Friday, September 19, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part Five

Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden
Last Dance

By John Kelman
For the past 30 years—barring a few diversions into classical repertoire, unexpected instrumentation like 1986's Book of Ways and a couple of home-cooked solo albums that, as with the 1986 recording No End (ECM, 2013), were out-of-character recordings where he overdubbed all the instruments himself—pianist Keith Jarrett has been working two contexts and two contexts only: solo piano performances that, with the exception of the home-recorded The Melody at Night, With You (ECM, 1999), have all been recorded live; and his Standards Trio recordings—in all but one instance featuring bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette —that, with the exception of the first three recordings made in 1983 (ultimately collected together in the Setting Standards: New York Sessions (ECM, 2008) box) and 1993's Bye Bye Blackbird, have also been exclusively in-concert recordings.
Jarrett's prior years as a leader saw him engaged in a greater variety of settings, his earliest dating back to 1967's Life Between the Exit Signs (Vortex), a trio date featuring bassist Charlie Haden
and drummer Paul Motian, two players with whom the pianist would continue working when he formed his so-called "American Quartet" in 1974 with saxophonist Dewey Redman for a series of recordings that began with Treasure Island (Impulse!) and ended with Bop Be (Impulse!, 1977) (even though Eyes of the Heart was released by ECM in 1979, it was recorded five months prior to that final Impulse! date).
Both Jarrett's American Quartet and the European-based "Belonging Quartet" that featured saxophonist Jan Garbarek, bassist Palle Danielsson and drummer Jon Christensen were also distinguished from the pianist's subsequent recordings, both in his fully improvised solo recordings and the Great American Songbook explorations of his Standards Trio, in that they featured Jarrett's original compositions. Of course, in the right hands, improvisation is nothing less than in-the-moment composition, and so while Jarrett may appear to have deserted formal composition, both of his current projects are, it can be argued, still Jarrett in composition mode: one, in-the-moment with no preconceptions; the other, equally spontaneous but using the context of the jazz standard and Great American Songbook repertoires as its foundation.
All of which made Jasmine (ECM, 2010) a release worth celebrating. Recorded at Jarrett's home (in his Cavelight Studio), it was an intimate conversation between two old friends—Jarrett and Haden—who'd not recorded together in over three decades, and who were brought together when the pianist participated in Reto Cardiff's film about the bassist, Rambling Boy (2009). Some things are never lost, and if Jasmine proved anything, it's that the chemistry shared by Jarrett and Haden may have been on hiatus for 30 years, but was no less potent, no less profound, when they found themselves recording a series of standards at Jarrett's home with no rehearsals barring a few quick run-throughs of the changes. The collaboration must have been a fruitful one, because Last Dance comes from those same sessions, another full 76 minutes of music comprised, once again, of songs culled from jazz standards and the Great American Songbook.
The same strengths that made Jasmine such a wonderful—and welcome—diversion from Jarrett's solo and trio releases remain definitive on Last Dance. Haden demonstrates his usual unerring ability to find the absolutely perfect note—played with equally impeccable tone—whether it's in the spare yet ambling swing of his support for Jarrett's solo on the mid-tempo "Everything Happens to Me" or his own more intrinsically lyrical feature later in the same song; there's never a note wasted or a note out of place. As for Jarrett, while his career has been predicated on both virtuosity and an ability to spontaneously pull music from the ether, and as consistently superb as his solo and Standards Trio work has been over the past three decades, here in this context, he's never sounded so relaxed, so unfettered in a way that's different from his inimitable freedom in live performance. There is, of course, an energy that comes from an audience that feeds a musician and can make the difference between a good performance and a great one, but equally, there's something about the unconstrained freedom of playing at home with a longtime friend who shares your language. There's nothing to prove, only music to make, and while Jarrett has visited songs like Thelonious Monk's classic ballad "'Round Midnight" and Thomas Adair and Matt Denis' slightly brighter "Everything Happens to Me" before, they've never sounded this tender, this affectionate.
Two tracks from Last Dance are alternate versions of songs heard on Jasmine: while Victor Young and Peggy Lee's "Where Can I Go Without You" is taken at almost the same tempo, Gordon Jenkin's "Goodbye" is taken at a slightly slower pace, demonstrating how even such subtle differences can impact the way a song unfolds. In both cases, however, while the basic arrangements are the same, they also show how masterful improvisers can play the same song night after night (in this case, possibly even twice on the same day) and keep it sounding fresh and original.
Haden's health these days has made performance difficult, as he battles post-polio syndrome that can impair his hands—and his voice, because his vocal chords are at times paralyzed. It's impossible to know whether he will be able to continue touring or recording, but he's always been a fighter, so who knows what the future will bring. But if Last Dance were to be a title with particular significance—if it were to be the last recorded notes that Haden fans were to have the privilege of hearing, they'd be as confident, muscular and astutely intuitive as anything he's ever done. And while Jarrett, despite a run-in with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that nearly scuttled his career in the mid-to-late '90s, seems to be in reasonable health (he's also, at 69, seven years younger than Haden)—and, consequently, has plenty of performances left in him—Last Dance will stand, alongside Jasmine, as two of his most beautiful and intimate recordings, played with a lifelong friend who, despite a thirty-year gap in their musical partnership, came back as if time had stood still and not a second had passed since they'd last collaborated.
Track Listing: 
My Old Flame; My Ship; 'Round Midnight; Dance of the Infidels; It Might As Well Be Spring; Everything Happens to Me; Where Can I Go Without You; Every Time We Say Goodbye; Goodbye.
Keith Jarrett: piano; Charlie Haden: double bass.

Cyrus Chestnut
Midnight Melodies

By Jazz Messengers
This nearly perfect piano trio set by Cyrus Chestnut, captured at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in New York, is his first live recording date. It retains all of the feeling and power of his thrilling live performances but also benefits from Smoke's Steinway B that Cyrus claims is the best piano in the city. “It's just my ticket.
We connect. It's warm and it's sharp at the same time with a lot of earth in it. I like clubs like the Jazz Standard or Smoke, where you can sit down at the piano and get down-home, because that's the kind of audience they attract.”.

Recorded live at Smoke Jazz Club, November 22 & 23, 2013

01. Two Heartbeats
02. Pocket Full of Blues
03. To Be Determined
04. Bag's Groove
05. Hey, It's Me You're Talkin' To
06. Chelsea Bridge
07. U.M.M.G. (Upper Manhattan Medical Group)
08. I Wanted to Say
09. Giant Steps
10. Naima's Love Song
11. The Theme

Marianne Solivan 
Prisoner of Love

Debut CD by New York jazz vocalist, featuring Jeremy Pelt, Christian McBride, Peter Bernstein, Xavier Davis, Michael Kanan, Ben Wolfe, and Johnathan Blake.

By Tom Pierce
This initial CD by a hypnotically captivating New York songstress had as strong an initial impression on me as almost any singer I've heard in recent years. Back in the day, she might have been called a “Torch Singer”; today currently some might label her a “Cabaret Singer, as most of the 11 songs are intimate and convincing ballads. However, none are the usual, overdone ones. She has more than enough natural rhythmic looseness & flexibility, without over-dramatizing her delivery, to strike me as an arresting JAZZ singer. She is superbly supported by Christian McBride & Ben Wolfe – bass; Michael Kanan – piano; Jonathan Blake – drums; Peter Bernstein – guitar and on one track by Jeremy Pelt, who also produced the CD.

Eliane Elias
I Thought About You: A Tribute To Chet Baker

By C. Michael Bailey
It is tempting to consider Chet Baker hommages like Jeff Baker's excellent Baker Sings Chet (OA2, 2004) or John Proulx's sublime Baker's dozen: Remembering Chet Baker (MAXJAZZ, 2009) superior to the real item. So fractured is our picture of Baker that our full appreciation of him is clouded by his extra-musical proclivities. But it is not exactly that. Baker's vibratoless trumpet and vocals, as well as, his limited technical abilities are acquired tastes, but once acquired are generally rewarding to the listener. It is not simply one thing, but the whole package that is Chet Baker. What better legacy to leave than a constant recapitulation of your famous book every-so-many years.
Today's vintage homage is pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias' I Thought About You: A Tribute to Chet Baker. Elias' reputation rests on her superior pianism, and beginning in 1990 with Eliane Elias Sings Jobim (Blue Note), her smooth, cool and perfectly nondescript vocals, which prove sonically and stylistically well suited for the Baker repertoire.
Like Proulx, Elias sings her Baker straight and uncomplicated, highlighting Baker's own emotionally frozen though thoroughly attractive delivery. The result captures Baker's dark and hiply sardonic singing personality. What Elias brings to the table is the breezy lilt of a Brazilian accent that increases the disc's sensuality to eleven on a scale of ten. "I Thought About You" and "Let's Get Lost" are like lovers' lips brushing one another.
Elias is supported by a grand cast that includes trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarists Oscar Castro-Neves and Steve Cardenas. They provide, with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Victor Lewis
that humid Caribbean infusion that colors every song. Is Chet Baker best experienced through other artists?
Track Listing: 
I Thought About You; There Will Never Be Another You; This Can't Be Love; Embraceable You; That Old Feeling; Everything Depends On You; I've Never Been In Love Before; Let's Get Lost; Start; You Don't Know What Love Is; Blue Room; Just Friends; Girl Talk; Just In Time; I Get Along Without You Very Well.
Eliane Elias: vocals, piano; Marc Johnson: acoustic bass; Steve Cardenas: electric guitar; Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Oscar Castro-Neves: acoustic guitar: Victor Lewis: drums; Rafael Barata: drums; Marivaldo Dos Santos: percussion. 

Cyrus Chestnut
Soul Brother Cool

By Jeff Tamarkin
On the surface, Soul Brother Cool appears to draw direct lines to two other releases: the recent The Willie Jones III Sextet Plays the Max Roach Songbook (also reviewed in this issue) and drum great Roach’s own 1966 album Drums Unlimited, which, like many of pianist Cyrus Chestnut’s early albums, was issued by Atlantic Records. Jones and bassist Dezron Douglas provide the rhythm section on both Jones’ release and Chestnut’s (each album appears on Jones’ WJ3 label), while the cover art of Soul Brother Cool is a ringer for the Roach set.
But that’s about as far as the comparisons go. Soul Brother Cool doesn’t even have much in common with Chestnut’s previous (and only other) quartet recording, an eponymous 2010 set. With trumpeter Freddie Hendrix replacing soprano saxophonist Stacy Dillard, the new collection, featuring 10 Chestnut originals, feels like a welcome departure. This is one tasty little band.
For one thing, Hendrix is as much the star here as Chestnut. His solos proliferate, alternately brash and serene, always commanding and fluid. He presents a marked contrast to Chestnut’s more studied and intricate gospel- and blues-rooted breaks. They feed well off each other, and Jones and Douglas consistently provide the required pocket. In “Piscean Thought,” Hendrix takes the first half, Chestnut the next quarter, then Hendrix returns to finish what he started; it’s not an atypical strategy on the album, as solos on the more tranquil “Dawn of the Sunset” and other tracks are similarly allocated. But Hendrix is so good here it’s hard to imagine a listener having a problem with his dominance.
Chestnut is a remarkable pianist and composer though, and while he’s not always in the spotlight on his own record, his creative presence is always felt.

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