Sunday, August 26, 2012

2 Sem 2012 - Part Nine

Harold Danko

By Mike Joyce
After a recent recording date, saxophonist Rich Perry’s rhythm section took a sort of busman’s holiday and cut a trio session—hence the clever title. With additional studio time available, pianist Harold Danko, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirshfield revisited several jazz and pop favorites. How Perry spent the rest of the day is anyone’s guess, but his bandmates certainly made the most of his absence, fashioning a series of performances that manage to sound both relaxed and thought-out.
Given the circumstances, it’s no surprise that an air of spontaneity infuses the album, beginning with a jaunty take on “Sweet and Lovely.” It’s brightened by Danko’s rippling chromaticism and powered by his resounding left hand, to say nothing of Hirshfield’s insistent but unfussy brand of swing. Another enhancement—again, no surprise—is the Anderson-wrought solo interlude that helps elevate this track and others to come.
The trio moves on to salute five of Danko’s favorite artists: McCoy Tyner, via a deeply soulful interpretation of “Search for Peace”; Thelonious Monk, who is represented by the delightfully rambunctious and evocative “Criss Cross”; Hoagy Carmichael, who inspires an unabashedly sentimental version of “The Nearness of You”; Ornette Coleman, who no doubt would get a big kick out of hearing the trio’s kinetic treatment of “The Blessing”; and, saved for last, Bob Haggart’s “What’s New?,” ruminatively explored by Danko and Hirschfield and crisply accented by Anderson’s brushwork.

Eddie Gomez
Per Sempre

By Ken Dryden
Eddie Gomez collaborated with five Italian musicians to produce this 2009 session, which primarily focuses on original ballads. The veteran bassist, recognized as a major player since his 11-plus years working with pianist Bill Evans, is in top form, providing an inventive foundation in the rhythm section. The sole standard is an unusual "Stella by Starlight" with tenor saxophonist Marco Pignataro (who also doubles on soprano sax) and flautist Matt Marvuglio alternately playing the lead and harmony, with the pulsating rhythm section that includes Gomez, pianist Teo Clavarella, and drummer Massimo Manzi. The bassist's warm ballad "Arianna" glistens with its early morning, spring-like air, showcasing its composer playing both arco and pizzicato, with him chanting softly along with his solo. Gomez's new version of his "Forever" (premiered on his 1987 CD Power Play) is an elegant affair with potent solos by Pignatano, Clavarella, and Marvuglio. The pianist's "Pops and Alma" has the flavor of progressive chamber music, while Marvuglio's extended "Why Cry?" is an emotional affair, with powerful playing by Pignatano (who switches to soprano for his solo) and the composer in a lush setting. Pignatano's somber ballad "Homesick" is beautifully voiced, with Gomez's haunting arco bass setting the mood, followed by the miniature bass solo in his "Epilogue."
Recording information: Groove Factory Studio, Castel Maggiore, Bologna, Italy (12/2009).
Photographers: Celine Hercolani; Max Giardina.
Personnel: Matt Marvuglio (flute); Marco Pignataro (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Teo Ciavarella (piano); Massimo Manzi (drums).
Audio Mixer: Tony Marvuglio.

Igor Butman Orchestra
Sheherazade's Tales

By System Rec
Recorded live in 2010 at the Cherry Wood Art Festival in Moscow, “Scheherazade’s Tales” found world-renowned Russian saxophone player Igor Butman—along with prominent NY jazz artists Sean Jones, Kathy Jenkins, Peter Bernstein and James Burton—presenting a crossover program featuring Nick Levinovsky’s jazz arrangements of the symphonic suite “Scheherazade” by the celebrated Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, along with two songs from the Russian Gypsy tradition, “Dark Eyes” and “Coachman, Don’t Rush The Horses”, as well as the American jazz standard, “Caravan”. Executed with impeccable style and ingenuity, this original fusion of classical music and jazz was enthusiastically received by audience and critics alike.
Peter Bernstein (guitar, solo (3, 5, 6); Sean Jones (trumpet, solo (1, 2, 3, 6); Kathy Jenkins (vocal);
James Burton (trombone); Igor Butman (tenor, soprano saxophones, solo (1, 3, 6);
Denis Shvytov (alto, soprano saxophones); Konstantin Safyanov (alto saxophone, flute, solo (7);
Dmitry Mospan (tenor, soprano saxophones, solo (5); Alexander Dovgopoly (bari saxophone, flute);
Pavel Zhulin (lead trumpet); Alexander Berenson (trumpet, solo (1); Alexander Sakharov (trumpet);
Vadim Eilenkrig (trumpet); Pavel Ovchinnikov (trombone); Alevtina Polyakova (trombone);
Nikolay Shevnin (bass trombone); Anton Baronin (piano, solo (5); Eduard Zizak (drums);
Vitaly Solomonov (bass)
1. Dark Eyes, 2. Coachman, Don't Rush the Horses, 3. Caravan, 4. Sheherazade Mov. 1
5. Sheherazade Mov. 2, 6. Sheherazade Mov. 3, 7. Sheherazade Mov. 4

Yelena Eckemoff
Flying Steps 

By Susan Frances
The scrolling notes of pianist of Yelena Echemoff embroider imagery soundscapes that soothe, excite and entrap the listener in an experience beyond earthly dimensions. Her latest album Flying Steps features Peter Erskine on drums and Darek Oleszkiewicz on double bass, and establishes Echemoff as an engaging pianist and composer of ambient bliss.
Tracks like "Promise" and "A Smile" have a sensual gait that incites the listener to drift off into a luxuriating oasis of melodic improvisations. The soft curls and relaxing lunges of Echemoff's keys in "Good Morning" produced a soothing ambiance, and shift to somber etudes along "For Harry." The dulcet doodling of her keys through "Isolated" imbues a contemplative lilt changing to an upbeat wandering in "Where Is Maxim?" The pensive waddling of her keys in "Tears Will Come" are supported by light drum taps and deep toned bass notes, which manifest into a hypnotic swagger in "Insomnia" with broad sweeps in Echemoff's keys.
Her music is rooted in classical chamber music concepts and orchestral structures coalesced with pop music-inspired rhythms and influenced by jazz improvisations. Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, Yelena Echemoff began playing the piano at four years old. Her mother, Olga was her first piano teacher. Yelena was further educated at the Piano School of the Moscow State Conservatory where she earned a Master's Degree in piano performance and pedagogy. She worked as a piano teacher for the Moscow Music Schools. She and husband left the Soviet Union and have been living the USA since 1991, where she developed a discography as an independent recording artist adding Flying Steps to her lengthy catalog in 2011.

Kathy Kosins
To The Ladies Of Cool

By Larry Taylor
Singers June Christy, Chris Connor, Anita O'Day and Julie London were prominent in the 1940s and '50s. Christy, O'Day and Connor all spent time with Stan Kenton's band, while the sultry London became a pinup as well as a big record seller. Popular with both jazz and pop fans, these singers could regularly be heard on 78s and radio, singing the siren call for the emerging West Coast cool sound. With her fifth album, To the Ladies of Cool, singer Kathy Kosins does a terrific job honoring these four greats with her honey-coated voice.
Hailing from Detroit, Kosins has a long list of credentials as singer, composer and arranger. She grew up immersed in the city's jazz and R&B scenes and started out performing soul, rock, and funk, switching to jazz some 15 years ago, now combining gigs with a teaching career. Her style is sophisticated yet natural, torchy but breezy.
Kosins went to Los Angeles to record in the stomping grounds of her four honorees, selecting tunes from their repertoires. Among the titles, some are well-known, others she had never heard before. Overall, the session is a big success and much is owed to pianist Tamir Hendelman, who did the arrangements and contributes superb backup and solos. The rest of her band also deserves praise.
Obvious from the get-go, Kosins does her own thing. On "Learnin' the Blues," she abandons London's dreamy, sexy softness for a harder-edged bluesy defiance. With "All I Need is You," from Connor's songbook, Kosins again goes against the grain, distilling Connor's cool, compressed emotionality into a lightly swinging brew. O'Day's wordless vocalese on "Hershey's Kisses" gives way to Kosins' witty lyrics, giving voice to a lighthearted rhythmic romp where the singer joins the horns for some catchy harmony à la O'Day. Kosins pays homage to Christy, long associated with "Lullaby in Rhythm," on an up-tempo scat version, where Hendelman and guitarist Graham Dechter share solo space wonderfully, with saxophonist Steve Wilkerson solidly pushing the song to its finish. The CD ends exceptionally with Kosins' wistful bossa nova treatment of "Where Are You?"
Raise the glass and here's a toast. With To the Ladies of Cool, four standout vocal pioneers are deservedly celebrated.
Track Listing:
Learnin'the Blues; Nightbird; Don't Wait Up For Me; All I Need Is You; Free and Easy; Hershey's Kisses; Lullaby In Rhythm; November Twilight; Kissing Bug; Where Are You?
Kathy Kosins: vocals; Tamir Hendelman: piano: Graham Dechter: guitar; Gilbert Castellanos: trumpet (2, 3, 4, 9); Steve Wilkerson: reeds (4, 6); Kevin Axt: bass (1, 5, 7, 8, 10); Paul Keller: bass (2-4, 6, 9); Bob Leatherbarrow: vibraphone, drums.

Pablo Aslan Quintet
Piazzolla In Brooklyn and The Rebirth of Jazz Tango

By Lawrence Peryer
Thanks to artists like pianist Pablo Ziegler, woodwind multi-instrumentalist Paquito D'Rivera and bassist Pablo Aslan, the union of jazz and tango has been made complete over the last several decades. Tango music, which like jazz has had a long and complex history often entwined with issues of class, has been present in the Americas for well over 100 years. As popular music, tango was in many ways the main (only?) rival to jazz in in the dancehalls of the 1930s and 1940s.
Also like jazz, tango after World War II moved out of the ballrooms and into clubs and concert halls, becoming music to listen to and watch, with a much diminished or even non-existent role for dancing. While saxophonist Charlie Parker and the other early beboppers were leading this transformation in jazz, Argentinean-born bandeneon player Astor Piazzolla was doing the same for tango. Throughout his career Piazzolla was concerned with the elevation and growth of the form. As a composer he led the genre into its first confluences with "serious" music—with jazz, modern classical and baroque elements all in the mix.
Piazzolla was equally concerned with his own commercial success, especially in America and Europe. This success would come for him, but in the late 1950s ambition led the artist to push a record specifically for US consumption: Take Me Dancing! The Latin Rhythms Of Astor Piazola & His Quintet (yes the artist's name was misspelled on his own record). An example of its commercial intent: no track breaks the three-minute mark.
As far as truth in advertising goes, "Latin Rhythms" fit the bill. As much mambo as tango, the record is not nearly the "artistic sin" Piazzolla would claim in later years, but it was in no way a commercial success. And it was by no means an inspired work.
At least not until Pablo Aslan decided to listen to it again, that is. What Aslan discovered was a "rhythmic approach that obscured the writing," and therefore a creative challenge, a bit of salvage work. Aslan set out to use the original arrangements of the compositions, which individually had intriguing bits of melody, as starting points for a more fully realized integration of jazz and tango, more in keeping with Piazzolla's own true artistry. With the arrangements largely intact, Aslan and his quintet found room to breathe, adding tasteful, if restrained, improvisations throughout.
The resulting record, Piazzolla In Brooklyn (carrying the subtitle "and the rebirth of Jazz Tango") is, on balance, a successful one, given Aslan's intention, though not particularly ground breaking. Before a single note is played the concept and provenance begins to feel a bit gimmicky. Much emphasis is made in the liner notes (by writer Fernando Gonzalez and with a brief essay by Aslan himself) of the genesis of the project and the peculiarity of the Take Me Dancing! album. It is almost as if the current work cannot stand on its own and needs to be constantly compared to the "monstrosity," in Piazolla's words, that is Take Me Dancing!
Where Pizzolla's record was repetitive and dynamically flat, Aslan has wisely varied the tempos and certainly improved upon the fidelity. Pianist Abel Rogantini has a lyrical quality to his playing that adds much-needed colour to an essentially rhythmic musical style. He, along with Aslan's "re- arrangements," is the true star here, though the entire quintet avails itself well.
As a form, "jazz tango" may be fully realized. Perhaps the only innovations left are to be found in the future integrations of other instruments or traditions with the heavy lifting being done by arrangers and not composers. Piazzolla In Brooklyn is not an essential recording in this artist's or genre's canon, but it is a highly listenable and tasteful representative of where the form stands in 2011. It also re-contextualizes and ultimately redeems a career low point of an important innovator.
La Calle 92; Counterpoint; Dedita; Laura; Lullaby Of Birdland; Oscar Peterson; Plus Ultra; Show Off; Something Strange; Triunfal.
Pablo Aslan: bass; Gustavo Bergalli: trumpet; Nicols Enrich: bandoneon; Daniel "Pipi" Piazzolla: drums; Abel Rogantini: piano.

Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway
Live At The Library Of Congress

By Raul D'Gama Rose
Perhaps no wind instrument can be as expressive as the human voice besides the trombone and clarinet. The litmus test, so to speak, might be to cast either instrument in a silent movie and then to watch the film as the instruments imitate the lives whose stories they tell. Of course the instruments must be played exceptionally well—perhaps trombonist Roswell Rudd and clarinetist Barney Bigard, in days gone by or, if the film were being made today, clarinetist Don Byron or Eddie Daniels. How about adding a piano and having Roger Kellaway sit in? That would be a miraculous film and a life worth living. As a matter of fact, this did happen on February 25, 2011 and now there is a record to prove it. Live at the Library of Congress is the title of what surely must have been one of the most memorable evenings at that august venue.
Daniels is one of the most celebrated modern artists on the clarinet, and along with Don Byron, he has, in fact come to redefine its scope and broadened the timbres of the instrument: Daniels, by extending the upper register, and Byron, by making it sound more like a human voice with the occasional growl and smear in the lower register. Daniels is also one of the great virtuoso players and can play in any idiom, including classical, Latin and jazz. He has dramatic expression and his intonation is bright and curvy, bringing out the woody nature of the instrument with polished tones in a myriad hues. His lines are lilting and he plays in triplets, dazzling runs, and arpeggios. His spectral playing inhabits another world of sound, as if he were sculpting a figure in four dimensions. But here he would use a French curve instead of a set square.
Kellaway and Daniels are soul mates who made the now-classic Memos from Paradise (GRP, 1988). Kellaway is a jazz musician who can elicit as much of an array of emotions as pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy does when playing Frederic Chopin. Kellaway speaks directly to the human soul; he does not "play" the notes on the piano, but caresses them lovingly, making them laugh and cry. His fingers brush them and they jump for joy, or weep with despair. He could just as easily join Daniels to create that moving picture of life, which is exactly what they do on this album.
How else would the two men bring a woman to life on "Etude of a Woman" and "Pretty Women"? Who else besides Daniels and Kellaway could conjure the reflection of light dancing on an edifice and the objet d'art within it as they do on "Capriccio Twilight," on this, the most stately album this year?
Track Listing:
Strike Up The Band; Capriccio Twilight; Somewhere; Rhythm-a-ning; America The Beautiful; Etude Of A Woman/Pretty Woman; Just Friends; A Place That You Want To Call Home; 50 State Rambler.
Personnel: Eddie Daniels: clarinet; Roger Kellaway: piano.

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