Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band
Swingin' For The Fences
by Scott Yanow
Saxophonist Gordon Goodwin (heard on this CD on alto and soprano) has loved big bands since he was a child. He arranged all of the music for his 18-piece big band's release, contributing nine of the ten compositions (all but Bach's "Two Part Invention in D Minor") and getting several notable guest soloists to make appearances. The music is mostly modern mainstream, swinging while utilizing some advanced harmonies. There are a few departures including "Sing Sang Sung" (a number based a bit on "Sing Sing Sing"), the Bach selection, a couple Latin jazz pieces, and the funky "There's the Rub" and "A Few Good Men." Among the main soloists from the orchestra are Goodwin, trombonist Andy Martin, pianist Tom Ranier, and tenorman Dan Higgins. The guests (on two songs apiece) are trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, clarinetist Eddie Daniels, and altoists Eric Marienthal and Brandon Fields. Fans of contemporary big bands will find much to enjoy on this fun set.
By Dan McClenaghan
Cuban-born/Miami-based pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba boasts a discography of some 25 albums, including a dozen discs for the esteemed Blue Note label. Having established star status for himself with numerous Grammy nominations and two wins, Rubalcaba steps out with the first release on his independent 5Passion label, Fe...Faith.
Over the course of his career, Rubalcaba has worked with some of the best modern jazz players, including Joe Lovano, Michael Brecker, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, but introduces his new record company with a solo outing--an eighty-minute jazz prayer. The music is graceful and refined, largely introspective and deeply reverential in tone, with the pianist's technical prowess on full display in a meditative and often economical fashion.
Rubalcaba's brief “Derivado 1” opens the set with a short declaratory note, drifting into the spare and sacred mood of another original, “Malerefun lya Lodde Me,” a beautifully ruminative exploration of the spirit of the music of the Cuban Santeria religion. “Improvisations 2 (based on Coltrane),” features the pianist at his most virtuosic, as he invites the soul of the ever-spiritual saxophonist John Coltrane into the mix.
Rubalcaba also delivers two versions of Dizzy Gillespie's “Con Alma” that are tranquil, fluid examinations of its familiar melody. There are also two takes of the Miles Davis/Bill Evans classic, “Blue in Green.” Both have a melancholy feeling, as if they are prayers of mourning, before and after the set's more joyful moment, “Oro,” inspired by the Santeria religion, and a gorgeous and reverential triptych of tunes celebrating Rubalcaba's children,”Joan,” “Joao” and “Yolanda Anas.”
Rubalcaba revisits Coltrane with “Improvisation 1 (based on Coltrane),” to add a sparkle to the set, and closes out with another brief original, “Derivado 3,” a delicately pretty “amen” of sorts, to Rubalcaba's most personal of records.
Derivado 1; Maferefun Iya Lodde Me; Improvisation 2 (based on Coltrane); Derivado 2; Con Alma 1; Precludio Corto #2 (Tu Amor Vera Falso); Blue in Green 1; Oro; Joan; Joao; Yolanda Anas; Blue in Green 2; Con Alma 3; Improvisation 1 (based on Coltrane); Derivado 3.
Personnel: Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano.
Giovanni Mirabassi Trio
Live @ The Blue Note, Tokyo
by Choc Classica – Jean-Pierre Jackson
An exceptionally precise and dynamic sound recording. After the release of the two outstanding albums Terra Furiosa in 2008 and Out of Track, last year, the new album by the same trio recorded between 21st and 23rd April at the Blue Note in Tokyo is a great success. This is first due to the melodic and rhythmic richness of the nine compositions of the CD’s répertoire, displaying in turn pianist Giovanni Mirabassi’s elegiac and lilting style (My broken heart, World changes) and the swing and energy that characterize him (NY#1, It’s us). The rich improvisations with their brilliant internal logic are always followed by poetical undulating efflorescences, which are typical of the pianist’s style.
The success of this new album is also due to the trio itself, in perfect osmosis, with exceptional Leon Parker’s impressively precise drum playing and Gianluca Renzi, who constantly creates bass lines which do not only provide the melodic and rhythmic foundations of the phrasing, but can also approach what can sound like the human voice , when playing solo. This new album of remarkable sound quality which is a legendary characteristic of all CDs under Japanese label Vénus, renders Giovanni Mirabassi’s musical generosity when playing in concert, and certainly has the polished touch of all great classics.
by Ken Dryden
Jean-Michel Pilc has established himself as one of the major jazz pianists to emerge from Europe around the beginning of the 21st century. Joined by Mingus Big Band bassist Boris Kozlov and veteran drummer Billy Hart, Pilc mixes creative arrangements of several familiar songs with his demanding originals. His take of Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" is full of humor (adding a quick dash of "You and the Night in the Music") while retaining a sensual undercurrent and a sense of adventure with his wild variations, with potent solos all around. Pilc's adaptation of "Try to Remember" (from the long-running Broadway musical The Fantastiks) incorporates dissonant bass chords and several twists that keep it from getting overly sentimental, while the haunting "Relic" is a reworking of a Franz Schubert theme. The high point of Pilc's compositions is his five-part suite "True Story," which incorporates many contrasting styles in its brief segments. Although many jazz journalists have high regard for the work of Jean-Michel Pilc, he remains a treasure awaiting discovery by many American jazz fans.
by Matt Collar
Vocalist/pianist Karrin Allyson's 2011 effort 'Round Midnight is a smoky, afterglow affair that builds upon the singer's noted skill for interpreting jazz and pop standards. Conceptualized around the classic Thelonious Monk title track, the album plays like a darkly cool nightclub set -- not dissimilar to the kind of live performances Allyson is known for. Backing Allyson here is a superb lineup featuring guitarist Rod Fleeman, bassist Ed Howard, and drummer Matt Wilson, as well as saxophonist Bob Sheppard and harmonica player Randy Weinstein. Together, Allyson and her ensemble deliver intensely dramatic and romantic takes on such standards as the leadoff "Turn Out the Stars," the mid-album "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most," and of course the title track, which Allyson performs starkly with just bass accompaniment. Elsewhere, Allyson gives a sweetly moving take on Paul Simon's "April Come She Will" and goes against the usual uptempo style of "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows," instead delivering a ruminative, impressionistic slow-ballad version that allows her to reveal the nuances of Gene Lee's lyrics. Ultimately, it's Allyson's emotive voice and her ability to bring out these soft, bittersweet nuances in every track that makes 'Round Midnight such a listenable and heartfelt album.