Friday, August 10, 2018

2 Sem 2018 - Part Three

Sarah McKenzie
Paris In The Rain

By Samuel Cottell 
When Sarah McKenzie released her debut album Don’t Tempt Me in 2011, she showed talent and promise. Five years later, she has delivered on that promise and excelled in her musical craft. Paris in the Rain, her second outing on the Impulse Jazz Label sees her embarking on adventurous new harmonic territory and expanding her skills as a pianist, singer and songwriter.
To me, the idea of Paris always holds connotations of romanticism and history, and here Sarah also takes this approach. She crafts her own tunes – set alongside timeless classics of the jazz repertoire, made famous by the great singers of the day – and marks her own approach to them. All at once they are stepping back in time, yet so modern. Sarah demonstrates why these songs and their associations are indeed timeless.
The album opens with the iconic Tea for Two. The trumpet solo with mute adds a nice tone colour to the mix. Sarah’s zesty and up-tempo rendition sets up the groove with the band, over which her vocals dart and glide. There are plenty of great solo moments on this track.
Following this strong opener, the next track is Sarah’s own Paris in the Rain. The lyric: “I’d trade a summer day again and again, just for one kiss and Paris in the rain” is genius, and harks back to the great masters who penned many of the lyrics to what are now iconic jazz standards. This song shows Sarah’s knack for songwriting and her arrangement weaves splashes of colour in and out of the vocal line.
The optimistic and fun Onwards and Upwards, penned by Sarah, has the feel of a 1950s television show theme. It’s witty, clever and has one of the catchiest melodies I’ve ever heard. Her solo on this track is superb. It’s got hints of Nat King Cole, in that she repeats a fragment of an idea for a period of time before moving to the next. Within this, Sarah articulates each note – demonstrating she can make the piano sing with this kind of phrasing and articulation. The addition of flute and vibraphone also gives it a Henry Mancini-flavour, and you can hear the optimism in this tune.
Sarah approaches When In Rome with a samba feel. She sets up this tune with a fresh take in the form of an ostinato (which returns throughout the track). In the bridge, she launches into a hard swing and pulls the phrase before hitting the climax of the tune on a pedal point. This track approaches this tune much in the way that Blossom Dearie once did, particularly in the final chorus. The phrasing swings hard. Each note gets a slight accent as it descends through the melodic line, and ends with a lush chord that drives the momentum forward. Similarly, I’m Old Fashioned is another ironic standard that gets a fresh outing with inventive musical ideas, while still retaining the feeling and sense of the song itself.
On the more melancholy side of the album are Little Girl Blue and Triste. These moody and introspective tracks offer Sarah the chance to explore more emotional content, which she delivers with stunning conviction. What is remarkable about these tunes in the hands of Sarah is that they both offer optimism in their final moments.
The closing statement is an instrumental Road Chops. Not overtly complex, it is a series of chord changes that allows the musicians to shine in extended solos. What is effective about using this at the end is that it almost acts like an encore to the rest of the album and cements the feeling that you are at a live gig; there’s excitement and energy all around and being jazz, anything could happen.
Sarah has captured that sound world of the 1950s, made famous by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole and others. But in Sarah’s hands, it sounds fresh, modern and hip as ever. This album speaks of the nostalgic and romanticised idea of Paris in the Rain, but is never cheesy. This combination of jazz standards and her original songs shows Sarah at her finest. There’s a great sense of ensemble playing and the band is cohesive and energetic at all times. Sarah is an artist who knows exactly where she comes from, where she is, and where she is going.

Stefano Bollani
Que Bom

By Matt Hooke
The worlds of Italian and Brazilian music meet on Que Bom, pianist Stefano Bollani's masterful 43rd album. Bollani lets his songwriting do the brunt of the work, leading to an accessible project, that still shimmers with inventive moments. Bollani has a keen melodic sense that makes these songs immediately come alive. The opening song, "Sbucata da Una Nuvola," is a beautiful display of Bollani's talents with a two-part melody that begins with quick single notes before moving to chord changes to finish off the phrase.
The happy go lucky yet sophisticated atmosphere, highlighted by Bollani's use of the Cuica, a Brazilian percussion instrument known for a high pitched squeak resembling laughter, brings to mind the work of pianist Vince Guaraldi, who had a similar ability to make the complicated sound fun. Bollani is not only interested in musical perfection, as he occasionally throws in bits of dissonance, medicine to make the spoonful of sugar taste even sweeter. "II Gabbiano Ischitano," featuring the tremendous Brazilian cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, excels by being simple. Bollani's unaccompanied piano maps out the basic chord progression and melody of the piece, before Morelenbaum's delicate, bowed cello playing comes in. Morelenbaum's measured and elegant accompaniment is a highlight of the song, sticking out in the mix but never overpowering the other instruments.
One of the attributes of Que Bom that make it work is how Bollani brings in outside elements to his songs, adding variation that keeps the five-piece combo sounding fresh throughout the album's 1 hour and 12 minute run time. The funky "Uomini e Polli" is assisted by a lively horn section that perfectly complements drummer Jurim Moreira's syncopated drum pattern. Vocal tracks like "La Nebbia a Napoli," and "Michelangelo Antonioni" featuring Brazilian legend Caetano Veloso, offer a nice change of pace, adding flavor to the instrumentals surrounding them. Veloso is most known as an architect of the Tropicália movement that fused the avant-garde and Brazilian mainstream, and his constrained vocal performances fit these songs perfectly. He plays to the song, instead of aiming to show off his own virtuosity.
"Michelangelo Antonioni" is reminiscent of Veloso's experimental roots, his wordless moans getting his message across better than any lyrics could.
Que Bom is a fantastic album that ranks among Bollani's best, which is saying something considering the amount of music the 46-year-old has made in his career. Come for the beautiful melodies and energetic rhythms, stay for the experimentation.
Track Listing: 
Sbucata da una nuvola; Galapagos; Certe giornate al mare; La nebbia a Napoli; Habarossa; Uomini e polli; Ho perduto il mio pappagallino; Criatura dourada; Michelangelo Antonioni; Accettare tutto; Ravaskia; Olha a brita; Il gabbiano ischitano; Aleijadinho lê o Codex Seraphinianus aquì; Nação; Que bom.
Stefano Bollani: piano; Jorge Helder: double bass; Jurim Moreira: drums; Armando Marçal: percussions; Thiago da Serrinha: percussions.

Eliane Elias
Music From Man Of La Mancha

By Thom Jurek
Pianist Eliane Elias follows her Latin Grammy win for 2017's magnificent Dance of Time with this set of tunes from the iconic musical Man of La Mancha. During the mid-'90s, Elias was approached by Mitch Leigh, the Tony-winning composer of her musical; he'd followed her career and greatly admired her work. Accompanied by Neil Warner, arranger for the original musical, he commissioned the pianist to rearrange songs from the show. Elias was given complete freedom to choose which songs she wished to record. She hired two rhythm sections: One featured drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Eddie Gomez; the other bassist Marc Johnson, drummer Satoshi Takeishi, and master percussionist Manolo Badrena (who plays with both groups). Elias and her sidemen recorded nine songs live in studio. Unfortunately, the completed album was shelved due to contractual issues and seemed doomed to obscurity. Leigh passed in 2014 and never saw its release. Concord rescued the album and added it to their catalog some 23 years after recording.
Listening now -- with Elias widely recognized as a jazz master -- is nothing short of revelatory. Each track has been thoroughly re-visioned, utilizing different rhythms, re-harmonizations, tempi, new intros, outros, interludes, and more. The songs here sound assured and disciplined, and are played with kinetic energy and empathy. Check the contrast between rhythm sections on the set's first two tracks, "To Each His Dulcinea," with Johnson, Takeishi, and Badrena, and "Dulcinea," with DeJohnette and Gomez. The former has a partido alto rhythm illuminated by rolling hand drums, lush Errol Garner-esque chord statements, and a popping bassline. The latter bears hints of "The Impossible Dream" within its intro. Elias combines a tender, bluesy swing with Bill Evans-style harmonics, all underscored by Gomez's gorgeous solo. The samba returns in "The Barber Song" and places Badrena alongside Gomez and DeJohnette. The samba piano intro is highlighted by Brazilian percussion instruments in interplay with the drum kit. Gomez doesn't so much hold things to the ground as push them further apart and together again. Elias' ranging solo employs an elegant use of Art Tatum's arpeggios and Herbie Hancock's rhythmic chording. "Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)" is introduced by Gomez and DeJohnette playing in Capoeira rhythm, but it changes gears quickly with a piano interlude that introduces the melody even as Elias' left hand insistently interacts with the rhythm section. While a frevo rhythm drives album-closer "A Little Gossip," it is the track before, "The Impossible Dream," with Johnson, Takeishi, and Badrena, that nearly eclipses it. Fleet pacing aside, Elias' piano is recontextualized almost like that of a vocalist in the first half, and a post-bop soloist in the latter with a deft, swinging, Brazilian rhythmic approach from her left hand. Elias' governance on Music from Man of La Mancha is eclipsed only by her playing and arranging. Her intimate understanding of the tunes is balanced by imagination and taste. Thankfully, Concord is allowing jazz enthusiasts an opportunity to hear this fine recording at last.

Aldo Romano

By Citizen Jazz
Un peu plus de vingt ans après un disque mémorable en compagnie de son compère Jean-François Jenny-Clark et d’un certain Michel Petrucciani, Maître Aldo nous propose un nouvel album en trio avec Danilo Rea au piano, Rémi Vignolo à la contrebasse et des compositions qu’il a signées.
Threesome arrive à point nommé pour donner raison au jury du Jazzpar Prize, décerné le 23 avril dernier à Aldo Romano, car disons-le d’emblée : cet album est remarquable ! Des mélodies superbes, des improvisations très libres, une palette rythmique variée, de l’humour… et une grande cohérence d’ensemble. Le tout servi par des musiciens en parfaite harmonie.
Sur les bords du Rubicon on ne présente plus Danilo Rea, connu d’abord avec le célèbre Trio di Roma et qui après avoir accompagné la plupart des stars de Chet Baker à Joe Lovano en passant par Lee Konitz, John Scofield etc., collectionne les distinctions avec Doctor 3, son dernier trio. Sur les berges de la Seine, on ne présente plus Rémi Vignolo, contrebassiste éclectique, qui a joué hier avec Mark Turner, joue aujourd’hui avec Toots Thielemans et jouera demain avec Richard Galliano. Enfin, inutile de présenter Aldo Romano, que tout le monde connaît des rives du Rubicon et à celles de la Seine…
Dans Threesome, Aldo Romano se montre une nouvelle fois à la hauteur de sa réputation de fin mélodiste. On trouve bien sûr de ces belles ballades faussement romantiques dont il a le secret, comme « Abruzzi », « Murmur » ou les deux thèmes repris du disque Corners, « Sapore di Si Minore », rebaptisé « Manda », et le superbe « Song for Elis ». À quoi s’ajoutent « Paradise for Mickey », une petite comptine qui ne le reste pas longtemps, « Touched !! », un thème dans la lignée be-bop, « Threesome », « Ghost Spell » et « Fleeting » dans un esprit plus free, ou encore le très « ellingtonien » et magnifique hommage « Blues for Nougaro ».
Le titre Threesome va comme un gant à cet album car il s’agit bien d’une partie de jeux dans laquelle les trois musiciens se renvoient sans cesse la balle. Danilo Rea alterne délicatesse mélodieuse, envolées free et gros jeu rythmique, savoureux mélange entre Ahmad Jamal et Keith Jarrett. Il rappelle aussi un autre prodige de la scène actuelle : Bojan Z. « Ghost Spell » est d’ailleurs assez proche du « Set it Up » de Transpacifik. Rémi Vignolo est un contrebassiste libre qui passe d’une walking bass au swing contagieux dans « Touched !! » à une introduction pleine d’effets et d’humour dans « Fleeting », tout en prenant des solos plus mélodieux les uns que les autres, par exemple dans « Murmur » et « Blues for Nougaro ». En dehors de « Threesome », qu’il introduit par un solo monumental, Aldo Romano prend peu la parole, mais dialogue subtilement avec ses deux partenaires, comme dans « Paradise for Mickey ». On sent également l’influence du batteur dans les nombreux changements de rythme qui pimentent les morceaux, à l’image d’« Abruzzi » ou de « Fleeting ».
Trois torons qui se commettent ensemble pour former un bout : l’illustration de la pochette du disque symbolise à merveille ce trio librement uni… ou uni dans la liberté. Chapeau, maître Romano !