Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shelly Manne

Shelly Manne
June 11, 1920 – September 26, 1984

by Claudio Botelho
Once in a while, I listen to some oldies and, in one of those days, I came across Shelly Manne’s “Checkmate”, which explores John Williams musical themes for a TV series named likewise. It’s a quintet, comprising a piano (Russ Freeman),   a tenor sax (Richie Kamuca), a trumpet (Conte Condoli), a bass (Chuck Berghofer) and Manne himself on drums. The program was composed by John Williams, long before his “shark” days, for a TV series named “Checkmate”. The recording was released by Contemporary, in the year of 1961.  Incidentally, by that time, as a composer of great musical themes, John Williams was already John Williams…
Remastered in 2002, the recording was, then, launched in CD format. The quality is much more than acceptable, being its swing and dynamics marvelous.
The group worked as a monolith; the solos are very well distributed between everybody and the listener never had time to distract himself, as the music spurs continually, and its ever changing colors takes his breath away. Nobody overpowers anybody, but there is clearly a command from a chief, which reigns supreme but, at the same time, allowing everybody to speak freely, while careful and fiercely enhancing the efforts of them all.
Well, it seems to me Manne was unique: What a control; what expertise with the mallets and what musicality! His playing is always rounding off; never allowing blank spaces, in a most harmonic way!
If you like the traditional quintet form, go to his recordings at the Black Hawk or at his own Manne Hole and listen to the epitome of the West Coast jazz, along with his unique way to propel a team. If you’d rather listen to piano trios (like me), do yourself a favor and choose any of his recording with Andre Previn and Leroy Vinnegar and discover, as a bonus, how gifted was Previn in those days; much more jazzy than in his late years as a  musician of this gender. Who knows, maybe his mind are now more classically music oriented…
Well, it’s been some 26 years since he left us, but those among us – jazz lovers -, specially the drums addicts, who, for any reason whatsoever, do not know his prowess, own themselves to know his art. Please, do me a favor and try listening to this giant. And, be sure: he was THE DRUMMER; one who is not and will never be superseded…

Sunday, May 01, 2011

1 Sem 2011 - Part Ten

Taylor Eigsti
Daylight At Midnight

Cover (Daylight at Midnight:Taylor Eigsti)

by Dr. Judith Schlesinger
It's official: pianist Taylor Eigsti has finally outgrown his "prodigy" label.

At 26, with two Concord CDs and numerous sideman recordings behind him, Eigsti has finally made the artistic statement he's intended since his career began at the age of 11. Raised on the American songbook, and indoctrinated early into concerns about the continued viability of jazz, Eigsti has always wanted to create new audiences by embracing the favorite material of the iPod generation. In his previous CDs he has covered Björk and The Gels, as well as recording his own "Fallback Plan Suite," in three movements, on Let it Come to You (Concord, 2008).

With Daylight at Midnight, Eigsti goes even further, not only interpreting contemporary artists like Coldplay, Rufus Wainwright, MuteMath and Imogen Heap, but featuring a vocalist for the first time: the transcendentally pure and soulful Becca Stevens,, with whom he wrote two of the songs. He also plays with the instrumentation—adding Fender Rhodes, Rhodes PianoBass, electric piano and Melliotron samples—and mixes the terrific trio tracks (with bassist Harash Rhagavan and drummer Eric Harland) with a duo featuring long-time colleague and friend, the wonderful guitarist Julian Lage.

Eigsti's powerful technique always informs his playing, but on this recording the spotlight is on his musical range. Especially notable is the one solo track ("Secreto"), which is simple and elegant, yet deeply moving—a difficult combination for players of any age. For the rest, however unfamiliar Eigsti's selections may be to a jazz audience, his love for melody and his deep and expanding artistry are always evident. The side effect of introducing jazz to a younger audience is to introduce the, well, more mature audience to the newer material. It works so beautifully both ways that Daylight at Midnight may finally make Taylor Eigsti as widely-known as he deserves to be, as consummate player, composer, and now songwriter and ambassador as well.
Track Listing:
Daylight; Magnolia; The Art Teacher; The Water; Pink Moon; Little Bird; Secreto; Chaos; Between the Bars; Speaking Song; Midnight After Noon.
Taylor Eigsti: piano, rhythm piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer electric piano, Melliotron samples; Harish Raghavan: acoustic and electric bass; Eric Harland: drums; Julian Lage: guitars; Becca Stevens: vocals.

Marcin Wasilewski Trio

Cover (Faithful:Marcin Wasilewski)

by Greg Simmons
The Marcin Wasilewski Trio's Faithful makes its entry as one of the better albums of 2011 to date, with a selection of original titles that are melodic, highly sophisticated and thoroughly enjoyable.
The piano trio—piano, bass and drums—is one of jazz's cornerstone ensembles. As such—and with perhaps thousands of albums recorded in this instrumental combination—the standards of excellence are very high. There is no reason to ever listen to a mediocre piano trio record, because surely there is a truly outstanding one close at hand. To the extent that an entry into this category needs to excel to stand out and be heard, Faithful will surely find an audience.
Pianist m: Marcin Wasilewski piano with a delicate hand and an almost vocal melodic quality. He eschews pyrotechnic arpeggios in favor of a balanced, chord-driven aesthetic. When he does solo, he works with a sleek fluidity that is integrated with the music, rather than floating over it. His performance is very satisfying to hear.
Bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz provide a firm rhythmic foundation for the music, adding interest with imaginative playing throughout. They are not on this date to simply provide a beat. "Big Foot" opens with the piano and bass doubling the intro, before the piano recedes to allow the bass to make a statement. Even so, the instruments are blended, with the piano close at hand. It's a device that lets the complete arrangement make forward progress while allowing the individuals a bit of spotlight. The track also features some truly inventive drumming, notably incorporating consistent use of toms, snare, cymbals and kick drum, but with a strikingly well-built, light-touch articulation that compliments the song to a tee.
The slower titles, including the title track, are lush without being florid, demonstrating gracefully lean compositions that still incorporate the full range and force of the instruments at hand. On "Ballad Of The Sad Young Men," Wasilewski sticks with a two-handed delivery, using the bass weight of the left hand to comp the melody of the right. Meanwhile, the drums, played with brushes, continue to develop a range of sounds and effects. Not satisfied to simply swirl his brushes on the heads, Miskiewicz taps the sides of his cymbals and thwacks the rims to ensure an engaging performance on what could easily have been a drummer's dead end.
Of course, being on the ECM label, a high level of sonic excellence is to be expected. Every album should capture instruments this well, and with this level of spaciousness.
This trio has been playing together in various iterations for over two decades and it shows, with the kind of sympathetic, telepathic interplay between the musicians that can only be mastered over time. With Faithful, Marcin Wasilewsi Trio present a well-crafted, engaging, and simply beautiful album.
Track Listing:

An den kleinen Radioapparat; Night Train To You; Faithful; Mosaic; Balad Of The Sad Young Men; Oz Guizos; Song For Swirek; Woke Up In The Desert; Big Foot; Lugano Lake.

Marcin Wasilewski: piano; Slawomir Kurkiewicz: double-bass; Michal Miskiewicz: drums

Fred Hersch
Alone At The Village Vanguard

Cover (Alone at the Vanguard:Fred Hersch)

By Dan McClenaghan
Pianist Fred Hersch almost cashed out back in 2008, when he fell ill with AIDs-related complications and spent seven weeks in a coma. The recovery was arduous, the resumption of his wide-ranging and top-level musical artistry uncertain--an uncertainty erased without a trace by Whirl (Palmetto Records, 2010), a trio set so assured, vibrant and beautiful that it would surely show up in any knowing top ten list of the best piano trio sets of the new millennium's first decade.
There was a subtle change in Hersch's sound, post illness. It's what Hersch's fellow pianist, Jessica Williams (who has suffered her own health problems), calls “illness as a teacher,” a focusing of intent and approach from the washing away of the peripheral and unimportant.
Alone at the Vanguard is Hersch's solo piano offering, recorded on the last night of a six-night stand at the hallowed New York club where innumerable jazz greats have held court and recorded performances, resulting in classic albums. Hersch opens his set on a shimmering introduction to “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” an old American Songbook jewel that gets buffed up often. Hersch has what it takes to ignore the “never open with a ballad” advice: a supple and exquisitely-refined touch; a sharp focus on the melody; a deep sense of classical harmony; and a magical ability to get inside the tune and make it his own. Hersch's sound here has a uncommon fragility/strength dynamic, and it is serious and cerebral, with an opposing simplicity buoyed by a rich complexity, born of a lifetime's immersion in the music.
On this nine-tune set, Hersch offers up four masterful originals: “Down Home,” dedicated to guitarist Bill Frisell, has a jaunty, fun, light-stepping feel; “Echos” is an inward journey, hopeful and lushly harmonic; “Lee's Dream,” for alto saxophone legend Lee Konitz, has a sunny, sparkling, playful vibe; and “Pastorale,” dedicated to Robert Schumann, draws on Hersch's classical background.
Hersch gives Jacob de Bandolim's “Doce de Coco” a sense of frisky, devil-may-care grace, and he slows down the standard “Memories of You” and turns it into a ruminative prayer.
Almost all jazz pianists like to get lost inside the idiosyncratic tunes of Thelonious Monk, and Fred Hersch is no exception, but few do it as well. His study of Monk's “Work” sounds like joyous play, full of very erudite Hersch-ian turns, fun and at the same time stately, a closer that demanded an encore: Sonny Rollins' “Doxy.” Hersch delivers that tune at a measured pace, drawing the sound into a timeless and bluesy wee hours mood, a majestic wrap-up of an exceptional night of music at the Village Vanguard.
Track Listing: In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning; Down Home; Echoes; Lee's Dream; Pastorale; Doce de Coco; Memories of You; Work; Encore: Doxy.
Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano.

Carol Fredette
Everything In Time 

 by Michael G. Nastos
Carol Fredette has been singing in the club and cabaret circles of New York City for many years, her unpretentious style appreciated by all who work with her and those who patronize her regular haunts. She's clearly a big fan of the Brazilian tunes which dominate this CD, with music director and bassist David Finck providing arrangements for such excellent players as pianists Helio Alves and Dario Eskenazi, drummer Adriano Santos and percussionist Mauro Refosco. A two-man horn section with tenor saxophonist Bob Malach and trumpeter Barry Danielian play a strong support role, as Fredette sings this collection of longtime favorites, movie themes, songs of love and regret reflecting the personal ups and downs of her life. Fredette vocalizes in a controlled range, not pushing the envelope too much nor straining for high notes, and is up in the production mix. She's mature and comfortable in the lower registers of her instrument without sounding forced, catty, or phony on a sexual level. Samba is the main rhythm used, whether on Bob Dorough's curious love inquisition "Without Rhyme or Reason," the understated treatment of the standard "Dream Dancing," the simple horn backed treatment on "Pieces of Dreams," or the upbeat take of a Kenny Loggins tune "Wait a Little While." Malach gets his licks in frequently, and he sounds great on his own or with the trio during the witty waltz version of "The Way You Look Tonight." Fredette has fun in falsetto quacking for "O Pato" with the lyrics of Jon Hendricks, and is in a campy mood for "A Fine Romance." At times maudlin emotionally, she's positively breathy during the reflective ballad "Last Night When We Were Young," talked further down by the great drumming of Victor Lewis. One of her more interesting choices "Love Thy Neighbor" was a hit for Bing Crosby, but here it's John Coltrane's arrangement, with saxophonist Aaron Heicke helping. Finck is always marvelous, and Fredette is lucky to have him by her side -- maybe a duet album would be a good idea. Apparently, according to the inner art work, Fredette's favorite time is ten o'clock, a.m. and p.m., indicative of this late night and "mid" morning approach to jazz singing.

Toots Thielemans
European Quartet Live

by Ken Dryden
Even into his eighties, Toots Thielemans sets the standard for jazz harmonica. Although he no longer plays guitar or whistles, he remains a formidable force on his best-known instrument. This CD compiles performances from concerts between 2006 and 2008, all with his European quartet featuring pianist Karel Boehlee (who occasionally adds synthesizer), bassist Hein van de Geyn, and drummer Hans van Oosterhout, a sympathetic group that provides terrific backing and potent solos. Most of the songs have long been in the harmonica player's repertoire, though they still sound very fresh. Opening with a Gershwin medley, Thielemans kicks off with a laid-back "I Loves You, Porgy" before launching into a romp through "Summertime" that features the rhythm section vamping on "All Blues" in spots and making a humorous reference to Wayne Shorter's "Footprints." Toots' unaccompanied version of "'Round Midnight" is a masterpiece, full of twists, especially in the breathtaking introduction. The driving rendition of "On Green Dolphin Street" swings like mad, while the disc concludes with a wide-ranging exploration of his signature composition, "Bluesette," and a loping treatment of his pretty ballad "For My Lady." This live collection is a delightful addition to Toots Thielemans' vast discography.

Eldar Djangirov
Three Stories

by Jeff Tamarkin
Eldar Djangirov, the jazz pianist who previously recorded under his first name only, has been receiving rave reviews since he began performing as a young child. Those kudos are justified -- even as a prodigy, Djangirov dazzled with his technique, earning comparisons to masters such as Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. For one thing, his speed on the instrument is unreal, but he's never been solely about virtuosity -- never showoffy, Djangirov packs plenty of emotion into his music as well as chops. For this solo piano set, Djangirov has expanded his reach, including classical material and original compositions as well as several diverse covers spanning Great American Songbook standards to more traditional jazz repertoire and even a Dave Matthews tune. Djangirov's playing is, simply, flawless, yet he avoids sterility. Whether diving into Gershwin's "Embraceable You," Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee," or Bach's Prelude in C-sharp Major, Djangirov's interpretations are always personalized and never less than inviting. On Thelonious Monk's "In Walked Bud," played in 5/4 time, Djangirov's captures the angularity of the original but tosses in enough flamboyant flourish that one might mistake him for a bebop Liberace (in a positive, enjoyable way). His take on Jimmy Van Heusen's "Darn That Dream" is imbued with a dreamy, tinkling mystery, and the Chick Corea number that follows it, "Windows," is introspective and elegant. So too is the Matthews tune, "So Damn Lucky," which sways between a modified boogie and something more regal and expressive. Djangirov's original numbers -- highlighted by the expansive title track -- vary in mood and tone, striking a measured balance between the pianist's jazz side and his classical training. It all comes together magnificently in the set's tour de force, "Rhapsody in Blue," a breathtaking 15-minute Djangirov-arranged take on the iconic opus that surveys a wide range of stylings, dispositions, and tempos. It's a sonic tour well worth taking, the highlight of this recording that, more than any of his previous works, exposes Eldar Djangirov's massive abilities and singular approach.

1 Sem 2011 - Part Nine

Brian Lynch Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra
Bolero Nights For Billie Holliday

by EastWind
Brian Lynch (flugelhorn,trumpet)Phil Woods (alto sax)Ivan Renta (alto sax)Alan Hoffman (tenor sax)Marshall Gilkes (trombone)Ron Blake (baritone sax)Zaccai Curtis (piano)Boris Kozlov (bass)Marvin Diz (drums,percussion) Little Johnny Rivero (congas,percussion)
Trumpeter Brian Lynch has had an illustrious career, beginning with the Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and continuing as a member of the current Phil Woods Quintet. In between, he has led many projects and recorded many albums as a leader, and established himself as one of the top jazz trumpeters in the US. One of his assets is his deep understanding of and familiarity with Latin jazz, inspired by Brazilian trumpeter Claudio Roditi and developed through his collaborations wit Brazillian, Puerto Rican and Cuban musicians.
The Brian Lynch Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra is a culmination of these developments. The relatively small, nine-piece band features five horn players and two percussionists, and can sound as big and expansive or as tight and small as the situation demands. As we can see from this collection of medium- to slow-tempo boleros, this band represents an examplary combination of authentic Latin rhythms and vigorous jazz improvisations.
As an added bonus, Lynch's long-time boss and legendary alto player Phil Woods contributes brilliant solos on "Celia," "I'm A Fool To Want You" and "You've Changed." The typically big, powerful sound of this Venus release is further enhanced by their decision to adopt the latest CD formulation called HQCD (see below). Recommended for audiophiles and fans of Afro Cuban jazz!
Produced by Tetsuo Hara and Todd Barkan. Recorded at The Clinton Studio "A" in New York on November 8-10, 2008. Engineered by Katherine Miller. Mixed and mastered by Venus Hyper Magnum Sound Direct Mix: Tetsuo Hara. HQCD (High Quality CD) is a new CD formulation developed by EMI Music Japan. The higher quality polycarbonate material developed for LCD panels and specially formulated amalgam -- instead of regular alumunum -- in its reflective layer improve the sound quality by reducing reading errors in playback. It is compatible with all regular CD players.

Cheryl Bentyne
The Book Of Love

by Scott Yanow
On The Book of Love, Cheryl Bentyne of the Manhattan Transfer tells the story of a love affair through music. The relationship starts with discovery and infatuation, hits its high point with "You Go to My Head" and then declines and results in a breakup with "Goodbye." While her singing is excellent, the program never really catches fire, and it lacks the delirious excitement of love at its most intense. The interpretations are a bit too cool and laid-back, and these versions of such warhorses as "Blue Moon" (which has guest John Pizzarelli making it a vocal duet), "Let's Do It," "You Go to My Head" and "Cry Me a River" will not make anyone forget the more definitive recordings. The overall results are pleasant but fall far short of the ecstasy and thrills one would expect from a heated affair.

Chie Imaizumi
A Time Of New Recordings

by Ken Dryden
With countless jazz CDs of original material by young, up-and-coming artists, jazz journalists and broadcasters can feel overwhelmed trying to uncover the gems among them. But composer/arranger Chie Imaizumi's ability to attract commissioned works and top players to perform her music gives her an edge, as she has been endorsed by veteran musicians. Randy Brecker is featured on flugelhorn in her turbulent "Information Overload," powered by its infectious vamp and spirited ensembles. The emotional ballad "Fear of the Unknown" showcases John Clayton's majestic, singing arco bass along with his precise pizzicato playing. "Sharing the Freedom" is a moving work commissioned by the U.S. Air Force Academy's Falconaires to be played at the 2008 Monterey Jazz Festival. Beginning with a gorgeous hymn-like introduction, it evolves into a peppy soulful setting with great solos by Clayton and alto saxophonist Steve Wilson. The humorous finale is "Fun and Stupid Song," blending Latin rhythms with unpredictable shifts and strong solos, with Scott Robinson being showcased on both sopranino and tenor sax. The future looks very bright for the talented Chie Imaizumi.

Robin Aleman
In Your Eyes

by Wilbert Sostre at JazzTimes
Robin Aleman (vocals), David Epstein (piano), Bob Sabin (bass), Brian Adler (drums), Nathan Childers (sax)
Robin Aleman new album In your eyes starts with a bang with the cool version of Irving Berlin Steppin out with my baby. Most of the song is just drums and Robin voice with impressive piano and drums solos by David Epstein and Brian Adler.
In almost all the tracks Robin is accompanied by a trio of just piano, bass and drums. This format allows the listener to appreciate Robin beautiful tone and unique phrasing. Listen to the wonderful version of All or nothing at all or the bass and voice arrangement of the The way you look tonight.
Robin voice and feeling truly shines in the slow ballads like Something in your smile, When I look in your eyes and Some other time. But she is a versatile singer, showing her latin heritage in the salsa rhythms of I have eyes with a nice montuno on piano, singing perfectly in Portuguese in the Blue bossa/ Triste medley, or the kind of Irish phrasing on It never was you and Corea Crystal Silence.
Robin cleverly does a medley of two songs, I fall in love too easily and The next time it happens with similar lyrics about being careful when falling in love. In your eyes also includes the waltz like rhythms of Lover and a funk version of Ellington Do nothing till you hear from me.
Tracks: Steppin out with my baby, Something in your smile, The way you look tonight, I fall in love too easily/The next time it happens, All or nothing at all, I have eyes, Lover, Crystal Silence, It never was you, Come on strong, Blue bossa/Triste, When I look in your eyes, Do nothing till you hear from me, Some other time
Artist's Website:

Julia Hülsmann Trio

by Jon Wertheim
Manfred Eicher's Munich-based ECM Records specializes in spacious, absorbing records that reveal their inner workings, labyrinth-like, over the course of many listens. Some releases reveal themselves from the first note; with others, it can take years. Pianist Julia Hülsmann's sixth record—and second for ECM—Imprint, manages both.
Hülsmann's trio isn't new—it has had more than a decade to establish its stylistic identity. But when the ensemble moved to ECM, releasing its label debut, The End of a Summer, in 2008, something snapped into place that shows no sign of departing.
Imprint's opener, "Rond Point," gives away enough of the record's intent to command immediate attention, and hides enough to sustain it. Bassist Marc Muellbauer is the star of the track, deploying his singing, Gary Peacock-esque tone at just the right moments. Hülsmann and drummer Heinrich Köbberling combine Robert Glasper with Paul Motian underneath and over it all, blanketing the tune in a lushly bleak sound-world.
From this first track, moods come and go, ranging from the suspense of the tense "After The End Of It" and the tenderness of "A Light Left On," to the restrained force of "Lulu." But no track is wildly different from the preceding one, a quality that could be seen either as a drawback or a recommendation. Like many ECM recordings, Imprint is best understood as a suite of sorts, a collection of variations—not on a theme, however, but on a mood.
That mood is best described by one of Hülsmann's own titles: "Storm In A Teacup." A constantly shifting groundwork of brushes swirls beneath Hülsmann's dark chords and melody line, voiced partly in unison with Muellbauer, and partly separate from him. Teacups are not violent objects, and their usual contents, while often hot, are not exactly the stuff of muscular hard bop or caustic Albert Ayler-isms. But, despite the outward tameness, storms do occur, casting shadows and filtering rays of sunlight, making waves and blowing sands.
The storm that Hülsmann's trio creates, within the teacup of Imprint, is a perfect Storm, indeed. This is a polished trio that takes risks, a safe trio that loves danger, a predictable trio that's full of surprises. It is both superficial and deep, and always rewarding. There's one surprise that Hülsmann can't pull off, because from the first note, it's obvious how good Imprint is going to be. But it may take years to know why.