Sunday, July 21, 2013

2 Sem 2013 - Part Four

Di Stéffano
Outros Mares

By Leonardo Barroso
Desde que comecei a ouvir e amar o Jazz, sempre que tenho ideias pré-concebidas sobre algum musico ou CD, esta maravilhosa arte vem e me dá um chute de realidade, aonde o Jazz é livre, belo, forte e sem barreiras.
Estava eu, em uma quinta-feira, comendo um hambúrguer no Genaro Jazz Burger Café ( , aqui em Brasília/DF, esperando o término da aula de Judô de meus filhos, quando chegou um dos músicos que iriam ali se apresentar, na caso o baterista Di Stéffano.
Ao terminar o lanche, fui ao encontro do musico indagando se ele iria tocar Jazz, e assim começou uma agradável e rápida conversa jazzística, e ao final ele me mostrou seu ultimo trabalho, o CD “Outros Mares“.
Eu nada conhecia sobre Di Stéffano, mas o CD mostrava alguns músicos conhecidos (André Mehmari, Arthur Maia, Hamilton Pinheiro, Marcelo Mariano, Ricardo Silveira, etc.). e fui muito desconfiado ouvir.
Esta foi uma das mais agradáveis surpresas que tive em muito tempo, “Outros Mares” é um CD de JAZZ ! O disco tem tudo para eu não gostar: todas as musicas são de autoria de Di Stéffano, foi gravado em vários estúdios (sete no total), com vários e diversos músicos. Porem tudo se encaixa nesta obra, as composições são excelentes, o padrão de gravação é perfeito ao ponto de eu não conseguir distinguir um estúdio do outro.
Que prazer em ouvir um CD de Jazz feito no Brasil, não deixando a desejar de nenhum outro feito no exterior. È um disco que merecia um selo ECM tamanha a beleza de seu todo.
Falando em ECM, na conversa que tive com Di Stéffano, comentei sobre o ultimo CD que havia me deixado da mesma forma, o do também baterista Manu Katché em “Neighbourhood” , que também é um dos favoritos do Di Stéffano.
Mostrando toda a coerência e inspiração que este grande baterista/compositor/arranjador possui, “Outros Mares” é um dos ótimos lançamentos de Jazz em 2013.

Enrico Pieranunzi
Live At The Village Vanguard

By Nat Chinen at NYTimes
One thing musicians often say about playing at the Village Vanguard, New York’s oldest extant jazz club, is that you have to make your peace with the ghosts in the room. What that means has less to do with the spirit realm than with the specters of historical memory shaped by famous recordings and firsthand experiences, and made all the more immediate by the photographic portraits on the wall.
The Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi has surely considered these issues, given his deep admiration for Bill Evans, who was about as closely associated with this club as anyone. But it’s likely that the connection rings clearer than usual this week as he works alongside the bassist Marc Johnson and the drummer Joe La Barbera, otherwise known as the surviving members of Evans’s last trio.
If you know that group, you probably know its brilliant, springy work on “Turn Out the Stars,” a six-CD boxed set recorded at the Village Vanguard in 1980 — a few months before Evans died, at 51 — and eventually released (on Nonesuch, in 1996) to breathless critical acclaim. And if you know those recordings, you might have had a hard time pushing them to the back of your mind during a performance this week.
But Mr. Pieranunzi, 63, is savvy enough to work with that knowledge, bending it to his purposes. He didn’t overstuff his first set on Wednesday night with songs from the Evans repertory, but neither did he try to obscure that pianist’s influence. His opening tune, “Autumn Song,” was an original with a strong whiff of the Evans style — those feathery harmonies, that nifty rhythmic modulation — and right away Mr. Johnson and Mr. La Barbera sounded almost exactly as they did in the same room more than 30 years ago.
This yielded a mildly disorienting sensation that persisted through the second tune, a coolly Evanescent waltz called “The Mood Is Good.” But what followed — “Ornettement,” for Ornette Coleman — handily broke the spell. Mr. Pieranunzi adopted a flintier, more percussive attack, and his partners edged into tougher and more irresolute territory, swinging intrepidly for a while before settling into a pop-gospel backbeat groove.
Mr. Johnson and Mr. La Barbera are still effortlessly effective as a rhythm team, and each delivered smart and punchy solo commentary. Mr. Johnson was the trio’s most consistently engaging improviser, bounding across the full register of his instrument; he was also its linchpin, the person with whom both of the other players have ample history.
Gradually the set took on its own character; by the time it arrived at a Nino Rota-esque original called “Fellini’s Waltz,” there was no doubting that Mr. Pieranunzi was in control.
Which may have been all the assurance he needed to tip his hat: first with a spare but sumptuous interpretation of “These Foolish Things,” and finally, during the encore, with “Solar,” one of the jazz standards Evans explored often in his final years. It was tackled here with emphatic license, even if it ultimately felt like an offering.

Edward Simon Trio
Live In New York At Jazz Standard

By John Kelman
Some artists maintain a busy release schedule, putting out an album a year—sometimes, in the case of musicians like guitarist Bill Frisell, even more frequently—while others, for a variety of reasons, are less prolific. Pianist Edward Simon has, in recent years, been issuing albums with broader distribution under his own name—which automatically discounts 2010's independently released but undeniably fine Danny Boy—about once every three years on labels ranging from The Netherlands' Criss Cross to Italy's Cam Jazz. Live in New York at Jazz Standard is the third in a consecutive string of recordings to feature his seven year-old trio with bassist John Patitucci and ubiquitous drummer Brian Blade, but it's both his first live recording and the first to be issued on the American Sunnyside imprint. Sometimes, making your fans wait is a good thing; in this case, Simon's set, recorded at New York's Jazz Standard—drawing primarily from Unicity (Cam Jazz, 2006) and from Poesia (Cam Jazz, 2009), but also containing a surprise or two—has unequivocally been worth the wait, and continues to position the ever-inventive pianist as one of his generation's most watch-worthy.
In a recent discussion with Richie Beirach, the pianist suggested that one of the characteristics of "real improvisers" is being motif-driven and, while his statement might be a controversial one that will engender plenty of discussion and debate, it certainly fits Simon's approach. Whether soloing in the somewhat more constricted (time-wise) confines of the recording studio or stretching out as he does here, Simon has always been a thoughtful player whose solos often build from evolving motifs; cerebral, even, but as evidenced on tunes like the irregularly metered, Latin-esque "Pere"—the modal set-closer, drawn from a much earlier collaboration with saxophonist David Binney, Afinidad (RED, 2001)—the pianist proves that music of the head need not preclude the heart, as his solo builds, carefully, considerately, inevitably, to its climactic conclusion before settling into an ostinato-based feature for Blade, a name for whom the term "incendiary" has always been a synonym. Dynamic, but peppered with thunderous crashes and audible whoops and hollers, Blade's as unfettered as it gets—a player, in some ways, the antithesis of Simon in his almost entirely instinctive approach—and, perhaps, the very reason they work so well together.
Patitucci—whose early years were spent largely in fusion and near-smooth jazz territory with artists like pianists Chick Corea and David Benoit, and saxophonist Eric Marienthal—has completely reinvented himself over the past decade, largely through his work in saxophonist Wayne Shorter's quartet (also with Blade), heard recently on the exploratory excellence of Without a Net (Blue Note, 2013). Here, he proves himself equally imaginative, whether swinging with unrelenting fervor on Simon's set-opening title track from Poesia, or contributing soaring arco to the more abstract terrain of the pianist's "Pathless Path," from Unicity, stretched here to nearly three times its original length. Bookended by a first-time look at Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Chovendo na Roseira"—beginning with an a cappella pizzicato solo from Patitucci that leads to a more pulse-driven but still ethereal reading, only settling into more recognizable reverence halfway through its nearly 14-minute duration—and Simon's ambling take on saxophonis John Coltrane's change-driven rite of passage, "Giant Steps," first heard on Poesia, "Pathless Path" becomes the dramatic centerpiece to Live's hour-long set.
Simon remains a busy player, in particular with his ongoing work as a member of the SFJAZZ Collective, last heard live and on record performing the music of soul legend Stevie Wonder, and in the Ninety Miles (Concord, 2011) touring band, with vibraphonist Stefon Harris, saxophonist David Sanchez and trumpeter Nicholas Payton (replacing the album's Christian Scott), which clocked considerable road time in 2012 includinga terrific stop at the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival. He may not release his own albums as often as some might like, but when a record like Live in New York at Jazz Standard comes along—a stellar date that combines head and heart, mainstream and more eclectic concerns, and appealing, broad-reaching originals with distinctive arrangements of well-known standards, all played by a trio clearly at the top of its game—then all is forgiven and, while waiting for Simon's next release, there's a growing discography with one more fine entry to return to, time and again.
Track Listing:
Poesia; Chovendo na Roseira; Pathless Path; Giant Steps; Pere.
Edward Simon: piano; John Patitucci: bass; Brian Blade: drums.

Holly Cole

By Mike Doherty
The most interesting people, Holly Cole says, are “bundles of contradictions.” Curled up on her living room couch in downtown Toronto, she’s talking specifically about avant-blues iconoclast Captain Beefheart, whose song Love Lies she covers on her new album,Night — but she might as well be describing herself.
The Halifax-born chanteuse grew to fame in the early ’90s as a seemingly old-fashioned, long-glove-wearing interpreter of standards who nonetheless would often subvert the songs she sang. On her debut album, Girl Talk, she belted out the title track as an exaggerated parody of dated, sexist mores, and she delivered the vivacious Petula Clark anthem Downtown as if it were called Downcast. The practice continues on Night, as she sings Viva Las Vegas (of Elvis Presley fame) from the point of view of someone rather jaded: “There’s part of you that really loves [Vegas], but you know what’s coming: the guys with diapers and people who’ve been up for three days and have sold their daughter’s college fund.”
Subtext, she says, is her “best friend,” but her knowing approach leaves room for genuine-sounding emotion, and Night comes across as a personal collection indeed. In part, it’s a love letter to the wee hours, her “most creative time.” Her earliest memory is of her father, CBC broadcaster Leon Cole, taking her out into the misty Maritime air at 4 a.m., when she was three years old, to calm a cough: “There’s no people, and nothing there under the moonlight and the hazy street lights … I felt like I had the most beautiful and amazing secret.” Many of Night’s lyrics are set after dark, and they also tend (Elvis aside) to be introspective.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

2 Sem 2013 - Part Three

Jesse Stacken
Bagatelles For Trio

By Ben Ratliff
The Brooklyn jazz pianist Jesse Stacken has led a trio with the bassist Eivind Opsvik and drummer Jeff Davis since 2005. He’s fascinated by rules, and lately he’s been into writing daily or weekly études and self-challenging exercises; on “Bagatelles for Trio” he uses his band to carry out 13 plotted pieces that cut between languages of improvisation and composition. You don’t remember the tunes so much as the ideas behind them. They drive the pieces, introduce various kinds of improvisation into them, bring them to a close. (He’s into Schoenberg, and a few of these use the 12-tone system; he’s also into Morton Feldman, and “Bagatelle No. 5” achieves his slow, floating-sound ideal). Looks fine on paper, but the tacit challenges almost outweigh the articulated ones: in doing this he’s got to make the individual pieces sound like more than the sum of their ideas, and he’s got to sequence them into an album with some narrative or development or flow. I think he’s done it. This is a sharp, well-practiced group, making generous, voluptuous subtleties out of formal ingredients.

Ben Wolfe
No Strangers Here

By Troy Collins
Ever since the seminal Charlie Parker With Strings (Mercury 1950), numerous artists have attempted to add symphonic strings to jazz ensembles. Some have succeeded, but many have failed to capture a proper balance, resulting in string arrangements that sound superfluous.
Bassist Ben Wolfe's fifth album, No Strangers Here, is one example of a successful merger of two worlds—acoustic jazz quartet and classical string quartet. A compelling bassist, Wolfe came to prominence as a sideman for Harry Connick Jr., Wynton Marsalis and Diana Krall. He currently teaches at Julliard and is a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Augmenting a jazz combo with strings is not a novel idea for Wolfe, whose previous album, My Kinda Beautiful (Planet Arts Records, 2004) featured a brass heavy jazz octet with an eight piece string section. An extended suite, "From Here I See," was commissioned by the Rubin Museum and revolved around a jazz quartet/string quartet combo. Another long-form composition, "Contradiction: Music for Sextet" was the result of a commission from Chamber Music America.
Wolfe's core quartet features saxophonist Marcus Strickland, pianist Luis Perdomo and drummer Greg Hutchinson, all rising stars on the New York scene who execute Wolfe's tightly arranged compositions with palpable commitment and panache. In addition, Wolfe regularly augments the quartet with a traditional string quartet, as well as a handful of special guests.
At their most vigorous, Wolfe's pieces recall the forward thinking hard-bop of a mid-60s Blue Note date. "The Minnick Rule" and "Circus" are labyrinthine swingers filled with hairpin rhythmic shifts and understated string accents that resound with dramatic flair. A nostalgic air often permeates the session; the subtly integrated strings reinforce Wolfe's romantic side by adding a layer of euphonious lyricism to his sumptuous writing, most notably on the title track and "Blue Envy."
The special guest appearances are well integrated. Terell Stafford's buttery trumpet soars on the spirited opening cut and offers supportive nuance on the wistful closer. Saxophonist Branford Marsalis and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts provide muscle to the escalating drama of the noirish "The Filth" while Marsalis' soprano waxes lyrical on the effervescent "Milo." Victor Goines enriches the lush "Blue Envy" with his poetic bass clarinet.
The album's string quartet tour-de-force, "Rosy & Zero," regales with expansive sonorities. Alternating austere chamber music inflected excursions with blistering post-bop interludes, the piece unfolds like a long lost, albeit highly successful, Third Stream experiment.
From bittersweet nostalgia to cinematic drama, No Strangers Here encapsulates an array of moods, textures and dynamics. Reminiscent of the string augmented ensembles of Max Roach and Charles Mingus, Wolfe's double quartet emboldens the jazz tradition with neo-classical overtones, yet never fails to swing. To quote Wynton Marsalis, "Ben Wolfe swings with authority."
Track Listing:
The Minnick Rule; No Strangers Here; Milo; No Pat No; The Filth; Circus; Blue Envy; Rosy & Zero; Jackie Mac; Groovy Medium.
Ben Wolfe: bass; Marcus Strickland: tenor and soprano saxophone; Luis Perdomo: piano; Greg Hutchinson: drums; Cyrus Beroukhim: violin; Jesse Mills: violin; Kenji Bunch: viola; Wolfram Koessell: cello; Branford Marsalis: tenor and soprano saxophone (3, 5); Terell Stafford: trumpet (1, 10); Victor Goines: bass clarinet (7); Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums (5).

Hiromi's Sonicbloom
Beyond Standard

By Jeff Winbush
There's only one problem reviewing an album by Hiromi Uehara, but it's a big one.
You can quickly run out of superlatives.
On Beyond Standard, her fifth album and the second one under the group name Hiromi's Sonicbloom, the always adventuresome pianist doesn't so much pay tribute to standards such as Duke Ellington's "Caravan" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things" as break them apart, put them back together in a way that best pleases her and generally deconstruct the whole idea of paying homage to old songs.
What's the point of slavishly recreating note-for-note an old chestnut like "My Favorite Things"? It's not as if it can be improved, so why not just have some fun with it?
With the addition of guitarist David "Fuze" Fiuczynski, the band is able to go places it had previously been unable to on Brain (Telarc, 2004) and Spiral (Telarc, 2006), which is most evident in the reworking of Uehara's own "XYZ." The song is reincarnated here as "XYG," or "reborn with guitar," as the track notes indicate.
Fiuczynski's guitar excursions seem more attuned to his band mates here than on his debut with Hiromi's Sonicbloom, the ambitious, but occasionally messy, Time Control (Telarc, 2007). Fiuczynski can play his axe like nobody's business, but is guilty of overplaying on occasion and pummeling the listener with a sonic assault. He hasn't mellowed on Beyond Standard as much as he has learned the virtues of restraint.
"XYG" and a torrid version of Jeff Beck's fusion classic "Led Boots" not only give Fiuczynski ample opportunity to stretch a bit, their inclusion faithfully keeping with her refusal to be pigeonholed into any tidy categories. The rhythm section of bassist Tony Grey and drummer Martin Valihora deserves a shout-out or two as well as both are as versatile and virtuosic as their band mates.
It must be a matter of synchronicity that, at the time when the power quartet of Chick Corea, Al Di Meola, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White are touring again as Return to Forever, Hiromi's Sonicbloom is making a serious bid to be the Young Turk, picking up where RTF left off and taking it even further.
Because this is Hiromi we're talking about here, there has to be at least one slightly loopy example of inspired insanity, and here it's the nearly six-minute solo piano of "I've Got Rhythm" that is equal parts dazzling and dizzying.
This is not just a good album; it's a fun album. The absolute nuttiness, yet undeniable proficiency and technique on display on tracks like "I've Got Rhythm" and "Claire De Lune" serve as cheerful additions to Uehara's efforts on Beyond Standard.
At some point in her career, Hiromi Uehara may mail it in and make a half-hearted or lousy record. But so far she's five-for-five in producing music that is unfailingly brilliant, innovative, radiant and clever. Hiromi's Sonicbloom is a shot of adrenalin for tired musical tastes.
Track Listing: 
Intro: Softly As in a Morning Sunrise; Softly As in a Morning Sunrise; Clair De Lune; Caravan; Ue Wo Muite Aruko; My Favorite Things; Led Boots; XYG; I've Got Rhythm.
Hiromi Uehara: piano, keyboards; David Fiuczynski: fretted and fretless guitar; Tony Grey: bass; Martin Valihora: drums.

Ben Wendel & Dan Tepfer
Small Constructions

By Chris Barton
Though Ben Wendel and Dan Tepfer could be considered newcomers as compared with 75-year-old saxophone master Charles Lloyd (who also recently released a duet album, "Hagar's Song," with pianist Jason Moran), they show as much restless invention on "Small Constructions."
While still a duet, the album lives up to its name with some judicious multi-tracking, allowing Wendel (co-leader of the genre-skipping jazz-rock group Kneebody) to seamlessly switch to melodica and bassoon, such as "Still Play," the opener, and "Gratitude," which expands with a quiet grace. Tepfer, who justly earned raves in 2011 for tackling and then improvising to Bach's Goldberg Variations, is as much a standout with the insistent "Nines" and the tumbling "Rygabag."

Karen Souza
Hotel Souza

By Nicholas F. Mondello
There is a 19th Century short story by author Frank Stockton entitled, The Lady, or the Tiger? The hook of that work is the teaser leave-you-hanging ending: is there a Lady or the man-eating Tiger behind the door that is selected and "opened." WithHotel Souza, her second CD, Buenos Aires-based vocalist Karen Souza leaves little to the imagination. This hotel has musical rooms of exquisite talent, beauty, elegance and intimacy.
Displaying sensuality without a cloying phoniness, Souza delivers eleven beautifully-performed and impeccably-arranged songs, backed here by some of L.A.'s "usual suspects." The result is a marvelously entertaining tour d' hote.
Souza's voice is one of elegant restraint and sensuousness. Hers is not an overpowering vocal presence, but rather, a very inviting one. She seduces deliciously with gentleness and whisper-to-the mic sultriness. That feeling is pervasive across an interesting selection of ballads, bossas (Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Dindi"), softer swing ("Delectable You," "Full Moon") and soft-rock grooves ("Night Demon"). She hits a soulful home run with a dark blue rendition of Marvin Gaye's classic, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," recorded here with members of Gaye's original band. The Joel McNeely arrangements are slick and frame Souza well without over-dominating her. That savvy set-up allows Souza's lyric and tonal skills to dominate. Her diction, phrasing, dynamic nuance and intonation are exceptional.
In addition to her song-styling chops, the compositions Souza co- authored here—eight of them, demonstrate that she has a flair for the melodic and poetic. The ensemble and brief solo outings across the board are First Class and without studio sterility.
The famous Michelin Travel Guide may rate the world's hotels and attractions and not musical fare. Perhaps if they did, Hotel Souza would score extremely well. Select any musical door here and a Lady of exuberant talent and taste awaits.
Track Listing: 
Paris; Night Demon; My Foolish Heart; Delectable You; Break My Heart; I Heard It Through the Grapevine; Wake Up; I've Got It Bad; Full Moon; Dindi; Lie to Me.
Karen Souza: vocals; Alan Pasqua, Tom Ranier: piano; Trey Henry: bass; Larry Koonse, John Goux: guitar; Jaime Branly, Ralph Humphrey: drums; Steve Kujala, Brian Scanlon, Dan Higgins: woodwinds; Rick Baptist, Wayne Bergeron: trumpets; alan Kaplan: trombone; Brian Kilgore: percussion; Roger Wilke: Concertmaster; Track 6: "I Heard It through the Grapevine": Dany Thomas: acoustic piano, Hammond V3, keyboards;Andre De Santana: arranger, electric and upright bass; James Gadson: drums; Edgar Sandoval Violin; Horns: Miguel Gandelman: sax; Ray Monteiro: trumpet; Garrett Smith: trombone.

Eldar Djangirov Trio

By Motema
Eldar's Breakthrough, recorded at Avatar Studios in New York City, releases April 9. Like the 26-year-old's 2009 disc Virtue, it features his long-standing touring trio with bassist Armando Gola and drummer Ludwig Afonso. Breakthrough breaks through to reinforce just how powerful and poignant a road tested jazz trio of young lions can be.
Captured live in the studio, Breakthrough exudes compositional brilliance, improvisation and interplay. The trio pushes the envelope on Eldar's "Point of View Redux," and features guest vibraphonist Joe Locke on the pianist's dizzying "Blink" and saxophonist Chris Potter on Eldar's impressively layered title track. Eldar's arrangements of Irving Berlin's ballad "What'll I Do" and the whimsical Redd Evans/David Mann composition "No Moon at All" feature electric bassist Gola switching to an acoustic upright instrument, playing evocative lines as Afonso eschews drumsticks to provide stirring brushwork. There's even a telekinetic cover of British pop band Radiohead's "Morning Bell."
"There's a special connection within this trio," Eldar says. "It feels like we're all playing one single instrument." All the more remarkable as this youthful unit plays at exhilarating speeds and yet maintains a distinctly heartfelt touch.

2 Sem 2013 - Part Two

Heather Masse & Dick Hyman
Lock My Heart 

By C. Michael Bailey
Vocalist/songwriter Heather Masse received her didactic training at the New England Conservatory of Music and her practicum on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. Her academy training was in jazz vocals, but her practical experience reflects more folk- flavored fare. Her previous recording, Bird Song (Red House, 2009), was a well- received collections of folk originals, solidifying Masse's folk bona fides established with the wildly popular Wailin' Jennys. Her voice is user friendly, neither over-practiced nor hyper-informed by her education. She is comfortable in her voice. It was inevitable that Masse would return to jazz in the studio, only a matter of time.
That said, only a most impeccable talent could have been tapped for Masse's jazz disc. Not some flashy pianist like the late Oscar Peterson nor an impressionistic player like Brad Mehldau; no, neither of those would do. What Masse's talent and vision requires is an equally informed and experienced musician who could bring a broad horizontal knowledge of jazz piano...and she found that in Dick Hyman. As a mainstay in the music for 60 years, Hyman is proficient in every jazz piano style and brings exactly the skills set necessary for a Heather Masse recording of standards.
From the outset, this recital is something out of the ordinary. First, Masse is liberal and permissive with her treatment of the material. However, that is not to say that she is reckless. Quite the opposite: Masse's superb training has enabled her to bring out the commonalities in music, from the doo wop in "Since I Fell For You" to the stride-blues extravaganza of "Our Love Is Here To Stay." Hyman easily falls into the groove and even guides Masse empathically through these songs, a coalescence of musical vision and sound.
Masse's voice is perfectly natural and fresh—lush and supple. She is neither married to the melody nor has the compulsion to show off vocal fireworks. She is relaxed as opium and honey, yet is as exacting as a mathematical equation. Her treatment of Kurt Weill's "September Song" and "Lost In The Stars" reveal Masse's soft touch for difficult material. It does the same for Hyman's playing, which is as impressionistic as it is expressionistic. Hyman can simply play anything...well. He gives Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" a barrel-house flavor with a walking left hand. His solo is all 1960s soul jazz crossed with James P. Johnson. Masse belts it out with a commanding sexuality and aplomb.
Lock My Heart is a beginning...a beginning of a survey Masse will be making expertly through the Great American Songbook. To think that this is all there will be from the jazzy Heather Masse is unacceptable.
Track Listing: 
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered; Lullaby of Birdland; Since I Fell for You; Love is Here to Stay; September Song; Lost In The Stars; Love for Sale; If I Called You; I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good; A Flower is a Lovesome Thing; Morning Drinker; I’m Gonna Lock My Heart (And Throw Away the Key).
Heather Masse: vocals; Dick Hyman: piano.

Charles Lloyd & Jason Moran
Hagar's Song

By Lloyd Sachs at JazzTimes
When jazz historians look back on this era, one of the things they’ll highlight is the transcendent role played by two young piano greats in support of two resurgent tenor legends: Danilo Pérez in Wayne Shorter’s quartet and Jason Moran in Charles Lloyd’s. It’s difficult to overestimate the imprint the pianists have made on these special bands while serving the sound and vision of the leaders.
The unique give-and-take between Lloyd and Moran comes into bold relief on Hagar’s Song, their first duo album following three with the quartet, the last of which also featured Greek singer Maria Farantouri. Lloyd, who turned 75 in March, and Moran, 38, couldn’t have more different artistic resolutions: The saxophonist thrives on a centered, spiritually driven, Zen-like approach, sticking close to melodies that he worries with slippery arpeggios and sudden thickenings of tone, while the pianist is a rhythmically driven innovator with an appetite for music from all eras and genres.
What Lloyd and Moran share is an unerring ability to get to the emotional heart of a song, and that’s where their contrasting attacks converge, whether plugging into the bluesy melancholy of the Billie Holiday staple “You’ve Changed” or stepping out freestyle on Earl Hines’ “Rosetta,” which Lloyd heats with streaming notes and Moran lifts with buoyant, Hines-like clusters.
Hagar’s Song is essentially two albums in one: a selection of smartly reworked jazz standards and pop classics, and a nearly 30-minute tone poem, Hagar Suite. From a programming standpoint, it might have made more sense to put the song treatments together rather than have them divided by the suite. Atmospherically and thematically, the five-part work inhabits a different sphere. In it, Lloyd reflects on a painful chapter in his family history: the sale of his great-great-grandmother from one Southern slave owner to another when she was 10. A cycle of anger, mourning, resilience and ultimate redemption, it draws upon African-American spirituals, Native-American folk and Eastern mysticism. Lloyd alternates between alto and bass flutes and alto and tenor saxophones, while Moran plays as much of a percussive role as a harmonic one, projecting dark emotion with hammered block chords and repeated bass notes.
But it’s difficult to resist an album that opens with two songs from the Ellington canon—a spare, caressing “Pretty Girl” (the Strayhorn gem better known as “The Star-Crossed Lovers”) and a stride-kissed, wide-open arrangement of “Mood Indigo”—and closes with heartfelt renditions of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” and Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows.” No artist is more qualified to bridge jazz standards and ’60s rock classics than Lloyd. The most popular jazz artist during the original psychedelic era, he played on recordings by the Beach Boys (as well as the Doors and Canned Heat) before disappearing in the ’70s. Since staging his remarkable comeback in the ’90s, he has refined his tenor sound to sometimes-ghostly effect, making up for his lack of lung power with his luminous intensity.
The Dylan and Beach Boys covers draw power from their simplicity. With his gentle reading of the melodies, Lloyd turns “I Shall Be Released” into a heartfelt memorial for Levon Helm (who immortalized the song with the Band) and converts “God Only Knows” from a romantic ode to a spiritual one. On both pop classics, Moran plays a stripped-down supporting role, accenting the songs with taut, chiming notes and subtle gospel accents. But he has the last word: a perfect classical flourish at the end of “God Only Knows” that leaves artists and listeners alike in a state of grace.

Eric Alexander

By Jack Bowers
Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander has chosen an intriguing title for his latest recording on HighNote Records, as Touching can not only be used as a verb or an adjective, whose meanings differ widely, but in this case is also a blues (by pianist Bobby Lyle), the opening salvo in an album of ballads and blues that lays bare Alexander's warmer side. For those who've grown accustomed to the tenor virtuoso's formidable technique and quicksilver phrases, this may come as a revelation. Even though best known for up-tempo skirmishes Alexander has always been as comfortable among ballads as he is with barn-burners, and proves to be as resourceful and interesting in a chillier climate as he is in the tropics.
To steer away from producing just another "ballad album," Alexander and pianist / mentor / colleague Harold Mabern hand-picked a list of songs that, with one exception, are rarely if ever performed by jazz artists. The exception is John Coltrane's soulful "Central Park West," whose contrast here is provided by Alexander's tenor sax, as opposed to Coltrane's soprano. Besides "Touching," the session embodies themes by Michael Jackson ("Gone Too Soon"),Michel Legrand ("The Way She Makes Me Feel"), the R&B group the Chi-Lites ("Oh Girl"), pop songs associated with Nat King Cole ("Dinner for One Please, James"), Frank Sinatra ("The September of My Years") and one standard, Jimmy Dorsey's "I'm Glad There Is You."
Even on slower themes, Alexander's nimble fingers aren't entirely missing in action, and he designs some intricate dance moves through "Central Park" and on "I'm Glad There Is You" (which is further enhanced by Mabern's playful piano). Mabern, who solos adeptly throughout, plays the melodica on the front and back ends of "Oh Girl," which closes the album with a fade. While Alexander and Mabern are a splendid duo, this is a quartet date, and it couldn't work without the solid groundwork of bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth, who with Mabern have been members of Alexander's working group for roughly twenty years. They lend their indispensable support on all but one track, "Dinner for One Please, James."
While Touching is an explicit departure from Alexander's usual modus operandi, it is one that he and his companions embrace without pause, and there is an abundance of charming music here, further enhanced by the engineering skills of one of the masters, Rudy Van Gelder.
Track Listing: 
Touching; Gone Too Soon; The Way She Makes Me Feel; Dinner for One Please, James; Central Park West; I’m Glad There Is You; The September of My Years; Oh Girl.
Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone; Harold Mabern: piano; John Webber: bass (1-3, 5-7); Joe Farnsworth: drums (1-3, 5-7).

Claude Tissendier
Countissimo: A Basie Vocal Celebration

By Norman Darwen
This is one for the jazzers of course, but Count Basie always had one of the bluesiest of the big swing bands and that is certainly reflected on this set. Claude Tissendier leads an excellent French swing octet – in a blind-fold test, it would be identified at the Count Basie Orchestra every time! - and vocalists Marc Thomas and Michele Hendricks (daughter of Jon Hendricks, who first did vocal reinterpretations of Basie in 1957) - scat, sing, swing and harmonise their way through some of the classics of the Count's repertoire. For me, the more up tempo material works best, but the slower ballads occasionally brought Charles Brown to mind. This is not all blues material but as I said, if you have leanings towards jazz, this release is sure to please.

Ivan Lins & SWR Big Band/Ralf Schmid

By Dave Gelly
Hugely popular in his native Brazil, Ivan Lins can write charming songs of such harmonic subtlety that some have hailed him as the successor to Antonio Carlos Jobim. But he can also overdo the sentiment embarrassingly. This set with the SWR Big Band of Stuttgart has its sugary moments, but there is more of Lins at his best. Much of this is thanks to the cool, delicate orchestrations of Ralf Schmid and some beautiful work by the band's soloists, notably saxophonist Andi Maile and trumpeter Joo Kraus. The latter is featured in a rare Lins instrumental, a tribute to Miles Davis.

By SunnySide
A musician’s cornucopía is exuberant imagination, musicality, and creativity. The way Ivan Lins and the SWR Big Band combine two different musical worlds on the new recording Cornucopía has the potential to become a milestone. According to the Brazilian legend, the recording might be the best he has ever made. This applies to the SWR Big Band and conductor/arranger Ralf Schmid, who are following up on the previous Bossarenova album in the uncompromising pursuit of their very own musical mode of expression, which includes electronic elements. It is a grandiose mélange from Brazil and Germany, from Rio de Janeiro and Stuttgart – home of the SWR Big Band.
Lins has been a celebrated part of Brazilian popular music’s story for the past three decades. He has not only been recognized as one of Brazil’s favorite performers but has become one of the legendary songwriters of his generation. As many of Lin’s compositions have found their way into the jazz canon, it is only fitting that his work be arranged for big band performance. It is with Ralf Schmid and the Südwestrundfunk Big Band that this has finally been made possible.
“Cornucopía…. That is a phenomenal album,” says Lins. “The SWR Big Band is the most astonishing music ensemble of its kind that I have ever played with. They invest in different rhythms, engaging in intensive percussion work, using new technologies, and daring arrangements going well beyond the familiar standards. And despite these differences, it all sounds truly wonderful.”
Nonetheless, we must not forget that the models for this are all from Ivan’s pen. What Lins’s fans in particular will enjoy: most of the tracks are compositions that have never been released. The very first track, the African-influenced “Araketutu” is a sun-drenched listen and reflects the spirit of this production just as much as the atmospherically dense “Atlantida,” sung by Paula Morelenbaum.
The new album has a total of 13 songs. Discoveries include “Carroussel de Bata” and “Todo Mundo” or Ivan’s declaration of love to his home city of Rio de Janeiro in the “Samba de Vison.”
Cornucopía is also a love story. Lins and Schmind’s first meeting was around 2 years ago in the Botanical Gardens of Lisbon. Shortly before Lins was due to fly back to Brazil, Ralf Schmid and the manager of the SWR Big Band, Hans-Peter Zachary, met with him for a working lunch. The basics of the collaboration were discussed and an initial work phase followed in southern Germany’s Freiburg in the winter of 2011. Ivan made suggestions during the week. Then it was Ralf Schmid’s job to choose from the incredible wealth of the songs that you can now hear on this album.
The first session was recorded in a studio session but it became clear that the live character of the music was the decisive factor. This led to a legendary recording session in the Stuttgart SWR radio studio in March 2012. The four recording rooms were fully occupied: alongside Lins, Schmid, and the SWR Big Band, Wolfgang Haffner played drums along with percussionists Roland Peil, Edmundo Carneiro, and Jorge Brasil, who were rattling and shaking for all they were worth. Then the following happened: first the music rose and fell, then floated over the room with such lightness that everybody involved was certain of being part of something very special.
1 - Araketutu 2 - Awa Yiô 3 - Atlantida 4 - Todo Mundo 5 - Oi Lua 6 - Carrossel Do Bate-Coxa
7 - Samba De Vison 8 - Missing Miles 9 - Trem Bom 10 - Estrela Guia 11 - Pontos Cardeais
12 - Roda Baiana 13 - Guantanamineira

Halie Loren
After Dark

By William Ruhlmann
Halie Loren conceives a new style of jazz singer on her fourth album, After Dark. While the lively alto is not averse to putting her own stamp on evergreens like "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "In a Sentimental Mood," her conception also extends to songs borrowed from various branches of the pop/rock era including folk-rock singer/songwriters (Tracy Chapman's "Give Me One Reason" and Joni Mitchell's "Carey"), pop/R&B (Stevie Wonder's "Happier Than the Morning Sun"), and country-pop (Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe"). She is also willing to take on material closely associated with notable interpreters (Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Waters of March," Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose"), and to mix in the occasional composition of her own. The package is not as eclectic as all that might make it seem, since Loren sticks to one of two sets of backup musicians, either cutting in her own studio in Eugene, Oregon, with her stage trio (pianist Matt Treder, bassist Mark Schneider, and percussionist Brian West) or outside Nashville with such noted local jazzers as guitarist Jack Jezzro and bassist Jim Ferguson. They find the jazz feel in such seemingly unlikely material as "Ode to Billie Joe," given a bass/drums accompaniment with some sax work by Bryan Cumming, and "Give Me One Reason," which actually is simple enough to provide a platform for improvisation. Throughout, Loren sings with a light touch, even when she's dipping into Portuguese, French, or Italian. When she takes on the classical crossover standard "Time to Say Goodbye," the nominal closing song ("Carey" is billed as a "bonus track"), it has none of the histrionics applied by the likes of Andrea Bocelli. Loren and her musicians never lose sight of their duty to entertain, and that keeps this lengthy, varied set floating along to its conclusion.

2 Sem 2013 - Part One

Nadje Noordhuis

By CdBaby
An arthouse jazz album combining cinematic sweep, transportive emotion and rich melodic grandeur. Her deeply-felt, clarion tone and evocative compositional gift meld classical rigor, jazz expression, and world music accents.
As the tender opening strains of “Water Crossing” bloom into a symphonic expression of hope and lush grandeur, a virtual film is projected onto the mind’s eye. This musical evocation of a young woman’s voyage over a vast ocean into a new horizon reflects the path taken by trumpeter/composer Nadje Noordhuis, who journeyed from her native Australia to the jazz mecca of New York.

Carol Robbins

By Hrayr Attarian 
The harp is certainly rare in jazz and so its role in a traditional combo is not well defined. Alice Coltrane
, for example used it as a supplement to her keyboards, while Adele Girard, played it like a boogie woogie piano. Others like Janet Putnam and Betty Glamann were relegated to a rhythm guitar role in bands—very few approached it as a frontline instrument. Of those few, perhaps, the most preeminent representative is Dorothy Ashby who revolutionized the harp, taking it out of afternoon tearooms and into nocturnal jazz clubs.
On Carol Robbins' Moraga—her fourth album as a leader— she follows in Ashby's footsteps by bringing a unique voice not only to the harp but also to the music as a whole.
Intense poetry and lyricism permeate the entire album. The gorgeous original ballad "Three Rings" is a lancholic troubadour song with Gary Meek
's clarinet softly whistling the tune over Robbins' complex harmonies that contrast and complement Larry Koonse's flamenco like guitar.
Robbins and Koonse feature also on the intimate Bossa Nova "Caminhos Cruzados" as their strings weave a fragile yet beautiful serenade around the melody. Robbins also duets with pianist Billy Childs on the surreal lullaby "Rotadendron"—a musical fairy tale that ends in a tango and that conjures images of magical beings flying in a starry night's sky. The standard "Every Time We Say Goodbye" transforms into a nocturne with a deep vibe as Robbins' romantic tones mirror Darek Oles' walking bass lines.
Robbins' skills as a composer match her virtuosity as an improviser and interpreter. Her ethereal sound, colored the right amount of blue and peppered by Latin hints, creates a romantic mysticism on the title track. Childs' smooth flowing pianism and Meek's mellifluous saxophone enhance the mood. The up-tempo, boppish "Straight away" is a multifaceted opus where Childs' soulful keys and Robbins' almost Zen like strumming, alternate with Meek's joyous clarinet and Gary Novak's polyrhythmic drumming. The piece ends in an exuberant and angular group play.
This one of a kind record joins the handful of jazz-harp classics, like Ashby's In a Minor Groove and Deborah Henson-Conant 'Round the Corner in transcending both instrument and genre. It is simply delightful and a stimulating disc that should easily stand the test of time.
Track Listing: 
Moraga; The Sand Rover; Three Rings; Dolore; Every Time We Say Goodbye; Hope In The Face Of Despair; Straight Away; Caminhos Cruzados; Rotadendron.
Carol Robbins: harp; Billy Childs: piano; Gary Meek: saxophones, clarinet; Larry Koonse: guitar; Darek Oles: bass; Gary Novak: drums.

Neil Cowley Trio
Radio Silence

By Bruce Lindsay
Since it formed in 2005 the Neil Cowley Trio has developed its distinctive sound across two well-received albums. Displaced (Hide Inside Records, 2006) won the 2007 BBC Jazz Award for Best Album, while the follow-up, Loud, Louder, Stop (Cake, 2008), gained additional plaudits.Radio Silence is album number three and it finds the Trio at the peak of its power, staking a real claim to being one of the most impressive piano trios in contemporary jazz.
The band's line-up is unchanged since its formation—in fact, pianist Cowley and bassist Richard Sadler were housemates around 1998 and got to know drummer Evan Jenkins soon after that. The three musicians have a keen, almost intuitive, understanding of each other's styles and while Cowley is the band's composer, input from Sadler and Jenkins is vital in defining the ultimate sound of each tune. Crucially, the Trio is also well aware of the audience; while the musicians' enthusiasm and enjoyment comes over clearly, there is never any sense that the band is playing just for itself.
The Trio moves elegantly between beautiful, moving tunes such as "Radio Silence"—where Sadler's plaintive bass adds much to the tune's impact—and fast, upbeat compositions like "Gerald," which was inspired by a guitarist friend of Cowley's. In between these extremes lie tracks such as "Vice Skating," with its gorgeously rolling piano line, and "Monoface," which features particularly strident playing from Cowley and Jenkins. One of the loveliest tunes is not even acknowledged on the CD packaging. "Box Lily" is a hidden track, starting up a couple of minutes after "Portal" ends, and has moments of great delicacy and beauty as well as some very emphatic, percussive phrases.
In such exceptional company "Desert to Rabat" is mildly disappointing—lacking a strong central theme it tends to lose focus. But not to worry, because it's followed by the album's highlights. "Stereoface"—a reworking of the opening "Monoface"—flows beautifully from Cowley's piano intro, thanks especially to Jenkins' exceptional percussion. "Hug the Greyhound" sounds like a Vince Guaraldi composition with added funk. It's immediate, insistent and persistent—in Cowley's own words, "It's hooky."
Radio Silence demonstrates that creative musicians can still produce new and exciting music within an acoustic trio setting and that such music can be accessible, joyous, beautiful and danceable. The album artwork is terrific, too. It rarely gets better than this.
Track Listing: 
Monoface; Radio Silence; Vice Skating; A French Lesson; Gerald; Desert to Rabat; Stereoface; Hug the Greyhound; Portal; Box Lily [hidden track].
Neil Cowley: piano; Richard Sadler: bass; Evan Jenkins: drums.

Claudio Filippini Trio
Facing North

By Fabrizio Ciccarelli
Aperture diafane e rilassate, voci di lirismo contemporaneo, ingegno trasparente, abilità nel tradurre emozioni istantanee in spazi solistici ampi e trasparenti.
A nostro avviso sono questi gli elementi portanti di un album dalle squisite cadenze nordiche -ECM, per intendersi - sottolineate dalla presenza di Palle Danielsson, uno dei più sensibili e virtuosi contrabbassisti contemporanei, storico partner del miglior Keith Jarrett, e di Loavi Louhivuori, giovane batterista finlandese, sorprendente per estro ed eleganza. Nel titolo è l’essenza filosofica della ricerca: “rivolto a nord”. E dalle note di copertina apprendiamo il punto d’orientamento, “cercando quel punto che la bussola ci suggerisce quando perdiamo la strada, guardando oltre, puntando in alto”. Certamente, l’Oltre può essere una Pausa, un’interruzione, una parentesi, oppure un ideale continente da dipingere incorrotto, giusto e sereno, nel quale la forza pura dell’emozione, dell’affetto e della passione possano trascolorare in una creazione artistica immediata, in una percezione del suono come dilatarsi dell’anima, in movimenti risonanti di vibrazioni jazzistiche che ne guariscano le “forme” avvertite come stanche e logore. Che sia Bill Evans o Stravinskij a dar luogo all’estetica rivisitata dal pianista poco importa: “Facing North” in qualche modo conduce al “Facing You” di Keith Jarrett (eccellente ed aristocratico suo primo album per l’ECM), all’improvvisazione cameristica rigorosa nelle suites di breve composizione, radiose e vitali, ispirate e scevre da ambigui sperimentalismi.
Breve il passaggio per la mite e introversa chanson d’amour “Nothing To Lose”, rapidamente virata nell’inquieto pindarico di “Scorpion Tail” e nel valzer coltraniano della title track, elegia dal groove di inesauribile energia nella serie di accordi ripetuti quale tela evanescente per disegni melodici sommessi e travolgenti. Tali figure in “Landscape” vengono estese ad un clima ipnotico, immerso nel fondo dell’illuminazione lirica e idilliaca del “canto impalpabile”, e poi esposti in un ritmo binario composto, un 6/8 bachiano leggerissimo nella soave percussività di un drumming aereo e nell’evocazione barocca della Celesta nella “Sonatina”, in cui il tempo si ferma in un danzabile grazioso e alato. L’astensione dal presente, la “ricerca del Nord”, è nell’amletico e tenue divenire del “solo” di “Embraceable You” di Gershwin, in “God Only Knows”, tema dei Beach Boys addirittura pubblicato come B-sides di “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (Capitol 1966), e che il Trio riscopre ed armonizza in poesia primaverile, così come nell’emozionante “Chasing Pavements”, portata al successo dal vocalismo certamente pop ma passionalmente “Black” e “rough” della soul singer Adele, cultrice di Etta James e del blues storico.
Gli ultimi due brani misurano il sentire di Filippini come compositore, maturo e autorevole, venato di autoanalisi e meditazione senza dubbio composta e raffinata. “Soaking and Floating” è sommesso equilibrio per trio in cui Danielsson vira in chiaroscuro la digressione ballad. “Modern Times” appare itinerario eliaco e fiammante: il titolo rimanda all’innovativo album degli Steps Ahead di Mike Mainieri (Elektra, 1984) in cui era alle tastiere un maestro del nuovo jazz come Warren Bernhardt, che in parte sembra ispirare il Nostro, volgendone però il linguaggio elettrico e laconico in una promenade da Michel Petrucciani a Herbie Hancock.
La bellezza della semplicità, potremmo concludere. L’amore per il “meravigliarsi” del proprio stesso entusiasmo, del proprio istinto melodico: Filippini si lascia conoscere, senza esitazioni o riserve.
Emil Cioran nel saggio “De l'inconvénient d'être né” (Gallimard, 1973) osservò con straordinaria ironia e brillante prudenza: “La passione per la musica è già da sola una confessione. Sappiamo di più su uno sconosciuto appassionato di musica che su qualcuno che alla musica è insensibile e che incontriamo ogni giorno”.

Jaimee Paul
Bonded: A Salute To The Music Of James Bond

Powerhouse jazz vocalist, Jaimee Paul, shows her range both stylistically and technically, as she impressively steps into the shoes of the vocal luminaries of the original recordings with stunning results. BONDED is Jaimee Paul’s 4th recording on the Green Hill Music label and certainly her crowning achievement thus far in her young career. This album is very different than all the other tribute albums. It has a very own and unique style as well as new and interesting orchestrations that make a Bond Fans heart beat faster. As Halle Berry said at the Oscars "Bond Music is a Genre of it´s own" - and Jaimee Paul pays perfect hommage to it.
1. Skyfall
2. Nobody Does It Better
3. Diamonds Are Forever
4. Goldeneye
5. From Russia With Love
6. For Your Eyes Only
7. A View To A Kill
8. Goldfinger
9. Moonraker
10. Live And Let Die
11. Tomorrow Never Dies
12. You Only Live Twice
13. James Bond Theme (feat. Jack Jezzro)

Riccardo Arrighini Trio
Cambio Di Marcia

By Egea
L’etichetta Incipit, nata quest’anno con il disco di Rita Marcotulli & Andy Sheppard, si distingue per la particolare attenzione verso i nuovi talenti della scena jazzistica italiana. Riccardo Arrighini è uno di questi che dopo le esperienze con Cafiso al Birdland di New York e Umbria Jazz mette su un trio a suo nome insieme a Stefano Bagnoli alla batteria ed Ettore Fioravanti al contrabbasso.
Come molti pianisti italiani che stanno trovando il successo sulla scena jazzistica internazionale, la preparazione di Arrighini viene dalla musica classica. Se gli si domanda cosa l’abbia spinto a 24 a dedicarsi al jazz per lasciare la classica egli risponderebbe senza indugio: “Oscar Peterson”. Molti pianisti sono stati impressionati da Peterson. Solo pochi hanno il dono di poter davvero assecondare l’ispirazione di Peterson ovunque li conduca. Arrighini è uno di questi.

Sunday, July 07, 2013


By Claudio Botelho
Let me say something about jazz. Let me tease the spirit of those who cherish the way a song is presented, besides enjoying the song itself.
For us, jazz lovers, a song is nothing more than a structure to be shaped according to the feelings and beliefs of each player. (Well, almost…)
When we set to buy a new album, we don’t search much for songs. Of course, they matter, but I’ve heard many otherwise excellent albums which, unfortunately, were marred by mediocre compositions. Is it possible to make it worthwhile? Yes, it is, but the musicians will have a double work trying to turn mud into gold. If the work is well done, the epitome of jazzism has been reached, as the improvisations turned out as plentiful as to overcome the original limitations of the songs. Here, the jazzmen, the improvisers, took the main chair that has led the project to success. These are the heroes to be revered.
Contrastingly, I’ve also heard albums filled with premium songs being a complete failure and, sometimes, by high caliber artists. An album comes to my mind: Denny Zeitlin’s “Wherever You Are”. I don’t know where you were, but I know Zeitlin was at home when he recorded this album, probably wearing his pajamas and very, very sleepy… I’m not sure if the whole work is a complete bore: I simply couldn’t proceed past its third song, but I’m quite certain it is.
As a general rule, decent songs are a suitable starting point to a good album. Some of them require little work, but even this small reshaping task needs the mind of someone attuned to the spirit of the song, which, to my taste, should not be disrupted, as much as jazz stands for freedom at its best. You shouldn’t make over songs like “The Peacocks”, “Goodbye”, “Good Morning Heartache” or “Stella by Starlight”, for instance, into anything remotely suggesting any cheering up tempo music without seriously doing a disservice to them.
I can remember an exception, though: Bill Evans rendering of Brazilian pianist Luiz Eça’s “The Dolphin”: Featured in his “From Left to Right” recording, Eça’s song was absolutely revisited pace wise so that this tune, although very gorgeous, was rhythmically indolent and lifeless, suddenly gained force and expressiveness, to the point of being twice played in the same record (take one as a trio – “Before” - and take two by the trio added by strings – “After”). Evans, besides lending his fantastic talent to it, just sped it out a little… That happened in 1969. The oddity here is that, since then, nobody ever tried to follow his steps and every other recording I’ve ever heard of that song respected judiciously Eça’s original lazy rhythm. Maybe Evans’ arrangement was too his own…
I know, I know: This art allows everything one may want to do: mood subversions, pace alterations, other songs citations, pure inversions, theme shortenings and even renderings of songs you can only identify if you believe in the words of its interpreter, that is: as much as you try, you can’t pinpoint the song played, even if it’s well known to you. In this case, you’d better ask the musician (if you can) to tell and, when he answers, you have no way other than believing in his words. (You know, chance might play a misleading role in the booklet info.)
This happened to me once. It was a song from an album by Franco D’Andrea. You see, D’Andrea do work the songs he plays, and that song was overworked for me. I don’t recall the name of the song and don’t know anymore which album it was in, unfortunately, but I’ll give some trying to find it. It would be a good test for you striving to find out the music he was playing…
We have our limits, our likes and dislikes and this sum up defining the musicians we follow, being especially decisive when the subject is jazz, regarding its extreme personal character. But our taste can change with the passing of time.
I used to be downright subversive, and welcomed the most iconoclastic renderings. The farthest the travel, the more it appealed to me. A waltz could be turned into a samba, a tango into a bossa nova, a ballad into a rock: no barriers allowed! (Subversion is akin to youth; often a consequence of skin deep thinking and passionate behavior). I’m not like this anymore, but, in any way, I’m not here to say everyone should be like me and, even less, have any intention to inhibit the limits of this art; I’m just voicing my feelings.
Many people don’t understand jazz and just think it’s an exercise of charlatanism. Others find it a mere mean of show-off dexterity and its value is closely related to it: the virtuosity rules the judgment. It seems to me that, in some instances, this is preeminent among musicians, and I think it may mar a little the simple appreciation of a musical presentation. Those of us who know little or nothing about musical theory and can’t play any musical instrument are easier devoid of this.
Through the course of a life devoted to jazz appreciation, I’ve noticed an alarming amount of improvisations in jazz which have little or nothing to do with the original theme. These are what I call “prêt-à-porter” arrangements, which, taking into account their meaninglessness, can be relocated to any other song one may want, being their effect unchanged, which means: zero consequences! For me, these are mere music prowess show-off, certainly intended to impress the less attentive. Or else: pure lack of inspiration…
After so many years of listening to some two or three generations of jazz players, I can surely state I’d rather listen to those who may wander to their hearts content, but never let you forget the song you’re listening. This shows commitment to the song they’re playing, honor to its author and respect to the essence of the theme played. Even liberty has to have some boundaries.
Speaking of liberty, there’s that kind of no-main-theme-or-multitude-theme jazz or, as it has become known, “free jazz”, which is the kind of playing by musicians like Cecil Taylor and Marilyn Crispell, to name just two. These are the fiercest of wanders. (Some would include in this group the pianist Paul Bley, which I don’t quite agree, as I see a beginning, a middle and an end in anything he does). You may as well ask Keith Jarrett to join the formers, as per some of his most up to date outings and other recordings from some three or four decades ago. Jarrett intense and tremendously emotional playing has graced the world for more than forty years now, and he has nothing more to prove to anyone. Should he be in the same band wagon of Taylor and Crispell? Would the consummate success of albums like “Paris/London: Testament”, or his top-hitter “Koln Concert” endorse the feats of that couple and others alike? You be the judge…
Anyway, I find this branch of jazz unfocused, too aimless for my liking and I’d rather stay away from mixing Jarrett with them.
To counterpoint it, there are also the no-jazz jazz musicians: you see, often comprising female singers, the farthest they can get is to say “looooooove” instead of “love”. This is all the jazz they can deliver and, amazingly, it fulfills the needs of many. There’s a plethora of them, and I reckon many are suitable or even outstanding musicians but jazz singers they’re not.
This kind of perfunctory jazz musicians has got lots of exposure in a great deal of specialized jazz publications. I can only explain this in light of an increasing lack of density of subjects to be covered, as much as I know “jazz” is still something not altogether outlined.
As I rule, I don’t usually seek either…