Friday, March 30, 2012


By Claudio Botelho
Think it’s already happening? Think it’s gonna happen? Afraid of it?
Jazz isn’t and will never be a very popular kind of music, for the simple reason of lack of accessibility: it’s not easy to follow someone who, at will, doesn’t follow the previously established score of a song. The music inside other music isn’t accepted or even perceived by many (the great majority). If the listener is not aware of what’s going on, he may find the musician unskilled or, worse still, fraudulent. Those who have listened jazz on any regular basis know this very well.
If it was ever popular, it was on those years when it was a vehicle of dance music, in the first half of last century, chiefly in the United States. But, in that days of yore, to be possible to associate it with another leisure practice (dancing), it had to follow certain rules which assured it could be so used: appropriated and constant rhythm; little spontaneous improvisations, other than the previously planned and repertoire of great popular appeal. In short: it was a jazz very little “jazzy”. By then, there were orchestras like Harry James, Woody Herman and Les Brown which epitomized the so called “Swing Era”. Their popularity spanned from 1936 to 1946 and I’d say these were the golden years of the popularity of jazz, although, as I sad above, a jazz somewhat sterilized by those regulations.
From 1946 on, the big musical groups disbanded, as a result of the bankruptcy of post war years. But, some of them went on: Duke Ellington; Count Basie and Stan Kenton. But these were in a higher level and were the exception that confirmed the rule and, if I’m not wrong, had strength to keep on playing at least until the passing of their leaders.
Now, the jazz went on by itself: its sole point of interest was music itself. So, jazz musicians, free from any limitations, let loose their inner instincts and expressed their feelings in abandon.
Certainly no country more than United States documented, analyzed and classified all kinds of jazz manifestation and terms like east coast jazz, west coast jazz, mainstream jazz, free jazz, cool jazz and a bunch of others were coined along the time and gained the world.
Now comes the core of this writing: Is it possible jazz, in any day of the future, to vanish; to disappear; to become extinct so that nobody will ever listen a single note of it? No, never, for the simple reason that it was never invented; it was not a kind of music but just a way to play music and, as such, has always been practiced. Johann Sebastian Bach, to name one, knew this very well…
The North Americans had the venture of identifying it before any other people and the greatness of the United States helped to make it their own. As a matter of fact, jazz has always been around and, in my view, it’s nothing more than instantaneous arrangements; the kind of music one introduces into another when performing it. It can be as subtle as it can be fierce, in such a way as making the original composition barely recognizable or even unrecognizable for many.
To exemplify: you may have singers like Brazilian João Gilberto, as an example of jazz at its utmost subtleness: the only thing he does when singing is to make tiny changes in time; sometimes he advances his phrasings, others he delays it. It’s a jazz barely perceptible and I’m sure many never had any clue of it. Those who don’t like his singing simply don’t like jazz and, so, prefer to listen to other more conventional artists. In spite of this, his understated jazzy way of singing may pass unaware for many, which, even though not necessarily jazz fans, might like his performances.
You may also have artists like Betty Carter and Anita O’Day who had took jazz to the other extreme; the first one having serious problems of recognition, when she first appeared in the music scenery, due to her great uniqueness. Both, in my opinion, represent the quintessence of jazz singing and, for my money, Ms. O’Day is a little ahead, as she is even more tantalizing. Ms. Carter, being her greatest contender, is an artist of more prominence, for being akin to Art Blakey in his keen eyes (or ears) in recognizing new talents; many of them she discovered and introduced to wider audiences, just like Blakey did so many times. So, she was a bit more than just a single super singer…
You even have jazz singers who are not jazz singers at all. Many of them earning prizes as such, without ever spitting a miserable note different from those from the previous arrangements, usually done by some other musicians. So, these jazz singers never did any arrangements or improvisations and the sole reason for being so classified must go to the musicians they work with. Here, you have a territory belonging all to them; a land of make-believe of those who make their mouth, throat and tong their musical instrument, but nothing more than just that, if taken into account the realms of the subject hereon discussed…
You also have players which seem to be improvising from the very first note they play and you may have a hard time trying to distinguish the theme from the improvisations. Cecil Taylor, for instance, comes to my mind. Maybe too much room for improvisations… An excess of freedom for my liking…
So, why all this blah, blah, blah? To express my feelings that jazz is an innate state of mind, which come standard with some people, musicians or just listeners like me. It is a feeling of “inadequacy” with the written chords; an inner force to make them different, each one having his way of doing it, which may or may not suit the taste of a listener. That’s why those who like jazz follow the musicians in the first place, letting the songs he performs to play a secondary (but not unimportant) role.
(On account of this, I don’t believe when someone tells me he likes “music in general”; he “likes every music”. For me, it seems more like he doesn’t like “music in general”. He’d rather watch TV…)
All said, if jazz comes in all sizes, shapes, textures and colors; is independent from the will of anybody; germinates in any place, in any weather and, in its early days in the core of each of the “chosen ones”, is undetectable, how come it may ever end?
(As a matter of fact, our editor – Mr. Leonardo Barroso – when proclaims that “jazz is alive” (and he does it a lot…) seems to me to be afraid of awaking one day and discover that there’s no jazz anymore.)
The question is: jazz is and will ever be the nth most listened way of playing music, but this should not mislead you into thinking it is dying. Besides, remember: it is “insidious” sometimes, being unknowingly present in many presentations and this is what makes it an enemy difficult to destroy…
Still afraid? You don’t need to be. The title of these writings is a fake, as much as the skull and bones which illustrate it...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

2012 Desert Island "Top Ten" JAZZ CD's

By Leonardo Barroso
Every now and then, I try to select from my cd collection, 10 records that I would take to a desert island.
I don't care when it was made or how many musicians are in it.
What really matters is the joy and eargasm, I get every time the cd spins in my player.
I made some changes from the last Top 10 post ( 2010 ).
Search all your records, and choose the ones you have goosebumps !
Send it through my e-mail:

1) Bill Evans 
    You Must Believe In Spring  

By Chris M. Slawecki
After more than a decade as one of the pianist’s most sympathetic bassists, this was Eddie Gomez’s last recording with Evans, a trio set with drummer Eliot Zigmund recorded in 1977 and released after Evans’ death in 1980.
Evans never stopped searching for new ideas. He might be faulted for repeatedly looking for them in the same tunes, but this program is quite varied, including Johnny Mandel’s “Suicide is Painless” (the theme from M.A.S.H. ); Michel Legrand’s title track; Gary McFarland’s waltz “Gary’s Theme,” complementing Evans’ own “B Minor Waltz (For Ellaine),” composed for Evans’ wife; and “We Will Meet Again (For Harry),” Evans’ tribute to his brother.
In Evans’ hands, melodies and time signatures are often more whispered, more shadowed, than stated, as in the opening “B Minor Waltz (For Ellaine)” and the somber, reflective title track, which blossoms, after Gomez’ mid-song solo, like dogwoods on a mid-May morning. Evans boasted such a unique, unmistakable touch—emotional and beautiful and even soft, but never sweet. (Gomez is pretty amazing himself on “M.A.S.H.,” laying down the foundation rock solid yet pushing the music forward, too.)
Among this reissue’s bonus tracks, “Without a Song” is about as ebullient as you’ll ever hear this pianist, and “Freddie Freeloader,” the one track on Miles Davis’ landmark album Kind of Blue where Evans did not play, presents the rare sound of Evans on electric piano.
As a rule, Evans could pick up the program from an elementary school chorus festival and play it inventively and beautifully. This set is no exception.
Track listing:
B Minor Waltz (For Ellaine); You Must Believe in Spring; Gary's Theme; We Will Meet Again (For Harry); The Peacocks; Theme from M*A*S*H; Without A Song; Freddie Freeloader; All of You
Bill Evans, acoustic and electric piano; Eddie Gomez, bass; Eliot Zigmund, drums.

2) Tomasz Stanko Quartet
    Suspended Night

By Jeff Stockton
If you’re reading this review, there’s little doubt that you consider yourself a jazz fan. And as such, you’ve probably heard a person say to you with all conviction: “I don’t like jazz.” Miles in the ‘50s? Coltrane on Atlantic? What’s not to like? But when I hear this, I usually just let it go, frustrated by past attempts at persuasion, overwhelmed by my own disbelief. Now when this situation arises, however, I can hand them Suspended Night, jazz of delicacy, classical European beauty, sadness and hope.
Ten years ago Stanko, the 50 year old Polish veteran, began playing with a teenage rhythm section, scoring films and performing live fairly close to home. For this, the quartet’s second release for ECM, his band proves to be an ensemble of tight musicianship and sympathetic interaction. The opening piece, “Song for Sarah,” begins with pianist Marcin Wasilewski’s profound lyricism in deft, colorful strokes. Even if you’ve never heard Stanko play a note, you’re immediately drawn in by the cautious tempo and undercurrent of longing. When he does enter, the piano is in perfect complement to Stanko’s slightly roughened tone, honed by years of work and experience. Over and over on this recording the connection between trumpeter and pianist is palpable.
The rest of the CD is made up of ten “Suspended Variations” that integrate bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz, who offers resonant pizzicato playing, and drummer Michal Miskiewicz, who contributes subtle percussive accents and shimmers. As one comes to expect, Wasilewski carries the tunes forward with modal vamps and poetic improvisation, Stanko gliding above with tense restraint.
Listening to the Tomasz Stanko Quartet puts you in another place, where the overcoats are heavy and the wine is homemade. Where people do most of their living indoors, informed by a past when life had to be directed inward, away from disapproving eyes. It’s this existential intimacy that has formed Stanko’s melodic grace and soulful tranquility. In the end, Stanko endures, and his band play with the fire of those participating in an ongoing discovery, using the vocabulary of jazz. How can you not be a fan of that?

3) The Alan Broadbent Trio 
     Personal Standards

by Stephen Cook
Since gaining fame as a member of Charlie Haden's excellent Quartet West, Alan Broadbent has seen his own catalog rise in stature. A welcome development, since a wider audience should check out the many fine recordings this unique pianist/composer/arranger has made. And in spite of the admission that his highly lyrical bent and soft touch come out of the work of Bill Evans, Red Garland, and Nat "King" Cole, among others, Broadbent is able to produce fresh solo conceptions and plenty of original material of his own. In fact, as the title implies, Personal Standards consists almost entirely of self-penned cuts, save for one by bassist Putter Smith. (This seamless piano trio is rounded out by drummer Joe LaBarbera.) Along with material also heard on variousQuartet West recordings like "The Long Goodbye" and "Song of Home," the disc features a nice mix of ballads ("Ballad Impromptu"), mid- to up-tempo swingers ("Consolation"), as well as some blues ("Uncertain Terms"). And even though Broadbent favors slow and melancholy numbers, he can still vigorously turn on the technique, especially on the faster numbers here. In addition to his solo piano outing for the Maybeck Recital Hall series, Personal Standards offers a great introduction to Broadbent's work.

4) Ellis Marsalis Trio

by Scott Yanow
Pianist Ellis Marsalis is in excellent form for this trio outing with bassist Bob Hurst and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. The performances fall generally into the medium-tempo range, with Ellis scattering some witty song quotes throughout the lightly swinging renditions. The high points include one of the more delightful versions ever of Johnny Mandel's "Emily," some close interplay during "Little Niles" and a tongue-in-cheek version of "Limehouse Blues" that includes slapped bass, parade rhythms and Marsalis trying in vain to sound Dixielandish. One programming error should be noted: there is no such song as "Just Squeeze Me" and, rather than the one performed being Fats Waller's "Squeeze Me," it is actually Duke Ellington's "Squeeze Me, But Please Don't Tease Me."

5) Marc Johnson
    Shades Of Jade

Cover (Shades of Jade:Marc Johnson)

Some would argue that it's impossible to call a recording classic until sufficient time has passed to determine its true staying power. Still, one can say that a recording has the makings of a classic—especially in its ability to be simultaneously of its time and timeless. Bassist Marc Johnson has only released a handful of albums under his own name since emerging in the late 1970s. And while they've all been very, very good, often in distinctly different ways—and experiences you can go back to time and time again, year after year—none could really be considered classic.
Until now. Returning to the ECM label as a leader for the first time since 1987's Second Sight, Johnson has turned Shades of Jade into the kind of artistic achievement that most musicians can only hope to accomplish. He's recruited a veritable supergroup, consisting of saxophonist Joe Lovano, guitarist John Scofield, pianist Eliane Elias, and drummer Joey Baron, plus organist Alain Mallet, who appears on two tracks. It's not about the playing, yet it's all about the playing. The performances on Shades of Jade could only come from a group of players so comfortable and assured that they can dispense with ego and surrender completely to the demands of the music.
The material—all but one piece written by Johnson and/or Elias—evokes a breadth of emotion, but in a subtle way that relies on players with nothing to prove yet plenty to say. Only after a full 25 minutes does the album display any sign of energy. Yet on the relaxed "Ton Sur Ton, the gentle "Aparaceu, the dark-hued title track, and the melancholy "In 30 Hours, there's still a deep emotional connection. The swinging "Blue Nefertiti —cleverly taking the signature line from Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti and subsuming it into a sixteen-bar blues—presents a strong contrast while remaining wholly in context.
Given such strong musical personalities, what's most remarkable about Shades of Jade is how everyone retains their unmistakable identity yet openly explores new directions. Both Lovano and Scofield turn in the most purely textural playing of their careers. Scofield's long swells on the title track are out of character, yet they could come from nobody else. Lovano's feathery solo on "Ton Sur Ton is distant from his normally robust tone and strong lines, sounding at times like Charles Lloyd, but with a more purposeful sense of construction. Elias' lyricism has never been so profound, Baron's ability to speak with gentlest of touches so essential. Johnson, always able to find the nexus between elegance and power, has never sounded better.
What makes Shades of Jade a contender for "classic status is its remarkable ability to bring together multitudinous musical experiences without sounding explicitly like any one of them. At times inward-looking, at others more extroverted, intrepid without losing its accessibility, Shades of Jade timelessly blends the musicians' lifetimes of stylistic breadth into an experience that's completely familiar, yet totally fresh and innovative in the most understated way imaginable.
Track Listing:
Ton Sur Ton; Aparaceu; Shades of Jade; In 30 Hours; Blue Nefertiti; Snow; Since You Asked; Raise; All Yours; Don't Ask of Me.
Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone; John Scofield: guitar; Eliane Elias: piano; Marc Johnson: double-bass; Joey Baron: drums; Alain Mallet: organ.

6) Laurence Hobgood & Charlie Haden
    When The Heart Dances

Cover (When The Heart Dances:Charlie Haden)

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. 

7) Kurt Elling 
    The Messenger 

Kurt Elling is different. He rants. In the liners, the singer defines the term to mean "improvising both the melody and lyrics simultaneously." With saxophonist Ed Peterson conversin', Elling shouts unrelated words and phrases as they pop into his mind. "Icebergs." "Viruses." "Planets." "Ice cream." Peterson is improvising, Elling is shouting, and he is also crooning traces of melodic lines around and through the conversation. Add piano, bass, and drums to this demonstration, and you have the quirkiness of Kurt Elling in a nutshell.
Comparable to Mark Murphy and Bobby McFerrin, delivering lightning-fast vocalese like Eddie Jefferson or Jon Hendricks, telling stories like Jack Kerouac or Lord Buckley, and influenced by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Tony Bennett, Joe Williams, King Pleasure, and Betty Carter, the 29-year-old baritone has continually pushed the envelope since his professional debut in 1994 and his recording debut on Blue Note a year later. The Messenger, his sophomore recording, includes spoken poetry, pretty ballads, scatting, vocalese, two rants, and one funky soul-jazz tune.
The creative-thinking singer gets capable support from muscular pianist and partner Laurence Hobgood, guest tenor saxophonists Ed Peterson and Eddie Johnson, guest singer Cassandra Wilson, bassists Eric Hochberg and Rob Amster, drummers Paul Wertico and Jim Widlowski, and trumpeter Orbert Davis. With Hobgood, Amster, and Wertico, Elling supplies impromptu lyrics on "The Beauty Of All Things" to begin a suite in three movements. Part Two, "The Dance," adds handclaps, tambourine, and a joyful rhythm that could easily supply the backdrop for lines of high-stepping uniformed clog-dancers. The suite reaches its peak when Orbert Davis joins on flugelhorn to blend with the gentle lyrics about "his ironic smile," and "the bell of a shimmering horn," on "Prayer For Mr. Davis."
Cassandra Wilson's deep and lovely contralto voice blends with Elling's on the Zombie's 1967 pop ballad "Time Of The Season." The arrangement incorporates John Coltrane's "Body And Soul", and the two singers work rather well together on it. "Tanya Jean" is Donald Byrd's composition, with lyrical references to Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker, Herbie Hancock, and Elvin Jones. "It's Just A Thing" is a fascinating tale of friendship whipped out in the language of beat poetry (739 words in four and a half minutes) spun alongside walking bass and ride cymbal.
"Prelude To A Kiss" features the lush tenor saxophone of Eddie Johnson along with a similar ballad treatment from Elling. "Ginger Bread Boy" is Jimmy Heath's up-tempo bebop standard performed with the leader's lightning-fast vocalese. "Nature Boy" and "April In Paris" open the session with scatting, singing, piano and vocal interplay, and rhythmic stability. The title track features Ed Peterson's tenor sax in a setting that pits three beats over two, as he, Elling, and Hobgood work both as ensemble and individually to deliver the message. Ironically, on this final track of the recording, Hobgood adds a quote from the first track, "Nature Boy." The session proves to be well-rounded, a suitable sophomore outing for the unique singer, and a promise that Kurt Elling is indeed different. Highly recommended.
Track Listing:
1. Nature Boy, 2. April in Paris, 3. Beauty of All Things, 4. The Dance, 5. Prayer for Mr. Davis, 6. Endless, 7. Tanya Jean, 8. It's Just a Thing, 9. Gingerbread Boy, 10. Prelude to a Kiss, 11. Time of the Season, 12. The Messenger

8) Steve Kuhn 
    Oceans In The Sky 

By Dr.Judith Schlesinger
Recorded in 1989 for Owl Records and finally reissued, Oceans in the Sky is a timeless gem from impressionistic veteran pianist Steve Kuhn. Although he was John Coltrane's original pianist and worked with Stan Getz and Art Farmer, Kuhn's detour into electric piano, commercial music and accompaniment (most notably for Sheila Jordan) has to some extent diluted his pedigree. It's good to be reminded of his gifts, which include lyricism and taste and composition; his title track is powerful and harmonically intriguing, and "Ulla" is lovely.
Kuhn's tastefulness is also evident in his choice of, and approach to, material. Frank Lacey's thoughtful and pretty "Theme for Ernie" is rarely covered; the Jobim he picks is "Angela," one of the less hackneyed in the pantheon; and he gives a new pulse to "The Island." Being a third-stream fan, I especially enjoyed how he wove Debussy's "La Plus Que Lente" into a samba version of Ellington's "Passion Flower" with no seams showing; he also pairs "His Is the Only Music That Makes Me Dance" with Satie's "Gymnopedie," while straining all the Streisand schmaltz out of Jule Syne's beautiful Broadway showstopper.
Kuhn swings hard on Dorham's "Lotus Blossom" and subtly on Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way." Drummer Aldo Romano contributes the pretty "Do" as well as sensitive and unobtrusive percussion. It's good that Miroslav Vitous is a strong bassist, since Kuhn tends to lean towards the treble side of things. Oceans in the Sky is an understated and graceful outing – delicious.
Track listing: 
The Island, Lotus Blossom, La Plus Que Lente [Debussy]/Passion Flower, Do, Oceans in the Sky Theme for Ernie, Angela, In Your Own Sweet Way, Ulla, The Music That Makes Me Dance
Steve Kuhn (piano), Miroslav Vitous (bass), Aldo Romano (drums)

9) Charles Lloyd 
    The Water Is Wide 

by David R. Adler
Like 1999's Voice in the Night, The Water Is Wide features Charles Lloyd in the company of one of his dearest friends, drummer Billy Higgins, who would pass away less than a year after the album's release. Guitarist John Abercrombie also remains on board, but Lloyd extends the group's generational span by recruiting two younger players: pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Larry Grenadier. The album begins with a straightforward, elegant reading of Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia." Lloyd goes on to lead his ensemble through two lesser-known Ellington pieces, "Black Butterfly" and "Heaven"; Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom"; two original ballads, "Figure In Blue" and "Lady Day"; and Cecil McBee's "Song of Her," a track from Lloyd's 1968 classic, Forest Flower. It's a glorious amalgam of sound: the leader's unique, glissando-laden phraseology, Mehldau's harmonic nuances, unerring rhythmic backbone from Grenadier and the majestic Higgins — and only occasionally, pointed and eloquent guitarism from Abercrombie. The session ascends to an even higher level with the inclusion of two spirituals, "The Water Is Wide" and "There Is a Balm in Gilead." The latter features just Lloyd and Higgins, starkly setting the melody against a hypnotic drum chant. In addition, Lloyd's closing "Prayer," written for Higgins during a life-threatening episode back in 1996, features just the composer, Abercrombie, and guest bassist Darek Oles. (Oddly, Oles' credit is relegated to the fine print.) These tracks, most of all, resonate with personal meaning and profundity.

10) Nancy King & Fred Hersch
      Live At Jazz Standard 

Cover (Live at Jazz Standard:Nancy King)

by Ken Dryden
It's no wonder that Fred Hersch had the confidence to tape his initial meeting with Nancy King. King is one of the best jazz vocalists of her generation, though she is unjustly not as widely recognized as a number of major-label artists who don't begin to compare with her. King and Hersch put together a wide-ranging program at the Jazz Standard, frequently extending their interpretations well beyond the expectations for a vocal/piano duo. Hersch, who has long since proved his abilities as a solo accompanist for singers (especially Janis Siegel), is never less than brilliant throughout the evening, though the singer is equally impressive, an adventurous spirit who is unafraid of taking chances. King's expressive voice is full of humor in the swinging take of "Ain't Misbehavin'," while she scats up a storm in Antonio Carlos Jobim's neglected gem "If You Never Come to Me." She's equally inspired as she revives once popular standards that have fallen out of favor like "There's a Small Hotel" and "Everything Happens to Me." But the finale clearly steals the show as King devours "Four" whole, throwing caution to the wind as she playfully adds her own twists to Jon Hendricks' vocalese setting of Miles Davis' famous tune. This beautifully recorded set is a tribute to the musicianship of both artists, as well as the foresight of Fred Hersch to request that the soundboard operator record it without notifying Nancy King in advance.

By Rick Cornell "RC"
When I heard that Nancy King and Fred Hersch had recorded an album live, at the Jazz Standard in NYC, of piano-voice duets, I rushed out to get my copy. I expected something fantastic. But that can be a problem due to the fact that disappointment can come crashing down more easily when you have such expectations.
I am not disappointed in the least.
This CD confirms two major truths: First, with the passing of Ella Fitzgerald and Betty Carter, Nancy King is the finest living scat singer in the world. Like Ms. Carter, Ms. King sounds like an instrument truly searching for the "less obvious" note that nevertheless fits in the chord. Ms. King is also a great story teller. She didn't make me forget Shirley Horn or Mark Murphy, but at times she certainly reminded me of them here.
Second, Fred Hersch truly is one of the finest piano accompanists in the world. What amazes me about him is that he sounds quite different in accompanying Nancy King than he does in accompanying Janis Siegel, and in turn those recordings sound different than how he accompanies Renee Fleming. He basically knows what works for each singer.
Here, consistently throughout he lets Ms. King take the lead in the first chorus, then gradually gets more adventurous as she scats away. Then, when he solos, he plays even more "outside" than he does ordinarily with most singers--because that's how Ms. King sings. By the time he's done, we the audience have been in for quite a ride.
In the contest of most underrated jazz singer in the world (if there is one), Nancy King now is in the lead. Hopefully, someone soon will overtake her--but that will take some doing. Meanwhile, major kudos to Maxjazz: In the last few years, they have put out superlative vocal jazz recordings with Rene Marie, Dena DeRose, Erin Bode, and now this one. More, please. 

Aonde estão as listas/ Where are your TOP 10 Desert Island ?
PS - Alterações serão permitidas ! You can change anytime !

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Italian Musicians You Should Take Notice

Enrico Rava, Leonardo B. N. Gondim, Joyce Gondim

Stefano Bollani and Claudio Botelho

By Claudio Botelho
Some say jazz has crossed the Atlantic and is well established in Europe. The truth is that Americans don’t take it much seriously and, in Europe and Japan, Jazz seems to have a better recognition.
With the passing of the American jazz great masters (the likes of Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Bird, John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Stan Kenton, Art Blakey, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Wes Montgomery, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Frank Rossolino – probably the greatest trombonist ever to grace this planet -, Cannonball Adderley, Shelly Manne and many others), each one with a voice all his own, jazz lovers have lost their references, as it used to be very easy to distinguish one from the other, just at the outset of listening each.
The globalization of these days has concurred much to minimize individual differences, as everybody knows what others are doing. The instantaneity of information makes everybody part of the happenings and, thus, regional differences have vanished.
Today, the quality of information – with the plethora of HD photos, sounds and motion images – makes us to be at the core of the actions; the waters of the tsunami, in Japan, almost took our houses away…
In view of this, well kept secrets are becoming increasingly rare and, as a result, it is a hard time to tell one thing from another: The mini-cars made in China are very similar to their counterparts from Europe…
In music, some stylists remain unique, but they are becoming fewer and fewer. As I will talk about Italians, is still easy, for instance, to distinguish someone like Enrico Pirannunzi from other piano players. Probably, more out of the extreme refinement of his playing than from any particular way of his artistry ethos. This side of the ocean, you have Jarrett, Jamal, Mehldau, Corea and a few others (again, piano players…) You see, even Glasper has his mimickers and, when the matter is straight jazz, there are some others who can deceive us into thinking it’s him. He used to be easily recognizable. No more!
Some think art must evolve, just like other things man do. Some say piano trios are a thing no one cares much about and, so, they must reinvent themselves. Glasper is one of them, as attests recent interview of his. Not by accident, his last two CD outings have some experiments and these have made him a voluntary guinea pig, in my view, as the results lack unicity and, as such, in general, will be difficult to please the listeners. Of course, one will love track one and hate track two. For someone else it is the other way around. How will lovers of tested and proven straight jazz deal with something so out of ordinary? This is an issue Glasper, as a seeker of new forms, is willing to afford. It’s a kind of game: a gamble he’s indulging with uncertain outcome. He must know the dangers he’s into, but, as a restless spirit, he has decided to pay the price. Will his endeavors bring something new; paths hitherto followed? We don’t know yet. At least I don’t, but I think we need people like him who, through pioneering efforts, may show us new lights.
All said, he’s right! Go on, Glasper!
In spite of this, I don’t quite agree with him when he says the trio format is exhausted. We must consider that, in general, 90% of what exists is common-place and the trio format follows this corollary and, so, wouldn’t be any different. But, as it has ever been, music is, first and foremost, inspiration and it may come in a multitude of ways, including formats we are familiar, without losing any value whatsoever. If we’re talking about jazz, this is truer still, as, like any other music, it is a language of the player as much as of its composer or it wouldn’t be so called. The freedom allowed to the former is unlimited and, even following common approaches, he has much headroom to work, so that, in any situation, he can always come with new insights.
But, it should speak directly to our heart, irrespective of the path the interpreter decided to follow, and, conversely, the chosen path, alone, does not ensure any success…
So, to show things are not exactly as he says, I invite you to check the following CD’s – mostly of piano trios – and, in special, this time, show you what the Italians have learned to do:




Cover (Giovanni Mirabassi Trio Live At the Blue Note, Tokyo:Giovanni Mirabassi)


Cover (So That:Guido Manusardi)


Forward, Ettore Carucci Trio




cover art


The enchanted garden,Claudio Filippini



I’ll refrain from talking about the evanesque Enrico Pierannunzi, the impressionist Franco D’Andrea, the iconic Enrico Rava or the chameleonic Stefano Bollani as these guys are very well known worldwide. Nor will I talk about Roberta Gambarini which, in my view, is in the very top echelon of jazz singing, today…
Of course, the main reason of this essay was to show jazz is a world music, more than any other, as it is mainly a way of expression.
It happens that, nowadays, no country more than Italy embraces it with so much aplomb. So, to be fair, I feel obliged to make this registration and have decided to choose, among so many others from that country, the recordings listed above which I think excel in musicality and creativity.
Thus, I submit these renderings to you which, IMHO, clearly show what I’m trying to say. And believe me: this is just a hint of what they’re doing out there…

Sunday, March 18, 2012

1 Sem 2012 - Part Sixteen

Katya Sourikova
Ivan's Dream

By Eyal Hareuveni
“The third release of Berlin-based pianist and composer Katya Sourikova looks and sounds like something fitting the ECM catalog—the beautiful cover, the pristine and rich sound of the recording, and, obviously, the genre-binding beautiful, lyrical and nuanced music that moves freely and organically along the spectrum of jazz, both American and European, as well as folk music and classical music, all without subscribing fully to any genre but embracing it all.
Sourikova has collected ten self-penned compositions, all written when she began to explore the harmonic and melodic possibilities of the new language of jazz, as well as its boundless energy, after finishing her classical music studies. All the compositions have been rearranged, but all still capture their innocent freshness, clarity and their warm, melodic, cinematic narratives.
The opening soft ballad, "In the Dark," references Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett's lyrical playing, but Sourikova enriches the simple, fluid structure by adding a Bach-ian counterpoint. "Off the Beam" features the sensitive interplay of the core quartet, with short, well-articulated solo parts by bassist Simon Nauer and tenor saxophonist Oliver Fox, all thoughtful and opinionated.
"Twilight," Sourikova's first jazz composition, sensually weave the modal innovations of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock with an impressionist harmonic language, reminiscent of the works of French composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Norwegian trumpeter Gunhild Seim contribute warm and soulful playing to this memorable composition. "Queen Maud Land," in its two parts, stresses the ECM aesthetic, with its cinematic, dreamy narrative of a distant, chilly journey.
The title piece is a successful exercise in integrating the improvised, energetic syncopated lines, influenced by such innovative saxophonist as Charlie Parker with the analytic exploration of folksy, pulsating rhythms by composer like Béla Bartók. Sourikova present her disdain with the politics of war on two compositions. The lyrical "Hagakure" draws its inspiration from the book The Way of the Samurai, and attempts to touch this sore issue from the perspective of the consternation of the women of the samurais preparing for another war. The more whimsical "Switchblade," originally titled "Puppet Tango," is Sourikova's sinister response to the futile war in Iraq. This impressive album is concluded with the optimistic, rhythmic "For Love Once More," another beautiful and arresting melody, that convinced Dave Douglas after hearing it, that he needed to drink vodka.“

Lupa Santiago

By LSRevista Eletronica
Ao lado de Vinicius Dorin (Sax alto & Tenor),Vitor Alcântara (Sax alto e Tenor), Daniel D’Alcantara (Trompete & Flugel), Alberto Luccas (Baixo Acústico) e Nenê (Bateria),Lupa lançou o CD homônimo que contém composições do baterista Nenê e também de Lupa, que aproveitou para homenagear alguns músicos que admira como Dolphy Dance, para Eric Dolphy, saxofonista americano da década de 1960; Stu, para Rodrigo Morte; Helio & Heraldo (Delmiro e Do Monte) para os dois grandes guitarristas brasileiros; We’ll Keep Swimming e Constantinopla, para seus outros dois grupos Sinequanone Regra de Três. Os arranjos são de Lupa Santiago e Rodrigo Morte, o sétimo elemento do sexteto.
O CD foi gravado em dezembro de 2011, no Estúdio Cachuera em São Paulo por Alberto Ranelucci, também responsável pela mixagem e masterização.
Lupa Santiago é guitarrista, compositor e líder dos grupos Regra de Três, Sinequanon e Jazz em Dobro. Possui doze CDs gravados, incluindo participações. É autor dos livrosImprovisação Moderna I, Novo Dicionário de Acordes para Guitarra e Violão e Música Brasileira em Métricas Ímpares, lançados pela Editora Souza Lima e das vídeoaulasImprovisação Moderna I e II, pela Aprenda Música. É graduado pelo Musicians Institute em Los Angeles e mestre em música pela Berklee College of Music, em Boston, Estados Unidos. Atualmente, Lupa é vice-diretor e coordenador pedagógico da Faculdade de Música Souza Lima e ministra workshops no Brasil, Europa e Estados Unidos.

Quito Pedrosa
Luz e Pedra

Cover (Luz E Pedra:Quito Pedrosa)

By PurpleRecords
Jovem do Brasil o saxofonista de jazz Quito Pedrosa,  músico pop típico para tocar jazz e pop brasileiro. Baseado em uma variedade de fatores, incluindo ritmos latinos, pop instrumental do sistema no Brasil está atraindo a atenção. Seu sax alto e trompete. E percussão diversos, a seção rítmica é posicionado em um toque de corcom um estilo de fusão doce e confortável brasileira jazz diz.
1. Tres Da Manha
2. Camello
3. Piedra Y Candela
4. Decantando
5. Valsa No Mar
6. Andando
7. 3a2
8. Extemporanea
9. Manifesto 

Muiza Adnet
As Canções de Moacir Santos/ Sings Moacir Santos

Cover (Muiza Adnet Sings Moacir Santos:Muiza Adnet) 

by Scott Yanow
Moacir Santos, who passed away in 2006, was a very significant Brazilian composer and music teacher. Many of the top bossa nova practitioners were originally his students. He also worked as a saxophonist, arranger and conductor. This delightful set, one of Santos' final projects, has a dozen of his songs sung by the lovely Muiza Adnet, whose warm, flexible and versatile voice perfectly fit Santos' music. The instrumentation changes from song to song and Adnet shares the vocals with guests Ivan Lins, Milton Nascimento, her brother guitarist Mario Adnet and, on four occasions, Moacir Santos himself. From bossa novas and light pop to Brazilian jazz and ballads, Muiza Adnet Sings Moacir Santos is a well-planned and thoroughly enjoyable outing, a perfect tribute to the great Moacir Santos. 

Sergio Monteiro
Heitor Villa-Lobos - A Prole do Bebê I e II

Cover (Prole Do Bebe N 1 E N 2: Villa Lobos:Sergio Monteiro)

By SMonteiro
"This is the first time that the two "Proles do Bebê"(Baby's Family) are recorded in the same CD by a Brazilian pianist. According to the distinguished Brazilian composer Almeida Prado, the Baby's Family n. 1, from 1918, "has the French influence of Debussy and Ravel associated with a very ingenious use of Brazilian rhythms." Three years later, in 1921, V. Lobos wrote the second cycle of "Prole do Bebê". "This time", says the critic, "the change in style is astonishing. A very different pianism, agressive- sometimes even brutal- is combined with a highly sophisticated harmony (bitonal, atonal), and new rhythms coming from the Sacre du Printemps are enriched by the originality of V. Lobos."

01 Branquinha2m40s
02 Moreninha 1m38s
03 Caboclinha 2m57s
04 Mulatinha 1m21s
05 Negrinha 1m17s
06 Pobrezinha2m07s
07 Polichinelo 1m28s
08 A Bruxa 2m08s 

09 A Baratinha de Papel 2m45s
10 A Gatinha de Papelão 2m45s
11 O Camundongo de Massa 2m55s
12 O Cachorrinho de Borracha2m35s
13 O Cavalinho de Pau 2m13s
14 O Boizinho de Chumbo 4m44s
15 O Passarinho de Pano 3m19s
16 O Ursinho de Algodão 2m23s
17 O Lobozinho de Vidro 4m41s

1 Sem 2012 - Part Fifteen

Jack DeJohnette
Sound Travels

by Thom Jurek
In his sixth decade as a professional musician, Jack DeJohnette has established himself as a musical chameleon. He's led bands and recorded and performed with an array of jazz legends as well as funk and pop artists. DeJohnette has even made new age music listenable with Peace Time and Music in the Key of Om (the latter won him a Grammy). And he has always cultivated and acted on his deep, abiding interest in indigenous musics from Latin America and Africa. Sound Travels is his first recording of new material since 2009's Music We Are. True to form, DeJohnette, who plays drums and piano here, ranges widely. The disc begins with the brief "Enter Here," a grounded yet ambitious offering with the sound of a resonating bell that gives way to DeJohnette's lilting solo piano. "Salsa for Luisto" features the percussionist Luisto Quintero playing grooved-out, modern Afro-Cuban son. Esperanza Spalding is the upright bassist in the band, and on this track, she sings alongside Ambrose Akinmusire's trumpet and Lionel Loueke's guitar. DeJohnette plays piano and drums. This salsa is of the earthier yet breezier Caribbean variety. It's lovely. Just as quickly, things shift into down-home New Orleans-style funky blues with Tim Ries on soprano and tenor saxophones. Bruce Hornsby appears on vocals singing about not surrendering in the face of disaster more soulfully than on any of his own records. Loueke's unique guitar style makes this track sound more like the Band than Allen Toussaint, though Wardell Quezergue's ghost inhabits the horn chart. "New Music" is modern, modal post-bop with Middle Eastern overtones. It features fine traded solos by Ries on soprano and Akinmusire. Township jazz crossed with Latin groove is the bedrock for "Sonny Light," with Loueke's lyric solo being the tune's centerpiece as DeJohnette finds a perfect space to comp behind him and enhance the guitar's presence. The two horns and Quintero's hand drums weave a wonderful, rhythmic lyricism around the pair. The title track is an exercise in rhythm from DeJohnette, Loueke, Quintero, and Spalding (who really drives this track and shines brightly on the album as a whole). "Oneness" is a sparse and moving ballad played by DeJohnette and Quintero, backing vocalist Bobby McFerrin. The song feels deeply indebted to Milton Nascimento's excellent mid-'70s work. The set's longest cut is "Indigo Dreamscapes," a breezy, midtempo, fingerpopping Latin number. DeJohnette's piano work alongside Ries' tenor create an irresistible harmonic progression even when they move the tune toward straight-ahead jazz, then walk it back. The closer, "Home," is another languid, crystalline solo piano piece that is the bookend to "Enter Here." It's quiet, reverent, warm, and inviting, and it pays an indirect homage to Abdullah Ibrahim's South African style. Sound Travels is a current, understated, well-disciplined glimpse into DeJohnette's current musical world view, which is worth celebrating for its own sake. 

Jacques Loussier Trio
Schumann/ Kinderszenen - Scenes From Childhood

by Alex Henderson
Over the years, third stream music has been criticized in both the jazz and Euro-classical worlds. Jazz snobs have argued that if a jazz musician is playing something by Beethoven or Chopin, he/she can't possibly maintain an improviser's mentality; classical snobs will argue that great classical works need to be played exactly as they were written, and that jazz artists can't possibly do the compositions of Schubert, or Debussy justice if they improvise. But thankfully, Jacques Loussier hasn't paid attention to the naysayers in either the jazz or classical worlds, and after all these years, the French pianist (who turned 76 in 2010) is still taking chances. This 2011 release finds Loussier putting his spin on "Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood)," which German romanticist Robert Schumann (b. 1810, d. 1856) composed in 1838. Schumann turned 28 that year, and he wrote that nostalgic, 13-song work in memory of his childhood. Loussier (who forms an acoustic piano trio with bassist Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac and drummer André Arpino) performs "Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood)" in its entirety, and he approaches it not as European classical music, but as acoustic post-bop jazz. Thankfully, "Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood)" is appropriate for Loussier, who maintains the 13 songs' nostalgic outlook but does so in a consistently jazz-oriented fashion. Loussier sounds like he is fondly remembering his own childhood, which came about long after Schumann's. Indeed, Loussier was born in 1934, which was 96 years after "Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood)" was composed and 78 years after Schumann's death; Loussier grew up surrounded by a lot of music and technology that didn't exist when Schumann was a kid. But the more things change, the more they stay the same and nostalgia continues to inspire musicians today just as it did in Schumann's pre-jazz, pre-electricity, pre-records time. This 49-minute CD is among Loussier's creative successes; his experimentation hasn't always worked, but it works impressively well for him on this imaginative interpretation of "Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood)."

Samuel Blaser
Consort In Motion

By Tim Niland
This is a chamber jazz album filled with hushed tones and thoughtfully designed improvisations between Samuel Blaser on trombone, Russ Lossing on piano, Thmoas Morgan on bass and Paul Motian on drums. The interaction between between Blaser's delicately smeared and articulated trombone and Motian's minimalist percussion creates a quiet, intimate album that requires and concentration and contemplation. “Si Dolce è l'Tormento" and “Reflections on Vespro della Beata Vergine" nudge the tempos slightly up a little bit, engaging the band into full improvisation and interpretation of the themes and melodies.

Geri Allen
A Child Is Born

Cover (A Child is Born:Geri Allen)

by William Ruhlmann
Christmas albums tend to be a blend of the traditional and familiar with the style of the recording artist, and jazz pianist Geri Allen's A Child Is Born is no exception. Allen has a technically proficient, often elaborate style as a pianist, and she uses it in her evocations of Christmas carols and hymns. There is a slight nod to Ethiopia in the brief versions of "Imagining Gena at Sunrise" and "Imagining Gena at Sunset," as well as the cover art of a black Madonna and child by Kabuya Pamela Bowens, and Allen occasionally employs a Fender Rhodes electric piano or even a Hohner clavinet for unusual effects, notably on her original "God Is with Us" (a musical setting of the Biblical passage Matthew 1:23). Most of the time, however, she takes on tunes known by most Western listeners, playing the melodies in strong right-hand statements backed by often contrasting left-hand rhythms on acoustic piano. Then, she takes off into complex improvisations that only touch back now and then to the melodies. Her playing sometimes has a new age quality, like George Winston in a slightly jazzier mode. So, this is a holiday collection for the more adventurous jazz piano fan, rather than for someone looking for a safe, warm, and fuzzy set of jazzed-up Christmas tunes. 

Dave Liebman & Richie Beirach

Cover (Unspoken:Dave Liebman)

By John Kelman
It's one thing for individual artists' voices to be instantly recognizable, another thing entirely when a readily identifiable language evolves amongst them, one that's absent when they're apart. There's no mistaking the bop-rooted expressionism that saxophonist Dave Liebman imbues with oblique lyricism, whether with his longstanding group on Turnaround: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Jazzwerkstatt, 2010) or in a new collection of largely old friends on Five on One (Pirouet, 2010). Nicknamed "The Code," pianist Richie Beirach's personal marriage of jazz vernacular with that of classical composers including Béla Bartók, Alexander Scriabin and Anton Webern dates back to solo recordings such as Eon (ECM, 1975) through recent release Round About Bartók (ACT, 2001). But when The Code gets together with 2011 NEA Jazz Master Liebman, something special happens—something that transcends individuality and enters the realm of collective idiom.
Collaborating frequently over the decades in groups such as Lookout Farm and Quest, geography has largely kept them apart since the mid 1990s until a reformed Quest—on Redemption (Hatology, 2007) and Re-Dial (OutNote, 2010)—and Beirach's recent retirement from teaching in Germany seems to have created more opportunities for these two soul brothers to work together. KnowingLee (OutNote, 2010) took their longstanding duo in a different direction with the addition of saxophonist Lee Konitz, but as undeniably fine as that set was, Unspoken represents a welcome return to the unadorned format first heard on the criminally out-of-print Forgotten Fantasies (A&M, 1977).
Nearly 35 years later, the language that Liebman and Beirach have been honing has become nothing if not more recondite. Even when tackling an overworked but deserving chestnut such as Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are," the familiar melody is couched in the pianist's expansive reharmonization, becoming an ever-present but tenuous thread at constant risk of unraveling. But it's the opening "Invention"—Beirach's arrangement of Aram Khatchaturian's "Adagio," from the ballet Gayaneh, written in 1942 but most popularized by film director Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)—that speaks to this duo's remarkable empathy, as the pianist's sustaining introductory notes create a soft landscape over which Liebman's soprano slowly moves towards its equally recognizable theme. Time—as is true with everything about this duo—is fluid, allowing the music to breathe with rarely paralleled freedom and unconscious unity of intent.
Beirach's originals such as "Awk Dance"—with a groove that only the most temporally secure are apt to find, made all the more difficult for shifting in and out of double time—contrast with "Tender Mercies," described by the saxophonist as one of his "simplest ballads" but, traveling from dark dissonance to brooding beauty, seems anything but, beyond the relatively limited range of Liebman's wooden flute.
The saxophonist's closing medley best describes the breadth of this duo, as Beirach channels Olivier Messiaen with a touch that's both delicate and firm on "Hymn for Mum," before Liebman enters equally elegantly, switching to tenor for an a capella intro to "Prayer for Mike" that, in its visceral wails and multiphonic bursts, feels more like catharsis, though it does settle into a more plaintive tone when Beirach reappears.
A paradox of form and freedom, angst and calm, and fire and, if not exactly ice, then at least cool, Unspoken refers, no doubt, to the direct and uncanny line of communication built between Liebman and Beirach over the course of nearly 50 years, where no words need be said to create a language that speaks volumes.
Invention; All the Things You Are; Ballad 1; Awk Dance; New Life; Waltz for Lenny; Tender Mercies; Transition; Hymn for Mom/Prayer for Michael.
Richie Beirach: piano; Dave Liebman: tenor and soprano saxophones, wood flute

1 Sem 2012 - Part Fourteen

Tord Gustavsen Quartet
The Well

Cover (The Well:Tord Gustavsen)

by Thom Jurek
On his earlier ECM trio albums, pianist Tord Gustavsen composed in a very spacious and songlike manner that reflected his previous work touring with vocalists. On 2010's Restored, Returned, he experimented with this approach by adding Kristin Asbjørnsen's voice and Tore Brunborg's saxophones to the mix, and showcased his compositions in everything from duo to quintet settings. On The Well, Gustavsen brings back Brunborg on tenor, as well as the rhythm section, bassist Mats Eilertsen, and drummer Jarle Vespestad. The songlike lyricism that has become his signature is underscored on The Well, but opens onto a wider harmonic field held in dynamic check. The album opens with "Prelude," a trio piece, where Gustavsen explores, in haunting minor-key formations, a lyric frame that is as intricate as it is warm and soulful. On "Suite," Gustavsen introduces the tune solo, with a simplicity and lyricism that are deepened when Eilertsen enters playing arco. When the rest of the band joins in, these melodic dimensions become expansive: tones, colors, textures, and dynamics shift incrementally. The trio piece "Circling" is one of the album's centerpieces, literally and figuratively. Its slow, reverential, gospel-like melody shuffles along with Vespestad's brushes and the stately pace of Eilertsen's bass. Gustavsen pointilistically moves around his lithe, graceful, harmonic sketch, playing at its edges and moving inside, exploring the elements he finds there. The title cut, the other pillar of this album, commences with a mysterious, nearly floating lyric figure stated on piano and answered by Brunborg's warm, welcoming tenor before it enters the realm of something approaching drift. That said, the focus on melody is quietly intense, even as the track becomes more abstract toward the middle; bass, piano, and saxophone all trade fours in rotation, answering and questioning further. Brunborg even moves toward blues in his solo. Playing quietly does require tremendous energy and discipline, and often runs counter to the improviser's instincts. On "Communion [Var]," Gustavsen plays almost the entire piece in p and pp. Brunborg's tenor speaks in halting tones that carry a skeletal yet nearly hummable melody accented by occasional entrances by Eilertsen's arco bass. Ultimately, The Well ends at "Inside," where virtually everything that has been previously explored is given (slightly) freer rein, exhibited by the minute-long bowed solo by Eilertsen that introduces the tune. Brunborg's economy on tenor is remarkable; rich and full, he doesn't need to "blow" because he can make it sing. On The Well, Gustavsen has taken his lyric approach to jazz and pushed it into more open and abstract terrain, which is more haunting and mysterious than anything on his previous offerings, yet refrains from ponderousness due to its remarkable restraint and symmetry.

Hal Galper Trio
Trip The Light Fantastic

Cover (Trip the Light Fantastic:Hal Galper Trio)

By Dan McClenaghan 
About eighty percent of the jazz piano players out there can fit into one of two schools: that of the introspective, harmonically rich Bill Evans mode; or the more percussive and gregarious Bud Powell bebop approach. There's also a small slice of the that pie that draws it primary inspiration from bright and splashy Art Tatum/Oscar Peterson pre-bop playing style, along with various subsets. Then there are those who take a foundation of one of those approaches and craft something quite unique, the path that Hal Galper has taken over the past decade.
A veteran of the groups of trumpeter Chet Baker and alto saxophonist Phil Woods, Galper can certainly claim a bebop foundation. But he has taken that foundation and flown free with it, as documented in his recent Origin CDs— Furious Rubato (2007) and E Pluribus Unum (2010)—where he explored the rubato style of playing, an approach that lends elasticity to time and tempo, and often engenders wildness and abandon.
Galper opens the set with Sammy Fain/Bob Hilliard's "Alice in Wonderland," a tune famously covered by Evans on his masterpiece Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside Records, 1961). This is not a floating Evans version, however; Galper and band mates—drummerJohn Bishop and bassist Jeff Johnson—take the tune on a furiously tumultuous ride, full of urgency, pushing in the direction of flying out of control, without ever doing so.
Jule Styne's standard "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" is more restrained, a deeply ruminative and intimate conversation between Galper and Johnson that leads into the ominous Galper original, "Suspension," which puts the trio's edgy interactivity and ability to sustain a prickly momentum on full display. The title tune, another Galper original, has a swaying, fractured grandeur, an off-center, freewheeling beauty full of mystery and intrigue.
The trio wraps it up with "Be My Love," a film tune written for vocalist Mario Lanza. Bishop's drums sizzle and detonate unpredictably; Johnson's bass rumbles; and the piano notes careen with a scintillating, headlong freedom, closing out Galper's finest trio outing to date.
Track Listing: 
Alice in Wonderland; Babes of Cancun; Get Up & Go; Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry; Suspension; Trip the Light Fantastic; Be My Love.
Hal Galper: piano; Jeff Johnson: bass; John Bishop: drums

Peter Madsen Trio
The Litchfield Suite

By Terrell Kent Holmes
Peter Madsen fortified an already solid reputation with a pair of stellar solo piano works in the last decade: Sphere Essence: Another Side of Monk (2003) and Prevue of Tomorrow (2006), both on Playscape. Now he works his magic with bassist Andy McKee and drummer Gerald Cleaver on The Litchfield Suite, a vibrant performance captured live at the Litchfield Jazz Festival and Camp, where Madsen has performed and taught for several years.
The songs on The Litchfield Suite are diverse, touching various styles, with interludes between giving each band member a brief spotlight. On the introduction to the suite Madsen sets the pace by strumming the piano strings to set the atmosphere, supplemented by light and dark single note lines, McKee's low-moan arco and Cleaver's shimmering cymbals enhancing the tension. After this somber opening, though, the trio stretches out on the up-tempo tunes like the Latin-tinged "The Source and Force" and "Fanny Pack Factor." The relaxed Sunday afternoon suburban feeling of "Chillin' at the Cottage" and the lovely impressionism of "Run For Your Lives" provide balance. The trio also shines on hard bop burners like "Cool Camp for Kids" and "Forward Motion."
Cleaver is an anchor who plays blistering, complex drum solos and consistently bold polyrhythms. McKee adds dewdrop-soft glissandi or robust pizzicati and his bowing can sound like a symphony or a buzz saw. But this is Madsen's showcase. He's a solid composer and arranger whose piano mastery is pure dynamite. He plays flawlessly and with rhythmic complexity, applying symphonic flourishes or lightning-fast melodic runs and hammering out passionate block chords. The man is virtually a band unto himself. The musical sophistication and telepathic interplay among this excellent trio makes The Litchfield Suite a triumph.
Track Listing:
Intro; I. The Source and Force; Piano Interlude; II. Chillin' at the Cottage; Drum Interlude; III. Cool Camp for Cool Kids; Bass Interlude; IV. Run For Your Lives; Piano Interlude; V. Fanny Pack Factor; VI. Forward Motion.
Peter Madsen: piano; Andy McKee: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.

Paul Motian Trio
Lost In A Dream

Cover (Lost In a Dream:Paul Motian Trio)

By Ted Gordon
Consider this album a blind date of sorts: Drummer Paul Motian-meets-pianist-Jason Moran, introduced by the matchmaker, saxophonist Chris Potter. Though Motian had worked once with Moran in 2006, this collaboration is a stunning example of the versatility and mastery of Motian's veteran technique. Recorded over a week of concerts at New York City's Village Vanguard, Motian's stomping grounds, this album is held together by the trio's seemingly effortless exploration of slow, melodic ballads. At 79, Motian has proven to be a versatile and thorough player, thriving in any combination of players.
With plenty of elbow room within his compositions, Motian expresses a reserved chaos—just enough beneath the shimmery surfaces of Potter's smooth melodic lines. Evoking Lester Young, Potter often acts as an intermediary between Motian and Moran, a kind of bridge between the latter's subdued, harmonically dense playing and the former's freer cymbal-work. That is not to say that Potter comes off as too slick on this album; on the contrary, his improvisations in both the quieter, more delicate moments, as well as in the louder, raucous instances (such as on "Drum Music") tie the album together, both stylistically and melodically.
The one non-Motian composition is Irving Berlin's "Be Careful It's My Heart," and this ballad fits perfectly with Motian's own; though there is more harmonic movement, Moran handles it in such a way that allows Potter to shine through with free, beautiful, melody. A quick three-minute run-through, this track is a microcosm of the album as a whole.
The track with the highest energy is perhaps "Drum Music," a composition from Motian's 1979 ECM album Le Voyage, showcasing Motian's free style alongside Potter's more harmonically free improvisation. Moran's heavy left hand and Motian's more rhythmic playing on this track synch up in an unexpected way, showing that these players really should get together more often. The next track, "Abacus," also from 1979, features an extended solo by Motian sandwiched between the lead and a da capo repetition, performed smartly with restraint. Small touches—a snare hit here, a Monk-like chord there—elevate this composition to a masterful level, a stacked hand that plays its cards one by one, revealing more and more as it goes on.
Track Listing:
Mode VI; Casino; Lost In A Dream; Blue Midnight; Be Careful It's My Heart; Birdsong; Ten; Drum Music; Abacus; Cathedral Song.
Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Jason Moran: piano; Paul Motian: drums.

Dan Tepfer
Bach/Tepfer - Goldberg Variations/ Variations

Cover (Bach: Goldberg Variations:Dan Tepfer)
By Robert Carraher "The Dirty Lowdown"
Dan Tepfer is one of the most formidable jazz pianists on the international stage and hailed as such by press on every continent you can keep a piano in tune (Antarctica does not qualify). He has owned the spotlight the world over, from his solo work to full orchestra performances, and his improve skills are awe inspiring. His style is more melodic, he's not one to display his technical prowess through big blasts of dissonance and drama. This comes to the listeners ear as playful, fun, sexy and just beautiful. There is such a rainbow of musical colors that it takes you away before you even knew you were packed.
He has chronicled his talents on the solo disc Twelve Free Improvisations in Twelve Keys (2009) as well as the trio sessions Before the Storm (2005), Oxygen (2007) and Five Pedals Deep . Here, he brings that melodic lyricism to JS Bach's Goldberg Variations. To tackle the masters iconic work is a pretty ambitious ideal, but Tepfer is more than equal to the task. This is no popular music take on Bach, so don't expect A 5th Of Beethoven or Hooked On Bach. This is a masterful pianist, a classically trained pianist and a young man who has been praised wherever he has graced the ears of jazz and classical fans giving us a respectful and affectionate interpretation of the complete "Goldbergs" and interspersed are his improv variations on Bach's Variations...did that make sense?
For Tepfer, this was no "romp" through the play ground, no playful process for showing off. He disappears into the music and I am told that he even engineered this disk himself to further immerse himself in the pieces and the project. In between Bach's own variations are Tepfer's improvisation and though true to the original you can feel the kiss of jazz. Wonderful stuff. My advice to you. Grab a good book, and put this album on and get lost in a marvelous disk.

Friday, March 09, 2012


Taken during Blue Moon sessions 2012.

By Claudio Botelho
For some time now, Mr. Leonardo Barroso has been pushing me into writing about Ahmad Jamal. For good reasons, I must say, as I have been an admirer of his pianism for some decades now. But there’s an issue: as much as I like his art, his exquisite sense of silence, his long , long time on the road and the fact he seems even better than ever in his eighties (per se, something to be reverent about), his supremely elegant touch along with an extraordinary command of his instrument, his indisputably good taste and a style all his own, I, as a layman who just like a lot to listen to jazz, find it difficult to say much more about him, don’t you agree, Mr. Barroso?
So, consider you’ve put some heavy burden on my back… Other than his excellency as a piano master player, there’s not much to say, as he’s the kind of a low-profile guy who just leads a normal life, like the rest of us. A perfectionist, it seems to me; an exclusive Steinway artist for good reasons…
So, what can I say? Should I speak, as an example, about his marvelous performance as an accompanist (although rarely seen) to singers like O. C. Smith and, lately, to the forever missed Shirley Horn in her, if my mind doesn’t betrays me, last commercial recording, named “May the Music Never End”? Here, should I suggest to our readers to check the songs “Maybe September” and “This is All Ask” where, along with Ms. Horn’s unique way of singing and feeling a song, Jamal’s counterpoints are some of the very best I‘ve ever heard? You see, herself a piano player who, through many, many moons, was the perfect partner for her own singing, wouldn’t choose a lesser one to take her place when an illness deprived her from playing, would she? No, no, no…never!
(Allow me to digress a little. Again, my feelings are of someone almost devoted to Jamal’s playing, so you must take it with a grain of salt. In his appreciation of this very Shirley Horn album, on Amazon, master reviewer Todd Kay, found Jamal’s performance on “Maybe September” at odds with the atmosphere of simplicity and economy of Ms. Horn way of expressing herself (“The closest thing to a false note”). As I said above, I found it just the opposite, being his solo on this specific song evocative of the uncertainty enclosed in the song when, in a fortissimo way, through a repetitive raising level notes, he shows the reticence which pervades it. As he said (Mr. Kay), Jamal can do things Ms. Horn couldn’t and we know he has a different way of playing: he is more prolific when improvising, indeed, and he showed it in that album, but I don’t think he didn’t get the song mood… Maybe Mr. Kay, being a maven at appreciating classical albums and, for that matter, more prone to react conservatively when the subject do not follow established cannons, found it a bit iconoclastic…)
You know what, Mr. Barroso, contrary to the findings of Mr. Kay, I dare say Ms. Horn, when examining the playbacks after this recordings, may as well have found Jamal’s performance more than excellent, superb; a crowning accomplishment in its precision, concision, syncopations, and an unsurpassed sense of working with nothing in-between notes other than the silence itself. He works as if his hands and keyboard were melted together, amalgamated into a monolithic musical productive structure which, through ingenious combination of sound and silence, sudden shifts, rhythm variations, continuous revisits to the main theme, pushes all the possibilities of his instrument. For this, among other resources, he counts on his ability to swipe from key one to eighty-eight effortlessly. He’s one of the very few who do this with such a casualness… Self assurance is his hallmark.
Never a middle-of-tune-prêt-à-porter improviser, in that his solos are never disconnected to the tunes themselves, he’s always around them in an in-and-out process, which happens several times, each one with different shades, colors, rhythms and syncopations. His playing is perfection in itself and, in his hands, one can listen all the Steinway music sound possibilities, as he’s the most tuneful of pianists, who combines grandiloquence with casualness, usually through arpeggios and rolled chords as demanded by his inspiration.
Have you ever listened to any Jamal’s piano pedal thuds, Mr. Barroso? About this, all I can say is that, in my experience with his playing, which spreads from 1962 to these days, I have heard none…
(To be continued when I put my hands on his newest “Blue Moon”). Then, after munching “Autumn Rain”, “Blue Moon”, “Gypsy”, “Invitation”, “I Remember Italy”, “Laura”, “Morning Mist”, “This is the Life”,” Woody’n You”- takes which last from 4:56 to a staggering 13:14min. of a tour-de-force jazz -, I’ll keep on writing.)
Bye, for now…

Sunday, March 04, 2012


Paul McCartney
Kisses On The Bottom

By Leonardo Barroso
First of all, this is a JAZZ record, made with top-jazz musicians, great arrangers and the best production team available in the music business.
I think this is the first time Paul McCartney doesn't play any instrument, his only concern is to sing, and the voice couldn't be better. In a blindfold test, my friends weren't able to tell who was the singer, only that he was English, that is a proof of how serious Paul was in a passionate reason to record these standard tunes.
This is my favorite Paul "Macca" McCartney record. The songs are great, all of them well played and sung.
Eric's guitar is just wonderful on "My Valentine", and is the only song you can spot Paul's regular vocals. The other one you can spot Paul is on, the also original, "Only Our Hearts".
A concept album made for valentines on Valentine's Day !
Well McCartney is almost 70 years-old, and after 50 years of great rock and roll success, he has the courage of letting everyone know how much he listened to the songs that his father loved and sang. I got really moved when "Always" by I. Berlin started, a song that I've only heard by my Jazz Icon Bill Evans on the "Trio '64" album. Just great !!!!
Since this is his first jazz record and he did a great job, I really wish he will come back once more, loose a little bit, and deliver one thing he is familiar with: making dreams come true and masterpieces.
Macca's Jazz Quartet:
Paul McCartney - Vocals
Diana Krall - Piano
Robert Hurst - Bass
John Pizzarelli - Guitar
Karriem Riggins - Drums
with: Anthony Wilson, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Mike Mainieri, Tamir Hendelman, John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton and Bucky Pizzarelli.
Arrangments: Alan Broadbent, Diana Krall, Johnny Mandel
Produced by: Tommy LiPuma

1 Sem 2012 - Part Thirteen

Richie Beirach
Impressions Of Tokyo - Ancient City Of The Future

By OutNote Rec
Solo expression will reveal someone’s true character mercilessly. The fainthearted should abstain! Richie Beirach, New Yorker residing in Leipzig (Germany), most certainly doesn’t lack personality. His has been strengthened by forty years of practice in which he combines the discipline of a classical training with the vertigo of improvisation. These arguments work wonders with « Impressions of Tokyo » which fits in the « Jazz and the City » collection, already illustrated by his fellow pianists, Kenny Werner (New York), Eric Watson (Paris), Bill Carrothers (Excelsior), with Joachim Kuhn (Ibiza) still coming.
Richie has a deep knowledge of Japan – no less than 26 visits since the Seventies with numerous concerts and recordings – and doesn’t hide his admiration for its impressive culture and respect for art and music in all its forms. Under his fingers, Tokyo reveals itself in its duality, at the crossroads of tradition and modernity. His « impressions » follow like a series of snapshots presented in the form of haikus, the purest of poetic forms (3 verses of invariably 5, 7 and 5 syllables). Make no mistake; this freely chosen constraint enables Richie Beirach to go straight to the heart of the matter. Whether evoking the Japan of times immemorial – Kabuki theatre, stone gardens surrounding monasteries, flowering cherries, or even earthquakes …, or the Japan of today - the Shinkansen (Bullet train), Kurosawa’s movies, Takemitsu’s music… he appears alternatively sober, almost ascetic, or dense, searching the entrails of the piano. In other words: how can one translate, without betrayal, the Tokyoite soul and the daily life of millions of city dwellers? With this journey to Tokyo, Richie Beirach reaches this form of Zen serenity which is simply the prerogative of the greatest.
Producer’s comment:
This recording was made in September 2010. Six month later, Japan suffered its worst disaster since the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. A catastrophe that took a triple form: earthquake of March 11th, the worst in a century, tsunami causing thousands of victims, major accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. « I would like to dedicate this album to the Japanese people and thus show them my deep affection, confided Richie Beirach. I sincerely and respectfully wish that this work may bring them a spark of hope in the face of this unprecedented tragedy ».

1. Haiku - (Intro) - Tokyo Lights At Night 0:41
2. Haiku 1 - Baker-san 3:14
3. Haiku 2 - Butterfly 3:20
4. Haiku 3 - Cherry Blossom Time 3:46
5. Haiku 4 - Takemitsu-san 4:54
6. Haiku 5 - Bullet Train 3:38
7. Haiku 6 - Togashi-san 3:28
8. Ancient City of the Future 3:19
9. Lament for Hiroshima and Nagasaki 3:56
10. Haiku 7 - Japanese Playground 2:33
11. Haiku 8 - Kabuki 3:15
12. Haiku 9 - Zatoichi-Kurosawa 4:09
13. Haiku 10 - Rock Garden 4:47
14. Haiku 11 - Tragedy In Sendai 2:40
15. Haiku 12 - Shibumi 5:31
16. Eyes of the Heart 4:03

Helen Sung

Cover ((Re)Conception:Helen Sung)

by Ken Dryden
Helen Sung has made great strides since winning the 2007 Mary Lou Williams Piano Competition. Recruiting two of the most in-demand rhythm players for this trio date, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash, the pianist mixes things up with fresh arrangements of standards, time-tested jazz compositions, and a few less frequently played works. Her swinging take of Duke Ellington's "C Jam Blues" begins with a playful exchange with Washington before launching into the familiar theme, with the walking bass and light percussion propelling her inventive improvising as she avoids the clichéd route through this jazz standard. She also offers a snappy midtempo setting of the maestro's "Everything But You," playfully incorporating "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" before she turns on the afterburners in her superb solo. Her punchy take of George Shearing's "(Re)Conception" reveals the potential of this neglected bop gem. Thelonious Monk's "Teo" is another overlooked piece, though Sung transforms it into a rapid-fire Bud Powell-flavored romp. Jerry Bock's "Far from the Home I Love" (from the musical Fiddler on the Roof) is not typically heard much on jazz record dates, but Sung delivers a sentimental yet shimmering interpretation. Her bright rendition of Burt Bacharach's "Wives and Lovers" puts the spotlight on the talented Washington for an extensive solo. Sung also contributed one original, the lively, constantly shifting "Duplicity." Helen Sung is clearly one artist to watch among the musicians of her generation.

The Andrew Read Trio

By Johan van Deeg 
J.S.B. is the fourth CD from the Andrew Read Trio and the first release on Aliud Records. For this CD the trio has drawn largely on the classical repertoire for their inspiration. My first opinion prior to hearing the CD was, here we go again, another crossover CD however after hearing the first few tracks this preconceived opinion was completely dispelled. The fact is you need to listen extremely closely to pick the piece where the changes originate from. Luckily Read gives this away in the liner notes.
The opening track’s title ”J.S.B.” eludes to Johan Sebastian Bach and is based on the harmony from the aria “Erbarme dich” from Bach’s St Mathew Passion. The track opens with an 8 bar pedal point leading to the new melody composed by pianist Hans Kwakkernaat over Bach’s chord changes. The solos are tasteful but as far as I am concerned a little on the short side. “Just before dawn” is based on the harmony of Samuel Barbers famous Adagio for strings and is beautiful piece presented here as a bossa nova. Kwakkernaat opens the solos on this track with a short but well formed solo leading to a beautifully melodic bass solo from band leader Andrew Read.
My favorite track on this CD is without a doubt the up tempo swinger W.A.M. This track opens with a unison melody played by the piano and bass weaving through the complex harmony of Beethoven’s piano sonata Op2 no3. Kwakkernaat shows his substantial chops in an impressive solo reminding me of Kenny Baron. The haunting ballad “Lara” is beautiful piece featuring a rather simple melody played by both bass and piano and is great example of less is more.
The CD also contains some standards including a solo piano rendition on Monk’s “Round Midnight”. Kwakkernaat is brilliant in this rendition of Monk’s classic stretching the harmonic possibilities of the changes to their outermost edges while still retaining the essence of the original. One of the highlights of this CD is the closing track, John Scofield’s “Grey and visceral”, with solid solos from both Kwakkernaat and Read while drummer Erik Poorterman holds down the steady 12/8 feel.
The only down point I can find with this CD is that the recording sounds a little indirect. Personally I would have preferred the sound to have been more direct although this is always a matter of personal opinion. I really like this CD and if asked if I it’s worth buying, the answer would be simple, In a New York minute.

Joaquin Chacón
Out Of This World

Chacon, Joaquin - Out Of This World CD Cover Art CD music music CDs songs album

By Alejandro Cifuentes, Jazz Session 
Recorded in Madrid, Spain, March 2003 
Featuring: Joaquín Chacón (g), Ben Besiakou (p), Sigurd Ulveseth (b), Keith Copland (d)
This is the latest release from Madrid-based guitarist and composer Joaquín Chacón. Over the past last ten years of Fresh Sound "New Talent", Joaquín has released some terrific titles, such as "San", with musicians Uffe Markussen, Jorge Pardo, Chano Domínguez and, Carlos Ibáñez, among others, then came "European Quintet Time" and then the guitar duo album, "Waltz For Katy", with Doug Raney. "Out Of This World" is a brilliant new album from a brilliant musician.
"Out Of This World" is one of those albums you can enjoy again and again. The album opens perfectly with the piece that lends it's title to the album; from the first moment we can appreciate the clear finger work and warm sound of Joaquín Chacón in a very bluesy context...(the choice of tunes) is a good example of the excellent taste Joaquín possesses as a composer; his original melody lines appear to break up before they reach their destinations. There are many surprises on this album: the extraordinary gem that closes the disc with an acoustic guitar, "Dos Gardenias", a delicious cover version, the fruit of a blend of jazz and bolero, where we can appreciate the dexterity of the Norwegian bassist Sigur Ulveseth throughout. There are very few albums by a guitarist with such good taste. Please let's have more albums like this one" .

1. Out of this world (Arlen-Mercer) 6:58
2. La dictadura encubierta (J.Chacón) 8:40
3. Inner Urge (J.Henderson) 7:04
4. I can't get started (V.Duke) 11:10
5. En un instante (J.Chacón) 5:08
6. Impressions of Prag (J.Chacón) 7:57
7. All the things you are (Hammerstein-Kern) 4:23
8. Dos Gardenias (I.Carrillo) 6:42

1 Sem 2012 - Part Twelve

Mark Masters Ensemble
Wish Me Well

by Ken Dryden
Gary McFarland was dubbed an "adult prodigy" by critic Gene Lees and initially made a major impression in the jazz world during the early '50s, though a turn toward instrumental pop left his contributions somewhat overlooked by the time of his still unsolved murder in 1971. Mark Masters presented a concert of McFarland's music featuring baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan in 2002 and arranged 11 of his works for this release, featuring Smulyan, pianist Steve Kuhn (who worked with McFarland), multi-reed player Gary Foster, and trumpeter Tim Hagans, among others. Three of the pieces were written for Gerry Mulligan & the Concert Jazz Band: the breezy, lighthearted "Weep" and the upbeat "Kitch" (featuring Foster on alto sax), along with the Duke Ellington-influenced "Chuggin'," which showcases Smulyan. Perhaps the most striking work is "Gary's Waltz," a melancholy work recorded on numerous occasions by Bill Evans during the last few years of his life. But after Kuhn's opening piano solo, Masters transforms this piece into a rich tapestry for the ensemble, gradually increasing its tempo and discarding its somber mood, spotlighting Hagans' outstanding trumpet solo. The perfect balance of Masters' charts and the intimate sound captured by engineer Talley Sherwood combine to make this an essential CD. Perhaps Mark Masters' thoughtful exploration of Gary McFarland's compositions will stir additional interest in the late vibraphonist's work, which has been unjustly neglected.

Kenny Werner
New York - Love Songs

Cover (New York - Love Songs:Kenny Werner)

by Ken Dryden
Kenny Werner improvised ballads that reflect his impressions of New York City for this 2009 solo piano session. The Brooklyn native's lyrical touch is present throughout this delightful recording, capturing the stillness of early morning in his moving "First Light/East River." Anyone who has visited the World Trade Center and since returned to view the starkly empty spot where it once stood can't help but be moved by Werner's poignant "Ground Zero," a piece conveying anguish at the terrible loss of life. His delicate, touching "Song of the Heart [For Lorraine and Katheryn]" subtly conveys his unconditional love for his family (Katheryn tragically died in a car crash several years earlier at the age of 16). Werner's lush extended work "Central Park Suite" and melancholy "Hudson Lament" are also among the CD's highlights. Kenny Werner has long established himself as a brilliant solo pianist and composer, and this French release is well worth acquiring. 

Matthew Shipp
Art Of The Improviser

Cover (Art of the Improviser:Matthew Shipp)

by Thom Jurek
Since the late 1980s, pianist Matthew Shipp has been rigorously investigating what it means to be an improvising musician by creating a musical language that is as expansive as it is intuitive emotionally, cerebrally, and emotionally following his own path alongside those of his predecessors Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, Derek Bailey, Anthony Braxton, John Cage, and Morton Feldman. His explorations have taken him through jazz as a soloist, bandleader, and sideman to collaborative experiments with electronic sound and even modern classical music. He’s been prolific in documenting each chapter in his musical life. Art of the Improviser is a double-CD package containing two 2010 concert performances. Disc 1 places Shipp in a trio setting with bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Whit Dickey in Troy, NY, and the second disc is a solo recital from (Le Poisson) Rouge in New York City two months later. On the trio disc, Shipp reveals his strengths as both a bandleader and collaborator. The rumbling modal opening of “The New Fact” quickly gives way to a syncopated, jagged swing as his piano jots telegraphic lines to Dickey, who follows and accents intuitively while Bisio balances them with a swaying but unbending bridge. Shipp moves through various periods in jazz history, from Jelly Roll Morton and Art Tatum to Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, and Horace Tapscott. Elsewhere on disc one, his pieces “Circular Temple #3” and “The Virgin Complex” are given strident readings with their original melodies harmonically extrapolated onto new ones, with improvisation interspersed like links in a chain. The lone standard on disc one, “Take the 'A' Train,” is performed with Shipp's angular harmonic language without losing its swing or fingerpopping melodic identity. The solo recital on disc two also features one standard, “Fly Me to the Moon,” which begins as an extension of Shipp’s recent composition, the gloriously physical “4D.” And indeed it might as well be, because of the way he pulls the melody from the changes, angles them at one another, and inserts his own series of intervallic questions at the ends of phrases, taking them through labyrinthine passages before returning to here he left off. “Gamma Ray” extrapolates on Thelonious Monk's black key lyricism while “Patmos” is a lower- and middle-register song employing Eastern tonalities and modalism. Art of the Improviser serves as a testament to Shipp’s achievements, yet it is also a continuation of the discovery in his developmental musical language.

Ali Jackson/ Aaron Goldberg/ Omer Avital

Cover (Yes!:Omer Avital)

by Phil Freeman
This disc documents a quick 'n' dirty piano trio session recorded by Aaron Goldberg and two longtime friends and collaborators -- bassist Omer Avital and drummer Ali Jackson Jr. -- in late December 2009. These three young players have known one another for years, watched each other come up on the New York scene, and played together from time to time. They share a musical philosophy, blending melody with blues and swing in an old-school but not self-consciously retro fashion, and work extremely well together. The repertoire on the disc is a mix of interpretations of tunes -- by Abdullah Ibrahim, Duke Ellington, Mercer Ellington, and Thelonious Monk, among others -- and originals by Avital and Jackson. Goldberg's playing is a little too smooth and deft for the Monk tune; he loses the elbows-on-the-keys feel that's required to give the melody any real kick, and it winds up feeling somewhat restaurant-piano-player-ish. But on the Ellington tunes and the originals, he's really in his element; his sound falls somewhere between Ahmad Jamal and Red Garland or Wynton Kelly, a player capable of swinging and getting into the blues without ever becoming florid or overwrought. Avital and Jackson are a more than capable rhythm team, driving the music at least as much and as often as the pianist. There's nothing even remotely revelatory here, but the players' unwillingness to color outside the lines actually feels like a virtue for most of the disc's running time.