and reinvents them through jazz. Joined by George Mraz on bass and Jason Brown on drums, Hazeltine is able to reformat these classics into high energy, sweet swinging, syncopated adaptations of their originals. The group tackles works by composers: Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, and Beethoven; restructuring their works all the while keeping them audibly recognizable.
This album was recorded in Binarual+ for both speaker and 3D headphone playback and has EXTREME dynamics, so please set your playback levels carefully.
Track Listings:
1. Clair de Lune
2. Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring
3. Impromptu No. 4
4. Moonlight Sonata
5. Waltz of the Flowers
6. Prelude
7. Reverie
8. Fur Elise

2 Sem 2014 - Part Eight

Spike Wilner
La Tendresse

By Mark Corroto
But having been told that one word reviews aren't sufficient, how about this: Pianist Spike Wilner's disc La Tendresse is pure joy.
Wilner can probably best be described as an old soul occupying a modernist corpus. His foundations in ragtime and stride piano inform the music heard here, but like Thelonious Monk, he uses the tradition as the architecture for the anatomy of a modern player. Even his take on "Crepuscule With Nellie," the classic Monk expression of hesitation and suspension, is delivered as a tender blues. More importantly, he delivers it without the cartoon clichéd dawdling.
Wilner's approach is to brighten each piece with the energy of his playing. Like his hero, Willie "The Lion" Smith and other Harlem stride pianists, he makes the difficult seem quite simple. The speed at which the trio navigates "After You're Gone" is just short of tumult. Drummer Dezron Douglas
and bassist Joey Saylor chase, and then are chased by, the exuberance of Wilner's piano.
He is also quite comfortable carrying the day unaccompanied. As with his previous solo recording Live At Smalls (Smalls Live, 2011), Wilner performs several solo pieces here. The old Carol Burnett sign off tune "I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together" is rationed with the appropriate melancholy, and Harold Arlen's "If I Only Had A Brain" bounces and frolics with a campy stride fitting the dopey scarecrow.
The trio performs Irving Berlin's "Always," raising the bandstand much like early Bill Evans
would, interlacing a subtle and intellectual swing with a quasi-classical approach. The highlights of this disc might be Scott Joplin's "Solace" and Bernice Petkere's "Lullaby Of The Leaves." Both tracks beg for comparison to master musician Bebo Valdes' playing. With "Solace," Wilner mixes his ragtime approach with Valdes' Cuban-folk take on American jazz.
There is much rejoicing to be had—or heard—here.
Track Listing: 
La Tendresse; If I Only Had A Brain; Solace; Silver Cord; Always; Lullaby Of The Leaves; After You've Gone; Le Sucrier Velours; Little Girl Blue; Crepuscule With Nellie; I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together; Happy Ending.
Spike Wilner: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Joey Saylor: drums.

Harold Mabern Trio
Live At Smalls

By a jazz listener's
First up is the veteran pianist Harold Mabern, with Joe Farnsworth on drums and John Webber on bass. Harold Mabern Trio "Live at Smalls" (SmallLIVE 2013) features a 77 year old pianist who has never gotten the full recognition he deserves for his catalogue of work but who is one of the truly outstanding veterans of this era, alongside, for example, a luminary like Kenny Barron. He dropped from the radar in the 90s and early 2000s when most of his catalogue was released on Japanese labels (and they are great CDs if you want to get them), but has come back strongly in the U.S. recently with "Mr Lucky" (High Note 2012) and now this outing. Seven tracks fill the CD with the kind of good old fashioned, driving mainstream jazz sound, sometimes straight ahead, sometimes soulful, sometimes bluesy, and always entertaining. They stretch out on some rousing great tunes like "I'm Walking" and the "Road Song," boogie on "Boogie for Al McShann", and do up "Sesame Street" very cleverly. First rate music from a first rate trio.

David Berkman
Live At Smalls

By Bill Milkowski at Theabsolutesound
Pianist Berkman’s seventh as a leader follows the straight ahead formula of his previous quartet recording, 2009’s Live at Smoke. While his crystalline touch on ballads and assured sense of swing on uptempo numbers define the terrain here, it’s trumpeter Tom Harrell who nearly steals the show. They open with an exuberant “Milestones” (John Lewis’ 1947 composition, not Miles Davis’ 1958 tune of the same name) with Harrell and Berkman striding in unison on the buoyant head before the trumpeter delivers a golden solo underscored by the pianist’s assertive hard-bop comping and paced by bassist Ed Howard’s insistent walking and drummer Johnathan Blake’s interactive swing feel. Berkman provides graceful accompaniment for Harrell’s achingly beautiful reading of “Body And Soul,” performed as a sparse, poignant duet. Berkman’s “Ghost Wife” travels from sparse introspection to florid rubato excursions to energized freebop while his jaunty “Small Wooden Housekeeper” has a syncopated spring in its step. The lone trio number, “For Kenny,” is the pianist’s heartfelt homage to the late, great Kenny Kirkland. This superb outing concludes with a fresh take on the standard “Sweet And Lovely” with Blake providing a “Poinciana” beat underneath and both Harrell and Berkman contributing more sparkling solos.

Larry Goldings
In My Room

By Carlo Wolff
How kind of keyboardist Larry Goldings to share such intimate music. A celebration of Americana in such tracks as a baroque “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and a rococo “Beautiful Dreamer,” In My Room works subversive magic on other levels, too. Goldings, a Boston native, launches this sneaky album with the title cut, one of Brian Wilson’s most personal and lovely compositions. But he doesn’t restrict his affection for Americana to covers: Originals like “Crawdaddy,” swaggering with rubato, are redolent of New Orleans, and “All My Born Days” is a brief, embracing ballad. Above all, In My Room is warm.
Although Goldings is best known for his organ work, his pianism also is startling, as is his taste. His eclecticism spans Abdullah Ibrahim’s “The Wedding,” Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want” (treated with austere freshness) and, attesting to the depth of his knowledge of classic British rock, the gorgeous “A Rose for Emily,” a haunting Rod Argent tune from the Zombies’ 1968 masterpiece, Odessey and Oracle.
Goldings peppers this deceptively easygoing CD with “interludes” of mildly prepared piano; some twinkle, some shimmer, all delight. He caps this solo piano disc with “Here, There and Everywhere,” treating the Beatles’ beauty as a pastorale. This sweet album doesn’t rock, though it transforms rock. It is leisurely but never ponderous. Goldings always brings out the melody, letting the listener in on his emotive creative process along the way.

Bill Carrothers

Castaways - a beautiful CD unusual in its coherent combination of pieces played by a trio with a special feeling for atmospheric depth. Bill Carrothers and friends play with precision and nuance, creating an excitingly coherent group sound. Music that renews and reinvents, performed with unusual warmth and intimacy.
Bill Carrothers piano; Drew Gress bass; Dré Pallemaerts drums