Stephane Kerecki & John Taylor
by Guillaume de Chassy
Translation: Charles Johnston
‘For jazz musicians, the duo of piano and double bass is a perilous exercise in tightrope-walking, reserved for enthusiasts of extreme refinement, those who like to dance on the edge of abysses. Its alchemy is mysterious. It cannot be commanded; it exists right from the start, or will never exist at all; which is probably why examples of it are not exactly abundant in the discography.
The tandem formed by Stéphane Kerecki and John Taylor now marks a new landmark in the genre. Between these two musicians, the osmosis was immediate, self-evident, thanks to a set of qualities rarely assembled: fluidity of dialogue, beauty of sound, sobriety of gesture . . . and total confidence in each other, a solidarity which removes fear of the void, of missing one’s footing. From this vivid double bass and this colouristic piano emerges music that burns with a tranquil flame; music to get through the night. One might almost forget that it is invented on the razor’s edge . . .
Like close friends reunited after a long separation, the two musicians – who in fact hardly knew each other – at once start revealing their secrets. Their nocturnal conversation describes imaginary landscapes sketched out by the bassist’s pen, conjuring up in passing the presences of some poets of jazz: Bill Evans, Scott La Faro, Ornette Coleman, Paul Bley, Gary Peacock . . .
Serene though it is, it never flags, such is its underlying rhythmic energy. It drifts off to adventurous terrains where the unexpected lurks in each silence. By releasing the account of his brief encounter with John Taylor, Stéphane Kerecki does more than merely delight music-lovers; he proves once again that jazz cannot exist without sometimes flirting with the void.’
In Search Of.......
by Susan Frances
Reed instrumentalists Ken Peplowski creates an eclectic world of swing-inspired motifs, entrancing soundscapes, soft roasted blues, and balladry sweeps on his new CD, In Search of… from Capri Records. This is his second effort as a bandleader following his previous Capri Records release Noir Blue. The album features compositions recorded from two different sessions and with two different sets of musicians.
The first nine tracks were recorded on February 21, 2010 with Peplowski at the helm and accompanied by pianist Shelley Berg, bassist Tom Kennedy, and drummer Jeff Hamilton. These tracks flow naturally and show signs of Peplowski’s predecessors some of whom he has been fortunate enough to play with including Mel Torme, Benny Goodman, and Rosemary Clooney.
The brisk twirls of Peplowski’s clarinet are garnished in sprinting drum rolls along “Falsa Baiana”, while the clarinet’s sleek strolls across “When Joanna Loved Me” are nestled in Berg’s tranquilizing piano melody. The rhythmic interpoles made along “The Thespian” generate stimulating moments between the piano, bass, and drums, and morph into a soft bluesy swing pulse through “Love’s Disguise”.
The latter half of the album, tracks 10-12, was recorded on April 2, 2017 and stylized with Greg Cohen on bass, Joe Ascione on percussion and drums, and Chuck Redd on vibraphones. The cabaret-toned ambience of “No Regrets” is wreathe in a ring of puffing twitters from the clarinet, which slide into ascending phrases along “Within You and Without You” as the jiggling notes of the vibes produce an ethereal sheath. The upbeat stride of “Rum and Coco Cola” is strapped to buoyant percussions and a springy delivery from Peplowski’s clarinet which is partial to embracing a polka libretto.
Though Peplowski plays with two entirely different sets of musicians, the album has a cohesive seal that allows the tracks to move seamlessly. It’s a testament to Peplowski’s ability to be flexible and effective in any environment that he is thrown into, and proudly, his clarinet shines while encouraging his band to join him in the spotlight.
Ken Peplowski - clarinet, Shelley Berg - piano, Tom Kennedy - bass, Jeff Hamilton - drums, Greg Cohen - bass, Joe Ascione - percussion and drums, and Chuck Redd - vibraphones
The Thespian, Lover’s Disguise, When Joanna Loved Me, Falsa Baiana, A Ship Without A Sail, With Every Breath I Take, In Flower, Peps, This Nearly Was Mine, No Regres, Within You And Without You, Run and Coco Cola
Omer Avital Quintet
Live At Smalls
By Sharonne Cohen
The ever-evolving groups led by Israeli-born, NYC-based bassist Omer Avital are entwined with the institution that is Smalls. A member of the now-legendary Jason Lindner Big Band, its seven-year Smalls residency serving as a hotbed for a host of up-and-coming musicians, Avital co-led the Smalls jam session for a time, in addition to his own ensembles. This live album captures his longstanding collaboration with Lindner, trumpeter Avishai Cohen (also a member of Lindner’s Big Band), saxophonist Joel Frahm and drummer Johnathan Blake.
Avital’s tight-knit quintet blazes through a set of his captivating originals, opening with the doleful yet hopeful “Theme for a Brighter Future.” At 14:25, “Magic Carpet,” driven by a North African gnawa beat, offers everyone plenty of room to shine, with some wonderful interaction between Cohen and Frahm and a scorching solo by Lindner. “One” draws on Avital’s Middle Eastern heritage, and “Bass Intro to Anthem to Life” illustrates the multifaceted nature of Avital’s sound and the broad range of textures and moods he draws from his bass—from bluesy melancholy to classical and Arabic hues. The soul-stirring “Anthem to Life” is infused with a deep gospel feeling, while the closing “(Just Some) Smalls Time Shit” rides a rock vibe, the band and audience joining Avital’s durable vocals.
This live recording captures the quintet’s remarkable synergy and palpable energy, the unique Smalls ambience, and the audience’s enthusiastic response to the stellar musicianship soaring throughout.
Bruce Barth Trio
Live At Smalls
By Bill Beuttler
Bruce Barth is a jazzman’s jazzman (and a pianist’s pianist) in much the same way certain authors are known as writer’s writers: much-admired by his peers and the cognoscenti but largely unknown to the wider public. Still, even without the recognition he deserves, Barth has kept busy, putting out 12 CDs under his own name over the past couple of decades and several dozen more backing others. He has accompanied singers (Karrin Allyson, Luciana Souza, Tony Bennett) and fellow instrumentalists (Stanley Turrentine and Terence Blanchard were early employers; lately he has worked most often with Steve Wilson and Terell Stafford).
And Barth often leads trios in club appearances. Live at Smalls was recorded over a couple of nights last September. Barth’s sidemen are players who keep similarly busy, bassist Vicente Archer dividing his time primarily between Robert Glasper and Nicholas Payton, drummer Rudy Royston splitting his between Bill Frisell and JD Allen. Here the three blend beautifully on a program consisting almost entirely of Barth originals.
“Oh Yes I Will” starts things off at a quick tempo, with the later “Almost Blues” the most straight-ahead jazz workout on the disc, Archer’s walking bass and Royston’s propulsive drums driving the rhythm along nicely beneath Barth’s piano. The pleasantly lyrical waltz-time “Sunday” slows things down momentarily before kicking into overdrive for the tune’s midsection. “Peaceful Place” is airily pretty, with gospel accents and a splendid solo by Archer. “Wilsonian Alto,” named for Steve Wilson, explores Brazilian rhythms; “Afternoon in Lleida” opens with a quiet drum intro paired with a bass ostinato that glides into slow swing. The standard “Good Morning Heartache” is the only tune not written by Barth, but his arrangement is exquisite—the tempo slowed, new harmonies added, the support from Archer and Royston kept subtly understated. Here, especially, Barth’s refined touch as pianist, composer-arranger and leader is unmistakable.
by Ken Dryden
Since the mid-'60s, Denny Zeitlin has balanced his multiple careers as a psychiatrist, medical school professor, and jazz pianist/composer. Late in his career he has focused more frequently on solo piano, including this second live CD for Sunnyside of unaccompanied performances, drawn from concerts in 2008 and 2010. Zeitlin's touch is so distinctive that his longtime fans will recognize his playing immediately, particularly in his introspective, inventive approach to Wayne Shorter's modal masterpiece. Zeitlin strums and hand mutes the piano's strings, interweaves magical improvised lines, and keeps this familiar work fresh with his dramatic interpretation. His lyrical take of trumpeter Tom Harrell's "Sail Away" is a masterful, subtle exploration. The pianist's galloping treatment of John Coltrane's "Lazy Bird" is similar to his earlier version on his CD At Maybeck, though he takes even more chances this time around. Zeitlin is also at home with standards, offering a lush, spacious treatment of "As Long as There's Music" and a slow, shimmering setting of "People Will Say We're in Love." The pianist's originals are just as striking. Zeitlin has recorded his infectious "Brazilian Street Dance" on several CDs, though this playful version includes a subtle introduction with the pianist strumming and tapping the beat on the piano strings, then becoming a one-man Brazilian band with his rhythmically charged performance. For the other two originals, he revisits works he wrote early in his career. The eerie "Labyrinth" keeps the listener guessing as to its direction, often sounding as if it was a totally improvised piece. Zeitlin's edgy "Slipstream" blends an improvised introduction and a wide-ranging exploration incorporating adept use of dense chords, pedal technique, and string manipulation in a breathtaking finale. Like the vintage wines that Denny Zeitlin collects, the masterful pianist keeps getting better with age.