Friday, February 22, 2013

1 Sem 2013 - Part Six

Ben Powell
New Street: A Tribute To Stephane Grappelli

By Bill Milkowski
There is something about the tone, the delicate but assured touch, the unique vibrato and soaring filigrees of Ben Powell’s violin playing that immediately conjure up memories of Stephane Grappelli. It’s apparent in the warmly lyrical ballad “Judith” that opens this impressive collection by Powell’s quartet (pianist Tadataka Unno, bassist Aaron Darrell and drummer Devin Drobka), but even more evident in three trio tunes featuring vibraphonist Gary Burton and guitarist Julian Lage: the lilting “Gary,” written for the vibes great by Grappelli in 1969; the wistful ballad “La Chanson des Rues”; and Grappelli’s swinging “Piccadilly Stomp.”
Powell stakes out his own territory on “Monk 4 Strings” and the modernist, time-shifting title track, then engages in fiery call-and-response with Gyspy guitarist Adrien Moignard on a Hot Club-inspired romp through “What Is This Thing Called Love?” There’s also a graceful classical piece, “Sea Shell,” and an alluring bossa-nova arrangement of “La Vie en Rose,” sung in French by Boston vocalist Linda Calise.

Alexis Cole
I Carry Your Heart : Sings Pepper Adams Vol.5

By Larry Taylor
I Carry Your Heart; Alexis Cole Sings Pepper Adams is a stunning piece of work. The lyrics, pure poetry; the music, cerebral and swinging. This creation is even more amazing when seen as part of a five-volume production covering all of baritone sax legend Pepper Adams' work.
Producer Gary Carner got the idea for a digital box set, Joy Road: The Complete Works of Pepper Adams (Volumes 1-5), to be put out on Motéma Music. Subsequent to Cole's vocal CD was Joy Road Sampler (Motéma, 2012), which contains highlights from all four volumes. All discs will be available at a later date.
Carner became interested in the project in the mid-eighties. "Now," he says, "after 28 years of research, it has become a maintain the historical record of his [Pepper's] life and work" Also a meticulously researched Pepper Adams' Joy Road: An Annotated Discography(2012), has been published by Scarecrow Press.
Born in 1930 in Michigan, Adams' career was too short. He was recognized as one of the top performers on his instrument. He began, though, on tenor sax and clarinet. At 16, he moved to Detroit and switched to baritone sax. In 1947 he joined saxophonist Lucky Thompson's band, and later worked with trumpeter Donald Byrd.
His style differed from others, including Gerry Mulligan and Serge Chaloff. On the big, bulky bari, Adams played at the rapid pace of hard bop. Later, he became part of Charles Mingus' band, until the bassist died in 1979. Shortly thereafter he was a founding member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band. Unfortunately, Adams died in 1986.
During his life, he was also a composer of great output and talent. Carner chose to highlight the versatility of Adams' compositions by placing the music in different settings.
He secured Chicago pianist Jeremy Kahn to record Vol.1 in a trio format. Next, he chose Atlanta-based pianist Kevin Bales to assemble a quartet for Vol. 2, with guitarist Barry Greene featured. On Vol. 3, baritone saxophonist Frank Basile, leads a sextet, and on Vol. 4, Carner brought Kahn back with his trio and a special guest, baritone player Gary Smulyan, a devoted Adams follower.
Adams' compositions are sung by the highly rated Cole. The New York-based vocalist was recommended by saxophonist Eric Alexander, who had recorded with her on a Fred Hersch album. For this first ever pairing of his music with words, Carner got poet/lyricist Barry Wallenstein, his friend and mentor at City College of New York (CCNY).
Rearranging Adams' seven ballads to various speeds and styles, and pairing them with Wallenstein's richly literary lyrics, was the task. Cole comes up a winner here with her straightforward interpretations, honoring the integrity of the poetry and always swinging.
The band also deserves special mention, especially the two tenor sax performers, Alexander and Pat LaBarbera. Whether soloing or blending their sound, they excel in mostly long takes.
On "I Carry Your heart," the drums' explosive beat drives a tenor chorus as Cole belts out the lyrics. Another highlight is the swinger, "Now In Our Lives." Again tenors carry on beautifully with superb improvisations, trading bars at the end. With "Urban Dreams," Cole's shows the influence of Mark Murphy and Kurt Elling, as she delivers the lines with vivid melodic embellishments.
"Julian," dedicated to "Cannonball" Adderley, is the longest, at 10 minutes. With its dreamy beginning, it suggests a languid early summer day. Saxophones and drums take off, though, sprinting to a piano foray. All prepare for Cole's winning vocalese refrain.
The volume ends with a reprise of the title tune taken in a lovely up-down, high-low pattern. This release certainly whets the appetite for the remaining four volumes.
In Love With Night; I Carry Your Heart; Now In Our Lives; Urban Dreams; Julian; Civilization And Discontents; Lovers Of Their Time; Reprise: I Carry Your Heart.
Alexis Cole: vocals; Jeremy Kahn: piano; Pat LaBarbera; tenor sax; Eric Alexander: tenor sax; Dennis Carroll: bass; George Fludas: drums.

Claire Martin & Kenny Barron
Too Much In Love To Care

By Christopher Loudon
Claire Martin’s 14th release represents multiple milestones for the British vocalist: her first Stateside recording in 15 years, her first to use exclusively American musicians, her first devoted exclusively to selections from the Great American Songbook and the disc that marks her 20th anniversary with the London-based Linn label. It is also as near-perfect a vocal album as you’re ever likely to hear. Martin, who has always cited Ella Fitzgerald and Shirley Horn as major influences, can rightfully claim a place at their table.
In the liner notes, Martin explains that when performing live she is always aware of the “faint sigh of relief” whenever she sings a familiar tune, hence the all-standards playlist. Among her 13 selections are several of the most-recorded songs of all time—“Embraceable You,” “Time After Time,” “Crazy He Calls Me,” “How Long Has This Been Going On?” and “I Only Have Eyes for You” among them. Less assured singers would be tempted to tart up such chestnuts. But Martin appreciates that great songs are best served straight up, requiring no adornment beyond exceptional accompaniment. And exceptional it is, as shaped by pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Peter Washington (who also played on Martin’s previous New York session, back in 1997), drummer Kenny Washington and saxophonist/flutist Steve Wilson. Like Martin, these fine craftsmen have no interest in grandstanding, remaining individually and collectively content to gently, gorgeously amplify the exquisite beauty of her slightly parched vocals.

Allan Harris & Takana Miyamoto

By Dan Bilawsky
The eternal bond between piano and voice in jazz was cemented long before pianist Bill Evans and vocalist Tony Bennett ever took to the studio together, but they elevated this union of sounds to artistic heights ne'er before attained. Bennett and Evans erased the notions of vocals on top and pianist-as-mere-accompanist with The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album (Fantasy, 1975) and its less glorified follow-up, Together Again (Improv, 1977). They created a synergy in song craft that few before or since have come close to matching. What's even more remarkable, is how stylistically mismatched they technically were. Bennett the extrovert and Evans the introvert don't make for a good match on paper, but on tape they were mesmerizing.
Likewise, vocalist Allan Harris and pianist Takana Miyamoto don't initially come to mind as the perfect candidates to honor the musical collaboration(s) between Bennett and Evans. Harris' warm, brandied baritone brings to mind Nat King Cole rather than Bennett and Miyamoto has a more firm sense of pianistic placement than Evans. But that's beside the point. This pair isn't trying to recreate anything and, instead, look to honor what Evans and Bennett had with their own takes on some of the same material. What they do have in common with that classic coupling is a whole-is-greater-than- the-sum-of-its-parts connection, which makes this album so powerful.
Harris has had plenty of experience working with top-flight pianists, like Bill Charlap, Tommy Flanagan and Eric Reed, and Miyamoto is best known for her work with singers Nnenna Freelon and Rene Marie, so they arrive at this meeting place well equipped for the journey. They immediately establish themselves with an emotionally resonant reading of "My Foolish Heart" and a livelier than expected "Days Of Wine And Roses." Deep connections and confidence in conception are evident from the outset and continue to build on their rapport throughout. "But Beautiful" is colored by myriad shades of emotional color, "The Touch Of Your Lips" moves from sly intimacy to overjoyed shouts from the rooftops, and "Some Other Time" finds the right balance between happiness for what's been had and regret for what hasn't.
Harris' warm and inviting voice is a magnet for the ears, occasionally taking attention away from the idea of piano-and-voice-as-one, but he and Miyamoto usually manage to intertwine their sensibilities into a single, flowing presence. This music never serves as subservient imitation, thus calling this a "tribute" album would diminish what Harris and Miyamoto have created. Convergenceis a gripping program that's best viewed as a companion piece to the Bennett and Evans recordings.
Track Listing: 
My Foolish Heart; Days Of Wine And Roses; But Beautiful; Waltz For Debby; You Don't Know What Love Is; Young And Foolish; The Touch Of Your Lips; You Must Believe In Spring; Some Other Time; We'll Be Together Again.
Allan Harris: vocals; Takana Miyamoto: piano.

David Benoit 

This is not a Jazz album ! His best record is " Letter To Evan ".

By Mike C.
The winning streak continues! Jazz pianist and conductor David Benoit’s Conversation album was released today.
Here are the tracks:
1. Napa Crossroads Overture (3:46) – David and guitarist/vocalist David Pack (previously with the band Ambrosia) wrote this tune two years ago and it finally found a home on Conversation. Pack is featured on guitars with a little help from Pat Kelley.
2. Feelin’ It (3:57)
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (3:07) – This is the theme from the movie of the same name, composed and originally performed by Theodore Shapiro. It featuers a wild guitar solo by Jeff Golub and violin from David’s daughter June.
4. Kei’s Song Redux (4:49) – The title is self-explanatory: it’s a new version of “Kei’s Song,” originally recorded for Freedom at Midnight 25 years ago, but it isn’t exactly a carbon copy.
5. Sunrise On Mansion Row (4:10)
6. You’re Amazing (3:21) – A tribute to David’s friend and site webmaster Jean Wang. In addition to playing flute and piccolo, Tim Weisberg also gave David Lee Roth-esque “shoutouts” like “well, all right!” and “come on!”
7. Q’s Motif (3:11) – “Q” is for Quincy Jones; based on a boogie-woogie motif he wrote. This is my favorite song on the album so far, not just because of the synthesizer solo, but the piano, as well.
8. Let’s Get Ready (4:47)
9. Conversation (From Music For Two Trios) (4:55) – Another self-explanatory title. It’s a musical conversation between pianist Robert Theis, violinist Yun Tang, and cellist Cathy Biagini; and David, bassist David Hughes, and drummer Jamey Tate. The former performed in the classical style while the latter performed in jazz. Will the two trios converge? Listen and find out.
In addition to the musicians mentioned above, you’ll also hear Brad Dutz on percussion, David Sills on tenor and soprano saxophone, and the following classical musicians:
Violinists: Yun Tang, Michelle Wood, Eleanor Dunbar
Violaists: Xiang Wang, Ilona Geller
I highly recommend Conversation. You won’t regret your purchase. And if you’re a diehard jazz fan like me, you’ll be listening again and again and again!

The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet

By Philip Booth
A certain naturalism and hard-earned grace run through the compositions and playing of Cyrus Chestnut, the Baltimore-bred modern-mainstream player best known for his work as a resourceful solo pianist and dynamic leader of trios. But those qualities shine through again on The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet , his first recording as a leader in that format. Joined by recent triomate Dezron Douglas on bass, tenor and soprano saxophonist Stacy Dillard and drummer Willie Jones III, Chestnut unveils a half-dozen new tunes that make worthy additions to his impressive body of originals.
Gospel-blues shades color several pieces, notably “Annibelle Cousins,” its laidback groove driving a slinky melody sounded by Dillard’s tenor and tagged with a seeming nod to the spiritual “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” The piece, one of the album’s highlights, proceeds with a long open section for Douglas’ melodic solo, punctuated with slides and galloping figures, before opening up for sprawling turns by Dillard and Chestnut. Blues textures also liven the medium-tempo groover “Indigo Blue,” featuring another subtle-to-splashy piano turn, and the slow-moving closer, “Mustard,” characterized by a Kind of Blue feel.
Douglas’ contribution, “What’s Happening,” is a zippy bop gem with well-utilized space for Jones, while Barney Wilen’s opening “No Problem” features a catchy head attached to rhythms that switch from Latin-tinged to swing. Chestnut’s other tunes here—the lovely ballad “Dream,” the soprano-led charmers “Waltz for Gene and Carol” and “Solace”—are similarly invigorated with the help of a group of accomplished players whose sensibilities mesh nicely with the leader’s approach.

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