Sunday, March 08, 2015

Lew Soloff 1944 - 2015

By Jeff Tamarkin at JazzTimes
Lew Soloff, a fixture on the New York jazz scene for a half-century, and best known for his association with Blood, Sweat and Tears, died this morning, March 8, in New York City. His daughter, Laura Solomon, confirming Soloff’s death, stated on her Facebook page that he suffered a massive heart attack while returning home after eating dinner with his family. Soloff was 71.
Soloff was best known for his five-year stint with jazz-rock pioneers Blood, Sweat and Tears, which he joined in 1968. He was present on the group’s Grammy-winning self-titled second album, performing at Woodstock with the group and contributing prominently to the hit “Spinning Wheel.” He remained with BS&T until 1973, recording five albums in all with the band. He also contributed regularly to recordings by Gil Evans and Carla Bley and served as a sideman for many other artists, as well as recording several albums as a leader.
Born Lewis Soloff in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Feb. 20, 1944, Soloff was raised in Lakewood, N.J., where he first studied piano. He switched to trumpet at age10 and developed an interest in jazz. He attended Juilliard Preparatory, then the Eastman School of Music beginning in 1961, followed by a year in graduate school at Juilliard.
Soloff’s first professional association was with the Latin bandleader Machito, and in 1966 he joined Maynard Ferguson’s outfit. Soloff also played during this time in a big band co-led by Joe Henderson and Kenny Dorham, as well as with pianist/arranger Gil Evans, with whom Soloff would continue to collaborate until Evans’ death in 1988. Soloff also spent time during the late ’60s working with Tito Puente, Clark Terry, Eddie Palmieri and others, but it was his role as a core member of Blood, Sweat and Tears during that band’s commercial peak that brought him his greatest and most lasting recognition.
During the 1980s, Soloff was a member of the group Members Only and, beginning in 1983, the Manhattan Jazz Quintet, with which he recorded more than 20 albums (most for the Japanese market, where the group was extremely popular). He recorded nine albums as a leader, beginning with Hanalei Bay in 1986; the last was 2004’s Air on a G String.
Soloff’s contributions to the discography of Carla Bley occurred between 1988 and 2008. Other artists with whom Soloff record or played, according to a bio on his website, were Roy Ayers, Bob Belden, George Benson, Benny Carter, Stanley Clarke, Paquito D’Rivera, Miles Davis/Quincy Jones, Mercer Ellington, Grant Green, Lionel Hampton, Bob James, Herbie Mann, Tania Maria, Carmen McRae, Laura Nyro, Jaco Pastorius, Mongo Santamaria, Little Jimmy Scott, Wayne Shorter and Stanley Turrentine. The site also states that Soloff accompanied many well-known vocalists, including Tony Bennett, Elvis Costello, Marianne Faithfull, Aretha Franklin, Lou Reed, Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Barbra Streisand, and also appeared on projects by Phillip Glass, Kip Hanrahan, John Mayall and Dr. John. Soloff also contributed music to numerous film soundtracks.
As an educator, he was on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music for nearly 20 years and served an adjunct faculty member at Julliard and New School.

Orrin Keepnews 1923 - 2015

By Rolling Stone
Orrin Keepnews, an NEA Jazz Master, Thelonious Monk producer, record exec and four-time Grammy winner, passed away today at his home in El Cerrito, California at the age of 91, one day shy of his 92nd birthday. Keepnews' son Peter, an editor for the New York Times, confirmed his father's death to the newspaper. No cause of death was given.
After starting out his career as a journalist and editor while moonlighting as the head of the jazz magazine The Record Changer, Keepnews teamed with Bill Grauer to form Riverside Records in 1953. Jazz legend Thelonious Monk, one of the musicians that Keepnews profiled while at Record Changer, soon joined the label in 1955.
It was on Riverside that Monk, with Keepnews serving as producer, crafted some of his most revered albums like 1956's Brilliant Corners and 1957's Monk's Music and Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane. Ironically, trumpeter Clark Terry, one of the two surviving musicians (Sonny Rollins being the other) to appear on the Grammy Hall of Fame-inducted and Keepnews-produced Brilliant Corners, also passed away last week.
Keepnews' Riverside Records would also be home to essential jazz recordings from the Bill Evans Trio, Cannonball Adderley, Randy Weston and Charlie Byrd. Following Riverside's bankruptcy midway through the Sixties, Keepnews was briefly the head of Milestone Records before he segued into an A&R position at Fantasy Records. He would later found Landmark Records, home to artists like Kronos Quartet, Buddy Montgomery and Yusef Lateef.
Keepnews frequently returned to his writing roots, penning album notes for some of the LPs he had worked on; the compilation Thelonious Monk: The Complete Riverside Collection earned Keepnews a pair of Grammys – Best Album Notes and Best Historical Album. Keepnews would win another Best Historical Album Grammy in 1999 for The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (1927-1973).
In 2011, Keepnews was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment of the Arts for his "significant contributions" to the field of jazz. He also received a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2004.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

1 Sem 2015 - Part Six

Chick Corea Trio

By Bill Meredith
After half a century as a preeminent jazz composer and musician, 73-year-old keyboardist Chick Corea is in a rare place as an artist who can release practically whatever he wants. In recent years, his incredibly prolific output has included everything from solo-piano outings to duos to sets by reshuffled iterations of Return to Forever. Even the releases themselves, like this three-CD live collection clocking in at nearly three and a half hours, are bursting with material. Overkill? Perhaps. But fortunately Corea’s band here features bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, forming a trio worthy of comparison to Corea’s great acoustic threesomes from Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes to Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian.
Five years ago, McBride played electric bass and Blade subbed for Vinnie Colaiuta on tour in Corea’s Five Peace Band, co-led with guitarist John McLaughlin and also featuring saxophonist Kenny Garrett. So the chemistry within this trio is evident from the outset. Corea’s opening composition, “You’re My Everything,” immediately spotlights the interactive ears of the swinging Blade, who answers the pianist’s phrases with both drumsticks and brushes as McBride provides the glue with accents and walking lines.
Corea then covers four pieces: Joe Henderson’s “Recorda Me,” Thelonious Monk’s whimsical “Work” and delightful new reads of “The Song Is You” and “My Foolish Heart,” the lattermost captured in Madrid with Spanish guest stars Niño Josele (guitar) and Jorge Pardo (flute). They both return for a barnburning 18-minute version of Corea’s “Spain.
The recording sites are as wide-ranging as the songwriting credits, from Washington, D.C., and Oakland, Calif., to Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Turkey and Japan. Disc two intersperses American Songbook material (“Alice in Wonderland,” “It Could Happen to You,” “How Deep Is the Ocean”) with another rousing Monk number (“Blue Monk”), Corea’s lone original, “Armando’s Rhumba,” and a couple of surprises. Kurt Weill’s “This Is New” is a highlight thanks to Corea’s exquisite touch, McBride’s take-no-prisoners break and Blade’s melodic approach. And Scriabin could never have imagined this trio’s take on his “Op. 11, No. 9,” a democratic call-and-response showcase for all three musicians.
Disc three closes with something old after two very long pieces of something new. Corea’s “Homage” is dedicated to the late flamenco guitar genius Paco de Lucía, and the pianist captures his essence through a darting unaccompanied intro and sections ranging from somber to spirited. And Corea’s previously unrecorded “Piano Sonata: The Moon,” clocking in at a half-hour, is a shell-game of written and improvised sections filled with starts and stops, crescendos and space. Its impeccable follow-up is the chestnut “Someday My Prince Will Come,” sung by Corea’s wife, Gayle Moran, which causes the crowd in Sapporo, Japan, to erupt. The couple starts the tune as a duet before McBride and Blade enter, playfully accenting Corea’s subtleties before Moran sustains a 22-second upper-register note to close (she was, some may forget, a vocalist and keyboardist for both Return to Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the 1970s).
This expansive three-CD set offers a lot to digest, and may even come across as self-indulgent on paper. Then again, chances are that nearly every listener at these concerts left the venue wanting more. With Trilogy, they don’t have to.

Baptiste Trotignon

Posted by Irwin Block 
There is an overwhelming sense of joy and playfulness in this latest album by French pianist Baptiste Trotignon, who has never sounded better.
Perhaps it’s the recurring company on this all-original outing: the big tone and melodic voice of French compatriot Thomas Bramerie on bass, and the tuneful ears, experience and technique of American drummer Jeff Ballard.
Ballard gives just the right touch to enhance and accentuate the verve in Trotignon dynamics, as he has done so effectively with pianist Brad Mehldau. Trotignon roams over the keyboard with purposeful abandon on the tone poem Choral, closing with a revisit to that theme.
Abracadabra is a more percussive and up-tempo excursion, more rhythmically complex, while Paul is lyrical in varying tempi and modes, with even an Eleanor Rigby reference! It defies definition.
This CD is a lot of fun to listen to and an uplifting musical session.

David Hazeltine
For All We Know

By C. Andrew W Hovan
While many of today's jazz pianists are looking to make a name for themselves by morphing their jazz chops with shades of hip hop, the avant-garde, or world music, David Hazeltine avoids these pitfalls altogether. His individuality is achieved through commitment to his craft and an immediately recognizable composing and arranging style that has a clear and refreshing sense of purpose. Even while he pays tribute to Cedar Walton on For All We Know, Hazeltine's music speaks with a decisive quality that marks him as one of the true piano greats of his generation.
There's much to be said for the cohesiveness that comes from musicians sharing the stage together on a regular basis and in the case of Hazeltine, bassist David Williams, and drummer Joe Farnsworth, you'd be hard pressed to find a rhythm section that is more in tune with itself. Providing the 'yin' to the trio's 'yang' is tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, making his first appearance here with Hazeltine and crew.
If you're familiar with Hazeltine's music, you know that he's become somewhat of an icon when it comes to rearranging standards. He has a knack of making everything he touches sound like his own work, breathing new life into standards like "My Ship," "Imagination," and "For All We Know." His own pieces are no less interesting, with him doubling melody lines with Blake on "Pooh" or reprising the funky excitement of "Eddie Harris," a tune first heard several years ago on a One For All set. All in all, this is another solid addition to Hazeltine's catalog and his first live recording as a leader.
Et Cedra; My Ship; Pooh; Lord Walton; For All We Know; Eddie Harris; Cheryl; Imagination; A.D. Bossa.
David Hazeltine: piano; Seamus Blake: tenor sax; David Williams: bass; Joe Farnsworth: drums.

Diana Krall

By Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Diana Krall paid tribute to her father on Glad Rag Doll, the 2012 album sourced from his collection of 78-rpm records, and, in a sense, its 2015 successor Wallflower is a companion record of sorts, finding the singer revisiting songs from her childhood. Like many kids of the 20th century, she grew up listening to the radio, which meant she was weaned on the soft rock superhits of the '70s -- songs that earned sniffy condescension at the time but nevertheless have turned into modern standards due to their continual presence in pop culture (and arguably were treated that way at the time, seeing cover after cover by middlebrow pop singers). Krall does not limit herself to the songbook of Gilbert O'Sullivan, Jim Croce, the Carpenters, Elton John, and the Eagles, choosing to expand her definition of soft rock to include a previously unrecorded Paul McCartney song called "If I Take You Home Tonight" (a leftover from his standards album Kisses on the Bottom), Bob Dylan's "Wallflower," Chantal Kreviazuk's "Feels Like Home," and Neil Finn's "Don't Dream It's Over," a song from 1986 that has been covered frequently in the three decades since. "Don't Dream It's Over" slides into this collection easily, as it's as malleable and timeless as "California Dreamin'," "Superstar," "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word," or "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)," songs that are identified with specific artists but are often covered successfully. Krall's renditions rank among those successes because she's understated, never fussing with the melodies but allowing her arrangements to slink by in a deliberate blend of sparseness and sophistication. It's an aesthetic that helps transform the Eagles' "I Can't Tell You Why" and 10cc's "I'm Not in Love," singles that are as successful as much for their production as their song, into elegant torch songs, yet it doesn't do much for Kreviazuk's pedestrian "Feels Like Home," nor does it lend itself to the loping country of "Wallflower," which may provide the name for this album but feels like an uninvited guest among these majestically melodic middle-of-the-road standards. These stumbles are slight and, tellingly, they put into context Krall's achievement with Wallflower: by singing these songs as sweet and straight as the dusty old standards on Glad Rag Doll or the bossa nova on 2009's Quiet Nights, she demonstrates how enduring these once-dismissed soft rock tunes really are.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

1 Sem 2015 - Part Five

Billy Childs
Map To The Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro

By Matt Collar
A technically adroit pianist with an ear for sensitive, emotive accompaniment, Billy Childs has built a career primarily around backing other artists, including trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, vocalist Dianne Reeves, and trumpeter Chris Botti. Although he's recorded a number of superb solo dates, on 2014's Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro, Childs once again sets himself just outside of the spotlight as he gathers various musical friends to pay homage to his longtime idol, the late singer/songwriter Laura Nyro. Having discovered Nyro's emotive and lyrically thoughtful genre-crossing folk recordings in his teens while studying jazz and classical music at the University of Southern California's Community School for the Performing Arts, Childs would eventually get to work with Nyro prior to her death from ovarian cancer in 1997. One gets the sense that in an ideal world, Childs might have recorded this album with Nyro herself as a kind of retrospective anthology. In lieu of that poignant fantasy, here Childs, along with producer and former USC Community Schools classmate Larry Klein, have reinterpreted a handful of Nyro's songs, taking an ambitious, cross-genre approach that balances the intimate folk of her original recordings with a layered jazz and symphonic pop sound. Along with the aforementioned Reeves and Botti, Childs is joined by such like-minded luminaries as vocalist Renee Fleming, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, singer/songwriter Rickie Lee Jones, bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and others. Ultimately, with Map to the Treasure, Childs doesn't simply reimagine Nyro's songs as elevate them in a spiritual and heartfelt celebration of her life and music.

Peter Zak
The Disciple

By C. Michael Bailey
Pianist Peter Zak had a transcontinental shift from Los Angeles to Columbus and Kent Ohio and, finally, to New Your City, where he has remained since 1989. He has released critically well-received CDs for the Danish SteepleChase label: The Eternal Triangle (2012), Nordic Noon (2011) and Down East (2011). He returns with the present trio recording, The Disciple.
The jazz market is a small land finicky one. It is really no longer possible to simply put together a piano trio recording of original and standards that stands out from the battlefield clotted with the same. The smarter artists, like Zak, add a program or theme to their recordings, something that gives an otherwise disparate collection of pieces some continuity or integrity. In the The Disciple, this integrating factor are compositions by pianists Zak has be influenced by, and that list is impressive.
Zak opens The Disciple with a circular performance of Chick Corea's "The Loop." He follows this with one of three originals he peppers the recording with. Representing Elmo Hope, Zak selects "Barfly," Hope's "'Round Midnight." Zak and his responsive trio of bassist Peter Washington and drummer Willie Jones III give the piece its necessary crepuscular after-hours spirit.
Horace Silver's "Nutville" is provided a solid minor-key accompaniment over which Zak waxes poetic with hard bop riffs and roars. Truly inspired is Zak tossing in a Scriabin Prelude (Op. 35 #2) into the mix making this quite an interesting collection. Performances of Herbie Hancock's Requiem," Hampton Hawes' "Jackie" and Thelonious Monk's "Criss Cross" amp up the drama.
Track Listing: 
The Loop; Montserrat; Barfly; Nutville; Prelude, Op. 35 #2; Requiem; Jackie; Criss Cross; Nightfall in Kandy; The disciple.
Peter Zak: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Willie Jones III: drums.

Geoffrey Keezer
Heart Of The Piano

By Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The title Heart of the Piano makes it plain: after over a decade of collaborations, pianist Geoffrey Keezer has returned with a solo acoustic piano session. Perhaps the title also suggests something sentimental -- and he does dedicate four of the songs to individual members of his family -- but this isn't a collection of sticky love songs. Keezer takes some happy, subtle risks with his material, opening the album with Rush's classic rock warhorse "Limelight," working his way to moody selections from Peter Gabriel ("Come Talk to Me") and Alanis Morissette ("Still"), and finding time for KT Tunstall's joyous "Suddenly I See" and Christian McBride's "Lullaby for a Ladybug" while still working in a couple of originals as well. Keezer lets all of these songs breathe -- sometimes speeding up, sometimes drawing things out either with tension or a luxurious, lax sense of dreaminess -- dancing around the melody without neglecting it, gliding up and down the keys but skirting a sense of indulgence. It's a sweet, slyly mischievous set that truly lets Keezer show a full range of emotions without ever seeming like he's showing off.

George Colligan
Ask Me Tomorrow

By Brent Black /
The artistic evolution of George Colligan, Ask Me Tomorrow is a stunning triumph!
Next to a solo piano release, the piano trio may be the most unforgiving ensemble presentations in improvisational music. The harmonic equivalent of tap dancing in a melodic minefield. This is an easy statement to make when you are an admittedly cynical critic that has reviewed more piano trios in four years than most people have heard in their lifetime. This is also a primary reason that George Colligan's Ask Me Tomorrow is a wondrous look into the cerebral vision of an artistic journey that has come full circle. There is a syncopated synergy of harmonic movement that some of Colligan's contemporaries have ignored, perhaps forgetting the piano originated as a percussive instrument. George Colligan pulls an ambient almost ethereal like quality while pushing what is normally considered the "straight ahead" sound into the next dimension.
To focus on the minutia of Ask Me Tomorrow in terms of critical analysis would be doing an injustice to this amazing collective that is rounded off with the fabulous Linda Oh on bass and the lyrical finesse of drummer Ted Poor. While Colligan would seem to favor minor keys, odd meters and an organic pulse, the overwhelming beauty of his melodies only seem stronger for his approach. Open, warm, deceptively subtle in nuanced texture is the embodiment of what can best be referred to as capturing lighting in a bottle as this is a live studio recording, three hours in the studio and no rehearsal. The results include the percussive insistence and odd metered groove of "Insistent Linda." We are also graciously served up an intimate "Jesper's Summer House." The richness of flavor is fortified with the dynamic tension of the free formed "Two Notes, Four Chords." The hauntingly beautiful "Denmark" may well be the jewel in this amazing collection. These are all original compositions, no standards...Ask Me Tomorrow is predictable by embracing an open ended unpredictable nature.
I have been hard on George Colligan and not because I know more about music or because I have some pseudo-intellectual axe to grind but because I knew this was an artist that could go deep. We all can pull from a deeper place; artists, listeners and especially critics. This is the George Colligan I have been waiting for. While the year is still relatively young, Ask Me Tomorrow may be one of the very best recordings I have heard in my four hundred plus reviews thus far and easily one of the most memorable piano trios that I have heard in the last decade.