Saturday, January 30, 2016

Frank Collett 1941 - 2016

By Doug Ramsey - 26/01/2016
Producer Dick Bank reports that pianist Frank Collett died of liver failure yesterday in Pasadena, California. Collett was 74. He led his own trio and in the course of his career worked with Louis Armstrong, Zoot Sims, Shelly Manne, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, Freddie Hubbard and a list of vocalists that included Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Ernestine Anderson, Helen Merrill, Jon Hendricks, Diane Reeves and Barbra Streisand.
Born in Brooklyn as Frank Taglieri, his talent as a prodigy won him a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music—at the age of six—and study with the prominent piano instructors Paul Gallico, David LeVita and Herbert Stessin. In the late 1950s he decided to become a jazz musician and changed his professional name to Collett. Following military service in the West Point Military Academy Band, he joined Sarah Vaughan and moved west. In Las Vegas and Los Angeles, his career took off. After the Vaughan period, Collett formed a trio with the other members of her trio, bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Donald Bailey. His Los Angeles recording and television work included recordings and appearances not only with mainstream jazz artists but also with pop performers, among them Elvis Presley, Perry Como, Keely Smith, Glenn Campbell and Bette Midler.
Hearing of Collett’s death, fellow pianist Jan Lundgren today referred to him as “a fantastic player.” Recalling Collett’s modesty, Dick Bank said, “Frank hid his light under a bushel.” Bank produced Collett’s last three albums.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

1 Sem 2016 - Part One

The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra
Strength In Numbers

By Pierre Giroux
While the days of taking a 16-piece band on tour are long over, fortunately record companies and producers continue to issue albums of that genre. Falling into that category is the Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra’s Strength In Numbers and it is an acknowledgement that there is a market for a big band that is venturesome and can play with power and precision.
Even before dropping the laser beam on the disc, a reading of the liner notes offered encouragement. One of the producers of the album is John Fedchock who was one of the stalwarts of Woody Herman’s latter bands and is a leader of his own New York based big band and knows a thing or two about the need for swinging arrangements. The Send-Off is the send-off for the album and, while not a barn-burner, it does offer tenor-saxophonist Tom Christensen and drummer Scott Neumann a chance to deftly show their chops. The Michel Legrand chestnut What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?is done up as an easy-going waltz with some smart expressiveness and then part way through, for some unexplained and unfathomable reason, Pete McGuinness offers a vocal. McGuinness does the same vocal thing with You Don’t Know What Love Is justifying it on the basis that Chet Baker was one of his vocal heroes. Sometimes such adulation is best left unrequited.
The balance of the album confirms that McGuinness is a composer and arranger with an invigorating original style who can take advantage of the full palette of a large orchestra as shown on the Stephen Foster ballad Beautiful Dreamer which is turned into a swaying samba with the soprano sax of Dave Pietro layered in over the band. Nasty Blues is a swinger of the first order with the saxophone section laying down the melody in the manner of Count Basie and then the soloists take over, firstly with Dave Pietro on alto, followed by an exchange of choruses by trombonists Mark Patterson and Matt Haviland. The band’s blazing “shout chorus” is led by trumpeter Jon Owens. Finally Bittersweet opens with an extended piano offering from Mike Holober after which McGuinness carries the load on trombone, showing he can deliver the goods in a brusque but evocative style.
This is an invigorating release from a solid outfit.
1. The Send-Off; 2, What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?; 3. Trixie’s Little Girl
4. The Swagger; 5. Beautiful Dreamer; 6. Spellbound; 7. You Don’t Know What Love Is
8. Nasty Blues; 9. Bittersweet; 10. You Don’t Know What Love Is (radio version)
Pete McGuinness - Composer, arranger, vocals, trombone
Dave Pietro, Marc Phaneuf, Tom Christensen, Jason Rigby, Dave Reikenberg - Woodwinds
Bruce Eidem, Mark Patterson, Matt Haviland, Jeff Nelson - Trombones
Jon Owens, Tony Kadlek, Bill Mobley, Chris Rogers - Trumpets 
Mike Holober - Piano; Andy Eulau - Bass; Scott Neumann - Drums

Mike Wofford
It's Personal

By Amazon
Mike Wofford has a long history of playing piano with great jazz musicians over the past 50 years including long stints with Shelly Manne, Bud Shank and many others. He is probably best known for his work as accompanist and musical director for Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. His latest recording, It's Personal features Wofford on solo piano playing some of his personal favorite tunes. There are 4 original compositions from Wofford and 8 other pieces by a range of composers from Jackie McLean, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington to the Talking Heads.

Claudio Filippini Trio
Squaring The Circle

By Robin Arends
One of Italy's most talented young jazzpianists, Claudio Filippini, turns back to the jazzstandards in his new album "Squaring the Circle". The album is recorded in october 2013 in Cavalicco and released july this year. Flippini uses unexpected instrumentation. Filippini has left his Nordic Trio (consisting of Palle Daniellson and Olavi Louhivuori) and now takes his comfortable freedom with the artistic soulmates he started his professional carreer with a decade ago.
The album starts with a number called "Impressions" and is subscribed to John Coltrane. It could also be a version of the (frequently by Coltrane interpreted) Rodgers and Hammerstein-composition "My Favorite Things". After a bassintro Filippini's piano and electronics are taking over.
An abundance of echoes and strings do believe that Filippini is going a completely different (let us say: more commercial) direction. Fortunately this proves not to be the case as the next piece testifies.
What follows is a surprising version of "Autumn Leaves", introduced by Di Leonardo and Bulgarelli which turns slowly in a beboptune led by Filipinni. There is little that is reminiscent of the original standard. It is clear that with this second song the trio declares originality is more important than an exact representation of the standard. The other pieces proof us why.
Part of the intro of 'Round Midnight' turns into a Portisheadpiece and could suggest we are in the wrong room but later it turns out that we still sit in the right place. Filippini's Grand Piano is in the centre and plays the wellknown Monktune. After a digital interlude, Monk is put in the closet and Filippini proofs his skills while he is accompanied by samples. Also Filippini's version of the Oliver Nelson-classic "Stolen moments" is a complete remake. It starts as a discosong and ends up as a Brazilian carnivaltune.
The trio distances itself not completely from the originals. The uptempo Hart and Rodgers composition "I Dont' Know What Time It Was" keeps pretty near the original version. Also Mancini's "Moon River" stays mainly intact. And the trio Filippini leave us in silence with a breathtaking version of the evergreen "What a Wonderful World".
All together "Squaring the Circle" is not just about qualities. It is about inventive creativity. It is alluring to compare the pieces on this album with the music on the other Filippini-albums or versions of other pianists. Why fits "As Time Goes By" better on "Breathing in Unison" and what makes the presented standards unique? What is the difference between Filippini's version of Jitterbug Waltz and Errol Garners 1949- version? Can we compare Autumn Leaves or 'Round Midnight as played by the master of standardspecialist Keith Jarret? Yes, we can and we'll hear different voices, unique souls playing unique tunes. All together Squaring the Circle is too short. There are many other tunes which could be included in this selection. "Impressions" should be left to McCoyTyner and maybe Marc Copland and Dave Liebman (and compare it with the Copland-trio version of My Favourite Things). But there is so much more we have a right to. Where are the compositions of Kern, Berlin, Gershwin and Hammerstein? The qualities of Filippini and his trio should not be limited to the numbers on this album. We want more!
1. Impressions (J. Coltrane) 5:53
2. Autumn Leaves (F. Prévert – J. Kosma) 4:55
3. 'Round Midnight (B. Hanighen – T. Monk – C. Williams) 7:59
4. I Don't Know What Time It Was (L. Hart – R. Rodgers) 4:32
5. Moon River (J. Mercer – H. Mancini) 5:19
6. Stolen Moments (O. Nelson) 4:00
7. Jitterburg Waltz (F. Waller) 6:09
8. A Night In Tunisia (D. Gillespie) 6:15
9. What A Wonderful World (B. Thiele – G. D. Weiss) 7:06
Claudio Filippini, piano & keyboards
Luca Bulgarelli, bass
Marcello Di Leonardo, drums

Fred Hersch

By Fred Kaplan
With Solo, his 49th album as a leader (or co-leader) and 10th as a soloist, Fred Hersch nails his standing as one of the premier jazz musicians of our time, a pianist of subtle touch and propulsive flow, something like Keith Jarrett but more focused, less rhapsodic—Ravel to KJ's Liszt or Rachmaninoff (not that there's anything wrong with either).
Recorded live last year at the Windham Civic Center Concert Hall, in New York's Hudson Valley, Solo (on the Palmetto label), features, like most of Hersch's albums, a mix of originals and standards—the latter by Jobim, Ellington, Monk, and Joni Mitchell, four composers who have no finer interpreters in jazz today.
Monk is a particularly knotty composer to cover. Most pianists who try either come off as merely imitative (and usually stiff) or go for an original approach that doesn't sound remotely Monkish. Hersch, as he first demonstrated on Thelonious (a 1997 album on Nonesuch), is among the few who mines Monk's essence while refining it in an original voice. He embroiders Jobim with newfound layers of beauty, adds a Latin flavor to Ellington's "Caravan," and lays down Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" with loving (but not at all sentimental) elegance.
I'd say this is Hersch's best solo album since In Amsterdam (2006) or maybe Let Yourself Go (1999).
About the sound quality. A reviewer in one of the other audio magazines (not Stereophile) gave this album 5 stars for sonics, which, I must report, is absurd. It was recorded on a standard 44.1kHz/16-bit CD-R by the Windham Civic Center's sound man (unnamed in the credits), who gave Hersch the disc after the concert. Hersch hadn't planned to release it as an album, but he was so taken by his performance—and so unmoved by a studio session he'd laid down around the same time—that he decided to put out the Windham session, despite the so-so sound. He gave the disc to Mark Wilder, one of the top mastering engineers around, who brought out his bag of tricks and made it sound as good as possible—but good is the best he could do. It's a bit reverberant and a bit muffled, but better than you'd expect from a raw feed off a soundboard. Let's call it 4½ stars for music, 3 stars for sound.
Don't let this put you off, though. The beauty of Hersch's playing shines through.

Dino & Franco Piana Ensemble

By TraccediJazz Magazine
Dino e Franco Piana, a circa due anni di distanza presentano un nuovo lavoro. A differenza del precedente questo è costruito su una sequenza di nove brani uniti tra loro da modulazioni e cadenze di largo respiro.
Franco Piana con questo lavoro si rivela compositore ed arrangiatore di altissimo livello, la sua scrittura per sei fiati (flicorno, tromba, trombone, saxalto, saxtenore, flauto) pianoforte, contrabbasso e batteria è costruita, in modo da ottenere quei risultati che solo un orchestratore/arrangiatore di valore riesce a realizzare.
Alla scrittura di Franco può, agevolmente, adattarsi quanto il critico accademico Winthrop Sergeant disse a proposito di Gil Evans: “grande senso della poesia sonora e puntigliosa attenzione ai colori timbrici”. Ma ciò che maggiormente sorprende è la capacità di Franco Piana nel creare “masse di suono” con solo sei strumenti a fiato, lui stesso al flicorno, la tromba Fabrizio Bosso, Dino Piana, trombone, Ferruccio Corsi e il giovanissimo figlio Lorenzo Corsi, rispettivamente saxalto e flauto e Max Ionata, sax tenore, insieme a Enrico Pieranunzi, pianoforte, Giuseppe Bassi, contrabbasso e Roberto Gatto, batteria e produttore artistico, vale a dire in questo “nonet”, alcune fra le più belle realtà del Jazz di oggi.
Nel primo dei nove brani “Opening” eseguito da tutti i fiati, vengono già enunciati gli spunti tematici dei brani che seguiranno. Nel secondo, “Just a Reflection”, dopo un tema molto articolato seguono i primi quattro assolo dovuti a Max Ionata, Fabrizio Bosso, Dino e Franco Piana. Dopo un ensemble e ad Enrico Pieranunzi segue un “collettivo tematico” prima delle parti solistiche di Roberto Gatto e Franco Piana.
Dopo la ripresa del tema e una modulazione che porta ad una cadenza splendidamente eseguita al flauto da Lorenzo Corsi, viene introdotto il terzo brano “A Light in the Dark”. Già in “Just a Reflection” la parte in assolo di Fabrizio Bosso appare in tutta la sua versatilità, così quella di Pieranunzi che esplora ogni peculiarità della composizione.
Il tema di “A Light in the Dark” è esposto magistralmente da Dino Piana e Ferruccio Corsi, cui segue Enrico Pieranunzi la cui personalità stilistica originale è qui in tutta evidenza. Dopo una modulazione, una cadenza di Dino Piana ne introduce una ulteriore di pianoforte le cui ultime note sono quelle del nuovo tema “Five Generations”, brano che si sviluppa tra la prima parte modale e l'inciso costruito su giro armonico.
Le parti solistiche sono riservate a Max Ionata sempre espressivo nel suo bel fraseggio, Fabrizio Bosso e Enrico Pieranunzi. La composizione si chiude con una bella “chase” fra Giuseppe Bassi solido e swingante e Roberto Gatto sempre elegante ed efficace. Gli assolo di Ionata, Bosso e Pieranunzi in sequenza sono straordinariamente inventivi e di grande impulso ritmico.
Nel quinto brano ”After the Winter” dopo un’introduzione che riprende il tema finale del “movimento” precedente, Lorenzo e Ferruccio Corsi, flauto e saxalto, espongono, dopo la modulazione, questa splendida melodia di Franco Piana lasciata per l'intera esecuzione al lirismo di Lorenzo e Ferruccio. “After the Winter” termina con intervalli di un tono e ½ tono e annuncia il brano seguente “Ostinato” in cui si notano una sequenza di assolo splendidi: Pieranunzi, Ionata, una chase superba eseguita da Dino Piana e Lorenzo Corsi, Fabrizio Bosso, Giuseppe Bassi e infine Franco Piana che con la tromba sordinata, chiude questa sesta composizione anticipando “Only Now”.
Il brano si apre con un dialogo fra i fiati ed un assai brillante Roberto Gatto, che è anche produttore artistico del cd, prosegue poi con una sequenza di assolo, Bosso e Ionata prima dell’ensemble, Dino e Franco Piana, Enrico Pieranunzi prima del collettivo che precede il tema. L’ottava composizione “Why Not” è, anche in questo caso, un tema melodicamente di grande efficacia, esposto con intensità da Franco al flicorno e da Dino, seguiti da Enrico Pieranunzi. La modulazione finale con flauto, flicorno e trombone prevede intervalli che anticipano
il 9° movimento finale, un blues veloce, “CdJ Blues” (dedicato alla Casa del Jazz di Roma). “CdJ” è impostato secondo la classica struttura jazz di sempre, ma sempre efficace, tema-assolotema, quando, come in questo caso, i solisti sono di altissima classe e capacità.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Old Jazz CD's 2016 - Part Two

Denise Donatelli
In The Company Of Friends

By Ken Dryden 
Jazz vocalist Denise Donatelli is a breath of fresh air in a market seemingly saturated with female singers. Her debut recording, In the Company of Friends is a stunning effort. Donatelli has a warm, sensuous voice and doesn't resort to histrionics to get her message across. She is a natural, not a trained musician, who effortlessly responds to anything that arranger/pianist Tom Garvin threw at her during the making of the CD. She coasts throughout Garvin's 5/4 arrangement of "On Green Dolphin Street" (a great standard too often subjected to hackneyed renditions) as if she had always sung it in that setting. "'Round Midnight" is full of traps for young singers, yet Donatelli proves herself by avoiding them and also serving as an effective storyteller, backed by Clay Jenkins' tasty muted trumpet. Neither is she fazed by Garvin's unusually brisk, dissonant Latin treatment of the ballad "You Don't Know What Love Is," never missing a beat. She also responds rather well to Garvin's reharmonization of "Send in the Clowns," recast as a light samba with many musical twists. Donatelli shows off her chops by scatting in unison with Jenkins and tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard in a rapid-fire arrangement of "This Is New." Wrapping this brilliant debut CD is Donatelli's effective interpretation of "When Summer Turns to Snow," beautifully scored by Garvin. Phil Woods, never one to couch his opinion, states, "This is too good a record to win anything, but if there is any justice it should." This is one of the most striking debuts by a jazz vocalist in recent memory.

Ann Hampton Callaway
Easy Living

By Michael G. Nastos
This is Ann Hampton Callaway's seventh recording, Easy Living, is one of her very best. It's a program of well-known standards and fairly stock arrangements, but in the middle is her pristine, well-defined, flexible voice. She retains a lower-end range in her style that suggests only one singer: Sarah Vaughan. She's joined by several different rhythm sections and soloists, including pianists Benny Green (six cuts), Bill Charlap (five), and Kenny Barron (two); bassists Peter Washington or Neal Miner; drummers Clarence "Tootsie" Bean and Lewis Nash; percussionist Jim Saporito; saxophonists Andy Farber, Nelson Rangell, and Gerry Niewood; and on three selections, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. A collection of love songs sung convincingly and with no frills, Callaway shows great depth in ballad singing. Hard evidence is presented in her takes of "Skylark" and "The Very Thought of You," with Charlap's glistening piano tones ringing bells for the singer and Farber's tenor sax replies. "'Round Midnight" is the penultimate interp with Barron's wistful piano and Marsalis' spare trumpet offering advice on ol' midnight. Callaway can swing well when she chooses; "Easy to Love" brings home her lower dulcet tones, while Farber's tenor cops a Stan Getz-Joe Henderson type plea bargain. Green's intro to "Nice Work If You Can Get It" has a "Giant Steps" quote before the singer digs into this lyric. She scats a little during the middle of the program, on the melody line, and the coda, of "Bluesette," and more in the improvised bridge during "It Had to Be You." Bossa nova is always a sidebar for singers, and Callaway uses this Brazilian rhythm on an interesting arrangement of "You Don't Know What Love Is" spiked with high drama, Saporito's Latin percussion, Barron's deft piano, and Niewood's flavorful tenor. The lone composition of the vocalist "Come Take My Hand" is also bossa, with Rangell's flute chirping on this definitive love anthem. Marsalis is also bolder on the stark ballad title track and a nice version of "In a Sentimental Mood," while it's the singer getting brash and daring in a lower tone than normal for perhaps the highlight "All of You," Green's piano matching the depths of Callaway's yearnings. It's not hyperbole to understand this is the perfect singer with a perfect voice that sounds so effortless, mature, and flowing. Though the others six recordings are just fine, this one really hits the spot, especially instrumentally. Callaway proves up to the challenge with every measure, phrase, and inflection.

Jon Ballantyne Trio

By Ozzie 
Canadian pianist Jon Ballantyne, a native of Saskatoon, SK, made his debut as a leader with this 1989 album, which was recorded in Montreal, PQ, for the local Justin Time label. Tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson was still a few years away from being rediscovered by the general jazz-community, but plays with absolute mastery on this CD, which is a reissue of the original album with a bonus track added (Ornette Coleman's "Blues Connotation"). Henderson's powerful playing seems to inspire all involved, as they run through a set of standards ("You and the night and the music", "You don't know what love is", and the Coleman-track) and Ballantyne-originals. These latter tunes are excellent launching pads for Henderson and Ballantyne alike, but they also stand firm as compositions in their own right. The band plays with fire and invention and never seem to run short of ideas. The opening-track ("Oh what I've been thru") runs for over 12 minutes and never gets repetitive. Beautifully recorded, with a slight reservation for Jerry Fuller's drums perhaps, which at times seem a bit tinny.
A more than convincing debut for Ballantyne to say the least !

Claire Martin
Old Boyfriends

By Alex Henderson
Many jazz singers young and old make the mistake of arbitrarily avoiding the pop, rock, and R&B songs of the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, but for Claire Martin they're fair game. This outstanding CD finds her demonstrating the jazz potential in such unlikely vehicles as Rupert Holmes' incisive "Partners in Crime" and Tom Waits' "Old Boyfriends" -- not exactly songs jazz singers are usually quick to embrace. True to form, she unearths her share of wrongly neglected classics, including Artie Shaw's "Moon Ray" (a major hit for him during the swing era) and Burt Bacharach's "Out of My Continental Mind" (associated with Lena Horne). As daring as Martin is in her choice of material, her vocal style is actually quite straightforward and lucid and not overly abstract. Martin consistently uses subtlety and restraint to maximum advantage and -- like Chris Connor and Julie London before her -- makes it clear that cool jazz certainly doesn't have to be cold.

Carol Kidd
The Night We Called It a Day.....

By Amazon
Originally released in 1990 The Night We Called It A Day has been reissued as part of Linn's ECHO series which offers a second chance to enjoy the best of the label's award-winning catalogue.
Upon release the album was voted 'Best Jazz Recording' at the U.K. Musical Retailer's Awards in the same year that Kidd was named 'Best Vocalist' at the Cannes International Jazz Awards.
'How Little We Know' is one of two songs Kidd chose that refer back to Frank Sinatra's Capitol years, the other being 'I Could Have Told You So'; upon hearing the album Sinatra arranged for Kidd to perform with him in Glasgow and stated 'Carol Kidd is the best kept secret of British jazz'.
Kidd explores the highs and lows of love; 'Gloomy Sunday' reflects the despair that results when your lover has gone, whereas 'How Little We Know' and 'The Glory Of Love' concern themselves with the upside of boy meets girl.
Kidd also includes tracks by some of the best songwriters: Richard Rogers, Cole Porter and Randy Newman.
The trio of David Newton (piano), Dave Green (bass) and Allan Ganley (drums) provide the perfect accompaniment to Kidd's vocals. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Old Jazz CD's 2016 - Part One

René Marie
Live At Jazz Standard

By Matt Collar
Idiosyncratic jazz vocalist Rene Marie makes her presence unequivocally apparent on her second MaxJazz release, Live at Jazz Standard. Recorded over three nights in 2003 at the New York City club, the album features Marie's usual mix of standards and originals. Stylistically resting comfortably somewhere between Betty Carter and Shirley Horn, Marie digs into such classics as "Where or When," "Nature Boy," and "A Foggy Day," making each song different from the next and utterly unforgettable. You may never hear another version of "It Might as Well Be Spring" sang as spritely as the one that appears early on, and her take of "I Loves You Porgy" is as heartbreaking as her a cappella turn on "How Can I Keep From Singing?" is dramatic. Backed sensitively by pianist John Toomey, bassist Elias Bailey, and drummer T. Howard Curtis III, Marie just gets better with each solo release.

Jill Seifers & Michael Kanan
Birdland Sessions

By Scott Yanow
Jill Seifers, a singer from Portland who was 32 at the time of Birdland Sessions in 1998, was originally a bop-based scatter. Since that time, she has learned to love lyrics and ballads to the point where everything on this CD is taken at a fairly slow tempo. Accompanied by the sympathetic and supportive piano of Michael Kanan, Seifers displays a voice touched by jazz and folksingers alike. With the exception of Alec Wilder's "Moon and Sand," all of the material is quite familiar (including "Never Let Me Go," "Everything Happens to Me," and "The Talk of the Town"), but the vocalist's sincerity, warmth, and pure joy at singing (even if a lot of the material is downbeat) gives some of the songs a fresh perspective. But do not expect much variety here.

Monica Borrfors

Recorded 1995 at Polar Studios - Sweden
Produced by Lasse Andersson
Engineered by Robert Wellerfors

1 Polka Dots and Moonbeams; 2 I Get Along Without You Very Well; 3 Soon
4 Don't Go to Strangers; 5 Dindi; 6 I Can't Get Started; 7 Folks Who Live on the Hill
8 Masquerade Is Over; 9 Nu Tas Ater Ljusen I Min Lilla Stad; 10 Marionette
11 August Wishing; 12 Everthing Happens to Me; 
13 What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life.

Melody Gardot
Worrisome Heart

By Michael G. Nastos
Melody Gardot's debut recording, released in 2006, came two years after she suffered a near fatal automobile accident, the differently able Gardot triumphing in accomplishing what many others, including her, could only dream of. This project has her singing and playing guitar and a little piano, but more so presenting this project of all original material. Gardot has an interesting personal story, but even more intriguing music that straddles the line between lounge jazz, folk, and cowgirl songs. She's part sophisticated chanteuse, college sophomore, and down-home girl next door. Her innocence, sweetness, and light are very alluring, much like the persona of tragic songbirds Eva Cassidy and Nancy LaMott. Feel empathy for Gardot, but don't patronize her -- she's the real deal much more that many of her over-hyped peers. "Quiet Fire" is definitely her signature tune, as it speaks volumes of where her soul is at, in a jazz/blues mode, yearning for true love. The title track follows a similar tack, a slow, sweet, sentimental slinky blues that will melt your heart. A finger-snapping "Goodnite" leaves you wanting that night to continue, but also exudes a hope that permeates the entire recording. She might be a bit down on men during the nonplussed "All That I Need Is Love," but her subdued optimism glows cool. "Sweet Memory" might possibly parallel Feist or perhaps KT Tunstall in a rural country mode, while "Gone" is clearly folkish, and the slow "Some Lessons" expresses a contemporary Nashville precept. The laid-back music behind Gardot is basically acoustic, incorporating hip jazz instrumentation, especially the trumpet of Patrick Hughes and occasional organ, Wurlitzer, or Fender Rhodes from Joel Bryant, but with twists including violin, lap steel, and Dobro. The concise nature of this recording and these tunes perfectly reflects the realization that life is precious, every moment counts, and satisfaction is fleeting. Likely to be placed in the Norah Jones/Nellie McKay/Madeleine Peyroux pseudo jazz/pop sweepstakes, Gardot offers something decidedly more authentic and genuine. She's one-upped them all out of the gate.

Karen Mantler's
Pet Project

By Stewart Mason
Over the course of her first three albums, the ongoing narrative thread of Karen Mantler's music concerned her beloved cat Arnold. 1996's Farewell, written and recorded following her pet's death, concerned the young singer and pianist's grieving process, but life does go on, and four years later, Karen Mantler's Pet Project is a far more lighthearted affair covering the decision to get a new pet. This is by some distance Mantler's most playful and musically accessible album; indeed, it's easy to imagine a parent of some fairly hip and musically aware children using it to introduce their kids to modern creative jazz. As a result, some will likely find the album too whimsical for words. A song cycle discussing the pros and cons of adopting an increasingly unlikely series of animals, Mantler's faux-naïf lyrics are sung by herself and members of her band (including vocalist Eric Mingus, guitarist Hiram Bullock, and for a few lines, her mother Carla Bley) with the utter guilelessness they demand, over settings that range from small-band progressive jazz to Brazilian rhythms to something almost akin to straightforward pop music. Karen Mantler's Pet Project is the sort of album that must be recommended with caveats, as the more self-important jazz fan may well find it unbearably cutesy, and Mantler's musical interests don't lie in the same experimental range as her mother or her equally legendary father Michael Mantler. This is more for fans of the quirkier end of art rock and modern jazz, along the lines of Laurie Anderson or perhaps Nellie McKay.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Paul Bley 1932 - 2016

By Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen

"Dear Friends,

I’m deeply saddened to tell you that my father passed yesterday. Below is our official statement. He was at home and very comfortable with family at his side.

Thank you,
Vanessa Bley"

“Paul Bley, renowned jazz pianist, died January 3, 2016 at home with his family. Born November 10, 1932 in Montreal, QC, he began music studies at the age of five. At 13, he formed the “Buzzy Bley Band.” At 17, he took over for Oscar Peterson at the Alberta Lounge, invited Charlie Parker to play at the Montreal Jazz Workshop, which he co-founded, made a film with Stan Kenton and then headed to NYC to attend Julliard.
“His international career has spanned seven decades. He’s played and recorded with Lester Young, Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Chet Baker, Jimmy Giuffre, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorious and many others. He is considered a master of the trio, but as exemplified by his solo piano albums, Paul Bley is preeminently a pianists’ pianist.
“He is survived by his wife of forty three years, Carol Goss, their daughters, Vanessa Bley and Angelica Palmer, grandchildren Felix and Zoletta Palmer, as well as daughter, Solo Peacock. Private memorial services will be held in Stuart, FL, Cherry Valley, NY and wherever you play a Paul Bley record.”
In 2008, Bley was named a member of the Order of Canada, the official announcement said, for “his contributions as a pioneering figure in avant-garde and free jazz, and for his influence on younger jazz pianists.”
…which was, in fact, understating things. It’s true that everyone from Keith Jarrett to Frank Kimbrough to Aaron Parks has been influenced by Bley, but non-pianists have been similarly struck too. Pat Metheny told my colleague Doug Fischer some years ago that his life was changed by Bley’s All the Things You Are solo on Sonny Rollins’ 1963 album Sonny Meets Hawk. “When I heard Paul Bley’s piano solo, a whole new universe of harmonic possibilities opened up from me,” Metheny said. “All these decades later, I still of it as one of the greatest solos in jazz history.
“Even a non-musician can sense something amazing is happening,” Metheny continued. “On one level what he’s doing is very complex, but it’s also completely accessible, very open. Bley simply allows each musical idea to go to its natural conclusion — and in the end, something very personal becomes very universal.”
A legendary raconteur who witnessed and was involved with the greatest jazz players over the last 60-plus years, Bley was also a famously quotable philosopher of improvisation and life: For now, just these choice quotes:
1) “Practice makes perfect. Imperfect is better.”
2) “Music paper is senile. Recordings do a better job.”
3) “Rehearsals are counterproductive. Repetition is a downward spiral.”

A quick appreciation by Hamilton-based pianist Adrean Farrugia on Facebook:
“Rest in peace Paul Bley.
“To me, Paul Bley is the greatest and most historically significant jazz pianist Canada has ever produced. Never putting public approval ratings and record sales before his commitment to his honest development as an artist Paul Bley carved out a sound and style that was truly unique, mysterious and beautiful.
“He was an important influence on many of history’s greatest forward looking improvising artists, such as Keith Jarrett and many others.
“I met him at the Blue Note in NYC in 2008 while on my honeymoon with my wife Sophia. His duo performances that night with Charlie Haden were deep and personal and stayed with me for a long time.
“I’ll always be grateful for your music Mr. Bley. Thank You.”

Rest in peace, Paul Bley.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Lee Shaw 1926 - 2015

By Steve Barnes
Lee Shaw, a tiny, gentle woman who produced a huge, aggressive sound as a jazz pianist, died Sunday at age 89. She was under hospice care at Eddy Memorial Geriatric Center and had suffered from medical issues including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and related complications. Until January, when she had a stroke, Shaw had lived in the same house along the Mohawk River in Colonie that she and her late husband, Stan, bought in 1971 when they moved to the Capital Region from New York City.
Despite her health difficulties, Shaw was an indefatigable performer. Oxygen tank in tow, as it had been for several years, Shaw played her last regular gig in early September at Grappa '72 Ristorante in Albany. It was but one of many area restaurants and nightspots over the years where local audiences could hear world-class talent for free in an intimate setting.
"She was a phenomenal force on the piano," said Rich Syracuse, who as the bass player in The Lee Shaw Trio for the past 23 years performed thousands of shows with Shaw.
"Sometimes we'd get to a place and the piano would be out of tune, but she would play it with such force and musicianship that the damn thing would suddenly be in tune," Syracuse said Sunday evening. "It was as if she willed it into being in tune by the strength of her playing."
Born June 25, 1926, in Oklahoma, Shaw as a child learned to play piano by ear, pecking out popular tunes of the era after hearing them on the radio. She later studied piano classically at Oklahoma College for Women and, for her master's degree, at the former American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, where she met and married her husband, Stan, in 1962. They would play together for the next 39 years. Throughout her classical studies she maintained a large repertoire of pop standards and earned a living playing at restaurants and nightclubs. Shaw claimed never to have heard jazz until seeing the Count Basie Orchestra in Chicago. She later studied with jazz great Oscar Peterson, who is said to have invited Shaw to be his student after hearing her play just once, and Shaw herself was a teacher of renown, with students including John Medeski of the jazz-funk band Medeski Martin & Wood. A recording of a Shaw-Medeski concert at The Egg in Albany was released as the album "Live at The Egg."
"She had a tremendous classical technique underlying the jazz, and she was always studying, recording gigs and listening to them after, always learning and trying to improve, even in later years," said Jeff Siegel, the drummer for The Lee Shaw Trio for the past 14 years.
"The way she played American standards was so fresh, so authentic, that if you heard her play one, you'd think that was what Cole Porter or Gershwin would have wanted," Siegel said.
The Lee Shaw Trio performed extensively throughout the greater Capital Region and across the country, including in her native Oklahoma, where Shaw was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 1993. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, the trio toured Europe each year; a concert in Austria, recorded by the Austrian Broadcast Co., was the basis for the trio's 2008 album and DVD, "Live in Graz."
In contrast to the intensity she brought to jazz, Shaw was gracious, even genteel, and warm with friends and fans alike.
"She was so appreciative as a person," said Tess Collins, who got to know Shaw in the late 1980s and 1990s, when Collins managed the Albany restaurant Justin's, then a jazz hotspot. "We'd carry her things for her, and she'd come back with a thank you, brownies or some other food. She was just so genuine," said Collins, who now owns McGeary's pub in Albany and DiCarlo's lounge in Colonie.
"She was so caring and interested in other people that when you asked about her, she'd always turn it around and somehow you'd be talking about you," said Diane Reiner, who was a neighbor and close friend of Shaw's for three decades and recently had been helping her with legal and medical decisions.
Shaw was also a composer.
"She had a great lyricism evident in her songwriting," Siegel said. "You could feel and hear her expressing herself so beautifully."
Although she was hospitalized multiple times this year, Shaw was determined to continue playing.
"Music was why she was staying here," said Siegel. "At one point her arm was paralyzed, but she said she'd play again, and she did. What she went through to continue to play" — including, earlier in life, three bouts of cancer — "was unbelievable."
Siegel and Syracuse, who had played alongside Shaw for a combined 37 years, visited Shaw's bedside on Saturday, the day before she died. Morphine limited her ability to speak, they said, but she acknowledged their presence with a strong squeeze of their hands. Talking wasn't necessary among the three, who communicated through music, and so they played recordings of some of the trio's tunes. One of them was a Shaw composition, "Song without Words."
A funeral observance later this week will be private, Reiner said. Siegel and Syracuse said they hope to organize a memorial concert and celebration in Shaw's honor in the coming months.