Sunday, November 10, 2013

2 Sem 2013 - Part Twelve

Christian McBride Trio
Out There

By Matt Collar
Christian McBride's second studio album in 2013, Out Here, finds the adept bassist leading his trio through a jaunty, exuberant set of straight-ahead acoustic jazz. The album follows on the heels of his equally as appealing quintet album, People Music. However, where that album found McBride delving into the knotty post-bop sound of artists like '60s Bobby Hutcherson, Out Here is more of a classic standards album in the vein of works by Oscar Peterson and Duke Ellington. Joining McBride here is his working trio of pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., who was also featured on People Music. Both Sands and Owens are superb, technically adroit musicians who complement McBride's warm, generous bass playing at every turn on Out Here. What's great about McBride leading his own trio is that because he is fundamentally such a monster of a bassist, he can and does take the lead on any given song just as well, if not better, than many of his non-rhythm section instrument-playing brethren. That said, he certainly lets his bandmates shine in the spotlight throughout much of the album. In fact, as on the trio's take on "My Favorite Things," both Sands and McBride take turns interpreting the melody. Elsewhere, they delve into bluesy, gospel-influenced numbers with "Ham Hocks and Cabbage" and "Hallelujah Time," and jump headlong into a swinging rendition of "Cherokee." There are also some gorgeous ballads featured on the album, with McBride's Latin-tinged "I Guess I'll Have to Forget" standing out among them. McBride even summons the spirit of his more funk and soul-influenced albums with the trio's giddy album-closing take on the R&B classic "Who's Making Love."

Lisa Hilton

By Dan Bilawsky
Pianist Lisa Hilton has made an art out of balancing the simple and complex. Her work speaks with extreme clarity and serves as a benchmark for a less-is-more style of piano playing that appeals to a wide swath of listeners, but it isn't plain-Jane jazz. Hilton has a way of taking a basic idea and stretching its conceptual fabric to the breaking point. Singsong ideals are twisted, contorted and distorted, and rhythmic ideas are pulled out of focus, blurring the firm-time realities that actually exist underneath it all. This form of musical cunning helped to make Underground (Ruby Slippers Productions, 2011) and American Impressions (Ruby Slippers Productions, 2012) so intriguing, and it serves Getaway just as well.
Getaway is both a return to standard form and a departure from the norm for Hilton. She's working with musicians who've appeared by her side before, but she's left the quartet comfort zone and ventured into trio territory, where transparency and trickery both seem to thrive. Hilton's most frequent on-record collaborator—bassist Larry Grenadier—and the man who helped her shake things up and put a darker spin on things—drummer Nasheet Waits—join up again. They both assist Hilton in painting a bluesy picture, where shadows and light share space and the brooding and bright coexist in equal measures.
The album takes flight with a dark, cycling pattern that underlines a song that's both diaphanous and direct ("Getaway"). Things progress with jaunty notions, as playful melodic snippets come and go ("Just For Fun"). Both of these formulas, with certain twists, serve Hilton well in other places, but they don't define the album. The music falls into a state of cinematic reverie at other times ("Evening Song"), but excitement and the unexpected are always lurking around the corner ("City Streets" and "Lost & Found"). The majority of the program is given up to Hilton originals, but two covers—"Stormy Monday Blues" and Adele's "Turning Tables"—give the trio an opportunity to try their hand at music of the past and present.
The rarely-encountered marriage between stasis and surprise is central to the success of Getaway. Hilton's left hand often acts as a constant, serving as a steady presence and eye in the storm, and Grenadier often grounds the group, allowing Hilton and Waits to color around his bass. Waits remains the wonderful wildcard, as on Hilton's two previous albums, but he tempers his explosive side. Both Grenadier and Waits are far more technically adept than Hilton—and 99% of the playing population—but they don't flaunt their musical muscle in this setting. They both play in service of the music and all three musicians prove complementary to one another.
Getaway, more than any other release thus far, provides a clear picture of Lisa Hilton as artist, conceptualist builder, and sculptor of sounds. It also confirms what was already known: Hilton is a conjurer of musical spells, moods and magic who defies easy categorization.
Track Listing: 
Getaway; Just For Fun; Stormy Monday Blues; Stepping Into Paradise; Evening Song; City Streets; Lost & Found; Emergency; Turning Tables; Unforgotten; Stop & Go; Slow Down; Huckleberry Moon.
Lisa Hilton: piano; Larry Grenadier: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.

David Newton
Portrait Of A Woman

By Amazon
'Portrait of a Woman' is the new CD from pianist and composer David Newton with thirteen wonderful original compositions each representing a chapter in a love story. Newton appears alongside his new trio consisting of Andrew Cleyndert on bass and Steve Brown on drums plus guest guitarist Jim Mullen. On the tracks with string arrangements by Richard Niles, the power of Newton's music is suddenly made more apparent. Grand, sweeping symphonic melodies mixed with infectious catchy tunes over elegant and sophisticated rhythms make this a completely unique album. In the early 1990s Newton's reputation as an exquisite accompanist for a singer, spread rather rapidly and by 1995 he was regularly working with Carol Kidd, Marion Montgomery, Tina May, Annie Ross, Claire Martin and of course Stacey Kent, with whom he spent the next ten years recording and travelling all over the world. At the same time, Newton was composing music which he recorded on his own CDs as well as writing specifically for Martin Taylor, Alan Barnes, Tina May and Claire Martin. In 2003, Bright New Day Records was born and soon saw the release of two trio albums by Newton, 'Pacific Heights' and then 'Inspired'. 'Portrait of a Woman' is the label's latest release. Personnel: David Newton (piano, keyboards), Andrew Cleyndert (double bass), Steve Brown (drums), Jim Mullen (guitar), The London Orchestra

The Bassface Swing Trio
Plays Gershwin

By John Sunier at
This may be a recording first: the jazz trio thru the three selections on side one of this direct disc twice, than did the same for the three tunes on side two. They then selected the best side of each and that became the master for the direct disc – as George Goebel used to say, “You can’t hardly get them no more.” At the same time a two-channel DSD master was made and that became the SACD, with a downsampled-to-44.1K copy as the CD layer on this hybrid SACD. There are longer-than-usual breaks between the tracks and you hear the trio preparing for the next tune. There’s no stopping on either side between the tracks, and of course no tape to be edited, which results in the optimum fidelity possible. These normal direct disc artifacts are also preserved on the optical disc.
The German trio is thoroughly professional and swings well, but don’t expect Bill Evans-level creativity. The piano is a Fazioli grand, being heard increasingly on recordings (along with Bosendorfer), and way superior to Steinway in the treble end. Since all three formats came from the same exact source at the same time, we have here a fine opportunity to compare the three formats with some enjoyable and familiar music. I don’t think the ability to A/B a SACD with the same material on direct disc has been done before.
I found the CD to be considerably higher in level than either the stereo SACD or direct disc versions, making comparisons a bit more difficult. The SACD layer had a richer piano sound and more “air” around both the piano and drums. The lowest notes of the acoustic bass had more solidity. Track 3 opens with a rather loud figure on the drum set; on the SACD option you could hear more evidence of the volume/size of the drum set than on the CD option. The distinctive timbre of the various drums was also more pronounced.
Switching to the direct disc produced more presence and the doublebass notes were felt even more strongly than on the SACD. The piano had even more “air” around it and the timbre of the different strings was more pronounced. The deepest bass was so strong that I had to reduce the level on my “butt-shaker” transducer mounted in my sofa. Though LPs and phono cartridges lack the separation of digital, I heard no noticeable loss of separation of the three instruments across the sound stage.
After listening extensively to both and switching back and forth, I stopped and carried out a few tweaks on my Integra universal player which I had not previously done. I turned off the video circuitry, I switched to the DVD output – a direct two-channel analog out, rather than the 6-channel out of which I had been using only the front channels. Finally, I zapped the SACD with my MapleShade Ionoclast (a heavy-duty Zerostat) and placed my Marigo Audio Signature Stabilizer Mat on top. I also used my RadioShack sound level meter to more closely match levels.
Repeating the SACD/direct disc comparison, I found the two now almost totally identical. The only hint I had of the direct disc being played was a very slight hiss in quiet sections, due to having the level turned up quite high on the low-level disc, and a couple of places where there was an extraneous noise on the left channel - perhaps due to “horns” on the grooves of the disc receiving its first playing. Considering the vinyl version is a very limited special edition and commands the highest price for a single new LP I have seen, I would recommend the SACD-only version if you have decent two-channel SACD playback. On one of the two-channel-only SACD decks it may very well surpass the sonics of the direct disc, although I realize it’s heresy to say that.
Thilo Wagner, piano; Jean-Philipe Wadle, doublebass; Florian Herman, drums

Molly Ringwald
Expect Sometimes

By Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Well, of course Molly Ringwald was going to sing "Don't You (Forget About Me)" on her 2013 singing debut Except Sometimes -- it provides the hook to draw the curious into the fold, to bring in listeners who may otherwise have never paid attention to another album of an actor singing standards. And, in most regards, Except Sometimes is indeed another album of actors singing standards, distinguished by a more-adventurous-than-usual selection of songs (Ringwald has good taste and an aversion to shopworn warhorses) and a nicely intimate vibe, suggesting a comfortable, brightly lit nightclub where smoking was prohibited long, long ago. Apart from "Don't You (Forget About Me)," there are no radical rearrangements here, so what carries the day is that sweet, softly swinging feel, as Ringwald is a game but limited singer, hampered slightly by her thin, airless voice. Certainly, she seems to be enjoying herself but she also seems overly concerned with hitting her marks; her phrasing is precise and mannered, contradicting the otherwise relaxed vibes of the record. If Ringwald wasn't well-known, odds are Except Sometimes would never have shown up on a major label, but that's no reason to hate it: it's too cheerful and slight to inspire hate. It's merely a pleasant curiosity, one that seems like you've heard it before.

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