Saturday, April 26, 2014

Old Jazz CD's 2014 - Part Two

Makoto Ozone

By B.H. Hopper
But sitting on his haunches and enjoying success was simply not Ozone's style. He embarked on a decision to seriously concentrate on music once again, shifting his focus to acoustic jazz. Contaced by Verve Polydor records, he signed to them in 1994. A landmark decision that served as a catalyst: for the unveiling of his true brilliance, all cam gushing forth like a breaking of a dam. Always a favourite in Europe, Ozone's return to the jazz piano was lauded enthusiastically. He commenced a string of exhilerating live dates that included performances at the North Sea Jazz Festival, Nice Jazz Festival, and the Montreux Jazz Festival. Back in Japan, his first album from the Verve/Polydor label was released. A solo piano album "Breakout", caught the jazz scene off guard, but it was a glorious surprise indeed. Ozone's unexpected return to jazz was a cause for celebration among jazz fans everywhere.
Tea Up; Don't Slice It!; Wild Goose Chase; Lake Thun; Spin Around; Pure Thoughts
Black Forest; Does Your Dog Bite?; Remember T.; My Little Dream; The Dark Shadows
Bullet Trane; Time for Romance.

Fred Hersch
At Maybeck: Volume Thirty-One

By Richard S. Ginell
Fred Hersch's first solo recital came about thanks to -- what else? -- the Maybeck Recital Hall series, which devotes Vol. 31 to his survey of several well-worn pop standards, a few jazz tunes, and a couple of originals. Luckily, Hersch likes to use a percussive form of counterpoint often enough to juice things up, a plan that launches "The Song Is You" and "Everything I Love" in unorthodox fashion. "In Walked Bud," an inventive takeoff on Monk's own stabbing manner, is also clever in its spiky, asymmetrical way. The opening and ending of "Haunted Heart" work well with a nostalgic drone in the bass, and Ornette Coleman's "Ramblin'" gets a gospel-influenced workout that fans of Keith Jarrett's early solo concerts would appreciate. As for the two Hersch originals, "Heartsong" is ebullient and romantic at the same time, while "Sarabande" concentrates solely upon lyricism. In other words, another classy, technically unimpeachable, spotlessly recorded outing in the Maybeck series.

Roy Hargrove Quintet
With The Tenors Of Our Time

By Scott Yanow
Trumpeter Roy Hargrove has the opportunity of a lifetime on this recording, sharing separate songs with five great tenors: Johnny Griffin, Joe Henderson, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, and Stanley Turrentine. Everyone fares well, including Hargrove's group (Ron Blake on tenor and soprano, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Rodney Whitaker, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson). The young trumpeter (who is vying for Lee Morgan's unoccupied chair) keeps up with the saxophonists on this generally relaxed affair; recommended for hard bop fans.

Ahmad Jamal
Chicago Revisited: Live at Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase

By Scott Yanow
Although it had been more than 40 years since his debut recording, pianist Ahmad Jamal's playing was as viable as ever in the 1990s. Teamed up with bassist John Heard and drummer Yoron Israel for this live Telarc CD, Jamal plays a particularly inspired repertoire that includes "All the Things You Are," Clifford Brown's "Daahoud," John Handy's "Dance to the Lady" and "Be My Love" among its nine selections. Jamal's style had developed since his early days, but his basic approach was unchanged while still sounding quite fresh. This date is an excellent example of Ahmad Jamal's unique sound and highly appealing music in the '90s.

Chick Corea

By Dave Connolly
Having put the Akoustic/Elektric band to bed, Chick Corea didn't delve into another group project right away, opting instead to get in touch with himself on the solo Expressions. This is just Corea on a Yamaha grand piano thumbing through a songbook that includes standards as well as one new track, "Blues for Art." (The disc is dedicated to Art Tatum.) Sometimes subverting the original melodies ("I Want to Be Happy") and other times giving them fairly straight interpretations (his own "Armando's Rhumba"), Corea seems comfortable, if not always inspired. However, unless you're well acquainted with the original versions, it's nearly impossible to glean what the pianist is adding to (or saying about) the music. Because of the similar circumstances for each recording, individual tracks rarely stand out from the whole. There are discernible moods as the pianist waxes sentimental ("This Was Nearly Mine"), indulges in the intellectual ("Oblivion"), or grows restless ("It Could Happen to You"), but the tricks and timbres become familiar before long. Corea has released relatively few works of solo piano, and they tend to be hit-or-miss affairs. By revisiting the standards, Expressions at least gives listeners a point of reference to enjoy this music from, but those looking for dazzling technique or brilliant revisionism will find better examples of these peppered throughout Corea's catalog. It's not a lightweight record, but reputations are made from stronger stuff. 

Kenny Barron
Wanton Spirit

By Lee Bloom
Kenny Barron began to impact the jazz scene in 1961, gigging briefly with reedman Yusef Lateef. He then spent nearly five years with Dizzy Gillespie's group before working with Freddie Hubbard and later rejoining Lateef. He is generally considered a great consolidator rather than an innovator, and his reputation as a world-class mainstream player has grown slowly but steadily over the years. Wanton Spirit further establishes him as a leader and teams him with bebop legend Roy Haynes on drums and Charlie Haden on bass. The early influences of Tatum, Powell, Monk, plus the melodic lines of Tommy Flanagan, the pentatonic harmony of McCoy Tyner, and the rhythmic fluidity of Herbie Hancock have all been thoroughly absorbed by Barron. Dizzy Gillespie's triumphal anthem "BeBop" is not taken at its traditionally frantic tempo; instead its components are decelerated and deconstructed -- revealing in its melody and harmony a hauntingly unstable edge. Barron gives us lyrical ballad interpretations of Tom Harrell's beautiful "Sail Away," Strayhorn's "Passion Flower," and Victor Lewis' "Loss of a Moment." His solo piano rendition of Ellington's "Melancholia" is gorgeous. This talented pianist's humility is evident in his choice of the title track, a composition penned by his student Earl McDonald. As a whole, Wanton Spirit is meticulously recorded, although the studio separation, coupled with digital recording and editing, can make the session sound almost too pristine -- lacking the warmth of a live performance. And though his work is masterful, Barron's playing sometimes frustrates critics since his own personal style is not always simply and readily identifiable. If one listens deeply, though, there is much to savor.

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