Saturday, April 26, 2014

Old Jazz CD's 2014 - Part One

Harvey Wainapel
The Hang

By Owen Cordle
Wainapel, a longtime resident of San Francisco, opens this album, his third, with "Beautiful Love." From his tenor saxophone solo, it's apparent that he favors a mature, take-your-time approach to improvisation a` la Scott Hamilton, Gene Ammons, or Clifford Jordan-with a touch of Lovanoesque modernity applied. This is his most distinctive and appealing horn. (He also plays soprano, alto, and clarinet on the date.)
Next comes "The Buzzard," a slow, bluesy original in a Ray Charles vein-Wainapel worked with the singer's band for 10 months-and there's more fine laid-back tenor. Several performances later, we get to Wayne Shorter's "Pinocchio," a burner that demonstrates that Wainapel is no slouch at uptempo. These three tracks sell me on the saxophonist, although I have no quibbles with the rest of the performances either. He picks good notes.
Kenny Barron appears on piano. (Wainapel's second album showcased Barron's compositions.) Larry Grenadier is on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums, with trumpeter Phil Grenadier added on three cuts. Barron's lines are impeccable, as usual. His sectionmates prove worthy company throughout.

André Ceccarelli Trio
Avenue Des Diables Blues

By Dean Christesen
The French can swing hard. Let Andre Ceccarelli's 2005 release Avenue des Diables Blues be evidence of this. Frenchmen drummer Ceccarelli and guitarist Bireli Lagrene along with Joey DeFrancesco on Hammond organ display fine technique and wisely executed playing all throughout this Parisian release.
"Nardis" leads off with a bang and wandering time before snapping into the melody. The band explores different feels as they feel appropriate, which becomes somewhat of a theme for the whole album. Nothing feels out-of-bounds for the trio as they slip comfortably into double-times and loose Afro-Cuban grooves.
DeFrancesco gives his tribute to one of his biggest influences, Jimmy Smith, with his unadulterated yet imaginative take on "Summertime." Ceccarelli maintains a nice foundation with brushes, but his switch to sticks brings out a new fire in Lagrene's solo. The tune shuffles right into the organ solo, in which DeFrancesco draws obvious inspiration from Smith while still pulling from his own unique vocabulary.
While Ceccarelli sounds great at all times on the record, the lack of solo time is noticeable. He shines on one chorus in "Nardis" and a sub-2 minute solo entitled "Prelude." The listener is sometimes even teased with what seems like the beginning of a feature for the drummer but quickly fades into a band mate's solo. Nonetheless, the time he does have to speak is filled with thoughtful phrases, technically impressive rhythmic motives, and clear emotional presence. It is on the bright closer, "The Song Is You," that he trades solos with the band and sounds his best, fusing flashes of hand speed with palette-cleansing moments of slower rhythms and cymbals.
Beautiful presentations of Norah Jones' "Sunrise" and Jaco Pastorious' "3 Views of a Secret" join the program of standards and a lone Ceccarelli original, "Avenue des Diables Blues" (co-written by Eric Legnini).
The album feels like a live set at a club, showcasing a steamy performance by three men with a lot to say. Unfortunately, the energy of what might be a three-hour set is compressed into 57 minutes, which at some times leads to overwhelmingly busy solos. Regardless, the way the trio responds to each other's high level of energy is very impressive.
Track Listing:
Nardis; Sophisticated Lady; Summertime (Tribute to Mr. Jimmy Smith); Prelude; April In Paris; 3 Views Of A Secret; Avenue Des Diables Blues, La Vie En Rose; Sunrise; The Song Is You.
Andre Ceccarelli: drums; Bireli Lagrene: guitar; Joey DeFrancesco: Hammond organ.

André Ceccarelli
Golden Land

By Ken Dryden
André Ceccarelli has long been one of Europe's premiere jazz drummers and since the new century began he is getting additional opportunities to showcase his talent as a bandleader and composer/arranger as well. His band includes the brilliant pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, veteran bassist Hein Van De Geyn and the promising tenor saxophonist David El-Malek. Ceccarelli excels at driving a band and is equally at home in driving post-bop numbers like the pianist's "Five Plus Five," his own angular "Free Three" and his solo feature "1er Novembre." Van De Geyn contributed the haunting ballad "Though Dreamers Die," which features El-Malek's emotional solo. Vocalist Elisabeth Kontomanou is added for "Golden Land" (which she co-wrote with the leader, while it is also heard in instrumental form) and the standard "I'm Through with Love." This rewarding session will easily stand the test of time.

Antonio Faraò
Woman's Perfume

By Federico Scoppio
A first-class tribute to film music composer Armando Trovajoli. Top-notch arrangements, superb original compositions, and a flawless trio: a confirmation of creative class and inexhaustible vigor. The Farao' trio alludes to the moods of Trovajoli poetics, expressing itself through music that crosses streets and bridges, when an important decision is about to be taken, defeating snakes and dragons, when no one nearby can be trusted. Music to be listened to, music with a scent. The perfume --the scent-- becomes an entire world to be discovered; a dream, a film, a thing that fascinates, seduces, upsets, evokes darkness and honey, replaces death with life. Especially if the scent is of a woman.

Denny Zeitlin & David Friesen
Concord Duo Series: Volume Eight

By Ken Dryden
When pianist Denny Zeitlin can break away from his full-time psychiatric practice and hook up with the very much in-demand bassist David Friesen, the results are always magical. Both are talented craftsmen on their respective instruments, but together they have the rare musical ESP that enables them to play the best possible line along with each other. This CD represents approximately half of a performance recorded in 1994 at the acoustically superior Maybeck Recital Hall in Berkeley, CA. Cole Porter's "All of You" is reharmonized considerably by Zeitlin, giving it a very fresh sound, while a wild freeform introduction to "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" includes Friesen's droning percussive bass and some far-out excursions by Zeitlin to nicely build the tension before the theme is finally stated to the likely very surprised audience. Jazz classics include a furious run through "Oleo" and a very bluesy finger-snapping interpretation of Ornette Coleman's "Turn Around." Zeitlin's dreamy ballad "Echo of a Kiss" and Friesen's intense and adventurous blues "Signs and Wonders" are compositions worth exploring by other musicians as well. Like their other duo concerts, this CD is highly recommended.

Jazz Sketches On Sondheim
Color and Light

By Scott Yanow
With so few major composers still alive by the mid-'90s, it was logical that jazz musicians would try to expand their repertoire by exploring the works of non-jazz writers. None of Stephen Sondheim's compositions have thus far become jazz standards but that may change after the release of this CD. Three of the tracks unfortunately feature vocals by the overdramatic Nancy Wilson and the R&Bish Peabo Bryson but Holly Cole (on two numbers) fares much better. The most interesting moments are provided by the all-star musicians which include such players as tenors Joshua Redman and Grover Washington, Jr., guitarist Jim Hall, pianist Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter on soprano and trumpeter Terence Blanchard among others. Sondheim himself makes a guest appearance in a piano duet with Hancock on "They Ask Me Why I Believe in You." And best of all, there is no version here of "Send in the Clowns." This varied set has its memorable performances.

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