Sunday, July 20, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part Two

Antonio Adolfo
O Piano de Antonio Adolfo

By Deck
A Deck comemorou em 2013 os seus 15 anos de existência. Como parte dessa grande celebração, a sua sede no Rio de Janeiro passou por uma série de reformas, ampliando e modernizando seus estúdios. Nesse período, foi adquirido um Gran piano acústico, diretamente da fábrica Yamaha C6X, no Japão. Para estrear a chegada desse instrumento, desejado há muito tempo, a gravadora lança esse ano uma série na qual grandes pianistas são convidados a gravar discos instrumentais. O primeiro deles é “O Piano de Antonio Adolfo”.
O disco é composto por 14 versões de Antonio para canções suas, como “Teletema” e “Chora Baião”, e de outros mestres da música brasileira, como Tom Jobim e Vinicius de Moraes (“Insensatez”, “A Felicidade”), Jacob do Bandolim (“Doce de Coco”), Pixinguinha e Benedito Lacerda (“Ingênuo”), entre outros.

Michael Wollny Trio

By Bruce Lindsay
The inventive German pianist Michael Wollny combines a delight in exploration with an impressively high work rate. As a result, he's become one of the European jazz scene's most prolific and most unpredictable performers. Weltentraum is the debut recording from the Michael Wollny Trio, a piano, bass, drum collaboration that on the surface at least bears a striking resemblance to [em], Wollny's previous piano, bass, drums collaboration. Given that [em] was one of the most enjoyable and talented bands on the circuit, that's no bad thing.
Like [em], the Michael Wollny Trio records for ACT Music, features the excellent Eric Schaefer on drums, mixes original tunes with selections from classical, rock, and pop composers and favors acoustic instrumentation. So what's the difference between [em] and the Michael Wollny Trio? The bottom end. [em] featured bassist Eva Kruse. The Michael Wollny Trio features bassist Tim Lefebvre. The variation may be marginal, but overall swapping Kruse for Lefebvre seems to give the Trio a lighter touch—not better, but different.
Only two tunes are Wollny originals—"When The Sleeper Wakes" and "Engel." The rest of the collection is gathered in from across the world and across the centuries. The Flaming Lips, Paul Hindemith, Alban Berg and Edgard Varèse all add to the track list—even dear old Friedrich Nietzsche gets in on the act with "Fragment An Sich" parts 1 and 2.
"Little Person," composed by Jon Brion for the movie Synecdoche, New York (2008) is the prettiest tune on Weltentraum—a delicate, gentle, number on which all three players make beautifully-judged contributions. Berg's "Nacht" runs it a close second, but Schaefer's emphatic drumming gives it a harder edge. Wollny's own "Engel" is just as pretty to begin with, developing a tougher vibe as it progresses.
The album's only vocal number is also one of its most intriguing interpretations. Wollny takes Pink's "God Is A DJ" and strips it bare of the original's sass and funkiness. Guest vocalist Theo Bleckmann takes over the role of lead singer. Wollny slows things down, spooks things up and gives the song a darker, more downbeat and rather psychotic undertone (helped by some judicious use of harpsichord). Pink's 'third eye' sounds like a throwaway line, Bleckmann sings about it like he actually has one.
If God really is a DJ, then this is just the kind of song He might slip on to the turntable at the end of the night to clear the dancefloor. The revellers are likely to make frequent furtive glances over their shoulders as they walk nervously home. It's the kind of adventurous, slightly tongue-in-cheek interpretation that makes Wollny such a joy—and makes Weltentraum such an exciting and constantly rewarding album.
Track Listing:
Nacht; Be Free, A Way; Little Person; Lasse!; Fragment An Sich 1; In Heaven; Rufe In Der Horchenden Nacht; When The Sleeper Wakes; Hochrot; Mühlrad; Engel; Un Grand Sommeil Noir; Fragment An Sich 2; God Is A DJ.
Michael Wollny: piano, harpsichord (14); Tim Lefebvre: double bass; Eric Shaefer: drums; Theo Bleckmann: vocals (14).

Tardo Hammer
Simple Pleasure

By Pierre Giroux at
In his JazzWax Blog of September 30, 2007, Marc Myers described Tardo Hammer as follows: “ Hammer 49 (then), is an old soul and knows his way around a keyboard—having played with Lou Donaldson, Bill Hardman, Junior Cook, Annie Ross, Art Farmer…. among others.” Now several years on, Hammer offers a new album in a trio setting, recorded live by Cellar Live in New York City in March 2013 at Klavierhaus Recital Hall and called Simple Pleasure.
For the most part Hammer is self-educated on the piano, started playing at five, and was performing professionally when he was fifteen. Such is the unpredictable nature of being a jazz musician that while not generally well-known much beyond the boundaries of New York City, Tardo is a bebop-oriented player along the lines of Bud Powell with flashes of Tommy Flanagan and Barry Harris. In this session, he offers a set list of an eclectic nature, using the composing talents Kenny Dorham, Ahmad Jamal, Miles Davis, and Horace Silver among others.
With thoughtful support from Jimmy Wormworth on drums, and the ever adaptable Lee Hudson on bass, Hammer starts the proceedings with a Kenny Dorham composition “Asiatic Raes” and fully demonstrates his exploratory instincts. The Jerome Kern chestnut ”The Folks Who Live On The Hill” has been done to death by numerous artists, but Tardo has managed to avoid the usual clichés with his thoughtful rendition. Ahmad Jamal’s “New Rhumba” gained currency when Miles Davis included it on his album Miles Ahead. Now Hammer, following a strong introduction from bassist Hudson and a subsequent solo, gives the wonderful stop-time melody a fresh approach.
Fulfilling an early promise, is often a challenge in an overly-competitive musical environment. Perhaps that may help to explain why Hammer has perhaps not received the kind of recognition his talent deserves. But clearly in this recital he exhibits that he is a harmonically confident pianist, whether it’s on Cedar Walton’s title tune “Simple Pleasure” where he shows his poised technique, or the Miles Davis composition “Fran Dance” as he gives free rein to his probing instincts. This is a sparkling album that deserves wide recognition.
Asiatic Raes; The Folks Who Live On The Hill; New Rhumba; Uranus; I’ll Wait And Pray; Kay Dee; Short Story; Simple Pleasure; Fran Dance; My Conception; No Smokin’

Ralph Alessi

By John Kelman
With 2013 heading into fall, it's a good time to take stock of a label that has all too often been (falsely) accused of minimizing the country where jazz began. Excluding reissues, this year's ECM regular series releases represent about thirty percent American leadership; given jazz's increasingly global nature, hardly a bad number—and better still, when considering ECM's qualitative consistency. From Chris Potter
's impressive label debut as a leader, The Sirens, to Craig Taborn's boundary-stretching Chants, and Steve Swallow's career-defining Into the Woodwork, ECM's emphasis has never been about geographic location; it's simply been about good music being where you find it. This year, in addition to superb music from Britain, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland, there's clearly been plenty of great music coming from the lower 48—and especially from New York City.
Add to that list Baida, Ralph Alessi's ECM leader debut. The trumpeter's first—and, until now, only—label appearance was on Michael Cain's below-the-radar Circa (1997), but he's gradually built a small but significant discography as a leader and been in-demand on recordings by everyone from Uri Caine and Scott Colley to Drew Gress and Joel Harrison. Gress is, in fact, Alessi's bassist of choice for Baida, which reconvenes the same quartet responsible for all but two tracks of Cognitive Dissonance (Cam Jazz, 2010), an album that raised a very germane question: why is Alessi not as established a name as contemporaries like Dave Douglas(the two literally born 19 days apart)?
The primary answer is likely Douglas' forward-thinking business acumen with his Greenleaf imprint, resulting in a considerably higher profile; Alessi, on the other hand, seems strictly about the music. But what wonderful music it is. Alessi can, at times, lean towards the cerebral, as he does on "Gobble Gobblins," revolving around pianist Jason Moran's relentless chordal pulse, with drummer Nasheet Waits(making his label debut) entering tightly with Gress, a military march slowly opening up to greater expressionism beneath Alessi's virtuosic tendencies and bright, burnished tone. Things unfold even further when Moran—who, in the past half decade, has delivered some of his best performances on ECM recordings by Charles Lloyd, Paul Motian...and now, Alessi—expounds on his written part with furious aplomb, Gress assuming a relentlessly contrarian role that somehow glues the whole thing together.
Alessi proves capable of greater melodism with a gently contrapuntal trumpet/piano duo that introduces the balladic "Maria Lydia." Still, slow doesn't always mean lyrical, as the two versions of "Baida" that bookend the record are delicate but dark and ever-so-angular, with Alessi's embouchure, mute and plunger creating near-vocal articulations, even as Moran's pointillism ebbs and flows over Gress and Waits' rubato support. "Chuck Barris," on the other hand, grooves with rhythmic complexity, Alessi's brighter tone engaging empathically with Moran's blockier responses.
Moving to ECM and relinquishing the producer's chair to Manfred Eicher both contribute to Baida representing Alessi's long overdue arrival. More open, more translucent and somehow more intrinsically pure, Baida welcomes Alessi to a label whose instinctive ability to find and draw out good music where it lives remains both unparalleled and fundamental to its ongoing success and reputation.
Track Listing: 
Baida; Chuck Barris; Gobble Goblins; In-Flight Entertainment; Sanity; Maria Lydia; Shankl; I Go, You Go; Throwing Like a Girl; 11/1/10; Baida (reprise).
Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Jason Moran: piano; Drew Gress: double bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.

Joey DeFrancesco
One For Rudy

By Jack Bowers 
The "Rudy" singled out for favor on this new CD by organist Joey DeFrancesco's admirable trio is the legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder who engineered, mixed and mastered the album at his studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. DeFrancesco, whose mastery of the Hammond B3 is universally recognized and unquestioned, wrote the groovy homage to van Gelder that wraps up the album, elsewhere stepping aside to make room for such able tunesmiths as Miles Davis, Eddie Heywood, Gordon Jenkins, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk and Hoagy Carmichael. Resting surely and snugly in the small-group format that suits him best, DeFrancesco serves as comrade and confidant to his colleagues, guitarist Steve Cotter and drummer Ramon Banda.
DeFrancesco can always be counted on to unearth an offbeat song selection or two, and this he does at the outset with Hal Spina's "I Don't Wanna Be Kissed," a mid-tempo charmer on which the organ is made to sound at times like a piano. Miles' "Budo" bounces along at a lively clip, setting the stage for a pair of memorable ballads, Jenkins' "Goodbye" and Heywood's "Canadian Sunset." Hubbard's "Up Jumped Spring," one of the more impressive jazz themes ever written (reframed melodically by DeFrancesco and Co.), precedes Rollins' playful "Way Out West" and the scurrying standard "After You've Gone." The tempo slows moderately for "Monk's Dream" and substantially for "Stardust" before the trio dig in hard to deliver "One for Rudy" (on which the listener can briefly hear van Gelder's directive to commence recording).
DeFrancesco brandishes his gargantuan chops throughout, while Cotter and Banda lend sympathetic support and Cotter solos effectively when called upon. Even though DeFrancesco's name is on the marquee, this is clearly a group effort in which everyone plays an essential role. Needless to say, the recording itself is first-class, playing time respectable at just under an hour. For fans of organ trios in general and Joey DeFrancesco in particular, a charming and readily endorsed session.
Track Listing: 
I Don’t Wanna Be Kissed; Budo; Goodbye; Canadian Sunset; Up Jumped Spring; Way Out West; After You’ve Gone; Monk’s Dream; Stardust; One for Rudy.
Joey DeFrancesco: Hammond B3 organ; Steve Cotter: guitar; Ramon Banda: drums.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Charlie Haden 1937 - 2014 : My Farewell

Charles Edward "Charlie" Haden (August 6, 1937 – July 11, 2014)

By Leonardo Barroso
In 1990, as I began my personal journey through jazz, one of my early favorite record from 1991 was Charlie Haden’s Quartet West “Haunted Heart” (My wife’s favorite jazz cd), and until this moment one of my great cd’s to listen to.
But my decision to hear it, was that C.Haden was already giving us great albums with Enrico Pieranunzi, Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s two first cd’s, Kenny Barron, Carla Bley and many more.
Several of my beloved recordings of piano & bass, has Haden on the helm with masters like Kenny Barron, Chris Anderson, Laurence Hobgood, Paul Bley, and Pat Metheny (guitar).
I couldn’t end this thank you article, without expressing my gratitude, from a truly thankful jazz maniac, and I’ll be truly on his debt for showing me one of the greatest underrated piano master: Alan Broadbent.
Thanks for the journey Charlie Haden lead me, and for showing jazz greatest treasure: the possibility of playing anything!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part One

The Bad Plus
The Rite Of Spring

By Dan Bilawsky
Calculation and risk, bombast and glory, a complete shunning of expectations, and a penchant for the provocative, percussive and dramatic. It's hard to know if that description is meant to be applied to Igor Stravinsky's most heralded work or the collectively-operated trio known as The Bad Plus; it's hard to make that distinction because it rings true for both.
One hundred years separate the premiere of The Rite Of Spring, which caused a riot, and the recording of this album. In the interim, everything has changed and nothing has changed. Listeners still get lulled into and out of comfort zones, they confront music that's accepting of conventions and music that challenges them, and they use the weight of history and the pull of the present and future as counterbalancing forces in viewing art. Audiences nowadays won't likely be stirred into a frenzy over this music, but it remains potent and intoxicating, both in its original form and as presented here.
The idea of (re)interpreting this work came about several years before the album actually did. Duke Performances at Duke University and Lincoln Center Out of Doors commissioned The Bad Plus to create an "evening-length work." The group had already dealt with Stravinsky's music, having recorded "Variation d' Apollon" on For All I Care (Heads Up, 2009), so that success encouraged these three men to take a crack at the famed composer's most celebrated work for this commission. And that was just the beginning. The hard part, no doubt, came with score studies, practice, and distillation of ideas and themes. The Bad Plus had to break down this complex work and build it back up again, so as to realize the composer's intentions with only piano, bass, and drums.
The work premiered in March of 2011, and it saw more than a dozen performances the following year. By the time The Bad Plus recorded it, in June of 2013, the band was fully at peace and at war with the music; in short, this trio was dealing it out the way it should be dealt. Instead of creating a slapdash version or a "jazz" take on this work, The Bad Plus simply performs this not-so-simple piece. Sure, some liberties were taken and adjustments were made. That's a given just based on instrumentation alone. The end result, however, is largely loyal to what Stravinsky put on paper. The familiar graceful gestures from the "Introduction" are still there, the pounding accents of "The Augurs Of Spring" still make an impact, and the divinely grotesque nature of "Glorification Of The Chosen One" remains. But plenty of changes are also in the air; the pulsating heartbeat that ushers in the album and the steady groove that introduces "Dance Of The Earth" are but two of the many firm indications that this isn't a paint-by-numbers reduction of the score.
There's much to enjoy and admire here. Pummeling ordinances and schizophrenic gestures take hold, a basic back-and-forth connection between pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Reid Anderson is established during "Spring Rounds," repetitive cycling ideals take "Procession Of The Sage" toward its end, and the timpani-esque rumblings of drummer David King cause a stir during "Evocation Of The Ancestors." This is history and modern day life coming together as one. It's a recording for the ages.
Track Listing:
First Part: Adoration Of The Earth-Introduction; The Augurs Of Spring; Ritual Abduction; Spring Rounds; Games Of Two Rival Tribes/Procession Of The Sage; The Sage/Dance Of The Earth.
Second Part: The Sacrifice-Introduction; Mystic Circle Of The Young Girls; Glorification Of The Chosen One; Evocation Of The Ancestors/Ritual Action Of The Ancestors; Sacrificial Dance.
Reid Anderson: bass, electronics; Ethan Iverson: piano; David King: drums.

Carlos Franzetti
In The Key Of Tango

By Jeff Tamarkin
Tango music has been around for approximately two centuries, and although significant permutations have expanded its parameters—Nuevo Tango has broken it open to new elements over the past few decades—it’s still, at heart, a dance music played by a group. Other pianists have recorded solo piano tango albums before this one by the Argentinean Carlos Franzetti, stripping the music to its essence, but few could possibly have matched the depth, charm and power exhibited here.
Franzetti, 65, is a composer and arranger whose career has taken him into classical music, film and big-band jazz as well as tango. He brings that larger worldview to his improvisation-based renderings of these 14 standards of the genre (plus one original). Broadening the definition of tango isn’t something he dwells on, it just comes naturally to him.
Franzetti’s a dramatic player—a trait essential to tango—and a fan of flair and flourish. In “Boedo,” written by Julio De Caro, he spends the opening seconds flying high, reaching outward and beyond the melody, then drops back quickly to a shadowy and somber place: low, single notes sparingly tapped out. This is where he stays throughout most of the piece, alternating space with sound, creating a rhythm out of those juxtapositions until, once again, he steps it up, heading toward a gallant denouement.
Of the two Astor Piazzolla numbers included (and, honestly, it’s refreshing that Piazzolla doesn’t dominate), “Revirado” is the revelation. Franzetti’s independent left- and right-hand lines, fluctuating from frantic to simple, will have the listener convinced that one musician can’t possibly be making all of that sound. It’s stunning, really, as is the up-close recording itself, produced by Allison Brewster Franzetti in studios located in New Jersey and Buenos Aires.

Alfio Origlio invite André Ceccarelli/ Remy Vignolo

By Cristal Records
Alfio Origlio has followed the path of an eclectic career which has allowed him to play with international artists such as Henri Salvador or Salif Keita or more recently with the famous Paris Jazz Big Band (also available on Cristal records) He is now accompanied by one of the best rhythm section of the moment : Rémy Vignolo and... Mr André Ceccarelli himself who drives the drums with its typical touch.
Recording information: Studio 26, Antibes, France (07/2000).
1. Jacomo (5:43); 2. Zebulon (7:27); 3. Lola (8:24); 4. Per Alfio (7:01)
5. How deep is your love (4:00); 6. Mauresque (4:37); 7. Didonade (5:54)
8. 12 mesures pour un cagnard (4:13)

Everybody Wants To Be A Cat
Disney Jazz: Volume 1

By Ken Dryden
It's nothing new for jazz musicians to record songs written for Disney films. Dave Brubeck was already playing a number of them prior to recording Dave Digs Disney in 1957, so it is hardly surprising for him to take part in this 2011 release, which covers a wider scope of songs and features a baker's dozen of jazz artists or groups. Brubeck shines with his rollicking trio treatment of "Some Day My Prince Will Come," a piece he has performed as part of his concert repertoire for decades. He's joined by the expressive vocalist Roberta Gambarini (who joined him to sing the premiere of his "Cannery Row Suite" in 2006), who demonstrates why she has been a favorite of critics with her playful scatting in a swinging performance, while Brubeck proves himself once more as one of the most underrated vocal accompanists. Vocalist Dianne Reeves delivers a soulful rendition of "He's a Tramp" in an unusual, sensual arrangement featuring pianist Peter Martin, while vocalist/bassist Esperanza Spalding sings an enchanting wordless duet of "Chim Chim Cher-Ee" with Gil Goldstein (who is overdubbed on piano and accordion). Nikki Yanofsky was only 15 when she recorded a breezy arrangement of "It's a Small World," scored by bassist Rob Fahie for a swinging septet. Violinist Regina Carter's exotic setting of "Find Yourself" includes Gary Versace on accordion and kora player Yacouba Sissoko combining elements of Eastern and Western music. Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel's intense workout upon the normally low-key "Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)" takes it into unfamiliar territory, while trumpeter Roy Hargrove's hip hard bop scoring of "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat" will be an immediate favorite with Disney fans young and old. With the vast amount of memorable original music written for Disney films, this promising CD series could easily continue for a long time.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Old Jazz Cd's - Part Six

Enrico Pieranunzi, Marc Johnson, Joey Baron
Deep Down

By C. Katz
I must admit not every outing of Pieranunzi has been a favorite of mine (some of the European themed LP/CD's).And I wouldn't say Marc Johnson or Joey Baron would be among my top five on a list of bass players or drummers.But here it just plain works. Pierenunzi is obviously heavily influenced by Bill Evans (here he penned "Evans Remembered" and "Don't Forget The Poet") and plays Evans "TTT".This and Evans associated material "We'll Be Together Again" and "Someday My Prince Will Come".though rotted in Evans the influence of others who followed or were influenced by his path are here.But what makes this a GREAT session id the interplay of the three members.They are in sync the way Evans,Lafaro,and Motian were.And it's the synthesis as opposed to the sum of it's parts that makes this a wonderful CD.You won't be disaponted if you have ever enjoyed a Pieranunzi CD.
Cheers, Chazz

Sarah Vaughan
After Hours

By Mary Whipple
In this most unusual album, Sarah Vaughan conjures up images of after hours performances in smoke-filled clubs, where a few sad and lonely people nurse their drinks and listen to a solitary singer crooning softly. Here Vaughan sings "pure," without a big band behind her, without sharing the stage with a jazz superstar, and without any restrictions on her own interpretations. Accompanied only by a guitar (Mundell Lowe) and a bass (George Duvivier), both of which play quietly in the background, Vaughan turns in a remarkable performance, recording her most intimate album, one in which she makes the listener feel as if each song is sung for him/her and no one else.
Her famous versatility is on display here, but it is far more subtle than in most of her other albums, since nearly all these songs are slow and lacking in pyrotechnics. Changes in mood are controlled totally by Sarah and not by her accompanists. In "My Favorite Things," a surprising introduction to this album, she sounds like an ingénue, singing in a light soprano without any hint of the deeper register for which she is famous--until halfway through, when the beat picks up and the real Sarah starts to emerge. "Every Time We Say Goodbye," a melancholy song, has a swing beat, and "Easy to Love" is sung almost a capella, with her finger snapping audible in the background. In "Sophisticated Lady," slowly paced and contemplative, she sounds like the great jazz singer we know, but quieter than usual, and in "Great Day," the fastest song on the album, she dances across her notes, improvising as she goes.
The "real" Sarah Vaughan is totally in charge here, singing the mellowest, smoothest, and most intimate album ever, but it is a moody, blue Sarah in many songs--and the album is for quiet times, not celebrations. If you are a lover of Sarah Vaughan and ever fantasized about having her sing a private concert for you alone, this is your chance.

Warne Marsh with Hank Jones, George Mraz and Mel Lewis
Star Highs

By Scott Yanow
Tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh and pianist Hank Jones had not performed together before they met up in the studio to make what would be the second release for the Criss Cross label. With bassist George Mraz and drummer Mel Lewis completing the quartet, plenty of sparks fly between the two lead soloists. Marsh plays with more fire than one would expect from the cool-toned tenor; the material (four lesser-known tunes by the leader, one by Jones, "Moose the Mooche," and "Victory Ball") is fresher than usual, and the album can be easily recommended to straight-ahead jazz collectors.

Lena Horne
We'll Be Together Again

By Stephanie De Pue
"We'll Be Together Again" was one of the last records made by the great singer Lena Horne: it was originally released by Blue Note in 1994. The diva, who was born in Brooklyn in 1917, had had an extremely long career, as a pop/jazz/Broadway/cabaret diva, that ran from 1938, when she was discovered singing and dancing at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem, to 2000. She'd been famous since 1943, on the after stream of her worldwide hit "Stormy Weather," from the movie of the same name (Stormy Weather) that was made at 20th Century Fox, while she was a young beauty on loan from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. (Although it must be said, at that time and place, her career was greatly limited by her color.)
Horne, who was blacklisted in the 1950's for her political beliefs, has won many awards in her long career. Several Grammies, including a Lifetime Achievement Award; an NAACP Image Award for her civil rights work, and a Kennedy Center Award. She has headlined at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Hotel Waldorf-Astoria in New York - her 1957 live album, "Lena Horne at the Waldorf-Astoria" was the largest selling record by a female artist in RCA history. She has made many, many television appearances. But, as she is now well into her nineties, she no longer appears in public.
Horne recorded the record at hand following her 1993 performance at a tribute to the musical legacy of Strayhorn. To coincide with its 1994 release, she made her last two public appearances, at Carnegie Hall, and the New York Supper Club. But its genesis was much earlier, to quote from the liner notes of David Hajdu:
"It's a prayer: "We'll Be Together Again"--a private, sacred promise to a lost love. And it's fitting: the last time they [Horne, Strayhorn, and Ellington] were together on stage, December 26, 1965, Lena Horne and Billy Strayhorn were praying in song. Duke Ellington, presiding grandly over lavish proceedings at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, hushed down the assemblage of 14 musicians, 8 singers and one tap dancer. `And now there will be a change in programming,' Ellington said, announcing, with no further explanation, `Billy Strayhorn and his pretty little friend.' A spotlight popped on, and there, snuggled together on a piano bench, the pianist and his friend made music for 1,800 churchgoers exactly as they'd been doing for some 25 years, alone all night at one or the other's home."
Horne married elsewhere twice, but often told interviewers that Strayhorn was her closest friend, her "soulmate," and the love of her life, and she had wanted to marry him. However, Strayhorn was basically homosexual, and, the 1940's being what they were, he was said to be tormented about it. His relationship with Ellington, otherwise an enthusiastic heterosexual, is ambiguous; as were the relationships among the three musicians. Be that as it may, Strayhorn's musical gifts were tremendous. In addition to playing piano and arranging, he was a composer of note, and is represented on this record by "Maybe," "Something to Live For," "Love Like This Can't Last," "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing," and "You're the One." Oddly enough, his perhaps most famous songs, "Chelsea Bridge," "Take the A Train," "Satin Doll," and perhaps also his most beautiful, "Lush Life," are not presented here. (Incidentally, I understand you never will find a Strayhorn song available on karaoke, as he wrote only for trained voices.)
What is here is packed with emotion, sung by a great singer at the end of her performing career. There can be no better way to remember these performers.

Claus Ogerman featuring Jan Akkerman

By Michael Killen 
This CD is a must have for fans of Claus Ogerman. While Akkerman is up to the task of fronting Ogerman's orchestra, it is the arrangements that pull you in and stay with you. A gorgeous recording with a timeless feel, get this one and marvel at how amazing music can be.
1. Adagio From 'Concierto De Aranjuez' ; 2. Nightwings; 3. Modinha (Preludio)
4. Espanoleta; 5. Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte; 6. Love Remembered
7. Seed Of God (From 'Magdalena'); 8. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5

Friday, June 27, 2014


By Claudio Botelho

Everything has its pros and cons. In our case, the absence of news from us passes unnoticedly. We can go anywhere without being bothered by fans, so our pens always remain conveniently kept in our pockets. Besides, we don’t have any urge to write according to the mainstream thinking. After all, what is the importance of our opinions and what dependence of them we have?
By this token, we feel much at ease to say we didn’t understand why DownBeat found Vijay Iyer’s last recording – “Mutations” - should earn four stars and, so, urged us to spent good money on a bad product. DB should refund us. Want another fake? Check Aaron Parks’ “Arborescence." Again, DB is the culprit. (Well, I admit: “fake” is too much of a bad thing. I’m pushing up a little, but his last outing is a little more than boring elevator music; that kind of product to play the role of sleeping pills, maybe?)
Anyway, it should be stated that ECM is not exactly a Blue-Note-style jazz label, isn’t it? Sometimes it is, some other times it isn’t. The fact that Mr. Iyer and Mr. Parks are known to be jazz players doesn’t mean they have to be it all the time, as much as it is difficult for me to accept the fact that someone, grabbed by this language of extreme freedom, can go “backwards."
I think that jazz is a very incremental art: if you are in grade one, it’s easier to go back, but if you belong to grade ten, things get tougher. VY is a post graduate jazzman and sits firmly in the top echelons of this art, as per his fame in the jazz circles. I, as one, know some three or four of his works and, to my taste, his “Solo” recording is the only one to confirm the recognition he’s earned. Would it be on account of its more palatable taste? Maybe… The others are “different”, but are this enough to distinguish them as outstanding?
You know what? I think that, among the realms of this art, the best tunes were already composed, the best musicians were already born (and, unfortunately, the majority aren’t with us anymore) and it is extremely unlikely we’ll ever have such charismatic geniuses as Bill Evans, Duke Ellington and Satchmo, just to name three. Will we ever hear the likes of Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter or Shirley Horn, again? Not a single chance, at least within the next two hundred years! Chances are this reality rules over DB new evaluation yardsticks, so that, to keep on granting four or five star grades, it had to lower its standards.
The reason behind the decrease in quality may lie on the simple matter that life is very different these days and doesn’t allow certain individualities to grow any more. Today, everybody sees, listens and talks to everybody so that each one’s characteristics are public domain. This leads to a great homogenization that prevents us from discovering anything really distinctive.
As you know, I’m a reader of Down Beat magazine, mostly on account of their straight star verdicts on CD reviews. It’s mathematic, scientific, precise… I don’t know about you, but, when reading reviews by other magazines, it’s not that uncommon my finishing without knowing the REAL opinion of the reviewer. Purposefully or not, this frequently happens. So, the stars are unquestionable indicators of the judgment. Of course, not every five-star work was created equal, but, in the least, their number expresses the reviewer mood of that moment…
So, I‘ve become used to go straight to the stars anytime I have a chance to peruse that magazine, and this has been a habit of mine for long.
On the subject about the CDs here nominated, see this: Reader Paul Weidman, from Santa Fe, NM, USA, under the title “Flurry of 4-star CDs”, stated, in DB’s issue of March, that, in the February issue of that publication, there were 27 albums “ranked 4 stars and above." In May, I counted 19 out of a sum of 41 reviews.
As far as I know, DB reviews whatever it comes across, so, around 50% of 4-stars-and-above CDs in a single issue is sheer evidence of jazz good health, isn’t it? At least Mr. Weldman feels accordingly.
I won’t give them an agreement. Jazz golden era – at least in the United States – is over for a generous amount of time now. So, to get, at random, 41 disks and find 19 of them to be more than OK these days is a real lucky strike. But if this keeps happening every month? Then, I’ll be forced to say my standards are out of fashion, maybe. Possibly, I’ve become an old goat whose musical taste remained rooted in the romanticism of the past, so to speak.
This may be a reality for me, as I keep on enjoying works like “Pure Pleasure for The Piano”, by Ellis Marsalis and Makoto Ozone, “Internationally Recognised Aliens”, by Gwilym Simcock’s The Impossible Gentelmen and Christine Jensen’s “Habitat”; all of them contemporary with the outings here criticized.
For one, talking about globalization, I think that the amalgamation of piano playing started by the time Herbie Hancock came into prominence and remained a strong active voice in jazz for some ten years or so. Although he never was as easily recognizable voice as, say, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, George Shearing or John Lewis; all of these having unique styles, he’s got a great following as he’s, unquestionably, an excellent player whose compositions and arrangement skills play a second role to none. So, his works, taken as a whole, were some of the most memorable of jazz history. By then, everybody wanted to play like him and it became increasingly difficult to tell one young pianist from the other. So, it started a new trend: the Hancock-alike pianists. Of course, there were some voices like Keith Jarrett, for instance, who, having very personal playing (in this very instance, some very loooong intros to a song) was not prone to being copied without seriously suing its agent for plagiarism.
For some ten or fifteen years now, another trend has emerged: the me-too-Brad-Mehldauish players. Everybody wants to play like him and, for my money, they’ve arrived late, as the heyday of that player belongs to the past. I’ve said this here: Mr. Mehldau has been copying himself a lot lately and his compositional skills have lost their freshness. So, the novelty he once was is now commonplace, due, mainly, to his own self. Of course, within certain constraints, everybody imitates himself, this being a hallmark witch lets us pick one from the other, but Mehldau has gone further, to the point of being just too much repetitive. And particularly melancholic… It’s sort of tough to listen to his CD’s to their ends. One has to give himself a break to rest before striving to arrive at the last chord.
The emergence of so much me-too players is the price to pay for the so-called “globalism.” It’s plain evident that today players know everything about technicalities (another byproduct of globalism) and can easily emulate anybody, but voices hitherto heard have increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Maybe here lays the reason which underpins DB critics: Is it unordinary? So, it’s good and must be heralded as five-star art. But, tell me: Would you rather listen to these two ECM’s outings in place of, say, anything pianist Antonio Faraò plays for the sake of sheer listening pleasure? Would you? His music is filled with the ups and downs of life, being, so, deeply enticing, as it always tells a story which, many times, sends frills down one’s spine.
I don’t see any reason in art if it is not to tingle our feelings, to bring us tears of emotion.
Maybe all that’s left to me is to be an old goat…

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ralph Penland 1953 - 2014

By Janelle Gelfand
Ralph Morris Penland was a modest virtuoso of the drums who loved to teach, but performing was his life. The prolific jazz drummer and Cincinnati native worked with a Who’s Who in the jazz world.
Mr. Penland died on March 13 from complications of a stroke. He was 61.
Despite the many superstars with whom he performed, from Frank Sinatra to Miles Davis, Mr. Penland remained quiet, humble and a devoted Jehovah’s Witness, his family said. He was an active performer, clinician and faculty member at Pasadena City College in California.
“His love was playing his drums and that was first and foremost,” said his sister, Yvonne Berry of Finneytown. “He left Cincinnati at 18 and went to the New England Conservatory of Music for two years, and got picked up by Miles Davis and went to California. That was it. He loved that.”
Mr. Penland was born and raised in Cincinnati’s West End. He started playing the drums at age 9 and felt an instant kinship. “I related to the beats and rhythms,” he once said.
He graduated from Taft High School, where he studied drums and performed in many ensembles – including a program with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which he recalled in an interview years later. As a teen, he played with some of the best of Cincinnati’s jazz community, which laid the foundation for a life in jazz.
“A line of drummers went to Taft, and one thing we had in common was (band teacher) Oscar Gamby, who played in the Count Basie Band,” said Art Gore, a friend and nationally known drummer, who is faculty member at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. “The guys who came out of Taft are all well-known outside of Cincinnati. He left some history here.”
Jon Ridley, who hosts a Sunday jazz program on WAIF 88.3 FM radio, remembers Mr. Penland as a “world class” musician, even as a teen.
“He was electrifying,” he said. “The world has lost a good ambassador for jazz.”
In Boston, while studying and teaching at the New England Conservatory, Mr. Penland began making a name for himself on the East Coast. At age 19, while gigging in New York, he met jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, who invited him to join his band. They recorded five albums together, including the groundbreaking “Keep Your Soul Together” and “High Energy.”
But it was Davis who drew Mr. Penland to the West Coast.
“He was an artist he looked up to, and got him to move to California and get involved in the music scene in L.A.,” said Mr. Penland’s niece, Rhonda Berry of Finneytown. “Miles remained his iconic hero.”
Mr. Penland settled in North Hollywood, and his artistry grew to include all genres. He worked and recorded with artists such as Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Sarah Vaughn, Etta James, Dianne Reeves, The Coltrane Family, Stan Getz, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Chaka Khan and many others.
Last year, he appeared on “The Queen Latifah Show.”
“He played with so many greats and was influenced by many,” his niece said. “He played for Quincy Jones and so many people. He did movie soundtracks, and he’d call us at home to tell us. One was ‘Throw Momma from the Train.’”
Sinatra recruited Mr. Penland for his year-long Diamond Jubilee World Tour in 1991. The same year, Mr. Penland toured with Latin-rock guitarist Santana. Two years later, he played drums in Hancock’s piano trio (1993-94), which he told the Los Angeles Times was one of the highlights of his life.
To find his own musical voice, Mr. Penland formed his own jazz ensemble called the Penland Polygon.
“I like dealing with many different sides of music,” Mr. Penland told the Times in 1995. “The bulk of my music is acoustic, straight-ahead jazz, but I also like fusion, funk, calypso. I’m always trying to expand.”
In the early ’90s, his niece went to hear her uncle play in a club in Louisville. His performance style, she said, was “like a very smooth singer. He just made the drums sing. But the drums never overpowered the ensemble.”
While he lay in the hospital, his niece and the extended “family” of musicians played his favorite Davis tune, “Seven Steps to Heaven,” “and we watched as the emotion of his love for music covered his face,” his niece said.
His sister, Yvonne Penland Berry, and niece, Rhonda Berry, are his only survivors. He was preceded in death by his wife, Ramona. Mr. Penland later married jazz singer Lynda Laurence. They were later divorced.

Al Harewood 1923 - 2014

By Jeff Tamarkin
Al Harewood, a drummer who participated in many classic sessions for Blue Note recording artists in the 1950s and ’60s, and played with many other artists, died March 13. The cause and place of death were not reported. Harewood was 90.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 3, 1923, Harewood contributed drumming to albums by Booker Ervin, Stanley Turrentine, Betty Carter, Lou Donaldson, Bobby Hutcherson, Dexter Gordon, Curtis Fuller, Ike Quebec, Betty Carter, Grant Green, Horace Parlan and others.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Patti Wicks 1945 - 2014

By Jeff Tamarkin
Vocalist and pianist Patti Wicks, who worked primarily in New York and Florida for more than four decades, recording a series of well-received albums and playing countless gigs, died March 7 in West Palm Beach, Fla. She was 69 and the cause was heart failure.
Born Patricia Ellen Chappell in Islip, N.Y., on Feb. 24, 1945, Wicks began playing piano at age 3 and later attended the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. Concentrating on classical piano but also heavily influenced by the jazz pianist Bill Evans, she turned professional and moved to New York City, playing mostly in small combos up and down the East Coast. She led her own trio, featuring at various times bassists Sam Jones, Richard Davis, Brian Torff and Mark Dresser, and drummers Curtis Boyd, Louis Hayes, Mickey Roker and Alan Dawson. She moved to Florida in the 1970s.
As a sidewoman and accompanist, Wicks worked with Clark Terry, Larry Coryell, Frank Morgan, Ira Sullivan, Flip Phillips, Anita O’Day, Rebecca Parris, Roseanna Vitro, Giacomo Gates and others. She also taught jazz piano at colleges and privately.
Wicks’ debut album as a leader, Room At The Top: The Patti Wicks Trio, was released in 1997, followed by Love Locked Out (2003), which featured Joe LaBarbera and Keeter Betts, Basic Feeling (2005), Italian Sessions (2007), It’s a Good Day (2008) and Dedicated To (2009). She appeared on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz program and at major festivals and clubs in the U.S. and abroad.