Monday, May 25, 2015

Marcus Belgrave 1936 - 2015

By Susan Whitall - TheDetroitNews
Friends report that Marcus Belgrave, a Detroit jazz icon famous for his copper trumpet and for playing with Ray Charles and other greats, died Saturday night. Musician R.J. Spangler, was among the friends Belgrave’s wife Joan texted with the message, “We lost our friend Marcus.”
Belgrave, 78, had suffered from heart and pulmonary issues for some time, and had been hospitalized at the University of Michigan in late April, suffering from pneumonia.
“Marcus was a jazz icon in Detroit, but also an international jazz treasure,” said Spangler. “He mentored Regina Carter, Kenny Garrett, Robert Hurst and many others, but he also played with Charles Mingus, Wynton Marsalis, Horace Tapscott and even sat in with the Tonight Show Band.
“For most of my life, he was a fellow eastsider. He was a beautiful man.”
Belgrave wasn’t born in Detroit, but the native Pennsylvanian chose the Motor City as his home when he came off the road with Ray Charles’ band in 1963.
Belgrave was attracted to the steady work in Motown’s hit factory on W. Grand Blvd., but Detroit’s tightly-knit jazz community was also part of the draw.
He soon bonded with Detroit jazz great Harold McKinney, who was active as an educator and mentor, apart from his own music. Detroit’s jazz musicians thrived during the Motown years, when many were employed playing sessions on W. Grand Blvd. But in the ‘70s, when the label had moved west, it fell to elders such as McKinney and Belgrave to help keep the music alive.
“Harold is basically responsible for me staying here as long as I have,” Belgrave told The Detroit News in 1991. “He inspired me to work with young people. I owe the first 10 or 12 years of my existence here to Harold. He's been one of my fathers; Ray Charles has been the other one.”
Like McKinney, Belgrave believed passionately in mentoring younger musicians, and the list of those he taught or influenced is staggering.Pianist Geri Allen, bassist Robert Hurst, saxophonists Kenny Garrett and James Carter; violinist Regina Carter and bassist Rodney Whitaker are just some of the many who learned from Belgrave.
Born June 12, 1936, he was one of 12 children in a musically gifted family, the son of a steel mill worker in Chester, Pennsylvania. Belgrave received his first trumpet at age 5, and thrived at school, studying classical music both at school and in private lessons. He was always first chair or soloist in Chester High School’s band and orchestra.
Belgrave took off on the road with Ray Charles’ tight show band at the age of 21, and professionally, never looked back.
Over the years, his raspy voice and rich trumpet tone, brought Louis Armstrong to mind, and while he did loved Armstrong, it was another trumpet player, bebop master Dizzy Gillespie, who was perhaps his biggest influence.
Belgrave first heard Dizzy on record when he was three years old.
“He's the cause of me playing trumpet,” Belgrave said, in 1993. “His was the first trumpet I heard on a recording. He was father to an entire generation of trumpet players.”
Over the years Belgrave performed with Charles Mingus, Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Aretha Franklin
Even after Motown left, and venues for live jazz started vanishing in the 1970’s, Belgrave rededicated himself to living in Detroit.
“Detroit is no worse off than a lot of other cities, with all of the unemployment and all of the factories closing,” he said in 1992. “It puts a damper on our way of life. But I can't think of a better place to raise my children. If they can make it here, they can make it anywhere.
“You can't run away. You might run into something even worse. At least here you know what you are up against.”

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bob Belden 1956 - 2015

By Jeff Tamarkin/ JazzTimes
Bob Belden, a multi-instrumentalist, producer, arranger, bandleader, label executive, historian and writer, died May 20 in New York City after suffering a massive heart attack in his Upper West Side apartment. Belden was removed from life support after being non-responsive for more than 24 hours. He was 58.
A true jack-of-all-trades in the jazz world, Belden recorded as a leader and in various band and sideman situations, playing soprano saxophone and other instruments and composing; produced recordings by other artists; conducted, orchestrated and wrote arrangements (for McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson and others); created and coordinated multi-artist theme albums including Indian and Latin music tributes to Miles Davis as well as tributes to Prince, the Beatles and Sting; compiled historical releases and box sets (on Miles and others) for major record labels; wrote liner notes and articles for jazz publications; and served as an A&R executive for Blue Note Records.
Belden won Grammy Awards for his work on 1996’s Miles Davis and Gil Evans: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (Best Historical Album, Best Album Notes) and 1998’s Miles Davis Quintet set 1965-’68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings (Best Album Notes). He and trumpeter Tim Hagans were also nominated for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 2000 for ANIMATION/Imagination and in 2001 for Re-ANIMATION: Live!. Miles From India, which Belden conceived and produced, was nominated for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 2009.
James Robert Belden was born in Evanston, Ill., Oct. 31, 1956, and grew up in Goose Creek, S.C., where he became interested in jazz in his youth, performing in his high school band. He studied saxophone and composition in the 1970s at North Texas State University (where he was a member of the One O’Clock Lab Band) and the University of South Carolina and joined Woody Herman’s orchestra upon graduating in 1978.
In 1983, Belden moved to New York, working as a sideman for artists such as Donald Byrd and Mel Lewis, while also scoring films and television programs. He was a staff arranger for ESPN from 1984-88. Belden’s production work took off in the late ’80s—he produced two albums for trumpeter Red Rodney—and he also began recording under his own name at that time, for Blue Note, Sunnyside and other labels (Blue Note made him director of A&R in the late ’90s).
Belden’s 2001 Blue Note release Black Dahlia reportedly became one of the biggest-selling non-vocal orchestral albums of its era. The album featured a 12-part orchestra paying tribute to the late actress Elizabeth Short. Belden’s orchestrated treatment of Puccini's opera Turandot was reportedly suppressed by the composer’s estate and issued only in Japan.
Beginning in the late ’90s, Belden led ANIMATION, originally alongside Tim Hagans. The most recent edition of the group, led solely by Belden, featured young musicians he hired from the University of North Texas. Early this year, he arranged for the band to perform in Iran, the first time in 35 years that an American music ensemble had been allowed to work in the country. Our report on the historical journey can be read here.
In the early 2000s, Belden teamed up with producer Michael Cuscuna at Sony on compiling a series of exhaustive box sets collecting Columbia Records’ Miles Davis output (including many of the individual album), as well as reissue projects on Hancock, Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Charles Mingus, Weather Report, Jan Hammer, Jimmy Smith, Thelonious Monk, Maynard Ferguson, Cannonball Adderley and others.
As a sideman and session musician, he worked over the years with such artists as Hancock, Byrd, Tyner, Sting, Chaka Kahn, Joe Zawinul, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian, Cassandra Wilson, Chick Corea, Diane Reeves, Wallace Roney, Ron Carter, Gary Peacock and Tony Williams.
Belden was known within the jazz community as something of a raconteur—always outspoken, funny, never afraid to speak out on any topic, even when (especially when) his view was not the popular one. He was a vocal critic of the state of the music industry, music education and other aspects of the world in which he traveled. Yet he traveled easily within it because he understood it so well, and was loved and respected for his individuality and the sheer magnitude and breadth of his talent.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bruce Lundvall 1935 - 2015

By Patrick Jarenwattananon/ NPR
Bruce Lundvall, the longtime President of Blue Note Records who supported many top jazz artists over the last four decades, died yesterday, May 19. The cause was complications of Parkinson's Disease, according to a Blue Note statement. He was 79.
Born in 1935, Lundvall began his career in the music business in 1960, in an entry-level position he described as "management trainee" at Columbia Records. He would rise to lead the North American division of the label, where his jazz roster included Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Woody Shaw, Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon. He left to create the Elektra/Musician label in 1982.
In 1984, he left to revive Blue Note Records, an storied jazz imprint that had been defunct for several years. It was, as he told NPR in 2009, his "lifelong dream" to work for Blue Note, ever since he graduated from Bucknell University and applied for a position fresh out of school.
"I wanted to be in the music business," he said. "I was a very bad tenor saxophone player, but I was a huge jazz fan.
"And I walked into New York one day from the bus and from my home in New Jersey, and I went to Alfred Lion's office at Blue Note with a resume in my hand. And it had very little information on it, except my college courses, my summer jobs and absolutely no grades identified, and one line saying occupation, and that was 'unemployed jazz fan.' And Alfred invited me into the office very graciously and invited me out just as quickly, I think, saying, 'We don't have no jobs here.'"
During his tenure at Blue Note, he signed artists who became iconic in modern jazz: Robert Glasper and Jason Moran, Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson, John Scofield and Medeski Martin & Wood, Joe Lovano and Greg Osby, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Don Pullen, Terence Blanchard and Ambrose Akinmusire. With the help of producer Michael Cuscuna, he brought back musicians who had previously recorded for the label: Jimmy Smith, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Jackie McLean, Andrew Hill. He also oversaw great commercial successes by introducing what he called "very legitimate" artists beyond jazz: musicians like Norah Jones, Al Green and Amos Lee. He stepped down in 2010, but continued on as Chairman Emeritus.
His philosophy, he said, continued the standards set by Blue Note's founders.
"The actual point of view that we have at all times is to sign only originals — people that are musically brilliant and people that have the kind of touch of God on their head, so to speak, as jazz musicians," he said in 2009. "And we try to do that for the most part, and I think we've been reasonably successful."
Many in the jazz business have praised Lundvall's vision, and his warm personality. The saxophonist Bob Belden, who coincidentally also died today, both produced and recorded for Blue Note. He spoke to NPR in 1999.
"Bruce Lundvall really is into artistic expression," Belden said. "Yeah, it's a family feeling unlike any of the other major labels, and I've worked for all of them. You know, [Blue Note is] really an artistic label because they don't force you to become something you're not."

Sunday, May 03, 2015

1 Sem 2015 - Part Ten

Bobby Hutcherson
Enjoy The View

By Andy Boeckstaens
Vibraphone master Bobby Hutcherson first recorded for Blue Note Records in 1963. As one of the great survivors from that classic era, it is appropriate that he was asked to lead a session to coincide with the label’s 75th year. “I’ve had a long-term association with the label”, he enthuses. “I’m thrilled to be back here”.
The president of Blue Note Records, Don Was, had the idea for this CD after he heard organist Joey DeFrancesco and saxophone legend David Sanborn at the (unrelated) Blue Note club in New York. “I just sat there and the set was so relaxed and grooving”, he remarks. “I loved what I heard.” As the common link between the participants - and having known Hutcherson for several years - DeFrancesco set the ball rolling by coralling the musicians and writing material for an album.
DeFrancesco created two new pieces: Don Is, a swinging tribute to the Blue Note boss, and You. These, along with Sanborn’s Delia were actually taped at the rehearsal on the day before the official session in Hollywood. The saxophonist says that he chose his tunes (the other is a delicate Little Flower) because “I could hear Bobby playing them. They end up feeling looser and freer than the first time I recorded them.” Sanborn had worked with neither Hutcherson nor drummer Billy Hart before, but it is no surprise that his impassioned cries complement the thoughtfully-crafted work of his colleagues.
Hutcherson brings three compositions along: the rocking Hey Harold; Montara, and the memorable, restless Teddy, yet his instrument is rarely the dominant voice. He modestly observes, “You can’t play over the organ or the saxophone, which have more power, so I play softer...what I play on the vibes always seems to be the cherry on top of the sundae.” Hart recognises that this is more than confectionery, and says of the leader, “He’s a magician and a musician. When he hits the mallets on the vibes, something special happens”. The drummer himself shows customary artistry and sensitivity throughout the date.
Although I’ll be surprised if Enjoy the View becomes a Blue Note classic, Hutcherson’s latest outing is a melodic and enjoyable collaboration. The last words go to Sanborn: “It was like we were having a four-way conversation. When that happens with no egos, everyone talks....that experience was worth everything to me.”

Neil Cowley Trio
Touch and Flee

By Richard Rees Jones at
On Touch And Flee, their fifth album, the Neil Cowley Trio reinforce their position as one of Britain's brightest jazz ensembles. London-based pianist Cowley gained considerable acclaim for his contributions to both of Adele's multimillion-selling albums, but he's clearly happiest when fronting his own group. Sharpened by constant gigging and trading on significant word-of-mouth popularity, the trio have built up a formidable reputation with their powerful, energetic piano workouts. Cowley also has a nice line in dry humour, which saw him title his second album Loud…Louder…Stop in sardonic acknowledgement of his compositional style.
The kernel of truth contained in that description goes some way towards explaining Cowley's status as a rising star of the British jazz scene. Cowley is a prodigiously talented, yet resolutely unflashy pianist; like the late, much missed Esbjörn Svensson, he has a gift for memorable hooks and crescendos allied to a driving, restless quality in his playing. The combination makes Cowley that rare animal, a jazz musician for people who don't like jazz. Purists may baulk at his preference for tight, concise compositions over lengthy improvised excursions, and certainly you won't hear much of Keith Jarrett or Brad Mehldau in his bold, unfailingly direct melodies. It's that very boldness that makes Touch And Flee such a smart and lively pleasure.
The new record represents a stylistic shift away from the trio's last album, 2012's The Face of Mount Molehill, an ambitious outing which saw them add strings and guitar to their core line-up. Touch And Flee is both a more stripped down effort than its predecessor and the trio's most sheerly enjoyable statement to date. Joined by Rex Horan on bass and Evan Jenkins on drums, Cowley presents nine shortish pieces that move effortlessly between fluid, uncluttered tunes, warm humour and passages of tense, spiky abstraction. On opener 'Kneel Down', pensive piano chords and unobtrusive rhythms resolve into a spare and graceful melody. 'Sparkling' is even better, a blissful evocation of the piece's title with a surging, dreamlike mood.
Elsewhere, Horan and Jenkins prove themselves to be anything but, on the bouncily attractive 'Couch Slouch'. Spurring each other on in expressive interplay, the bassist and drummer lock into Cowley's relaxed and flowing grooves. Meanwhile there's a gently simmering power to a track like 'Gang Of One', with Cowley's vigorous harmonies laid over Jenkins' crisp snare and cymbal work. A couple of other tracks reveal a more introspective side to the trio than has been shown on previous outings. 'Queen', at six-and-a-half minutes the longest piece here, sees Cowley sketch haunting half-melodies to stunning effect, while on 'Bryce', Horan's sensitive bass perfectly sets off the wintry, filmic tone of Cowley's playing.

Peter Bernstein
Guitar Solo - Live At Smalls

By JazzLives
If you know jazz guitar in its truest sense, the news of a new Peter Bernstein solo CD is cause for delight, especially because it is his first solo recording.
I don’t know at what point the guitar became the most popular instrument in the world — surely it has been so for the last half-century and more. It looks easy: all the notes are visible, laid out in logical ways; there is nothing to blow into, no reeds to fuss over, but the neophyte finds out in the first half-hour that the guitar is a trap for the unwary. Yes, one can walk up and down one string at a time; one can move simple chord patterns up and down the fretboard, but making music from the guitar — beautiful music — is a far more treacherous affair.
Peter Bernstein has long since become a Master of that instrument, and a Master of sweetly elongated melodies. He doesn’t affect a hard-edged tone; he doesn’t need many notes to show us how vigorously he has practiced his scales; his solos don’t leave us exhausted. Rather, he has a sweet, temperate sound on the instrument, but it’s not aural wallpaper: his notes ring and chime; his chords shimmer. On this disc, he explores medium-tempo classics and ballads in a leisurely manner, but his approach is full of surprises: he plays orchestrally, so that a single-line statement will be punctuated by pulsing, mobile chords, with harmonies that offer new ways of hearing the familiar. At the end of a Bernstein performance of the most familiar song, one feels it has been revisited lovingly, its virtues shining, its faults (if it has any) tenderly concealed.
A Bernstein solo at first seems like a collection of delicate traceries, an iridescent spiderweb in the sunlight. Then you realize that although his playing is easy to listen to, it is never Easy Listening, a lullaby for the half-conscious listener. Heard attentively, one realizes that Bernstein’s delicacy is based on assurance and strength — a strength that isn’t expressed in volume or power, velocity or granitic chord-clusters, but a certainty: he is exploring but never indecisive, never tentative. One listens to a small symphony unfolding, chorus after chorus, building structurally from note to note, phrase to phrase, until the whole improvisation has its own shining three-dimensional shape.
The CD was not a thing of splices and patches, not created in the laboratory of the recording studio, but performed “live” in front of a quiet audience at Smalls (183 West 10th Street) in downtown Manhattan on October 16 and 17, 2012. The songs are a deliciously melodic mix:
DJANGO / I LOVE YOU / CREPUSCLE WITH NELLIE / PANNONICA / STAR EYES / YESTERDAYS / DON’T BLAME ME / GIANT STEPS / WISE ONE / THE TENDER TRAP / TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS / AUTUMN IN NEW YORK / GONE WITH THE WIND / PUT YOUR DREAMS AWAY — a welcome emphasis on medium-tempo saunters and deep romantic ballads. Even if you feel you’ve heard these songs a thousand times, you will make room in your memory for these new interpretations.
The disc is well-recorded, with empathic notes by pianist Spike Wilner . . . and I believe that profits from its sale benefit not only Peter but the club itself, a small quirky landmark of the world jazz scene. It is an honor to hear Peter Bernstein go his own way as he does on this CD.
All albums (I believe the label has issued forty so far) are currently available through iTunes, Amazon (CD only), HDtracks (high-resolution) and at
May your happiness increase!

George Mraz/David Hazeltine Trio
Your Story

George Mraz, the Czech native and master of jazz acoustic bass, has joined up with pianist David Hazeltine and drummer Jason Brown to create the George Mraz/David Hazeltine Trio album, Your Song.
The record features the players’ interpretations of classics like Rogers & Hart’s “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” alongside Mraz’s works, “For B.C.” and “Wisteria” and Hazeltine’s “Barbara.”
1. Around the Corner (Barry Harris)
2. Turn Out the Stars (Bill Evans)
3. Barbara (David Hazeltine)
4. For B.C. (George Mraz)
5. You Must Believe in Spring (Bergman/Demy/Legrand)
6. Your Story (Bill Evans)
7. I Didn't Know What Time It Was (Rogers/Hart)
8. Wisteria (George Mraz)
9. Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye (Cole Porter)
George Mraz bass; David Hazeltine piano; Jason Brown drums

Eliane Elias
Made In Brazil

By Jeff Winbush
If you've never been to Brazil, consider Eliane Elias as a goodwill ambassador with Made In Brazil. It is a triumphant return for the pianist/vocalist to her native land to record her first album there since relocating to the United States in 1981.
There is a delicacy to how Elias chooses and approaches the material. There is no genuflecting to pop music as there was on Light My Fire (Concord, 2011). Here Elias is all about adult emotions and days of "wine and roses" gorgeously captured on her original, "Searching." Elias called upon Rob Mathes to handle orchestral arrangements on seven of the 12 tracks which were recorded in London at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. Never overbearing or overblown, Mathes utilizes the strings to enhance the dreamily romantic atmosphere of Made In Brazil.
You might think by now Elias would have covered the Antonio Carlos Jobim classic "Aguas de Marco (Waters of March)." After all she dedicated a tribute to her countryman, Eliane Elias Sings Jobim (Blue Note, 1988), but somehow she bypassed "Waters of March." That oversight is remedied by inviting the vocal group Take 6 to join in with some R&B sweetness as Elias deftly provides a sparkling solo on the Fender Rhodes.
When a musician is wearing as many hats as Elias is here as a producer, composer, lyricist, arranger, musician and vocalist there is an inherent risk of coming up short somewhere, but there are no notable lapses. Whether Elias is dueting with daughter Amanda Brecker on "Some Enchanted Evening" with band mate and husband Marc Johnson on acoustic bass or joined by composer Roberto Menescal who adds his vocals to "Você" and guitar on "Rio," the results are nothing short of blissful perfection.
Switching gracefully between English and Portuguese, Made In Brazil is a sensual, sexy, swaying journey through Elias' native heart. Beyond any doubt it proves you can go home again.
Elias has firmly established herself as an consummate talent whether she is behind the keyboard or in front of the microphone. The artist presented in these twelve tracks is an assured and polished professional who brings a subtle delicacy to this music. Made In Brazil is another glittering gem in Elias' crown as the luminary leader of contemporary bossa nova, samba and Brazilian jazz.
Track Listing: 
Brasil (Aqualera do Brasil); Você; Aguas de Marco (Waters of March); Searching; Some Enchanted Evening; Incendiando; Vida (If Not For You)l Este Seu Olhar/Promessas; Driving Ambition; Rio; A Sorte du Amor (The Luck of Love); No Tabuleiro da Baiana
Eliane Elias: vocals, piano, keyboards; Take 6: vocals (3); Mark Kibble: vocals (3, 6, 9); Amanda Brecker: vocals (4); Ed Motta: vocals (7); Roberto Menescal: vocals (2), guitar (2, 10); Marcus Teixeira: guitar (1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 12); Marcelo Mariano: electric bass (1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 12); Marc Johnson: acoustic bass (2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11); Edu Riberio: drums (1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 12); Rafael Barata: drums (2, 4, 5, 10); Mauro Refosco: percussion (1, 3, 5, 7, 9); Marivaldo dos Santos: percussion (5, 9); Rob Mathes: orchestral arrangement.

Friday, May 01, 2015

1 Sem 2015 - Part Nine

Harold Mabern
Live At Smalls

By Jeff Tamarkin at JazzTimes
Pianist Harold Mabern, at age 77 more than five decades into his career, remains a regular presence at some of the city’s more intimate rooms, often in the company of his trio mates here, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth. He’s a remarkably agile and astute player with a penchant for taking on seemingly unlikely repertoire and molding it effortlessly to his easy-rolling postbop style. At this Smalls date, he brings depth and sophistication to Fats Domino’s R&B classic “I’m Walking” while retaining its trademark NOLA swing, and his take on Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue” manages to simultaneously straddle dark and edgy and cheerfully upbeat. The Sesame Street theme is utterly transformed into a showcase for the three players, and Erroll Garner’s “Dreaming” is appropriately laconic and contemplative.

Fabio Giachino Trio
Jumble Up

By John Riley
Fabio Giachino , widely regarded as one of the greatest talents appeared on the scene in the last few years. In a short time has earned a reputation as an excellent pianist and composer excellent . His trio seems like a perfect poster for the contemporary jazz scene : The title, Jumbe up , it indicates a willingness to think outside the box while remaining anchored to the Afro-American tradition . All members of the trio have made academic studies ( Conservatory ) , they love the rock / pop and play jazz proposing standards, but at the same time inserting elements such as R & B , hip hop and other sounds coming from urban areas without losing sight of the sense of swing.
"The group is really close-knit , never falls into the obvious ... Finally a real band !
Antonio Faraò".
“JUMBLE UP”. an alchemical mix of free , fascinating and creative energy which results in Music respectful of tradition and who lives in the present with an eye to the future..
GeGè Telesforo".
In their latest record production the "Fabio Giachino Trio" has found the right balance of music, you will appreciate both the users of both jazz lovers a more contemporary sound. Check it out!
Davide Liberti : drums; Ruben Bellavia : doublebass; Fabio Giachino : piano

Dave Slonaker Big Band

By Jack Bowers
Don't be put off by the name. Intrada, composer / arranger Dave Slonaker points out, is "a musical form often composed as a prelude, overture or fanfare," one whose upbeat phrases give rise to an exhilarating curtain-raiser on Slonaker's initial big-band recording. Rest assured this is a world-class ensemble and there's no doubt whose steady hand is at the helm: Slonaker wrote every number save the standard "It's Only a Paper Moon" and arranged the complete package.
If Slonaker's name is new to you, that's probably because he has spent much of his career as a composer, arranger and orchestrator in films and television. Film credits include Spider-Man, Air Force One, Oz the Great and Powerful, Alice in Wonderland and A Night at the Museum, and he has written for the TV series J.A.G., Murder She Wrote and others. Slonaker has also taught at USC and the Eastman School of Music, while his jazz works have been performed by Clark Terry, the Woody Herman and Count Basie orchestras, and many others.
All of which leads to this consistently impressive album in which Slonaker's vibrant and graceful themes are precisely and eloquently animated by a phalanx of the Los Angeles area's most talented and sought-after musicians. Noteworthy c.v. aside, it's clear from the outset that Slonaker has a jazz musician's soul and a sure command of the music's language and history. His music is contemporary in the best sense of the word, harmonically sophisticated yet always accessible thanks to an unswerving reliance on time-honored melodies and rhythms. In other words, this is big-band jazz that quickens the pulse, swings hard and enhances the tradition.
"Intrada" and "Paper Moon" are followed by eight more of Slonaker's inspired compositions, each of which provides a malleable springboard for the ensemble's resourceful soloists. Those who rise to the occasion include saxophonists Bob Sheppard, Adam Schroeder and Rob Lockart; trumpeters Clay Jenkins and Ron Stout, trombonists Bob McChesney trombone and Alex Iles, bass trombonist Bill Reichenbach, pianist Ed Czach, bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer par excellence Peter Erskine. There's no point in singling out any particular song for immoderate praise, as every one is outstanding, as is the ensemble.
The same can be said for Intrada itself, a splendid debut by an extraordinary musician who it is hoped will devote even more of his time to leading a band. Well done!
Track Listing: 
Intrada; It’s Only a Paper Moon; Nite Lites; Nowhere Is a Sometime Thing; Point of Departure; Timelessness; Labyrinth Suite, Part 1 (Labyrinth); Labyrinth Suite, Part 2 (Flight Time); If and Only If; Remembering.
Dave Slonaker: composer, arranger, conductor; Wayne Bergeron: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dan Fornero: trumpet, flugelhorn (1-4, 7, 8, 10); Rick Baptist: trumpet, flugelhorn (5, 6, 9); Clay Jenkins: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ron Stout: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bob Sheppard: alto, soprano sax, flute, clarinet; Brian Scanlon: alto sax, flute, piccolo, clarinet; Rob Lockart: tenor sax, clarinet; Tom Luer: tenor sax, clarinet; Adam Schroeder: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Alex Iles: trombone; Bob McChesney: trombone; Charlie Morillas: trombone; Bill Reichenbach: bass trombone, bass trumpet; Ed Czach: piano; Edwin Livingston: bass; Peter Erskine: drums.

Larry Fuller

By Dan Bilawsky
Bassist Ray Brown sure knew how to pick his pianists. While each player who manned the 88s in Brown's trio displayed a different personality, all had Swiss watch timing and shared an affinity for the blues and effulgent swing. It didn't take more than a few seconds to hear that when Gene Harris was on the bench, delivering church-y proclamations and earth-shaking tremolos, and it was equally noticeable when Benny Green put his hands to good use, displaying the Oscar Peterson-esque athleticism that remains his calling card. And while there isn't very much recorded evidence to cover pianist Larry Fuller's time with Brown, it's clear that he possesses all of those traits that Brown looked for in a pianist.
Fuller's time with Brown was relatively short—lasting a bit over two years, from the dawn of this century until the bassist's passing in the summer of 2002—but he made an impact on Brown's music during that time. More importantly, Brown made an impact on him. So much so, in fact, that Fuller's two leader sessions to date are essentially made from the Ray Brown Trio mold. The first—Easy Walker (Pony Boy, 2005)—found Fuller working with a trio that included Brown and drummer Jeff Hamilton, who worked extensively in Brown's trio and employed Fuller in his own trio during the '90s. The second—this eponymous date—finds Fuller delivering wonderfully showy material balanced out by thoughtful breathers. For this one, he teams up with veteran bassist Hassun Shakur and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, another Ray Brown Trio alum.
The opening salvo of "At Long Last Love," "Parking Lot Blues" and "Daahoud" immediately makes it clear that Fuller doesn't mess around. Chops, class, and in-the-pocket ensemble play are all on full display. There's plenty to marvel at on those three, with Fuller's sprinting right hand runs, commanding left hand, and mastery of independence running high on the list. And just when it seems that this is a date built on full-out swing and high-spirited romps, Fuller starts throwing change-ups. Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" gives everybody a chance to calm down and reflect; "Django," starting and ending in semi-MJQ fashion, really swings in the middle; and "C Jam Blues," which follows an appropriately-measured "Reflections In D/Prelude To A Kiss," is a rollicking solo piano showcase.
There's virtually nothing missing here. Looking for something poignant and romantic that still manages to move along? Try "Close Enough For Love." Want to hear some burning bop? Look no further than the album-ending "Celia," a smoking performance that gives Hutchinson some well-deserved space to shine and finds the leader in fine form. Ray Brown may be gone, but the legacy of his trio is safe in the hands of people like Larry Fuller.
Track Listing:
At Long Last Love; Parking Lot Blues; Daahoud; Both Sides Now; Django; Hymn To Freedom; Reflections In D/Prelude To A Kiss; C Jam Blues; Old Folks; Old Devil Moon; Close Enough For Love; Celia.
Larry Fuller: piano; Hassan Shakur: bass; Greg Hutchinson: drums.