Sunday, August 28, 2016

2 Sem 2016 - Part Two

Kenny Werner/ Hein Van De Geyn/ Hans Van Oosterhout

By Scott Yanow
Collaboration has a dozen fascinating and mostly free improvisations by the great pianist Kenny Werner in a trio.
Pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Hein Van de Geyn and drummer Hans van Oosterhout have worked together on an occasional basis in the past including taking a short tour and functioning as Toots Thielemans’ quartet for a few concerts. But while the musicians are familiar with each other, they have not performed together all that often. Rather than sharing years of mutual experiences, they share a similar outlook towards improvising jazz. Their common vision is on display throughout this continually fascinating and intriguing disc.
With Werner leading the way, the trio creates new compositions and improvisations on the spot during a dozen performances. One of Werner’s songs, “Elegante,” is explored at great length. The trio also performs Paul Simon’s “Sound Of Silence” and the standard “There Will Never Be Another You.” However even those two songs are mostly freely improvised with the tunes being largely unrecognizable until late in the performances when the melodies gradually appear.
In addition to the close interplay and the many fine Van De Geyn bass solos, it is difficult not to be impressed by Kenny Werner’s chord voicings. Not only does he seem to know every chord ever played but gives the impression that he is creating some never heard before.
Even with the fairly free playing on many of these selections, the results are often melodic, lyrical and a logical extension of each piece’s ideas. Collaboration deserves several close listens.

Bill Charlap Trio
Notes From New York

By Matt R. Lohr/JazzTimes
It’s worth remembering that no artist is constantly obligated to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes, just making a really great wheel can be an accomplishment in itself. And while no one would say Notes From New York, the new outing from the Bill Charlap Trio, represents a paradigm shift in the piano-trio canon, it’s an album of such instrumental invention and brio that it easily stands as the year’s most purely delightful recording thus far.
Charlap’s piano technique is singular and stunning in the way it weds a chiming, almost dainty touch to a leaping, top-to-bottom keyboard attack. If “muscular elegance” is not too much of an oxymoron, it’s the perfect phrase to describe the pianist’s approach. His album-opening rendition of “I’ll Remember April” is a master class in fast-paced swing, drummer Kenny Washington’s staccato rhythms driving Charlap to ever-rising single-note explosions. “Tiny’s Tempo” bustles along with effortless flair, showcasing a bouncy solo from bassist Peter Washington, and Charlap lightly trips his way through “A Sleepin’ Bee”; there, Kenny Washington’s shuffling brushes provide an unwavering companion on the journey.
But Charlap’s trio also brings considerable vitality and élan to Notes From New York’smoodier material. The pianist’s low-register block chords give “Make Me Rainbows” an admirable sense of ardor, with Peter Washington’s walking strings adding just enough blues to the mix. “There Is No Music” blends polished refinement with a somber, minor-keyed tenderness and darkly shimmering Charlap glissandos. The whole affair closes with “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” which Charlap, playing unaccompanied, reinvents as a bittersweet ballad full of longing and echoey empty spaces. But even when it’s tugging at your heartstrings, Notes From New York is a luxurious, exquisitely pleasurable experience. Charlap and his trio have given us a “wheel” that rolls on straight and true.

Enrico Zanisi
Piano Tales

By Brian Morton
Since his debut, Enrico Zanisi has proved to have the makings of a rocketing star, to whom the label of enfant prodige of Italian jazz was soon to become a tight fit. That’s why this piano solo album by Enrico Zanisi, to be released on CAM JAZZ, seems well-timed for an ideal start to a new era in the career of this young pianist. Following three trio albums and several side projects, Piano Tales comes to crown a journey during which the Roman pianist has explored the boundaries of his music but leaving its distinguishing natural grace intact. This recording reveals a brand new Zanisi, more full-fledged but, above all, aware of his potential as songwriter and player. This work consists of eleven tracks, mostly less than four minutes long, a purported collection of musical feelings, more than an actual concept album. It also features more complex pieces with a highly designed improvisational approach. But the prevailing element in a mood accommodating fullness and emptiness, music and silence, is Zanisi’s airy piano-playing, both inexpressible and sharp. In young players like him one seldom finds such a clear awareness of one’s own means as well as an already distinct musical personality like his. Though, Zanisi has both of them, unmistakably.
Recorded in Cavalicco on 27 - 28 May 2015 at Artesuono Recording Studio
Recording engineer: Stefano Amerio.

Nils Landgren With Janis Siegel
Some Other Time

By Bruce Lindsay
Hot on the heels of his guest appearance on Mo' Blow's funky Live In Berlin (ACT Music, 2016), trombonist and singer Nils Landgren moves over to Broadway with Some Other Time. As the sub-title makes clear, this is A Tribute To Leonard Bernstein—a worthy and at times achingly beautiful tribute, too.
Landgren is joined by The Manhattan Transfer vocalist Janis Siegel and by the excellent rhythm section of Jan Lundgren on piano, Dieter Ilg on bass and Wolfgang Haffner on drums. The Bochum Symphoniker, conducted by arranger Vince Mendoza, joins in on a few tracks including "Overture: America" a 42-second introduction that gives the erroneous impression that this album will solely focus on West Side Story.
Landgren's light, sweet-toned and often plaintive voice suits the more romantic numbers particularly well. It lacks the undertone of aggression that could have given "Cool" a degree of menace, but the cat-creep rhythm that Lundgren, Ilg and Haffner set down more than compensates—it's somehow sexy and slightly menacing at the same time. On the other hand, Landgren's vocal on "Somewhere" is so melancholy that it brings a tear to the eye—once again, the rhythm section's empathic performance is superb.
Landgren's trombone playing is a constant pleasure. On "Maria," which gets a fine arrangement from Mendoza, he's swinging and upbeat, on "Somewhere" his playing is gentle and spacious, on "Lucky To Be Me" his solo is brief but replete with good-humored charm.
Siegel is an excellent choice of guest vocalist for these songs. Her duet with Landgren on Mendoza's arrangement of "Some Other Time" is the strongest of her appearances but her solo vocal on "The Story Of My Life" and "Lucky To Be Me" run it pretty close.
If Some Other Time does have a weakness, it's in the choice of some of the lesser-known numbers. Despite Mendoza's arrangements "A Quiet Girl" and the instrumental "A Simple Song," though pleasant, never really come to life especially when compared to the rest of the program.
Track Listing: 
Overture: America; Some Other Time; Cool; Maria; Somewhere; The Story Of My Life; One Hand, One Heart; Something's Coming; Lonely Town; A Quiet Girl; Lucky To Be Me; A Simple Song.
Nils Landgren: vocals, trombone; Jan Lundgren: piano; Dieter Iig: bass; Wolfgang Haffner: drums; Janis Siegel: vocals (2, 6, 8, 9, 11); Members of the Bochumer Symphoniker, conducted by Vince Mendoza.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Rudy Van Gelder 1924 - 2016

By Felix Contreras
Rudy Van Gelder, an audio recording engineer who captured the sounds of many of jazz's landmark albums, died Thursday morning in his sleep. He was at his home studio in New Jersey, according to Maureen Sickler, his assistant engineer. He was 91.
Van Gelder's work is heard on hundreds of albums, on record labels like Blue Note, Prestige, Savoy and Impulse, featuring the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and Count Basie, Sonny Rollins and Wayne Shorter. His contribution to jazz was twisting knobs and setting microphones, but it proved vitally important. For more than six decades, Van Gelder's innovative approach to recording created a trademark sound that many call definitive. As a result, he became the go-to guy for musicians looking to accurately capture their unique sound identities on record.
Van Gelder started by recording his high-school friends in his parents' living room in Hackensack, N.J., in the 1940s. Those early sessions turned into a side career in audio recording — by day, he was a practicing optometrist — which turned into a full-time occupation.
He was not a producer with artistic control, but as a technician, Van Gelder handled every aspect of the recording process from setup to mastering. He was notoriously secretive about his techniques, though part of his method involved how he placed each instrument in its own sonic space. That allowed for the subtleties and dynamics of the ways musicians manipulated the brass and wood of acoustic instruments.
In a 1993 interview with NPR, Van Gelder explained the motivation for his meticulous approach to studio recording.
"What we're doing is important," he said. "As opposed, for example, to a club date where a musician goes and couple hundred people are going to hear what he played that night. If he's making a record, even if it's not a very successful record, thousands of people ultimately are going to hear it. And I consider that important."
Saxophonist Sonny Rollins worked with Van Gelder on many sessions, including those which resulted in Saxophone Colossus, A Night At The Village Vanguard (a live remote recording) and Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins. On the phone at his home, he remembered Van Gelder as "very much an artist" whose talent allowed musicians to focus on doing their jobs.
"It wasn't the days when ... everybody comes by and listens in the booth and sees how it sounds," Rollins said. "No, no — if we did it, we knew [the recording] would be impeccable, and perfect. And so we came in, did our recordings, and we left. Next thing, record comes out with superb sound. Hey, well, that's Rudy. Rudy was the engineer."
In 1959, after he had already recorded the aforementioned Rollins albums and hundreds of others, Van Gelder moved from his parents' living room to a custom-built recording studio in nearby Englewood Cliffs, N.J. It had nine-foot-high cathedral ceilings, appropriate for a space that would become a shrine for jazz musicians.
Rudy Van Gelder took pains to credit the performers who created the sounds, as well as the producers who chose his studio to document that work. Still, they kept choosing his studio.
"We get albums that sound the way they want them to sound," Van Gelder said in 1993. "The rest of it can all be very difficult — including me, personally and any other way. But I try to make sure that nothing leaves here that is not flattering to the musician and that is not what the musician wants. When they tell me that they like what they hear, what comes out of here, then that's my reward."
As he entered his 70s, Van Gelder helped Blue Note and Prestige take his original analog recordings into the digital age by remastering them. Don Sickler, a musician who is married to Van Gelder's assistant Maureen Sickler, says Van Gelder was working on a mix just last week. When he died, he was just down the hall from his beloved studio.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Toots Thielemans 1922 - 2016

By Peter Keepnews
Toots Thielemans, one of the only musicians to have a successful career as a jazz harmonica player, died on Monday in Brussels. He was 94.
The death was confirmed by Mr. Thielemans’s agency, which did not specify a cause. Mr. Thielemans, who retired in 2014 for health reasons, had been hospitalized recently with a broken arm.
That Mr. Thielemans played jazz on the harmonica was unusual enough. Even more unusual was how he first gained international attention: by playing guitar and whistling in unison.
He introduced this approach in 1961 on his recording of the wistful but jaunty jazz waltz “Bluesette,” which he wrote.
The record became an international hit, and the song was his signature. It also became a jazz standard, recorded by numerous instrumentalists, among them Chet Atkins, Tito Puente and Mr. Thielemans himself, who went on to record it several more times. It was also recorded, with lyrics by Norman Gimbel, by Sarah Vaughan and other singers.
But his distinctive sound on the chromatic harmonica was Mr. Thielemans’s primary claim to fame and, especially, to fortune.
Although his name was well known in the jazz world — he performed with greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker — it was relatively unknown to the general public; his playing, on the other hand, was virtually ubiquitous.
It can be heard on the soundtracks of movies including “Midnight Cowboy” and “The Getaway.” It was featured in television commercials and on records by, among many others, Ms. Fitzgerald, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, who once called Mr. Thielemans “one of the greatest musicians of our time.” For more than four decades, it has been heard in the opening theme music of “Sesame Street.”
Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidore Thielemans was born on April 29, 1922, in Brussels, where his parents owned a cafe. He offered various explanations over the years for how he came to be known as Toots, sometimes saying he chose the name himself and at others saying it was given to him; whatever the truth, the name was apparently borrowed from two American jazz musicians, Nuncio Mondello and Salvador Camarata, who both went by Toots.
Musically inclined from an early age, he began playing the accordion at 3 and took up the harmonica in his teens. A few years later, inspired by Django Reinhardt, a fellow Belgian, he began playing guitar, as well. By the end of World War II he had become a full-time musician.
In 1949, he shared the stage with Charlie Parker at the Paris Jazz Festival, and a year later he toured Europe as the guitarist in a sextet led by Benny Goodman. He moved to the United States in 1951 and eventually became a citizen.
From 1953 to 1959, he was a member of the British jazz pianist George Shearing’s popular quintet. He mostly played guitar with Mr. Shearing, but his harmonica work was featured on at least one number at every performance. It was also showcased on the handful of albums he recorded as a leader in those years.
After leaving the Shearing group, Mr. Thielemans became a busy studio musician, even spending a few years on staff at ABC. But he remained active in jazz, with the harmonica now his main instrument. He toured frequently, and occasionally recorded as the leader of a small group, for the rest of his life.
Most of his albums presented him in a straightforward jazz context, but late in his career they took on a more international color. On “The Brasil Project,” released in 1992, and a follow-up, released the next year, he collaborated with Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil and other prominent Brazilian artists. And on the 1998 album “Chez Toots” he returned to his roots, leading a group of French and Belgian musicians in a program of French songs.
Playing a set in New York a few months after turning 80, Mr. Thielemans “seemed dazzled by his glorious sunset, and found shelter under the umbrella of sophisticated schmaltz,” Ben Ratliff wrote in The New York Times, adding: “He’s in good shape, only losing wind at the end of a long string of notes; but he finds off-centered rhythms, attaining a little bit of freedom, knocking his instrument from side to side for tremolos.”
Albert II, then the king of Belgium, bestowed on Mr. Thielemans the honorary title of baron in 2001. The country’s prime minister, Charles Michel, said on Monday, “We have lost a great musician, a warm personality.”
The National Endowment for the Arts named Mr. Thielemans a jazz master for 2009, the highest honor that can be accorded a jazz musician in the United States. “I accept this distinction with pride and emotion,” he said at the time, adding that he had only “played at music” until a Louis Armstrong record in 1940 provided “instant contamination” and changed the direction of his life.
Mr. Thielemans lived in La Hulpe, a suburb of Brussels. Information on survivors was not immediately available.
In March 2006, Mr. Thielemans was the guest of honor at an all-star Carnegie Hall tribute concert, with the pianist Herbie Hancock and the clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera among the performers. Reviewing the concert for The Times, Nate Chinen praised both Mr. Thielemans’s “exuberantly expressive” playing and his infectious spirit.
“No one stole the spotlight from Mr. Thielemans,” he wrote. “He was having giddy fun, and the feeling was contagious.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bobby Hutcherson 1941 - 2016

By Associated Press
Bobby Hutcherson, the bricklayer's son who became one of the greatest, most inventive jazz vibraphonists to pick up a pair of mallets, has died at age 75.
Hutcherson died Monday at his family home in Montara, a small seaside community south of San Francisco. The cause was complications related to emphysema, longtime family friend Marshall Lamm said.
Best known for his post-bop recordings for Blue Note Records in the 1960s and 1970s, Hutcherson played with a litany of jazz greats as both bandleader and sideman during a career spanning more than 50 years.
Among them were Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon, the latter a childhood friend.
When “Enjoy the View,” the last of his more than 40 albums, was released in 2014, JazzTimes magazine declared it “a worthy addition to an era-defining discography.” Among Hutcherson's last performances was a four-night run of shows two years ago at San Francisco's SFJazz Center, where he played alongside saxophonist David Sanborn, organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Billy Hart, who had recorded “Enjoy the View” with him.
Noted for an eclectic approach that was at once colorful, powerful, cool and melodic, Hutcherson came of age musically as jazz was moving into a cerebral, more avant-garde era that matched his playing style.
“Bobby Hutcherson's sound and innovative style on the vibraphone helped revitalize the instrument in the 1960s, adding an adventurous new voice to the free jazz and post-bop eras,” the National Endowment for the Arts, which honored him with its prestigious Jazz Master award in 2010, said Tuesday.
Robert Hutcherson was born Jan. 17, 1941, in Los Angeles and raised in Pasadena.
He studied piano as a child but switched to vibraphone after hearing Milt Jackson play the instrument on a recording of Thelonious Monk's “Bemsha Swing.”
Captivated by the sound, he recalled spending the summer working for his father so he could save enough money to buy his own vibraphone.
As soon as he acquired it, jazz bass player Herbie Lewis, a junior high school buddy, allowed him to join his band and almost immediately got the group a small local gig. Unfortunately, Hutcherson hadn't yet had time to learn to play his instrument.
He said, “Don't worry. We'll take a black felt pen and write down on each bar which note to hit next,” Hutcherson told JazzTimes in 2014.
Just before he was to go on, however, a stage manager erased all the marks.
“Well, I hit the first note; I remembered that. But from the second note on it was complete chaos. You never heard people boo and laugh like that.”
Afterward his father told him he wanted his son to become a bricklayer.
Within a few years, however, Hutcherson was playing with greats including saxophonist Billy Mitchell, trombonist Al Grey and the others, appearing at New York City's fabled Birdland and other clubs.
He released his first album, “The Kicker,” in 1963, going on to appear on numerous recordings by other artists as well. He also appeared with Hancock, Gordon and others in the 1986 jazz film “ ‘Round Midnight” and composed “Little B's Poem” and other musical pieces.
He is survived by his wife, Rosemary, and sons Teddy and Barry, the latter a jazz drummer and inspiration for the song “Little B's Poem.”