Sunday, October 23, 2016

2 Sem 2016 - Part Five

Peter Bernstein
Let Loose

By Thomas Conrad
Peter Bernstein has built a career in the service of others, especially saxophone players and organists. He was in Sonny Rollins’ best working band of the new millennium, and has been crucial to Lou Donaldson and Dr. Lonnie Smith. On Let Loose he slips seamlessly into the role of leader. It is a balanced, polished, erudite guitar recital that was made in one day.
Bernstein’s music is devoid of rough edges yet always sounds bluesy. On a tender song from the 1950s, “Blue Gardenia,” his precise single-note lines trace the melody sincerely, only subtly rephrasing it. Yet his understatements possess the sublimated urgency of someone whose emotional domain is the blues.
With instruments such as piano and electric guitar (as opposed to, say, saxophone), it is slightly perplexing how special players are able to imprint their own sound, their own tonal signatures. Bernstein personalizes every note and makes them glow. The clarity and purity of his guitar sound is beautifully rendered on this recording. (Sonic quality is a strength of the Smoke Sessions label.)
The bassist and drummer here, Doug Weiss and Bill Stewart, have long histories with Bernstein. Pianist Gerald Clayton is a new collaborator. Clayton’s presence creates high expectations. His imaginative daring has transformed many recent ensembles, including major ones like the Charles Lloyd Quartet. But whereas Lloyd gives Clayton space to create his own original art within the leader’s vision, Bernstein keeps Clayton in a box. On ballads like “Tres Palabras” and harder stuff like Woody Shaw’s “Sweet Love of Mine,” both examples of Bernstein’s insightful repertoire decisions, Clayton reinforces the leader’s concept of beauty but does not extend it. The album’s title notwithstanding, one of the few things Bernstein does not do well in music is let loose.

Melissa Errico
Legrand Affair: The Songs Of Michel Legrand

By William Ruhlmann
Although the musical Amour, with a score composed by Michel Legrand, had only a brief run on Broadway in 2002, it earned a Tony Award nomination for its female lead, Melissa Errico, who in 2005 began working with Legrand and producer Phil Ramone on a solo album of Legrand's songs. She put that project aside to take a career hiatus and start a family, then recorded an album about children and motherhood, 2008's Lullabies & Wildflowers. So, it took until 2011 for the long-gestating Legrand album to appear, but it proves worth the wait. Legrand Affair is a full-scale collaboration between singer and composer, with Legrand providing arrangements and orchestrations, and even stepping in to accompany Errico on piano and, on "Once Upon a Summertime," to sing (and scat) along. His charts for some of his best-known movie themes are lush and pastoral, and Errico, with her restrained, precise singing, is an ideal vocal embodiment of the lyrics. Many of those words were contributed by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who bring to their settings of Legrand's swirling, circular melodies appropriately poetic and elliptical lyrics. The classic example, of course, is the series of similes that makes up the lyric to the Academy Award-winning "The Windmills of Your Mind" from the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair. But the Bergmans also provide a succession of prepositional phrases for "In Another Life," and elsewhere they traffic heavily in nature and weather imagery to describe the contours of long-term love affairs. Errico studiously avoids material that the Legrand/Bergman team wrote for Barbra Streisand; no "The Way We Were" or anything from Yentl. But the veteran composer has written so many songs that she still has plenty to choose from, including a couple of French lyrics. And Legrand makes as strong an impression in the album as the singer, usually allowed an instrumental section in each song to get his point across with ravishing, often wistful strings. He is a full participant in his own tribute, but Errico also stakes a claim as a major interpreter of his catalog.

Gregory Porter
Take Me To The Alley

By Thom Jurek
With 2013's Liquid Spirit, jazz singer and songwriter Gregory Porter's Blue Note debut, he accomplished what few in his vocation have in recent decades -- sold over a million albums globally. He also won the 2014 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album. In addition, in 2015, U.K. electronic unit Disclosure released "Holding On" -- a co-write with the singer that featured his vocal -- as the lead single from their Caracal album. The track was a worldwide club hit and inspired numerous remixes. On Take Me to the Alley, Porter sticks to what he does best: writing and singing great songs in his honeyed, unhurried yet disciplined baritone. Kamau Kenyatta remains his producer and his longtime band is back -- drummer Emanuel Harrold, bassist Aaron James, pianist Chip Crawford, and saxophonists Yosuke Sato (alto) and Tivon Pennicott (tenor) -- with select guests including trumpeter Keyon Harrold, vocalist Alicia Olatuja, and organist Ondrej Pivec. The leadoff track, unsurprisingly, is his own version of "Holding On," with a double-timed, brushed hi-hat, Motown-esque bassline, and crystalline piano. It skirts the edges of pop-soul yet remains in the jazz camp. Porter's lyrics are direct, confessional, and poetic. The spiritual clarity of the gospel message in the title cut is underscored by Olatuja's harmony vocal and Harrold's melodic trumpet break. "Consequence of Love" is one of the finest moments here, a tender midtempo ballad offered with the no-nonsense conviction that reveals love may be beyond the measurement of the rational, but commitment to it remains necessary for the revelation of its truth. Porter employs gospelized soul-blues (à la Ray Charles) in "Don't Lose Your Steam," one of two songs inspired by his son. The horns frame the B-3 and rhythm section groove while Sato's solo becomes a responsorial voice. "Fan the Flames" is a swinging political post-bop finger-popper with punchy horns. It's an anthemic call to arms with great solos by Pennicott and Keyon Harrold. The artful, strident narrative in "French African Queen" is accompanied in feverish modal form by the ensemble, accented by fluid rhythms that touch on Latin and African grooves (check the Fela Kuti-inspired horns to boot). A second version of "Holding On," with urban soulman Kem, feels unnecessary in comparison to the first. Conversely, the closer, a second read of the ballad "Insanity" with Lalah Hathaway in duet, should have replaced the first one, because it is superior. A seamless intersection of pop-jazz and adult cotemporary soul, it is a set highlight. If there's a knock against Take Me to the Alley, it's that it feels a bit long. Editing out two or three tunes would have heightened its impact. That Porter doesn't break new ground here isn't a big deal; he doesn't need to. His voice, already a standard of excellence by which others are judged, is matched by a truth-laid-bare songwriting style that is singular and second to none.

Nelson Faria & Frankfurt Radio BigBand
Live In Frankfurt

By Kees Schoof
There are musicians whose participation on an album always adds something extra. Nelson Faria is one of those musicians. Whenever his name is mentioned in the line-up, one can be sure that there’s something good about the album… Nelson Faria is a fantastic and dedicated musician (guitarist, composer, arranger). The various projects he participated in always benefited from his presence. So it was a smart move when the HR Bigband and Nelson Faria decided to join forces.
The HR Bigband is The Frankfurt Radio Bigband. The German orchestra acquired a solid reputation and worked with (jazz) musicians like Mike Stern, Michael Brecker, John Scofield and Jack Bruce. They also have experience in Brazilian music. They invited Tania Maria (2010, It’s Only Love) and the orchestra recorded the album Viva o Som(2009) with the music of Hermeto Pascoal. With Nelson Faria on guitar and as arranger, we now have an album that was recorded live in Frankfurt, 2009, and is nothing short from fantastic! Nelson Faria invited the two other members of Nosso Trio as special guests to accompany him. Ney Conceição on bass and Kiko Freitas on drums do an outstanding job, as always. They forgot they’re 2/3rd of Nosso Trio and make themselves part of the orchestra, leaving the honors as soloist to Nelson Faria. Another Brazilian input comes from the attentive percussionist Cristiane Gavazzoni (from Curitiba). She’s a regular member of the HR Bigband and also performed in other bands and orchestras throughout Europe.
The clever and tasteful arrangements make sure that the music stays Brazilian. It also underlines the quality of the musicians from the HR Bigband and the orchestra as a whole that they seem to feel what Nelson Faria had in mind with the music. The album opens with Nelson’s own composition “Brooklyn High,” which serves as kind of an overture, an introduction of the orchestra with sharp soloing by the leader himself, Andy Greenwood (trumpet), Günter Bollmann (trombone), Ney Conceição (bass) and Kiko Freitas (drums). It’s followed by another Nelson Faria composition, the Bossa Nova “Rio.”
Among the repertoire we find three compositions by João Bosco. It’s a funny thing about João Bosco’s music that his own vocal interpretations of the songs always are the best. But on an album like this, it shows how much potential his music has for instrumental arrangements. It’s pure jazz; something that also can be said, of course, about Jobim’s representation on the album, his composition “Dindi.” The rendition of this classic is breathtakingly beautiful, a perfect confluence of a Brazilian standard and jazz tradition. Nelson Faria opens in a most lyrical way after which Matthias Erlewein takes over the sentiment on the tenor sax. His soloing is absolutely a top performance. “Manhã de Carnaval” reaches that same level. Here it’s Martin Auer on the trumpet who answers to the inspirational opening by Nelson Faria.
Each track on this album is a joy to listen to. The arrangements are surprising; the soloing is superb and never disturbed by a too heavy big band sound. Everything sounds in perfect harmony. It’s absolutely among the finest releases in 2011, both in the jazz as in the Brazilian fields. Nelson Faria proves he can be counted among the greats, while the HR Bigband shows again that European Radio Orchestras often house the best local musicians; disciplined, original, dedicated and with perfect craftsmanship.
Nelson Faria & Frankfurt Radio Bigband
Live in Frankfurt
Independent (2011)
Time: 75’20”
Brooklyn High (Nelson Faria)
Rio (Nelson Faria)
Dindi (A.C. Jobim – Aloysio de Oliveira)
Incompatibilidade de Gênios (João Bosco – Aldir Blanc)
Linha de Passe (João Bosco – Aldir Blanc – Paulo Emílio)
Bala com Bala (João Bosco – Aldir Blanc)
Manhã de Carnaval (Luiz Bonfá – Antonio Maria)
Estamos Aí (Mauricio Einhorn – Durval Ferreira – Regina Werneck)
Vera Cruz (Milton Nascimento – Márcio Borges)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Claus Ogerman 1930 - 2016

By Marc Meyers
Claus Ogerman, an achingly beautiful jazz-pop orchestral arranger whose signature sound behind singers and instrumentalists featured violins scored in a high register, with the violas, cellos and bass playing sensually voiced chords below, died in Germany on March 8. He was 85.
News of Ogerman’s passing more than seven months ago seems to have escaped most traditional media in the States and other countries largely because his family was unavailable by phone to officially confirm his death at the time. His family also decided to keep the news private. As a result, many fans of his music may still be unaware of his death.
During a conversation last week with producer Tommy LiPuma about Ogerman's legacy, I mentioned I had heard that Ogerman was seriously ill. Tommy, who produced 12 albums with Ogerman as an artist and arranger, said he had, in fact, died earlier this year. Tommy said Ogerman's nephew, Spencer Matheson, had called him a few days after Ogerman's death with the sad news, asking Tommy to let singer-pianist Diana Krall know.
Tommy said that at the time, Spencer had asked him to keep it confidential, since the family didn’t want Ogerman's passing to be made public yet. Later, when the sad news was leaked by a few of Ogerman's German musician friends, Spencer convinced his family to make the news public. But by then, too much time had passed and Ogerman was largely forgotten by the press, at least in the U.S.
As an arranger in the jazz-pop world, Ogerman had few peers. He was remarkably prolific, even in a business where brand-name arrangers had to hire others to ghostwrite scores for them just to keep up with the work. Ogerman's warm, delicate string orchestrations still sound like sheer, luxurious curtains blowing in a gentle breeze, and there remains a dramatic, autumnal quality about his orchestrations that slowly envelope singers and instrumentalists like a silver mist. His big band, pop-rock and soul charts also had an unmistakable snap.
Ogerman began his recording career in Germany in 1952 as the pianist in a sextet led by Max Greger. Throughout the early 1950's, he recorded with a Greger and a range of German jazz-pop artists. His first recording with an American jazz musician was a Chet Baker jam session in Baden-Baden, Germany, in 1955.
Discovered by Stan Getz, Ogerman moved to the States in 1959 and quickly found work as a fast, diligent arranger. His earliest charts for American pop artists were for Solomon Burke and Lesley Gore, including her 1963 hit It's My Party. In 1962, Ogerman came to the attention of producer Creed Taylor shortly after Creed was named head of Verve.
At Verve, Ogerman first arranged the song Where Are You? by Jack Teagarden on the trombonist's Think Well of Me album in 1962. In May 1963, Ogerman began arranging a long string of bossa nova albums for Creed, developing a soft sound with strings that would become his hallmark. The first of these albums was Antonio Carlos Jobim's The Composer of Desafinado Plays. Throughout the 1960s, Ogerman arranged a massive catalog of superb albums produced by Creed at Verve (upward of 70, by Ogerman's count) and then continued with Creed when he moved to A&M and later founded CTI.
Shortly after CTI folded in 1978, Ogerman moved to Warner Bros., where he was produced by Tommy LiPuma. Together, Tommy and Ogerman recorded Dr. John’s City Lights; George Benson’sBreezin’, In Flight and Living Inside Your Love; Michael Franks’Sleeping Gypsy; Joao Gilberto’s Amoroso; Ogerman’s Gate of Dreams, Cityscape (featuring Michael Brecker) and Claus Ogerman, featuring Michael Brecher; Diana Krall's The Look Of Love and Quiet Nights; and Ogerman's Across The Crystal Sea,featuring Danilo Perez.
Over the course of five decades, starting in the 1960s, Ogerman recorded several hundred albums in the U.S. and Germany, where he spent half the year. The exact number still isn't known and probably won't be until someone writes his biography.
Claus Ogerman's arrangements speak volumes about his sensitivity and taste.