Saturday, September 20, 2014

2 Sem 2014 - Part Nine

Marc Copland
Some More Love Songs

By Dan McClenaghan
Pianist Marc Copland—who, oddly, began his jazz career as a saxophonist—took an artistic leap forward with his three New York Trio recordings on Pirouet Records. Employing a rotating crew of bassists with Gary Peacock, Drew Gress, and drummers Paul Motian and Bill Stewart, the pianist rose to a higher profile via his nearly unsurpassed musical excellence. The pianist interpreted standards (and some not-so-standards), along with his own top-flight original compositions, in conjunction with an astute marketing choice of releasing, over the course of three years, this triptych of similarly handsomely packaged outings, much in the fashion of Brad Mehldau's five Art of the Trio (Nonesuch Records, 2011) recordings.
Before the New York sets there was the perhaps overlooked Some Love Songs (Pirouet Records, 2005), that included transcendent explorations of tunes by Joni Mitchell, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, Richard Rodgers and Victor Young—a recording that rivaled almost any of iconic pianist Bill Evans' best work. Now Copland follows Some Love Songs with Some More Love Songs.
It's hard to imagine the success of Copland without Evans' ground-breaking, his strong contribution to trumpeter Miles Davis' classic Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959), and the subsequent consistency of his superb trio recordings over a more-than twenty-year run, from the late fifties until the pianist's untimely death in 1980. Copland has taken Evans' approach of trio democracy, sonic luminosity and harmonic depth and created his own personal language on this—the high point for now—musical journey.
The set opens with Joni Mitchell's lovely and fragile "I Don't Know Where I Stand," a re-visitation of the tune Copland recorded solo on Alone (Pirouet, 2009). This version benefits from the nuanced accompaniment of his trio mates, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Jochen Rueckert. The mood is floating and uncertain, mirroring the lyrical content of Mitchell's version, leading into an up-tempo, beautiful and brash take of the classic "My Funny Valentine," with its implacable momentum.
"Eighty One"—from the songbook of legendary bassist Ron Carter and Miles Davis' ESP (Columbia, 1965), the debut from what would become the trumpeter's second great quintet—is cool and mysterious, the interplay highly nuanced. "Rainbow's End," Copland's lone original composition, shimmers like late afternoon sunlight reflecting off the facets of wavelets on a wind-ruffled pond, while Cole Porter's ever-familiar "I've Got You Under My Skin"—a 1956 masterpiece by Frank Sinatra, who sounded supremely suave and confident on his take—gets a wandering and impressionist treatment by Copland's trio, with the heart of the melody slipping in and out of the shadows.
The set closes with one of its most tender moment, Victor Young's "When I Fall In Love," brimming with sparkling optimism and a fitting wrap-up to what may be Copland's finest trio outing to date.
Track Listing: 
I Don't Know Where I Stand; My Funny Valentine; Eighty One; Rainbow's End; I've Got You Under My Skin; I Remember You; When I Fall in Love.
Marc Copland: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Jochen Ruekert: drums

Dave Frank
Portrait Of New York

By Dan Bilawsky
Jazz and New York are like hot dogs and baseball, or peanut butter and jelly. The Big Apple has been the epicenter of so many important movements and moments in jazz, that it's hard to think of any other place—save perhaps New Orleans—that deserves the honor of being captured in song. Pianist Dave Frank, widely recognized as a premier jazz educator and performer, pays tribute to New York with solo piano paintings of various streets and locales, and four reworked standards, on Portrait Of New York.
Frank's steady and creative left-hand lines—juxtaposed against a right hand that can be alternately relaxed or off-the-charts fast—is his calling card. A strong blues-affinity resides within his creations, but his ability to modernize older forms with slight abstractions—be it an altered chord progression or oddly angular intervals in his steady bass lines—is what makes this music so engaging. "Full Force NYC" opens the album and Frank's right hand seems to represent the hustle and bustle of New York life, as he throws out some jaw dropping runs. "Broadway Boogie-Woogie" is a bit more traditional in nature, but Frank's faster-than-usual take on "Perdido" breaths some fresh air into that well-worn classic.
While most of the originals refer to places, Frank does pay tribute to two piano giants with "McKenna/McCoy." The forward momentum found on this particular piece makes it a winner, though it never hints at the percussive power in McCoy Tyner's playing. Frank's slow, bluesy-woozy "Lower East Side Shuffle" is a real treat, though this track could have also benefited from some heavy-handed heft.
While Frank's flashier tendencies occasionally come to the fore during the more excitable songs, he proves to be a masterful ballad sculptor as well. Pangs of sadness, loss and regret come through on his emotionally reflective performance of "This Nearly Was Mine." Mysterious melodic threads are sewn in the upper regions of the piano as "My Man's Gone Now" begins. Some depression sets into the music and rubato rears it's head here, though this track eventually takes on a more defined rhythmic direction than the Richard Rodgers tune. Frank's own "Manhattan Moonlight" is pretty and classy, in an unassuming way.
Portrait Of New York paints a wonderful picture of solo piano possibilities and Manhattan-themed melodies, but it also serves as a portrait of Dave of the most creative pianists around today.
Track Listing: 
Full Force NYC; Broadway Boogie-Woogie; This Nearly Was Mine; Midtown 9 AM; Perdido; My Man's Gone; Lower East Side Shuffle; McKenna/McCoy; Manhattan by Moonlight; Bowery Blues; You And The Night And The Music; Times Square.
Personnel: Dave Frank: piano.

Cécile McLorin Salvant
Woman Child

By Alison Bentley
American singer Cécile McLorin Salvant's début album WomanChild reveals a voice with a deep, knowing side, as well as a childlike playfulness. Still in her early 20s, she was winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2010 and is already being fêted as the heir to the great jazz singers. Her repertoire and style are cool and modern as well as reaching back into jazz history.
There are two Bessie Smith covers: St. Louis Gal and Baby Have Pity on Me. McLorin Salvant sings with Smith's bluesy phrasing, laid-back but gentler, less raunchy. Every characterful detail is exposed by James Chirillo's lovely understated guitar- he plays on these two tracks only. There are two songs taken from popular early African American performers, which are full of humour. Nobody was sung by Bert Williams in the 1900s and is reworked with some excellent stride piano from Aaron Diehl. McLorin Salvant brings out the song's wry humour: 'When life seems full of clouds an' rain/ and I am filled with naught but pain,/ who soothes my thumpin' bumpin' brain ?/Nobody!'
Valaida Snow's You Bring Out the Savage in Me is sung with exquisite humour, over a fiery Afro-Latin groove. McLorin Salvant plays with vocal tones, from a Judy Garland drawl to a Blossom Dearie whisper. As McLorin Salvant puts it: 'I think you can make fun of the idea of jazz as “savage music” even while wanting to be primal'. Abbey Lincoln inspired her to 'go for it' as a singer, and she has a little of Lincoln's declamatory style in John Henry, a traditional song about the death of a railway worker. There's a toughness to the voice over the New Orleans-ish fast groove, with percussive piano.
Born in Miami to a French mother and Haitian father, McLorin Salvant’s first language was French. She's set Haitian poet Ida Faubert's poem Le Front Caché Sur Tes Genoux to music with a 6/8 jazz feel. She sings the emotive lyrics with a low, affecting vibrato. She's been studying Classical singing as well as jazz in France, and her own song Deep Dark Blue has long, beautifully-controlled vocal notes over Ravel-like dramatic piano. Her song WomanChild is autobiographical, 'Woman child falters/Clumsy on her feet/ Wonderin' where she'll go...', but it also, she's said, expresses her view of art- how it should be adult and childlike at the same time. The band moves from a McCoy Tyner-like swagger to compelling swing. Sarah Vaughan was an early influence on McLorin Salvant, and like Vaughan, her voice flickers between a full-powered tone and a mischievous, girlish sound.
The standards bring out the most modern aspects of McLorin Salvant's voice. I Didn't Know What Time it Was frames the voice with rhythmic stops, and McLorin Salvant sounds uncannily and beautifully like 60s Betty Carter. Her sense of swing is surefooted with a mixture of delicacy and confidence. There's a fine boppy melodic bass solo from Rodney Whitaker and sparkling piano solo from Diehl. There's a Lull in My Life is prefaced by Prelude, an instrumental section which displays the talents of the virtuosic and versatile piano trio. An excellent subtle backbeat and 12/8 feel from drummer Herlin Riley brings in the vocals. McLorin Salvant's said she wants '... to get as close to the centre of the song as I can,' and her expressive diction brings out the meaning brilliantly; as she sings 'the clock stops ticking' right behind the beat, you can almost hear the clocks slowing down. McLorin Salvant accompanies herself on piano on Jitterbug Waltz; she sings with such spontaneous, gamine glee, you feel you're waltzing with her.
Her rendering of What a Little Moonlight Can Do (much performed by Betty Carter) shows McLorin Salvant's full range- vocally and emotionally. She told one interviewer: 'When I sing I try not to think too much, and get into the story of the song...I get into that moment and just go.' There are swathes of long, improvised notes, haunting and intimate, over the piano trio's free-ish modern harmonies. They're interspersed with passages of fast swing, underpinned by Whitaker's immaculate bass. McLorin Salvant chokes comically and touchingly on the words '... all day long you'll only stutter, your poor tongue- it will not utter the words'.
McLorin Salvant matches playfulness with superb technique; devil-may-care performance with dedicated love of jazz. I can't wait for the next album.

The David Hazeltine Trio

The David Hazeltine Trio successfully undertakes well-known classical works and reinvents them through jazz. Joined by George Mraz on bass and Jason Brown on drums, Hazeltine is able to reformat these classics into high energy, sweet swinging, syncopated adaptations of their originals. The group tackles works by composers: Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, and Beethoven; restructuring their works all the while keeping them audibly recognizable.
This album was recorded in Binarual+ for both speaker and 3D headphone playback and has EXTREME dynamics, so please set your playback levels carefully.
Track Listings:
1. Clair de Lune
2. Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring
3. Impromptu No. 4
4. Moonlight Sonata
5. Waltz of the Flowers
6. Prelude
7. Reverie
8. Fur Elise

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