Sunday, March 10, 2013

1 Sem 2013 - Part Nine

Melody Gardot
The Absence

By Christopher Loudon
Three years ago, vocalist and pianist Melody Gardot’s sophomore album, the platinum My One and Only Thrill, confirmed her status as one of the most acclaimed and beloved performers around. Since then, the bulk of her time has been taken up with touring across five continents. Perhaps, given the long wait fans have endured, the title of her third studio release is a coy reference to the old adage about making the heart grow fonder. It also has to do with absence from home, with several of the 11 songs, all written or co-written by Gardot, reflecting on her nonstop travel and the resultant surprises and delights. But The Absence is equally concerned with internal journeys, following her heart down paths of romantic fulfillment and dejection.
Gardot is backed by plenty of lush strings, plus such heavyweights as drummer Peter Erskine and, on select tracks, keyboardist Larry Goldings. But her principal guide and companion on this variegated voyage of discovery is Heitor Pereira, onetime guitarist for Simply Red and celebrated film composer (whose cinematic achievements extend from The Smurfs to The Dark Knight). It’s tempting to compare him to countryman Luiz Bonfá. His playing is as deeply passionate and intimate, his hues as rich and captivating; but Pereira’s palette is wider, which serves Gardot exceptionally well.
Though her fairy-wing fragility remains essential to her unique appeal, propelling “So We Meet Again My Heartache,” “So Long” and “Lisboa,” she has significantly broadened her ambit. Particularly fascinating are the gothic furtiveness of her “Goodbye” and her embodiment of a jaded, Eartha Kitt-esque seductress on “If I Tell You I Love You.” But Gardot and Pereira’s epic achievement is the vibrant denouement “Iemanja,” a joyous open-seas adventure.

Franco Ambrosetti
Cycladic Moods

By Thomas Conrad
If piano is the instrument on which Europeans are most prominent in jazz, trumpet is next: Think Tomasz Stanko, Enrico Rava, Kenny Wheeler and, more recently, Mathias Eick. Franco Ambrosetti is in that mix. He often works in groups led by bassist Miroslav Vitous, where his selective contributions can be striking in their off-center lyricism. But Ambrosetti’s latest album as a leader is more nice than striking. In the current jazz marketplace, flooded with CDs, nice does not get you noticed. In his liner notes, Ambrosetti says that working with Vitous exposed him to “a different, wider and surprising world ... away from the well-known orthodoxy.” Yet Cycladic Moods is often predictable, even generic, within in its category of postmodern modal jazz.
Competency is not an issue. Pianist Geri Allen sounds somewhat under wraps, but her measured forays are poetic. Tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton is conventional yet muscular and fluent. Ambrosetti’s own solos, in his wide range of trumpet colors, are always personal. Drummer Nasheet Waits makes this refined music snap. The only weak link is Ambrosetti’s son Gianluca, with his thin, unattractive soprano saxophone tone.
The centerpiece is not the suite that gives the album its name, but “Mirobop,” a 21-minute breakout on a line by Vitous. This is the track intended to embody the ensemble objectives announced by Ambrosetti in his liner notes: “free improvisation” and “unexpected new paths” based on “intense listening to each other.” But because the spontaneous exchanges conform to familiar patterns of the free-jazz genre, they are less exciting than Ambrosetti intends.
But then you come to the last song, a lovely, fervent reading of Horace Silver’s “Peace” by Ambrosetti and Allen, and you think, perhaps there is no such thing as too many nice jazz albums.

Jessica Molaskey
A Good Day

By Ken Dryden
Jessica Molaskey is a seasoned Broadway performer who also makes a strong impression in tackling classics from the Great American Songbook or reviving pop songs of the 1940s. Her expressive vocals are effective without resorting to gimmickry, and she's backed by a sterling cast of musicians which includes guitarist John Pizzarelli (her husband and the arranger of seven of the songs), father-in-law Bucky Pizzarelli on acoustic guitar, brother-in-law and bassist Martin Pizzarelli, clarinetist Ken Peplowski, and pianist Ray Kennedy, among others. "All the Cats Join In" was made popular by Benny Goodman but has been only sporadically recorded since; Molaskey not only swings it effortlessly but expands upon its original lyrics. Her treatment of a trio of songs written by Peggy Lee and Dave Barbour (another singer/guitarist married couple), especially the cheerful "A Good Day," will help anyone lose the blues.Molaskey's lyrics in the five pieces written with her spouse are priceless, here's an example from "How Come You Ain't Got Me?": "You buy one ticket and you win the down martinis, other folks get blotto." And it's impossible not to be charmed by their lovely ballad "The Girl with His Smile and My Eyes," dedicated to their daughter Madeline Pizzarelli, with the sole accompaniment provided by Kennedy's lush piano. Every track on this highly recommended CD is a gem.

Peter Appleyard
Sophisticated Ladies

By Dan Bilawsky
Peter Appleyard seems to have a way with the ladies. The octogenarian vibraphonist brings his virile mallet work to bear while escorting a dozen lovely songbirds through some smartly arranged standards on this, his second release the span of a few months. Appleyard started off the year by looking toward the past, issuing a previously unreleased all-star jam session from 1974, but his gaze is firmly on the present throughoutSophisticated Ladies. He hobnobs with some of the finest vocalists operating north of the 49th parallel today and a sense of mutual respect for the music and one another comes through in the music.
While astute jazz vocal fans are probably aware that bassist Charlie Haden beat Appleyard to the conceptual punch, releasing his own Sophisticated Ladies (Emarcy, 2011) a year ahead of Appleyard, the basic format and album title are the only thing that these two releases share. Haden's album mixed instrumental pieces and vocal numbers, favoring slow material containing string sweetening and came off as a mostly-manicured set of music with mellow appeal. Appleyard, on the other hand, shares the stage with a singer on every song, covering a wider range of emotions.
The playlist has no surprises, but Rick Wilkins' arrangements have their fair share. Tempo changes, funk-to-swing shifts ("Love For Sale"), double-time adjustments, Brazilian-tinged turns and intimate introductions ("Smile") keep things interesting. Each singer brings something different to the table and Appleyard responds in kind by shaping his solos around the specific songs and singers. Emilie-Claire Barlow shows great range on the slow-to-fast "After You've Gone," Elizabeth Shepherd engages Appleyard in a scat-vibraphone solo trading session, Jackie Richardson's deeply resonant voice takes center stage on a soulful "Georgia On My Mind," Diana Panton turns the lights down low for "Smile" and Sophie Milman takes her time fleshing out the emotional ideals of "If You Could See Me Now." Molly Johnson, who interprets the title track with her smoky and dusky pipes, proves to be the only singer who seems ill-suited to her number.
The female musicians on this album will probably get the lion's share of attention, but Appleyard has top billing for a reason. His vibraphone soloing enlivens and enhances the music. Guitarist Reg Schwager's comping is a key ingredient in the mix, as pianist John Sherwood takes the right tack on every tune, drummer Terry Clarke expertly navigates the through each number and bassist Neil Swainson keeps everything in check.
Appleyard may be 84 now, but his playing doesn't betray that fact. He's clearly young at heart andSophisticated Ladies is the evidence that proves this case.
Track Listing: 
After You've Gone; It's Only A Paper Moon; Love For Sale; Georgia On My Mind; If You Could See Me Now; Sophisticated Lady; Night And Day; Satin Doll; Mood Indigo; Smile.
Peter Appleyard: vibraphone; John Sherwood: piano; Reg Schwager: guitar; Neil Swainson: bass; Terry Clarke: drums; Emilie-Claire Barlow: vocals (1); Elizabeth Shepherd: vocals (2); Jill Barber: vocals (3); Jackie Richardson: vocals (4); Sophie Milman: vocals (5); Molly Johnson: vocals (6); Carol Welsman: vocals (7), piano (7); Barbara Lica: vocals (8); Carol McCartney: vocals (9); Diana Panton: vocals (10).

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