Saturday, July 20, 2013

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.

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