Wednesday, October 02, 2013

EAGLES AND DROMEDARIES




By Claudio Botelho
Again: Denny Zeitlin has done an insipid recording. I’m talking about his latest “Both/And – Solo, Eletro-Acoustic Adventures”. Before I keep on, let me remind you once more that Zeitlin has been one of my heroes for long. And this is exactly what inspires me to insist on my critics about his latest launchings. Along with his former work (“Wherever You Are”), this is a totally dispensable recording: We could as well live without it, as much as himself.
While the most conventional one is too conventional to be taken seriously, the more adventurous is no more than a pale copy of things he’d done in the past (“Solo Voyage” comes to my mind). By listening to this newer outing of his, you could work very hard to find the author of recordings like his “Labyrinth”-“Precipice”- “Slick Rock’- “Solo Voyage” brethren. Or even find any similarity inspiration-wise to works like “As Long as There’s Music” or his “New River”- a fabulous duo with mandolinist David Grisman. Of course, his way of playing hasn’t changed and can be spotted easily, but where is the intellectual value of his playing?
Try listening to “Tiger, Tiger”, for instance, or the inaugural “Meteorology” and tell me why he bothered to compose and play them… Sigh!
Don’t think I’m that derogatory, but Zeitlin forced me into doing this. So, Instead of wasting your time with his last works, you could indulge your senses into savoring Alan Broadbent’s “Heart to Heart”- his latest solo recording. This time using a 9’ Schimmel Grand, Broadbent revisited songs like Charlie Haden’s “Hello my Lovely” along with standards like “Alone Together”, “Blue in Green”, “Lonely Woman”, “Cherokee” and four other songs, including the one of his pen who entitles this production. His very pronounced left hand sometimes almost takes the lead and, at times, works contrapuntally without ever breaking the unity of his renderings. His very unique and minutely way of playing exposes the songs to their entireness, extracting from them all the meanings intended by their authors. Broadbent is a “slow-food” kind of interpreter, always purveying a step-by-step construction without side moves, until he gets to his target.
To know what I mean, listen to his dissected deconstruction of “Alone Together” – the old played-by-everybody standard, enjoy his long and soulful rendering of “Blue in Green”, try “Hello my Lovely” and remember his days of “Quartet West” or savor his gothic interpretation of “Lonely Woman”, which nails straight to the heart of this song…
The sound of the Schimmel piano is magnificent, to the point of my fully acceptance: In no moment I reminded of any other musical instrument. So, there’s also life beyond the Steinway-Bosendorfer-Fazioli trio!...
I’ve been, for a very, very long time, a great fan of pianist Franco D’Andrea. For my ears, he has been one of the very sharpest improvisers in the history of jazz. It’d been a long time since I last heard of him. I’ve noticed he’s released some two or three albums recently, but I haven’t come across any of them. It seems they have a very restricted distribution. So, out of some longing of my part, I bought a CD recorded in 1997 and released in the following year called “Duets for Trane”. He plays with altoist Rosario Giuliani which, by the way, is the leader.
Yes, you guessed it right: Trane means Coltrane, being all the songs played, except the last one, from him. So, there you have: Equinox; Countdown; Naima; Giant Steps; Central Park West; A love Supreme; Like Sony; Lonnie’s Lament and Giuliani’s Solo for Trane.
From beginning to end, you have some two of the most articulated jazz musicians interplaying so synergistically that the quality of the presentations leveled the accomplishment of the tunes. Boy, D’Andrea is no chopped liver, but would you believe Giuliani, at least on this recording, is as much on the cutting edge as him? He is so strong that you hardly notice you’re listening to an alto sax! His Selmer sound is akin to the sound of a good tenor! I said a good tenor. You know, the world is full of flimsy sounding sax players…
Organic, articulated and done by utterly intertwined musicians, the renderings are just natural extensions of the tunes, as if done by the same author and a taste of Coltrane’s strong tenor permeates the whole album. D’Andrea? You can hardly find a better travel companion… (The truth is that this is an equal-responsibility-two-mind work…)
Splendid and the best thing I’ve listened this year, so far. A classic. Highly recommended.
Have you ever heard of a statistical phenomenon called “standard deviation”? It shows how much variation or dispersion from the average (mean, also called expected value) exists. So, as a rule, its graphic expression is like a sneak that has eaten an elephant or the back of a dromedary, which is like a camel, except that it has only one hump. Bellow the hump stay the great majority of cases, meaning they stand for average values. Let’s take into account that those which detach to the left side tend to mediocrity, those which go to the opposite side to excellence.
Now, take Christian McBride’s “Out There”. This is his 11th album as a leader and “the most in demand bassist of his generation” is partnered by Christian Sands on piano and Ulysses Owens jr. on drums. Surely, McBride belongs to the right side of the hump and has been very busy for some time now, but did he need to make such an uninspiring recording, firmly settled on the left side of the bump, something Ray Brown (his alter ego) used to do more than forty years ago?
This is the third incarnation of The Ray brown Trio, the second being by drummer Jeff Hamilton and Tamir Hendelman. Is it necessary a third Ray Brown trio? In these days of cerebral players, should we seek works founded solely on chops exhibitionism? I can only speak on my behalf, but I tell you: this kind of playing has been long, long superseded. One more thing about this album: to say the quality of the recording is so-so is an understatement…
Speaking of Tamir Hendelman: Wanna listen to the real musician? Try his “Destinations” and you’ll see what he can do out of the Brown-Hamilton-Mcbride circle… Here, he comes along with Marco Panascia on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. This time, you get everything from his rides with Hamilton plus…emotion!, this being just the main reason of this art called music.
For a change, let me suggest two honest British trios: Tim Lapthorn (p), with Arnie Sonogyi (b) and Stephen Keogh (d) and David Newton (p), Andrew Cleyndert (b) and Colin Oxley (g). The first trio released an album called “Transport” and the latter “Out of This World”. Lapthorn is a young musician who seems to be still searching his own voice. He’s a little hesitant and plays a little too carefully but is a talented composer. All songs played are from his pen and their span brings a very good balance to the presentation. You have the trio alone, piano solo, the trio and voices and the trio plus strings which, per se, establishes the necessary contrasts any sequence of songs must have to avoid boredom. I’ll dispense myself with nominating the songs as they’re all unknown.
Newton is a seasoned artist who, in this set, relies on nine standards plus two of his own compositions. Besides the tune that names the album, the trio plays Who Cares, Valse Jaq, I’ll be seeing You, Por Toda a Minha Vida/O Grande Amor, All Grown Up, Lament, Looking at You, A Felicidade and Why Did I Choose You. The second and the fifth songs above listed were composed by himself.
Newton has great chops, and his easy-flow style tends to go better with lyric songs. And he uses this to very good effect. His solo work “12th of the 12th – A Jazz Portrait of Frank Sinatra” - an album I particularly like- depicts his way with songs. A casual jazz listener would be pleased with his latest album release and could take it for something of the easy-listening kind, but any attention a bit more than skin-deep would reveal a trio of great rapport, full of intricate articulations, which should award it the highest of accolades. All summed up this is a simple-sophisticated outing; not that easily found!
Anyway, if I were to choose one of them, I’d go for the Lapthorn album, but you could as well pick the latter, as did the editor of this blog.
Have you ever heard of Patricia Barber? So, please, ask her why she has SMASHED us (ouch!) with her latest album…

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great article! Simple and luminous!