Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy New Year 2010, Latest Jazz Arrivals !

Caros Jazzofilos,
Segue alguns reviews, de cd's que ouvi no fim de 2009, e não foram para a lista "BEST OF JAZZ 2009 ". Alguns são bons outros não, confira abaixo:

Marc Copland
New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 3: Night Whispers

By Alex Henderson
From Erroll Garner to Cecil Taylor to Bill Evans, and from Chick Corea to Thelonious Monk, a wide variety of acoustic jazz pianists have thrived in the time-honored piano trio setting (piano, bass, and drums) over the years. It's a setting that has never gone out of style in jazz, and it's a setting that has served acoustic pianist Marc Copland well in his New York Trio Recordings series. The lineup has varied from one volume to the next; on New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 3: Night Whispers, Copland is joined by bassist Drew Gress and drummer Bill Stewart (whereas he was joined by bassist Gary Peacock and Stewart on Vol. 1 and by Peacock and drummer Paul Motian on Vol. 2). The constant in the series, of course, has been Copland, who is in good form throughout this 2008 recording and enjoys a nice rapport with Gress and Stewart. Copland obviously enjoys the role of acoustic trio pianist, and his enthusiasm is evident on three Copland originals ("Scattered Leaves," "The Bell Tolls," and the title track) as well as on impressionistic performances of the standards "Emily" (no less than three different takes are included) and "I Fall in Love Too Easily." The whole album, in fact, is very impressionistic — even Miles Davis' "So What." The Davis standard has often had a strong groove factor; "So What" has been recorded by countless artists since Davis unveiled it on Kind of Blue back in 1959, and many of them have used it as a chance to groove. But Copland's version is more angular and less groove-minded than most versions. Night Whispers falls short of essential, but it's still an enjoyable addition to Copland's New York Trio Recordings series.
Track listing:
Emily (Take One); The Bell Tolls; Night Whispers; Emily (Take Two); So What; Like It Never Was; Space Acres; Emily (Take Three); Scattered Leaves; I Fall in Love Too Easily.

Joey DeFrancesco - The Original Trio

By Tony Augarde
I was feeling tired and a bit depressed - I can't remember why. Then I put on this CD, and my whole mood changed for the better. This session of live, no-nonsense jazz shed sunshine into my life. This album is sub-titled "The Original Trio" and there is certainly plenty of empathy between these three men, who have played together for many years. Drummer Byron Landham has backed Joey DeFrancesco for most of the time since 1989. Guitarist Paul Bollenback was with Joey from 1990 to 2002, when Paul (in Joey's ironical introduction) "moved on, started to do some other things on his own - and those things didn't work out too well, so he's back here - no, I'm only joking".
The opening Eighty One, by Miles Davis & Ron Carter, is a groovy, funky affair which immediately lifts one's spirits. It features Paul Bollenback in a lengthy but well-constructed solo. Joey DeFrancesco creates some interesting counterpoint between the keyboard and pedals of his Hammond organ, while Byron Landham lays down a driving rhythm.
The End of a Love Affair is taken at a fastish speed but it illustrates the trio's ability to play with quiet subtlety. It also displays the group's freedom - playing around with the tempo while swinging at almost any pace. It even goes into a kind of free jazz, which differs from many attempts at the avant-garde by maintaining coherence. Ode to Angela also starts gently, with DeFrancesco caressing Harold Land's composition. The rich harmonies he coaxes out of the Hammond B3 are set off against his dextrous finger work at the top of the keyboard. Paul Bollenback's solo also treats the tune sensitively.
Paul composed Songline, which again hints at a variety of tempos, although six-eight is dominant. Drummer Byron Landham solos powerfully against the Hammond background. Ray Charles's hit You Don't Know Me is appropriately delivered by Joey in a slow, smouldering tempo which evokes Ray's soulful spirit. Paul Bollenback's solo adds lyricism. The whole track abounds in the drama which organ trios are so well suited to producing.
Fly Me to the Moon is played at the request of an audience member: Joey's organist father, Papa John DeFrancesco. The performance avoids the bossa or four-four rhythm which so often accompanies this tune. Instead, the trio plays it basically as a jazz waltz, although yet again they appear to venture into several other tempos along the way, and Joey's solo is heightened by some cheeky quotes. Paul solos unaccompanied and in free time, before organ and drums join in for some fireworks, ending with Bachian counterpoint and a surprise climax.
The session closes with Whichole, a swinging DeFrancesco original which moves with such impetus that it almost overruns the buffers. This album actually makes me cry - with delight at the brilliant interplay of the musicians and the joyful feeling they generate.
1. Eighty One; 2. The End of a Love Affair; 3. Introductions; 4. Ode to Angela
5. Songline; 6. You Don't Know Me; 7. Fly Me to the Moon; 8. Whichole
Joey DeFrancesco - Organ
Paul Bollenback - Guitar
Byron Landham - Drums

Marc Copland
Another Place

By Ken Dryden
Marc Copland joins forces with a trio of fellow seasoned veterans, including guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Billy Hart for this 2007 studio session. The chemistry between the four men is apparent from the very beginning. The pianist's introspective ballad "Like You" is a complex affair, frequently showing the influence of Bill Evans in his lyrical ideas, though Copland's dark interwoven lines take in him other directions as well. Another of his works, "Another Place," has an eerie air in a somewhat breezy setting. Abercrombie's "River Bend" opens with a slow but tense air, a feeling that never entirely dissipates even as the tempo picks up considerably. Gress' "Dark Horse" is an introspective miniature with a brief solo by its composer, though the focus is more on the ensemble. The sole standard is a soft but swinging take of Cole Porter's "Everything I Love." This delightful outing is one of Marc Copland's finest dates as a leader.
Track listing: 
Like You; River Bend; Dark Horse; Car Blue Lady; Another Place; Ballad in Two Keys; Everything I Love.

Francesco Cafiso Quartet

By Ken Dryden
Francesco Cafiso caught the attention of the European jazz scene and visiting American critic Ira Gitler with his phenomenal duo set with pianist Franco D'Andrea at the 2002 Pescara Jazz Festival, even though the young alto saxophonist was just 13 years old at the time. Angelica represents his eighth CD as a leader, though he was only 19 at the time of the sessions. Cafiso has developed the kind of chops one expects from a veteran; while he is able to execute blazing technical runs, he is more confident to let the music breathe, whether tackling a ballad or a midtempo tune. His supporting cast on these sessions includes pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Ben Street, and drummer Adam Cruz, while the set list includes several jazz standards: a thoughtful, reflective interpretation of Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" and a spirited take of Ellington's "Angelica" (also known as "Purple Gazelle"), along with a warm setting of Horace Silver's "Peace" and a playful romp through Sonny Rollins' infrequently performed "Why Don't I." Cafiso also showcases his own compositions, showing promise, though he is still finding his own voice as a songwriter. It's apparent that Francesco Cafiso isn't taking the praise he received early on too seriously — he is seeking to make a lasting impression in jazz, and with this fine effort he is on the right path.

Laurence Hobgood & Charlie Haden
When the Heart Dances

By Michael G. Nastos
NAIM label stablemates Laurence Hobgood and bassist Charlie Haden countermand the current frenetic state of events in modern-day rat race soundbyte society with this beautiful recording of duets, solo piano tracks, and three offerings with Kurt Elling. Soothing the savage society, this music is sure to appeal to those who need a leaner, trimmed back, more serene dose of reality to balance what has become a world torn by strife, uncertainty, and fear. This is not to say this is music lacking substance or intrigue — far from it. Both pianist Hobgood and bassist Haden, clearly virtuosos, think on their feet together and separately, creating cohesive vistas of beauty, spirituality, emotional depth, or in a general sense, togetherness. They've chosen well-known standards adapted to their sensitive natures, in the case of "Que Sera Sera" an acceptant reverent and quiet adaptation of the oh well/whatever theme. Hoagy Carmichael's "New Orleans" starts in a clever, modernized two step folded into a blues frame, "Why Did I Choose You?" is both romantic and quizzical, and the incredible pretty and dark melody of Don Grolnick's "The Cost of Living," immortalized by Michael Brecker, is as stunningly emotional a tango inferred piece as has ever been written. Haden's "Chickoree" is bouncier in midtempo pace, still low key, with Hobgood's stride flavorings, while the pianist composed the title selection in a cascading waltz to light terpsichore that Haden follows along with beautifully. The tracks with the ever coy and wistful Elling include Haden's famous reflective ballad "First Song," including the poignant lyric about a "song that lightened up the world, when love was new." "Stairway to the Stars" showcases the vocalists spontaneous quality in elongating phrases and dynamics, while the Duke Ellington penned, drifting away waltz "Daydream" has Elling in a very deep, very midnight blue mood. Hobgood's solo works are as captivating as anything else, especially "Leatherwood" with its spirited and folksy stance, or the sheltering "Sanctuary," half church, half wedding song. An excellent recording from start to finish, played with extraordinary intimacy, heart and soul, this wondrous music is specifically built for those times in life when relaxation is a prerequisite to get one on to the next better day.
Track listing: 
Que Sera Sera; When The Heart Dances; First Song; Sanctuary; Chickoree; Stairway To The Stars; New Orleans; Why Did I Choose You; Leatherwood; Daydream; The Cost of Living.

John Patitucci Trio

By Phil Freeman
Bassist John Patitucci's tenure with the Concord label has found him working in a variety of contexts, from Latin jazz to string quartets with saxophones, but this, his sixth album for the label and his first release as a leader since 2006's Grammy-nominated Line by Line, is possibly his most stripped-down release to date: a straight trio session with saxophonist Joe Lovano and drummer Brian Blade. Blade has been working with Patitucci for several albums now, but Lovano is a relative newcomer to the bassist's discography, having only previously appeared on a few tracks from 2001's Communion. This disc, like others in his catalog, finds Patitucci alternating between acoustic and electric bass, and while both approaches are equally worthwhile (the guy's a serious talent), the switching back and forth between funk and swing makes for a slightly disjointed listen. A better idea might have been to divide everything up, putting "Monk/Trane," "Sonny Side," "Scenes from an Opera," "Blues for Freddie," "Safari," "Joe Hen," and "Play Ball" up front and leaving "Messiaen's Gumbo," "Meditations," "Mali," and the short but beautiful title track as a four-song coda. But in any case, there are no bad tracks here — Lovano's soloing is as deft and muscular as always, and Blade's drumming is powerful without sacrificing subtlety — so a little style-hopping can be forgiven.

Jon Mayer

By Michael G. Nastos 
Jon Mayer's understated piano style likely doesn't wow many who depend on speed and image to impress. What Mayer does offer is a musicality and taste level that underscore his finely honed talent in this classic piano-bass-drums trio setting. Not a Young Lion, Mayer has been playing like this for many moons, producing this ninth trio effort, mixing standards and bop with a few originals and some thoughtful choices for famous songs to interpret. With the great bassist Rufus Reid and veteran drummer Roy McCurdy on their second collective go-round since the 2007 CD So Many Stars, Mayer seems to know he would be hard-pressed to find better partners in mainstream modern jazz. As a collective, these three easily breeze through well-known chestnuts such as an easy swinging "The Touch of Your Lips" and the simple and light "Dancing in the Dark," featuring McCurdy's sensitive brushwork. Conversely, they fly through "Bohemia After Dark" with a bit of haphazardness, ramble through the excellent road song swinger "Day by Day," and uplift the hard bop, Bud Powell-like, jaunty Horace Silver nugget "Room 608." They're at their best during the Harold Land-penned buried treasure of a tune "Rapture," as a modal foundation leads to some wondrous left-hand piano and bass unison lines that strike straight and true over a tick-tock beat and some beautifully evocative melody strains. Mayer's originals include the late-night mood music/ballad title track and the basic "Blues Junction," which sounds like it could have been written for Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, here sans horns, back in the '50s, with perhaps Ray Bryant, Junior Mance, or Silver doing the imaginary honors on piano. Reid continues to be a peerless in-demand bassist, while McCurdy seems to have lost nothing over his many years as a top-notch drummer. While Mayer's discography and this album battle against far too many other recordings of similar instrumentation, the subtle under-the-surface nuances akin to Bill Evans provide valuable lessons in flying below the rat-race, speed-demon side of contemporary music, and kudos to him for that.

Melissa Walker
In The Middle of It All

By Michael G. Nastos
Melissa Walker's fourth CD is significant in many musical ways, for she is an extraordinarily gifted jazz singer with one foot in the tradition and the other planted in more progressive notions. It was likely that this album would have never come to pass, for Walker battled with allergies and infections, and was ordered by doctors not to speak or sing due to vocal cord paralysis. After a few years of silent recuperation, it is happily reported that she's back to singing, and marvelously at that. The jazz community/family has embraced her return, as a stellar group of first-class players accompanies Walker, including the trio of Aaron Goldberg, Christian McBride, and Clarence Penn, with soloists in guitarists Adam Rogers and Keith Ganz, and on three tracks harmonica player Gregoire Maret. This broad-ranging program includes jazz standards; underground, country, or contemporary pop; R&B; and nu jazz. Walker's voice is pretty strong considering her affliction, retaining a supple sweetness that has not a trace or residue of saccharine. Her slow, late-night take of Arthur Alexander's "In the Middle of It All" indicates she's lost a love and grown from it, with Maret's supportive harmonica buoying her emotional loss. A slinky blues about walking away from that love and pain during "Forget Me" is from both a male and female perspective in a deeper vocal tone than the other tunes. Vindication and trust return on "I'm with You Now," a ballad of assurance aside Goldberg's always competent piano. There are several other songs on the album that reflect these emotions, as if Walker was also struggling with a significant other in addition to her physical issues. The most personal track is "I'll Sing a Song," clearly one she has to sing in her triumphant return to jazz in an upbeat, spirited, tick-tock, steadily improving, and rising beat. But especially check out her take of Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up," assuredly a personal anthem of determination stewed in the most elusive rhythmic pot of disparate elements — a masterpiece! Musically, "Invitation" is an elaborate arrangement on the well-worn standard that raises the bar, as crazy rhythms dot the landscape of Walker's soaring vocals. There's a spare and bouncy take of Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles," while "Where or When" with Maret closes the set in a serene, settled mood. Clearly this is a recording project that says many things about Walker's personal hell, and how she has persevered to make it back stronger than ever. Check out her three fine Enja label CDs in comparison to this extraordinary recording to see how far she has come.

Branford Marsalis Quartet

By Michael G. Nastos
As on his recording Requiem, dedicated to his longtime friend and pianist Kenny Kirkland, Branford Marsalis dedicates this recording to his mentors, friends, and jazz icons who had passed away prior to its recording. The CD varies between his tenor or alto saxophone celebratory-led post and neo-bop compositions, or the somber, reflective slower songs featuring the soprano sax of Marsalis. This exceptional band, together for ten years, with drummer Jeff Watts, bassist Eric Revis, and pianist Joey Calderazzo, communicate with utter confidence and the mastery of expert professional musicians who need few verbal or charted cues to spring forth into action. Thelonious Monk's influence is recognizable on the jagged edged, quirky Watts composition "The Return of the Jitney Man," the straight, no-frills hard bop chaser "Jabberwocky" where Marsalis borrows a page from the book of Charlie Rouse, a take of "Rhythm-A-Ning" moves from straight-ahead to staggering funk, with most of the intact original line phrase, while "Sphere," composed by Revis, is an original angular adaptation of Monk's style without much paraphrasing . A tribute to the actor, "Abe Vigoda" is a crusty and dusty ballad, "The Blossom of Parting" a reverent, sad song for the departed, and "The Last Goodbye" a similarly themed ballad, all with Marsalis on the soprano. Perhaps the most original piece is "And Then He Was Gone/Samo," featuring an extended solo from Revis, intentionally messy and frustrated, followed by the finale, a funky 7/8 soul and spirit song. A fine, emotional and heartfelt effort from Marsalis, one of his best since Requiem, it faithfully pays tribute to those late heroes like Alvin Batiste, Michael Brecker, Freddie Hubbard, Dewey Redman, Max Roach, Willie Turbinton, while also staying true to himself.

Danilo Perez
Across The Crystal Sea - Conducted Arranged by Claus Ogerman

By Mark F. Turner
The cover art is descriptive of the recording's music—gentle brushstrokes of pastel colors portraying a picturesque vista of tranquility. This visual is indicative of what's in store from pianist Danilo Pérez's most challenging release to date, Across the Crystal Sea.
A pianist whose tenure with the Wayne Shorter Quartet (e.g., Beyond the Sound Barrier (2005, Verve Music)) is etched in modern jazz. Born in Panama and living in Boston, Pérez is also a leader/composer whose recordings have earned him acclaim and awards in Latin jazz (including a Grammy). But he doesn't seem to be resting on past laurels as he is quoted, "My experience with Wayne has taught me to go to unknown places."
One unknown place led to the realization of Across the Crystal Sea, an orchestral recording with Pérez and a stellar quartet (bassist Christian McBride, drummer Lewis Nash, percussionist Luis Quintero and vocal stylist Cassandra Wilson on two tracks) performing with none other than arranger/conductor Claus Ogerman, whose work is synonymous with excellence. One who possesses an affinity with jazz as heard in his collaborations with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bill Evans, Diana Krall, Michael Brecker and others.
With the exception of two standards, "Lazy Afternoon" and "(All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings" (both vocal compositions), the recording features Ogerman's compositions that are based on themes by classical composers Rachmaninov, Massenet, Sibelius and others. This daunting task is not simply a "jazz quartet with strings" session but a seamless entity where the charts and musicians uniquely coalesce; witnessed in the gentle winds of the title song and the dramatic impetus in "Saga of Rita Joe."
The two standards feature Wilson's exquisite talent, proving her merit as one of today's preeminent jazz singers. Her husky voice is so alluring and romantic on "My Heart Sings" that it feels as if she's singing directly to the listener. From start to finish, this non-suite set feels like a connected work, culminating with the stirring "Another Autumn" as it reaches a pinnacle of grand design.
A leader's ability to take chances and submit to the unknown is what sets these pieces apart from the rest. Pérez did so on this recording and the results speak for themselves. Across the Crystal Sea is pure bliss, allowing the listener to escape into a world of sumptuous and immaculate music.
Track listing: 
Across the Crystal Sea; Rays and Shadows; Lazy Afternoon; The Purple Condor; If I Forget You; (All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings; The Saga of Rita Joe; Another Autumn.

Lynne Arriale
Nuance - The Bennett Studio Sessions

By Michael G. Nastos
Known strictly as a jazz piano trio artist, Lynne Arriale breaks that mold with the addition of trumpeter Randy Brecker, and it is a welcome complement. This is not to say her piano-bass-drums recordings had run their course — far from it. What the seasoned and literate brass man brings to the table ignites Arriale's innate passion, and inspires her dream sequence style of playing into a netherworld of darker passion and modernist ideas that are startling in their pure inventiveness. She's stretching further, reaching for deeper energy, and plays beautifully in tandem with her new partner. Bassist George Mraz is also along for this ride, as able as any player on his instrument ever, a fact seemingly lost on far too many listeners and critics. Of the six originals penned by the pianist, "Longing" and "Yada Yada Yada" certainly live up to and reflect their titles perfectly, from serenely sad to bobble head chatter respectively. "Crawfish & Gumbo" uses modified New Orleans funky strut and swing via the drumming of Anthony Pinciotti with Mraz on top, while a quick stairstep motif with only slight Latin inference informs "La Noche." The band tackles Sting's "Wrapped Around Your Finger" in a terrific modal framework and mysterious mood, with Arriale's piano remarkable in its Arabic, flashing style contrasting Brecker's even pace. This is an exemplary interpretation, as is "I Mean You" with the entire band playing brilliant, staggered phrases more pronounced than its writer Thelonious Monk originally conceived. Arriale's Bill Evans influence blossoms during her regal, free, and ethereal version of the standard "I Hear a Rhapsody," while she and the musings of the consistently refreshing Brecker use another slight modality, changing up Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia." A DVD performance with differently programmed tracks and stretched out versions of everything on the CD is available, and in 5.1 surround sound to boot. More and more rewarding upon repeat listenings, this recording fronted by one of the more skilled pianists in modern jazz and a criminally underrated trumpeter commands attention from start to finish, and deserves grand accolades, including a strong candidacy for Jazz CD of 2009.

Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra
Live at Jazz Standard

By Michael G. Nastos
Ever the restless artist, pianist Fred Hersch wastes no time moving from one project to another. But he's termed this one "unintentional", having played with his "Pocket Orchestra" (in reality a quartet) only one other time, and that was the evening prior to these recordings at Jazz Standard in New York City. Stripping down the ensemble to barebones with no bassist, Hersch is joined by veteran drummer Richie Barshay, the excellent trumpeter Ralph Alessi, and Australian vocalist Jo Lawry. The music sports ethereal, wistful qualities at times, and in other instances, playful, prosaic, ethnic, and curious ones. Ever mindful of the deeper spirit of the heart, Hersch is consistently able to excavate deep emotions from the wellspring of timeless beauty, ancient traditions, and always the true spirit of modern jazz. "Stuttering" kicks off the set, and it's one of those irresistible pieces that commands your attention from the first note to the last, with its mixed meter navigation based in 3/4 time, unison piano, muted trumpet, and vocal lines, a daunting swing, the complex made simple, and adding a smidgen of funk. Hersch's famous "Song Without Words" is a samba with spiritual implications, Alessi's bright trumpet identifies the bluesy da-da song "Down Home," and an Afro-Cuban bounce tacked onto a New Orleans shuffle with Lawry and Hersch's quick, maximized staccato phrases enhances "Free Flying." Norma Winstone's lyrics are soulfully sung by Lawry in the innocent, breathless, light hearted way they were written on the waltz swing ballad "Invitation to the Dance" and the unrequited, sweet, Valentine's Day invitation "A Wish." Lawry sings and recites M.J. Salter's "what did you think?" poem; "Light Years," uses wordless scat on the fun and impish tune "Lee's Dream," one Bill Evans would enjoy; la-la's along during the more ECM like, Native American elements of "Child's Song," and hums in reserved, reverent repast aside Hersch for the Spanish tinged paean/prayer "Canzona." Each piece uniquely tells its own story, with Alessi's constantly inventive and listenable horn positively influencing the sound of Hersch's wise and wary piano stylings. Another successful project in a long line of them, it is a very fine example of how Hersch continually expands his horizons beyond standard fare and tradition, making his own history with every unique idea he is still capable of fathoming after all these years.

Kurt Elling
Dedicated to You - Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman

By Jeff Tamarkin
In a single three-hour session in March 1963, John Coltrane and the singer Johnny Hartman convened in a studio (along with the other members of Coltrane's legendary quintet) and recorded an album's worth of ballads that became one of the most beloved jazz vocal albums of all-time, the simply titled John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. Both of those artists are long gone but their one-off collaboration inspired singer Kurt Elling to pay tribute in a tour that has now found its way to this live album, record at the Allen Room in Lincoln Center in early 2009. Accompanied by the Laurence Hobgood Trio (Hobgood, piano and co-production, with Elling; Clark Sommers, bass; Ulysses Owens, drums), the tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts guesting on several tracks, and the Ethel string quartet, Elling performs his own takes on the six songs that comprised the original Coltrane-Hartman album, plus several others in a similar vein, most drawn from the 1962 Coltrane album Ballads (which did not include Hartman). Elling possesses one of the warmest, most romantic voices in jazz-pop today, and he is ideally suited for these standards, songs such as Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life," Sammy Cahn's "Dedicated to You," and Jimmy Van Heusen's "Nancy with the Laughing Face." All of these tunes have, of course, been interpreted by probably hundreds of other singers, but Elling's grace, command, and nuanced phrasing put him, with his expressive baritone and obvious affection for this material, well into the upper echelon. The musicians are particularly sympathetic, knowing when to use restraint and when to step out a bit, and the lushness provided by the strings juxtaposes perfectly with Watts' meaty tenor work. What makes the tribute that much more worthy is that Elling and crew (including Watts) don't attempt to re-create the Coltrane-Hartman session so much as channel its essence. "Dedicated to You" is not an echo, which would be a pointless exercise, but a beautifully realized work in its own right.

Joe Locke & David Hazeltine Quartet
Mutual Admiration Society 2

By Ken Dryden
The incredible chemistry between vibraphonist Joe Locke and pianist David Hazeltine during their earlier Sharp Nine CD, Mutual Admiration Society, obviously inspired a follow-up record date, though it took a decade for producer Marc Edelman to make it happen, with bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Billy Drummond returning as well. Both Locke and Hazeltine are superb soloists and sensitive accompanists for one another, while Essiet and Drummond prove why they are both among the first-call players for all kinds of dates. Locke's joyful, driving post-bop vehicle "Pharoah Joy" is a delightful opener that salutes Pharoah Sanders. Hazeltine's engaging "One for Reedy Ree" honors the late Tony Reedus (an in-demand drummer who died far too young), a gliding hard bop chart that Reedus would have enjoyed playing. A third tribute, Hazeltine's "Blues for Buddy," salutes the late pianist/vibraphonist Buddy Montgomery, who died just over a month prior to the CD's official release. Also noteworthy is Hazeltine's thoughtful adaptation of Stevie Wonder's "If It's Magic." A third volume is clearly in order to follow up this rewarding session.

Sophie Milman
Take Love Easy

By Ken Dryden
Some critics might dismiss Sophie Milman as simply another pretty female singer, yet with her third CD, she continues to show an adventurous spirit, tackling standards and obscurities while also forging ahead into pop. Retaining many of the musicians from her previous release, Make Someone Happy, the upbeat alto offers a hip take of Duke Ellington's long overlooked "Take Love Easy," exuding sex appeal and backed by guitarist Rob Piltch, bassist Kieran Overs, and percussionist Mark McLean (who also arranged it), with a brief solo added on soprano sax by PJ Perry. Pianist Paul Shrofel contributed the breezy bop vehicle "That Is Love," which showcases Milman in her best light. She soars in the brisk treatment of the old chestnut "Day In, Day Out," starting in a samba setting and switching to bop, featuring alto saxophonist Wessel Warmdaddy Anderson. Her ventures into pop remain a mixed bag. "I Can't Make You Love Me" has been recorded often, just not in a jazz setting. Milman is boosted by Steven MacKinnon's chart, which adds several horns in the background, so it ends up deeper, even if there is little risk-taking by the singer. Milman can't help but be influenced a bit by Joni Mitchell as she interprets the folksinger's "Be Cool," though she remains remarkably subtle in her approach. Less successful are her renditions of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire" and Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover," both of which are hampered by their bland melodies and forgettable lyrics. But with this generally strong release, Sophie Milman remains one of the most promising jazz singers of her generation.

Joey DeFrancesco
Finger Poppin' - Celebrating The Music Of Horace Silver

By Michael G. Nastos
As Joey DeFrancesco has switched from the standard Hammond B-3 to the Diversi clone organ, you'd hardly notice how the subtle differences in each instrument affect his playing style. However, this recording reflects a very rich, warm feeling manifested not only in his approach, but via the music he is playing — a celebration of songs written by Horace Silver. Tom Harrell (former bandmate of Silver, exclusively on the flügelhorn) and Tim Warfield (tenor sax only) were recruited to keep the embers glowing but not flaming on, while longtime DeFrancesco drummer Byron Landham also utilizes the utmost of restraint and taste. This is not the fiery Horace Silver sound stoked by drummer Roy Brooks, but a respectful tribute to Silver's bands, with several well-chosen old favorites and two discernible off the beaten path selections. DeFrancesco's secondary role in the background is telling on classic tracks like "Strollin'," with its naturally easygoing mood supporting Warfield's deliberate, overly careful phrasings, or the sly, slow groove of "The Jody Grind," where a bit of imperfection crops up in the main melody line. Similarly imprecise is the rushed version of the title track, a bit too fast in hard bop fashion. The rest of the recording compares well with Silver's original takes, as "Swingin' the Samba" sports a popping beat approaching Mexicali swapping with Brazilian, the shuffle blues "Let's Get to the Nitty Gritty" has no problems or pressure, and "Peace" — the ultimate ballad — is lovingly caressed by Harrell's flügelhorn. At over 11 minutes in length, "The African Queen" is as compelling as the original in its up-and-down dynamics; however, it's still a bit cautiously rendered. An ever popular piece, "Filthy McNasty" is a fairly simple tune, but done with more fire than the others via great communion between Warfield and Harrell. There's no reservation in stating it's commendable that organist DeFrancesco did pianist Silver's tunes with such respect and alacrity, but considering this was done in one shot on one day, perhaps additional takes would have yielded maximum results. It's a good recording nonetheless, and one DeFrancesco fans will enjoy.

Steve Kuhn Trio with Joe Lovano
Mostly Coltrane

By Ken Dryden
Steve Kuhn was the original pianist in the John Coltrane Quartet, though he was replaced by McCoy Tyner after two months, as Tyner had been Coltrane's initial choice. Though he never recorded with Coltrane, he is steeped in the late saxophonist's music; this tribute covers music from many phases of his career. With tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist David Finck, and drummer Joey Baron (the latter two being part of the pianist's working trio), Kuhn had the challenge of tackling mostly well-known Coltrane compositions and standards without sounding like a clone, even though he was utilizing the same instrumentation. Fortunately, Kuhn's approach to playing is very distinctly different from McCoy Tyner, while any hints of Coltrane's influence on Lovano are brief. Billy Eckstine's "I Want to Talk About You" shimmers in the pianist's reserved, lyrical trio setting (omitting saxophone), while "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" bursts with energy, with Lovano making a delayed entrance well into the piece. One of the most unusual tracks is "Spiritual," with Lovano playing the tárogató, an Hungarian reed instrument that is related to the oboe, sounding a bit like a soprano sax but with a warmer, less shrill sound. Their extended workout of this Coltrane favorite is more reserved than the composer's several recordings, but here the quartet is at its most adventurous. Kuhn also explores late-period Coltrane songs, such as the meditative "Jimmy's Mode" (showcasing Finck) and the turbulent avant-garde-ish "Configuration," both of which remained unissued until 1994. Mostly Coltrane easily stands out as one of the best CDs among the countless tributes to John Coltrane and is one of Steve Kuhn's essential recordings within his extensive discography

Ann Hampton Callaway
At Last

By Ken Dryden
Ann Hampton Callaway came to jazz through a background in cabaret. The rich-voiced alto has a touch of vibrato which she uses effectively. With a fine rhythm section consisting of pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Jay Leonhart, and drummer Victor Lewis, she mines the treasures of the Great American Songbook with a personal touch, showing off with a bit of effective scatting in "What Is This Thing Called Love," and delivering a playful "Comes Love" that is complemented by Wycliffe Gordon's gritty, muted trombone, along with a suitably dreamy "Lazy Afternoon." Callaway has a few surprises in store as well. She masters Chick Corea's demanding "Spain" with ease while she uncovers "On My Way to You," a forgotten gem by Michel Legrand with lyrics by Marilyn & Alan Bergman. She proves herself to be a talented songwriter with the soft bossa nova "Save a Place for Me" and the heartfelt "Finding Beauty," both of which add guitarist Rodney Jones and Latin percussionist Emedin Rivera. There are some misfires. Joni Mitchell's quirky "Carey" is an ill fit with the rest of the album, while the dull, narrow range of rocker Stevie Nicks' "Landslide" simply doesn't suit Callaway's rich voice. But these tracks are minor glitches in an otherwise outstanding release.