Sunday, July 13, 2008

1 Sem 2008 - Part 2

The Christian Jacob trio
Contradictions: A Look At The Music Of Michel Petrucciani

By Jack Bowers
As readers should know by now, I have deep admiration for pianist Christian Jacob, whose praises I have sung whenever the opportunity arose. He is, simply put, one of the finest jazz pianists on the scene, and those who've not heard him play have missed a thoroughly pleasurable experience. On Contradictions, Jacob salutes another marvelous pianist, Michel Petrucciani, whose life was ended far too soon by the effects of osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare bone disease that stunted his physical growth but couldn't arrest his artistic genius.Perhaps because Petrucciani's brilliance at the keyboard was so conspicuous, his remarkable talents as a writer have been somewhat overlooked, an omission that fellow countryman Jacob has sought to redress by selecting and arranging eleven of Petrucciani's superlative compositions and lending each one his own special interpretation. There's no need to go into great detail about them; suffice to say that these songs are invariably spellbinding, and that a number of them, if heard more often, could easily become jazz standards.Jacob plays them with consummate ardor, subtlety and awareness, all the while superbly accompanied by bassist Trey Henry and drummer Ray Brinker, with whom he has worked for more than a decade and who together comprise "the Tierney Sutton Quartet minus one. The overall feeling is one of remarkable compatibility and responsiveness; these three musicians listen closely to one another and use that as a framework on which to create and enhance their beguiling themes.It seems strange to be writing about an album dedicated by Jacob to a great artist who is no longer with us, as the leader, his family and friends are even now mourning the loss of another incomparable musician, his father-in-law, trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, who died on August 23 at age 78. While that may not seem untimely, to anyone who was close to Maynard and experienced his incredible energy and enthusiasm, it was absolutely shocking.But if this album affirms anything it is that one's life should be celebrated, not mourned. There's not a trace of sorrow here, only gladness and admiration for the wondrous talent that personified Michel Petrucciani. And that is as it should be. An affectionate tribute to a phenomenal musician whose life, although shortened by infirmity, was by its very nature a cause for praise and honor.
Track listing:
Looking Up; Even Mice Dance; Dumb Breaks; Colors; Brazilian Suite; Contradictions; Rachid; 13th; Memories of Paris; Brazilian Suite No. 2; My Bebop Tune.
Personnel: Christian Jacob: piano; Trey Henry: bass; Ray Brinker: drums.

Alessandro Lanzoni Trio
On The Snow

Alessandro Lanzoni (Piano)
Ares Tavolazzi (Bass)
Walter Paoli (Drums)

Recorded at Sonoria Recording Plant-Prato on June 7 & 8, 2007

1 On The Snow (Lanzoni) 4:55
2 Black Nile (Shorter) 3:22
3 Suite:Mystic Mesemba - ...Eurela! - Penny - Funny Funky - Sol...Tanto Blues (Lanzoni) 22:35
4 Butch And Butch (Nelson) 2:47
5 Il Mulino (Lanzoni) 7:46
6 Our Delight (Dameron) 4:22
7 Walzer Paoli (Lanzoni) 8:52
8 Bye Bye Blackbird (henderson) 7:40

John Taylor

By John Kelman
For his follow-up to the remarkable Angel of the Presence (Cam Jazz, 2006), John Taylor continues to mine the strong chemistry between himself, bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Martin France. It's a more balanced set this time around, with three of the pianist's own compositions alongside three by longtime musical compatriot Kenny Wheeler, one jazz standard and a surprising reinvention of a classical piece by Gustav Holst.Quietly, and without much fuss, Taylor has gradually emerged as one of the most important pianists of the past forty years. His lineage may include the romanticism and impressionism of Bill Evans, but his densely layered harmonies and disposition towards orbiting around freer terrain without actually touching firmly down on it have resulted in a voice evolved far beyond seminal influences.Danielsson may not be as active, on an international scale, as in earlier years when he was the de facto house bassist for ECM, but he remains a powerful force. His ability to be both conversational partner and unshakable anchor, and his expansion of the jazz vernacular beyond traditional boundaries, makes him the perfect foil for Taylor.France's reach is the broadest, possessing the ability to form-fit into any context. Much like Norwegian drummer Jarle Vespestad, who is as comfortable with the near-whisper economy of pianist Tord Gustavsen's trio as he is greater extremes with noise improv pioneer Supersilent, France can fit just as easily into his own electronica-tinged Spin Marvel (Babel, 2007) as he does Taylor's all-acoustic setting, with his particular attention to detail and nuance joining together all his work, regardless of context.Taylor has never been a prolific writer, and both the free-flowing title track and "The Woodcocks"—the latter featuring a delicately ethereal intro by the pianist before moving into its more complex and contrapuntal core—have been covered before. Taylor remains, however, an astute interpreter, with an ability to make extant material sound as if it were just written. He brings spare elegance to Kenny Wheeler's characteristically melancholy "Consolation," first heard on the trumpeter's Music for Large & Small Ensembles (ECM, 1990), while Danielsson and France lend a softly swinging gait to "Nicolette," from Angel Song (ECM, 1997).On "In the Bleak Midwinter," with its rich and very unclassical changes, gentle, brush-driven pulse and definitive solo from Danielsson, Taylor turns Holst's adaptation of a religious poem into a thing of secular beauty. It's a fitting closer to an album that, while steeped in lyricism, never resorts to tired cliche.Other pianists may receive more press, but there are few who can approach Taylor's selfless yet unmistakable style. Whirlpool is another stellar release and, with another recording already in the can, it's good to know there's more to come from a trio that never sacrifices substance for style, and for whom sophistication and accessibility are uniquely linked.
Track listing: Consolation; For Ada; Nicolette; The Woodcocks; I Loves You Porgy; Everybody's Song But My Own; In The Bleak Midwinter.
Personnel: John Taylor: piano; Palle Danielsson: double-bass; Martin France: drums.

Irvin Mayfield and Ellis Marsalis
Love Songs, Ballads and Standards

by Ken Dryden
New Orleans native Irvin Mayfield was devastated to learn that Hurricane Katrina had taken the life of his father in 2005. The sessions and live performances heard on this CD were also lost to the storm, but fortunately, the trumpeter had mixes preserved on his iPod, so the music was saved. Veteran jazz educator/pianist Ellis Marsalis is Mayfield's accomplished partner for this far-reaching mix of standards, jazz compositions, and modern pop, adding a rhythm section and, on some tracks, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Mayfield's sound is heartfelt throughout, while Marsalis' reserved style of playing is the perfect complement. The lush setting of "My One and Only Love" and the moody "'Round Midnight" are obvious highlights. Separate versions of the Beatles' "Yesterday," one of their best ballads, open and close the CD. But some of the pop material does not hold up as well. In spite of Mayfield's best efforts, Leon Russell's "Superstar" and Norah Jones' huge hit "Don't Know Why" quickly wear out their welcome with their repetitious themes. Surprisingly, Burt Bacharach's "A House Is Not a Home," recorded by more than a few jazz musicians, is hampered by a dull rhythm backing. But a few rough spots don't prevent Irvin Mayfield from delivering a romantic CD of his favorite ballads.

Paul Bollenback

by Scott Yanow
In a brief blurb on the CD jacket, guitarist Paul Bollenback says that the music on Invocation is a tribute to the many great musicians who have passed away prematurely. Unfortunately there are no liner notes that tell us which musicians Bollenback had in mind, though his playing of songs by James Williams and John Coltrane give at least two clues. However it's doubtful that his version of "How Deep Is the Ocean" is meant as a tribute to Irving Berlin, who lived to be 100 years old. The performances include straightforward, straight-ahead trio renditions of "How Deep Is the Ocean," "Everything Must Change," and "Emily," wordless vocalizing by Chris McNulty during some of the ensembles (most notably on "Alter Ego"), and warm playing by Randy Brecker on "After the Rain" and a few other numbers. The opening "Dancing Leaf" and "Invocation, Pt. 1" are quite complex, but much of the rest of the set is melodic, swinging and even reverent in stretches. Invocation is a consistently intriguing and worthwhile set.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba

by Michael G. Nastos
As the career of Gonzalo Rubalcaba has progressed, through the trials and tribulations of attempting to move freely from his native Cuba to the U.S. and back, there has never been any doubt as to his monstrous talent. Easily a Top Five pianist in terms of his fleet-fingered ability to stretch the parameters of jazz and Latin musics, he has chosen in recent years to play solo or in trios. Avatar changes that with a long-awaited small-ensemble date, featuring a fellow heavyweight, the saxophonist and composer Yosvany Terry, and the brilliant young drummer Marcus Gilmore. As if Rubalcaba needs any fuse to be lit — he has that self-contained — Terry and Gilmore really set sparks flying in this power-packed set of progressive original music. There are instances where New York City neo-bop is heard, with heavy funk rhythms a close second, and echoes of the witty early modern mainstream jazz that established a young Wynton Marsalis. The pianist also ricochets another angular influence, that of Lennie Tristano. The first two pieces, both penned by Terry, reinforce this notion. "Looking in Retrospective" cross-references horn charts of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers juxtaposed against the Brecker Brothers. Heavy modalities merge bright, then heavy, then churning, integrating measured solos. The tour de force "This Is It," likely a killer in concert, is an extended 5/4 funky discourse that is smart, yet deep. Rubalcaba himself is amazing, but inspires his bandmates to join him in fresh phrasings and out-of-body excursions. Though Wynton's sound is somewhat extant in the style of this music, it is also in the trumpet playing of newcomer Mike Rodriguez. But, the band is closer to mid-period Woody Shaw during "Hip Side," as brittle melody lines challenge younger modern and contemporary elements. Terry is lyrical, biting, poetic, and justified in a personalized sound that is in a steep growth curve. Rubalcaba's lone composition, dedicated to John McLaughlin, also has a bounce closely linked to associate Chick Corea, as "Infantil" has the pianist at his most playful, with Terry on soprano sax. There's a serene trio-only (no horns) version of Horace Silver's "Peace," the stairstep chamber-like "Preludio Corto No. 2," and the seaside siren song "Aspiring to Normalcy," an eerie waltz wafting in light waves of color, with a Yoruban rhythm faintly in the distance but very present. It is likely this is the CD Rubalcaba has been yearning to uncork after many years. A fully realized project, inventively played by all, it yields an extraordinarily rewarding listening experience, and is very close to his best work yet.

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