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. 

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