by Ken Dryden
Since the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim was discovered by jazz musicians in the early 1960s, numerous songbooks concentrating on the master's compositions have duly appeared, with a wide variation in quality. Fortunately, this initial volume in a series of Jobim songbooks by Italian pianist Riccardo Arrighini is an exceptional outing. Vocalist Barbara Casini is his music partner throughout the date, a gifted alto who is able to make the most of each piece with her emotional interpretations. They begin with a stunning, moving duet of "Luiza," then the potent Philology house rhythm section, consisting of bassist Massimo Moriconi and drummer Massimo Manzi, are added to the mix for "Caminhos Cruzados." They band does not just stick to Jobim's best known works, but delves into less familiar gems like "Se E Por Falta De Voce" as well. Fabrizio Bosso adds his effective trumpet and flugelhorn to several tracks.
Brad Mehldau Trio
By Thom Jurek
Three years passed between the release of the Brad Mehldau's Day Is Done and this live outing. What's so significant about this is simply that the former record marked the debut of drummer Jeff Ballard, who had replaced longtime kitman Jorge Rossy. Ballard is a more physical, busier, and more energetic drummer, allowing for Mehldau and bassist Larry Grenadier to up the ante in terms of dynamic and rhythmic options. "Day Is Done" offered a number of wonderfully contrasting moments where Mehldau, a big pop music fan from all eras, wove a tapestry from Burt Bacharach and John Lennon to Nick Drake and Colin Greenwood, from Paul Simon to Chris Cheek, as well as inserting a few of his own compositions. House on Hill was released the following year, but the material preceded the arrival of Ballard and was recorded as part of the sessions for 2004's Anything Goes. This trio has also recorded with Pat Metheny on two dates in 2006 and 2007. This is the first live date to feature the group on its own, and it is a very healthy helping.Comprised of two discs recorded at the Village Vanguard during a six-night stint in October of 2006, it showcases the many varied strengths of this already deeply intuitive group. Disc one staggers covers of popular tunes as disparate as Noel Gallagher's (of Oasis) "Wonderwall," Chico Buarque's classic "O Que Será," Chris Cornell's (of Soundgarden) "Black Hole Sun," and Ray Noble's gorgeous ballad "The Very Thought of You" with two of his own compositions. Disc two comes more directly out of the Mehldau songbook, wit three of his own tunes, a Jimmy Heath number, and a standard, and closes with a stunning reading of John Coltrane's "Countdown." The way the trio treats "Wonderwall," beginning with Grenadier and Ballard's funky soul-jazz bass and drum interaction before Mehldau enters the melody, cutting it with large helpings of the blues and soul, is killer. Sure, it has his trademark elegance, but it's the rearrangement of the number with its taut rhythmic groove while keeping the melody all but danceable that's the treat. The beautiful breakbeat and tom tom work by Ballard is uncluttered but it's extremely knotty and busy. The groove is at the center and he brings it home while Grenadier accents it constantly.Contrast this with the next tune, the pianist's "Ruby's Rub," that swings right out of the gate, and yet the way Mehldau changes his sense of dynamics and time with sudden starts and stops, leaving that space for Ballard and Grenadier to adorn however sparsely, is what makes this such a modern work. The Buarque song is given an extrapolated treatment here as it switches from samba to bossa to funk and even modalism while never losing its lyric sensibility, and — what may be the best thing here — note the hand over hand soloing Mehldau does in the middle of the tune and have your breath taken away. "Black Hole Sun" is completely re-harmonized and its melody is ever present but it is an entirely different tune in the hands of the trio. Finally, disc one closes with the Noble ballad, offering a hint as to just how subtle this rhythm section can be. It offers this lithe, almost ethereal bottom that is nonetheless circular and firm, allowing those big spaces between Mehldau's solo lines the room to float right through and enter the listener as gracefully and emotionally honest as any singer.Disc two kicks off with the bandleader's "Buddha Realm." It contains all of the deep rhythmic interplay that this trio does best. As the pianist articulates one of his knottier melodies with long lines that twist and turn inside themselves, Ballard double- and triple-times the band while rolling the ride cymbal enough for a solid pulse to come shimmering through. Grenadier follows both men, offering the middle ground between the flights of two brilliant soloists. It's exciting, innovative, and offers proof that piano jazz, or at least the true rubber-meets-the-road-jazz piano trio still has lots of tricks up its sleeve in the present day. This is genuinely new jazz, not just a showcase over a rhythm section. More evidence is on the Heath number "C.T.A.," where the hard bop charge roars from the starting line and becomes a multi-valent harmonic bank of ideas and extensive methodical and wire-walking creative articulations as Grenadier's tough solo indicates. The nearly 15-minute reading of Coltrane's "Count Down" makes great use of the energy of the original, but the knotty counterpoint solo Mehldau uses to open it is a throw off; a momentary feint. His opening volley of intensely pointed ranginess is worthy of Oscar Peterson. The solo is wildly inventive because the entire harmonic structure of the tune is in there, pushed to the brink by the deep register, right-hand chord voicings he employs that walk the line between stride and post-bop. When the rhythm section enters, the mood changes. It's still very quick and athletic, but it is brighter as well; colorful as well as dynamic and fast. Live is deeply satisfying on all levels including the price point. Mehldau and Nonesuch have made the purchase of the double-disc set very attractive. Those new or curious about the trio will be astonished by what's here, pure and simple. For seasoned jazz fans and those of the pianist in particular, this is nothing short of total delight.
by Thom Jurek
Present Tense was born out of two very specific desires. First, saxophonist James Carter wanted a precise recorded portrait of where he was at as a musician, aesthetically and technically. Second was producer Michael Cuscuna's dead-on assertion that Carter, for all his instrumental and aesthetic virtuosity, had never been represented well on tape. Carter's inability to resist overdoing it on virtually everything he records (ten-minute solos in standards, etc.) makes that point inarguable. Cuscuna proves to be the perfect producer -- as both ally and foil -- and reins Carter in to benefit the recording as a whole. The band on Present Tense is solid: the young trumpeter and fellow Detroiter Dwight Adams, pianist D.D. Jackson, bassist James Genus, and drummer Victor Lewis round out the quintet, with percussionist Eli Fountain and guitarist Rodney Jones playing on three cuts each. The program is wide-ranging and eclectic, but it locks. It offers a portrait of Carter as an exciting traditionalist who can stretch arrangements and previous interpretations to the breaking point, without simply making them egotistical statements about him as a soloist.
Dave Burns "Rapid Shave" opens the set on a stomping, storming, Blue Note-style hard bop workout with Carter's tenor and Adams' trumpet playing the 24-bar jump blues with joyous abandon. Adams' comps push the fat harmonic center straight to the front. Genus and Lewis offer sprightly tempos and interesting rhythmic accents. Adams proves he can hang with the big fellows nicely in his own solo. Carter's "Bro. Dolphy" is one of the most compelling and emotionally satisfying tunes on the set, with Carter on bass clarinet. It opens as an angular, slightly dissonant harmonic sprint but gives way to some of the most lyric balladry Carter has ever composed; one can hear his love of Billie Holiday in the melody even as he evokes Dolphy's own love of the blues and simpler melodies. But this isn't enough by a long shot, and before long the ballad gives way to a stomping, Mingus-style workout, the very kind that showcased Dolphy's artistry as both a soloist and arranger.
Django Reinhardt's ballad, "Pour Que Ma Vie Demeure," with Carter on soprano, is lovely. It lowers the intensity and features a fine solo by Genus. Other standouts include Dodo Marmarosa's "Dodo's Bounce," with Carter on flute and Adams playing a muted trumpet. Its elegant, cool swing is balanced by Jones' semi-percussive strum that adds a weight to the rhythm section. Jones also appears on the Carter original "Bossa J.C." Fountain's congas shimmer in this samba, which contains a post-bop force inspired by Ray Barretto's tough Latin jazz sensibility and the lyricism of Tom Jobim. Carter's solo seeks the places where the tune's melody breaks out, and succeeds in finding it. Jones follows the roll of rhythms in his single-string and chord voicings as he alternates between George Benson-esque funk and Baden Powell's elegant textural statements. It works without a hitch. Whether it's in the sprinting bop pyrotechnics of Gigi Gryce's "Hymn of the Orient," or the off minor tropical blues of Jimmy Jones' "Shadowy Sands," or the balladry of the standard "Tenderly," Present Tense showcases Carter at his most disciplined and ambitious. Even his originals -- check "Sussa Nita" -- use the tradition in ways he hasn't employed before. This may be Carter's finest album because of its insistence on the balance between restraint and adventure. Carter placed himself in Cuscuna's expert hands and it has paid off handsomely.
So Many Stars
Muito bom!!! surpresa !!!
by Scott Yanow
Jon Mayer has long been a superior modern mainstream pianist based in the Los Angeles area. While he gained his initial recognition in the late 1950s when he recorded with John Coltrane and Jackie McLean, ever since his return to the scene in 1992, he has far surpassed his earlier abilities, recording quite a few rewarding CDs for Reservoir. So Many Stars is a particular standout due to the strong material and the enthusiasm that the trio puts into their interpretations. Starting with Cedar Walton's "Holy Land" and including such pieces as "Nica's Dream" and "Jeannine," the trio sounds quite inspired and closely attuned to each other. Mayer contributed two originals to the CD ("Rip Van Winkle" oughta become a standard) and takes "Never Never Land" as a thoughtful piano solo. With fine support by bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Roy McCurdy, Jon Mayer is heard throughout in prime form. Recommended.
Live At Jazz Standard Volume One & Two
Surpresa ! Surprise !! Eargasm !!! Ela canta e toca muito mais, bons arranjos, belissimo trio e eh americana !!!!! Muito bom !!!!
by Ken Dryden - Volume One
There have been a number of singing jazz pianists over the years, yet most have been stronger in one area or the other. Dena DeRose was a pianist first and took up singing only after a hand injury sidelined her from playing for a time. But she is the real deal, able to bring out the best in the music and lyrics to any given piece. Her snappy take of the standard "Speak Low" features her assertive playing, along with a bit of soft scat as she winds up the piece. DeRose wrote the lyrics to Philippe Petrucciani's haunting ballad "This Is Love," a challenging piece that also showcases bassist Martin Wind. Cole Porter's "Get out of Town" seems like a song in danger of overexposure, yet the pianist's amusing approach includes her dark extended vamp and Matt Wilson's unusual percussion line in the introduction. She proves captivating in her solo feature, the bittersweet ballad "A Table Set for Solitude." Her bluesy arrangement of "Alone Together" and delicate bossa nova treatment of "On Green Dolphin Street" also shine. Tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm is added for "I Fall in Love Too Easily," providing an emotional foil for her moving vocal. For DeRose's jaunty take of "Lover," she shows off a bit of playful stride piano before switching to the more familiar jazz waltz setting.
by Ken Dryden - Volume Two
Dena DeRose is one of a handful of jazz artists who is equally talented as both a vocalist and pianist. Live at Jazz Standard, Vol. 2 is drawn from the same 2007 shows as the first volume, with the capable rhythm section of bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson (who have worked together a good bit, especially with pianist Bill Mays). Right away she sets herself apart from many vocalists by tackling the subtle ballad "The Ruby and the Pearl," delivering a heartfelt vocal with simmering piano. She adds a bit of playful scat to her jaunty performance of Benny Carter's "When Light Are Low," while tackling Johnny Frigo's "Detour Ahead" as a breezy bossa nova. DeRose omits the piano entirely from her moving take of the bittersweet standard "I Fall in Love Too Easily," backed solely by Wind. DeRose gets a bit tickled in several places during"Laughing at Life," while her strident piano provides the perfect complement to her swinging vocal. Her sole instrumental is a lively trio setting of Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way." Highly recommended.
Let It Come To You
by Jonathan Widran
The title of this brilliant and multi-faceted twenty-something pianist's 2006 Concord Records debut Lucky to Be Me was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The disc's success took the former child prodigy to a higher level of success, earning him the covers of Jazziz and Keyboard Magazine, and a profile in his own BETJ TV special. A major airplay hit on jazz radio throughout the year, the disc also earned Taylor Eigsti two Grammy nominations. On his second release, he's being a little more ironic with his title, knowing that the accolades will continue but only because he is topping himself creatively and musically. Once again, he proves himself a master interpreter, ensemble player, and composer. Though three of his four originals — collectively gathered as the "Fallback Plan Suite" — are tucked at the end, they display an exciting melodic and slight pop sensibility that perfectly balances the insane flurries of chops on the rest of the collection. The suite's first track "Less Free Will" is a lyrical, slow building, funk-spiked jazz piece that finds him in perfect synch with tenor players Dayna Stephens and Ben Wendel, and flutist Evan Francis. His solo in the midst is elegant and restrained, with subtle horn enhancements. The second movement "Not Lost Yet" features a lovely, sparse arrangement, with only subtle horn and flute textures behind Eigsti's rhythmic musings. "Brick Steps" brings up the energy, with rumbling percussion, rolling piano lines, and darting, punchy horns. This trio of songs is enough to sell jazz fans on the magnificence of the album, but there's equal joy in exploring his twists and turns through a series of pieces from different jazz and pop eras — starting with his thoughtful, low-key then frenetic exuberance on Cole Porter's "I Love You" and running through a high-spirited, strutting and swinging romp on Wayne Shorter's "Deluge." Eigsti puts a clever Afro-Cuban tinge on Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington's "Caravan," and he and guitarist Julian Lage share a hypnotic and sensitive, classically tinged duet on Jobim's "Portrait in Black and White." The pianist saves his richest inventions, however, for a bravura blast through Pat Metheny's "Timeline," a dedication to Michael Brecker featuring several minutes of sizzling improvisation and hardcore jamming by Joshua Redman. Another unique, hip choice is his graceful touch on "Not Ready Yet" by the pop band the Eels. There comes a time in every former prodigy's life when he/she has to be judged by their output as an adult. Eigsti's just keeps getting more compelling and inspiring.