Sunday, September 15, 2013

2 Sem 2013 - Part Ten

Jeff Hamilton Trio
The Best Things Happen....

By Dr. Judith Schlesinger
The Best Things Happen' when you listen to Jeff Hamilton. He's universally acknowledged as one of the greatest drummers in jazz, whether he's swinging the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra or waking up a famous ghost band by sitting in—I witnessed that once, and the before/after difference was stunning. Unmatched for chops, ears, and flair, Hamilton has led his own trio for nine years. Previously with the superb Larry Fuller and maestro Lynn Seaton, it now contains players who all live in the same city. Pianist Tamir Hendelman's Eastman composition degree shows in his imaginative arrangements, and bassist Christoph Luty has a fat sound and unerring sense of melody. Together they balance, challenge, and support each other wonderfully, fulfilling Hamilton's mandate that a trio should consist of three equal parts.
But enough with the background. From the irresistible swing of its first track, "I Love Being Here with You," this CD is a first-class ticket to musical fulfillment. The journey includes new twists on old favorites—for example, "Poinciana," while explicitly honoring the historic Ahmad Jamal version, lifts and lightens its familiar beat. Luty's innovative arrangement gives "C Jam Blues" a langorous morning-after feel, all slow and stretchy. The spirit of Oscar P. hovers happily over Hendelman—check out his precise parallel octaves on the closing burner, Hoagy Carmichael's "L'il Old Lady." Hendelman also provides an intriguing new setup to the quietly lustrous "Skylark," and he wrote the jubilant "Bennissimo" in tribute to pianist Benny Green, who trio-ed with Ray Brown and Hamilton in the early '90s.
As for the leader' while he's long-celebrated as a fully frontal player, Hamilton's brushwork is exceptionally elegant and judicious. You can hear this most clearly on Larry Golding's lovely "Moonbird" and the graceful "We'll Be Together Again," where his contribution is both crucial and nearly subliminal. All told, this CD is a fabulous ride, and highly recommended.
Track Listing: 
I Love Being Here with You, I Concentrate on You, We'll Be Together Again, I Didn't Know What Time It Was, Like a Lover, Poinciana, Bennissimo, The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing, Skylark, Moonbird, C Jam Blues, L'il Old Lady
Jeff Hamilton (drums), Tamir Hendelman (piano), Christoph Luty (bass)

Julia Hülsmann Quartet
In Full View

By John Kelman
There's no denying the benefit of stable longevity, but neither is there anything wrong with change. Following three ACT recordings that featured her trio—together since Scattering Poems (ACT, 2003)—supporting a series of vocalists, Julia Hülsmann moved to ECM, where the pianist was afforded greater freedom to more fully explore her trio's potential on 2008's The End Of A Summer and 2011's Imprint. Both albums presented a trio beyond anything left to prove and functioning in thoroughly egalitarian fashion, both compositionally and in performance.
In Full View ups the ante, expanding Hülsmann's trio to a quartet with the addition of British trumpeter Tom Arthurs. Continuing Imprint's more outgoing direction has not come at the expense of the gentle elegance endemic to the trio's ECM debut; instead, Arthurs' voice expands the group's reach without losing anything carved out since Hülsmann's move to the label.
It's hard not to feel ex-ECM alum (and fellow UK-resident) Kenny Wheeler's influence—not just on Arthurs' playing, but in the quartet's overall engagement. Avoiding Wheeler's signature intervallic/stratospheric leaps but referencing the Canadian expat trumpeter's rich tone and melancholic approach to lyricism, Arthurs' broader interest in contemporary classicism and Afro-centric music afford the younger trumpeter his own specificity.
Some of the vibe from Wheeler's early ECM recordings—in particular the similarly configured, award-winning Gnu High (1976)—imbues Hülsmann's quartet, especially on drummer Heinrich Köbberling's "Forever Old," which manages to swing gently despite being in 5/4, and an initially darker, rubato piano/trumpet intro that leads to bassist Muellbauer's similarly odd-metered but smoothly flowing and gradually intensifying "Meander," its simmering pulse strengthened by the bassist's robust foundation and Köbberling's subtle shadings. Arthurs' episodic "Forgotten Poetry" is also underscored by a Wheeler connection, its deceptively simple melody weaving through some change-heavy balladry, time briefly contracting and expanding before settling into some understated interplay between Arthurs and Hülsmann until the trumpeter removes himself, ultimately leaving the pianist to ruminate over Muellbauer and Köbberling's firm yet pliant support.
The group also simmers on Muellbauer's quirky "Dedication," Hülsmann constructing a solo of near-perfect poetry, while the initial melody of the pianist's title track is doubled on bass and flugelhorn before a stronger groove leads first to an even more serpentine theme, doubled on horn and piano, before solos from Hülsmann and Arthurs emerge, dichotomic paradoxes of restrained energy that ultimately unfold over more fervent propulsion.
Fiest's "The Water" is one of three covers on In Full View—another change over previous sets' sole non-originals— but it's the best-known. Still, just as Hülsmann's cover of Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" was an unexpected gem on The End Of A Summer, covering Feist here proves the pianist's quartet as capable with a simpler song form as it is more complicated fare.
Beyond the obvious addition of a fourth voice, there's a stronger sense of effortless collective aplomb on In Full View. If Wheeler's spirit looms large over the session, Hülsmann could certainly do far worse; and if Arthurs is a permanent addition to the pianist's decade-old trio, where this sublime quartet goes next will be well worth the attention.
Track Listing: 
Quicksilver; Dunkel; Gleim; Forever Old; Spiel; Richtung Osten; The Water; Forgotten Poetry; Dedication; Snow, Melting; Meander; In Full View; Nana.
Julia Hülsmann: piano; Tom Arthurs: trumpet, flugelhorn; Marc Muellbauer: double bass; Heinrich Köbberling: drums.

Enrico Rava
Rava On The Dance Floor

By Thom Jurek
Enrico Rava isn't the first jazz musician to cover the music of Michael Jackson. Nor, at 70, is he the most likely. (Younger men like Nicholas Payton, Christian Scott, and Robert Glasper would seemingly be more obvious candidates.) That said, with On the Dance Floor, the Italian trumpet legend takes on an entire album of tunes associated with Jackson. According to Rava, he wasn't even really aware of Jackson's music until a few days after his death; his wife was watching a concert video, he haphazardly took a look and listen and was riveted to the point of obsession. On the Dance Floor is not the usual tribute then, because it's not wrapped in grief. Instead, it's the mark of one master musician celebrating another -- Rava rightfully considers Jackson to be among the most important musicians of the 20th century. Recorded live in Rome with the large ensemble, Parco della Musica Jazz Lab, under the direction of trombonist Mauro Ottolini, Rava takes on some of Jackson's biggest hits and some of his less familiar numbers. The set opens with a ponderous, laid-back reading of "Speechless," on which Rava uses his trademark spacing and lyricism to find room for improvisation that reflects the Italian jazz tradition, theatrical and cinematic music, and the source material. While the orchestra isn't up to playing at the communicative level of the trumpeter's smaller groups, they don't need to be. They understand how to bring the funk and make it bubble and boil on the medley of "I Just Can't Stop Loving You"/"Smooth Criminal," "Thriller," and "Blood on the Dance Floor." That said, they also color ballads with enough emotion and sensitivity to allow Rava's own sense of exploratory admiration to come through as on the hinge piece, a beautiful cover of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" that reflects much of the tenderness Jackson imbued it with. The reading of "Little Susie" wonderfully balances drama and melody. On the Dance Floor doesn't come off as one of Rava's more disciplined recordings -- it may indeed be his loosest -- but that's by design. It's a laid-back, accessible tribute recording that celebrates Jackson's music as an achievement, and offers jazz fans of all stripes a way into it.
Track Listing: 
Speechless; They Don't Care About Us; Thriller; Privacy; Smile; I Just Can't Stop Loving You/Smooth Criminal; Little Susie; Blood on the Dance Floor; History.
Enrico Rava: trumpet: Andrea Tofanelli: trumpet, flugelhorn; Claudio Corvini: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mauro Ottolini: trombone, tuba; Daniele Tittarelli: alto saxophone, flute; Dan Kinzelman: tenor saxophone, clarinets; Franz Bazzani: keyboard; Giovanni Guidi: piano, Fender Rhodes, toy piano; Dario Deidda: bass; Mercello Gianni: electric guitar; Zena de Rossi: drums; Ernesto Lopez Maturell: percussion.

Rosario Giuliani & Franco D'Andrea
Duets For Trane

By Scott Yanow
Altoist Rosario Giuliani is not well known outside of his native Italy, but he should be. On the inspired outing Duets for Trane, he performs nine songs composed by John Coltrane as duets with pianist Franco d'Andrea. The interplay between the musicians is reminiscent of Lee Konitz and Lennie Tristano; in fact, this set gives one an idea of what Konitz and Tristano might have sounded like if they had explored a full set of Coltrane tunes. Their interpretations are fresh and extend the ideas of the songs, which not only include the minor blues "Equinox" and "Giant Steps" but a 12-and-a-half minute rendition of the themes from "A Love Supreme." The memorable set concludes with Giuliani playing unaccompanied on "Solo for Trane." A classic of its kind.
Recording information: 
Interface Studio, Lavinio (06/17/1997). Photographer: Pieroni Carlo. Translator: Giordano Pietroni. Personnel: 
Rosario Giuliani (alto saxophone); Franco D'Andrea (piano). 
Liner Note Author: Paolo Piangiarelli.
1 Equinox ; 2 Countdown ; 3 Naima ; 4 Giant Steps ; 5 Central Park West
6 Some Other Blues ; 7 Love Supreme ; 8 Like Sonny ; 9 Lonnie's Lament ; 10 Solo for Trane

Denny Zeitlin
Both/And: Solo Electro-Acoustic Adventures 

By Dan McClenaghan
Pianist Denny Zeitlin has the distinction—among many others—of having written one of the loveliest of loves songs: "Love Theme From Invasion of the Bodysnatchers." The tune can be heard in its unadorned beauty on Zeitlin's Precipice (Sunnyside Records, 2010), the recording of an extraordinarily beautiful and adventurous solo concert. The original version of the tune, from the soundtrack of the 1978 movie, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers(1978)—a masterful remake of the classic 1954 science fiction film—was Zeitlin's lone effort at writing for film. Hired originally to do a "jazz" score, Zeitlin found it necessary—when plans changed—to convince the powers-that-be that he was indeed capable of writing music for symphony orchestra and electronics—the then-new-on-the scene synthesizers.
Zeitlin had experience with synthesizers. His Expansion (Arch Records, 1973) and Syzygy (Arch Records, 1977) had prepared the pianist for the electronics work. His preparation for working with a symphony orchestra? Essentially non-existent, until the opportunity presented itself with the soundtrack, which turned out to be a rousing success, a perfect accompaniment to one of the great sci-fi movies of all time.
But it was an enormous effort. Working with the cumbersome synthesizers of the day and directing a symphony orchestra had made it necessary for Dr. Denny Zeitlin to put another of his life's passions, his psychiatric practice, on hold for a time; so, in the wake of this successful foray, pianist Denny Zeitlin took a thirty-plus year hiatus from electronic and symphonic music and immersed himself mostly piano trio and solo work, acoustic style, offering up the previously-mentioned Precipice, Labyrinth (Sunnyside Records, (2011), and Wherever You Are: Midnight Moods for Solo Piano (Sunnyside Records, 2012), for a marvelous recent track record—totally acoustic—that makes Both/And, which is subtitled Solo Electro-Acoustic Adventures, such a surprise.
Zeitlin says he always wanted to be an orchestra. The new-millennial technological advances in the equipment for electronic music creation make that possible, on a CD that blends electric, electro-symphonic and acoustic sounds in fresh ways.
"Meteorology," a nod to the fusion group Weather Report, announces Zeitlin's artistic gear shift. A funky bass line is soon joined by towering electronics, majestic, glowing washes of neon color backed by zooming, precision, synthetic hand clap percussion, followed by a gorgeous and introspective acoustic piano interlude, with an electro-chorus singing in—a marvelous minor symphony adeptly done.
If the opener is a minor symphony, the thirteen minute "Dystopian Uprising" is a moody symphony. A masterpiece that evokes the unsettled mood of a world gone terribly wrong. Atmospheric and gloomy, full of impending dread, Zeitlin's acoustic piano backed by "strings" has the feeling of a soundtrack more perfect, perhaps, than even his "Bodysnatchers" work—a complex piece of music all the more beautiful for its mostly-restrained-but-vivid exploration of a darkening existence.
If "Dystopian Uprising" is a moody symphony, the five part,twenty-three minute "Monk-y Business Revisited" is a major one. Zeitlin has expressed—after thirty-plus years of working in the acoustic mode—some dissatisfaction with the timbrel limitations of he solo piano and piano trio formats. With synthesizer/electronics, the timbrel possibilities are pretty much endless, and Zeitlin exploits those possibilities very deftly, whether with the spacey harmonic glow on "Intro and Main Theme" of "Dystopian Uprisings," or the eerie electric warble of the opening of "Into the Funk;" or the same section's near-authentic—in terms of reproducing the acoustic sounds of that instrumentation—string and percussion work.
Electronics have been creeping into the world of jazz music bit-by-bit. Denny Zeitlin embraces the format and marries it to the acoustic side with a rare finesse. Both/And, is an extraordinary work of art. A masterpiece? Maybe. Time will tell. Denny Zeitlin is an orchestra, one that uses an acoustic/electronic blend with a master's touch, to transcend even the "timbrel limitations" of the orchestral format, creating his finest and most compelling work.
Track Listing: 
Meteorology; Dawn; Tiger, Tiger; Kathryn's Song; Dystopian Uprising; Charango Dream; Monk-y Business: Intro and Main Theme; Into the funk; Waltzing to Memories;Piano Seque; Audio Kaleidoscope and Finale.
Denny Zeitlin: acoustic piano, synthesizers, keyboards.

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