Wolfert Brederode Quartet
by William Ruhlmann
Dutch pianist Wolfert Brederode, on his second formal quartet outing (following 2007's Currents), leads his compatriots, clarinetist Claudio Puntin, bassist Mats Eilertsen, and drummer Samuel Rohrer, in a selection of thoughtful, classically influenced jazz on Post Scriptum. The instrumentation may suggest the Dave Brubeck Quartet with Paul Desmond, but if Brubeck represented a brand of "college jazz" in the 1950s and ‘60s, this is strictly graduate school stuff. Brederode and company are on the right label with producer Manfred Eicher's ECM, since they are playing very much in the ECM school of cool European jazz. That's apparent immediately on the appropriately named opener, "Meander," which finds Puntin making like a more laid-back yet freer Desmond in a Brederode composition that will suggest new age to many listeners. Those tendencies continue throughout the disc, although the playing tends to be a little too complex and unpredictable for the new age tag to adhere firmly. The tempos are mostly slow, sometimes extremely so, but "Inner Dance," as its title indicates, has a real rhythm provided by Eilertsen and Rohrer, who otherwise imply beats rather than actually playing them. This is music for the more adventurous jazz listener who is willing to consider improvisatory playing that brings in ambient and contemporary classical aspects.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Their Last Time Out
by Ken Dryden
In 1967, Dave Brubeck decided to disband his long-running quartet with Paul Desmond, Eugene Wright, and Joe Morello at the end of the year. Crowds turned out to catch the group for a final time, though this is only the fourth issued live recording from the tour, possibly recorded from the front of the concert hall, since the audience seems more prominent than usual, and the sound is in mono and not quite as well-recorded as the earlier releases, though the performances are of high caliber. The source of these recordings were long forgotten tape reels found in Brubeck’s home by his long time manager Russell Gloyd.
Brubeck kicks things off by launching into one of his perennial favorites to open concerts, "St. Louis Blues," played in a breezy manner similar to their earlier recorded versions. Brubeck's "Three to Get Ready (And Four to Go)" was already a favorite of his fans, while Desmond whimsically inserts a bit of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" into his solo (for this concert taped on December 26), while Brubeck can be heard softly singing along with his solo. The quartet learned the Mexican folk song "La Paloma Azul (The Blue Dove)" prior to their tour of Mexico earlier in the year and it became a staple in Brubeck's repertoire afterward. The pianist is at his most lyrical in this touching ballad, with Desmond's spacious, melancholy alto adding a nice touch, along with Wright's solid groove and Morello's soft brushes. The band sizzles in their treatment of "Take the 'A' Train" and sounds jubilant with their rousing rendition of "Someday My Prince Will Come" to end the first set, both pieces which were part of Brubeck's performance repertoire over four decades later.
To open the second set, the quartet launches a pulsating "Swanee River" in which the leader humorously works the standard "Lullaby of the Leaves" into his solo. Desmond's role is minimal in Brubeck's breezy "I'm in a Dancing Mood," with the focus being on the pianist and Morello. The standard "You Go to My Head" was long a feature for Desmond, who plays an inventive solo with Wright's swinging bass backing his as Brubeck stays mostly in the background. The drummer also has an extended feature to open "For Drummer's Only" to showcase his widely admired technique. It is inevitable that the evening had to close with a rousing performance of the quartet's signature tune "Take Five," which they manage to keep from going stale in spite of having to play it nearly every night after it became a best-selling single. Desmond's humor is in full force in his solo, while Brubeck's feature takes an exotic twist with a Middle Eastern flavor. Fans of Dave Brubeck will welcome the addition of this historic concert to his vast discography.
By Dave Sumner
Following up on her strong quartet album Convergence (Motema, 2011), pianist Lynne Arriale returns with a solo recording—a risky venture for any artist. In an ensemble setting, a musician has collaborators with whom to work and exchange ideas before the record button is punched, and more importantly, while the session is on the move. In ensemble play, a musician's unformed ideas or sound can be made whole by the other musicians in the ensemble; this is a big reason why group improvisation is such a glorious thing in jazz, that the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Everyone brings something to the moment and it all fits together. However, in a solo project, the musician is completely alone, his/her artistry naked. There is no one to talk to but the listeners themselves. Solo albums are revealing moments, and it is because of that that, when they succeed, they elicit such an emotionally profound reaction. Which brings us to Arriale's Solo.
The opening notes of Solo are symbolic in the ways that count most. "La Noche" begins with discordant notes in descent, a sense of dramatically falling down a flight of stairs. Arriale, however, never loses her balance, never hits ground. Instead, she exudes a grace and control that epitomizes her sound throughout. Can one even fall if they breathe elegance with each step and note? Is it falling or simply flight? Arriale gives no insight into these questions, but provides the thrilling sensation of both.
Much like a brief glimpse, the subtlest touch can convey substantive and heavy emotions, as does Arriale with her expressions on piano. Solo is never fussy, never overbearing. On "Dove," a tune of sublime beauty, Arriale gets everything it is possible to get out of each note without meticulously wringing them dry or ponderously studying them from every angle. Arriale has attained such a level of mastery in her approach that all she requires is a brief moment of polish before she moves on. It would be easy to describe it as effortless, but accuracy would be better honored by supposing that hard work and deliberation has resulted in a near subconscious fluidity of motion and thought. Said differently, Arriale knows what notes she's looking for and can find them right quick.
Solo is a mix of originals and covers. Two of the selections come from Thelonious Monk. On "Evidence," Arriale presents the composition as she sees it, no more, no less. While she passes on attempting a groundbreaking turn on Monk's version, she also avoids doing a by-the-numbers rendition. As such, like the other selections, the tune settles naturally into the flow of the album. The album flow, from first note to last, remains undisturbed, with Arriale alone at the center of it all.
It's all about the elegance.
La Noche; The Dove; Evidence; Wouldn't It Be Loverly; Will O' The Wisp; Yada, Yada, Yada; Arise; Dance; What Is This Thing Called Love; Sea and Sand; Bye-Ya; And So It Goes.
Personnel: Lynne Arriale: piano.
Lisa Maxwell with The Keith Ingham Quartet
By C. Michael Bailey
Lisa Maxwell's debut, Return to Jazz Standards (Self Produced, 2010), was well-received when released, marking the New York singer's recovery and comeback from a vocal cord disorder that sidelined her for several years earlier in the decade. Maxwell returns with Happy, a recital of not-so-standard standards, supported by Maxwell's coach, pianist Keith Ingham, and his fine quartet. The result is an evolution in cohesiveness and vision.
In a word, Maxwell's Happy is breezy. Her voice has filled out in all the right places and betrays a youthful, scrubbed, girl-next-door coquettishness. "Pretty" and "unadorned" will also describe this voice. Maxwell's natural instrument is her greatest asset, and her singing philosophy bears the same pretty and unadorned characteristics as her voice. A fan of melody, Maxwell is conservative in her adherence, more often than not. to the composer's melodic intent, demonstrated most clearly in textbook readings of "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Skylark," two amply road-tested pieces, dusted off here.
Equal in importance to the present recital is the band, under Ingham's tutelage, the pianist turning out to be a most splendid accompanist to Maxwell; his simple, yet elegant arrangements perfectly frame the pure simplicity of Maxwell's voice and approach. Even on upbeat pieces like the opener, "I'll Take Romance," and "Under A Blanket of Blue," the two work with envious simpatico. Maxwell and Ingham coalesce perfectly on the Teddy Randazzo/Bobby Weinstein chestnut "Goin' Out of My Head," Ingham's electric piano and Maxwell's straight-arrow delivery recalling Petula Clark's 1965 recording of the song, flying slower than the speed of sound. The light samba spin is a nice touch.
Maxwell is still interested in the standards, but also shows an interest in musical roads less traveled. "This is Always," "Blue Moon" and "What a Wonderful Guy" are a joy to behold in the hands and voice of this singer. A user-friendly jazz vocalist to the end, Lisa Maxwell is one to behold.
I'll Take Romance; You Can't Lose a Broken Heart; Sunday in New York; The Folks Who Live on the Hill; It Might As Well Be Spring; Someone To Watch over Me; My Heart Goes with You; This Is Always; Going Out of My Head; Blue Moon; Under a Blanket of Blue; June Night; Skylark; A Wonderful Guy.
Lisa Maxwell: vocals; Keith Ingham: piano; Frank Tate, bass; Al Gafa: guitar; Steve Little: drums; Ben Wittman: percussion.
The Point Of The Moon
By Mark Corroto
It is natural to equate a bit of hubris with jazz, but pianist Falkner Evans checks his ego at the door on The Point Of The Moon.
Like his previous trio session, Arc (CAP, 2007), he returns with bassist Belden Bullock and drummer Matt Wilson, but supplements things with the horn frontline of tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy and trumpeter Ron Horton. If it weren't for Evans' name on The Point Of The Moon's cover, it might not seem like his release.
He did, though, pen seven of the nine compositions heard, and also arranged the horns. Like his previous efforts, he displays an inborn sense of swing that fosters an unceremonious harmony in this ensemble. The opener, an Art Blakey-esque march called "Altered Souls," incites with Wilson's rolling introduction of the frontline horns that only slows a bit for Evans to solo, then back to the trumpet and tenor party.
Certainly, Evans writes to the strengths of his players. Tardy's tenor lushness and the soft sound of Horton's trumpet (often mistaken for a flugelhorn) are featured on "Drawing In," and on the modish and snappily arranged standards "O Grande Amor" and "While We're Young." It's just that he constantly downplays his playing. He even employs a fellow keyboardist, Gary Versace, on two tracks. Versace adds organ to the bluesy track "Off The Top," mixing with both Evans and the horns, switching to accordion for the title track. Both are examples of Evans recruiting players for a certain sound. The blues are smoothed out by the note-perfect Tardy, and Wilson's sense of swing is always spot-on.
Altered Soul; Drawing In; Dorsoduro; Cheer Up; O Grande Amor; Slightest Movement; While We're Young; Off The Top; The Point Of The Moon.
Greg Tardy: tenor saxophone; Ron Horton: trumpet; Gary Versace: organ, accordion; Falkner Evans: piano; Belden Bullock: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.
Cecilia Coleman Big Band
Oh Boy !
By Edward Blanco
The phrase "Oh boy," can be a statement of excitement, an expression of an event that grabs your attention or, in this case, an appropriate reaction to the swinging orchestrations from the Cecilia Coleman Big Band. Oh Boy! is a powerful draw and the debut album from pianist/composer Coleman's new group, presenting thundering big band music of a contemporary nature. Best known for her various working quintet's that have produced five albums since 1992, Coleman formed the group in January 2010 after writing several big band charts for others which in turn, inspired a rehearsal band of her own.
No novice to the large ensemble setting, the pianist previously recorded with the Mark Masters Ensemble of the American Jazz Institute. Though a longtime resident of New York City, Coleman is actually a native of Long Beach, CA, where she commutes regularly to teach at California State University at Long Beach. The Coleman band consists of friends and other musicians she has worked with since 1999, and boasts some of the finest players from the New York area. With renowned saxophonists Peter Brainin, and Bobby Porcelli among the mix of musicians that also includes tenorist Stan Killian, trombonists Matt McDonald, Sam Burtis and Broadway trumpeter Jeff Wilfore.
Playing a few simple bars and disguising what's to come, Coleman introduces "Liar, Liar," a truthfully explosive piece featuring Frank Basile' s blistering baritone saxophone solo, to brassy accompaniment. The enthralling "Dance" follows with the same electricity, delivering another forceful statement and readily affirming the album's muscular sound. "Magpie" is a sprawling, melody-rich sweet tune, with pronounced voices from the reeds and horns in a more mid-tempo arrangement.
"Lonesome Journey" is the project's most sophisticated and ambitious piece, containing its share of twists and turns throughout the almost ten-minute duration. The title track reveals the swinging upbeat and lively texture that made it the disc's natural title choice. All is not swing however, as the balladic "Until Then" and the lightly-structured "Because" offer a departure from the main thrust of the album, as well as featuring brief but sparkling solo work from the pianist.
Cecilia Coleman never set out to become a big band leader, stating that it was "never a dream of mine to have a big band," but the Cecilia Coleman Big Band is her new reality—and Oh Boy!, what a swinging affair, this very first recording effort turns out to be. This is classic big band music infused with a bolt of raw energy and mounds of excitement.
Liar, Liar; Dance; Pearl; Magpie; Walk Away; Lonseome Journey; Oh Boy!; Until Then; Princess; #1; Because.
Cecilia Coleman: piano; Tim Givens: bass; Jeff Brillinger: drums; Peter Brainin: soprano saxophone; Bobby Porcelli: alto saxophone, flute; Stephan Kammerer: alto saxophone, flute; Geoff Vidal: tenor saxophone; Stan Killian: tenor saxophone; Frank Basile: baritone saxophone; Jeff Wilfore: trumpet; Hardin Butcher: trumpet; Kerry Mackillop: trumpet; John Eckert: trumpet; Don Sickler: trumpet (4); Matt McDonald: trombone; Mike Fahn: trombone; Sam Burtis: trombone; Joe Randazzo: trombone.