Live Performance Reviews – June 1999 – Anton Schwartz

Anton Schwartz
Live, April 17th, 1999
Jazz DeOpus, Portland, Oregon
by S. H. Watkins, Sr.

We first found out about Anton Schwartz when we reviewed his debut release When Music Calls in our Dec. 1998 Issue. Recently we had the opportunity to hear him live when he visited Portland, the home of JazzUSA.

The mood was lively. We arrived at 7:20 to attend the 8:00 set and Jazz DeOpus was already filling up, so we ordered something to eat and a bottle of wine and sat back to enjoy the show. At 8:00 Anton Schwartz came on, introduced the members of the ensemble and began to play.

After covering ‘Too Much Pepper’, ‘Tidepool’ and a few other tunes from his release When music calls album, Schwartz then treated us to a couple of great new tunes as well. Anton’s performance was every bit as vibrant and melodious as the album, capturing the attention of the crowd and holding them in his spell. Although he did not bring his regular troupe with him, he was ably accompanied by a trio of local musicians, most notably keyboardist Darryl Grant whose improvisational stylings added even more punch to the already popping tunes.

If you ever get the chance, be sure to go and see Anton Schwartz, whomever he is playing with. For schedule information visit the Anton Schwartz Website.

Anita Baker – Live @ Spirit Mountain

Anita Baker
Live @ Spirit Mountain
July 17, 2009
Carmen Miller

She’s still got it! Anita Baker showed up in full form at the Spirit Mountain Casino showplace and put on the show that we came to see. She was maybe a couple of years older and a couple of pounds heavier (who isn’t?) but still performing with the same vivacity, energy and passion that she brought to the stage 10 years ago.

The band was fabulous. Lead by her musical director Ray Chew and held down by former Roy Ayers drummer Ricky Lawson, the band played the songs beautifully, rolling and riding along right in stride with Anita as she soared and swooped her way through most of the songs the audience came for.

The sound people were way off (and up) for the first two songs, but they got it together by song three when she went into a Rapture roll, covering such hits as Sweet Love, Mystery, No One In The World and one of my faves Same Ole Love. The crowd was receptive and sang along when she wanted them to (and sometime when they wanted to) as she bounced and strolled around the stage interacting in turn with the musicians and then the audience members.

Performing for over two hours, she stayed strong, belting out the hits one after another with some genuinely personable rambling between songs. After closing the show (!) she returned for a final rendition of Joy that was inspired and had everyone on their feet for what must have been the tenth time. This was a show not to be missed.

Rather than succumbing to the stereotype of the old singer doing self covers to make the rent, Anita Baker was in rare form. She put on a show that rivals any performance you can see in Vegas tomorrow, or the next week. The songs she sang may be from another decade but the performance was timeless.

Allen Toussaint – Live @ Scullers Jazz Club

Allen Toussaint
Live @ Scullers Jazz Club
Boston – August 20, 2009
Matt Robinson

“Hello, Second Setters!” … Cordial and audience aware, songwriter / arranger / producer / snappy dresser Allen Toussaint took the later night Boston audience  through a whirlwind tour of songs he wrote/arranged/produced and even a few he didn’t but “wished I had.”


Starting off with the patriotically fraternal ballad “We Are America,” Toussaint accelerated through “Yes We Can Can” to see if his enrapt audience could keep up (and they did!). Once he knew the crowd was fully with him, Toussaint ran through a medley of chart- topping hits that careened from “Mother In Law” (written for his infamous fellow New Orlenian Ernie K-Doe) to “Fortune Teller” (made famous by the Rolling Stones and more recently by Robert Plant, among others) to “Sweet Touch of Love” (which has become the “theme song” for a chocolate-covered TV pitchman for an item Toussaint could not recall). Amidst dedications to local radio legend Holly Harris, fellow Crescent City key-man Professor Longhair and everyone else in New Orleans, Toussaint swung on a moment’s notice from Baroque to Barrelhouse to Blues and back, demonstrating the diversity and musical command that has made him one of the most popular and prolific artists of our age.


The set spanned most of Toussaint’s career, bringing know-every-note fans and recent initiates all the way up to his latest album, “The Bright Mississippi” (Nonesuch) by way of a creeping take on “St. James Infirmary” and the self- describing Monk-penned title tune. In addition to this “cover,” 


Toussaint also played “Mama You Been On My Mind” by Bob Dylan, a fellow master of song of whom Toussaint admitted some good-natured jealousy by expressing a desire to “punch him in the mouth.” Violence was the furthers thing from his mind, however, as he wafted his wispy voice over his firm and learned hands- hands which are far more attuned to creating and sharing music than bopping anybody. When it was all over, the audience showed what their hands could do, offering an ovation that called Toussaint back for “the second half of the show” even though the time bell had long since rung.


“There’s more to come,” he promised after sharing a story of his battered but never broken Bayou home. And from the time they spent shaking hands and talking with the master, it was clear that the audience could not wait to hear it!

Stanley Jordan – Live @ Scullers Jazz Club

Stanley Jordan
Live @ Scullers Jazz Club
Boston – May 22, 2009
Matt Robinson

Despite the fact that it is the best Jazz room in Boston, it is good to know that, even in tough times, people will come out to hear good music…And boy DID they!

Packed so tightly that the wait staff had to ask the artists to let them pass, the Scullers faithful came to witness the spectacle that is a Stanley Jordan concert.

And they were NOT disappointed!

Backed by bald (by choice) bass monster Charnett Moffett and drummer Kenwood Dennard (whose mighty dreds seemed to grow in the creative bombast that he laid out in a nearly endless stream of skins and cymbals), Jordan opened the extended set with some aquatic arpeggios and arrabiatad noodlings that set the table for the diverse note feast that was to come. Kicking into an extended Bird flight through “A Place in Space” (from his new album, State of Nature) that migrated through an array of tempos and styles, Jordan tapped and even occasionally strummed as his head bobbled sideways on his other slender, agile neck. As Moffett came in with his Floyd-ian bass cycles, Jordan stopped pacing the stage to turn to and even follow his fellow fleet-fingered fret friend in a rare but well-deserved role reversal. Taking (partially) to the piano for Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father,” Jordan took the audience to the next level of “wow” as he accompanied himself on the keys while his rhythm section helped him find the proper paternal groove. The trio’s enviro-conscious take on Jobim’s “Insensatez” was limpid and airy and contrasted greatly with the frenetic creation-fest “Return Expedition,” a clamorous closer that ran from Queen to Reggae and far elsewhere. Such contrasts were only heightened with Jordan’s solo explorations of Mozart’s “Piano Concerto #21” (which he performed as a one-man chamber orchestra) and a fuzzed-up tempo-ramental rumble through Miles Davis’ “All Blues” that was all that it could be…and more!

Despite everything that Jordan and co. gave to the audience, they were insatiable, literally yelling for more even as the crowd for the late set pushed against the doors.

And who could blame them? This was a show unlike many had ever seen before or would again.All in a night’s work for the amazing Stanley Jordan!

Dane Vannatter – Live @ Scullers

Dane Vannatter
Live @ Scullers
Boston, MA – September 23, 2008
Matt S. Robinson

Combining some of his acclaimed tribute to Tony Bennett with more of his hometown favorites, award-winning vocalist Dane Vannatter wowed the crowd at Boston’s best Jazz club.


With the help of his snappy and bright trio, Vannatter used helpful hints (e.g., bite your tongue when your mouth is dry), random thoughts (Sarah Palin, pandas, etc.), and admittedly “long-winded” patter (including a few “shout outs” to such famed fellow Hoosiers as Hoagy Carmichael) to segue among such hits as a chill-inducing “Just Squeeze Me,” a sweet and flowery “Honeysuckle Rose,” an introspective and torentially-climaxed “Here’s To Life” that had fans calling for a reprise, and a rendition of “But Beautiful” that truly was.


Taking tunes from Bennett’s inspirational Alone Together, Vannatter offered a version of “Chasing Rainbows” that was rooted in earthy bass and a p[ianistic take on “It’s Magic” that twinkled and sparkled.


The Samba-d “Out of This World” got Dane dancing and a paced “After You’ve Gone” left the band (and a few of the fans) toweling off.  All in all, it was a fun and breezy show by one of Boston’s best interpreters.


Slimpocket – Live @ McGanns

SlimpocketLive @ McGanns
Boston – August 7, 2009
Matt Robinson

“Let me tell you a story.” … So began the two-fisted lyrical attack at the front of Boston-area- based “4 R” band Slimpocket. Mxing Rock, Reggae, Rap and R&B, the talented sextet offered a wide range of sounds and styles that occasionally mashed but most of mixed quite nicely.

Combining drug references with heartfelt explorations of love and loss, from the chimey Rick James-ian “One” and the Derringer-meets-DMC mix of “Dollars” to the melodic rap-topped metal of “Listen,” the repetitive dance hall dance cal of “Gimme What You Got” and the romantic “Reflection,” the band pulled a lot of influences out of their (slim) pocket while keeping the groove deep in it.


The Slimpocket “story” had many diverse chapters but it is one that warrants further reading.


SMV – Live @ House of Blues

SMVLive @ House of Blues
Boston – June 11, 2009
Matt Robinson

“This is history!” said bass master Stanley Clarke.

And so it was- For where else could one experience a live performance by three of the greatest living bass players (accompanined by scores of air bassists) together on stage in every combiation of acoustic and electric, jazz and funk imaginable?


But here it was- This was SMV!


In addition to strummer Stanley (who is the “S” of the trio’s title), there was also snap-master Marcus Miller (Miles davis, Luther Vandross, etc.) and junior partner Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones). Clarke’s invoking Jaco Pastroious and Miller’s Wayman Tisdale Basketball Camp t-shirt brought the spirits of other great low-enders into the room, but the main focus here was on the “big three” on the Boston stage.


Focusing, however, was often a major problem- Not for the artists (all of whom could hit any note dead-on despite the velovcity of their sometimes blurring fingers), but for the audience. As each of the three was such a masterful pleasure to behold (even for each other), it was often difficult to rest one’s eyes or ears on any of them at any one time, especially when they were all firing full force, whch they did often. Fortunately, with the help of Miller’s playful pointing and some sumptuous solo shots, each was able to step to the front and show their stuff.


When he was playing alone, Wooten’s padded fingertips spidered across his entire instrument, using every inch of the fretboard and beyond. 


When it was not his turn, Wooten often stepped to the side and joined the audience as he gazed in wonder at his own musical heroes. Miller’s personality-filled  features twisted his facial features into funny funky forms as his hands did the same. He also proved to be quite adept at the sax and even the bass clarinet, with which he jammed with an upright Clarke on “When I Fall in Love.” Clarke’s acoustic work was at first overwhelmed by the dynamic electric duo of Miller and Wooten, but when he amped up, his solo was a breathtaking thing of speed and agility that had people shaking their heads as fast as he wiggled his arms. In addition to some well-loved but rethought classics that included “When I Fall” and an encore of “Love Supreme,” the trio offered selections from their new album, including the hummy hoedown of “Mongoose Walk” and a take on the classically- trained “Milano” that let Stan play a bit of “I’m a Man” (approrpaite to the venue) before leading the band for a final round of “Grits”  that stuck to the ears like good soul food should.


This was history, all right – the bass-is for a new generation of players.

Jane Monheit – @ George Weins Jazz Fest

Jane Monheit
@ George Weins Jazz Fest
Newport, RI – August 8, 2009
Matt Robinson

“Pretty much everything I do is a great standard, isn’t it?”  With a confident self-summary like that, Jane Monheit left little for we reviewers to say. By staying silent, however, we were able to better appreciate the building subtelties of her set.

Though the vocal angles of the starting songs like a vibratoed “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” and a horn-helped meander through Jobim’s “So Tinha de Ser Com Voce” were a bit sharp at times, causing Monheit’s early attempts at scat to fall into the cracks, by the time she mixed tempos for “Myself Alone,” not even the off-tempo backup “beep” of a backstage diesel truck could distract the enraptured audience too much.

With a band that included her husband and father-in-law and her infant son clapping and “singing” along just offstage, Monheit grew more and more comfortable as the set went on. Whether she was racing through “Taking a Chance on Love” or drifting through a take on Jimmy Dorsey’s “I’m Glad There is You” that was filled with recently- pregnant pauses, Monheit kept most of the crowd involved, keeping them either in their seats or dancing even when the act on the other festival stage was changing over.

Closing with a crisp and refreshing “Waters of March” that drew applause even before it was done and a multi-colored medley of “Rainbow Connection” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Monheit blended into the gorgeous Newport day and showed once again what diverse beauty can come from nature.

Live – Will Downing Interview – 11/2007

Will DowningBack In The Groove
Most people know that for nearly two decades Will Downing has been laying down an ultra smooth sound, first as a backup singer (for almost everyone in the business) then later as a solo artist. What they don’t know is that in January 2007 the smooth crooner came down with Polymyositis, a debilitating disease that

Visit Will Downing’s web site.

took away his ability to function on his own. His new album After Tonight was primarily recorded from a wheelchair at home. This is Will Downing’s 13th album as a solo artist, and I think it may be one of his best. Will called to update us on his progress, his new CD and his future. by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

Realmedia Windows Media

Live – Ledisi Interview

Visit the Ledisi web site.

LedisiBeen Here All The Time
While travelling from coast to coast performing and promoting her new CD “Lost and Found“, the lovely and talented Ledisi took time to talk to us about her career and her music. by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

Realmedia Windows Media

Live – Kirk Whalum Interview

Kirk WhalumRoundtrip, Family and The Future

Visit the Kirk Whalum web site.

We caught up with the prolific saxman while he was on tour in California. He agreed to spend a few minures talking about his great new CD “Roundtrip“, his musical history, the Whalum family and the future. by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

Realmedia Windows Media

Steve Griggs Quintet – Live!

Steve Griggs Quintet
(Hip City Music – 2001)
  by John Barrett

In 1998 Steve Griggs made a lengthy session with Elvin Jones – the bop was hard, the tunes were sterling, and the mood was electric. Two discs were released last year, and to celebrate Steve did a show at Jazz Alley: same group as the album, with Jeff Stitely in place of Elvin. With a fast busy style, Stitely fits right in; he makes this tough bandwork harder. They start “The Ropes” with a bit of urgency: two horns, in unison slithering upward. Steve pounces forth with a solo, taking small steps in a gritty tone. The drums pick it up matched by splashes of cool guitar (Milo Petersen). Gaining speed, Griggs bursts into a Coltrane scream – he approached this tone on the Elvin dates, but never like this. Petersen’s solo starts edgy (like Martino in places) before concluding in lyrical sweetness.

Milo stirs a warm samba on “Quiet Afternoon”, and whispers a solo both faint and delicate. The horns go daydreaming: Steve sounds like an alto when he flutters, and the tiny notes pack a punch. “Yes” is softer still, a slow walk through a quiet forest. (By twittering his strings, Milo sounds like falling leaves.) Jay has a flugelhorn, and he sings with introspection, walking up a few steps and then coming down. Steve enters shyly, barely-heard notes that are humble … and gorgeous. He could almost be Lester Young; then he wiggles like Trane, all while staying soft. You can describe this mood in one word – Yes.

As good as Steve is, the real surprise is Thomas. Reflective on the Elvin sides, he hollers hard on “Same Face…”, inspiring someone to say “Yeah!” The sharp notes attack, strong and ordered; Griggs follows with his most intricate solo. (Their exchanges are prime – I wish the tune lasted longer.) Losing the trumpet, Jay tries other horns,and other styles. He’s got a soprano sax on “Roses for Ruben”, and a dry tone close to Paul Desmond. (Phil Sparks goes earthy on his break: his springy notes rumble down low.) The quietude causes Steve to tiptoe: his solo is reserved, and one of hisbest. “Poem of Repentance” starts with bowed anxiety (Sparks sounds a little like Mingus) and leads to horns leaping with joy. Now the soprano moves like Coltrane, and Griggs does some nice counterpoint – it’s a song of praise.

Back on trumpet, Jay whistles through “SwingThing” (check out Milo, and his Barney Kessel tone) and jumps through “BennyBop”, smoking from the start. After his breathless effort, it’s Steve’s turn: tart, agile, and nervy. More so is “Jones for Elvin”, a reprise from the ’98 session – Milo starts it off, speedy and thoughtful. Thomas takes it high; a wonderful icy tone, delivered with punch. Steve’s turn is essential, with every note in place, every scream with a purpose. Stitely has a short solo; it isn’t Elvin but it works. Steve then thanks the crowd, and I thank him — a show like this deserves to be shown.

Barbara Montgomery – Little Sunflower

Barbara MontgomeryBarbara Montgomery
Little Sunflower
(Two Beans – 2002)
by Raymond Redmond

Oh what a difference a day makes. Barbara Montgomery’s last release Dakini Land was an inspired CD, showing her vocal capabilities and hinting at things to come… like hundreds more we get to hear each year. With her newest offering Little Sunflower, Barbara seems to have taken the next step. On ‘An Illusion’ and ‘Idle Moments’ her vocals are throaty and strong, showing growth in her vocal maturity and control. ‘As The Sun’ is a cover of Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Little Sunflower’ with lyrics she penned herself… Freddie would be proud. The mood of this entire CD can only be described as warm and sultry. Barbara and the band merge into a single cohesive unit, her vocals accenting the music, the players accenting her phrases.Most of the tracks are originals, with a few Chick Corea tracks thrown in. She obviously likes Chick, her last CD being jammed full of Corea covers.

I don’t know whether the credit goes to Barbara, her co-producer Don Lucoff, to the band or to fate itself, but the mixture is just right here. This is listening music… that means you put it on repeat (or shuffle) and leave it on for a while. Barbara Montgomery seems to be on the right track.

A-Studio Music – Limited Single Song Publishing Agreement

A-Studio Music Post Office Box 13307, Portland, OR 97213-0307
503-282-6608 – HTTP://A-STUDIO.JAZZUSA.COM

Limited Single Song Publishing Agreement


effective the ______day of ____________, ________, by and between A-Studio Music hereinafter referred to as “PUBLISHER,” and _____________________________________________ hereinafter, (collectively) referred to as “WRITER.”


Writer hereby assigns and delivers to Publisher, its successors and assigns, the perpetual right to publish the original musical composition written and composed by Writer (hereinafter referred to as the “COMPOSITION” now entitled _________________________________) including the title, words and music thereof on any JazzUSA compilation album. Writer retains all other worldwide rights therein, and all copyrights and the rights to secure copyrights and any extensions and renewals of copyrights therein and in any arrangements and adaptations thereof, and any and all other rights that Writer now has or to which he/she may be entitled, whether now known or hereafter to become known. Copyright information for the Composition is as follows: __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Publisher shall have the perpetual right to use the Composition, as submitted by the Writer, on any JazzUSA compilation album. Publisher may perform levelization and equalization changes to ensure consistency of sound throughout the compilation release, but shall have no right to use the Composition in any other way, nor to make any other changes, adaptations, versions, dramatizations, transpositions, translations, foreign lyric substitutions, parody lyrics for commercial purposes, editing or arrangements of the Composition.


Writer hereby warrants and represents that the Composition is an original work, that neither the Composition nor any part thereof infringes upon the title, literacy or musical property of copyright or in any other work nor the statutory, common law or other rights (including rights of privacy) of any person, firm or corporation, that he/she is the sole writer and composer and the sole owner of the Composition and of all the rights therein, that he/she has not sold, assigned, transferred, hypothecated or mortgaged any right, title or interest in or to the Composition or any part thereof or any of the rights herein conveyed, that he/she has not made or entered into any contract with any other person, firm or corporation affecting the Composition or any right, title or interest therein or in copyright thereof, that no person, firm or corporation other than Writer has or has had claims or has claimed any right, title or interest in or to the Composition or any part thereof, or any use thereof or any copyright therein, that the composition has never been published, that where no copyright registration information has been given in paragraph 1 of this Agreement, the Composition has never been registered for copyright, and that the Writer has full right, power and authority to make this present instrument of transfer.

Publisher shall not be required to pay or cause to be paid to Writer any sums with respect to the Composition as collected or earned by publishing the Composition on any JazzUSA compilation album. Writer shall have no claim whatsoever against Publisher for any royalties received by Publisher from any performing rights society or other similar organization which makes payment directly (or indirectly other than through Publisher) to writers, authors and composers.

Writer retains the copyright in the Composition, together with renewals and extensions thereof, and the right to secure any and all rights therein that Writer may at any time be entitled to. Publisher retains the copyright to any and all JazzUSA compilations as a whole.

Writer hereby authorizes Publisher at its absolute discretion and at Writer’s sole expense to employ attorneys and to institute or defend any action or proceeding arising against the Publisher or it’s affiliates which results from the Writer’s misrepresentation or omissions regarding ownership, right or title to the Composition.

The term “Writer” shall be understood to include all the authors and composers of the Composition. If there be more than one, the covenants herein contained shall be deemed to be both joint and several on the part of all the authors and composers. This Agreement may be executed by the authors and composers in several counterparts.

Writer hereby grants to Publisher the perpetual right to use and publish and to permit others to use and publish Writer’s name (including any professional name heretofore or hereafter adopted by Writer), likeness and biographical material, or any reproduction or simulation thereof and the title of the Composition in connection with the printing, sale, advertising, distribution and exploitation of any JazzUSA compilation album.


Publisher shall have the right to assign this Agreement and any of its rights hereunder and to delegate any of its obligations hereunder, in whole or in part, to any person, firm or corporation. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, Publisher shall have the right to enter into sub-publishing, collection, print or other agreements with respect to the Composition, as it relates to any JazzUSA compilation album, with any person, firm or corporation for any one or more countries of the world.


This contract shall be deemed to have been made in the State of Oregon, and its validity, construction and effect shall be governed by and construed under the laws and judicial decisions of the State of Oregon applicable to agreements wholly performed therein.


This Agreement contains the entire understanding between us, and all of its terms, conditions and covenants shall be binding upon and shall inure to the benefit of the respective parties and their heirs, successors and assigns. No modification or waiver hereunder shall be valid unless the same is in writing and is signed by the parties hereto.


, the parties hereto have executed this Agreement as of the day and year first above written.








A-Studio Music
707 NE Tillamook Street
Portland, OR 97212





George Shearing – Like Fine Wine

Like Fine WineLike Fine Wine
George Shearing
(Mack Avenue Records – 2004)
by Paula Edelstein

The legendary George Shearing is in top form on this excellent collection of jazz and Broadway standards. Shearing re-interprets John Coltrane’s classic “Giant Steps” with finesse and offers a romantic candlelight ambience on “All Too Soon.” His ability to state melodies and improvisations through chords are reminiscent of Errol Garner’s classic treatment of some of your favorite songs but it is the overall song selection and use of the guitar and bass which makes this recording different.

There are no drums on this set, just the rhythmic nuance and percussive treatments from Neil Swainson’s superior acoustic bass playing and Shearing choice of chords. “So Rare,” is a welcome addition to this program since this song is rarely revisited by jazz musicians. Reg Schwager’s extended guitar solo emerges from a clearly stated melody and allows Shearing to beautifully interact with a lovely solo of his own. The trio is LIKE FINE WINE, they just get better with age.

Reprinted with permission of…

David Murray

David MurrayLike A Kiss That Never Ends
David Murray
(Justin Time – 2001)
by Dick Bogle

Saxophonist David Murray is one of those blessed individuals with a tireless sense of adventure and curiosity. A former young lion, now mature, Murray has been mainstream, outstream and in the world music flow. Here, there are no restrictions, although he manages to step outside on only one track, “Let’s Cool One.” It is delivered complete with honks, squeals and a changing mood when bassist Ray Drummond tenders his own exciting solo… and then once again settles into a steady groove when Murray utilizes his bass clarinet.

We are privileged to hear several sides of Murray and friends, who include John Hicks on piano and drummer Andrew Cyrille in addition to Drummond. “Blues For Felix” is a rollicking blues where everybody solos and we hear Murray duet with himself on tenor and bass clarinet. “Dedication” is the sole, true ballad offering. Written by Drummond, it has an easy flowing feel and is a comfort to hear. There is nothing to disappoint here.

Reprinted with kind permission of The Skanner.

Anne Drummond – Like Water

Anne Drummond
Like Water
ObliqSound – 2009

As a female jazz flutist, Anne Drummond is a rarity among rarities. Although the instrument has been utilized in jazz for several decades, it has never been as ubiquitous as the saxophone, trumpet or trombone, and virtually every acknowledged master has been male. That all changes with the September 15″ arrival of Like Water [ObliqSound], the debut recording from the artist recently named a Rising Star by Downbeat magazine and featured in a cover story in Flute Talk magazine. Among her greatest admirers is one massively famous flutist, Ian Anderson of the rock band Jethro Tull, who sought Drummond out and invited her to join him on stage.

As its title implies, Like Water is marked by a fluidity that is itself rare. Exploring the sensual, evocative sounds and intoxicating rhythms of Brazil, and accompanied by a small band of virtuosos – Klaus Mueller and Xavier Davis (piano), Paul Meyers (guitar), Nilson Matta (bass), Duduka da Fonseca (drums), Tom Chiu (violin) and Dave Eggar (cello) – Seattle native Drummond imbues Like Water’s eight alternately soothing and soaring tracks, both original compositions and carefully chosen interpretations, with uncommon spirit and grace.

Her artistry has previously enhanced the music of such jazz greats as vibraphonist Stefon Harris and bassist Avishai Cohen, but Like Water’s roots can be traced back several years to when the New York-based Drummond, along with Matta and da Fonseca, served as a member of pianist Kenny Barron’s group Canta Brasil. Drummond didn’t originally plan to return to Brazilian music for her first recording as a leader, instead crafting music intended for a chamber quartet. But after she began collaborating with Mueller, whose experience with Brazilian music is extensive, Drummond’s focus shifted toward South America. The chamber concept was tabled, although Drummond retained the notion of incorporating violin and cello into her new music. She began writing string arrangements for the album while touring with the indie rock band Bright Eyes. Then, while playing New York’s Town Hall with Norah Jones, Spoon and Lou Reed, she recorded this album. “It was a whirlwind,” Drummond said of the sessions.

Charles Lloyd – Lift Every Voice

Lift Every Voice
Charles Lloyd
(ECM – 2003)
by Paula Edelstein

From his mind has come some of the best jazz of all time, including Forest Flower, the first jazz album to ever sell a million copies, and his most recent two-CD disc titled Lift Every Voice. With his imagination at work, the saxophonist and flautist is breaking new ground with a stellar ensemble of Geri Allen on piano, John Abercrombie on guitar, Marc Johnson and Larry Grenadier on double bass and Billy Hart on drums. With his richly embellished paeans Hymn To The Mother, Amazing Grace, Go Down Moses, Lift Every Voice and Sing and Prayer, The Crossing Lloyd has created and elevated indelible musical images that speak to the listener in a way similar to witnessing mysteries of epic proportions.

These songs are peaceful, often sublime and always unforgettable. The bluesy rendition of East Virginia, West Memphis or the serene chops heard on What’s Going On? also deftly tell the tale of a musician’s moods during one of America’s most horrendous events. Despite it all, Charles Lloyd maintains a positive outlook on life and still holds hope for peace throughout the world.

Reprinted with permission of…

Carnegie Hall Presents – Lift Every Voice

Carnegie Hall Presents
Lift Every Voice
Sony Master Works – 2009

Lift Every Voice – Honoring The African American Musical Legacy is a newly compiled two-CD anthology of seminal performances of more than 60 years of recordings drawn from a variety of musical genres, including classical, gospel, Spirituals, contemporary pop, blues, jazz and more. With such artists as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Luther Vandross, Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle, Lift Every Voice represents the breadth and depth of the black musical experience in America.

This significant new musical retrospective, the second of an ongoing Carnegie Hall Presents/Sony Masterworks series of recordings, features historic live performances and studio recordings from a cavalcade of great African American artists, each of whom has performed at Carnegie Hall: Marian Anderson, Harry Belafonte, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson, Wynton Marsalis and Bill Withers.

Lift Every Voice was released in conjunction with the Carnegie Hall’s Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy, a New York City-wide festival, curated by Grammy Award-winning soprano Jessye Norman and featuring more than 20 events celebrating African American culture with a wide array of performances, panel discussions, and events at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater and other New York City locations.

Throughout its history, Carnegie Hall has established a reputation for presenting some of the greatest African American artists. In June 1892, a year after opening its doors, Carnegie Hall presented soprano Sissieretta Jones, the first in a long unprecedented run of groundbreaking events including Marian Anderson’s 1928 debut, John Hammond’s fabled “From Spirituals to Swing” concerts in 1938 and 1939 introducing blues, jazz and boogie woogie to the mainstream, as well as early watershed performances by W.C. Handy and Fats Waller (1928), Benny Goodman’s integrated orchestra (1938), Miles Davis’ “Birth of the Cool” (1949), John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk (1957) and much more. Significant African American artists appearing at Carnegie Hall in the last decade have included Wyclef Jean, Mary J. Blige, Mos Def and many others.

Lift Every Voice resonates with the same the profound vitality, diversity and influence of Carnegie Hall’s commitment to African American music and artists and includes the following performances:

Disc 1
1. Matilda – Harry Belafonte (recorded in 1955)
2. 01′ Man River – Paul Robeson Jr. (from “Show Boat,” recorded 11/08/1947)
3. On Children – Sweet Honey In The Rock
4. I Will Move On Up A Little Higher-Mahalia Jackson (recorded 11/23/1954)
5. So What – Miles Davis (recorded 5/17/1958)
6. Let The Bright Seraphim from Handel’s Samson, HWV 57-Kathleen Battle/Wynton Marsalis/Orchestra of St. Luke’s (recorded 09/28/1990)
7. Du Bist Die Ruh, Op. 59, No. 3 – Roland Hayes (Composer Franz Schubert)
8. Bach’s Erbarme dich from St. Matthew Passion-Marian Anderson (recorded 06/12/1946)
9. Un bel di from Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly-Leontyne Price (recorded 7/10-20/1962
10. Die Nachtigall from Alban Berg’s Sieben frOhe Lieder-Jessye Norman, London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Pierre Boulez (recorded 07/21/1987 and 09/09/1988
Disc 2
1. A House Is Not A Home – Luther Vandross (recorded 01/01/1981)
2. Night In Tunisia – Dizzy Gillespie and his Orchestra (recorded 02/22/1946)
3. Come Sunday – Part IV – Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson (recorded 02/11/1958)
4. Come Home – Andra6 Crouch (recorded 2005)
5. Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers (recorded 01/01/1971)
6. A-Tisket A-Tasket (Live) – Ella Fitzgerald (recorded 07/05/1973, Carnegie Hall)
7. 99 Miles From L.A. – Johnny Mathis (recorded 06/16/1975)
8. Guess Who I Saw Today – Nancy Wilson (recorded 01/01/1960)
9. Soulville – Aretha Franklin (recorded 02/08/1964)
10. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free – Nina Simone (recorded 06/15/1967)

Sherry Winston – Life is Love and Love is You

Sherry Winston Life is Love & Love is You
Sherry Winston
(Flying Flute – 2000)
by S. H. Watkins, Sr.

Very much like Bobbie Humphries, Sherry has taken a mix of the current ‘street beat’ and combined it with originality in composition and her soulful performance style, and added a group of all-star heavyweight musicians to come up with a collection of pieces that will stand on their own, much as “Harlem River Drive” does.

The cover tunes, mostly Stevie Wonder compositions, are handled with care, and are all beautiful. Norman Brown’s guitar licks set a great canvas for Sherry to paint her upbeat version of the classic Wonder tune ‘Pastime Paradise’.

But it’s the original compositions that are the strongest part of this CD. I particularly liked the powerful title tune, an original, up-tempo caribbean flavored song beautifully augmented by the strong vocal presence of Jon Lucien singing lead. Teaming up with Najee on ‘Guatemala Connection’ you get a strong rhythmic flavor, overlain with a string of fine melody performances, one performer then the other, that ends too soon.

This is also one of the last recording sessions that the late Grover Washington participated in before his untimely passing. This GREAT release should surely be included in your personal playlist.

For Music Clips and More info, visit the
Sherry Winston Web Site

Rippingtons – Life in the Tropics

Rippingtons Rippingtons
Life in the Tropics
(Concord – 2000)
by Raymond Redmond

This should be subtitled ‘Russ Freeman goes to the Islands’. Back when they first hit the scene in the mid-80’s, Russ Freeman and the Rippingtons were a shot in the arm for contemporary jazz. However, as they released album after album, the recipe began to wear a little thin. Russ and the Rippingtons became the example for a great idea gone average. The music was always listenable, but for the most part the originality of the first releases was gone.

So, when I put this CD on it was with a little bit of trepidation. The CD starts out like the same old Rippingtons stuff, but on track three it takes a turn south and never comes back. Apparently Russ realized that the same old thing was not going to boost record sales, or bring in new listeners so he seems to be striving to reach another plateau or area of creativity to ground himself. He is somewhat successful, and appearances by smooth-jazz artists Bob James and Eric Marienthal help jazz it up a bit as well.

Do I like it? Yes. Is it Great? No. Is it Good? Yes, but different. Many Rippingtons fans will probably hate it, feeling that it sounds strange to be a ‘Rippingtons’ release. Russ has always managed to put out Good releases, because he is a good musician, and he brings good musicians to the studio (a. la. Donald Fagan and Steely Dan). So the music on the CD is creative and well performed, but it is different from what you expect when you put in a Rippington’s CD. Russ Freeman should be applauded for realizing that his formula was becoming routine and striking off in a new direction which may provide fertile ground for his proven creativity to once again thrive. We’ll be keeping an eye on future Rippingtons releases to see where Russ Freeman goes with this.

Yellowjackets featuring Mike Stern – Lifecycle

Yellowjackets featuring Mike Stern
Heads Up – 2008

“Lifecycle” is, in some respects, two albums in one. Seven of the ten tracks are quintet pieces featuring guitarist Mike Stern and the Jackets, while the remaining three are quartet pieces that showcase the individual and collective talents of the current Yellowjackets lineup: keyboardist Russell Ferrante, saxophonist Bob Mintzer, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Marcus Baylor. Whatever the combinations and permutations, it’s all good. Mintzer contributes three tracks: the energetic opener, “Falken’s Maze,” the rhythmically complex “Yahoo,” and the easygoing “I Wonder.”

After simmering for years, the idea for “Lifecycle” reached critical mass when Mike Stern and the Jackets performed together at the Montreal Jazz Festival in the summer of 2007. “We’ve all been a fan of Mike’s for a long time,” says Yellowjackets keyboardist and charter member Russell Ferrante. “Our goal was to make a recording that sounded like Mike had been in the band forever, and I think we accomplished that. To my ears, it feels cohesive – like five musicians with a genuine rapport.”

From the Montreal dates in the heat of the summer to the studio sessions in rural New York State in January 2008, Stern felt the same sense of rapport. “The Yellowjackets are a great band,” he says. “I think we have a lot in common musically, and our playing together felt very natural right away. They’re the ideal collaborative team. It’s so easy to play with them because they play so well together.”

The new collaborative recording by the Jackets and Stern, and the first Yellowjackets recording in 15 years to feature a guitar player, Lifecycle illustrates the kind of energy and creative brilliance that results when five talented players pool their individual talents as songwriters and musicians and merge into an entity that’s far greater than the sum of its parts.


  • 1. Falken’s Maze
  • 2. Country Living
  • 3. Double Nickel
  • 4. Dreams Go
  • 5. Measure Of A Man
  • 6. Yahoo
  • 7. I Wonder
  • 8. 3 Circles
  • 9. Claire’s Closet
  • 10. Lazaro


Doc Powell – Life Changes

Doc Powell - Life ChangesDoc Powell

Life Changes
(Samson – 2001)
by Ricky Miller

Wow! That’s it in a nutshell. The album starts off with the smooth, smoky title track “Life Changes”, definitely a smooth groove. “Brother to Brother” is a familiar tune, done with class and featuring Patrice Rushen on Piano. “It’s a guitar thang” features Powell on both lead and rhythm guitar, grooving with Billy Preston on B-3 and Kirk Whalum on sax. “Your’s Unconditionally” is a 70’s smooth-jazz-ballad.

One of the best tunes on the CD is a Sweet cover of the Caston-Wakefield tune “Tell Her Love Has felt The Need”. The Wurlitzer electric adds an old-school touch to the beautiful vocal performance by Ollie Woodson (formerly of the Temptations). Woodson also delivers a very soulful, gritty performance on Darrell Diaz’ tune “For The Soul In You”.

Doc says that this album “represents the settling-in of all that I am, it summarizes my life and my artistry”. There ARE NO bad tracks on this CD. If you ask me to choose my favorite, it will probably change from day to day, each listening revealing a new aspect or phrase in one of the tunes. Powell wrote or co-wrote eight of the tracks and produced all of them, so the success of this release will stand firmly on his shoulders. And it should be successful!

Carl Burnett – Life before Midi: Naked

Carl BurnettCarl Burnett
Life before Midi: Naked
(CDBaby – 2004)
by John Thompson

On the inside sleeve it says the following: “no rehearsals, no midi programming, no click track, 100% live jamming.” Produced and mostly written by rising star and guitarist Carl Burnett, the “jamming” is certainly pretty accurate. This is a musician’s funky jazz jam, with hints of rock jams,wah wahs, fender Rhodes, and REAL DRUMS!  Mr. Burnett is insightful, lyrical, while not falling prey towards guitar over-chops.

Some of the featured artists include funky funky Reggie Hamilton (B), Deron Johnson (K), Robben Ford (G), and Branford Marsalis (TS,SS). Loud Party Warning, Funk E Mo Fo, and The Next Thing are as soulful and George Duke-funky as they come. My favorite for depth ness sake is Tutto Azzurro, which definitely remembers a guitarist with the last name of Hendrix and his band. There is plenty of 70’s feel present, with early influences of pre-popular Parliament Funkadelic. The late drummer Tony Williams comes to mind in relation to this cd, in that musicians whom are labeled under Jazz are known to jump towards rock-funk. This disc shows that it is possible to not over simplify studio time and just let the musicians do their thing with success. So I say ‘right on, fight the power’ to Carl Burnett. 3 1/2 stars.

Ellynne Plotnick – Life is Beautiful

Ellynne Plotnick
Life is Beautiful
Princess Monkey – 2010

Life is Beautiful, the culmination of a year and a half of writing, will transport you sonically through time and space. Every track on this album is a destination, its own musical point of departure and return. Each song will take you to a new exciting undiscovered place.

Ellynne Plotnick, has been garnering respect and admiration among musicians and vocalists for being a highly capable songwriter with something unique and memorable to say. Her melodies are distinctive. Her harmonies are complex and sophisticated.

Her music has plenty of rhythmic variety and she writes meaningful intelligent lyrics.

Essentially anchored in modern jazz, “Life is Beautiful” is an infusion of many other musical genres. This title track (both the first and last song on the album) subtly switches it up, going from 6/8 to 4/4 and back. This upbeat anthem has tinges of reggae and the underpinnings of an American spiritual.

“Changing Voices/Changing Beauty,” a slightly dark a nd mysterious tune without words, is a loosely influenced tribute to Chick Corea and Flora Purim. The musicians go in and out of double time samba during their solos, which dramatically build in intensity before returning to the theme.

“A House Abandoned,” about parental desertion in a small town around the time of the Great Depression, contains unusual intervals not commonly written for singers. “Song for Barbara” is a dedication to Barbara Winfield, (now deceased), who went on the road with Duke Ellington at the age of seventeen. “Midnight Shades of Blue,” an atmospheric bossa nova, is richly peppered with textures and sounds. Rain sticks, woodblocks, and other percussive elements create a lush tropical rainforest backdrop for the vocals and instruments. “I Wonder” is groove oriented, rhythm driven, and soulful. It’s a “feel good” tune with traces of R & B. “Recurrence,” composed around a poem by Dorothy Parker, utilizes both classical and orchestral elements. “As Rare as You,” a whimsical “list song” (in the style of “You’re the top…”) Pianist Dan Furman wrote the music to suit Ellynne’s witty lyrics. This song made its successful debut at the famed Oak Room at the Algonquin during a special evening of song.

“When the Going Gets Too Tough,” an uptempo Latin song, features great lyrics and a tasty solo by bassist Tom Pietrycha.

Babatunde Lea – Level of Intent

Babatunde Lea
Level of Intent
(Motéma – 2003)
by Paula Edelstein

San Francisco-based drummer/percussionist/composer Babatunde Lea not only fits the four point African Diaspora profile to a “t” (griot, dervish, shaman, and provocateur), but his rhythmic prowess as a traditional jazz drummer/percussionist is definitely something to take notice of. LEVEL OF INTENT, Lea’s exceptional follow-up to SOUL POOLS, is not only a sure indication of his outstanding percussive techniques, but serves notice to any lingering doubters that his composing skills and abilities to interpret serious jazz standards are no joke. Lea, who is often incorrectly categorized as a “world music” musician, intelligently pulls off one of the best straight-ahead jazz recordings of 2003 accompanied by such great jazz masters as Kenny Barron, Hilton Ruiz, Jon Faddis, Frank Lacy, John Purcell, and Charnette Moffet, among others.

Included in his repertoire are “Billy’s Bounce,” written by Charlie Parker, Monk’s “Ask Me Now” co-existing alongside such great originals as “Level of Intent” and his straight-ahead Latin Jazz/rock piece titled “Fools and Babies.” On the title track, Lea is subtle, brushing and shading the smoky sax riffs of Purcell with just the right drumming textures and colors. By contrast on “Billy’s Bounce,” he’s in-the-pocket on congas and swinging right alongside Faddis’ excellent trumpet registers and Moffet’s great bass lines. He’s on fire on the hard-bopping mambo swing of “Father of Dreams,” simultaneously working both the congas and his drum kit to the hilt! This is an excellent recording, filled with excitement, a variety of jazz styles, and the trademark sound of one of the world’s greatest rhythm masters of the century. LEVEL OF INTENT is now available at all retail and online merchants.

Reprinted with permission of…

John Pizzarelli – Let There Be Love

John Pizzarelli John Pizzarelli / Various Artists
Let There Be Love
(Telarc Jazz – 2000)
by Paula Edelstein

Some singers are stylists who master the specifics of a genre, but John Pizzarelli brings anything he sings to his own turf. John Pizzarelli plays and sings 15 great love songs on his sophomore release for Telarc Jazz, LET THERE BE LOVE. The guitarist has chosen early Tin Pan Alley songs, the rhythm songs of the Forties and Fifties, along with four original compositions by John, and collaborations with his wife Jessica Molaskey and bassist Ray Kennedy to relay the all powerful emotion. “Love,” and “Don’t Be That Way” are among the songs that ” reflect the universality of love over time” and after playing this CD several times, I must say that John Pizzarelli is one of the few male vocalists that can pull off the sentiment and honesty of these great standards.

“These Foolish Things” and “Stompin’ At The Savoy” have elegant new arrangements that exude romance. Accompanied by Harry Allen on tenor sax, Dominic Cortese on accordion, Ray Kennedy on piano, Jesse Levy on cello, Ken Peplowski on clarinet, Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, Martin Pizzarelli on bass and Tony Tedesco on brushes, John’s departure from the trio format is a welcome change and gives his fans the opportunity to really enjoy the songs with a more complete sound while still retaining their intimacy. Love songs they are and because love is still the greatest musical theme of all time, John sings them that way. So here’s to the lover in us all. LET THERE BE LOVE is warm, sincere and inviting, so snuggle up to the one you love and enjoy.

Terence Blanchard – Let’s Get Lost

Let's Get LostLet’s Get Lost
Terence Blanchard
(Sony – 2001)
by Dick Bogle

What’s billed as a celebration of songwriter Jimmy McHugh turns out to be more than just that. It is a celebration also of the very best female jazz vocalists. The lineup is imposing: Diana Krall, the cool seductive songstress; Jane Monheit, the gorgeous talented newcomer; Dianne Reeves, the reigning queen; and Cassandra Wilson, the challenger with her own niche of the market.

Artists of this magnitude deserve the best for accompaniment and here they get it. Trumpeter-arranger Terence Blanchard has his imprint firmly embossed throughout the project as soloist and arranger. He uses pianist Edward Simon, bassist Derek Nevergelt, saxophonist Bruce Winston and drummer Eric Harland to provide all those grand women singers perfect backing. Krall’s one tune, “Let’s Get Lost” is the opener. It is typical Diana — husky voice insinuating sensual pleasure. Monheit follows with the tune “Too Young To Go Steady,” so very appropriate for her style, drenched with innocence. And that is the way she sounds, young, fresh and innocent. Blanchard’s solo between her choruses is artfully performed as he takes the melody towards a plaintive cry, bending and twisting his notes.

The incomparable Dianne Reeves offers a fairly sedate first chorus on “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me.” Blanchard’s trumpet punctuates her light scat on the second. On a later cut, she offers a sprightly “Can’t Get Out Of This Mood.”

Cassandra Wilson tackles “On The Sunny Side Of The Street,” and indelibly stamps her style on this chestnut with her delightful and original phrasing. There are four instrumental tunes as well: “Lost In A Fog,” “You’re A Sweetheart,” “I’m In The Mood For Love,” and “Exactly Like You.” This is a landmark.

Elaine Lucia – Lets Live Again –

Elaine Lucia
Lets Live Again
Songflower – 2008

“Let’s Live Again” features Elaine and her five-piece ensemble in an homage to the George Shearing Quintet’s vocal LPs of the late 1950’s – early 1960’s made famous by Nancy Wilson, Nat King Cole and Dakota Staton. The rest of the eclectic tunes on this CD present her own unique interwetation of rare tunes from the era.

The piano, bass, drum trio and Elaine have been performing together in the Bay Area and beyond for over 14 years; the addition of Gerry Grosz on vibes occurred with Elaine’s release of 2006, “A Sonny Day.” Guitarist Randy Vincent has performed with Elaine for many years, and joins the group for this recording project. He also recorded with Elaine on her first jazz release, “Elaine Lucia Sings Jazz And Other Things.”

Elaine Lucia studied Voice at Eastman School of Music, and has been performing as a jazz vocalist and singer/songwriter/guitarist for many years. Her previous CD releases have enjoyed excellent reviews and airplay and Elaine is well-known by her peers and her audiences for her impeccable vocal skill and beautiful, warm sound. She swings, she croons, she draws you in with crystal clear tones and a very emotive style.

For more biographical information on Elaine Lucia, or to hear music
from her other CD releases, please go to: http://www.elainelucia.com/.

Rippingtons – Let It Ripp

Let It Ripp
(Peak – 2003)
by Ray Redmond

The sound is distinctive from the very first (and title) song, but then band leader Russ Freeman’s style has shaped the Rippingtons for a long time. The obvious Latin flavor on the last release, Life in the Tropics, was a refreshing adaptation of their classic sound. Disappointingly, this CD is a return to the good old comfy Rippingtons. A good CD, but it doesn’t quite reach the promised land that I thought the previous album was heading for. That being said, this is a pretty GOOD regular Rippingtons CD. The addition of a real horn section, arranged by the great Jerry Hey and featuring sax man Eric Marienthal adds a lot of punch to the CD. This is very noticable on the upbeat 17 Mile Drive, my favorite track on this CD. Another gem is the funk-tinged Stingray with it’s smooth guitar/horn collaborations.

Lucky Charm falls more into Marienthal’s realm of smooth jazz, melodic and medium paced. Avalon is slower, with a gospel influence and again benefitting from the presence of Marienthal’s horn. Get Over It closes the CD with a Jamaican flavor, another hidden gem on this ‘regular’ Rippingtons CD. Although it would have been nice to get a couple of tracks with the ‘Russ Freeman’ flavor we got on his solo CD, on the whole this is a very listenable release, and better than the last ‘regular’ rippingtons CD. I hope the next one continues the musical growth and re-infuses more of that Latin stuff they were doing last year.

Fourplay – Let’s Touch the Sky

Let’s Touch the Sky
2010 – Heads Up

Sometimes you have to shake things up, push a little farther, reach a little higher – even when you’re a contemporary jazz foursome that’s been operating at the top of its collective game for two decades.

After twenty years and a dozen albums, in an industry that has undergone sweeping transformations in the past decade, Fourplay knows that the only thing that’s certain, in music or any other business, is change. The latest proof of that axiom is the new face in their lineup – that of guitarist Chuck Loeb, who makes his compelling debut with the quartet on Let’s Touch The Sky, the band’s new recording on Heads Up International, a division of Concord Music Group.

Loeb completes the four-man crew that also includes the band’s founding members: keyboardist Bob James, bassist/vocalist Nathan East and drummer/percussionist Harvey Mason. Let’s Touch The Sky also includes stirring performances by guest vocalists Anita Baker and Ruben Studdard.

The infusion of new blood into the Fourplay lineup creates an opportunity to bring an even newer level of energy and inspiration into a band that is already known for taking chances and pushing the limits of contemporary jazz. “All four of us have been in this business long enough to know that there’s always pressure to compromise, and we don’t want to do that,” says James. “We don’t want to end up in the middle of the pack. We always aim to be leaders, and take the music to another level and raise the standards higher. I think the music on this new record, thanks in large part to Chuck’s early contributions – and to the ongoing team spirit of the band as a whole – is very much a reflection of that philosophy.”

Loeb, who openly admits to being a fan of Fourplay since their earliest recordings, sees his new membership status as the opportunity of a lifetime. “I want to be a part of the legacy they’ve built, going all the way back to their first recording and right up to their most recent one,” he says. “There’s been an incredible level of quality in the musicianship, the writing, the whole sonic palette that they’re famous for. I’m excited to be a part of the next step in the evolution of all that.”

Guest vocalists Ruben Studdard and Anita Baker appear on the soulful “Love TKO” and the dreamlike “You’re My Thrill,” respectively. Studdard was recruited by East, after the two had appeared together in a live performance in Washington, DC. “They were filming a television special,” East recalls. “There was a break to reload the cameras, and I just started playing the bass line of ‘Love TKO.’ Ruben stepped up to the microphone to sing, and everyone in the room just stopped. I knew right then that we needed to have him sing this song on a Fourplay record, and when we asked him, he was very much up for it. The whole thing just came together so easily.”

Mason, who has held down the groove for Fourplay since the very beginning, says time has done nothing to dull the edge. The band continues to explore new ways to reach for the next level of musicianship and creativity. “Let’s Touch The Sky is the perfect title for where we are right now,” he says. “In some ways, bringing someone new into the fold has made us a new band. It opens up new opportunities and new potential, and we want to see how high we can take it.”

Taylor Eigsti – Let it Come to You

Taylor Eigsti
Let it Come to You
Concord – 2008

With Taylor Eigsti�s new CD, Let It Come to You, the pianist-composer-bandleader takes another giant stride forward as a significant new voice in the jazz world, and at 23, he stands tall among a select few of his generation, who are in the midst of establishing themselves as the jazz stars of the future.

With this, his sophomore outing, and follow-up release to his 2006 breakout debut CD, Lucky to Be Me, for Concord Records, Eigsti says that this now is “the record that I�ve always wanted to make.” Indeed, Let It Come to You reveals Eigsti as an adventurous artist who, while steeped in jazz tradition, is also committed to advancing it. As he writes in the CD�s liner notes, his compositions “provide a glimpse of the new type of music that I am currently gravitating toward and convey the emotional concepts behind their inspiration.”

In the wake of Lucky to Be Me�s eye-opening success, Eigsti�s talents and future promise was revealed. The pianist was featured on the covers of both Jazziz and Keyboard Magazine, in addition to being recognized in the DownBeat Critics Poll for two years running. He was also profiled in his own BETJ television special. Featuring such top-tiered support players as Christian McBride, Lewis Nash, James Genus, and Billy Kilson, Lucky to Be Me garnered two Grammy nominations: one for Best Instrumental Composition for his song “Argument” and the other for Best Instrumental Jazz Solo Performance on “Freedom Jazz Dance.” The CD, which was released in March 2006, spent 23 weeks on the National Jazz Radio Airplay charts, peaking at No. 7. It ended the year in the top 15 most-played jazz albums on radio.

Let It Come to You, Eigsti�s second CD for the Concord Records Label and his sixth overall release, is an impressive 11-song collection of imaginatively refreshed standards (including classic Cole Porter and Duke Ellington tunes), so-called “new standards” (including a Pat Metheny song and a cover of “Not Ready Yet” from the pop band, The Eels) and four remarkable originals (three of which form the impressive “Fallback Plan Suite” that concludes the album). Co-produced by Eigsti and Chris Dunn, the CD features the pianist�s working band-longtime collaborator Julian Lage on guitar (who was also a key contributor on Lucky To Be Me), Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums-with such special guests as, Joshua Redman on tenor saxophone, and Edmar Castaneda on Colombian harp.

“Concord has given me a lot of artistic control, both in the ways I wanted to re-envision standards, and also in approaching new compositions,” Eigsti says. He writes in the CD liner notes: “I wanted this record to be a combination of much of the fun music and arrangements of jazz standards that my group has been performing live (songs like “Caravan,” “Fever,” “Deluge” and “I Love You”) and my own compositions, which primarily reflect the concept of acceptance toward the things in life that were-and are-out of my control.”

Growing up in Menlo Park, California, Eigsti started playing piano at an early age, and was quickly labeled a child prodigy. He began his stage career at age 8 opening for his friend and piano mentor, David Benoit, and at age 12, Eigsti shared the stage with Diane Schuur and also opened for Diana Krall and Al Jarreau. In subsequent years, he had the opportunity to record and/or perform with such jazz stars as Dave Brubeck, Bobby Hutcherson, James Moody, Ernestine Anderson, Kevin Mahogany, Patti Austin and Red Hollaway, among others, which established him nationally-and internationally-for his imaginative improvisation and electrifying rhythmic sensibility. Eigsti has been featured on Marian McPartland�s NPR Piano Jazz series twice, once in the studio and again at the 2005 Tanglewood Jazz Festival. In a 2003 review of his Resonance (Bop City) release, DownBeat also heralded: “Eigsti is a jazz piano whirlwind with a light touch, a fluid sense of improvisation and a gift for wrapping his creative flights in solid melodies.”

Let It Come to You is named for a ballad that Eigsti composed, and the leader experiments throughout the CD with different instrumentation (including flute and saxophones) as well as recording multiple layers of his piano playing. “I always liked the concept of a rock band where there was a rhythm and a lead guitarist,” Eigsti says. “That�s what I set out to do with the piano, especially on �Let It Come to You,� to create overdubbed background textures. I call it rhythm piano, with feel, funk, rock, r&b and classical elements in the mix.”

Several of the tunes are studio first takes: Eigsti opens the album with swinging exuberance through Cole Porter�s “I Love You” … then later, puts a new Afro-Cuban spin on Juan Tizol/Duke Ellington�s “Caravan,” with Lage delivering a stunning prelude on guitar with a whammy pedal, and the leader, in-turn delivering an extraordinary cadenza. Eigsti and Lage share a duet on Antonio Carlos Jobim�s “Portrait in Black and White,” which the pianist says was approached “with an air of mystery in mind.” Another first take is the gusty jaunt through Pat Metheny�s “Timeline,” dedicated to the late Michael Brecker. Redman guests-taking two dynamic solos and trading at the end with Eigsti. Other re-imagined covers include Wayne Shorter�s “Deluge” and Eddie Cooley-John Davenport�s “Fever,”: the pianist met Castaneda for the first time in the recording studio. Eigsti says that they jammed for an hour and came up with an ecstatic melody that “is roughly like �Fever.�” He adds, “With Edmar�s Colombian sense of rhythm, he taught me an entirely different way of approaching 3/4 time.”

As for the new tunes Eigsti offers here, the first is the multipiano title tune followed by his ambitious multilayered “Fallback Piano Suite,” which features Dayna Stephens and Ben Wendel on tenor saxophones and Evan Francis on flutes. The three parts are “Less Free Will” (summed up, Eigsti says, by the notion that you can�t control everything), “Not Lost Yet” (about “getting through weird stuff that you can�t control”) and “Brick Steps” (an image that serves as an assurance to him even when “things are going very badly”).

Eigsti says that his intent for Let It Come to You is to express that “the best things in life-and also the worst things-often come unexpectedly, without any prior knowledge or control over the outcome.” “Realistically, the only thing we have control of in our lives is our own sense of self and our personal happiness. I understand now that true happiness occurs when we let the world around us take the shape that it is naturally supposed to take, and when we are fully immersed in the present moment. In my opinion, life is a �fallback plan� for whatever else we were planning.”

Ron Blake – Lest We Forget

Ron Blake
Lest We Forget
(Mack Avenue – 2003)
by Paula Edelstein

Ron Blake’s sterling debut for Stix Hooper’s Mack Avenue Records, Lest We Forget, was well worth waiting for. It features Blake’s long-time collaborator, bassist Christian McBride, who also produced. In addition to Greg Hutcherson on drums, David Gilmore on electric/acoustic guitars, Rashawn Ross on trumpet, Bob Muller on triangle, Blake invited Hammond B3 specialist Joey DeFrancesco to help bring out every nuance of such great songs as “Mister Magic”, “More Today Than Yesterday” and “Lament.”

Blake captures and conveys the true ambience of the saxophone in several dimensions on “Making Love To You” and bathes your aural senses in his sounds of love. Christian McBride is sensational on these classic titles and really burns on “Mighty Burner” with Rashawn Ross doing the trumpet honors. J.J. Johnson’s “Lament” offers a profound listening experience with emotional layers added by DeFrancesco’s organ and Blake’s melodic saxophone artistry.

This is quiet, cool and emotional. Lest We Forget is not a tribute album but Blake’s consummate understanding and appreciation of several masters that have offered their sentiments over the years. His interpretation of songs by J.J. Johnson, Grover Washington, Jr., Stanley Turrentine and Charles Earland mirror what might have been, satisfy a new generation and remind us of their artistry.

Reprinted with permission of…

Lester Bowie Retrospective

Lester Bowie
A Retrospective
[ Based on an Interview conducted in New York, 1988 ]
by Phyllis A. Lodge

Trumpeter/composer Lester Bowie was born in Frederick, Maryland on October 11, 1941, and was raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Bowie was five years old when he discovered the trumpet. Bowie very firmly informed me that: “I was influenced by a lot of people; you have to understand that. A lot of people did different things.”

First was his father who played trumpet and was a high school band and choral director. Bowie also studied under Mr. Carionne who was a specialist in European classics. Another one of his teachers, Mr. Marshall Penn, was a brass instructor at Lincoln University.

Bowie includes among his trumpet influences Louis Armstrong, Clyde McCoy, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard. It was Kenny Dorham, however, who became pivotal in Bowie’s decision to make music his life’s work. In Bowie’s words: “When I heard Kenny Dorham, it turned me out. I listened to him a few times, and that’s when I decided.”

There were several groups that inspired Bowie, simply because he liked the way they sounded. The classic groups led by Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Miles Davis largely influenced much of the way Bowie heard music.

Bowie developed his charming and sometimes uproariously humorous musical style by listening to artists like pianists Art Tatum and Cecil Taylor, as well as saxophonists Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Johnny Coles and Marcus Belgrave were personal influences who were there to help him and support his efforts. Ultimately, Coles, Belgrave and Bowie made up the trumpet section in a number of rhythm and blues groups during Bowie’s early music days in St. Louis. Trumpeter Bobby Danzie, another St. Louis musician whose style was much like Miles Davis’, also encouraged and helped the younger Bowie when he was still learning his instrument.

Lester Bowie had a hand in initiating a number of musical groups in St. Louis, Chicago and New York and his educational experience is primarily a culmination of these experiences. While still in St. Louis, Bowie assumed the role of musical director for vocalist, Fontella Bass. Bowie also helped to form BAG (Black Artists Group), as well as the Great Black Music Orchestra.

After relocating to Chicago in 1965, Delbert Hill took Bowie to what he described as an “experimental band” run by pianist/innovator Muhal Richard Abrams. Bowie liked the group because it enabled him to become involved in many of the forms involving different types of musics. This began Lester Bowie’s affiliation with the internationally acclaimed Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). It was through the AACM that Bowie met Malachi Favors, Chico Freeman, Joseph Jarman, Roscoe Mitchell. Bowie subsequently met percussionist Famoudou Don Moye a few years later during a European tour of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, comprised of Favors, Freeman, Jarman and Mitchell, which Bowie launched while working with AACM. Bowie considered Sound (1966) with the Art Ensemble his recording debut as a leader, although he considers each of the musicians involved with that recording to be leaders in their own right.

Upon relocating to New York, Bowie had the opportunity to meet and learn from Kenny Dorham and Blue Mitchell. Dorham and Mitchell provided Bowie with support when he first arrived in the “Apple”, sometimes by just hanging out with the younger newcomer to the city. “They were ‘just nice guys…” Bowie recalled in acknowledgment of his indebtedness to the two musicians.

In 1984, Bowie was extended an invitation by a German Festival to put together a group of his choice to perform for that one particular event. It was during this time that Brass Fantasy, one of Bowie’s favorite brainchildren, was born. Bowie had always had a fantasy envisioning an entire brass ensemble, so he seized upon this opportunity to bring the vision to life. Brass Fantasy, the result of that vision, was a tremendous success at that time; and that music continues to delight listeners to this day.

The group of musicians Bowie assembled for Brass Fantasy literally sparkled with creativity and enthusiasm. Stanton Davis, Gerald Brezel & E.J. Allen joined Bowie in the trumpet section; Vincent Chancey was on french horn; Steve Turre and Frank Lacy were on trombone; Bob Stewart on tuba; Famoudou Don Moye on percussion; and Phillip Wilson on drums. At the time of this interview, Brass Fantasy had recorded three albums: Avant Pop and I Only Have Eyes for You, both on the ECM label, and later Twillight Dreams, was recorded on the Virgin/Ventura label. [NOTE: I went out and discovered a much later Brass Fantasy release that retained Chancey on french horn and Bob Stewart on tuba. It was entitled The Odyssey of Funk & Popular Music, and Bowie goes all out to indulge his creative fantasies by including the music of Puccini, Cole Porter, the Spice Girls, Notorious B.I.B. and Marilyn Manson. Odyssey… was released in 1998. Other personnel included Joseph “Mac” Gollehon, Ravi Best and Gerald Brazel joining Bowie on trumpet; Luis Bonilla, Joshua Roseman and Gary Valente on trombone; Vince Johnson on drums and Victor See Yuen on percussion. He even includes vocals by Dean Bowman and Joseph Bowie. There was also a variation in trumpet personnel from Avant Pop. Along with Stanton Davis there was Malachi Thompson and Rasul Siddik.]

In 1967, Bowie recorded Numbers One and Two. Bowie also mentioned several of what he referred to as “Italian records”, under the Black Saint and Horo labels between the mid-to-late 1970’s. Much of this material was done with a quartet. One of them was entitled 5th Power (1978), and includes Arthur Blythe on alto saxophone, Amina Claudine Myers on piano and vocals, Malachi Favors on bass, and Phillip Wilson on drums. Other Bowie recordings include Fast Last and Rope-A-Dope (Muse, 1974); All the Magic, a double album set, and an ECM release, Great Pretender (1979).

In addition to his work with Brass Fantasy, Bowie recorded and toured with the LEADERS composed of alto saxophonist, Arthur Blythe, tenor saxophonist, bass clarinetist and producer, Chico Freeman, pianist Kirk Lightsey, bassist Cecil McBee, and percussionist Famoudou Don Moye. At the time of this writing, the LEADERS had released two recordings: Mudfoot which is a particular favorite of mine, (Blackhawk, 1986) and Out There Like This (Polygram, 1988).

Bowie truly enjoyed working with the LEADERS, because he enjoyed the musicians and the musicianship equally. In the trumpeter’s own words: “It (the work with the LEADERS) is involved with traditional jazz. “It’s fun and challenging to produce the sound, and the energy.” Having fun while in the pursuit and practice of his music is essential for Lester Bowie. The trumpeter would otherwise simply have tired of it. A highly innovative leader, Lester Bowie, felt that it was necessary to maintain an interest in the music, which he accomplished “…by consistently playing with interesting musicians and completely different sounds.”

The wild, zany and miraculous sounds Lester Bowie could “push through a horn” could be hilarious while maintaining a highly virtuoso quality. Every time I have ever heard Bowie perform, whether live or recorded, his music was enlightening, highly individualistic and filled with delightful surprises. Like one of my other favorite musicians, Thelonious Monk, Bowie could bend rules and play in the “free” style without losing the integrity of a number (or his listener) because he knew the rules so well. I picked up Avant Pop to create a spirit of his music around this piece. My expectations of his work were met and surpassed by the wit and beauty he brought to this project. Each and every selection on Avant Pop will have the listener laughing out loud on one hand, and voicing absolute awe for the genius of Bowie’s music.

The arrangements on each and every number are mesmerizing. I can see the pomp and even the robe of the Emperor in that number. In Saving All My Love for You, Bowie does his famous singing horn. I could barely contain my excitement over his interpretation. (I know the folks on the train where I was listening to the CD thought I was ‘crackin-up’. Did I care?) And B Funk will simply lay you out! Blueberry Hill was brimming with the power of that old New Orleans Funeral music. And I can see Willie Nelson with tears in his eyes listening to Brass Fantasy’s interpretation of Crazy. Steve Turre is one of my very favorite performer/trombonists and composers, and his composition Macho would do Machito proud. The next number on the CD, another hilarious Bowie parody on whatever it is he’s laughing at is No Shit. (Ain’t it the truth!) The ensemble winds the CD up with Oh, What A Night and brings the house down, wherever you happen to be listening to it at the time. Avant Pop is an experience that will do you good. It is also a typical example of how Bowie encouraged ‘leadership’ in all his musical associations, and this quality is crystal clear in Avant Pop. The other quality that is perfectly clear is that Lester Bowie was simply a beautiful cat!

Among Lester Bowie’s numerous awards: he was a three time winner of the Downbeat Critics Poll; Downbeat Talent Deserving Wider recognition; various polls in countries such as Japan, Austria and Poland. And Bowie also was a recipient of the Deutschgrammohpon Award and the Grand Prix du Disque.

It is obvious that Lester Bowie also gave back in numerous ways. Aside from the leadership-oriented groups he initiated, Bowie also lectured periodically at Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth Universities.

Up through the end of his brief stay on this planet (in November of 1999 at age 58), Bowie continually generated joy and beauty through his music. He left enough of that joy with us to the degree that if we listen to his music enough, we should never be sad again – at least not for long. And when at the time of this interview he was asked to share an insight with his reader on the music as a serious pursuit, he simply responded:

All’s fair in love and war; and music is BOTH.

Enjoy life a little more – become a collector of Lester Bowie’s music.

An Interview with Lester Bowie

Lester BowieA talk with
Lester Bowie
by Fred Jung

Hard-line traditionalists frown on Lester Bowie. He doesn’t neatly fit into any cute categories and he is as anti-establishment as you will get. After all, Bowie is a card carrying member of the AACM, making him one of only a handful of musicians who are doing anything creative in modern music. It is too bad that working class musicians like Bowie are slowly being eliminated all together from jazz, but isn’t that in line with contemporary society. Has anyone not seen the decline of the middle class in America? I had an opportunity to sit down with Bowie and he let loose on the current state of jazz, his new album, and his beginnings as a young man in St. Louis. This is his portrait, unedited and in his own words.

JazzUSA: Let’s go back to the start.

LB: My father was a music teacher and he was a high school band director in St. Louis for thirty years and then he also played trumpet. So quite naturally, all of us learned how to play music from the very beginning. I think I started when I was about five years old and I’ve been playing ever since. I turned professional when I was fifteen, started doing gigs with people like Sonny Boy Williamson and Chuck Berry and then I just went on from there, a lot of rhythm and blues people and eventually jazz. I always wanted to be a jazz musician, but it wasn’t always possible to make a living playing jazz. So I got a lot of experience from circuses and carnivals and various rock and roll and rhythm and blues acts, The Impressions, I was the music director for Fontella Bass, Jackie Wilson, Albert King, Oliver Sain, Little Milton, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, just a whole host of all of the people that were on the rhythm and blues scene in the early ’60s.

JazzUSA: You stated that you wanted to be a jazz musician from the very beginning, what attracted you about the music that you wanted to make this your life’s endeavor?

LB: When I was coming up in the early ’40s, Louis Armstrong was very popular and some of the records we had around the house was of Louis Armstrong. And at that time, jazz was the supreme music. It was the pop music of that time. Rhythm and blues was just beginning to, sort of, take hold. Louis Jordan and cats like that, in the late ’40s and early ’50s, they started to take hold, but during that time jazz music was considered the star and I wanted to be a trumpet player like Louis Armstrong. Clyde McCoy was another one of my favorites. We also had a couple of Clyde McCoy records and at that time he had a hit called “The Sugar Blues.” The lifestyle attracted me. I would read about the jazz musicians and everything about the whole genre just, sort of, it appealed to me. My father was a trumpet player and a music teacher and I don’t even remember actually when I started. And I’ve never played anything else. I tried other instruments, bass and fiddled around with the piano, but I’ve never really attempted to play anything but trumpet. It was a favorite then and now.

JazzUSA: Aside from your father, any other influences?

LB: When I was coming up, St. Louis was quite a jazz town and there was a lot of musicians around and I, kind of, followed them around. I listened to a lot of records, of course, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie also helped me. I’d like to point out that usually musicians have two sources of influence. You have the musicians that you have heard on record or read about. You’ve listened to their music and their styles influence you and then you have the musicians that you actually hung out with, actually, that really did help you. I always admired Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie and even though I knew them briefly, I never knew them that well. Johnny Coles and Marcus Belgrave were two people that, we actually ran together. They really gave me pointers, literally gave me pointers, so I think they were really influential in my selection of this music and the trumpet.

JazzUSA: Let’s talk about your association with Roscoe Mitchell.

LB: Once we got together, I knew I was home. For example, I was working as Fontella’s director and we were doing a lot of shows. We were traveling around a lot, doing a lot of shows. We finally ended up moving to Chicago. After about a year in Chicago, doing jingles and playing with various bands in Chicago, I was getting, kind of, bored, because there was really no challenge to the music. And then there was a baritone player that took me to an AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Music) rehearsal and this was where I met the whole AACM. Muhal Richard Abrams’ Experimental Band (Eddie Harris, Roscoe Mitchell, Donald Garrett, and Victor Sproles) was rehearsing and Roscoe and Muhal and all the AACM members were there, Malachi Favors, they were all there. Once I went in that room, I immediately knew that I was home. I had never seen so many crazy individuals in one space. I felt immediately, immediately I felt at home. By the time I got home from the rehearsal, Roscoe was calling me on the phone and wanted to start a band and we started rehearsing the next day and we’ve been playing together ever since. It’s been about thirty-three, thirty-four years now.

JazzUSA: Let’s talk about your involvement with your Brass Fantasy Band, From the Root to the Source, and The Art Ensemble of Chicago.

LB: All of those three bands almost comprise my total musical personality. It takes that many different groups to really satisfy my musical curiosity, so to speak. The Art Ensemble is the oldest band. We’ve been together for thirty-three years now. The Art Ensemble is just an art group. It’s experimental and searching and trying to extend the boundaries of the music, of the techniques, the compositions, the whole thing. We’re really searching, still are searching for a lot of newer things. Brass Fantasy is what I call my avant-pop band. It’s a show band as opposed to the Art Ensemble. The Art Ensemble is an art band. The Brass Fantasy is a show band. Instead of my normal, white lab jacket, I wear a white, sequin lab jacket with Brass Fantasy, because it’s a show band. We try to do is to play popular music, but in a creative manner and in a way that people have never really heard it before. It’s about reinventing it. It’s about taking a sound that was made popular by singers that sing it and making that same emotional feeling felt without having a singer, or guitar, or a bass, or keyboards. It’s about extending the language of the brass choir into the popular arena. The Root to the Source was a combination of gospel, jazz, and rhythm and blues, a combination of all of the three. We have the rhythm and blues, Fontella Bass singing. We had Martha Bass, who has recently passed, who was a gospel singer. I had a, kind of, standard jazz quintet in the band and it was, kind of, a combination of all of those elements. We had the show elements. We had the rhythm and blues elements. We had the gospel elements, I mean that really focused on those areas and it takes those three to really express myself. I couldn’t really express myself in any one way, or with any one group, or playing one particular sort of style. I think the musicians of today are much broader in scope then they were, let’s say thirty or forty years ago. We draw influences from many places. We have much more information, just as the people have much more information. The audience now is very different from the audience in the 1950s. The 1950s were, even before that, when Charlie Parker and Miles Davis did their thing, when Duke Ellington was popular and Louis was popular. Louis was popular, damn near, before flight. Planes were made out of fabric, so the times have changed. People have more information now. People have computers. People are on-line. The audience now will go to a jazz concert one day, the ballet the next day, the opera the day after that, and then a blues concert the day after that. They are much more informed and it takes much more music to really impress them or to give them information they don’t have and that’s what I’ve been concerned with.

JazzUSA: The majority of the mainstream media is traditional and the audience, as you perceive, is hungry for new knowledge, does the mainstream media, critics and writer, impede on jazz’s progress into the twenty-first century?

LB: Boy, it really does. It really impedes on it, because what happens is people, they believe what they read and they, instead of pushing to expand the horizons of the music, most of the critics have been very conservative about, conservative that I must say, in a very incorrect way. It’s been a complete misinterpretation of what the tradition of jazz is. You have this group of people that are traditionalists and they call themselves in the jazz tradition, and yet they forget that the jazz tradition is creativity. It’s innovation. It’s moving forward. It’s a young music that’s growing and to impede the growth of that, to stunt the growth of that, to me, is a crime. And that’s what has happened. The writers have really stunted the growth of the music. The music now, if it wasn’t for the few musicians that continue to push forward, there wouldn’t even be any music. The music would have stopped. It would be dead, just like classical music has been killed off.

JazzUSA: There are very few classical composers that are receiving any notoriety, if fact, you could probably count them on one hand. Most of what is being released was composed hundreds of years ago. You can’t count the amount of Beethoven’s 9th that there are on the market today. Do you fear that what has happened with classical music will happen with jazz?

LB: You are right, Fred. They are trying to do the same thing with the music. You see, Fred, once the culture is under control, if we control all the art in this country, we can control the people. Music, classical music is about stimulating the intellect. Art is about stimulating the intellect, but once it’s controlled and killed off like that, they call it canonization and I call it blowing it up with a cannon. Instead of developing the music, they stop the music in it’s tracks. That has happened now. Lincoln Center is supposed to be the most important thing to happen to jazz. Nothing has happened at Lincoln Center. Nothing has been created there. There are no great musicians coming out of there. Wynton Marsalis is supposed to be the king of the trumpet. This is the first time a leader has been elected by someone other than the musicians themselves. It is a shame because that is the attempt, to do exactly the same thing they’ve done with classical music and with everything else. It happens also in painting. The creative painters don’t get a break. It’s hard for them to get out of here. It’s really very difficult and that is a problem.

JazzUSA: Who are some musicians that are moving the music forward?

LB: The most organized of all these musicians has been the AACM, which was an organization that was dedicated to moving the music forward. Muhal Richard Abrams, with his Experimental Orchestra, Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Leo Smith (Wadada Leo Smith), Leroy Jenkins, there are countless number of members within that group that are trying to move the music forward. And then you have, for example, we were inspired by Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor, who are also still struggling very hard to survive in this music after all of these years. You’ve got a countless number of other musicians. You have some musicians in Detroit and in St. Louis, Oliver Lake, the World Saxophone Quartet, the late Julius Hemphill, all these are musicians that were writing in an entirely different way, but whose work has almost been buried or stymied. I mean, we survive because of our belief in the spirit of the music, but it’s been very difficult and I’m afraid that after we’re gone, I don’t know what’s going to happen with this music. Unless there is a group of people, and I don’t see it in the younger musicians, because as you said, Fred, they’ve been, sort of, scared off. I don’t see a movement of twenty, twenty-five-year-old, thirty-year-old musicians towards playing creative music. I just don’t see that. The musicians that are creative are William Parker, oh, and there’s a drummer named Leon Parker, who is a younger musician, I really like his work. He has a different approach to drums. And there’s Olu Dara, who is a guy my age that’s been out there a long time. There another, Graham Haynes, who is a young trumpet player that’s trying to do things. But these guys are having a very, very hard time. I would imagine, a worse time than we have had. It’s an effort to kill the music. I hope for the sake of this society that doesn’t happen because jazz is the first music that was representative of the whole planet, of all the people on the planet. It was the first music that could accept influences from anywhere and it’s the only music that is in a growth period. All the other music has been killed off. African music has been that way forever, Chinese music, or Indian music, but jazz is growing. It’s going through all these different things. It’s still growing but, like I said, they’re trying to stop the development of it.

JazzUSA: You mentioned a few names, Oliver Lake, who had to form his own label to put out his music, and Cecil Taylor, his recording output has diminished drastically, what happens when these musicians, these standard bearers fall?

LB: Well, I would hope that there would be someone, some guy, somewhere that would continue this work. It doesn’t take but a few. Hopefully, there will be a small number of musicians that will continue this work. But the problem is, will they be heard? This number is going to continue to get smaller and smaller, where as, there may be fifty people now that were involved when I was coming up. It may go down to ten after we’re gone. After that, I just don’t know. I would hope that the music would survive. I believe that it will survive, but will it survive, will the society, of which this art is designed to enhance or to help develop, will it benefit from the music? I have doubts about that. And then what happens is, everyone just goes to sleep. We’re much easier to control if we don’t think. Americans have been known through the world over as a country that doesn’t want the populous to think too much. Don’t think about this. Do what we tell you to do. I think it will just get much worse.

JazzUSA: When I spoke with Phil Woods, he referred to America and Americans as “having a lot of growing up to do”.

LB: It does. A lot more, not just a bit.

JazzUSA: Are these growing pains or a conscience effort by those in power to suppress the music?

LB: Well, I do definitely see that it is a conscience effort to, by media, by the leaders, the people in power, there is definitely, without a doubt, a conscience effort to suppress this music. Hopefully, we will get past this. Hopefully, one day the people will hear what we’re doing and once we can get, if we can just crack that door and get a foot in, there’s a lot that we can make available. I think we can really change things, if we are just heard. For example, the Brass Fantasy, is a group that’s been together, I’ve had that group for eighteen years. Most people are just becoming aware of that group, but that group has been surviving for eighteen years. Here’s a group that once you’ve heard it, you almost fall in love with it and it opens the door for a lot of other things. Hopefully, through the work we’re doing and for the next few years, we are trying to make sure that this music is available to the masses. If that happens, I’m sure that things will change. People will, once people hear a new sound, and people want to hear it. It’s not that the populous doesn’t want to hear it, it’s just the people in between us and the people that don’t want to get this music heard. The people are ready to hear something. They’re hungry for it. I see it everyday. I see it in their faces when they hear us play music that they haven’t heard before. It will survive. I don’t believe that it’s going anywhere. If we can ever get through, one thing about our generation of music is none of it has ever cracked through this barrier. No one has any power. None of us have any backing. None of us are getting grants or anything like that. We’re not getting any sort of funding. We’re not even getting support. We’re not even getting heard in this country. I worked in the U. S. once or twice last year. Most of the work is done in Europe and in Japan and in Australia, every place else but here, where the music was born.

JazzUSA: Why is it easier to make a living playing the music in Europe?

LB: It’s like what we were saying about this being a very young society. The Europeans know that they benefit from art. They use art to stimulate their young. A concert in Germany is half full of people under the age of twenty, maybe even a tenth of those are under twelve. The rest are of all ages. This is a young society that doesn’t realize the importance or the connection between the art and the intellect. The older societies realize that. They realize there is something to learn in this music, there’s something they can teach their young. They’ve got some jazz schools in Europe, and Germany, and Italy, and they’ve got some musicians in Italy and France that are just unbelievable, because they have been learning from these musicians that have been shunned in the States. So they understand that. They’ve gone past what we’re into now and they realize that any new art form, regardless of where it comes from is of importance and will aid in the stimulation of their intellect, and thus enhance their society. They realize that. We, here, haven’t gotten into that yet.

JazzUSA: Using the recent example of the American media’s fixation on the happenings in the Oval Office and how Americans perceive something such as sex so differently than Europeans, is this society breeding a society of fear?

LB: People are afraid to expand their intellect. Their mind is not familiar. It seems as though the American power structure is intent on keeping us unthinking, that way we will just be consumers, and service, and employees. It’s like we don’t understand that people need to think to develop this society. They think that they know. They think that they’ve got a safe percent of people in this country that know which way we should go and they want to go that way. They don’t want to take a chance on anything else happening. What it does is it narrows the scope of thoughts of the people here and it just keeps us more uninformed, which is really a drag because like you said, Fred, every place else in the world, what’s going on with Clinton is a joke. I mean, it is a complete joke. Americans are always considered jokesters anyway. We were always jokes. I used to sit up in this café in Paris and the Americans will walk by and you see the French giggling, ‘Here comes some Americans.’ And they laugh. ‘Those Americans, they don’t even know how important jazz is.’ That is happening because the lack of knowledge of their own music. Just to give you a quick story, Fred, I was coming back from Italy on a plane. On one side of me was this woman with two Ph.D.’s and the other side of me was this guy who was an old Italian baker. So I got to talking with the lady with the Ph.D.’s and I was telling her the same problem and how we are just so uninformed and how we know nothing about the music. I said, ‘For instance, you, with all your degrees has no idea of the culture of America. You know nothing about jazz.’ She goes, ‘Well, I really don’t know anything about it.’ I said, ‘Now watch this. Neither one of us knows this guy. Let me ask this guy next to us, old, Italian guy, what he knows about jazz.’ I just mentioned jazz and this guy started naming records and naming people. He knew all about it. He was telling me about all the records he had. He was coming to the States to visit one of kids, but he was just a random European that knew more about American music than an educated, intellectual American, and it just really embarrassed her and it also illustrated what we’re talking about now.

JazzUSA: Let’s talk about your new Brass Fantasy album on Atlantic Records, The Odyssey of Funk & Popular Music – Volume 1. Why a Spice Girls tune?

LB: You see, Fred, I’ve got four daughters (laughing). What we were trying to do with that particular record and with that group, the Brass Fantasy, is to play music that is familiar, but in a completely creative manner, in the way it’s written and in the way it’s presented. The Spice Girls’ song “Two Become One” is really a good song for flugelhorn and brass. It’s in a low key and it’s kind of mellow and it’s really a good song. That’s the main reason that I picked that tune. It really worked perfect for the band. At the same time, it was within the idea of what we were trying to do. We were trying to show, like the record says, it’s the odyssey of funk and popular music, and what a creative approach can do to this music. I’ve played these tunes for kids and these kids go crazy. They’ve never heard a song that they knew, played by a bunch of old men with horns (laughing). It just knocks them out! I tell you, I’ve played at elementary schools and some high schools and it’s unbelievable what happens when people actually hear this music. We’re trying to show kids that we appreciate what they’re doing. We appreciate the songs that they appreciate too, but here’s what we can add to it. This is what can happen when you utilize a creative approach. It can be this way. This song can be a million different ways. That was one of the traditions of jazz. That’s one of the things that made jazz popular. Miles Davis got popular playing songs from “Oklahoma,” you know, “Surrey With the Fringe on Top,” “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “When I Fall in Love.” All these were show tunes and this is what enabled him to reach out and get the popularity. I’m trying to do that same sort of thing with Brass Fantasy. It’s my last reach out saying, ‘Please somebody, please hear this music. Hear what the possibilities are.’ And once you hear the possibilities, we can open this whole new world of creative music.

JazzUSA: What is jazz to you?

LB: Jazz is really a creative music. I think it is the best way to really describe what it is. It’s a very creative and innovative music, with the emphasis on creativity, creative compositions, creative instrumentation, creative approaches to the music. I think it’s very important that we listen to this, because being creative and innovative is very important to our lives, very important.

JazzUSA: What would you say is your musical goal?

LB: I’m trying to be creative, but I have a very broad scope, a very broad idea of what the possibilities are for this music. The main thing is to be creative, to be innovative.

JazzUSA: I don’t think many traditionalists and critics have a clue who Notorious B-I-G is.

LB: I know it (laughing). I know that they’re going to be upset with me, but I don’t care. It’s OK. They can be upset. We’re trying to do that to show that there is so much separation in the music, and jazz is the music that brings everything together. It brings all the people together. I was talking to some group about racism and I said, ‘One thing that I’ve noticed is we don’t have that in jazz.’ Jazz fans seem to be cool. Somehow the music has elevated them above that. The music can elevate us above a lot of things if we just let it. And that’s what we’re trying to do, elevate the people.

JazzUSA: And the future?

LB: Hopefully, this record will get heard and if it gets heard here in the States, you can expect a lot from me. I’ve got so many projects in mind. The problem is, we all are getting much older. I am a sixty-year-old, almost sixty-year-old grandfather. I’ve got eight grandkids and two more grandkids on the way. I’m going to have ten grandkids in the next few months and so I hope people will pick up on this quickly, while we’re still around. If they do, we can show them things in music and combinations of music that they haven’t even heard yet. For example, in the States, they’ve never heard the Art Ensemble’s tribute to Chicago blues. We did a tour of that. They’ve never heard the Brass Fantasy, I did a brass/steel tour, which is the Brass Fantasy with a world champion steel band. We’ve done projects that no one here even knows about. If we can get through, if we can get enough attention, we can start to make these things available here. We can make them available. If we can get the people to hear the music, I’m sure there will be no more problems. The problem is only in getting heard. Like you said, you go to Yoshi’s (San Francisco) and there’s a line around the block. That’s because we’ve been going out there and they’ve heard the music. They know what to expect. They know it’s going to be exciting. It used to be a time that you go to a jazz concert and you were excited about the musicianship, excited by the music that they were playing, excited by the way they looked. We want to bring all of that back.

Lenora Zenzalai Helm – An Empowered Cultural Treasure

Lenora Zenzalai Helm
Lenora Zenzalai Helm is a genius that has dedicated her life to the arts and to discovering and presenting the most adventurous and visionary vocal music of her generation. She creates strongly layered and emotional music in which blues and jazz cohabitate as two great traditions. Helm, perhaps known best for her work as a jazz vocalist, (she is a mezzo-soprano with a four octave range) has mesmerized her peers with her tireless efforts on a multitude of projects that have not gone unnoticed. This year she is receiving her just rewards in the form of prestigious awards, profiles in the Who’s Who biographical registries, and with constant work as a vocalist with her stellar ensemble as well as collaborating with numerous jazz luminaries. Ms. Zenzalai Helm has not exactly reached the pinnacle of her success since there is the possibility that the best is yet to come. However, her true artistic genius is manifesting itself as daring, sensual and provocative and it is sure to leave its indelible mark on the creative music scene.

In her inspired solitude at the infamous McDowell Artist Colony earlier this year, Helm described her exploration of varying states of artistic freedom as coming forth like “combustible energy.” In the spring of 2005, her expressionistic metaphor about the social reality of the contemporary woman will be presented by The Zenzalai Project as JOURNEY WOMAN, the commissioned 5-part suite that came about as a result of Helms’ recent New Works Creation and Presentation Grant. She creates music that gets deep into the hearts and minds of people, invoking thought and the desire to invigorate their own creativity.

Lenora Zenzalai Helm
An Empowered Cultural Treasure
by Paula Edelstein

P.E.: Lenora, congratulations on receiving two prestigious awards as a composer recently! Please give us a brief background of the 2004-2005 New Works: Creation and Presentation grant how you were selected to create “JOURNEY WOMAN SUITE,” a five-part work for your ensemble The Zenzalai Project.

Lenora: I applied for the Doris Duke Jazz Ensembles Project award: New Works: Creation and Presentation grant administered by Chamber Music America in early February 2004. In July 2004 I received a phone call from the jazz program officer at CMA notifying me that I had been selected as a 2004-2005 grant recipient. I was absolutely stunned because I had been applying every year unsuccessfully since the inception of the grant and knew it was a very, very competitive grant. In the application you are asked to describe the project you would like the panel to consider and I explained my idea for writing JOURNEY WOMAN. I wanted to compose pieces about the exploration and discovery of the archetypal woman in five stages of life: birth, youth, adolescence, adulthood and death. You also have to submit a sample of previous compositions, describe your concepts and ideas about composing; give evidence of your professional touring/recording and composing experience. This grant is also unique in that the ensemble is considered as being integral to the outcome of the work being that the collective and individual improvisation of the ensemble lends to the finished piece. Thus, the ensemble is also awarded an honorarium. The winners are selected by blind audition of a panel convened by Chamber Music America comprised of professional jazz composers, arrangers, performers. I understand there were over 160 applicants and 15 eventual winners. I was also very humbled to learn, once someone pointed it out to me, that I was the first African American female to receive this grant. In light of the story I hope to tell in the music I am writing for JOURNEY WOMAN, I found this a great sign!

P.E.: Once again, congratulations Ms. Lenora Zenzalai–Helms! When is it scheduled to premiere and where?

Lenora: I plan to premiere the work in New York City in spring 2005. I also want to perform it in another city, but those plans are in the works.

P.E.: The world has been privVy to some of your collaborations with such great artists as Branford Marsalis, Wayne Shorter, Nasheet Waits, Donald Brown and of course, Andrew Hill. Who are the members of THE ZENZALAI PROJECT?

Lenora: The Zenzalai Project’s core members are pianist Brandon McCune, bassist Miriam Sullivan, and drummer Nasheet Waits. I say “core” because since our inception or the first recording or tour we did together the members have become increasingly popular with other bands. When Brandon or Miriam or Nasheet are busy, I also consider Zenzalai Project members to include bassist Dwayne Burno, pianist Rick Germanson and drummer Ronnie Williams. When I perform or record with horn players I use saxophonists Antonio Hart, Abraham Burton, trumpeter Duane Eubanks.

P.E.: All exceptional musicians in their own right. Hats off to them as well. Which instruments will the music primarily be written for and what techniques can listeners look forward to?

Lenora: JOURNEY WOMAN is written for piano, bass, drums, sax, trumpet, percussion, and of course voice. I’m actually in the process of writing now, so I am thinking of other instruments for particular pieces. I’ll be adding flute, bass clarinet, a poet and cello to my original instrumentation.

P.E.: In addition to the New Works grant, you’ve also been awarded a composer residency at the prestigious MacDowell Artist Colony. Over 5000 artists have worked over the years at MacDowell including James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copeland and Alice Walker among others! Once again, congratulations! Lenora, what does this particular award mean to you and what does this residency entail?

Lenora: Wow! How do I begin? I have had to pinch myself over these last few months. Being named a MacDowell fellow is an incredible honor. I learned of MacDowell from a writer friend, and musician friend, pianist Fred Hersch. It was an unknown world to me totally. The idea of getting a chance to go away in an environment of total quiet — literally in the woods — and write with no interruptions was hard to get my mind around – I’m such a city girl. After completing the application, and doing a little research about the colony, I had no idea of my chances of getting in. It was really a serendipitous surprise when both the CMA grant and MacDowell residency happened at the same time. I didn’t realize the benefits of solitude and the ability to focus on just writing. My life is so full — I wear so many hats — I now understand the need to plan for that kind of solitude.

I wrote like crazy, so much came out, like combustible energy. It was almost cathartic. You choose the amount of time you would like to spend, from two weeks to two months. You get the arrangement of your choice, a live-in studio cabin or a studio to work in and a separate living cabin. I chose a live-in studio. It was blissful. I was assigned a studio that had many previous acclaimed composers, such as T.J. Anderson, which made me feel even more blessed. The magic and the energy you feel on the premises is really special and evokes so much. You receive three luscious meals per day — they bring you lunch in a picnic basket so you don’t have to stop working to come and eat! I had a fireplace, and no other cabin is within eyesight of your cabin. At first I was locking my doors and closing all the shades, but eventually I got used to the beauty of the trees, and the serenity, and realized the deer and the wild turkeys were not going to harm me.

It was the optimal environment for creativity. I will always plan for this kind of time now. It was almost surreal. In addition to the space created for you to create, the community created by the other artists in residence at the same time is amazing. I was a little familiar with being around a lot of other artists, from my days at Berklee College of Music. However, the artists at MacDowell are a mixture of writers, filmmakers, video artists, sculptors, painters — all arts disciplines. Some nights, artists present the work in what’s called an Open Studio, and you listen to a reading of their poems, literature, listen to their music, and see their works-in-progress. It’s an incredible source of inspiration. It was enlightening to hear them share stories of the same experiences of creative peaks and valleys, joys and pains of being an artist, decisions about expressing from an organic place, and dealing with distractions of marketing your work and being true to your vision, etc.

P.E.: The beauty of the forest is awesome and also very healing. I’m sure the tears of joy for you are in eyes everywhere, including mine! In addition to these two awards, you’re also being included in Who’s Who In America for 2005! What a great honor also. I surely hope that you not only receive the accolades that come with this honor but the financial rewards as well. Will you be profiled in their other publications such as Who’s Who Of American Women?

Lenora: I don’t know, but knowing the overachiever I am, I’ll investigate :-). It was a great honor to be included in Who’s Who of American Women. I learned that you are recommended for this, you don’t apply. I have no idea put my name in the hat, but I am humbled and grateful.

P.E.: You have many friends and admirers Lenora who respect and realize your value to the artistic tradition. As a vocal musician, composer, teaching artist, artistic director and co-founder of Harmony, and former U.S. jazz ambassador, Lenora, you must work 24/7! Your most recent recorded guest appearance with pianist Andrew Hill on the May 2004 release of the “live” recording of his Jazzpar 2003 tour in Europe entitled THE DAY THE WORLD STOOD STILL: The Andrew Hill Octet +1 included your lyrics! Now’s that also a wonderful accomplishment. How did that collaboration come about?

Lenora: Well it was quite an honor, and I must say one of the most amazing moments in my career! I was invited to accompany Andrew,whom I have written lyrics for in the past, (his composition “Ashes” is recorded on my Precipice CD) but this was a circuitous turn of events. Andrew asked me to write lyrics to a piece of a music he’d written, and gave me a title, “Hermano Frere”, translated to English it means, “Brother, Brother.” Andrew shared with me after I’d written the lyric that THE DAY THE WORLD STOOD STILL was his musical response to the 9/11 tragedy. Initially though he only told me the title “Hermano Frere,” so I began writing a lyric about being responsible to each other as brethren on earth. I learned about his being elected as 2003 Jazzpar winner afterwards, and certainly didn’t expect to be asked to participate by singing the lyric to Hermano Frere and Ashes on his 2003 Jazzpar tour. My spouse, Nasheet Waits, told me Andrew asked him to go on tour with him for his Jazzpar events, and I was invited by Nasheet to tag along as a “jazz wife” (big laugh). Andrew learned of this and asked me to sing with him! He arranged for and hired me to participate as an official member of the octet and tour. I was really grateful for the opportunity to work so closely with him, and to be able to watch him work with the musicians in rehearsal. He is really a brilliant composer and entirely generous with me. I’ve learned so much from him, about listening and writing, about the music business.

P.E.: Which lucky, talented star were you born under!! I’m checking the cosmos for that one Lenora! Not many of your fans realize the immense depth and wealth of your talents. I recently had the honor to see you perform with the Dance Theatre of Harlem as vocalist/accompanists in one of their ballets titled “St. Louis Woman: A Blues Ballet.” What a great show! Will you reprise that role anytime soon or will do you think your creation of “Journey Woman Suite” will occupy most of your creative well this year?

Lenora: Working with Dance Theatre of Harlem was another blessing and an incredible honor. The company is full of superb talent and an extraordinarily dedicated staff. The accomplishments of Mr. Arthur Mitchell, Artistic Director, are a beacon light for all creative people. He really does have a wonderful story. Of course, the music of Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen is a welcome opportunity for any vocalist. I loved every minute of it! I won’t be able to focus on too many things this year. I’m devoting a lot of time to writing Journey Woman the first part of the year, and developing the nonprofit music program, HARMONY, to it’s full potential. We now have three Saturday sites and two after-school sites: a staff of about 18 college music instructors and professional band directors, as well as serving about 100 middle-school aged children. Not to mention my touring and teaching artist commitments, PLUS, I’m writing a book about entering the field of arts education as a teaching artist for interested artists of all disciplines. My hands are quite full. One good thing is the MacDowell experience taught me the benefits of focus and organizing projects, then setting aside time to get them done!

P.E.: Thank you so much for taking the time from your busy schedule to talk to our readers Lenora. You are such a great woman and once again, here’s to all the richly deserved accolades and awards! May peace and great judgment be with you always.

Lenora: Thank you Paula. I so appreciate the opportunity to share with your readers and to talk with you again. It is my pleasure indeed! Read more about Lenora Zenzalai Helm and keep in touch with her happenings at http://www.lenorazenzalaihelm.com.

Ramsey Lewis – Legends of Jazz TV Series

Ramsey Lewis
Legends of Jazz on TV
Debuts June 16, 2005

dl Media

LRSmedia and WTTW National Productions launch a new Jazz television series, Legends of Jazz, hosted by Ramsey Lewis, on June 16, 2005. The kick-off is a one-hour special, showcasing winners of the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award.

The 13 weekly 30-minute episodes will debut in Fall 2005, marking the first time in 40 years that jazz has been the focus of a national network weekly series. Produced in state-of-the-art HDTV and Dolby Surround 5.1 audio, the series is unique in combining live performance, intimate conversation and archival material to provide a fascinating and entertaining first-hand accounting of some of the most memorable moments in jazz perhaps the most purely American art form, often referred to as “America’s classical music.”

The PBS series premieres with Legends of Jazz: The Jazz Masters, sponsored by Verizon and the National Endowment for the Arts. The historic hour-long special spotlights five recipients of the NEA Jazz Masters award, the highest national honor in this art form, presented annually since 1982. The celebrated guests are vocalist Nancy Wilson (NEA Jazz Master 2004); saxophonist James Moody (1998); vocalist Jon Hendricks (1993); Latin jazz artist Paquito D’Rivera (2005); and Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein (2005). In addition, teen jazz vocal sensation Renee Olstead, who made her major label debut in 2004, appears as a special guest, providing a fascinating counterpoint to the established jazz superstars on the program.

“One of the most important reasons for me doing this series aside from the pure entertainment value — is to document and archive this incredible wealth of experience,” says Mr. Lewis, a three-time Grammy Award winner and host of the popular Legends of Jazz nationally syndicated radio program, heard by more than 5 million listeners each week. “It’s an incredible feeling listening to great artists like Nancy, Moody, Jon, Paquito and so many others as they recount their memories and speak about their influences. These people, and those legends who came before them, are jazz, and so it really is like being treated to an oral history of the genre.”

States Larry Rosen, co-chairman of LRSmedia, co-founder of GRP Records, and Creator and Executive Producer of Legends of Jazz: “This series not only serves to pay homage to the established legends of jazz, but also provides a national platform for audiences to be exposed to new, exciting young artists who are building upon the legacy of these greats. Now, for the first time in nearly 40 years, we are bringing jazz back to U.S. network television, and we are doing it with state-of-the-art HDTV and 5.1 Surround production technology.”

“Creating national programming that makes great music accessible to a wide and diverse audience is at the heart of WTTW’s mission. The revival of Soundstage and the production of dozens of local Chicago music programs has become part of our 50-year heritage. We are especially proud to co-produce Legends of Jazz with a Chicago legend, Ramsey Lewis,” said Randy King, Executive Vice President for Television at WTTW National Productions.

“Since 1982, the NEA Jazz Masters program has honored many jazz greats. We are delighted that this series, which will reach millions of viewers across the country, will begin with a tribute to the music’s true legends,” said Dana Gioia, NEA chairman.

Legends of Jazz is co-produced by LRSmedia and WTTW National Productions, the award-winning PBS affiliate in Chicago, IL. Hosted by Mr. Lewis, each weekly episode features a guest star performing several numbers with Ramsey and his trio. In between these informal performances, Ramsey and his guest artist chat casually about topics related to the show’s theme. Weekly episodes will focus on a single instrument, style or element of jazz. The feel is loose and improvisational, not dry or academic. All guest stars are world-class musicians known for their artistic gifts, their passion for music and the legends who came before them, and, of course, for their larger-than-life personalities, humor, fascinating stories, and riveting performances.

The series, conceived by veteran music producer Larry Rosen, and legendary jazz artist Ramsey Lewis, provides a unique business model for public/private partnership, combining the expertise of LRSmedia. and the International Association for Jazz Education. LRSmedia is an independent music entertainment company that creates and produces branded entertainment properties for distribution across broadcast, live and recorded media. IAJE is a non-profit organization with 10,000 members in 40 countries. In this spirit, a portion of the broadcast revenue will be directed back to the jazz community through the education and outreach programs of IAJE.

There is nothing on television like Legends of Jazz. Designed to serve as both oral history and pure entertainment, the series offers viewers live performances, highly personal anecdotes, remembrances, opinions, and thoughts on the most renowned names in jazz. Contemporary and legendary figures from the genre’s “golden age” converse with Grammy-winning pianist and jazz giant Ramsey Lewis.

Hiroshima – Legacy

Heads Up – 2009

When Hiroshima cut their self-titled debut album in 1979, record executives at their own label placed bets that the band’s unprecedented amalgam of traditional Japanese instruments, American jazz structure and Latin percussion – an intriguing but ultimately refreshing anomaly in the waning days of the disco era – wouldn’t make much of an impact in terms of sales or critical acclaim.

Thirty years later, Hiroshima has remained very much in the game. And they’ve done so by sticking to that original philosophy of blending genres to map out and promote unlikely artistic and cultural connections. After three decades, in a time when the globe grows smaller and more connected by the day, and sounds from all over that globe can be found in almost any piece of contemporary music, it appears that the world may finally be catching up with Hiroshima.

The band offers a retrospective of those early years with the release of Legacy, featuring eleven songs from the first ten years of Hiroshima’s prolific history – each re-recorded by the band’s current six-member lineup with assistance from four guest artists.

At the heart of Legacy – and of the Hiroshima experience in general – is the convergence of Eastern and Western music, as forged by saxophonist Dan Kuramoto and koto player June Kuramoto, the founding members whose joint commitment to genre bending and cross-cultural innovation is as solid today as it was on that first recording.

“When you start looking back at fifteen records over thirty years, that’s a lot of material to choose from,” says Dan Kuramoto. “So we narrowed the scope to the first ten years, which includes five records – two of which were gold. We tracked everything live in my home studio for this new recording, with almost no overdubs. In many cases, the songs on this record are fairly similar to the originals. In some cases, they’re very different.”

Rounding out the current Hiroshima lineup on Legacy are keyboardist Kimo Cornwell, bassist Dean Cortez, drummer Danny Yamamoto and taiko/percussionist Shoji Kameda. Guest artists – whom Kuramoto refers to as the band’s “extended family” – include percussionist Richie Gajate Garcia and vocalists Terry Steele, Yvette Nii and Jim Gilstrap.

Despite its retrospective sensibilities, Legacy is by no means a swan song for Hiroshima. Rather, it’s bookend to thirty years of innovative music, and a promise of more great things to come. “I would like to think that there’s a heart and a voice within this music that doesn’t go out of style,” says Kuramoto. “These songs are as fresh and meaningful to us today as they were the first time they were recorded. They’re not of a particular genre. They are our musical heart. They shift gears from Japanese to jazz to salsa to R&B and beyond. Throughout each piece, you can hear the echoes of all the experiences that have influenced us along the way.”

Jimmy Smith and Joey DeFrancesco – Legacy

Jimmy Smith and Joey DeFrancesco

(Concord Records – 2005)
by John Thompson

The Master and the Disciple, The Teacher and the Student, the concept of the torch being passed. No matter what clique or phrase is chosen, we have a jazz gem of a cd with the icon, Jimmy Smith, and the new standard, Joey DeFrancesco, together on the jazz organ, DeFrancesco-produced release, “Legacy”. While most of the songs are remakes of past Smith tunes, the great thing is that these tunes still spew of yesteryear jazz flavor.

Musicians include Byron Landham (D), Pal Bollenback (G), and ex A.W.B. and Clapton drummer Steve Ferrone. Special guest on tenor sax is the great James Moody on one track. Both organists sometimes take turns on an organ called “the Hammond New B-3 organ”, and usually can be told apart by speed and longer runs (DeFrancesco) vs. phrasing and direction (Smith).

‘That old B-3 combo feeling’ returns heavily on my favorite, “Jones for Elvin.” Joey D. shows his piano skills on “Off the Top,” and the Smith signatures, the purely funky “Got My Mojo Workin'” and the greasy-bluesy “Midnight Special” round out the 11 tunes.

It’s a five star rating, baby !!!

An Interview with Lee Ritenour

Lee RitenourTributes and More Tributes
Lee Ritenour
by Mark Ruffin

It would be easy to assume that Lee Ritenour came up with the idea of his “A Twist of Marley” tribute album as a sequel to his highly successful “A Twist of Jobim,” from 1997. That Jobim tribute band didn’t tour, but Ritenour is touring with his “Twist of Marley,” band, featuring Gerald Albright, Patti Austin, Jonathan Butler and Phil Perry all of this month..

Actually the guitarist first planned a tribute album to Bob Marley & the Wailers nearly ten years ago. Somehow that project turned into a Wes Montgomery tribute album titled, “Wes Bound.”

“Wes Bound,” was the seed for this record,” Ritenour remembered. “At that time, in ’92, I was seriously thinking about doing a tribute to Bob Marley. I started to work on it, but I couldn’t quite put the picture together, and the gear changed, and I ended up doing “Wes Bound.””

That Montgomery tribute album featured five tunes written by the late great guitarist, four by Ritenour, and the seemingly out of place, “Waiting In Vain,” by Bob Marley and featuring vocalist Maxi Priest.

“That was the one song I couldn’t resist holding over, and it took this long for the rest of the album to come to fruition. The man upstairs, Mr. Bob, wouldn’t let it go, he wanted this album done.”

In fact, Ritenour insists that on many occasions, he felt an otherworldly presence pushing him to complete the Marley tribute. He also repeatedly compared the experience to producing a film where it may take years for the right script to come together with the right stars and director.

“I’d work on “A Twist of Marley,” then work on business and other projects, then come back to it, and then go do something else,” Ritenour said Not long after the “Wes Bound,” record, Ritenour, along with the publisher of Jazziz Magazine, decided to start a record company called i.e. music, which delayed the Marley project again. The company put most of their eggs into another all-star tribute project, “A Twist of Jobim,” in honor of Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos-Jobim.

“Marley’s music kept grabbing me, but I could never get the complete picture on how I could crossover his stuff until after I did “A Twist of Jobim,” ” Ritenour remembered. “With Jobim’s music I began to feel more comfortable taking another composers music and playing with it and evolving it for the style I represent.”

He was progressing on the album when he was delayed as the record world shook in 1999 and Universal Records bought Polygram. Being in partnership with the latter, after dumping the former, i.e. music was sold but still survives.

After the legal maneuverings were over, he felt the force of Bob Marley.

“I felt some kind of wave with this album, ” Ritenour related “It had legs, a force of its own, and once it got flowing it was so natural. Every artist on the record happened to be in L.A. when I thought about asking him or her to record.

“Once it started to click, it just clicked so easily, I kept laughing. I remember saying ‘I think Mr. Marley wants some jazz and r&b on his songs.”

Ritenour began most of the work using real samples of Marley tracks, separating certain instruments and blending them with his. He eventually took all the samples off and replaced them with live musicians, with one exception. The horns, guitar and organ that open the first song, the anthem “Exodus,” are lifted from Marley and the Wailers original version.

Among the guests on the album are Albright, Perry, Michael Brecker, Will Downing , Jonathan Butler, Patti Austin and many others.

“I didn’t want to do a straight up and down pop or r&b record of his material, because that’s not who I am or who I represent, ” Ritenour commented. “At the same time, there was no way I could chase the Wailers, and there was no point in trying to do that.”

An Interview With Lee Ritenour

An Interview With Lee Ritenour
June 28, 1997
i.e. Music Studio
by Mark Ruffin

[Click Here To Jump To The Story Continuation Point]

JazzUSA ‘Zine: How’s the little one?
RIT: Little Wes is fantastic. He’s on his way to New York. He’s been in Brazil with my wife. Carmen is down there working on a project.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: How old is he now?
RIT: He’s gonna be four this month. He loves music. He’s got it in the blood.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Is your wife a musician too?
RIT: Not really. But being Brazilian, I think it’s also in the blood. They all play a little percussion and they all sing do music. When I’m down in Brazil, I’m always amazed just how much music is in the air down there.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Have you ever met Antonio Carlos Jobim?
RIT: Of course. My wife, curiously enough, went to high school with Tom Jobim’s wife Anna Jobim and they are the closest friends. So whenever Carmen goes to Brazil and go to Rio she usually stays at Anna house. I only met Jobim a couple times. I can certainly describe my first meeting with Brazil because it was very influential. I was 20 years old. I was at a party at Sergio Mendes house. Sergio had a recording studio in the back of his house and there was a lot of people there that night, and there was a jam session towards the end of the evening. Jobim was there and Dave Grusin was there and I’m not absolutely sure if that was the first time I met Dave, but I didn’t know Dave very well at that point either. I was doing some recording for Sergio Mendes so that’s why I was there, just starting into my career. Jobim was there and sat there and played a new composition that night that turned out to be Children’s Game that’s on the current Twist Of Jobim record.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: It’s on Portrait too, right?
RIT: Yes, I’ve covered that tune twice.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: And Jobim played some piano….
RIT: Yeah, and I played some guitar and Dave played a little Fender Rhodes and Oscar Castro-Neves was playing some acoustic guitar and I think there was a drummer there Claudio Sloane. We had just a good old jam session, but mostly Jobim would sit there and play tunes for us and we all would just go gosh, that great.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Did you play with him that night?
RIT: Sure. I forget what tunes we played. We all did a little jamming. It was something I’ve never forgot. I’ve met him once or twice since then at shows and different things but nothing like that first time.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: We know how you feel about him now. How did you feel about him then?
RIT: Very much the same. I grew up in the 60’s as a teen-ager and of course that was the first huge influence of Brazilian music in America with that infamous Stan Getz, Astrud & Joao Gilberto, Tom Jobim recording,. So the year I’m talking about was sometime in the early 70’s. By that time they had already hit the big wave of the bossa nova in the late 60’s, So to me the guy was already an idol because I already knew most of these great tunes that he had written. I had fallen in love with Brazilian music in general and his music as a teen-ager. I went to Brazil when I was 19, apparently it was in the blood pretty early on and later I married a Brazilian and a lot of my records have had a Brazilian feeling.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: When you went down there when you were 19, was that to tour?
RIT: No, that was just because I had fallen so much in love with the music and I had met some Brazilian musicians, Oscar Castro-Neves being one of them. He was the guitarist in Sergio’s band at the time and I decided, with a friend, to go down to Rio for a little vacation and that ended up being a very interesting trip as well because I bought my guitar, I ended up doing a little recording with Oscar Castro-Neves down there. I spent New Years Eve on the beach down there and going to several major Brazilian musicians houses. The Brazilians love to jam so in those days you jammed. It was an invitation that I couldn’t resist at the time to go down and it really wasn’t for anything specific, it was just a little holiday. I guess it was something I was really drawn to. It was great.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Why did you start a record company?
RIT: (laughter)

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Why throw caution, not to mention money to the wind?
RIT: Yeah, what a crazy idea.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Yes. Did you think because Dave Grusin got $40 million dollars you could get it too?
RIT: (Big laugh) I did it more from a musical point a view. I tend to be a little bit of a control freak. It’s interesting, as time goes on, I want more avenues for my music and the different things that I do in a musical capacity and I had two partners that sort of showed up on my doorstep that had been friends for many years, that it seemed to make sense. One of them was Mark Wexler who ran GRP Records for 11 years for Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen, and from an artist point of view, he was the one that was the work-aholic, I mean Dave and Larry of course were too, but Mark was really the essence of how the day to day things got done at that company. And all the artists really appreciated him and he became a buddy. When he left GRP, we sort of just glanced off and said maybe we should do something ourselves one of these days. At the same time, Michael Faigen, another friend of ours who owns Jazziz magazine, started talking to Mark and the three of us put our heads together. What’s nice is the synergy in the areas that we cover.. I’m the music guy. Mark is the business guy, Michael is the multi-media and promotion type man. Between the three entities, we had an interesting synergy. At that point we looked for a partner and Polygram really opened up their doors and they’ve got a wonderful jazz staff over at Verve. So far it has turned out to be a terrific joint venture. It’s a tremendous amount of work. We’ve already come out with two albums and it’s not nearly enough.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: What kind of work? Is it different from anything you thought it would be?
RIT: Probably not. In a Utopian sense, because I have such good business partners, I thought that I would mostly be involved with the music, but of course I’m involved in everything and that’s probably, ultimately, the way I wanted it anyway. I was also from a musical point of view looking to do two things. One I wanted to do more producing, but I didn’t want to do producing just for the sake of it, because a lot of people have asked me throughout the years and I’ve kind of shied away from it because I wanted to make sure I kept my artistry in tact and also my guitar playing. On the other hand, I felt myself drifting a little more towards production but I thought that if it was something on my own label, that there was a little extra emphasis and a extra degree of help I could lend. Also if I didn’t have time or I didn’t feel I was the right producer, I have the expertise to maybe suggest the right producer, go find the producer, find the right studio, find the right engineer, find the right combination of musicians or band. So you don’t have to be totally involved in every project, but you can be involved in the point that you help. I found this very intriguing. Also I wanted to develop some new artists. I think that’s very exciting, to get somebody from the ground up and then of course, work with some established people. On a personal front, it was very challenging and very desirable to eventually bring my recording career over to i.e. and make my own records there and have a little more control over as to what happens after the record is made.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: I remember a few years ago when we were talking and you were saying how when you first went to GRP, everything was basically done on a handshake. There was no contract until the company was bought, and then you had a contract.
RIT: Right.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: I heard that once you started i.e., that you were still under contract to GRP and that you couldn’t put your name on A Twist Of Jobim as the artist. Is that true?
RIT: It’s definitely been complicated. The situation with Tommy LiPuma and GRP…. Tommy is a wonderful person and he has been very understanding that I wanted to go do this with my own label and at Polygram. At the same time, I’m still a GRP recording artist. I have a live album coming out. I’m very happy about that project, because that was Tommy’s idea. He loves live albums, he’s been involved with many of them as a producer and he encouraged it and I found the right band and the right combination of material I think to put on that album. At the same time we worked it out that the next studio album is going to be on i.e. and then the arrangement is for me to go back to GRP and do another project for them as well. Right now, I’m definitely splitting my personality and sharing between the two labels. It is a little complicated at times, contractually. The jazz business is very funny because everyone just in any business is competitive. Meanwhile we’re rooting for my live record at GRP and I’m rooting for Dave Grusin’s Mancini album, meanwhile Twist of Jobim is killing over here at i.e. There’s sort of a competition of course naturally, but there’s a very nice relationship, because I totally respect Tommy and he totally respects me and he and Mark Wexler had become very good friends and he’s very good friends with Michael Faigen, so the jazz business is too small a business to have too many enemies. (Laughs) What’s nice is that we have a bunch of good friends and I couldn’t ask for a nicer guy in Tommy LiPuma.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: So it’s very amenable for you?
RIT: I think that if GRP had their druthers, I’m sure they’d been happier if I’d just stuck there. But they understand that I had a chance to grow and I wasn’t going to have my own record company within GRP, that structure wasn’t there, and the Polygram people offered the situation and it worked out well. It even gets more complicated, I belong to this group called Fourplay which is at Warner Brothers.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Yeah, man, you’re sort of like George Clinton at his height, a contract at every major label.
RIT: (Laughs) I didn’t mean for that to happen. Someone said to me the other day, ‘Lee, you’re on three labels, isn’t that a conflict of interest?

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Well, wouldn’t it had been easy just to get some live tracks together and just give it to GRP to satisfy the deal?
RIT: I don’t think the record sounds like that. I certainly didn’t do that and would never do that. First of all, it was Tommy’s suggestion to do the live record and I thought it was a good one because there’s one interesting fact about this album is that I have 25 solo albums, I’ve never done a live record. That’s why Tommy is such a great producer. He came up with the idea for Dave Grusin to do the Mancini tribute. I think that was a very clever idea because Dave was very influenced by Henry Mancini. They’re both great film composers. Dave is very close to Mancini’s wife Jenny and I think Dave has a great infinity for Mancini’s music and knew how to handle it and I think Tommy saw that. So, I think that was a very nice idea. Likewise, there’s a lot of live albums out there and people come and go with live project and for some reason, there’s some kind of misnomer in the industry that people put out live albums when they’re sort of in-between their regular projects. That’s not the way it used to be with live albums. Live albums used to be a very serious endeavor for an artist in their career, because it shows a whole other side of the artist. So I’ve never gotten to show that so I put a lot of work and effort into this album and sonically, it’s recorded almost like a studio record, and I picked a very interesting combination of musicians in Bill Evans, Alan Pasqua, and Sonny Emory. There’s a great blend of what I like in contemporary jazz and straight ahead jazz together.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: I’m really surprised you got Dave Grusin to tour. How long is this tour you’re about to embark on?
RIT: The tour for me stretches quite a bit because we’re going to Europe for three and half weeks, but the U.S. tour is just about 14 shows, in all the major cities, and Dave is doing almost all of those. It’s a pleasure to get him back out on the road because we really, other than these one off specialty shows that occasionally we do, he’s never really gone on a tour since about 1985, when we had Harlequin out.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: How’d you get him to do it?
RIT: We’re buddies and he loved playing on A Twist Of Jobim and I think he felt proud about his Mancini project and the schedule is really not too hard and he had a little bit of time in June so I caught him at the right moment. In general, he doesn’t like to go on the road too much. There was one European tour we did one year where, the European tours are always so difficult because you do 20 one-nighters in 20 different countries, and that one practically killed him. (Laughs) That was pretty much the end of it. I promised him that this wasn’t going to be like that.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: There’s a lot of real positive things to talk to you about in the making of A Twist Of Jobim, but there’s one real sad note, and that was it was the last recording of Art Porter.
RIT: It was actually Mark Wexler who suggested him because Art was on Verve/Forecast and when I was looking for a soprano player to accompany El DeBarge on that tune, I was actually thinking soprano or maybe alto, and Mark said what about Art Porter. I said that’s interesting, but I don’t really know him that well. I’ve met him, he’s opened for me on a show or two. He said he would be great on that tune. So, we arranged it and we flew him out here and he was so nervous, and he’s such a sweet guy. He was nervous because it was the first time he had worked with me in the studio and he wanted it to be right. It was so right. Like the first take was good enough. I think we did two more and it took all of a half-hour and he had such a sweet sound. And it turned out to be his last recording. It was so shocking that he had that accident, but he left a small legacy and it’s here and there’s such beautiful playing on that track.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Who else kind of nailed things for you and made the album easier?
RIT: There was so many different kinds of people that did the project. Oleta Adams came in and just nailed her stuff very easily. Almost all the musicians, you know the Christian McBride’s , the Ernie Watts’ the Alan Pasqua’s, the Harvey Mason’s they nailed the stuff very easily. But some people like to take more time, Dave is like in the middle. He likes to get inside the thing and work it a little bit, take his time, but not too much. Al Jarreau on the other hand, he works late at night. He only warms up about three in the morning. You’ve got to hang with Al. We’ve got to hang, talk, just get into the music and just vibe it out and around four o’clock in the morning is when the good stuff comes out with him and I’m not quite the night bird anymore so it was like okay, but he’s another great artist. Everybody was totally different. Art Porter nailed it in a few minutes and Oleta the same way. Other people took more time. But I’m used to giving that time because I can definitely take my time to do it too. Sometimes, I’ll get things on the first take but sometimes I find myself still tweaking something hours later.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Are you going to have vocalists on the tour?
RIT: We did get El DeBarge for the West Coast, El was not available for that mid-west swing. Vesta Williams is singing with us because Oleata Adams was in the studio doing a record so she was not available, so Vesta is singing. And then we have a new Brazilian artist that we’re signing to i.e., a young lady who’s a very interesting artist named Badi Assad. She’s a Brazilian artist. I actually didn’t even know she was Brazilian when I first heard her, bur she’s an incredible classical guitar player with incredible classical guitar chops. She sings like a bird, she looks beautiful and she plays very different. She’ll do things where she’ll play the guitar rhythm with her left hand from a very unusual rhythm. She’ll start playing the body of the guitar as a percussion instrument with her right hand or playing her face or playing her body as a percussion instrument, and at the same time, singing a melody. Sometimes, she’ll play a percussion instrument with her right hand and play the guitar with her left hand and sing a third melody. Some of it is actually kind of avant-garde. It’s very different. She’s going to be on the tour opening up and also joining us in the middle of the show.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Speaking of folks on i.e., I know you have Eric Marienthal, anything else in the future?
RIT: We’re talking to Miss Vesta, it’s not a done deal yet, but we’re talking. You know she did a song on Eric Marienthal’s new record. A great version of Until You Come Back To Me.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: What about Fourplay?
RIT: This is a Lee Ritenour year for recordings because I’ve got them coming out all over the place. Fourplay coming out right around the corner with a best of album with two new tracks. One of the new tracks is with Take Six and it’s the Stevie tune Higher Ground. Harvey Mason, our drummer, did most of the production on it and then there’s a new tune of mine that’s also on the recording. It seems a little early for a best of after only three albums but again, that group has a problem getting together and a lot of it these days has to do with my schedule. (laughs) Hopefully, we’ll get together early next year for a new recording.

JazzUSA ‘Zine: You know one of my favorite solos of yours was on a early Patrice Rushen album called Before The Dawn. I can think of countless others, after all of these sessions, is it over 2,000 or something…
RIT: You know there was this Japanese fan about six years ago, a Japanese fan came up to me in Tokyo one day and he said I’d like to give you something Mr. Ritenour and I said ok. I figured it was a tape or a photo I was going to sign and he pulled out this book almost and it was pages after pages of everything I’ve ever recorded and it added up to almost 3,000 sessions. I looked at it and I don’t think he missed anything. I think it was all there. I had my dad put it in a scrapbook.(laughs)

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Any memorable sessions in any of those?
RIT: I love to tell this story to my friends, I’ve never told it in an interview. One night we were recording George Benson’s album Give Me The Night and Quincy was producing. This was many years ago and the cast of characters in that room was George playing guitar, I was playing rhythm guitar. We had Harvey Mason. We had Louis Johnson on bass. We had Greg Phillanganes and we also had Ray Parker Jr. So there was a bunch of guitar players and Herbie (Hancock) was playing piano that night. It was quite a cast of people. I forget which song we recorded that night, but Quincy said, Stevie Wonder is coming down later. He wrote a song for George and he’s coming down around midnight. So we’ll finish this song and we’ll have some dinner and wait for Stevie. Okay, great. So we all wait. We wait, we wait. Now it’s two o’clock in the morning, then three. They get a call,’Stevie’s coming, just wait.’ Now Quincy’s real nervous because he’s got all these expensive musicians who are on the clock here and we’re all just hanging out doing nothing. Finally, Stevie Wonder shows up. He shows up with this huge entourage, so then you got to hang out for an hour. Now it’s four o’clock in the morning and Quincy finally get Stevie over to the piano. ‘Stevie come on, show the guys your song. Let’s do your song.’ And so Stevie walks over to the piano and everyone’s anxious to here the song and Stevie sits down. He starts to play the song. He starts the intro and man it sounds great. He stops after the intro and he says ‘Q, what do you think man?’ And Q says ‘aw man that’s beautiful Stevie, go on.’ And Stevie says ‘well give me a few more minutes and I’ll finish the tune.’ (big laughter) You should have seen the look on Quincy’s face. We were on the floor man. .

JazzUSA ‘Zine: Well as a producer, I hope you’re never faced with anything like that.
RIT: (laughter) Maybe Q could afford it, but I can’t. That was the end of that session.


Natalie Cole – Leavin’

Natalie ColeNatalie Cole
(Verve – 2006)
by Carmen Miller

My girl is back! Natalie Cole has been through the good times and the bad. She has been on top of the world and at the bottom of her life. The release of her 20th studio album earlier this year also shows that she is a survivor. Now, I must confess that what is on this album is not exactly what I expected, but when you consider that Leavin’ is her first album of new material in nearly four years, who really knew what to expect?

The 12-song Leavin’ is an assortment of classic pop, r&b and rock tracks from the likes of Fiona Apple, Aretha Franklin, Kate Bush, Sting, Shelby Lynne and others, held together by Natalie’s distinctive vocals. In addition to the list of classic songs there is an entirely new song, “5 Minutes Away”.

Updated with a bit of hip-hop flavor, the Aretha Franklin smash “Day Dreaming” is the first single from the album and marks the release of Natalie’s first urban/pop single in nearly 16 years (Ironically, Natalie spent much of the early part of her career being compared to Franklin.)

The title track is a soulful recast of the Shelby Lynne release I Am Shelby Lynne. Cole also tackles Neil Young’s rock standard “Old Man,” an eloquent compliment to the original that shows her capacity for warmth and subtlety. The Fiona Apple hit “Criminal” has a bluesy feel, as does “The More You Do It,” a track that pays homage to her first husband and musical collaborator, the late producer Marvin Yancy. Other soul standards are the Isley Brothers “Don’t Say Goodnight” and the Etta James inspired “Lovin’ Arms,” each of which grants Natalie the opportunity to move back to her 70’s roots.

All in all this is a good release. Not what I expected from a soul diva, but I can see where she is coming from with the different genres and styles covered here. Hopefully she will use this experience to pull a more focused direction for her next CD. Despite the great moments and songs contained here, there is just too much differentiation to the songs, leaving one feeling that the CD was a bunch of good and average songs strung together without any overall cohesion.

Regina Belle – Lazy Afternoon

Regina BelleRegina Belle
Lazy Afternoon
(Peak – 2004)
by Ray Redmond

Regina Belle has a voice that oozes warmth and familiarity like a gentle breeze. Her sweet falsetto harkens back to a time when love ballads were the norm, and vocals were cherished. On Lazy Afternoon she goes a different direction with a collection of jazz standards, torch songs and golden classics. Accompanied by a crew of veteran musicians that includes Christian McBride, Perri, Ray Fuller and George Duke (who plays and produces) Belle delivers an album that’s good listening in addition to being technically beautiful. For The Love of You has a nice prelude with Regina reminiscing with the Perry sisters before belting out the Harold Melvin classic. Moanin’ is a bluesy track that fits her strong style. The real gem here is the Brazilian track Corcovado where sings in english, then whispers the interludes in Portuguese.

The broadway tunes Lazy Afternoon and If I Ruled The World are soulful and well delivered. Her interpretation of the classic Fly Me To The Moon is a little disconcerting at first, but grows into a pretty nice rendition. Each song on this CD is carefully crafted and delivered to specification, and who can ignore that distinctive Duke touch that makes the flow and backbone of each piece so strong? But… somehow it’s beauty without depth, Love without tenderness. Simply stated, Regina Belle has put out a soulful, sensitive album that somehow lacks the overall soul that we expect from her. Good riding music but not a memorable release.

Layla Angulo Sextet – Layla Angulo Sextet

Layla Angulo SextetLayla Angulo Sextet
Layla Angulo Sextet

(Layla Angulo – 2001)
by Raymond Redmond

Fresh out of Seattle we have Saxophonist Layla Angulo and her sextet. This CD is a collection of original Latin Jazz compositions by Ms. Angulo and percussionist Walter A. Torres. Although all of the tracks are long, ranging from 5:20 to 11:09, the sound is so groovin’ that you never really notice the length of the tunes. I particularly like the track Plum Street for it’s brisk horns and old-school percussion. I think part of the richness of the music on this CD comes from the fact that the sextet is all acoustic with trumpet, piano, upright bass, drums and percussion to go with Layla’s Sax.

The styles on the CD include Bolero-Jazz, Swing, Descarga and others. The CD jacket identifies the style of each track for the uninitiated (me!). Layla is one of few women instrumentalists performing in the Latin Jazz genre today, and may be the only female saxophonist/composer of authentic Afro-Peruvian Jazz. On this CD Angulo wears the hats of artist, composer, aranger and publisher; and she seems to have worn them well. We wish her luck and hope to hear more from this talented young artist/composer in the future.

For more information visit the Layla Angulo Web Site.

Paul Jackson, Jr. – Lay It Back

Paul Jackson, Jr.
Lay It Back
Branch Records – 2008
Ray Redmond

Lay It Back is Paul Jackson Jr.’s 7th solo CD and first for the new Independent label Branch Records. The players include Patrice Rushen on piano, Bobby Lyle, Alex Al on bass, vocalists James Reese and Ray Brown and The Rickey Minor Band.To put it simply, there’s not a bad song on this CD, but some are always better than others, eh?

The Workout is classic Jackson, running up and down on his guitar as the music lilts and dances behind him, ditto for Two for Ten Thousand. Both are uptempo and seriously grooving. Hit It is a grab at fusing Jackson’s style with what he calls ‘current’, and the result is a sort of Hip-Hop / smooth jazz hybrid that works pretty well. Swing It is funky. In fact it is soooo funky it sounds like George Duke and Stanley Clarke… just like them… hmmmm…..

Jackson made his bones in the industry as a sideman, so it is no surprise that the few cover tunes on the CD are all quality work and laden with Paul’s individual sound. I particularly liked his renditiion of the Natural Four’s R&B Classic Can This Be Real. This is a good solid release from a talented and creative guitarist.

Previous releases include: Grammy nominated, I Came To Play, Out of The Shadows, and River in The Desert under the Atlantic Label. Never Alone Duets under the Pony Canyon/ Blue Note Labels, Power Of The String and Still Small Voice under the Blue Note Label. His latest project, Lay It Back is an R&B inspired smooth jazz assortment of originals and carefully selected covers.

Production of this long awaited release required the sharing of Paul’s talents and schedule with television’s “American Idol”, “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” and “America’s got Talent” , the “Grammys” and the “Icon Awards” honoring Barry Gordy. With Paul as music director, the awards featured performances by Lionel Ritchie, Herbie Hancock, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder.

Paul has been with Idol since its inception – three years providing pre-records followed by the last four years on camera. “I really enjoy working on Idol, especially the opportunity to help enhance the performance of contestants with my playing, choices of guitars, switching of guitars between songs based upon song selections and, working with them during rehearsals so that they can best utilize the music provided by the band, lead by Rickey Minor”. His frequently being asked by contestants to provide up-front on-camera accompaniment really helps them deliver their best performances. Paul uses the same approach and commitment to each project with contestants as he has done in his studio work, which earned him the reputation of being one of the worlds most recorded and requested guitarist, with this CD and his other personal projects

Continuing to be the guitarist of demand, Paul refused to just “Lay It Back”, and blame it on his busy schedule, but instead took the time to write and record incredible originals and lay down his smooth “guitarizma” on cover tracks such as Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry Bout a Thing” and The Commodore’s “Easy” to compile this incredible new CD.

Paul’s previous releases each featured who’s-who lists of notables. Since he has contributed to the projects of the true giants of music and maintains unique camaraderie with all, Paul’s requests to have them provide their individual strengths to his projects are eagerly accepted. This CD continues the trend with contributions of Jeff Lorber, Bobby Lyle and others, and members of the Ricky Minor All-star band, heard each week on the American Idol, other television shows and specials, with Ricky himself providing his incredible bass licks. The CD production also provided an opportunity for Paul to bring in members of his own live performance band on several tracks. Each of his band members has established his/her credentials by performing with the industry’s best in their live performances.

Soul Ballet – Lavish

Soul Ballet
(Artizen – 2007)

Soul Ballet is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist/producer/composer Rick Kelly. A chilled out, funky blast of sonically brilliant, magnificently performed nujazz originals. Lavish is the title and lush is the keyword in describing this radio friendly contemporary classic.

Smooth Vegas” features some nice trumpet work by Rick Braun. The title track is a good offset between Kelly and saxman Richard Elliot. “Tuscan Chica” is a bit smoother with a more nu-age feel to it. “Every X You’re Near” fall into a more jazz-smooth type of thing.

When you hear the name ‘Soul Ballet’ there is a certain something that you expect… and Lavish delivers just that, without sounding old or reworked. Great groove.

Poncho Sanchez – Latin Spirits

Latin Spirits
Poncho Sanchez
(Concord Picante – 2001)
by Sidney Bechet-Mandela

In many ways, “Latin Spirits,” is a typical Poncho Sanchez album, which, if you know his music, means that you’re done reading this and clicking the Amazon.com link on this page and ordering it. There’s great Latin jazz, fabulous Afro-Cuban riffs and a lush romantic ballad, “Quieres Volver,” sung by Sanchez in Spanish. What also is included among the eleven tracks are a number of funk-laced up tempo soul-jazz numbers, including the too-hot “Next Exit.”

Louis Jordan’s hit “Early In The Morning,” and “Going Back To New Orleans,” which features the vocal work of N’awlins style singer Dale Spalding and San Francisco Bay area acid jazz queen Ledisi. All in all, the spirits are smoking on this release, that also features Chick Corea on the title track, which he also wrote.

Afro-Rican Ensemble – Latin, Soul-Sa and Jazz

Jango - DreamtownThe Afro-Rican Ensemble
Latin, Soul-Sa and Jazz
by S. H. Watkins, Sr.

Ensemble is the right word for this diverse group of musicians hailing from Columbus, Ohio. Despite having been together a relatively short time, the players are tight and play well off of each other. Their rendition of Horace Silver’s “Song for my Father” is popping, and Coletrane’s “A Love Supreme” maintains it’s timeless quality while picking up a tint of Latin rhythm.

Their press release says that the Afro-Rican Ensemble ‘sets out a rumba buffet of jazz and funk, sal-soul and old time swing‘. We agree. This is one of those CD’s that you put on, then leave on the player for a while.  The one thing you’ll find the most noticeable (and enjoyable) about this album is that no one artist sticks out as the ‘lead’ player of the album. Their ability to pull a song together, infusing it with their signature Latin rhythm, creates a whole that is greater than the sum of it’s individual parts, and thereby does justice to the songs they cover.

You can contact the Afro-Rican Ensemble at afrorican99@hotmail.com or by visiting the Afro-Rican Ensemble Website.

Various Artists – Late Night Rendezvous

Various Artists
Late Night Rendezvous
(Rendezvous – 2007)
by Ray Redmond

Smooth Ones is collection of chart-topping #1 smooth jazz hits featuring some of the biggest songs from some of the biggest stars in Smooth Jazz. Appearing on the compilation are label co-founder Dave Koz, Wayman Tisdale, Kirk Whalum, Mindi Abair, Peter White & Rick Braun.

From the soulful sound of Dave Koz’ “Let It Free” to the international swing of Praful’s “Sigh,” Smooth Ones shows a power of melody and the inspiration of musicianship that exemplifies the diversity of the Smooth Jazz sound.

Gabriella Anders – Last Tango in Rio

Gabriella Anders
Last Tango in Rio

(Narada – 2004)

Argentinean jazz chanteuse Gabriela Anders was born into a musical family, and listened closely to her father, jazz saxophonist Jorge Anders while she studied classical guitar and piano in her native Buenos Aires. “There were so many musical influences when I was growing up, I wanted to do something with them — especially tango.”

For her new album, Anders returns to her homeland for inspiration and flavoring, as she covers some of the jazz classics made famous by Billie Holiday — including God Bless The Child and others. “Her work has meant so much to me,” says Anders. “No one could sing these beautiful songs better than she did, so I tried a different take by bringing to them a little bit of South America.” On a return trip to Argentina, Gabriella was inspired to write the six new exciting songs for this great recording. From the languid sambas, to the cool bossa novas, to the passionate tango nuevo, this is a must-have release.

Tony DeSare – Last First Kiss

Tony DeSare
Last First Kiss
(Telarc – 2007)
by Carmen Miller

Tony DeSare is Telarc’s answer to the new young crooner trend, and a pretty good answer it is. Harry Connick, Jr. and John Pizzarelli are the ‘old’ new guys in this group, and Concord records recently unveiled smooth vocalist Peter Cincotti, so Telarc had to follow suit. Everyone wants to find the next Sinatra, and the hunt is bringing some pretty talented young singers out.

To his credit, DeSare is more than a voice, having written four of the tunes on this release (including the title track). The originals stand up pretty well against the rest of this diverse collection that ranges from a downplayed version of the Prince hit “Kiss” to a jouncy rendition of the Gershwin classic “They can’t take that away from me”. DaSare’s style and sound is smooth… no question about that, and his delivery is confident and assured.

Shortly after moving to New York City in 1999, Tony was cast as the star of the long running Off-Broadway musical smash, Our Sinatra, in which he was praised by Variety for his “dapper charm.” Tony has also been a featured performer at Jilly’s, the legendary Rat Pack era celebrity hangout owned by Frank Sinatra’s best friend. In the fall of 2002, Tony performed at the Apollo Theater where he first met jazz guitar icon Bucky Pizzarelli, who lends his unmistakable sound to “Last First Kiss”.

This is a good second release for the young performer and bodes well for his future.

McCoy Tyner – Land Of Giants

McCoy TynerMcCoy Tyner
Land Of Giants
(Telarc – 2003)
by John Thompson

Veteran McCoy Tyner is still leaving his fingerprints in the world of Jazz. Within this Quartet, Tyner(p) has employed another veteran, Bobby Hutcherson(v) as well as two well respected youngsters, Eric Harland(d) and Charnett Moffett(b). With 10 tracks on this CD, Tyner has written seven.

The opener, “Serra Do Mar” is a perfect opening track, and displays much of what is to come: a well-balanced field of sound and musicianship. Within the multiple feels are stellar solos by Hutcherson and Tyner as Moffett and Harland are sturdy bookends. “December” is a lesson by the band on how to treat a million dollar piece of Art: With care, caution, and respect. ‘Stretchin’ out’ describes three tracks, “Steppin’,” “Back Bay Blues,” and “The Search” which feature plenty of chops from all.

Songs like “If I Were A Bell,”(featuring a grand solo by Moffett) “Manalyuca,” and “Contemplation” demonstrate the balance that the musicians adhere to. Ellington’s “In A Mellow Tone” swings like a home run hitter and fits nicely as the final song. This is great Quartet music which sounds more sweet with the addition of a vibraphone, and will be appreciated by anyone that enjoys Jazz music.

L.A. Black Music Awards 2004

L.A. Black Music Awards 2004
A Touch of Jazz 
by Gene Thompson

On most Sunday evenings, I’m usually preparing for the long work week ahead, but this particular weekend was to be very exciting, mainly in part because I had an opportunity to take part in the “3rd Annual Los Angeles Black Music Awards.” The event took place at the Historic Wilshire Ebell Theatre in the Wilshire Center district of Los Angeles.

The event honors those who have made significant accomplishments in all categories of music. On this particular evening, over 23 awards were given out to groups and individuals ranging from “The Best Gospel Performer” to “The Best Overall Performer in a Stage Play.” Of course my main reason for being there was to see who would hold down the title as “The Best Jazz Instrumentalist”

The LA Black Music Awards also took time out to induct four very well known legends into their “Black Music Hall of Fame” category. The four were Chaka Khan, The Caravans (Inez Andrews), Marvin Gaye and Nancy Wilson; two of which (Khan and Wilson) are known for their prowess in the jazz arena. Many great words were spoken of these wonderful entertainers.

Headed by CEO Rick Warren, The main purpose of the L.A. Black Music Association is to offer the opportunity for young people with desires to be successful entertainers, singers and musicians. Jeanette HarrisOn this night, the stars did indeed come out and lend their support. Of the notable stars on hand, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Leon Isaac Kennedy and Earth Wind and Fire are just a few.

The highlight of the evening was the many live performances which took place. Popular Blues Artist Roy Gaines got down on his guitar, Stage Play artist Minnie Foxx did a wonderful job performing jazz tunes and spoken poetry, but the performance of the night was delivered by a 5″1 Jazz Instrumentalist with a mean saxophone named Jeanette Harris. Jamming and playing to the crowd, Harris brought down the house while playing some classic by Grover Washington tracks. It was no wonder she won “Best Jazz Instrumentalist”.

David Lahm – Jazz Takes on Joni Mitchell

David Pritchard - Unassigned TerritoryDavid Lahm
Jazz Takes on Joni Mitchell
Arkadia Jazz

The highly individualistic, esoteric nature of Joni Mitchell’s repertoire bears a natural affinity to jazz, a genre characterized by improvisation. The highway, the “road,” an image that occurs repeatedly in Mitchell’s work (in both lyrics and cover art) can be metaphorically likened to improvisation itself — a departure from the beaten path into wondrous, uncharted territory. In choosing some of Mitchell’s more unusual compositions for this project, producer/pianist David Lahm advances his vision of Mitchell’s oeuvre by means of jazz. In many cases, the songs are almost completely transformed, yet within the transformation something of the spirit of the original resides. And while Joni Mitchell fans may find it incredible, Lahm found himself introducing Mitchell’s work to many of the musicians involved in this project. “Jazz musicians just don’t know her, they inhabit parallel universes,” Lahm notes. “And that was the bridge that I could erect, and hopefully cross here.”

In some cases it derives from an instrumental interpretation of the lyric — “Blue Motel Room,” for instance, relied upon spare instrumentation and wistful, sometimes humorous vocals in its original form, but here the blues are expressed more urgently, via Lew Tabakin’s knotty tenor phrases, augmented by organ, harmonica, and drums. In a more broadly conceived refashioning, the opening cut, “Solid Love,” uses the upbeat swing of the octet arrangement to capture the buoyancy of the original, at the same time informing it with a different, measured feel.

Throughout the course of an extraordinary, prolific career, singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell has reached a broad audience, and almost every music-lover has a favorite Joni tune. I was surprised to find “Edith and The Kingpin,” one of my top five, included here. The tune (which included Bud Shank and Larry Carlton in its 1975 debut on The Hissing of Summer Lawns) appealed to me for a number of reasons — its tonal qualities enhanced the suspended feeling inherent in the “story,” which opens with a set piece: a tableau of hangers-on at a club herald the arrival of the ‘dude.’ Concise, clever lyrics paint the picture: “Small town, big man, fresh lipstick glistening;” “His eyes hold Edith, his left hand holds his right;” and (the capper for me) “The band sounds like typewriters.” At the center of the tale is the kingpin’s selection of Edith from the female ensemble of wannabes. Repeated guitar lines and reverb effects seemed to convey a sensation of strobe lights and circling dance floors, and simulated the dizzying action of the narrative, which moved from drugs to seduction to an intoxicated stasis. On this CD, Randy Brecker interprets the tune on flügelhorn, taking it at a slowed-down pace, mining the song’s melancholic vein and highlighting, perhaps unwittingly, one of the more trenchant lyrics: “Women he has taken grow old too soon.” In Brecker’s hands, the tune’s ultimate sadness is realized; he captures the combined spirit of longing and futility, and he does so in a rendition that hews more closely to the original than possibly any other on the album. And that’s just fine, because they don’t get any more original than Joni Mitchell. Jazz is another way to hear her.

Mayra Caridad Valdés – La Diosa del Mar

La Diosa del Mar
Mayra Caridad Valdés
(Jazzheads – 2002)
by Ray Redmond

Mayra Caridad Valdés is the sister of Cuban Jazz legend and Latin jazz Grammy winner Chucho Valdés, and daughter of noted Cuban musician Bebo Valdés. Music is in her blood, and Mayra’s ability to articulate and deliver emotion with nuance and power makes the lineage apparent. Her delivery is easygoing and strong with a large dose of character, much like some of the other great female vocalists in jazz history (Sarah and Dee Dee come to mind). The strength and control of her alto power shine on this collection of Afro-Cuban jazz standards, traditional songs and romantic boleros. Although performed in Spanish, the emotion and power of each track transcends language and reaches the listener.

I imagine that if I understood the words, it would only tell me the same story I got from the music and Mayra’s emotive styling. From her early career beginnings singing with Harry Belafonte at his Cuban concerts, to her ongoing touring with her brother Mayra has shown that she not only has the talent but the style and poise needed to become a real jazz Diva.

Warren Hill – La Dolce Vita

Warren Hill
La Dolce Vita
Koch – 2008
Ray Redmond

La Dolce Vita is Hill’s first studio release since 2005’s Popjazz and comes complete with an all-star cast that includes Greg Phillinganes (Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Toto) on Piano & Keyboards, Nathan East (Phil Collins, Fourplay) on Bass, Dean Parks (Steely Dan, Toni Braxton) on Guitar, Paul Jackson (American Idol, Whitney Houston) on Guitar, Ricky Lawson (Steely Dan, Anita Baker) on Drums, Luis Conte (Phil Collins, James Taylor) on Percussion.

You will find this to be a warm and grooving CD, fit for listening in your car as well as the living room. I particularly liked the Island-tinged Hill be Jammin and the sloe funkiness of The Jive Samba.

Another great listen is Warm Rain featuring lush background vocals by Nathan East and some smooth nylon guitar work by Dean Parks. This is a keeper.

History: Born and raised in Canada, Hill began studying guitar at age 7. An insatiable passion for music gained him early recognition as a true virtuoso and lead to his fronting various Toronto high school rock bands as a multi instrumentalist as well as a singer/guitarist.

Expanding his musical horizons and satisfying a growing passion for saxophone eventually landed him a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music, where his graduation performance attracted the attention of legendary record producer Russ Titleman. At Titleman’s urging Hill moved to Los Angeles, immersed himself in the local music scene and an RCA record deal soon followed.

His first CD, Kiss Under the Moon, was released in 1991.

An Interview with Kurt Elling

Kurt Elling Kurt Elling
At The Crossroads
by Mark Ruffin

Honesty is a word Kurt Elling uses a lot when trying to describe his success. The 30 year-old singer feels that as his mid-five figures records sales have progressed with each release since his 1995 debut Close Your Eyes, so has his level of sincerity in the recorded performance. That’s part of the logic that deduced the decision in recording his fourth album live at the Chicago night club, the Green Mill. The recordings took place over five days in this past June and will be released in early 2000..

“When I write a lyric or sing a song, I’m bound to be as up front with what that song as I can be,” Elling says. “When I’m on stage, the song has a life of it’s own and it’s not for me to put any boundaries around it. That’s what honesty in performance means.”

Elling is also pretty candid in admitting his record sales aren’t what his record company, Blue Note Records, had hoped after three albums. That’s why Elling, his manager Bill Traut and Blue Note president Bruce Lundvall met in New York earlier this spring trying to figure out how to get a national audience to embrace the singer the way Chicago and the National Academy of Arts & Sciences (NARAS) have.

While he has yet to win, the organization that hands out the Grammy award has honored the singer with a nomination for each of his three albums and he continuously impress his hometown with a wide variety of worthy artistic endeavors. But Elling has yet to expand the kind of local fanaticism, including middle-aged groupies into a consistent national base.

“We were just brain-storming, because I am sort of at a cross-road,” Elling says of that meeting while sitting in his spacious Chicago Hyde Park apartment. “All these hare-brained and nutty ideas for my next record came out, including some fun projects. Lundvall said ‘we still haven’t made the nut with sales but nobody does what you do, so let’s just go again.

“At the end of the meeting, we all realized I’ve gotten recognition and a chance to perform all over the world doing what I believe in. Any (new record) that isn’t as real and honest as what we’ve made before is just going to be weird. I’m going to hate it, my people are going to hate it and scratch their heads, and it’ll be just like commerce, and I didn’t get into it for commerce. I got into it so I could do the job, so I could have a fulfilling creative life. Bread is cool. I’m not going to shun it. I’m going to work really hard to figure out some way to have my music effect enough people so a lot of people want to buy my music and have it in their lives.

“Commerce is cool,” he continued, ” but I really have something that I need to say and I have a group of people who I believe in who surround me. We just sort of all threw up our hand and said, well we’ve sold not as many records as we’ve want to, but they’re all been really great and everybody at this table have really loved every one of the projects, so lets just go again. I still believe that what we have can get over to a larger audience. The problem is not that we’re making stuff that’s out of people grasp, but that the kids that are coming up now haven’t had music in school. I can’t dumb down my thing, It would be wrong if I did, because if anything, I don’t know what the answer is. I believe that what we do can be felt viscerally, and that’s why I think that people who don’t have an acquaintance with jazz or don’t usually like jazz, cause it’s too esoteric or because it’s too challenging or because it feels too forbidden to them. I try to make everybody feel at home in my show. If you make them feel like they’re welcomed to be there and then you can give them a whole lot of information that they never thought up before and maybe they’ll dig it.

“I feel like This Time It’s Love” is the most honest record I’ve made,” the former University of Chicago divinity student continues mentioning his most recent album. “I dealt with the theme of love in a way that’s a lot more multi-phonic and multi-dimensional than most people deal with it.”

The reason for that honest is that Elling is basically still a newlywed. His wife of a two years is dancer and artist Jennifer Carney-Elling.

She is featured on the cover of the album and the songs and sonnets contain within are unabashed exclamations of love. Because many of the tunes feature the art of vocalese -putting wordy lyrics to the often very busy solos of jazz musicians- Elling’s prose throughout explores more depth to their relationship than most couples are willing to make public.

On a Freddie Hubbard solo that Elling re-titled Freddie’s Yen For Jen,” he sings “I dig her kisses, they’re never fictitious and always lubricious, kisses that’ll make you holler loudly that you’re glad enough to be a man.” On She’s Funny That Way, Elling comes close to sap with the line “and now raindrops are diamonds falling out of Jennifer’s pockets, every kiss is July Four rockets.”

In his living room surrounded by his wife’s artwork including paper sculptures, laminated collages and painted furniture, Elling blushes when admitting that he is totally smitten with her. He further admits to worrying about how to continue to tap what’s in his heart for his material while on the other hand keeping an increasingly curious public and the media at bay when concerning his privacy. It was a thought that filled his head mid-song during a small University of Chicago gathering.

“The famous theologian Marty Marty was there,” he remembers, “a t.v. broadcaster, the conductor of the Lyric Opera, just some very smart people, and we were in a small room like this and it really came home to me. I was doing the Lester Young solo on She’s Funny That Way and I was a little embarrassed because I was telling these people about my life.

“It’s strange because when I write a lyric or a song then I’m bound to be as up front with what that song wants to be as I can be. I can’t hold anything back and it wouldn’t be right. I would be unhappy with the lyric if I did. But when I’m not on stage, I’m trying to be wary of where that line is, because it’s a different line. If I’m singing something, then it has a life of its own and it’s not for me to put any boundaries around it in any case. But away from the stage, the world is a real strange place and every once in a while a newspaper will call and they will want to send a photographer to my house , no. this is my house I’m not going to be doing Entertainment Tonight kind of specials at my house. That’s an invasion of what it takes for me to feel at home, if everybody knows. I don’t know how much information people deserve. I feel like I’m so up front and I’m so honest in my work, that there’s plenty of information that’s available there. And whatever else that I don’t include in that is nobody’s business.”

Since the release of This Time It’s Love early last year, Elling has flexed his expanding artistic muscle with a number of high-profile concerts in Chicago in a variety of musical formats. His wife attended and was introduced at many of these affairs including the first jazz concert ever performed at that city’s Museum of Science & Industry last summer. Other performances included a Hyde Park Christmas concert with star trumpeter Nicholas Payton, and suburban audiences have seen Elling perform with a big band and with a string section.

His most ambitious projects have been the two shows he wrote and directed for the Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Traffic series. The first was a multimedia tribute to Allen Ginsberg featuring visual artist Ed Paschke reading poetry and a host of musicians. This past February he presented a program titled The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing co-starring the Tyego Dance Project featuring Jennifer Carney-Elling. She also dances with the Joel Hall Dancers and spent five years with the national touring company of Phantom Of The Opera.

” If you need room the only way to have a lot of room in a marriage is to have the other person also need a lot of space, otherwise they’re always tapping you on the shoulder,” Elling says through a laugh after being asked if acquiring a creative spouse was a priority. “I need to have someone else who can be similarly focused on their objective, so that we don’t get in each other’s hair.”

The couple met through a mutual friend at a now closed Hyde Park coffee shop that was owned by Jennifer’s mother. According to Elling, he was in “full jazz guy” mode- having a good time and playing the field. Though considered a sex symbol by some, including his manager, the singer says he is really a shy awkward guy when it comes to the opposite sex. He can just turn on the charm on stage, but even before he was married, he says he couldn’t keep sustained eye contact with flirtatious audience members afterwards.

“But this hook was in with Jennifer and it happened pretty fast,” Elling says. ” She just had a lot of self-respect and she wouldn’t let me push her around. Self-respect and creativity were the key things.”

Elling’s Los Angeles based manager admitted to some worry as to the speed of the relationship. When he heard they were to be married, all he could think of was the domineering wife of jazz legend Sonny Rollins.

“Lucille Rollins runs everything in his life like a dictator,” Traut, a veteran lawyer and former Chicagoan who has also handled acts as varied as the R&b group the Ohio Players and local jazz singer Judy Roberts. “That’s an old manager’s joke that you’re getting the wife to manage instead of the husband and I was worried if Jennifer would be one of those people that’s very difficult to manage along with a husband.

“But the instant I talked to her, I knew I would have no problem,” continued Traut. “By the time they got married, she had become an asset to me because she helps me explain things to him and Kurt is the world’s worse bookkeeper. He needed a wife”

It was after spending a week in Paris together that Elling popped the question. He thought she expected him to ask during their very romantic time in the City of Lights, but he waited till the following week at home “in the kitchen over tuna fish sandwiches.”

Surprisingly, Elling also points out, it was not his idea to record the song April In Paris on his ’97 album The Messenger. That was a request from Lundvall and his staff at Blue Note to add another standard to a highly original collection of songs. Both Elling and Traut praise Blue Note unwavering faith in the singer, citing among other unusual facts, that the first album was really the singer’s demo tape and that they’ve never been ordered to higher outside producers.

Among the reasons why the three men came to an agreement as to the concept of his next album are because live albums are relatively easy to do and it frees Elling up to contemplate his next move.

“We want to get Kurt relieved of the pressure of making another record for a while,” Traut explains. “It’s in our plans to get Kurt in a position where he can take the time to develop a one-man show that we can take off-Broadway. It is in our plans to have the whole country see Kurt Elling the way Chicago does. But instead of a Steppenwolf tribute to Allen Ginsberg or a show with his wife’s dance team, we want to develop a Kurt show that will have multimedia, lighting, stage effects and scenery doing all the things that Kurt does.”

“The thing about Steppenwolf is their reputation and connections,” concludes Elling. “Now that I’ve been a director, I feel like I’m getting my production chops together and my confidence. Now, I’m just trying to create situations for myself.”

For more information visit the Kurt Elling Web Site

Kurt Elling Delivers His Second Message

Kurt Elling Delivers His Second Message

When vocalist Kurt Elling started recording his first album., Close Your Eyes, in 1995, he had no idea that the record would eventually be released on the prestigious Blue Note record label, or that the following year, he’d tour the world and be nominated for a Grammy as the year’s best male jazz vocalist. The swift and sudden rise of the Chicago native is very similar to any number of one hit wonders who streak like a shooting star only to have the flame doused by any varieties of pressure that the entertainment business can apply.

“The pressure, I really think is on my record company,” Elling says of Blue Note’s responsibility to push his new album, The Messenger. “They have to go out and beat the bushes and say ‘now look here everybody who missed it the first time around, you’ve got your chance now, here’s another whole record for you to dig

“Usually you feel pressure if you feel like you can’t do what the gig is, whatever is required of you,” he continues. “But I knew that our second would be stronger than our first because I’ve been shedding a lot and we’ve been playing together more and we’ve had a lot of cool ideas for tunes. Plus we’ve had the experience of the whole first record. I had never made a record before, now I’ve made two. The experience of the first one only helped us to become stronger, so I really didn’t feel like it was pressure in the usual sense, you know, sophomore slump or anything like that.”

Elling’s use of the word “we” is by no means an act of modesty. His records, and indeed his short, blazing career, would not be possible with out the commitment and desire of his band, Trio New. The group consists of pianist Lawrence Hobgood, bassist, Rob Amster and master drummer Paul Wertico. Soon after creating a buzz at Chicago jam sessions earlier this decade, this son of a preacher man and former University of Chicago divinity grad student soon hooked up and honed Elling’s unique blend of vocalese and poetry.

“I’m the king and Lawrence is the President and everybody else has their position in the cabinet. I make the final decisions, but we’re collaborators,” Elling insists. “. Lawrence and I are very blessed, particularly to have found a really beautiful working relationship and the sense to keep working on that in our private lives and on stage. My writing wouldn’t be as strong without Lawrence and Lawrence’s writing wouldn’t have lyrics and he’d be going off in a different direction without me. It’s an ellipse, we sort of circle around each other with our writing and with our musical ideas, and we’re very fortunate to have that..”

It was the unique sound of the Elling/Hobgood compositions that propelled the first album to the top of jazz charts, and critics year-end lists. But on The Messenger, it’s without a doubt, the cover tunes that get special treatment with unique arrangements and guest stars. On April In Paris, it’s rising trumpet star Orbert Davis and on Rod Argent & The Zombies mid-60’s classic The Time Of The Season, it’s the reigning female jazz superstar, Cassandra Wilson. On paper, Kurt Elling, Cassandra Wilson and The Zombies seem to be quite the strange concoction. But on record, it’s an exciting collaboration.

“It was Lawrence’s idea to do that tune, and my manager’s good idea to have Cassandra on there,” Elling confesses. “We wanted to find the tune that would feature Cassandra in a way that was native to her and that would also have a good groove for us to deal with so that everybody would be real comfortable. There’s a lot of new material on this record, but we did some covers in some ways that are exciting to us and that we hope people like.”

And Elling plans to “go after people.” Take his your of New York City for instance. Unlike most acts who may play one room for a two or three week period, Elling’s plan is to spend six weeks in the Big Apple with short stints at jazz clubs as well as alternative and rock clubs..

“We really believe in going after people, because we believe that when we play for them, they understand what” happening, even if they don” listen to jazz. It” not a matter of pandering to somebody” lack of information, it” just about going to where there are and giving to them. If you go to jazz club #3, and that’s where you play, then the people who go to jazz club #3 is going to hear you. But people who go to alternative club #2 aren’t ever going to hear you because they’re never going to jazz club #3.

“I look forward to hitting more alternative clubs where the younger people are going. We get a lot of people who say ‘wow, I’ve never listened to jazz before’, or ‘I don’t like jazz, but I like what you guys are doing.’ We play with a real kind of rock and roll energy and try to get over on people and try to be real with that. If you’re just going to jazz people, it’s like you’re preaching to the choir.”

Luba Mason – Krazy Love

Luba Mason
Krazy Love
Luba Mason – 2009

In her new CD, KRAZY LOVE, Luba executes a “cool, Brazilian mood” with an intimate acoustic sound. Enhanced by well-known Brazilian musician Renato Neto on piano & keyboards (also pianist for the legendary musician, Prince), Luba is joined by top-notch bassist Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets), percussionist Cassio Duarte, Sandro Albert on guitar and Marco Costa on drums, with guest performances by the world renowned Hubert Laws as well as her husband, Latin great Ruben Blades. In addition to co-producing the album, Luba’s blossoming writing talents are premiered in 8 original songs alongside two covers, creating a distinctive yet personal sound and style to this unique blend of melodies.

From the title track, “Krazy Love,” which sets the tone for the CD to Luba’s childhood memories of growing up in her parent’s home on “This House”; from the flirtatious vibes of romance on the duet (with Ruben) “And It Is with You I Go” to the feelings of betrayal on the songs “From Me To You” and “A Summer Night”; from the fantasies expressed on “Lovely” to the celebratory mode of “Xmas In July,” Luba’s CD is a personal and heartfelt exploration of love in all its various stages.

This one is worth a second and third listen!


Wayne Krantz – Krantz Carlock Lefebvre

Wayne Krantz
Krantz Carlock Lefebvre
Big Hassel – 2009
S.H. Watkins, Sr.

Krantz Carlock Lefebvre features Wayne Krantz as one-third of a longstanding trio that also includes drummer Keith Carlock and bassist Tim Lefebvre. Both Krantz and Carlock have played with Steely Dan and the influence is noticed from the opening track, It’s no fun not to like pop, a fusion jazz mix that draws on (and melds in pop-rock) influences to spit out a funky cross-breed that’ll blow your socks off. 

Wine is the Thread hearkens back to the 70’s with wailing guitar funk, heavy thumping bass and message driven melody…I like that one. I think my favorite is Rugged Individual, the last track on this CD, which is driven by a floating funky wah-wah guitar that sounds like Traffic on jazz… you’re gonna love it!

Overall the CD leans toward a funky-fusion, avant-gard kind of thing so you’re gonna like some and not all, but there’s something for everyone here.

The trio was first convened in 1997. “Giving this band a voice in the context of a studio is a big deal for us,” Krantz says. “Everything we’ve ever released together has been some kind of live album. Now we have the clarity and concision of the studio along for the ride.”  “In the studio,” he says, “the audience dynamic from a concert setting is replaced with something else – a sort of hyper-concentration. Instead of pulling inspiration from the atmosphere of a show, you get it solely the other players and the acoustic space and the machines around you.”

“Some things that work great live don’t really work in the studio,” Krantz adds. “It’s more focused there, whereas the stage is a more subjective and visceral place. It’s hard to think of any disadvantages with the studio…it seems a place where anything imaginable could be realized. Eventually.” Given the heightened fidelity and detail of the studio environment, the line that divides composition and improvisation becomes even more seamless. “Sometimes I think of it as ‘injecting’ – with a syringe – composition into fields of improvisation,” Krantz explains, “and vice versa. Finding improv spaces between the phrases in composition to air it out, and islands of composed stuff within improvisation to re-launch from. It’s a balancing act, figuring out how much of the yin and yang is right and where it will go. We played a few of the songs live one night before the recording, but it didn’t solve much. It still felt pretty surprising in the studio.”

Cut live in the studio, and then augmented by two days of overdubbing, Krantz Carlock Lefebvre offered Krantz a rare opportunity to further develop his compositions. “I was able to add a few vocals, some acoustic guitar parts, and a few solo fills. It’s been a while since that dimension of overdubbing on top of live performances has been open to me – I would like to do it a lot more.” The overdubs – such as Krantz’s laconic vocal on “I Was Like” or the acoustic guitar on “Rushdie” – introduce elements of grace and wit that were always a part of Krantz’s music, but harder to convey in the headlong rush of live performances.

Krantz’s journey began far from New York, in Corvallis, Oregon, where he grew up in a music-loving household that was curiously free of musicians. Piano lessons were forced upon him as a child, but it was with the discovery of the guitar that Krantz first began pursuing music seriously. The switch was finally tripped by the eclectic Bay-area outfit Sons of Champlin. “I was listening to one of their records called, coincidentally, Follow Your Heart,” Krantz recalls. “After that, I never seriously questioned my direction. I knew I wanted to become a musician.” Relentless practicing and an unquenchable thirst for new musical inspiration (leading him to thoroughly investigate an enormous and eclectic range of music) took him to the east coast, where he began studies at Boston’s Berklee College of Music.

“It was a big shock,” he says of the transition. “I went from being one of the best guitar players in the area to being one of the worst, all in about 6_ hours. I’m not sure I ever really got over that.” After graduating, Krantz moved to New York City at the behest of his teacher Charlie Banacos (“The best jazz teacher I’ve ever known,” Krantz testifies). “I had begun to notice that all my favorite musicians had their own thing,” he explains. “So, when I moved, I purged myself of everything and everyone that may have influenced me and started over. ” Krantz arrived at a sound that was incisive and direct, refreshingly free of effects and affectations, more often than not just a Strat plugged directly into an amp. The purity of tone was matched with a formidable rhythmic intelligence and an unflinching willingness to take chances.

The result was the winding, absorbingly improv-fueled performances first documented on a pair of studio albums for the German Enja label, Signals (1990) and Long To Be Loose (1993). The first featured a strong cast of fusion luminaries (Hiram Bullock, Dennis Chambers, Anthony Jackson, Jim Beard, Don Alias, Leni Stern), while the second focused on a core trio of Krantz with Lincoln Goines (bass) and Zach Danziger (drums). Goines and Danziger returned for 1995’s 2 Drink Minimum, also on Enja, which marked the first live recording to be drawn from Krantz’s Thursday night residency at the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village. The residency, which began in 1995 and ended in 2007, became a word-of-mouth sensation, drawing a diverse international fanbase eager to witness the spontaneous interaction of Krantz’s trio in an intimate, charged setting. While composition played a role in setting the mood and landscape of the music Krantz’s trio played at the 55 Bar, much of the material was purely improvised, pushing the players to their physical and mental limits as they exchanged ideas and textures, instantly reacting to one another in real time.

“I can’t say enough about that gig,” he reflects. “It was how I achieved what was most important to me – to have a real band, as opposed to a rotating collection of talented sidemen…with steady people, over time, powerful things begin happening that you can’t get any other way, no matter how talented the sidemen. You start developing your own language, and that’s a tangible thing that translates really well to an audience.”

Krantz’s 55 Bar era also heralded the introduction of a business model radical in its simplicity. Not long after each Thursday night’s show, a recording of that show was made available for sale on WayneKrantz.com as a digital download. These raw, immediate recordings were also drawn upon for a series of self-released live CDs, beginning with 1999’s Greenwich Mean, which introduced Krantz’s new trio of Tim Lefebvre and Keith Carlock, and continuing on with 2003’s Your Basic Live and Your Basic Live ’06.

In between 55 Bar gigs, Krantz performed around the world and took occasional session gigs, although sideman work gradually became less interesting to him as he honed his own unique approach. In 1996 he toured around the world with the revived Steely Dan, which he regards as an improvisational challenge that further sharpened his time-feel and sense of groove. “I loved it,” he said of the experience, “but at the end of the day it’s a sideman gig, and as great as it was, it still can’t compare to what I have with my own band.”

That thrill – the sound of three musicians both in synch and unafraid to challenge one another – is captured with gripping immediacy on Krantz Carlock Lefebvre, an album that handily defies categorization. Opener “It’s No Fun Not To Like Pop,” one of four tracks to feature a rare vocal from Krantz, is skeletal, Prince-inflected funk, whose stuttering rhythm veers into and out of surprising harmonies, creating increasing tension as the performance builds. Carlock’s drumming – thunderous yet nimble and responsive – steers “Mosley” as Lefebvre’s bass leaps from subterranean underpinnings to its upper register, where it alternately acts as rhythmic foil, melodic lead, and as a counter-melodic voice. Throughout the album, Krantz works through an array of guitar tones, from unaffectedly crystalline (“The Earth From Above”) to surging, howlingly distorted (“Holy Joe”). His statements, as composer, guitarist, and bandleader, are consistently subtle, unflashy, and yet profoundly musical and of the moment.

Krantz has long abandoned concepts of genre and style, as his path has become more personal, more searching. “It doesn’t bother me to evoke the blues or jazz or rock with my playing. These idioms have fallen into common domain now; nobody owns them, they belong to everyone,” he says, “but it does bother me to hear myself playing with the voice of another specific individual. It interferes with my search for the truth, which is basically what I’m about with this thing of music.”

Known Fact

Known Fact
Cornelius Bumpus
(Palmetto – 1999)
by Ray Redmond

Known Fact With the recent passing of saxophone great Grover Washington, the jazz-pop world will have to turn elsewhere for that soulful sound that Grover gave us for so many wonderful years. Cornelius Bumpus is certainly a contender for that honor. His new CD known fact is warm and melodic the way that Grover’s tunes were. With a sprinkling of background vocals and the ocassional blues influence, Bumpus saxophone sings to the listener in sweet, sensuous tones.

Bumpus’ own “Jupiter Spin” gives the saxman a chance to swing over a gentle funk groove, double his own horns and improvise brilliantly. After a smoky gospel-flavored reading of The Staples Singers gem “I’ll Take You There,” Bumpus once again hits the romantic trail with the graceful tenor-led title track; the tune features an orchestral flavored atmosphere and an elegant, jazz piano solo by Aries. “Abundare” is Bumpus’ tribute to Brazilian music, with an hypnotic, rolling samba rhythm, a breezy flute melody and exotic percussion fills and soundscaping.

Bumpus has toured as a member of Steely Dan since the band’s mid-90s reunion, and gives the Donald Fagen/Walter Becker classic “Chain Lightning” a burning blues twist with the help of Aries’ punchy organ harmonies and solo. Bumpus once again contemplates gentle, loving thoughts on the soprano ballad “Meganita,” then leads a slamming gospel blues jam on “Stand Up and Be Counted” with hot horn soloing over crisp electric guitar lines. Bumpus’ love for the blues continues on the closing cut, a mournful tune of longing featuring his own soulful vocals.

Rick Braun – Kisses in the Rain

Kisses In The Rain
Rick Braun
(Warner – 2001)
  by Ricky Miller

On “Kisses in the Rain” I particularly like the remakes. “A Song For You”, an old Leon Russell song featuring Shai on vocals comes off well, although it will probably play more on R&B than new age radio. Bill Wither’s “Use Me” has been done more times than I can count. If ever anyone got PAID from one song, it was Bill. I’m not sure whether I liked this track because I liked Rick’s interpretation or because it’s such a great song that it can stand almost anyone doing it. Sax sidemen Euge Groove and Marty Grebb keep it interesting, adding to the overall groove and interplay with the Braun’s lead. Car Wash 2000 is a very up-tempo take on the movie soundtrack. Almost sounds like Herbie Hancock’s Headhunter in spots.

Although there are a few genuinely enjoyable songs on this CD, I’m a little disappointed on the whole. The tracks are not bad, but the overall effect sounds commercialized, like they were TRYING to create a ‘smooth jazz’ album instead of just producing Rick Braun. Perhaps I expected the music to get incrementally better with each album, and it just stayed the same (which is still good.) With the exception of the title track, most of the tracks are just your normal ‘good smooth jazz on the radio’ tracks. Some of the best songs are the remakes and that speaks loads for Rick’s ability to perform, but leaves the question of song selection open for debate.

Kirk Whalum Interview – 08-2007

Kirk Whalum
Roundtrip, Family and The Future
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

We caught up with Kirk while he was on tour and got him to talk about his great new CD “Roundtrip”, his musical history, the Whalum family and the future. Have a Listen as Kirk Whalum talks.

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An Interview with Kirk Whalum – Dancing to a Different Drummer

The ‘Unconditional’ Essence of
Kirk Whalum
by Paula Edelstein

The world fell in love with Kirk Whalum when he wailed his trademark saxophone stylings on Whitney Houston’s smash hit, “I Will Always Love You,” and his legions of fans still hold their breath when he picks up his Guardala and takes center stage. The heartfelt UNCONDITIONAL love of Kirk Whalum is the highest ideal for his beloved fans and this Autumn, his young and not so young fans will experience some of his most inspired works. Whalum’s brand new release on Warner Brothers is a collection of ten great songs that present the essence of Kirk Whalum in an UNCONDITIONAL elevation of his musical spirit.

The tenor sax master kicks off his set with a performance of the passionate “Now ‘Til Forever,” followed by a tribute to one of America’s jazz treasures, Grover Washington, Jr. As composer, arranger, saxophonist and producer, Kirk Whalum presents seven original compositions that the Grammy-nominated artist collaborated on with Paul Brown. Combining funk grooves and powerful jazz chops, the duo is the same team that produced the slammin’ hit FOR YOU, the smash success that topped the charts for nearly two years! The genre-spanning compositions include great alto saxophone improvisations from Kirk on “Real Love,” a sax voice Whalum set aside after his GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JAZZ, in addition to his excellent tenor’s emotional range. Whalum is a man that is playing stronger and the listening gets better and better. Great arrangements, superior tonality, and excellent compositional integrity make this one a winner for the comprehensive smooth saxman.

Kirk Whalum is joined by Paul Jackson, Jr. and Tony Maiden on guitar, Luis Conte and Lenny Castro on percussion, Alex Al on bass, new label mate John Stoddart on backing vocals and Wendy Moten on the sizzler, “Real Love.” We were fortunate to attend a session for the press and talked about UNCONDITIONAL with the gifted sax innovator:

JazzUSA: Hello Kirk! Congratulations on your brand new release for Warner Brothers UNCONDITIONAL!

KW: Thank you very much!

JazzUSA: The loving, spiritual and fun sides of your musical relationships all unfold on UNCONDITIONAL, a brilliant collection of original compositions crafted to reveal the feelings and essence of Kirk Whalum. This is certainly a new way to enjoy your masterful work and there’s nearly always a story behind a story! What’s the story behind the story with respect to the period of woodshedding that you did after the smash success FOR YOU? Why you chose to primarily focus on your duties as a writer, producer, and arranger?

KW: For me, it was kind of a step back to the past. When I first got signed as a recording artist, I had already been performing on the local level in Houston, Texas. I’m originally from Memphis, Tennessee but went to Texas Southern University and right away got involved in the music scene. For almost three years I had been performing with my own band and 90% original music…songs that I was writing and arranging. For me, that was my comfort zone. Then, all of a sudden, I was in the recording world where it’s like a different ballgame. So, for me to go back to a record that is centered around my own compositions really is putting back on the hat that just fits so well.

JazzUSA: The very first song just melted me! I mean, opening with “Now ‘Til Forever,” has an immediate emotional impact and really sets the mood for a great program. Did you sequence the UNCONDITIONAL this way so that your listeners could re-discover this side of the Whalum essence first…that is, so that the love and inspired beauty comes shining through from the very first song?

KW: Well thank you! I really have to say for that part of things, I totally take my hat off to Paul Brown, who produced this record. It was primarily his sequencing that seemed to work. He has so many great instincts along these lines that I am just very much grateful for that connection. He and Matt Pierson were the driving forces behind FOR YOU, which for me was an incredible serendipity…as they say, never thinking that it would go to the heights that it did. Now, it’s hard to find yourself rebounding off something that was that successful. But yet, again it’s great to be working with Paul, especially for the reasons that you mentioned…where you know exactly what song to open with and what song to close with and those are instincts that I certainly appreciate from him.

JazzUSA: Your respect for Grover Washington, Jr. is also included on UNCONDITIONAL, through your original composition, “Grover Worked & Underpaid.” For us, it has three very profound elements in it — sometimes sad, mostly magical, but always funky! How did this song come to be written?

KW: Always funky! That was right behind an experience where I played at a tribute to him in Philadelphia alongside Gerald Albright, Najee and some other really fine musicians paying tribute to the master of this particular genre. Definitely when I got home, I was inspired to do something to capture the spirit of that “go-go DC” groove type thing that “Mister Magic” was. By the way, when I was a senior in high school, I competed for the “Mr. Melrose” crown, at Melrose High School in Memphis, Tennessee. I won the contest and the song that I played was “Mr. Magic!” The cute thing is that I went to my son’s talent show, he’s a bass player at the Nashville School of the Arts, and what song did they play…”Mr. Magic!” I thought that was so cute. But definitely, I have elements, at least the essence of “Mister Magic” in that song, “Grover Worked and Underpaid.”

JazzUSA: You’ve also included a great song for saxophonist David Sanborn…”Waltz for David,” and one about your son with “Song For Evan.” This says a lot about your inspirations and how you can take that inspiration to another level of musical personification. Do you have a basic ritual that you go through before sitting down to compose or were these songs just there, “floating on the wind” and came right to you?

KW: Yeah and just grab one out! Well my ritual is simple. I pray and I ask God to give me the kind of songs that will affect people. Songs that speak of Him and not me, you know in a sense that melody is something that really…in the real, deep, corners of this thing called music; it really all comes from Him. It has to be something that He inspires. When I sit down, many times what I start working on right away doesn’t amount to much of anything! But having prayed that prayer, ultimately I get around to something, like some kind of idea will come out the song that I was working on. That idea is its own little seed…kind of like how a seed falls out of a tree, it’s already gone. But that little seed forms its own tree and many times that tree gives birth and overtakes the other tree. That happens to me a lot.

JazzUSA: What a great metaphor Kirk! Even though you’ve included three covers on UNCONDITIONAL, your brand new approach to the influential music of respected contemporary composers, Paul Brown, Shai, Evan Rogers, and Carl Sturken on such hits as “Can’t Stop The Rain,” N’Sync’s hit, “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time on You,” and Macy Gray’s award-winner, “I Try,” is great! Your spiritual side really comes through on “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You,” because your saxophone is speaking in a pure, immaculate voice of its own. Did you feel really close to these songs for any particular reason?

KW: Definitely. For me it was a real blessing for me to interpret those melodies. I think of Miles Davis and I think of other artists who take melodies from another world. In other words, jazz is one world and definitely Alanis Morrisette is another world, you know. But there are melodies that can be shared if you interpret them in the right way you can bring a whole different light to them. So “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time” and “I Try” really seemed to work and there is a very commercial side of that. When you play songs that people already know, they appreciate your doing that. They say, “Oh that’s my favorite song. I just appreciate your doing that!” That’s something that works. FOR YOU was just that…us playing songs that people love.

JazzUSA: And we certainly did love that Kirk. It’s still wonderful. The title track, “Unconditional,” is also beautiful, rich and resonant. Your sax voice clearly explores and brings to life the roots of true love…love that is unconditional and from the source that started it all. Would you say this was a direct delivery to your heart also?

KW: Oh, absolutely!

JazzUSA: “Real Love,” is great and is so funky with Wendy Moten’s vocals. Together you express a fun and loving side of this urban sizzler through your melodic lyricism, soulful sounds and emotional power that has become your trademark. In fact, you set your musical senses free on this one. Is there one key that truly affects you more so than any other in order to get that great harmony, melody and rhythm all working just right?

KW: No, actually but given a context, there are keys that work better in a given context. I think this song is in C and I guess this worked for that particular context. Another thing is that I am playing alto on that song and I very seldom play alto saxophone. This is the first CD besides THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JAZZ, where I played any alto at all.

JazzUSA: Well that explains why I heard it in a different key. Kirk, what is your preferred saxophone and do you have a favorite reed that helps to deliver just the right signature sound your fans have come to know and love?

KW: The tenor is my favorite instrument. I play Guardala and Keilwerth saxophones, and play Rico Reeds with Guardala mouthpieces.

JazzUSA: I must say, our online universe comes out of cyberspace from time to time to witness your great shows in person! (Smile) Will you be appearing in concert live anytime soon and if so, where can we see you?

KW: (Laughs) Yes as a matter of fact. On the 23rd we’ll be at the Seattle Center in Seattle, Washington; on September 24th we’ll be playing the San Diego Jazz Festival in San Diego, CA; on September 29th we’ll be at the Hyatt Newporter in Newport Beach, CA; October 6th we’re playing the Millennium Theatre in Robinsonville, Mississippi and on October 22nd, we’ll be appearing at the Catalina Jazz Festival on Catalina Island, CA!

JazzUSA: We can’t wait! Well folks, there you have it. The great Kirk Whalum. Congratulations on your great new release UNCONDITIONAL and we’re looking forward to seeing you in concert. Thank you so much for this interview. Keep in touch.

KW: Thank you Paula. I really appreciate it.

JazzUSA: Our pleasure! Keep in touch with Kirk Whalum’s happenings at http://www.kirkwhalum.com and http://www.wbjazz.com

An Interview with Kirk Whalum

Talking With
Kirk Whalum
by Mark Ruffin

Kirk Whalum The titles of both of Kirk Whalum’s new albums, Unconditional and The Staff, say a lot about the make up of the 42 year-old musician. The popular saxophonist is currently touring the country in a package with bassist Waymon Tisdale and the group Kombo.

“I bear witness to Jesus and I honor my wife, Ruby, Whalum said by phone after a performance in Indianapolis. “I am very vocal in both those areas.”

Back when he was 12, Whalum met his wife at a Memphis church where his father was assistant pastor. That same year, at that same church, is where he gave his first public performance, appropriately choosing Amazing Grace for his debut.

Religion and the strong love of both family and music have been constants in the life of the exciting horn player. So it should come as no surprise that at the height of his popularity in the secular contemporary jazz world, Whalum is diving headfirst into mixing gospel and jazz.

Whalum wants to reinvigorate the jazz/gospel scene that had it’s momentum stalled in the late 80’s. He thinks there’s a wide untapped market for spiritually influenced jazz.

“Just like in smooth jazz, or anything else, it takes somebody to plan and identify the audience,” he said emphatically, “someone to tap people on the shoulder and say, ‘you like this, don’t you?’

“People would just need to know the music is anointed, that it comes from the heart of God and a person who has Christ living on the inside.

“From a spiritual standpoint, it’s a beautiful thing,” he continued. “I’m talking about inspirational music that’s supposed to touch a person’s heart with the power of the gospel. Jazz is the perfect venue for that.”

An examination into the making of Whalum’s three gospel albums conjures up the cliché that God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

As a player, the be-bop of the 40’s and 50’s, and contemporary players Ronnie Laws and Wilton Felder heavily influenced him, as did the musical gumbo of his Tennessee hometown. Whalum eventually, quite by chance, went to the same college Laws and Felder attended, Texas Southern University.

He became a top session player in Houston before being discovered by the legendary keyboardist, Bob James. His subsequent deal with Columbia records lasted nine years from 1985, and produced five albums.

“When I got kicked to the curb by Columbia in 1996, my wife and I decided that it was a God thing,” he remembered. “We looked at it as a step forward, as opposed to losing a job.”

One of Whalum’s frustrations with Columbia was their inflexibility in allowing him to step outside of the contemporary jazz world. He said the mega-corporation would only let one sax player experiment with crossing boundaries and that was former Columbia executive Branford Marsalis.

“When I finally got out of there, it was like here’s my chance to play what I want, and I wanted to do a live gospel record and I did.”

That was in 1998, when Whalum made The Gospel According To Jazz. Warner Brothers picked up the album, which included performances from George Duke and Paul Jackson Jr., after he signed with them in 1996.

“I made sure that in my Warner contract, that I had the right to do gospel records on the side, and to pursue a gospel direction, with them getting the first right of refusal. But they turned down the second album three times.”

Sales on Whalum’s secular albums soared, with the release For You spending two years in the top ten of the national jazz sales charts, which is where Unconditional is currently sitting. Despite that, the company balked at the sax man’s second gospel album, leaving him with a huge studio bill.

The album, Hymns: In The Garden, became his first all acoustic record, and with his own money, he started a company and put it out himself. The label is called Top Drawer Records, and the name is derived from the scripture that says ‘if I be lifted up, I’ll draw all men onto me.’

“I put that record out basically on the Internet, and out of the trunk. It eventually got nominated for a Grammy,” he said with a beam. “That is God, because his timing is perfect.”

Warner Brothers did eventually come around and will be releasing Hymns: In The Garden later this year. In the meantime, that album and The Staff are available at kirkwhalum.com

“I really enjoy the freedom I have with gospel jazz because basically I can play whatever I want to play,” Whalum said. “There’s no radio guidelines because we’re creating on the fly, so improvisation takes on a whole new meaning.

“It’s like what (John) Coltrane was getting at,” he concluded. “He went deeper and deeper and got more complex. “He was right in that sense. It’s like a scientist studying science that can’t get to the end, because God created it and it’s infinite. The same thing applies with music.”

Roland Kirk – Kirk in Copenhagen

Roland KirkRoland Kirk
Kirk in Copenhagen
(Verve – 2004)
by John Thompson

The juices are flowing, baby! Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow! Released on Mercury Records, recorded live at the club Jazzhus Montmartre in October 1963, and produced by Quincy Jones, Kirk (whom later added Rahsaan) delivers music in a mammoth fashion. Sometimes unfairly criticized as a gimmick rather than a serious jazz musician, Kirk was known for sometimes playing three Saxes simultaneously. Here, Kirk plays tenor, manzello, stritch, flute, nose flute, and a siren whistle. Tete Montoliu (P), Don Moore and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen (B) and J.C. Moses complete the band, with an appearance by Sonny Boy Williams (harmonica).

Fabulous as his own M.C., Kirk produces harmonies on the woodwinds that are usually reserved for piano or guitar, most notably on Ellington’s Mood Indigo, as well as doubling-up on flute. On the Corner of King and Scott Streets is my favorite. Mingus-Griff Song is a swinging dedication to Charles Mingus and Johnny Griffin, while Cabin in the Sky showcases Kirks technical skills with some Charlie Parker-like riffs.

Going out on a limb, I will say that I enjoy the real-ness of the recording: Kirk as his own M.C., the over-amplified, tingy sound of the drums, Kirks interaction with the audience, and the out-of- tuned piano provide a real sense of the stories told by musical veterans about some of their actual club performance conditions. What’s most impressive is the amount of soul evident in Kirks playing. Down Beat Magazine, in 1964, gave this recording 4 ½ stars. I give it 5.

Nancy King – King on the Road

King on the Road King on the Road
Nancy King
by S. H. Watkins, Sr.

I had the opportunity to sit in on An Interview with Nancy King last month and it became evident why she is such a soulful singer. She has a wonderful acceptance of life and her place in the scheme of things that allows her to focus on the music. Ask any of the up and coming female jazz vocalists who they idolized as singers and most will include Nancy King on their ‘short list’.

Her most recent release King on the Road is a great collection of tunes performed with bassist Glen Moore (from the internationally known ensemble ‘Oregon’) and sax-man Rob Scheps. The CD itself includes some classics (Up a Lazy River, Caravan) and some originals, many penned by bassist Moore. Nancy has a long performance history with Moore, recording three albums with him under the moniker ‘King and Moore’ in the 90’s.

The title tune is Nancy’s own rendition of the Roger Miller classic ‘King of The Road’. She also performs the Bobby Gentry hit ‘Ode to Billy Joe’. Both of these tunes are bluesy and Nancy’s subtle intonations and expressive interpretations, set against Moore’s solid bass lines and accentuated by Shep’s sweet sax, bring you into the stories and carry you along beautifully.

The production on the CD is very clean, giving you a real sense of being right there at the session. ‘Pretty red Truck’ is one of Nancy’s favorites and she sings it like she enjoys it. Having seen Nancy King perform many of the tunes on the CD live at Jazz DeOpus in Portland, Oregon, then hearing the album I can attest to one thing, this CD is very Nancy King…true to the music.

Be sure to check out our Nancy King Interview in the next issue of JazzUSA!

King of the B-3

Jimmy Smith‘King of the B-3′ Wears a Tarnished Crown
Jimmy Smith
by Dick Bogle

If Jimmy Smith is indeed the king of the Hammond B-3, as his publicity states, then the king is dead! At a recent post-mortem appearance at Seattle’s Jazz Alley, it appeared Smith was severely lacking. Not only were effort and emotion lacking, but so were fundamentals every entertainer must have — respect for the audience and band mates.

The house was packed May 26 for the 8:30 p.m. first show. Smith strode in, took his seat front-and-center and behind the B-3 amid great crowd anticipation. He was accompanied on stage by a guitarist, a saxophonist and a drummer. After each of them soloed on several tunes, some audience members began to wonder whom they were hearing. Finally, Smith reached for the microphone. Maybe he was going to say, “Good evening” or ” It’s nice to see so many of you here.” Instead, he complained about the lighting, calling for more colored lights.

Meanwhile, after the lighting monologue, the audience was still waiting. Waiting for the introduction of his sidemen and, oh yes, his first real organ solo.

He played the organ, true, but at best it was only dabbling. Then he introduced the guitarist who turned out to be Mark Whitfield, a talented and erudite musician. Smith and the still unidentified others left the stage as Whitfield exhibited chops and imagination while delivering a long and complicated medley of “Too Young To Go Steady” and “The Very Thought Of You.” That marked the first of two extended bandstand absences by Smith.

After his second return, he did manage a brief milquetoast solo on an unidentified blues tune and another lackluster effort on the easily identifiable “The Sermon.”

What held it together were the stellar solo efforts by Whitfield and the saxophonist, whom I found out after the show from the emcee was Herman Riley. Riley played both tenor and soprano with verve and panache. An exponent of circular breathing, his solos were well-constructed and creative.

The drummer, Tommy Campbell, is a good drummer but has been cast in more favorable circumstances with other bands. Overall, the band, as a unit, appeared to be out of sync, and the polar opposite of tight and crisp.

Pity that Smith will never again have the opportunity to reach out with respect and charm to greet this particular audience who came and sat jam-packed to hear him.

Hopefully they will bank the musical memories generated by Whitfield and Riley. Smith should be remembered, however, for generating the prominence of the organ in today’s jazz. While not the first to play organ jazz, Smith did lead it closer to the mainstream, beginning in the early 1950s. But then, as one in attendance at Jazz Alley said, ” If you are gonna keep on, you gotta keep up.”

Story and photo reprinted courtesy of

Elias Haslanger – Kicks are for Kids

Elias Haslanger
Kicks are for Kids
by J. Barrett

Kicks are for KidsThere is an assertiveness you feel once it starts turning. It says “Listen.” The bass doesn’t walk – it swaggers. The drums, recorded with no echo, nail the beat to the wall. And then he arrives. A loud tough riff, reserved for the hardest of bop. You see the fresh-faced kid on the cover, and you wonder. And you listen. It could be from the early ‘Sixties: the sax twists its pungent tone through a series of convolutions – not rehearsed, but felt. The solo’s a minute long, and it’s enough. He’s ready. The band might be slightly older than he, but not much. They stand tall, from warm piano to dry trumpet, and you don’t buy it for the players’ “future potential” – it’s worth hearing now. And if you think I’m hyping Elias, wait ’til I tell you what others are saying.

The title cut shows he can blow hot. Next up is “Patience”, built on the low rumbles of J. J. Johnson’s cymbals. It’s a gentle thing, a simple line on which the warmth rises, causing Elias to percolate at the end of the theme. Edwin Livingston bows a solo with a more “classical” sound than any I’ve heard; it fits the mood. When Elias returns, he lights on a three-note figure, repeats it on higher, then climbs the tower. Tito Carrillo brings in the brass, his steady line setting the stage for the sax to take off.

The tone will impress you. When deep, it’s got that classic guttural edge on the bottom; up high, it trembles with an alto-like tinge, and sometimes he squeaks, in the good Coltrane sense (don’t worry, I’ll get to it). He knows his history, as does pianist Fredrick Sanders, who is delightfully lush when the tune requires it (on “Two Tone” he even plays Red Garland block chords – when’s the last time you heard THEM?) Carrillo is not a flashy trumpet, but it’s a good solid tone; he and Elias get along famously. And yet it doesn’t sound sterile, a youngster’s attempt to ape the masters. No – you’re sure they mean it, and feel it. And when I listen, I feel it too.

On “Eugene and Marie” we get our special guest, one experienced with talented youth. Ellis Marsalis lays the chords for Elias, who now goes the “gentle force” route of the Lester/Ammons school. It’s not in that class, but oh is it close! Marsalis finds no need to play superstar; his solo is stately and fits this like a glove. And then Elias returns, as silky smooth as ever. I thought they didn’t make ’em like this any more; it seems they do.

Excepting “Just Squeeze Me’, Elias had a hand in writing all of these. I hear no paraphrases of great tunes, and yet they sound very familiar – many would not be out of place on your favorite reissue. His tastes run to hard bop – “Dweet Di Diddle It” is a rip-snorting blues of that class. “History Book” (that could be the album’s subtitle) is a mid-tempo tune like “Eugene and Marie” – Elias surges on this one, and Carrillo gets mellow in a wonderful way. “Free for Three” is a sax-bass-drums collective composition – an improvisation? Elias winds a figure on the top; his solo is one long variation on this, so perhaps this IS free improv. Livingston gives the good juicy bass funk, and Johnson’s drums have the same feel as “Kicks Are For Kids.” It’s a highlight, and it should be enough to show all that these kids are for real. Near the end Elias picks up a soprano, does some oboe-like figures, and then blasts a delicious squawk. That wasn’t expected, and neither was an album this good.

“Just Squeeze Me” is similar to “Eugene and Marie” – Marsalis is at the keys, and Elias goes old style. This time he has so much vibrato he sounds like Coleman Hawkins! Marsalis’ comping is full, with lots of nice bluesy touches. He’s enjoying himself, you can tell. We then close with another version of “Kicks Are For Kids”, this one played on soprano. Frankly, on soprano he is less distinctive, and the better version was put in the top slot. Sanders’ solo is better than in the tenor version, and Carrillo’s is quite good. It ends an album of impressive strength and great talent.

Now about this “Coltrane” business. The cover sticker has quotes from Jazz Times and Billboard, each comparing Elias to John Coltrane. There is a resemblance; his sound reminds one of Trane in the Prestige ‘Fifties, right when the talent was about to flower. I wouldn’t saddle the guy with such a burden – let him play without expectations. But there’s something going on here. Elias Haslanger has talent, vibrant energy, and a great sense of history. I can’t wait to see what he does with it!

Rating: star.gif (1033 bytes)star.gif (1033 bytes).star.gif (1033 bytes) star.gif (1033 bytes)
Recommended for a sterling band, good compositions, and a major statement by a rising star.

Songs: Kicks Are For Kids; Patience; Two Tone; Eugene and Marie; Dweet Di Diddle It; History Book; Easy Walk; Free for Three; Just Squeeze Me; Kicks Are For Kids.

Musicians: Elias Haslanger (tenor and soprano saxes); Tito Carrillo (trumpet); Fredrick Sanders or Ellis Marsalis (piano); Edwin Livingston (bass); J. J. Johnson (drums).

Mimi Fox- Kicks

Kicks Mimi Fox
Monarch Records
Raymond Redmond

Mimi Fox bought her first jazz album at age fourteen. At the ripe old age of ten, she took up the guitar. Absorbing the music around her – Broadway, Classical, Dixieland, Motown – she explored every performing opportunity. “I was in a million bands and played pop, blues, bluegrass… even orchestral drums!”

Her early influences are very obvious on her Kicks release. The title tune would be at home in any Chicago blues club, as is her rendition of the Paul Simon Classic Loves me like a rock. The smooth lines of Duke Ellington’s In a Sentimental Mood and (my favorite) the crisply-staccato Willow Weep for Me show that Mimi truly has guitar skills to go with her obvious style.

Guitar legend Joe Pass once declared of Mimi: “she can do pretty much anything she wants on guitar.” The variety of musical styles on this album showcase Mimi’s talents in a variety of musical settings and make it pretty clear that she probably can do anything she wants.

Angela Bofill sits in on the Mel Torme classic Born to Be Blue, lending her strong earthy sound to Mimi’s soulful strumming. Also appearing on the album are drummer Will Kennedy, pianist Russell Ferrante, organ virtuoso Joey DeFrancesco, bassist Mark Van Wageningen and John Wiitala, percussionist Marquinho Brasil and guitarist Charlie Hunter.

Kickin’ it with Joe McBride

Joe McBrideKickin’ it with Joe McBride
From Mt.Hood Jazz to Jammin’ at Bookies

by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

My phone rang early that Sunday morning. Reeeeealy early. I was tired, just having gotten back in town the previous night. It was my partner Jimi Smoot, and he wanted me to help him hang with pianist Joe McBride who was in town for the Mt. Hood jazz festival. “Waaaay to early for jokes” I said, but he assured me it was on the level. Being an avowed expert at hanging out, and never one to miss a genuine opportunity, I agreed and promptly got another few hours of shuteye.

2:00 pm Jimi shows up in the van and we head off to Gresham, prepping for the day by playing McBride’s new CD “Keepin It Real” in the CD player. We’re supposed to meet Joe at the hotel and travel to the festival with him. When we get to the hotel there’s no sign of McBride or anyone else. After sitting through a beer in the lounge and a couple of calls to his cell phone (getting only the recorder) we decide we had better check the venue in case we missed him.

3:10 pm Standing right outside the gates of Gresham city park, listening to Darrell Grant jamming with one of my own favorite vocalists, Jenna Mammina. No sign of Joe, and the festival folks say he’s not arrived. Another call to his cell and we connect… Joes’s at breakfast, headed back to the hotel. We stand and listen to Jenna and Darrell’s sweet groove for a few more minutes before leaving to go back to the hotel.

4:10 pm Sitting in the lobby of the hotel, I wait with two people from the fest while Jimi goes to Joe’s room to ‘hurry’ him along. In short order Jimi returns with Joe and Saxophonist Wayne DeLano, the sole component of McBride’s “Texas Rhythm Club” to make the trip with him. We all hop into the festival van and head for the show.

4:35 pm The van drives through the gate and around the park toward the crowd. As we cruise around the perimeter of the park you can hear Jenna Mammina scatting to the audience, singing of Joe’s approach. As we pull up behind the stage, Darrell and Jenna are finishing up and the stage hands are moving equipment around. Joe gets out and does the ‘meet and greet’ right quick with the festival management, then he and Wayne go up on stage and put on a show to be remembered.

5:20 pm Short but smoking, the set is over. Joe and Wayne have come in and conquered the crowd. For the next hour or so we all hang around and mingle, listening to Kevin Mahogany while Joe signs autographs. Jimi and I drink free soda and talk music with the festival organizers.

6:30 pm Jumping back in the van Joe, Wayne, Jimi and I ride back to the hotel and say our goodbyes to the festival crew, heading for the lounge where we consult with a couple micro brews and some hot wings about our next move. Wayne and Joe are through working but still itching to play. I make a few calls to some local players to see what’s happening in town that evening, and we wait.

7:30 pm Portland sax man Joe ‘Bean’ Keller returns one of my calls, having just finished a gig at a fashion show. I tell him we’re hangin’ with Joe and Wayne and looking for some action. He knows of a small, new place in town called Bookies that has a jazz-jam every Sunday night starting at 9:00 pm. We get the address and finish up our libations. It’s a ways from the hotel but close to my house, so we hop into Jimi’s van and head for home.

8:20 pm Arriving at my house, we went in and upstairs to the playroom to chill for a while. Sipping beer and downing chip & dip, Joe and Wayne are just regular guys with extraordinary talent. We had a good time watching sports center and talking about music, the world and other ‘guy stuff’. Speaking of watching T.V., did I mention that Joe is blind? No? Well that’s probably because he doesn’t act like someone with a handicap. Within the realm of reality, Joe McBride has to be the least handicapped blind person I ever met. And he has good taste in beer.

9:30 pm Arriving at Bookies, there’s probably 30 people in the joint, with three more on stage in the persons of sax, bass and guitar player. Palatable but semi-professional at best, they play on as we get a table and a round of drinks. Watching the players on stage we suddenly notice… there’s no keyboard in the house! That kills the jam idea until Joe Keller shows up a few minutes later. Fortunately, he lives in the area and within minutes he returns with his own keyboard, setting it up right in front of the stage. Wayne went to the car and got his sax, as did Joe Keller, and it was on!.

Joe McBride and Wayne DeLano were joined by Joe Keller and the three musicians that were there when we arrived, and the audience at Bookies was treated to a show that rivalled the earlier performance at Mt. Hood jazz. Where the fest was grooving, this was gritty. Where the fest was smoking, this was burning. In the manner of a Michael Jordan, McBride and DeLano were there purely for the love of the game and their love for the music oozed out, causing the other musicians to raise the level of their own respective games. The small crowd that happened to venture out to Bookies that night experienced a rare treat, and showed their appreciation at the end with a rousing round of applause.

10:30 pm Done playing and finally having scratched that ‘performance itch’, we settle in for some serious socializing. Folks in the crowd come up to say hello, a few to get autographs but more to simply say thanks. Our little group melds into the crowd, the atmosphere is relaxed and the jazz superstars are able to blend in and have fun just like anyone else.

12:00 am Joe and Wayne have a 5:00 am flight, so we pack up and leave the friendly confines of Bookies. Jimi drops me off and heads back out to the hotel in Gresham to drop the weary but happy musicians off for a brief sleep and early trip to the airport. Poor Jimi, it’s a half-hour trip to the hotel, then another hour to his own home. We’ll all be sleep by the time he gets home. Serves him right for waking me up so early.

Gerald Albright – Kickin’ It Up

Gerald AlbrightGerald Albright
Kickin’ It Up
(GRP – 2004)
by Paula Edelstein

Saxophonist Gerald Albright is Kickin’ It Up with special guests George Duke, Peter White and Shawn Stockman on this funky, urban smooth groove. In addition to baring his great talent on the saxophone, Albright shares his special skills on flute, bass guitar and keyboards on ten great songs. Seven originals set the pace for this dynamic set and Albright opens with his swinging “4 On The Floor” which paves the way for “To The Max” – another of Albright’s radio hits penned with co-writer Jeff Lorber.

This is a funky party time tune that is just in time for summer. He covers “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” with new immediacy and pays tribute to the late, great R&B saxophonist Junior Walker (“Shotgun”) with a soulful “Walker’s Theme.” But it’s his cover of Brian McKnight’s “Condition Of My Heart,” that will appeal to anyone that has to start over from a failed relationship. Shawn Stockman has a smooth, enticing voice that caresses the innermost emotions. He pulls this song off with sensitivity and class but without sounding overly sugary. Once again, as with GROOVOLOGY, Gerald Albright spotlights his many talents and ability to make a song his own on KICKIN’ IT UP. So don’t just sit there…

Reprinted with permission of…

Jeff Lorber – Kickin’ It

Jeff Lorber Kickin’ It
Jeff Lorber
(Samson – 2001)
  by Ray Redmond

Jeff Lorber has been kickin out smooth tunes since Day 1. Before there was such a thing as smooth jazz, Jeff was giving it to us, and he’s back with more. Kickin’ It starts off with the brassy, retro-funk flavored Jeff LorberSnakebite featuring Gerald Albright and Jerry Hey. This is my favorite and putting it first on the CD was a good move.

Jeff’s arrangement of Ain’t Nobody featuring the sweet trumpet licks of Ron King probably make this version of the song more interesting than the original. Co-written by Dave Koz, Happy Endings features Koz on sax and Michael Landau putting in some great guitar work. This tune is the strongest on the album and will surely be the ‘Smooth Jazz’ champ on this CD.

Assisted by the lovely Siedah Garrett on vocals, Jeff pulls off a cover of the Henderson classic Keep That Same Old Feelin’, maintaining the original groovin’ feel while adding a lot of the patented Lorber styling. The title tune Kickin’ It mixes in a lot of Lorber piano with a little more Gerald Albright to strike a delicate balance between funky and smooth.

Before you are done, be sure to check in at The Bijou for a little bit of original funk courtesy of Lorber and Koz again. On the whole Kickin’ It is not quite smooth jazz, this is more like Modernized Retro-Lorber Jazz. But it IS smooth…..

Jazz Crusaders – Kick The Jazz: Jazz In The Hip-Hop Generation

Jazz Crusaders
Kick The Jazz: Jazz In The Hip-Hop Generation
WMGW – 2008

In the mid 50’s Wayne Henderson, along with childhood buddies Wilton Felder, Joe Sample, and Nesbert “Stix” Hooper, after leaving Houston, formed the nucleus of the JazzCrusaders/Crusaders.

Henderson took the lead in sculpting the quartet’s dazzling style into one that was revolutionary, with considerable eclectic overtones. By fusing elements of jazz, funk, soul, R&B, rock, Latin, and gospel, an iridescent sound emerged with such impact that a musical explosion was ignited. 

 And when the 80s arrived, we witnessed the full birth of a new feature to this musical potpourri the dominance of hip-hop. . With millions of albums sold worldwide and more than seventy-five to their (Jazz Crusaders/Crusaders) credit, such as Keep That Same Old Feeling, Scratch, Southern Comfort (Grammy nominated), and Whispering Pines (all the above written by Henderson).

Wayne Henderson opted in the 80s to lend his hand to producing other artists, including Tina Turner, Nancy Wilson, Hugh Masekela, Bill Withers, Ronnie Laws, Roy Ayers, Ramsey Lewis, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Bobby Lyle, Everette Harp, Phillip Ingram, Nathan East, Lenny Williams, Rebbie Jackson, Marvin Gaye, B.B. King, and the Jackson Five (to mention a few) while currently producing up-and-coming artists like saxophonist extraordinaire Paul Russo and fulfilling tour commitments around the globe. 

Henderson, a prolific lyricist, composed and performed “The Young Rabbits,” the title song featured in Muhammad Ali’s Academy Award-winning documentary When We Were Kings. He also played on Hugh Masekela’s double platinum “Grazing in the Grass.” Also, the Jazz Crusaders are the first fusion group to team with the English rock group Rolling Stones in a major concert. Another interesting component to Henderson’s image is his combining jazz and other genres with ‘grandma’s cooking.’

Being on stage with his traditional kitchen apron symbolizes what the band is cooking up for the audience: a side of melodic jazz stew with a touch of funk, a pinch of rock. He feels that to keep pace with progressive music styles requires a stretching of the boundaries of traditional sounds, just as it was for Miles, Coltrane, Parker, Blakey, and Ellington. Their innovations were updated versions of prior musical innovations, but with their own twists and flavor. Other notable albums by Jazz Crusaders are Soul Axess, Louisiana Hot Sauce, Happy Again, and The Endangered Species. 

However, this by no means exhausts the extensive discography of this internationally respected group. Wayne Henderson believes that because all people are one big family, music is universal in its scope and magnitude, and that ittransends genre, culture, and origin. Wayne Henderson is poised to embark on a musical journey that will not only gain momentum, but will likely never end.

An Interview with Ken Burns

An Interview with filmmaker
Ken Burns
by Dick Bogle

African-Americans, the only people to be enslaved in the history of our ostensibly free nation, turned their frustrations into the freest music on the planet,” so says the esteemed film maker, Ken Burns. “Jazz,” the latest Burns film exploration of the American fabric is a 17 1/2 hour, ten part documentary series on the history of jazz. Check your local Public Broadcasting listings for the time and date in your area. I had the pleasure of engaging in the following one on one conversation with Burns during his recent visit to Portland.

D.B.: What was the biggest challenge in putting together this series?

K.B.: It was figuring out what stories to tell. You can’t tell every story and you are always going to make somebody who is a jazz expert unhappy. How to take something that is traditionally background music and make it foreground. And to push the social things just back a little bit so that you have the opportunity to let the most important thing, the extraordinary music, the 497 pieces of music we have in this film, let them shine.

D.B.: Did you have a problem or dilemma between dealing with the sociology of jazz and the art of jazz?

K.B.: No, because I think this more than any subject and why I think this is my best film is because jazz is such a perfect reflection of the country. It was much easier to integrate the sociology and the politics and the race questions and all the other things like geography. This is also a film about great cities.

D.B.: Did you touch on the Black revolution or civil rights struggles in the fifties and sixties and the jazz music that came out of the movement?

K.B.: Oh yes, tremendously so. In fact one of the proudest sections I have is a set of four or five chapters at the beginning of the last episode. That is Mingus, Abbey Lincoln, Archie Shepp, John Coltrane, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and the way jazz music really came to symbolize a new militancy and a new political importance to the music.

D.B.: Your selection of narrators reflects a great divergence of opinions with folks like Wynton Marsalis and Gary Giddins. Is there debate?

K.B.: I think so. We’ve got Cecil Taylor saying as he prepares for his concerts, so should his audience. We’ve got Branford Marsalis saying that is a bunch of self indulgent b.s. Somebody else comes on saying “I Love Cecil Taylor.” Someone else says ,”I respect his right to play what he wants, but I don’t have to listen to it.” These are the same kinds of arguments that go on, so we celebrate that. We have 75 people who are interview subjects. We had another two dozen consultants. We could never put them around a table because they’d be flying at each other with fist fights cause they would disagree about everything except—-that Louis Armstrong is most important person in music in the 20th century.

D.B.: Who is your target audience?

K.B.: I’m speaking to a general audience that is ignorant but curious about this music that is our national soundtrack. That is why we have to tell a coherent story and why we have so many great things. We have this music coming out on all these CDs, the book. General Motors, our underwriter, has an educational outreach program that is reaching six million , I repeat six million kids at the middle and high school levels. They are taking music classes so we get them before the pop junk ruins their lives and they get to understand the strength of this music.

D.B.: Has rap and hip hop hurt the future of jazz?

K.B.: Nothing has hurt the future of jazz. What’s happened is since world war II,when bebop came up and the music lost its’ relationship with a mass audience that wanted to dance, it’s now been seen primarily as an art music. It sort of fragments into a lot of different genres like hardbop, cool, modal, free, avant garde, fusion and hip hop. All of these forms, rock, r&b, soul, hip hop and rap are outgrowths of this music. But they are sort of pale versions of it.

D.B.: Do you think this series will increase the acceptability of jazz?

K.B.: I hope America will re-embrace jazz in all its’ forms whether New Orleans, and Louis Armstrong, or Chicago style, swing or bebop. Somebody is going to find something they like that is going to give them a much more sumptuous meal than the pop music that’s crowded jazz out of our main visibility.

D.B.: Are there enough youngsters to carry on?

K.B.: No question about it. They are artists struggling to express themselves in the ultimate American genius of improvisation. I see them everywhere.

Story and photo reprinted courtesy of

Joe McBride and the Texas Rhythm Club – Keepin’ It Real

Joe McBride and the Texas Rhythm Club
Keepin’ It Real

(Heads up – 2002)
by Carmen Miller

“Woke Up This Morning” is surprisingly good for a cover. For those that don’t know, this is the theme song from the highly-rated Sopranos television series. McBride’s rough, sand papery voice is perfect for this song and his addition of keyboards is a great improvement. The title track “Keepin’ It Real” falls back into the funky, upbeat, McBride’s style we are accustomed to. Good listening music. “Oi Gata” is a clear and crisp, latin influenced piece that almost feels like being on the beach. “Lakewood” is all smooth jazz summertime music.

“His Name” is more gospel-flavored, and features Wayne DeLano showing his saxophone prowess. I heard that Wayne has an album coming out in the not too distant future. If so, we’ll let you know. “Never Let You Go” segues from smooth scat to rich vocals. Did I hear a hint of Jarreau in there? “Can’t Live Without You” features Todd Parsnow’s acoustic guitar delicately woven with the vocals and carefully placed sax lines.

“When You Smile” again shows Delano’ssoprano sax mastery in a duo with McBride’s piano that’s sweet and sexy. “Kickin’ It” and “Gentle Rain” lighten things up a bit before closing up with an instrumental version of “Woke Up…”. On the whole this is a smooth album with some great songs. If there’s a down side it’s the fact that all but the first song sound like Joe McBride tunes. Much like Joe Sample, McBride has a very identifiable style and he must ooccassionally work at writing songs that push his own envelope a bit. This is also a much better release than his last, so try it.

Nick Colionne – Keepin it Cool

Nick Colionne
Keepin’ It Cool
(Narada Jazz – 2006)
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

A lot of people said he’d never make it out of the local Chicago music scene. Perserverence, good management, creativity and (most importantly) talent and style proved the nay-sayers wrong… again. Nick has signed with Narada and is back with a CD that grabs you by your groove and makes you move. From start to finish the CD is filled with smooth, bumping music that keeps your head bopping and your fingers popping.

From the romping opening track “Can You Feel It” the energy on this release almost pours out onto you. “Keepin It Cool” drops you into a Colionne groove and has overtones of Wes in it’s textures. My favorite is “Always Thinking of You” for its rhythmic bottom (co-written by bassman Dave Hiltebrand) and the way Nick just prances about atop it. “If You Ask Me” brings the tempo back up and has a smooth feel that comes from being co-written by smooth jazz icons Peter White and Steve Cole. Steve Cole also co-wrote and performed multiple instruments on the urban-tinged jammer “Liquid”.

Nick’s more laid-back side comes out on the smooth chordal delight “You Were There For Me”, as it does on “From Me to You” and the Bob-James-esque “A Moment With You” which Colionne penned with his keyboardist extraordinaire Mike Logan.

Colionne breaks out some hidden vocal talent on his soulful rendition of the Brooke Benton hit “Rainy Night in Georgia”, I saw him do this one live and he’s really singing his heart out – watch out Bublé! The CD ends with a live rendition of Nick’s radio hit “High Flyin” which shows the difference between Nick on CD and Nick live… Nick on CD is good, but Nick live is the reason we love him so much.

Throughout this release Colionne continues to show the growth and maturity in style and song selection that have allowed him to prove the haters wrong and ascend the ever-so-crowded ladder of jazz guitarists to a point of recognition, of appreciation, in the jazz world. “Keepin’ It Cool” is another step on that ladder, another generation in the evoluton that is Nick Colionne’s career. Already the continued style and growth have stopped some of the inevitable comparisons to George Benson and Wes Montgomery (despite my own comments). If Nick Colionne’s style and personal flair continue to develop he will soon have others being compared to Nick Colionne. Go get the CD and enjoy yourself.

Joyce Cooling – Keeping Cool

Joyce Cooling
Keeping Cool
Heads Up

As in her debut recording, the San Francisco-based guitarist Joyce Cooling and her co-producer/partner Jay Wagner showcase their eclectic musical tastes, surrounding the new album’s in-the-pocket smooth jazz gems with spirited excursions into bossa nova and samba, funky blues, house music, film scores and more. Cooling’s vocals highlight two tracks (“Gliding By” and “Simple Kind of Love”), and she’s backed by Wagner on keyboards and vocals, Gary Calvin on bass, Billy Johnson on drums and Peter Michael Escovedo III on percussion.

The Keeping Cool repertoire includes the funk-driven “China Basin,” an ode to the old shipyard neighborhood in San Francisco, featuring Cooling’s smooth scatting; the heavy-grooving “Callie,” a tribute to a recently-departed friend who loved to dance; and the playful vibe of “Ain’t Life Grand,” which draws from Cooling’s lifelong passion for the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Jazz, blues and soul blend in the mid-tempo “Coasting,” while orchestral touches color the acoustic ballad “Out of a Movie,” a rubato (no strict time) piece that explores Cooling’s and Wagner’s fascination for European movie themes.

A longtime favorite of Bay Area jazz fans, Cooling gained the national spotlight when Playing It Cool captured and held the #1 slot on both the Gavin and Radio & Records smooth jazz charts for five consecutive weeks. She was subsequently named Best New (Smooth Jazz) Talent by the Jazziz magazine annual reader’s poll, was a nominee for Gavin * Smooth Jazz Artist of the Year award, and was selected Artist of the Year by nationally syndicated radio show Jazz Trax.

For more info, contact: pactimeco@aol.com

Leslie Lewis – Keeper of the Flame

Leslie Lewis
Keeper of the Flame
2010 – Surf Cove Jazz

Leslie Lewis, a native of East Orange, New Jersey, enjoys a vibrant career as a jazz vocalist. She has performed throughout the country including tours as a featured vocalist with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, and with members of the Duke Ellington Orchestra on an Ellington Tribute concert as well as performances with Jazz Tap Ensemble. Leslie was featured, along with Jack Sheldon, on the Tom Kubis Big Band recording “At Last”. Her solo recording, Of Two Minds features Leslie with the Gerard Hagen Trio and L.A. jazz all-stars, Gary Foster, Ron Stout, Rob Lockart, and Larry Koonse. The recording charted at #28 on the CMJ national jazz radio chart and was released in Japan on SSJ Inc, where it received 5 stars in Swing Journal magazine. Recently, Leslie released her follow up recording Keeper Of The Flame, which features her and the Gerard Hagen Trio exploring Brazilian Jazz music. She has worked with pianist John Bunch, trombonist Britt Woodman, trumpeter Joe Wilder, and saxophonists Norris Turney and Harry Allen. She recently appeared with Patrice Rushen at the L.A. County Museum of Art Jazz Series and in New York City with the Jazz Tap Ensemble. Currently she resides in Laguna Niguel, California with her husband, pianist Gerard Hagen and is busy performing throughout the Los Angeles area.

Keeper Of The Flame is Leslie Lewis’ follow up recording to Of Two Minds (2008). It is a vocal jazz recording of (mostly) Brazilian music with a few standards done (predominately) in a Brazilian style. The music has those things that make it feel like Jazz!

Leslie has taken these songs and put her imprint on them with the support of the Gerard Hagen Trio (Gerard Hagen piano, Domenic Genova bass, Jerry Kalaf drums) and guest artist Gary Foster (saxophone/flute). Some of the composers represented are: Antonio Carlos Jobim, Richard Rodgers, Mark Levine, Ivan Lins, and Kurt Weill. The music has a rhythmic energy that propels these songs in an engaging and dynamic fashion.

An Interview with Karrin Allyson

A Moment with
Karrin Allyson
by Paula Edelstein

Feeling blue is truly one of the great human equalizers—it’s an undeniable element of life that everyone either has, or will, experience at some point in time. Choosing to embrace that fact head-on, critically acclaimed jazz vocalist Karrin Allyson decided not only to celebrate, but also revel in, every facet of having the blues on IN BLUE (CCD-2106), her newest release from Concord Records. This much-anticipated follow-up to 2001’s double Grammy nominated BALLADS–REMEMBERING JOHN COLTRANE (CCD-4950), features Allyson mastering yet another unexplored musical territory. Selecting an imaginative and eclectic collection of tunes ranging from soul jazz classics, ballads, modern blues and timeless pop, each song is in itself, a story that illustrates a different emotional state. Hurt, loneliness, regret, unbridled anger, sadness and even bitterness are all given their due, running the full gamut of sentiments that make up the blues. The concept for the release is one that appealed to Allyson on several different levels. “The blues are so universal, it’s hard not to respond to them,” she explains. Illustrating that very point herself, she notes, “It’s cathartic for me to perform them and to listen to them as well.”

When compiling material for the album, Allyson chose songs by some of music’s most admired composers and lyricists, including Mose Allison, Joni Mitchell, George and Ira Gershwin, Blossom Dearie, Abbey Lincoln, Oscar Brown Jr. and Bonnie Raitt, among others. Mixing together tunes that she has performed for years with a few that were very new to her resulted in a diverse set that provides a magnificent showcase for Allyson’s vocal range and remarkable gift for interpreting lyrics. Here’s what she told us about IN BLUE during her recent tour of the USA, So Listen UP!

Paula E: IN BLUE shows another side of your musical nature…this time it’s the blues. You’ve mentioned that the songs are not exactly what music aficionados perceive as a blues form, but songs that have to do with the blues. These titles reflect such great options that are available about the form. Had you sung many of these songs in concert prior to recording them?

Karrin A: Probably about half. There are tunes that I’ve known for years and heard for years, such as “Moanin'” but never performed it. So that’s one of the tunes that I had not performed “live” before. But most of them were tunes that I loved that I’ve been doing “live” for a while.

Paula E: There are several elements of surprise on the new CD – such as Steve Wilson, Mulgrew Miller, Lewis Nash and Peter Washington. Danny Embrey! Wow! We know you’ve been performing with Danny for a while but how did you hook up with– Steve, Mulgrew, Lewis and Peter? They’re such great jazz musicians!

Karrin A: Well Lewis had performed with me before…he was also on my CD titled BALLADS: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN COLTRANE. I’ve long admired his drumming and his great sense of a song. It’s great when a drummer knows lyrics and cares about the song and the mood and the attitude of a song. There’s a lot less to explain and to describe. They always know and they’re kind of expecting what you need. It’s the same with my Kansas City drummer Todd Strait or with Joe LaBarbera. With Peter–I’d never performed with him before but I loved his bass playing. I knew that Peter, Mulgrew and Lewis were pretty much a wonderful piano trio since each one is a leader in their own right. But I just knew it would be a good mix. After adding Danny and Steve Wilson—we ended up with a really solid, soulful group.

Paula E: Both Art Blakey’s and Benny Golson’s instrumental versions of “Moanin'” became quite famous and were recorded hundreds of times by other artists. But now you’ve brought Jon Hendricks’ vocal version to the forefront. Do you think other vocalists will pick up on the momentum now that you’ve given this song a new beginning?

Karrin A: I don’t know, I certainly hope so. I love this tune very much. My reference to this song was Art Blakey’s instrumental version with Bobby Timmons’ playing. I love the energy behind that version. But when I heard the Lambert, Hendricks and Ross version – I was familiar with that version as well. So it’s kind of a melding of the two. But now that you mention it, I don’t think I’ve heard that song done by a vocalist since…I don’t know when! But it turned out to be a good opener because the blues evokes a sort of feeling like…let me just get through this day or whatever it is!

Paula E: I definitely know what you mean! It’s been said, “The blues is the mother of jazz.” Would you agree or do you feel it’s just another musical cousin?

Karrin A: I’m really not a scholar, so it’s hard for me to say those things. I think they both have quite a bit to do with one another. I am particularly fond of songs when you can hear both genres within each other. I’m a jazzer not a blueser, so when we do blues it’s going to have a lot of jazz in it because of the players you have. And the players I play with are definitely jazz musicians and there’s definitely no question about that.

Paula E: You’ve mentioned, “You love the way the blues lets you testify.” Did you grow up listening to blues artists as well as jazz artists?

Karrin A: I would say more Rhythm & Blues (R&B) artists like Aretha Franklin, Al Green and a little bit of James Brown.

Paula E: Well they can definitely testify!

Karrin A: Also, let’s say Anita Baker…she’s not exactly a blues artist but more a pop artist….

Paula E: Yes, she can definitely sing. We love her.

Karrin A: I’m not saying that I’ve listened to Muddy Waters all my life. Louis Armstrong had a lot of blues in his playing and I listened to a lot of his recordings. Also there was Coco Taylor, W.C. Handy, etc. … and I could take their kind of blues thing and do something with it.

Paula E: Well Karrin, you REALLY have done something with it on IN BLUE! Do you plan to finish up your tour with this particular ensemble? If not, who are the members of your touring group?

Karrin A: Well, I always bring Danny and I’m mostly traveling with my Kansas City players these days– Todd Strait, Bob Bowman – both played with me on FROM PARIS TO RIO. But in some of the West Coast cities, I’ll have different players.

Paula E: I’ll tell you, I’m really enjoying your musical growth Karrin and here’s to your continued success with IN BLUE. Thank you so much for the interview.

Karrin A: Thank you.

Keep in touch with Karrin Allyson’s happenings at www.karrin.com

Interview courtesy of Sounds of Timeless Jazz

William Kanter Woods – A Doctor’s Dilemma

William Kanter Woods

A Doctor’s Dilemma

William Kanter Woods makes music to bring joy into the world and to partially counterbalance the grief and despair he sees on a regular basis as a radiation oncologist treating cancer patients. Trying to make these two dramatically-different careers coexist is A Doctor’s Dilemma, also the name of Woods’ debut album.

“The physician-musician dichotomy in my life is like two forces on opposite ends of the spectrum, each affecting the another,” he explains. “On one end is the cold somberness of a medical profession that is markedly limited in its healing powers. On the other side is the unbridled joy and the soaring, liberating, positivity that music can add to our lives. I move back and forth between these extremes constantly. Sometimes, as a doctor, I develop a relationship with a patient that touches my soul and makes me grow as an individual. I then pour those feelings and experiences into my music. In turn, I find that I touch people’s lives with my music and make them feel good with the art I create At the same time, my music affects in me a level of spirituality which helps me connect with my patients. It’s an emotional circle for me — a continuum.”

Woods is a classically-trained pianist and keyboard synthesist whose first album contains 11 original compositions and features a hot mix of top musicians — additional keyboardist and producer Regis 8ranson (Will Downing, Alex Bugnon, Najee and others), drummer Bernard Davis (Steve Winwood, Kool and the Gang, Jonathan Butler, Will Downing, Alex Bugnon and Doc Powell), guitarist Rick Molina (Pete Townsend, John Lucien and Helen Reddy), and New York studio mainstay and road vet bassist Reggie Washington.


With these musicians, Woods worked to develop a contemporary “fusion~ sbyle that merges smooth jazz and a “quiet storm” urban sound with hints of classical, new age, funk and traditional jazz lightly blended in. Keith Zimmerman of The Gavin Report‘s Smooth Jazz Section has described Woods’ playing as “in the tradition of Alex Bugnon and Jim. Brickman, with a little more jazz ‘oomph’.” Woods’ album showcases his varied influences and his ability to compose and arrange many different styles of music.

Woods initially released A Doctor’s Dilemma regionally in late 1997 but by the fall of 1998, Fat Note Records (the label he had co-founded) had secured national distribution, and then launched a full-scale national marketing campaign including radio airplay, publicity, advertising and retail promotion. The CD already has received airplay on more than 60 radio stations nationwide.

The tunes on the album were inspired by both a wide array of life experiences and people who have crossed his path — a kayaker who saved Woods’ friend from drowning in Hawaii (“The Boatman’s Song”), the refugee daughter of a Cambodian General who was executed during the Vietnam War (“The General’s Daughter”), a patient with AIDS who was losing her eyesight (“An Eye for Awilda”), Chick Corea and Return to Forever (“Encounter X”), and a woman he met by chance on an airplane and “connected with” (“Tiphony”).

William is the son of a professional violinist, Lee Kanter, who played with Jimmy Dorsey, Leonard Bernstein, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and musicians at CBS. “My father bought me my first album, a Beethoven violin and piano concerto recording. His overwhelming enthusiasm for music rubbed off on me.”


William began playing piano at age nine. “Music was more of a natural language for me than the spoken word,” he remembers. “Initially, I wanted to be a concert pianist, but I began to improvise during my piano practicing and I soon realized that creating my own music was far more personally satisfying.” In addition to studying classical music, Woods began listening to rock’n’roll and jazz in his early teens. In high school he had a rock band that played at parties and dances, and he was a member of the school’s jazz band.

“My early musical influences ranged from classical (Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, George Gershwin) to rock’n’roll bands (Steely Dan, Talking Heads) to jazz (Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, John Coltrane),” remembers Woods.

As a teenager he began studying classical composition with a teacher in New York. One day William showed up for his lesson and found the teacher had been murdered. In search for more tutoring, Woods at age 16 signed up for pre-college courses at the renowned Julliard College of Music where he soon participated in a recital of original works. After high school, Woods entered Princeton University to study music. In his junior year, however, he decided to major in geology instead. “I had a real love for minerals and hard-rock petrology. Something wasn’t clicking with my music. I wasn’t ready for it at that point in my life” He received a Bachelor’s Degree in geology and a minor in music. Having graduated during a period when jobs in the mining and oil industries were scarce, William turned back to music and began performing in the Metropolitan New York area for about a year. He also studied with Joanne Brackeen and Jaki Byard.

It was time for a change. After a series of eclectic jobs — running a furniture store, painting houses, teaching English to foreigners and silk-screening highway signs — Woods decided to seek out a path that would provide more intellectual challenge, strong human interaction and more financial stability. He chose the field of medicine. After a year of taking pre-med courses and working in labs at Rockefeller and Cornell Universities, he attended the Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he got his medical degree. After graduation, William did an internship at Englewood Hospital (a “full circle experience” since that was where he was born and where his father died). This was followed by a residency at the University of California at Irvine and then jobs in Phoenix, Arizona, and Little Rock, Arkansas. After returning to New Jersey, Woods began to make music a priority in his life again and the compositions began pouring out.

“My medical career has given me incredible experiences that I translate into music. But more than that’ I learned about responsibility, humility, organization and accepting challenge. When i was trying to earn a living performing music, there were so many musical compromises and so much pressure that it took all the fun out of it. I was always more interested in composing and creating music rather than performing live. Now I have control of my music and my destiny, and it allows me to venture in any direction I choose. It’s exhilarating. Writing a strong, inspired composition is like a great love affair. You bring to it a lot of passion and it gives you incredible joy. No matter how you’re affected by the experience, it reminds you that you’re alive.”

G.F. Mlely – Helps Kaimuki kids compose music

G.F. MlelyG.F. Mlely helps Kaimuki Kids Compose Music
by Susan Essoyan

The Kaimuki High School students sit clustered around G.F. Mlely, a jazz pianist renowned for his originality. But the Seattle-born composer isn’t there to wow them with his unique style. He is helping them uncover their own. For the past eight weeks, the teenagers have been shaping lyrics from their own lives into songs, as part of the first songwriting workshop ever offered in Hawaii’s public schools. “Kids have a natural affinity toward poetic language and songs, but they’re tuned into the music industry, to messages from strangers,” Mlely said.

“They don’t need to just be customers of someone else. They can make their own music.” All the students, members of Darryl Loo’s Polynesian music class, play the ukulele and perform regularly as Ohana O Mele. But most had never tried making up their own songs, figuring that was a job for professionals. The pilot project taps into their emotions, creativity and ability to express themselves.

The best compositions will be showcased at Kaimuki High School’s annual spring concert, Kanikapila, on May 17.

“We’re pretty excited because we’ve never done this before,” said J.P. Soon, a junior who plays ukulele and guitar. “You can tell Mr. Mlely knows what he’s doing.”

In a wide-ranging career that spans four decades, Mlely has toured internationally as a solo pianist, and written and arranged music and lyrics for the likes of Freddie Hubbard, George Harrison and guitarist John Tesh. He recently released his latest CD, “88 Keys And Counting,” on the JazCraft label.

Since marrying his high school sweetheart, Billie Jean, in Hawaii in 1995, Mlely has been dividing his time between Honolulu and Los Angeles, conducting the Pacific Songwriters Workshop in both places. His foray into the state Department of Education — his first effort with such young songwriters — was underwritten by a state grant and JazCraft.

“So many kids are dropping out,” Mlely said. “So many have headphones on their heads, cutting themselves off from the people around them.

“Songwriting speaks of their personal experience and ties them into the community. A workshop like this supports kids’ interests, so they’re not left to look in the wrong places.” When the workshop started in late January, no one quite knew what to expect. Loo, head of Kaimuki High’s Music Department, wondered if his students’ writing was up to the task and whether there might be some culture shock on both sides. But Mlely’s gentle, soft-spoken approach won over the teenagers. They gradually shed their inhibitions about reading their lyrics aloud, facing up to feedback, and even delivering it. A workshop by definition is collaborative, but critiquing each other’s work did not come naturally for these local kids.

“During the first couple of weeks, nobody was saying anything,” said senior William Harris, his dark ringlets bobbing as he shook his head. “I guess they were all too scared to hurt people’s feelings. It’s easier now, because we know what we can fix.”

Mlely told them to write about whatever they wanted. The compositions offer a window into the lives of these 30 sophomores, juniors and seniors:

Semi Qoro’s “Oh Fiji, My Fiji” quickly caught on as an anthem for the class, an uplifting, spirited tribute to his homeland that gets listeners swaying.

Four students known as “The Gurlz” — Claudia Amaya, Tianna Barrett, Porsche Storm and Ona Preston — cobbled pieces of their individual poems into a song of heartbreak.

Kua Kekoa, declaring he was sick of love songs, composed an ode to the “Kings of the Sea,” the whales. Soon and Ephrium Li penned a rap piece called Alcohol, a blunt warning that vividly depicts how liquor and “ice” (crystal methamphetamine) destroy young lives.

One student went so far as to bring in some obscene lyrics. There, his instructor drew the line. “I told him I have no problem with him doing the song for himself, but it’s just not appropriate in class,” Loo said. “Eminem can do it. But not in school.”

The compositions evolved over the 90-minute weekly sessions, as the students got a handle on their new craft with Mlely’s coaching. Songs need structure, form and repetition, he told them — but not too much repetition. They usually have a “hook,” a repeated phrase or word. They can deal in metaphor, imagery and symbolism. Some rhyme, some don’t, but those that rhyme should be consistent. “Without his help, we would be kind of lost,” said Ken Tatafu, a junior. “With his help, it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be.”

Mlely cautioned the students to avoid falling into the trap of plagiarism. “You’ve got to watch out when you write a song that you’re not thinking of someone else’s song,” explained Andrew Pang, 17. “It’s a common problem. You try to sing something and when you write the lyrics down, you find yourself following something you heard on the radio. We try to just blank everything out and focus on originality.”

Other problems could be as simple as unintentional bad grammar, or a weak choice of words. Some words are hard to understand when sung, or they are just plain ho-hum, such as “nice.” The first draft of a song might lack any melodic distinction between its verses and chorus. To add dimension to a piece, Mlely might suggest changing the chord sequence.

“Many of the students have hidden talent,” he said. “In a sense, songwriting is almost like sports in that it draws upon people with particular talents, except this also has an intellectual element to it. “They take a very faulty first submission, and learn how to improve that.”

Hawaii is fertile ground for such an experiment. After all, much of the music on the radio is homegrown, and people toting ukuleles break into song at bus stops. Kaimuki High School, in particular, is known for turning out topnotch local talent, from members of the band Kapena to ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro.

“Some of the students in the class were already dabbling in songwriting, but they didn’t know how to do it, and I couldn’t help them,” Loo said. “I could help them with their chords, but I sure couldn’t help them with the lyric writing. This is just wonderful.”

At their last session, the students thanked Mlely for opening up a new dimension in music for them. “It kind of changes your perspective,” said 18-year-old Amaya, an earnest look in her eyes. “You learn to appreciate the hard work that goes into writing a song. And how much artists take their work to heart.”

To learn more about the Pacific Songwriters Workshop, visit home1.gte.net/jazcraft.

Steve Kahn & Rob Mounsey – You Are Here

Steve Kahn & Rob Mounsey

You Are Here

Steve Khan began his musical endeavors as a self-taught drummer. While in his teens, he acknowledged that his real passion and ability was with the guitar. At the age of 19, he decided to switch instruments. Not wanting to make the same mistake he did with the drums, he focused seriously on music during his college years and in addition, took private lessons from Ron Anthony. By the time Steve graduated from UCLA in 1969, he felt ready to make the move to New York.

In 1974, Steve became a key member of the Breaker Bros. Band which featured Michael and Randy Brecker, David Sanborn, Mike Mainieri, and many others. He recorded three albums with this band that were later to be the inspiration for a CD compilation entitled The Collection, released by Sony Music/Columbia. In 1980, Steve went on to record a solo acoustic guitar album, Evidence, which served to establish him as one of the great interpreters of the music of Thelonious Monk. Between 1981 and 1985, he worked and recorded steadily with his quartet, Eyewitness. Since that time, Steve has completed recordings featuring Ron Carter and Al Foster and recently, has lent his talents to several special projects. Among them are; Come Together, a guitar tribute to the Beatles, Jazz to the World, for which he and the Brecker Bros. put together a salsa-styled interpretation of a Christmas waltz originally written by Steve’s father, the legendary Sammy Cahn, and finally, a team effort with a group of New York’s top Latin musicians for Wouldn’t It Be Nice, a tribute to Brian Wilson.

Throughout his career, Steve has worked with artists such as Miles Davis, Steely Dan, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Eddie Palmieri, and others, and has produced recordings for fellow guitarists Larry Coryell, Mike Stern, Bireli Lagrene, and Bill Connors, as well as pianist, Eliane Elias. He has also found time to publish four books, Wes Montgomery Guitar Folio, Pat Martino – The Early Years, Guitar Workshop Series – Steve Khan, and, most recently, Contemporary Chord Khancepts. While continuing to perform in clubs and concert halls throughout the U.S., Europe, and Japan, Steve has also become one of the most in-demand music clinicians and teachers.

· Rob Mounsey grew up in Seattle, Washington and became an award-winning composer of symphonic music at an early age. He attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and moved to New York in 1976 to work in the recording industry. He is a noted composer, arranger, musician, and producer who has worked with a variety of artists including; Steely Dan, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Donald Fagen, Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan, Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, Sinead O’~.nnnor Gloria Estefan. Biliv Joel. and many others.

Newport R.I. Jazz Festival 2005 – Chick Corea

Newport Jazz Festival
Chick Corea Performance

August 14, 2005
by Matthew S. Robinson

Matched up this time around with bass master Christian McBride and drummer Jeff Ballard, local product Chick Corea cordially greeted the audience before opening his casual set with a bright and splashy rendition of “That Old Feeling” in which the light-handed arrangements let Chick set the timbric pace. Rising again to talk to the crowd, Corea then launched into a Salsa-fied “Desfinado” which was punctuated by McBride’s well-placed bass drops.

A springy “Windows” opened into a lush exploration before Corea and co. deconstructed Monk’s mysteriously-titled “Think of One” (which the thoughtful Corea dedicated to birthday boy Roy Haynes because “he likes that one”). As the trio’s explorations whittled away at their set time, they closed up shop with a multi-tempoed “Fingerprints” that left its mark on the stage long after Ballard ended the set with a tropical bang.

c. 2005, M. S. Robinson, ARR

Newport R.I. Jazz Festival 2005 – Dave Brubeck Quartet with Wynton Marsalis

Newport Jazz Festival
Dave Brubeck Quartet with Wynton Marsalis

August 14, 2005
by Matthew S. Robinson

Greeting the crowd with a scraggly-voiced introduction, piano deity Dave Burbeck mellowed the tone quickly into an appropriately breezy rendition of “Gone with the Wind” in which his gleaming piano acted mostly in a supporting role until a late chorus in which the 50-year Newport veteran showed he could still grip the keys with the best of ’em. As Brubeck’s learned hands fell firmly on the keys, his clutches became a bit clunkier in the thunderous opening throws of “Stormy Weather” which was carried by Bobby Militello‘s hot and steamy sax. After some light-hearted complaints of life on the roads of England, Brubeck let loose the swirling self counterpoints of the title track to his latest album, “London Flat London Sharp” (Telarc).

At this point, a dapper Wynton Marsalis joined the band, releasing his own cascades of breathy dynamics and fiery blasts before opening into a roomy “Embraceable You.” The peppier rendition of “A Train” was driven by the chugging rhythms of bassist Michael Moore and drummer Randy Jones. And though it occassionally got off track, taking a brief detour into “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,” the New Orleans-inspired jam was able to pull the crowd into clapping and swing dancing along before pulling back into the musical station for a standing ovation.

c. 2005, M. S. Robinson, ARR

JVC Jazz Art Porter Benefit – July 2001

For Art’s Kids Sake
Art Porter Benefit Sizzles
by Phyllis Lodge

JVC Jazz Art Porter Benefit When asked to cover the benefit in support of Art’s two young sons my response was: “Sure! I’d be glad to.” Well, I had no idea that many of my deeply entrenched musical attitudes were about to be pulverized, and my perceptions of smooth jazz headed straight for the edge! That Thursday afternoon when I enthusiastically agreed, I knew precious little about Art Porter’s music. By Saturday night Art’s music had gained my deepest respect and admiration. I had come in contact with the spirit of a man who had contributed immensely to the sophistication of contemporary music. My introduction to the life and music of saxophonist Art Porter came five years after he left the earth. I missed out on any possibility of experiencing his immense creativity and enthusiasm in performance…and what a pity for me. As I ventured out to the Park West where the folks were gathering like birds awaiting the imminent morn, I was soon to discover an artist who was actually a much greater part of my musical experiences than I realized.

The music was transforming, and the atmosphere, embracing. The evening hurtled forward with the speed of light. All the participating musicians were fluid, receptive, and commanding… the show came off like spontaneous combustion. Less than a couple of hours earlier mother nature had hit Chicago’s south side with a torrential rainstorm, but not a drop had touched the Park West. A good sign for the evening to come.

After the opening comments and an introduction of Art’s mother, the show began with Jeff Lorber (who produced two of Art’s albums) opening with Straight to the Point. Saxophonist Steve Cole joined him in this number as they broke the darkness of the theater into a million volts of summer beach light and energy. The listeners immediately fuse into one spirit, rocking back and forth together in a gentle, yet insistent pulsing motion. The room is bathed in splendorous sound, evoking images of summer… an air-conditioned club, an outdoor concert, or maybe just an evening gazing at the lake. The electric bass buzzes underneath the charge of the keyboards and horns, leaving not a single detail of the experience unspoken. And the musicians bring the number to a brilliant close punctuated by a musical crescendo of applause and cheers.

Jeff Lorber steps to the mic reflecting on Art’s harmonic richness and approach to his music, recalling how the majority of Art’s recorded pieces were, as a rule, “first takes”. Inside Myself came next with its intense chanting line on top, and powerful locomotive guitar and bass lines. The piece really travels with the listener, personifying the archetype of ‘Lorber funk’, treating the audience to classic screaming saxophone cries reminiscent of the energy often portrayed by Stanley Turrentine or even King Curtis. Lorber’s rousing solo pulls a wave of approval from the audience.

Now Paul Jackson, Jr. assumes center stage. After explaining that the piece was based on scripture he introduces On Eagle’s Wings. Moving with a heartbeat tempo, On Eagles Wings evoked memories of peacefully smooth octaves so characteristic of the great Wes Montgomery. Jackson’s soaring solo unfolded with power and nobility in a series of mesmerizing ascents in chords and phrasing. The number exhilarated the audience. Paul becomes airborne as he rolls into Rock Steady, rocking without shame. You know how you pull up to a stoplight and your windows are rolled up, right? And you’re rocking fiercely to an irresistible beat when you glance out window and see the folks in the next car rocking right along with you? Well, Rock Steady was that kind of tune. Everyone in the place was pumpin’ those neck muscles without mercy to the same tempo, heads jerking like the ever-popular bobble-head dolls.

Next up was Chicago-based saxman Steve Cole, who came on blowing Got It Going On. At this point, even without really knowing the titles, I am recognizing much of the music. I start out grooving with it because the number is familiar, then I get really involved because Cole’s saxophone is wailing! Cole was not content to let the place rest until he had the audience reeling and squirming in their seats. He then ventures up to the mike…”I’ve got to say something…” he quips in a modest tone “…this Art Porter music is hard!” Well, the audience just breaks up behind this. Steve continues: “And growing up in Chicago, I remember saying… ‘Wow, I wanna play like that.” He then follows up with an original that courses gently into the air drifting, floating, stirring up deep-seated emotions and feelings. More than once during Cole’s improv, an unidentified listener enhanced the mood by intoning … ‘Well all right!” – overcome by the elevated energy of Cole’s solo.

Peter White is then lured back on stage, spraying highly emotional licks from his guitar, drawing near hysterical screams from the crowd. Energized by the ocean of unidentified echoing voices the two hurl musical jewels at one another like tennis champions relentlessly vollying in a match. Cole and White play, and play, each pressing the other a step further; pressing the level a notch higher as they feed off of one another’s musical ideas. Singing, wailing as the rhythm section steadily fuels the duel with sizzling ammo of their own. The ballad that has created such tension in the room now transmutes to the point of a cleansing thunderstorm. As it trinkles to a ringing conclusion, the audience by now is actually part of the music, sending unending waves of positive vibrations to the performers on stage.

Mark Ruffin, the shows executive producer takes his place on stage to thank the sponsors, then he introduces two musicians from Art Porter’s original band. Alan Burroughs explains that the next song “is just a conversation, and we’d like you to just eavesdrop on it”. He continues “Before every performance Art always made us take a moment and pray. I remember we didn’t get to pray in Thailand, and that was the last time we performed together. ” (The next day Art died in that tragic boating accident.) Then he launches into a beautiful vocal tribute, accompanying himself on guitar and supported by the bass. The tribute song was a duet to entitled Call You A Beacon and it had a strong Sam Cooke feel to it. The room was quiet, like a meditation session…
  “…Call you a beacon; A beacon of light;
  Call you a flame ’cause you burn so bright”

The bassist contributes a gentle, beaming solo that hummed and spoke softly and articulated so clearly, the words that eluded him earlier when he tried to speak to the audience. It was most certainly a conversation between the two musicians on stage and the one we could no longer see. The audience had the privilege to share this peaceful, haunting and absorbing moment and was quietly moved.

Ruffin then came back out to introduce Brenda Russell, who assumed her place on stage and greeted her audience with a demeanor that reached out and hugged each and everyone in the audience. “This song is from my new CD about women who fall in love.” in jest, she adds “What an unusual subject.” Ms. Russell then lets an airy laugh escape to open She’s In Love, a soothing, caressing piece that wafts out into the audience like an exquisite perfume. The room is filled with the fragrance of the number, weaving a dreamy mood, enrapturing the musicians on stage as well as the audience. She then introduces She Walks This Earth, a song written for Sting that went on to win a Grammy. Her performance of this mesmerizing composition is enhanced by her rich, deep and encompassing vocal style. The audience has been highly appreciative of the music and musicians to this point, and because they knew Brenda so well they are unable to stifle their collective emotion, responding with shouts and cheers and great approval. As Brenda comes full circle on the number, she performs some mind-bending, dream-like sequences of images with her voice before closing her segment of the show.

After Brenda departs our emcee comes back to bring out soprano saxophonist Marion Meadows. The on stage musicians cook up a slow burning, juju-inspired rhythm that is intensified by Meadows who presents a dramatic picture in his near-fluorescent white outfit, broken only by the thick, rubber-band-segmented ponytail reaching halfway down his back. He crescendos into wave after wave of charm-type expressions that scream and lilt in an upper register, spurring the audience into a growing, frenzied response. The musicians then bring the charm-music to a soft, bluesy close, leaving the listeners in yet another near-dream state. Meadows peppers the audience with musical ‘dust’ from overheard as he flies away through his saxophone. As Meadows later said… “This is in the spirit of the Art Porter that I remember, because once he got you going, once he got you locked in there was no stopping…” Meadows performance was unstoppable, carried to new heights by the nearly dizzying percussion layers laid down by Kevin Patrick.

In between numbers Peter White joked to Mark Ruffin “I can’t believe you this show together in just 2 days!” Then Peter jams as only Peter can. His guitar virtuoso alternately enthralling and moving the crowd. Then, he called Steve Cole back on stage for yet another rollicking number. The name Grover Washington came up underneath the opening strains of the introduction, and the number definitely proceeded like a Grover Washington expression. It swelled, it dwindled, it lingered. Completely caught up in the energy, a zealous Peter White danced sprightly to the rear stage to play some serious chords to percussionist Kevin Patrick, who promptly replied with some rhythmic magic that had the place hopping.

The room barely had a chance to recover when Peter White quieted the room by playing a familiar intro, it fell on many recognizing ears as he called all the night’s performers on stage for the finale. They then launched in to a moving, power-smooth rendition of the Margin Gaye classic What’s Goin’ On! The music rocked and flowed into every corner of the room, every corner of the audience. Brenda Russell stretching her powerful, far-reaching vocals over the simmering gumbo of sound. The stage a solar system of activity, Peter White in a Chuck Berry knee bend, doing this hot-foot dance as a result of the heated chords he’s sprinkled all over the stage floor, Steve Cole and Marion Meadows wailing away, Lorber stroking the ivories and Paul rocking the rhythm.

At the bridge, the musicians shift gears into a deep simmer, the kind that comes from a stew that has cooked down so perfectly, you can just turn off the fire and let it simply smolder in its own mellow heat. Brenda spices the air with some belting riffs and nearly superhuman musical calls. The audience does another solo of its own as the musicians all line up on stage before them, the audience sending its energy up to rush over and break through. The final number didn’t so much close the show as it graciously released us from our collective spell, after which the audience responded with its own thunderstorm of music using their hands, feet, whistles and whatever other sounds they could muster.

Art and Barbi Porter know that the love and music that went out that night is enough to carry their children through multiple lifetimes. For heaven’s sake… For Art’s Children Sake.

This month’s shooting gallery has more than 100 photos from
the Art Porter benefit, the after-show at the Metropole
and the Portland Smooth Jazz Show.

Bobby Lewis – Just Havin Some Fun

Bobby Lewis
Just Havin Some Fun
John Barrett

The cover is silly, but don’t expect comedy. The tunes come in all flavors; the tones go from Wingy Manone to the present. It’s quite a show, with a big cast – so forget the puppet; this is some serious swinging.

We open on a slick mover, easy bass and a sparkling piano. Lewis does the old soft glow, but the star is Pat Mallinger, with strong notes and a quote of “Like Sonny”. Check Curtis Robinson and that great soft guitar – the perfect topping to a sweet confection. Next course is salsa: percussion goes wild on Dizzy’s “Tanga”. Bobby shouts and hits the ceiling; not a “Latin” tone, but you get a little sass. The trombone has rumply warmth, and wait for that conga solo. A fire builds for two minutes – and Bobby returns red hot. And that’s how you like it.

“Nalini” weeps softly, a broad flugelhorn with ’70s trappings (snaky guitars, electric keys.) Billy is gorgeous, and Mallinger locks horns in a thrilling spiral. Mood music for a rainy day. The vocal is cute: Bonnie Herman sighs “Just Friends”, and Billy answers. His is a typical “jazz” vocal, slight of technical skill but full of emotion; the arrangement is to savor.

“Jasmine” is good punchy blues, sparked by Jim Ryan’s piano. The brass responds: bright flashes of sound, and Bobby’s best moment. This is matched by “Nature Boy”, which is him and a distant tabla. Bobby is placid and airy, sounding like a conch at times. He pleads unto the night sky, and all is peace – beauty, too. And “Strange Blues” closes with a smile: an ancient shout as the boys walk to New Orleans. Lewis is brassy and bold, a sound I wish we heard more of. His exchanges are precious, especially with Chuck Hedges’ clarinet. Slow, relaxed, and loaded with power – that’s the way to finish. The album’s built to please, and mostly it does. The players stand out (especially Herman and Mallinger), and Bobby has a soft touch many will like. Many textures, many tastes – and it’s fun.

Rating: *** ½. I like “Tanga”, “Nalini”, bith vocals, “Nature Boy”, and “Strange Blues”.

Songs: Just Havin’ Some Fun; Tanga; Nalini; Just Friends; Saudade; Jasmine; Some Other Time; Lady in the Moon; The Monster and the Flower; Nature Boy; Strange Blues. Musicians: Bobby Lewis (trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals) plus, on various tracks:

John Allred (trombone); Pat Mallinger (soprano, alto, and tenor saxes); Jim Ryan (keyboards); Curtis Robinson (guitar); Thomas Kini (bass); Jeff Stitely (drums, udu, tabla); Alejo Poveda (percussion); Ruben Alvarez, Geraldo de Oliveira (percussion on “Tanga”); Bonnie Herman (vocals on “Just Friends” and Some Other Time”), except:

On “Just Friends”: Larry Combs, John Yeh, Julie DeRoche, Burl Lane (clarinets); Lawrie Bloom (bass clarinet); Rob Kassinger (bass); Dick Boyell (conductor).

On “Strange Blues”: Jim Beebe (trombone); Chuck Hedges (clarinet); John Bany (bass); Paul Wertico (drums).

For more info, contact: Southport Records

Eric Darius – Just Getting Started

Eric Darius
Just Getting Started
(Narada Jazz – 2006)
by Ray Redmond

I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking with this young cat a few times and let me tell you, he’s just your average intelligent, mannerly, young, college-age fellow who happens to be one of the more energetic and creative saxmen on the smooth jazz scene right now.

“Steppin’ Up” starts the party rocking right away, follow hard by “Chillin’ Out” which features some sexy horn work by E.D. throughout the track. “Secret Soul” was written by, and features, smooth jazz sax star Euge Groove and has a touch of his flavor. Darius is in good company on this release with the likes of Groove and Brian Culbertson who penned the hot & bluesy CD closer “Slick” featuring Culbertson on a number of instruments, Ricky Peterson on B3 and Paul Jackson, Jr. kicking his guitar here and other spots on the CD.

“Back At Cha'” is my favorite right now, I like the melodic step and the way Darius swings while ramping it up. “Right Here, Right Now” is a sexy thing written by, and featuring, Paul Brown and Chuck Cymone and gives Darius yet another chance to showcase his range and rhythm.

Oh, and the Godfather of smooth jazz Jeff Lorber even makes an appearance playing Fender Rhodes on the up-tempo Eric Darius original “Groove On”. ‘Nuff said?

This young cat is really just getting started and with the company he keeps the sky is the limit. This is one of those CD’s with NO bad songs. Just put it on and ride… Four Stars.

Marcus Johnson – Just Doing What I Do

Just Doing What I DoJust Doing What I Do
Marcus Johnson
(Three Keys – 2004)
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

Marcus Johnson is a pianist / Composer / Producer in his prime. Just Doing What I Do is an assortment of tracks written by Johnson, Ronnie Garrett, Rex Rideout and others, including a sweet track entitled 18th & M by my favorite Chicago guitarist, Nick Colionne. The album starts out with the meandering, slightly offbeat title track. Johnson stretches out a bit on this cut, showing that he has style and panache, not just talent. RJ’s Groove is just that… a stone cold groove. Love has a little more of a pop flavor and some nice vocals from Frank “Scoob” Mitchell.

Marcus does a cover of the Alicia Keyes hit If I Ain’t Got You where he duets himself with piano and synth-sax … it’s absolutely wonderful! Then he comes back with a smooth track that he and Phil Davis performed called Sunday @ Seqouia; Johnson’s sweet keyboarding riding atop a latin backbeat. Same Thing is THE shot of funk for the month. “Scoob” Mitchell does the vocals on this funky, bluesy in-your-gut cut that makes you mooooove. Whereas ‘Same Thing’ is low down funky, Yellow Cup is jazzy funky… instrumental and jazzy with a HEAVY dose of bottom funk.

The cover of the Beyoncé Knowles tune Me Myself and I is another great rendition of a beautiful song with some well placed vocal harmonies to accent the music. Rex Rideout sits in on the upbeat New Beginnings. Co-written by Rideout and Ronnie Garrett this is the track that will probably find it’s way into the rotations on the smooth jazz stations. This is one of the best albums I’ve heard in months and It’s going to be in my personal rotation for a while. This one is 5 stars, go get it.

Nick Colionne – Just Come On In

Nick ColionneNick Colionne
Just Come On In
(Three Keys Music – 2003)
by Ray Redmond

Nick Colionne has been kickin’ his guitar licks and building a following in the Chicago area for quite a while now. I once had someone visiting from Atlanta have me listen to this great CD she had with her, and it turned out to be Nick’s 1996 release Arrival… fancy that. With the coming of his new CD on Three Keys he’s ready to take it national… if not international. High Flyin’ starts it off in style with a moderate tempo and some classy finger work, this one is very radio friendly. It’s been too long is another rolling jam driven by Colionne’s guitar frenetics. From the Wes Side is a tribute that captures the essence and style of the late Wes Montgomery to a tee! This must have been one of Colionne’s idols… you can feel the emotion in the presentation. This and the very funky, organ infested 2 B D are my own two favorites.

The ballad Is it a Dream jumps over to the R&B side a little and features some very nice nice vocal work. Then Do You Love Me jumps right back over that fence, this one is smooth jazz to the core with some good keyboard accompaniment to Colionne’s flying fingers. Downtown has a more up tempo pulse with an ambience of percussion, feels a bit like Benson playing with Was Not Was, a little different but it worked for me.

There is a rendition of the classic My Favorite Things that really shines on this CD. Tackling one of the classics gives us a chance to hear how well Nick can hack his axe. He layers his unique style atop some strong back up and gives the listener a new view of a great tune. Then he does it again on the bonus track Hurry Up This Way Again, taking a familiar song and recooking it using his own spices and flavors to create it anew. I’m not sure why it’s taken Nick Colionne so long to get some national attention, but if guys like Steve Oliver and Nick’s new Three Keys label mate Michael Lington are getting the notice (deservedly), then Colionne should be right there. His skills are at least as good and he’s got that flair that sets him apart from those that are merely talented. Get the CD, see for yourself.

Norman Brown – Just Chillin’

Norman Brown
Just Chillin’

(Warner – 2002)
by Raymond Redmond

After four high-energy albums and years of almost constant touring, Norman Brown’s latest offering, Just Chillin’, is more of a laid-back project. The first two tracks, “The Feelin I Get” and “Just Chillin” are strong instrumentals, mixing Brown’s trademark guitar sound with well arranged horn accompaniment and lush arrangements. “Night Drive”, featuring Rick Braun is a sure smooth-jazz hit and the standout track on this release. Miki Howard puts in some nice vocal work on the sweet “Not Like You Do” as does newcomer Debbie Nova on the up tempo “Won’t You Stay”.

“Dancin in the House” is another fast paced piece with Benson-esque scatting and Brown’s fine fingering combined with a latin-influenced keyboard line. This is more of the old Norman Brown here. “In My Life” is another tastefully crafted song, combining a nice vocal chorus with Brown’s creative musicianship. The cover of Janet Jackson’s “Lets Wait a While” is subtly performed and presented, doing it a quiet justice. Overall this is one of the better crafted smooth jazz releases to come out this year. Norman obviously took his time and “Waited a While” before releasing this one. Don’t you wait to go get a copy.

Allen Hoist

Allen HoistJust Before Spring
Allen Hoist
(Arco – 2001)
by Carmen Miller

The thing that struck me most was the energy in this mixture of latin and modern jazz, with a good measure of a capella and scat vocals thrown in the mix. At first hear, the vocals on the uptempo version of Stevie Wonder’s All I Do were pretty standard, but by the end of the song I was bopping right along with the vocal harmonies. The title track Just Before Spring is primarily a capella, with some horn and piano lines along the way for accent. It is reminiscent of the old Persuasions and a joyous song. Rue Manin is a sultry sax piece that belongs in a Paris cafe after dark, just where Allen probably came up with it.

Then it’s back to the a capalla and percussions with a smooth rendition of the Ellington classic Caravan. Hoist’s vocals are a little rough here, but he carries it off by delivering an excellent and long) scat session. One For The Road features some nice bass work by Etìenne Mbappê and keyboards from Mario Canonage, as well as Hoist’s unique vocals. Hoist wrote or co-wrote all but two of the songs on the CD, and he re-arranged the other two to suit his vocal and musical style. In the future I’d like to see Hoist spread the vocal duties around with a Kurt Elling type to get more out of some of his songs, but all in all this is a solid, enjoyable release from a previously unknown artist (to me at least).

Fred Jung’s Top 10 Jazz Albums of 1998

Fred Jung’s Top 10 Jazz Albums of 1998

If I were shipwrecked on Gilligan’s Island, the following releases would be the only things keeping me from “accidentally” killing Gilligan and spending the rest of my days in the Professor’s bamboo and coconut shell jail. I reviewed over 200 CD’s this year and listened to well over 400 and these are my top ten releases of ’98. They are in no particular order of importance, just alphabetically by artist. So the envelope, please…

Art Ensemble of Chicago
“Coming Home Jamaica”
Atlantic Records

Recorded two years ago, “Coming Home Jamaica” is the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s first studio album in six years. Lester Bowie, Roscoe Mitchell, Malachi Favors, and Famoudou Don Moye invite you to be their guest of honor and treat you with invigorating contemporary music.

James Carter
“In Carterian Fashion”
Atlantic Records

I once saw Carter cuss out an unruly audience member with his tenor sax, and he is just as entertaining and explosive on his new release. A smoking record from the most promising musician to come along since Wynton Marsalis, it is one of jazz’s true superheroes taking on the organ combo. Ask Santa for it.


Dave Douglas
“Magic Triangle”
Arabesque Recordings

A quartet recording featuring tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, “Magic Triangle” is the latest release from one of the most impressive trumpeters to emerge in the ’90s. Douglas won the first annual New York Jazz Awards “Trumpeter” category and he delivers with some of the best performances of his career. Keep an eye on this heavy-hitter.

Gerard Hagen
“Far Horizons”
Resurgent Music

“Far Horizons” defines the phrase “diamond in the ruff”. Released by the Orange County based Resurgent Music label, it did not receive the national recognition it deserved, but that didn’t stop this album from being this year’s finest piano record. “Far Horizons” can be purchased by contacting Resurgent Music at resurgentmusic@earthlink.net.


Rahsaan Roland Kirk
“Aces Back To Back”
32 Jazz

“Aces Back To Back” is as revolutionary and as complex as the man himself and it follows another Roland Kirk release on 32 Jazz that made the top ten last year, “Dog Years in the Fourth Ring”, making 32 Jazz the chief curator for the legendary cult figure’s music. A must for all Kirk-ites.

lavajazz.gif (11489 bytes)The Lounge Art Ensemble
“Lava Jazz”
Fuzzy Music

Drummer Peter Erskine, bassist Dave Carpenter, and saxophonist Bob Sheppard are about as lounge as the ’70s were hip. What they are is the West Coast’s most dynamic trio. Why “Lava Jazz” didn’t get more radio play and press is what is wrong with jazz today.


Greg Osby
“Banned in New York”
blue Note

If Blue Note is to return to its prominence of yesteryear, Osby is the kind of musician they need to sign and record. For a great while now, the media has unfairly lambasted Osby for his inclusion of hip-hop and rap elements into his music, but those detractors should all be quieted by “Banned in New York”. Live in every sense of the word, “Banned in New York” is Osby’s finest record to date.

ribot.jpg (3358 bytes)Marc Ribot
“Marc Ribot Y Los Cubanos Postizos (The Prosthetic Cubans)”
Atlantic Records

Forget about an autopsy, there is a simpler test. Play this CD. If their feet aren’t tapping, they’re dead.


Vienna Art Orchestra
“American Rhapsody”
RCA Victor

Guest artist Joe Lovano’s heart-wrenching rendition of “But Not For Me” is the year’s finest moment on record. It is worth the price of the CD itself.

Anthony Wilson
“Goat Hill Junket”
MAMA Records

One of my few indulgences in life is to lay in my hammock in my backyard and smoke a nice, robust cigar, accompanied by a demanding single malt scotch or a rich merlot. So consequently, I am always on this endless quest to find the suitable music to support my very expensive habit. And thus, “Goat Hill Junket” has passed my ultimate test, it is cigar worthy. It should be required listening for all music lovers and offers a brilliant glimpse into the music of the finest young guitarist to hit the scene in years.


I love lists and in a year that had more fine releases than any other that I can remember, I had to include a “If I Had Another Suitcase” list. So, if I were stranded on the before mentioned Gilligan’s Island and had an extra suitcase, the following would be included.

Eric Alexander, John Hicks, George Mraz, Idris Muhammad
Bright Moments
“Return of the Lost Tribe”
Ravi Coltrane
“Moving Pictures”
RCA Victor
Joe Lovano
“Trio Fascination”
blue Note
Brad Mehldau
“Songs: The Art of the Trio, Volume 3”
Warner Brothers
Leon Parker
Columbia Records
Marcus Printup
“Nocturnal Traces”
blue Note
Chucho Valdes
“Bele Bele en la Habana”
blue Note
David S. Ware
“Go See the World”
Columbia Records
Randy Weston


Jung on Jazz December 1999

Jung on Jazz December 1999 



December 1999



As a native Southern Californian, I am having a time of it getting accustomed to the various East Coast weather patterns. So for the remainder of my stay in New York, I have taken it upon myself to lock myself in a room and sift through the three hundred or so releases that have accumulated on the floor of my Queens apartment (for all of you who remember Scrooge McDuck’s gold coin piles, you get the picture). The forty titles below are my picks for you if you had a monthly CD budget of six hundred dollars (give or take a ten spot). But with The Sopranos on hiatus and with network television as bad as it is this season, don’t even get me started on sports (my beloved Raiders are barely over five hundred and it’s already a forgone conclusion that the Yankees will win another championship), what better way to occupy the silence. This is it for this year (December is my annual “Best of the Year” and because it is such a very special year, my “Best of the ’90s” lists), and with Y2K, who knows? This might be six hundred dollars well spent. It sure beats buying four shares of EBay stock in this volatile market. Enjoy.

Open Land
(ECM Records)

If you were privileged enough to see Abercrombie perform with Charles Lloyd this summer, you should already have this CD. If you don’t, what are you waiting for? The guitarist that is one third of Gateway (Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland round out the trio) favors moody eloquence for his latest, OPEN LAND. Kenny Wheeler’s passionate trumpet phrases on a absorbing “Just in Tune” and “Little Booker” raises the bar significantly, not to mention the quality contributions from tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and violinist Mark Feldman. Have your plastic handy and surf to www.ecmrecords.com.


(ENJA Records)

The cello is the most melodramatic instrument in music and cellist Vincent Courtois plays it for all its theatrical value. Courtois, along with violinist Dominique Pifarely and frame drummer Nabil Khaiat, join Rabih Abou-Khalil, who is simply brilliant on the oud, for eleven moving originals that Abou-Khalil penned for a film of the same title. The quartet’s organic performance and spirituality grow as the album progresses. YARA is available wherever fine records are sold and at www.enjarecords.com.


Not Two, Not One
(ECM Records)

The combined resume of the three musicians on this record is peerless. Albert Ayler, Keith Jarrett, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Jimmy Giuffre, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Steve Lacy, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Lennie Tristano, Zoot Sims, Charlie Haden, Joe Lovano, and Bill Frisell are just the few that I can remember off the top of my head. When they came together at Birdland, which subsequently lead to this recording, it was an avant-garde meeting of the gods. The trio’s focused use of space (“Not Zero: In Three Parts”) and abstract probing (“Now”) creates tension and produces dynamic results. Those in the know may recognize a familiar “Fig Foot.” Don’t miss out on this one momentous reunion. Available through www.ecmrecords.com.


All Business
(Reservoir Music)

The baritone saxophone may have become forgotten had it not been for Hamiet Bluiett and Nick Brignola. Brignola’s facilities and lyricism on the big horn recall Gerry Mulligan particularly on a pleasurable “How Deep is the Ocean.” Bassist John Patitucci and drummer Billy Hart provide Brignola with excellent support on a vibrant “In the Zone.” Write Reservoir Music for a free catalog (Brignola has eight other albums on Reservoir) at 276 Pearl Street, Kingston, NY 12401.


Romance with the Unseen
(Blue Note)

From the beginning of “A Mural from Two Perspectives,” ROMANCE WITH THE UNSEEN is an attention grabber. This isn’t your grandfather’s Pete Fountain album. It is advanced music that demands awareness. But with Byron on clarinet, Bill Frisell on guitar, Drew Gress on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums, who would give anything less? For more information and goodies from Byron, investigate for yourself at www.bluenote.com.


The End of a Century
(Tonga Productions)

I am still trying to digest the music on THE END OF A CENTURY. The pressures of being the son of Don Cherry must have weighed heavily on young David Ornette Cherry. Cherry has to be commended on his choice of musicians, especially Roberto Miguel Miranda, who lays into Ornette Coleman’s “The Memory of Things.” The various textures and colors on this recording are just icing on the cake. Available at www.tongarecords.com.


(ECM Records)

Saxophonist Jan Garbarek’s icy tone is irresistible. Combine that with the vocal musings of the award-winning Hillard Ensemble and it’s time to put the children to bed. The ethereal “Quechua Song” and the evocative “Agnus Dei” make this double CD a treasure. It is a fine hybrid of various elements, Garbarek’s refined romanticism and the beauty and glory of the Hillard Ensemble. Many of you will recall that these ingredients worked quite well on OFFICIUM. Visit www.ecmrecords.com for more information.


Love Ballads
(RED Records)

What can I say? I fall for these ballad recordings all the time. Perhaps I’m just a sentimental sap. Pianist Art Lande sets the tempo for an upbeat “What Is This Thing Called Love” and gives saxophonist Maurizio Giammarco poised backing for an interesting “Stella By Starlight.” Available by contacting RED Records at www.ijm.it/redrecords/.


Blues, Bop & Ballads
(Concord Records)

Tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton has an almost effortless ease to his swing on his latest outing for Concord, BLUES, BOP & BALLADS. It is obvious why he’s seen his name compared with that of Stan Getz. The tenor’s warm, leisurely waltz through “Skylark” is trademark Hamilton.


Time’s Mirror
(RCA Victor)

Trumpeter Tom Harrell’s sophisticated lyricism translates admirably to his big band arrangements for his new album, TIME’S MIRROR. The assembled musicians (trumpeter James Zollar, trombonist Mike Fahn, pianist Xavier Davis, and saxophonist Don Braden) give new slants to Charlie Parker’s “Chasin’ the Bird” and uplift five of Harrell’s own compositions, including a definitive performance of Harrell’s “Sao Paulo.”


Black Action Figure
(Blue Note)

The vibraphone is not my cup of tea. But when I saw Stefon Harris play with Joe Henderson some years back, I gained a renewed interest in the instrument. Harris’s debut A CLOUD OF RED DUST was a critical and commercial success. The vibist’s follow-up BLACK ACTION FIGURE is on many levels even better. Harris’s rhythm section (bassist Tarus Mateen, pianist Jason Moran, and drummer Eric Harland) was seasoned by playing with the vibraphonist on the lengthy national tour in support of A CLOUD OF RED DUST. Harland is a standout, shading Gary Thomas’s flute melody perfectly on “Collage.” Moran, who has an exemplary album of his own on Blue Note, is exceptional in his support of the leader throughout the session. To get more information on Harris, as well as Moran, log onto the mother ship’s site at www.bluenote.com.


Waltzes, Two-Steps, and
Other Matters of the Heart
(GM Recordings)

Drummer Gerry Hemingway’s collaborations with Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Marilyn Crispell, and Ray Anderson respectively are notorious along the avant-garde beltway, but mainstreamers have probably not had the opportunity to acquire a taste to his trappings. Hemingway’s quintet (bassist Mark Dresser, cellist Ernst Reijseger, trombonist Wolter Wierbos, and reedman Michael Moore), which he has been sustaining since 1985, returns for his latest release on the GM Recordings label, WALTZES, TWO-STEPS, AND OTHER MATTERS OF THE HEART, a multifaceted cornucopia of extensive space and exploratory, angular abstraction. Dresser, one of the finest bassist on this, or for that matter, any other planet, is consistently inspiring. Contact GM Recordings at www.GMRecordings.com.


Dr. Cyclop’s Dream
(Soul Note)

As card-carrying members of the Jazz Composers Collective (www.jazzcollective.com), bassist Ben Allison, pianist Frank Kimbrough, saxophonist Ted Nash, and saxophonist Michael Blake, all leaders in their own right, have put personal ambitions aside for the greater collective good. Allison, Kimbrough, and company have recorded several albums together as part of Medicine Wheel for the Palmetto label. Both musicians are admires of Herbie Nichols and this Soul Note recording is a direct result of that. Check out the cohesive group improvisation on a strong opener, “Bartok” and a convincing “Valse Macabre.” Available through www.blacksaint.com.


Get In

In a word GET IN is swinging. With Idris Muhammad on drums, Larry Goldings on organ, and Thelonious Monk Competition winner, Jesse van Ruller on guitar at his side, the European alto saxophonist Benjamin Herman digs in on a program largely consisting of his own originals. A groovy “Frank’s Day Out” and a blazing “Call Idris” are some of the album’s many highlights. Contact A-Records at www.challenge.nl.


Beijing Trio
(Asian Improv Records)

Crossing African based rhythms with Chinese based melodies seems like a natural mixture on a wonderful new recording from pianist Jon Jang entitled BEIJING TRIO, featuring the master himself, Max Roach on drums and Jiebing Chen on erhu, a Chinese two-string violin. The program opens with “Moon Over the Great Wall.” Roach provides a rock-solid bottom as Jang weaves graceful, reflective inventions. The sorrow that Chen’s erhu conveys on “Sweet Whisper of a Flower” and “Fallen Petals” is riveting. Available through www.asianimprov.com.


The Melody At Night, With You
(ECM Records)

The mood of Keith Jarrett’s latest solo effort, THE MELODY AT NIGHT, WITH YOU is so lyrically captivating and romantically breathtaking, that it stands alone. Jarrett’s sparkling versions of “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” “Blame It on My Youth,” and “My Wild Irish Rose” are stunning. This is an audible tearjerker. Have a box of tissues handy and get ready to call your mother afterwards. Perfect.


3 Purple Circles
(Jazz Focus Records)

Misako Kano’s second Jazz Focus release and her follow-up to BREAKTHREW, 3 PURPLE CIRCLES is worth its weight in gold, not only because it features one of the strongest piano voices to emerge in the last decade, but also because it showcases some of the finest performance from David Liebman on tenor saxophone on record. Liebman lights a fire under “D.B.S.” cooking the melody to a crisp. Liebman sounds marvelous on “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” providing surprising emotional depth to the standard. Even with Liebman on a plateau all his own, Kano shows her chops on two Ornette Coleman compositions, “Ramblin'” and “Broken Shadows.” To get more information on Kano, log onto www.canuck.com/jazz.


Left Hook, Right Cross
(32 Jazz)

LEFT HOOK, RIGHT CROSS is two of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s finest recordings on Atlantic, VOLUNTEERED SLAVERY and BLACKNUSS, which producer Joel Dorn (the EIEIO of Rahsaanaissance) and his band of mighty elves at 32 Jazz (Joel needs a title) have combined for a bargain price. For anyone who has not been exposed to the works of Kirk, now is the time. Kirk is an American treasure and it should be a mandate that LEFT HOOK, RIGHT CROSS also known as VOLUNTEERED SLAVERY and BLACKNUSS belong in everyone collection. And why aren’t all you Kirk-ites writing letters to Dorn about a Kirk box set? Here’s the address, 32 Jazz, 250 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10107 or visit www.32Records.com.


Kenny Kirkland

Branford Marsalis, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Kenny Garrett, and Don Braden, all speak of what a tremendous loss it was for the music to have lost a voice like Kenny Kirkland. On Verve’s recent re-issue of Kirkland’s self-titled debut, it is obvious why. Take a gander at “Steepian Faith” and “Revelations.” KENNY KIRKLAND is the only album with Kirkland as a leader and deserves everyone’s attention. Contact www.vervemusicgroup.com.


Another Shade of Blue
(Blue Note)

ANOTHER SHADE OF BLUE is the second volume and obvious companion to ALONE TOGETHER, a Lee Konitz live date recorded on two consecutive nights at my local water hole, the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles. ANOTHER SHADE OF BLUE was the set on the first of the two nights and the trio, bassist Charlie Haden and pianist Brad Mehldau, sounds flawless. Haden is as rousing as ever, but it is the younger Mehldau that manages to standout amongst the two legends. The pianist’s resourceful treatment of “Everything Happens to Me” and “Body and Soul” is worth the price of admission. Available through www.bluenote.com.


Movement, Turns & Switches
(Passin’ Thru Records)

With no one to answer to but himself, alto saxophonist Oliver Lake can release exciting explorations like his latest on his own Passin’ Thru label, MOVEMENT, TURNS & SWITCHES, Lake’s twisted version of him with strings. The Oliver Lake String Project (three violins, a viola, cello, and bass) mostly accompany the leader, but trumpeter Kenyatta Beasley makes the most of his moments like on “Fan Fare Bop.” MOVEMENT, TURNS & SWITCHES is available at www.passinthru.org.


Then & Now
(Double-Time Records)

Mike LeDonne’s new release on Double-Time features tenor wizard Eric Alexander and trumpeter Jim Rotondi on the frontline and drummer Joe Farnsworth and bassist Peter Washington supplying the bottom for the post-bop outing. While most of the album is devoted to LeDonne’s own compositions, you may recognize a rendition of Herbie Hancock’s “The Sorcerer” and Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight.” LeDonne is a fine player and with a supporting cast of Alexander, Rotondi, Washington, and Farnsworth, it’s hard to argue against him. Contact Double-Time Records at 1-800-293-8528.


Vol. 2
(Basin Street Records)

Los Hombres Calientes’s, in their spare time, mild-mannered drummer Jason Marsalis, trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, and percussionist Bill Summers, second volume on Basin Street Records is a smoker. It takes the outdated “young lion” movement and leaves it in the dust. This threesome may be young, but don’t let their age fool you. The trio is killing. LOS HOMBRES CALIENTES, VOL. 2 is leaps and bounds above many of its major label predecessors. Contact www.basinstreetrecords.com.


The Lost Trident Sessions

Recorded twenty-six years ago, THE LOST TRIDENT SESSIONS finds the Mahavishnu Orchestra at its prime. It’s Jan Hammer, John McLaughlin, Jerry Goodman, Rick Laird, and Billy Cobham. If you are unfamiliar with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, it would take way too long for me to explain their importance to the music and I would need charts, graphs, and a pointer. But for all of you in the know, well, this is “the last crusade.” I just am left wondering, “How in the world did this just stay on a shelf for over a quarter of a century collecting dust?” For answers, log onto www.legacyrecordings.com.


Future Jazz
(Knitting Factory Records)

I have to put a disclaimer to this particular recording. Howard Mandel is not a musician. He is a historian of this music and in my humble opinion, one of its finest. FUTURE JAZZ is the companion CD to his insightful book of the same name and includes some equally insightful music such as Eric Dolphy’s “Hat and Beard” from the benchmark OUT TO LUNCH Blue Note record, James Newton’s powerful version of Duke Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy” from the flutist’s impossible to find THE AFRICAN FLOWER (THE MUSIC OF DUKE ELLINGTON AND BILLY STRAYHORN) release, and Joe Lovano cranking it up for “Worship,” off his UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE record. Enough said. Available at www.knittingfactory.com.


Live at MOCA

I was at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art when timbalero Bobby Matos performed the material on this live recording. Incredibly, upon listening to LIVE AT MOCA, I recalled the sheer energy of Matos’s performance, which translates quite well to record. It is another solid Latin jazz release from Matos on the Bay Area CuBop label. Contact www.ubiquityrecords.com.


Art of the Trio 4: Back at the Vanguard
(Warner Brothers)

The first three volumes of the ART OF THE TRIO series from pianist Brad Mehldau are exemplary. The forth installment, ART OF THE TRIO 4: BACK AT THE VANGUARD is no exception. Mehldau and his trio, drummer Jorge Rossy and bassist Larry Grenadier return with a set list that includes “All the Things You Are,” Miles Davis’s “Solar,” and a Radiohead anthem “Exit Music (For a Film).” For more information on Mehldau’s other releases, visit www.wbjazz.com.


Above Blue: The Same River, Twice
(Arabesque Jazz)

Pianist Myra Melford’s The Same River, Twice ensemble features trumpeter Dave Douglas, saxophonist Chris Speed, cellist Erik Friedlander, and drummer Michael Sarin. For her first venture for Arabesque, ABOVE BLUE: THE SAME RIVER, TWICE, Melford plays a set of beautiful, very original music with her all-star combo. The pianist’s more lengthy compositions, “Above Blue” and “Through Storm’s Embrace,” are the album’s marquee selections. Available at www.arabesquerecordingscom.


New Beginnings
(TCB Records)

NEW BEGINNINGS is Steve Nelson most significant outing to date. With Mulgrew Miller on piano, Peter Washington on bass, and Kenny Washington on drums, Nelson shines on Jobim’s “Someone to Light Up My Life” and Irving Berlin’s “The Song is Ended.” Contact www.tcb.ch.


(Knitting Factory Records)

Odean Pope’s take no prisoners blowing on EBIOTO is too much. The tenor saxophonist is accompanied by drummer Craig McIver and bassist Tyrone Brown, but the tandem serve mostly as window dressing as Pope dominates the program’s eight tracks. Available at www.knittingfactory.com.


Momentum Space

For a major label to release this kind of adventurous and challenging music is unheard of in this age of commercial gluttony. This is a momentous occasion. When three genuine masters of their universe meet in any context, it demands attention. But when it is drummer Elvin Jones playing behind pianist guru Cecil Taylor, who is accompanying tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, it is an understatement to refer to MOMENTUM SPACE as a must have. And it is easy to forgive the trivial detraction that the trio does not play together often enough on the record. These musicians will not be with us forever. Let’s stop nitpicking.


Members, Don’t Git Weary
(KOCH Jazz)

Max Roach just lays into the six tracks on this hip re-release (originally released on Atlantic in 1968) from KOCH Jazz, MEMBERS, DON’T GIT WEARY. The drummer’s cymbal work and snare rolls are something special indeed on an interactive “Abstrutions.” Alto saxophonist Gary Bartz and trumpeter Charles Tolliver make up one heck of a frontline and they blow off one another on an up-tempo “Libra.” Jump all over this one before it disappears from the store shelves once more. Contact www.kochentertainment.com.


Standards Band
(Double-Time Records)

With a quartet featuring tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, pianist Bruce Barth, and drummer Tom Melito, bassist Dave Santoro is tipping the scales in his favor for his latest effort for Double-Time Records, STANDARDS BAND. Santoro and his bandmates play a program of seven standards, capturing the essence of each one. “Time After Time” is a lovely piece with Bergonzi, another unheralded tenor, playing beautifully. A relaxed “The More I See You” has Santoro and the remainder of the quartet eating it up. It leaves me just waiting to see a program of originals for the next album. Call Double-Time for free at 1-800-293-8528.


Blackstone Legacy
(Contemporary Records)

This classic re-issue of BLACKSTONE LEGACY is a must. It is essential Woody Shaw. Check out the monster exchange between the trumpeter and drummer Lenny White. Man alive! Get two copies in case you lose one. Visit www.fantasyjazz.com for more quality releases.


Balance of Power
(Southport Records)

If you are looking for background dinner music for your Thanksgiving get together or office Christmas party, stick to Kenny G (I would even bet that he has a Christmas CD out there somewhere). BALANCE OF POWER is not your run of the mill “jazz” release. It is some heavy improvisation and extensive, highly challenging use of silence and space. Reed virtuoso Paul Scea and percussionist extraordinaire Damon Short make some focused and powerful music. Log onto www.chicagosound.com for more info about other Chicago sounds.



Mike Stern is one of only a handful of musicians who can hold his own with the unbelievable Dennis Chambers (who joins Stern for this recording). Now add to the mix guitarists Bill Frisell and John Scofield and you have three of the premier guitarists of our time playing PLAY. This one is a no brainer. Visit www.mikestern.com for more info.


Rumbero’s Poetry
(Tonga Productions)

Alex Acuna and Justo Almario are the co-leaders of the finest So Cal Latin jazz ensemble. RUMBERO’S POETRY, Tolu’s recording for Tonga Productions is fueled dynamic grooves. It is clave as the way it should always be. There is hard-hitting version of “Giant Steps.” This is the year’s Latin jazz release. If you get one piece of Latin music this year, drop that Jennifer Lopez album and get on the Tolu bandwagon. Seats are filling up fast so get in line now.


Gathering of Ancestors
(Asian Improv Records)

The combination of an American Indian cedar flute (John-Carlos Perea) and tenor saxophone (Francis Wong) has to be a first in improvised music. GATHERING OF ANCESTORS is just that kind of record. Plenty of firsts and all of them are interesting and all of them are staggeringly superb. Wong is a tenor player that is definitely one to watch out for as we close out this century. The Chinese American saxophonist’s vocabulary is colorful and formative as evident on two excellent tracks, “Alishan” and “The Great Wall.” Available at www.asianimprov.com.



Joh Yamada’s sweet tone on the alto saxophone is reminiscent of Cannonball. That is enough to recommend his new Milestone release, BLUESTONE. But the Japanese saxophonist has chops too and plays the daylights out of the opening “First Step” and continues that fire for a smoker, “Smokin’ Joh” (nice play on words). He is yet another musician we should be looking out for. Good for Milestone to bring his music to us in the States. Oh, and did I mention his stellar rhythm section, Cyrus Chestnut at the piano, Rodney Whittaker on bass, and Clarence Penn on the drums. Available through www.fantasyjazz.com.


Jung on Jazz November 1998

Jung on Jazz November 1998

A Standing Eight
(32 Jazz)

It was no great surprise that the New York Yankees won this year’s World Series. They consistently played throughout the baseball year on a higher plateau than the rest of the major league. This is also true for both Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Joel Dorn’s 32 Jazz. Both have a discography filled with inspirational music. Dorn, who was the producer for more than fifteen of Roland Kirk’s albums, is Roland Kirk’s most devoted advocate. A Standing Eight is Dorn’s third Roland Kirk release of 1998, so he clearly enjoys the multi-reedist’s music. The music for the 2-CD album is derived from Roland Kirk’s last three recordings, The Return Of The 5,000 Lb. Man, Kirkatron, and Boogie-Woogie String Along For Real. The selections feature such musicians as bassists Buster Williams and Milt Hinton, pianists Hilton Ruiz and Hank Jones, percussionist Warren Smith, trombonist Steve Turre, and tuba player Howard Johnson.

William Eaton’s whistling introduces “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Eaton’s whistling is nudged on by Fred Moore’s washboard playing, and the texture those two sounds invent is alluring. Roland Kirk’s tenor melody eases into Charles Mingus’s “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.” Roland Kirk accompanies vocalists to John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” with lyrics by Betty H. Neals. Roland Kirk’s longing saxophone musings provide a gentle calm to a tasteful “Steppin’ Into Beauty.” One of the more interesting pieces on the first CD is a fascinating presentation of “Christmas Song.” Roland Kirk embraces the warm ballad tones and adopts a patient pace backed by strings. The second disc contains a funky rendition of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night In Tunisia,” a soulful “J. Griff’s Blues,” and a relaxed version of Duke Ellington’s “In A Mellow Tone.”

During Roland Kirk’s lifetime and even now, there are factions within the media that stigmatize Kirk’s work as gimmickry. That kind of close-mindedness keeps his music in relative obscurity when the multi-instrumentalist is one of the most pivotal figures in all jazz music. A Standing Eight is yet another superb release from the 32 Jazz catalog and hopefully will bring more explorers to the music of Roland Kirk.


Payton’s Place

By now, everyone must have heard of the infamous, impromptu telephone audition that trumpeter Nicholas Payton gave to Wynton Marsalis. A student of Wynton’s father, Ellis, Payton, a New Orleans native has gone on to tour and play with Marcus Roberts and was a member of Elvin Jones’s Jazz Machine. Featured in the Robert Altman film Kansas City, the 24-year-old has already garnered a Grammy for his collaboration with the late Doc Cheatham and has instantly developed into one of the foremost trumpeters of his generation. Payton’s Place features the current resident tenor saxophonist of Christian McBride’s quartet, Tim Warfield, pianist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Adonis Rose and guest soloists, trumpeters Roy Hargrove and Wynton Marsalis, along with fellow Gen-X sensation, tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman.

Wonsey’s judgement is admirable on a meaty “Back To The Source,” proving the young pianist can stomp with the best of them. Payton’s sharp sound and Warfield’s often overlooked brilliance makes the Payton original worthy of a second listen. The music keeps on swinging with a rousing “Concentric Circles” that showcases more aggressive assertions from Warfield. Not to be outdone, Payton commands attention with an exalting workout of his own. Wonsey and Rose join the fray with superb solos of their own. “Li’l Duke’s Strut” is flawless, old-fashioned, burlesque-style blues. Payton is particularly effective in this genre, sustaining his perfect pitch, but also understanding the subtler nuances of the melody. Wonsey’s tantalizing patterns, coupled with the harmony of the two horns bring the composition to a splendid close.

Payton is a creative and intelligent player. Fertile talents such as Payton are what the jazz soil needs to blossom and grow into the next millennium. There is no question jazz music will endure, but how prominent it will be in the future of the American twenty-first century pop culture is dependent on wise marketing of such young lions. With very few audible flaws, Payton’s Place is another fine release from a fine, young horn player.


Quiet Land


Known primarily for its role in classical music, the French horn seems more at home in a Verdi opera rather than in any jazz context. But the French horn has still made quiet contributions to jazz such as Robert Northern in John Coltrane’s Africa Brass Sessions and Julius Watkins in Monk. Then there is Mark Taylor, whose devotion to the music of Woody Shaw makes him an unlikely candidate to pick up the French horn, but Taylor has been vital to the bands of Lester Bowie, Abdullah Ibrahim, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Henry Threadgill. Taylor’s Quiet Land is his first as a leader for the Mapleshade label and features Myra Melford on piano, Fred Hopkins on bass, Warren Smith on vibraphone, and Steve Berrios on drums.

“Osmium Zamindar’s Untimely Arrival” is an extraordinarily grand concept that works, anchored by Taylor’s dramatically pure tone. Melford’s patient figuring is intelligently sequenced and haunting in its portrayal. “Kennebrew’s Dance” is an upbeat, aggressively percussive program. The open- ended tempo allows for complete communication between the improvisers and Hopkins’s harmonic transformations are beautifully controlled. The expressive melee is not overblown and lyrically restrained. “Do You DreamOf These?” is an abstract improvisation of piano and horn with Melford and Taylor. The exchange of ideas from the partners is almost too fast to follow, but it is a listening pleasure. Taylor then concludes the composition with a series of slow, building passages that are his most fluent statements on record.

The lament of the French horn that resonates from Taylor’s brass bell is gorgeous, both in its character and timbre. The voice of this horn should not be ignored.


Brass Attitude
(Concord Jazz)

At seventy years young, Maynard Ferguson’s technical abilities have not diminished even in the slightest. Known for his lofty upper register prowess, Ferguson has always led bands that specialize in brassy, energetic programs. But one would expect nothing less from a veteran of such big bands as the Stan Kenton Orchestra, Jimmy Dorsey Band, and the big band of Charlie Garnet. Since the early nineties, Ferguson has been leading his Big Bop Nouveau Band, touring relentlessly with them internationally. Brass Attitude is the latest venture from Ferguson and his band of renown for the Bay Area based Concord label, and features Frank Greene on trumpet, Carl Fischer on trumpet and superbone, Tom Garling on trombone and superbone, Sal Giorgianni on tenor saxophone, Dave Throckmorton on drums, Paul Thompson on bass, and Ron Oswanski on piano.

Ferguson’s charting trumpet solos on “Just Friends” are infectious, bringing the supporting characters roaring back to life in unison. “Knee Deep in Rio” is a Brazilian melody, arranged and written by Garling, whose duet with Thompson is sweet, ear candy. However, it is Giorgianni’s swinging tenor saxophone solo that steals the show, even outshining Ferguson’s piercing bravado. Ferguson admittedly has a love for opera and “Caruso” is his affirmation of his enjoyment of the art form. The rarely performed aria is suited for the finest of tenors, but Ferguson makes himself at home with a mesmerizing flugelhorn solo, echoing sentiments that only Pavarotti’s vocal beauty would bring out. It is a delightful conclusion to an album rich with color and texture.


Jeru Blue: A Tribute to Gerry Mulligan
(Palmetto Jazz)

There is a gentleness to the sound of a baritone saxophone that invites the listener to seek solace within it. Largely unheralded, the reed instrument has been given new life with the popularity of such baritonists as Nick Brignola, Hamiet Bluiett, Gary Smulyan, and Ronnie Cuber, as well as a fleet of recent tributes to the late, great Gerry Mulligan. The latest of these tributes is a release by baritone saxophonist Kerry Strayer, whose Septet consists of trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Dean Johnson, trombonist John Mosca, tenor saxophonist Ted Nash, pianist Ted Rosenthal, and drummer Ron Vincent.

Strayer’s lean, controlled statements and his juicy tone on a mid-tempo “Rio One” sets the standard for the rest of the album. Brecker’s focused vibrato makes for a lovely introduction on a slow, strolling “Tell Me When.” Playing muted for the rest of the ballad, Brecker is steadily supported by the remaining cast members. Strayer’s full bodied passages make way for Nash’s flute endeavors on a sensuously subdued “Dragonfly.” Strayer switches to play the soprano midway through the Mulligan original.

Jeru Blue: A Tribute to Gerry Mulligan is a well thought-out homage to the greatest baritone saxophonist in jazz, brimming with fine song selection and a capable band. Strayer makes a poignant argument for the big horn’s recognition.


Trio Fascination
(Blue Note)

Joe Lovano has been one of the most prolific musicians in the history of jazz. A constant performer and recorder, Lovano has documented a recording career that is nothing short of amazing. On the heels of finishing a tour for his last Blue Note date Flying Colors, a duo collaboration with Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Lovano releases his ninth album for Blue Note entitled Trio Fascination, a saxophone trio session with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Elvin Jones.

Lovano’s lively “New York Fascination” is marked by the hornman’s dynamic saxophone patterns, supported by the muscular trapwork laid down by Jones, who is no stranger to great saxophonists, a la John Coltrane. Both Jones and Holland play with verve and consummate presence. “Sanctuary Park” is a well versed saxophone soliloquy from Lovano, whose warm, appealing ideas intrigue the listener. Holland’s soothing, sentimental movements complement Lovano’s lyrical, robust tenor lines perfectly. Lovano makes it look all too easy with a brilliant “Ghost Of A Chance.” Lovano’s command of the softer moments and sense of storytelling is uncanny. Lovano restrains himself and gives the theme of the composition purpose and direction.

With all due respect to Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson, Lovano has become the new heavyweight champion. Trio Fascination is yet another must have from Lovano’s arsenal. Referred to casually as the “first edition”, one can only wait on hands and knees for the second installment from this fascinating trio.


(Chesky Records)

From the beginning of his career, trumpeter Jon Faddis has been labeled and type cast as a Dizzy Gillespie imitator. And although he has made significant contributions to bands led by Gil Evans, Lionel Hampton, and Charles Mingus, Faddis is prominently known for his forays with Gillespie and still remains in the late trumpeter’s shadow. For the past five years, Faddis has been the musical director of the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, but the Gillespie innuendoes still stigmatize the trumpeter/leader. With songs conducted and arranged by Carlos Franzetti, Remembrances features such notables as David Hazeltine on piano, Peter Washington on bass, Clarence Penn on drums, and Paquito D’Rivera and Bill Easley on saxophones.

Faddis caresses the melody on a timeless performance of “Sophisticated Lady.” He plays the Coltrane standard “Naima” with haunting beauty. The 45-year-old trumpeter approaches “La Rosa Y El Sauce” with superb class and refined taste. The compositions are intricately arranged and the ensemble is first rate and that credit goes by in large to Franzetti.

A thoroughly enjoyable CD, Remembrances may not garner the attention it deserves, but then again, quality is never based upon label size in jazz.


A Little More Than The Blues
(J.A.Z. Session 325 NYC)

Valery Ponomarev, the Russian trumpeter who made his name with Art Blakey, may be familiar to some, but has anyone heard of Jeff Zelnick? Then it’s time to get acquainted with the alto saxophonist whose new recording A Little More Than The Blues features a quintet that includes Ponomarev, pianist Alan Rosenthal, bassist Steve Dole, and drummer Eric Halvorson.

Zelnick’s subtly approaches his original “Let Me Ask You This” in fine form, allowing his sidemen plenty of room to explore his composition. Ponomarev’s tone and his improvisations are impeccable. It is the dynamism of Zelnick’s fast-paced passages that is so striking on an entertaining “C’est Si Bon.” Rosenthal’s refreshing keyboard patterns continue the spirited dialogue. Zelnick’s eloquent alto voice captures the essence of a steamy “Joanna’a Sweet Smile.”

A Little More Than The Blues may not be in wide release and not all “fine” record stores may have the privilege of carrying it, but it can be ordered by calling (973) 744-5778. It is a rewarding listen from start to finish and well worth the effort.


Quality Time
(TVT Records)

Best known for his nine-year residency with the Yellowjackets and his various big band projects, Bob Mintzer’s new TVT Records release Quality Time is a pleasant surprise. A straight-ahead quartet session, the 45-year-old tenor saxophonist is joined by pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Jay Anderson, and the multi-faceted drummer Peter Erskine for eight tunes and keyboard player Russell Ferrante, bassist Jimmy Haslip, and drummer William Kennedy for another two.

Mintzer starts things off with the contemporaneous title track “Quality Time.” Mintzer cruises through the melody, confidently belting out a series of polished, muscular solos. Without any gratuitous theatrics, Mintzer lays into a snappy “Groovetown.” Anchored by Erskine, Mintzer’s tenor saxophone playing is admirably intelligent and well versed. “Bossa” is a light bossa nova played crisply by the quartet with Mintzer at the helm, dominating the composition with his soft, mild-delivery.

The writing on Quality Time is superb, but that is no surprise since Mintzer developed his composition chops with Buddy Rich, Art Blakey, and Mel Lewis. Quality Time is one of this year’s sleeper hits and time very well spent.


Jung on Jazz October 1999

Jung on Jazz October 1999 


October 1999


I am on holiday in New York and have been just taking in one great show after another, which doesn’t leave much room for writing. The following releases are not going to burn up the Billboard charts anytime soon, but it there was justice they would be. Hopefully, they will hold you over until my return.

(Justin Time)

It’s Tom Harrell’s favorite percussionist in his natural setting. The conguero gives an advanced course on the essence of the clave. Find it at Justin Time Records.


Dark Grooves Mystical Rhythms
(Blue Note)

Blue Note is hoarding all of the most promising young musicians of the day. Pianist Jason Moran, tenor Mark Shim, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, and now percussionist James Hurt (who moonlights as a pretty damn good piano player) are all in the Blue Note ranks. Dark Grooves Mystical Rhythms marks Hurt’s debut and should be in the collection of everyone in the know.


Self Portrait
(Asian Improv Records)

Jon Jang is the most eloquent composer in modern music. The pianist’s subtle touch and graceful approach make his first solo piano recording, aptly entitled Self Portrait, the most evocative release of this year. His “Two Flowers on a Stem” is as good as it gets. This diamond in the rough can be purchased at Asian Improv Records.


Higher Grounds
(ENJA Records)

Forget that Ingrid Jensen is a particularly well-versed trumpeter. The musings of tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas and pianist David Kikoski are enough to drive any session, but the tandem coupled with Jensen’s vivid imagery elevate the music to higher ground.


In the Center of It All
(Justin Time)

If your next-door neighbor does not know whom reedman Michael Marcus is, don’t fret. Their loss is your gain. Between the two of us, he is a monster (the second coming of Rahsaan, all you Kirk-heads). Grab up “In the Center of It All.” This organ trio release begs the repeat button. Now you know and knowing is half the battle. Contact Justin Time Records.


Blues & Politics
(Dryfus Jazz)

It’s the baddest big band in the land interpreting the music of the baddest composer in American music, Charles Mingus. How can anyone go wrong in spending his or her hard earned dollars on this tour de force of a recording (it features a glorious version of the Mingus classic, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”)?


Monk and Powell
(Winter & Winter)

Why Paul Motian isn’t on a major label ranks right up there with the Clippers as one of the great mysteries of the twentieth century. This Winter & Winter date features Motian’s Electric Bebop Band: Kurt Rosenwinkel and Steve Cardenas on guitar, Chris Potter and Chris Cheek on tenor, and Steve Swallow on bass, playing the music of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell. The future collides with the past on this progressive release.


We Are Not At The Opera

We Are Not At The Opera is a ruthless, unrelenting expedition into the hardcore playing of two avant-garde warriors, saxophonist Sabir Mateen and drummer Sunny Murray. It is heavy music that is not intended for the faint of heart, elderly, children under the age of ten, and pansy asses. It is just the kind of thing your mother warned you about. It is a rhythmic sock in the face.


Ben Perowsky Trio
(JazzKey Music, Ltd.)

Ben Perowsky has been turning heads as the drummer for the Dave Douglas Trio. Here he stands alone, leading his own trio with Chris Speed on reeds and Scott Colley on bass through a live recording at the Knitting Factory. Highlights include a dissonant “Janitor” and an unmatched rendition of “In a Sentimental Mood.” One can barter for a copy of Ben Perowsky Trio at www.perowsky.com.


Live at the Blue Note
(Half Note Records)

Piket’s trio (Harvie Swartz on bass and Jeff Williams on drums) walks a fine line between good jazz and great jazz. Packed with tongue-in-cheek interplay between Piket and Swartz, the live date features a wonderfully entertaining “While We’re Young” as well as three of the pianist’s originals. A star in the making? Well, let’s just say that I wouldn’t bet against her. Get on the bandwagon by surfing to www.bluenote.net.


No Job Too Big or Small
(32 Jazz)

If anyone doubts that Wallace Roney is top shelf, then they didn’t listen to “No Job Too Big or Small.” The roster (which includes Ravi Coltrane, Christian McBride, Jacky Terrasson, Gary Thomas, and Geri Allen) alone is worth a gander. The trumpeter plays like he’s a man in a boy’s world. Makes one wonder if 32 Jazz (and Adam Dorn hates the Dallas Cowboys, see liner notes) releases anything sub-par.


(32 Jazz)

Joel Dorn and his band of elves at 32 Jazz have done it again. Yet another stellar Woody Shaw release (this one has Kenny Garrett and Kenny Barron), giving the local Tower Records store a grand total of seven titles (three are 2-CD sets) of the late trumpeter, when just three years ago there were none. They are the primary curators of the recording legacy of one of this music’s most unheralded voices. When’s the box set coming?


Jazz…has…a Sense of Humor

Horace Silver has assembled another fine quintet featuring Ryan Kisor on trumpet, Jimmy Greene on saxophones, John Webber on bass, and Willie Jones III on drums. Who knows if jazz has a sense of humor, but there is no question that Silver does. Take a listen to his three-part “The Mama Suite.”


(32 Jazz)

Sometimes it is just best if critics get out of the way and let the listening audience enjoy it for themselves. This is a gimme. Play it loud. Play it constantly.


Quintet for a Day
(New World Records)

It is a sad statement that no label has offered to document trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. At least he is getting his props from his peers. What We Live, bassist Lisle Ellis, saxophonist Larry Ochs, and drummer Donald Robinson, invited Leo Smith and another inventive trumpeter, Dave Douglas to guest on the trio’s latest, Quintet for a Day. It’s Leo Smith and Douglas in a free form setting. It’s improvisation in its truest form.


Adult Themes
(MAMA Records)

Anthony Wilson’s third outing is every bit as solid as his first two, which were critically acclaimed. And although the absence of tenor cult-hero Bennie Wallace is felt, the blow is lessened by Wilson’s impressive maturity as a leader. His eleven-member ensemble plays a nostalgic brand of jazz that will have Stan Kenton fans lining up at the register. Buy it at www.mamajazz.org.


(Palmetto Records)

It’s no wonder drummer Matt Wilson is grinning from ear to ear on the cover of his new Palmetto release. He just whipped up one heck of a blowing session. Check out the quartet’s (Andrew D’Angelo, alto sax and bass clarinet, Joel Frahm, tenor and soprano sax, and Yosuke Inoue, bass) deconstruction of “Strangers in the Night.” This ain’t your grandfather’s “Strangers in the Night.” Brilliant. Available on the web at www.palmetto-records.com.


Jung on Jazz October 1998

Jung on Jazz October 1998

(Savoy Jazz)

It is comfortable to be in the company of old friends and pianist Marc Copland sounds plenty relaxed with a lineup of familiar colleagues that includes saxophonists Michael Brecker and Joe Lovano, trumpeter Tim Hagans, bassist Gary Peacock, and drummer Bill Stewart.

Copland defines Softly with a swinging “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise.” The whirling interplay between Hagans and Lovano is astounding, as the two engage in conversation and turn in intelligent precise improvisations. Brecker guests on the Copland original “Country Home” and the tenor saxophonist’s laid-back remarks mesh perfectly with Copland’s warm and delicate probing. “Not a Ballad” is characterized by the dynamic lines dropped by Lovano and the steady, streaming bass passages of Peacock.

Softly is a wonderful introduction to the music of Copland and should lead to his other release Stompin’ with Savoy and Hagan’s No Words, which also features Copland, Stewart, and Lovano.


(Dreyfus Jazz)

Arguably one of the most influential drummers in jazz, Roy Haynes has been keeping time for almost half a century. Having played with Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Pud Powell, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Lennie Tristano, Eric Dolphy, and Thelonious Monk, it would be easier to name who the 73-year-old Haynes hasn’t played with than who he has. In recent years, the 1994 recipient of the Danish Jazzpar prize has been recording steadily for Dreyfus Jazz. Praise is the third album for Dreyfus and his twenty-first as a leader. Haynes is joined by his son, doubling on flugelhorn and cornet, David Sanchez on tenor saxophone, Kenny Garrett on both alto and soprano saxophones, David Kikoski on piano, Dwayne Burno on bass, and Daniel Moreno on percussion, he explores compositions by Chick Corea, Charlie Parker, McCoy Tyner, as well as his own selections.

Charlie Parker’s “My Little Suede Shoes” is a duet between the elder Haynes and Garrett. With the solid Haynes maintaining the tempo and groove, Garrett weaves in and out, touching on all the subtle nuances of the Bird original. The call and response that ensues is remarkable. The young Haynes is the featured soloist for the ballad “The Touch of Your Lips.” Kikoski’s lush chords introduce an arousing flugelhorn solo from Haynes, whose tone is mesmerizing. Haynes’s six-minute “Shades of Senegal” is epic percussion.

Haynes’s enormous heart could not be held by his modest frame, and that is exactly what Praise is, all heart.


Timeless Tales (For Changing Times)

(Warner Brothers)

The jazz media’s tendency to binge over an artist has mostly been detrimental to both the artist and the jazz industry as a whole. Joshua Redman has been the “flavor of the month” since he took home first prize at the Thelonious Monk Competition in 1991. The son of saxophonist Dewey Redman was “the” perfect story, graduating summa cum laude from Harvard and on his way to study law at Yale, and the jazz media went on a feeding frenzy. There is no denying that the young 29-year-old saxophonist has talent, but it is hard to justify such wide-spread adoration for a musician just beginning his career when veteran saxophonists such as Billy Harper, Odean Pope, Charles Gayle, and his father Dewey Redman remain largely ignored. Like most young musicians, Redman has a refreshing variety of influences that go beyond the scope of jazz, from Sonny Rollins to Stevie Wonder. Redman’s sixth release for Warner Brothers has him exploring the music of those influences with song selections that include music from Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and The Beatles. The quartet for Timeless Tales (For Changing Times) features Redman playing tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones, drummer Brian Blade, pianist Brad Mehldau, and bassist Larry Grenadier.

The seductive swaying of Stevie Wonder’s “Visions” is inviting. Mehldau’s lush harmonics and cultured touch magnify the moody development. Redman’s warm treatment of “How Deep Is The Ocean” is focused and familiar. Grenadier’s pacing bass lines respond to Blade’s melodic trappings and Mehldau’s lyrical intensity. “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” is Redman’s brightest moment, as he abrasively attacks the Prince original with a colorful unpredictability. Redman brings his session to a close in rousing and impressive fashion.

These are changing times and the music of Rodgers & Hammerstein , Irving Berlin, Gershwin, and Cole Porter is timeless, but whether or not Joshua Redman is to survive the test of time remains to be seen. The young Redman has all the facilities talent-wise to do so. It is up to him to continue his growth and maturity and earn his accolades in jazz’s school of hard knocks.


Songs We Know

In jazz, as with any relationship, chemistry plays a pivotal role in cultivating stimulating conversation. Guitarist Bill Frisell has been honing his craft with Paul Motian and Joe Lovano, John Zorn, and Wayne Horvitz. Pianist Fred Hersch has extensively performed with Charlie Haden, Joe Henderson, and Stan Getz. Frisell and Hersch are a perfect fit together and it only leaves one to question why they did not rendezvous sooner. Songs We Know are a collection of standards that the pair is familiar with.

“It Might As Well Be Spring” is a delightfully mesmerizing piece, full of texture, color, and shape. Both Frisell and Hersch are abstract in their approach. “Someday My Prince Will Come” lends itself to their manipulation. Frisell’s hybrid of country, folk, and jazz music gives a modern shape to the familiar melody and Hersch’s light-hearted lyricism is a perfect balance. The duo’s fascinating rendition of “My One And Only Love” is the highlight of their collaboration. Frisell restores the standard with subtle, romantic touches. Hersch’s sense of drama is amazing, as he uses space to shade the music flawlessly.

Although Songs We Know may be less appealing to straight jazz fans, there is no denying its beauty. The couple’s ideas run together and the music they generate is at the forefront of what is contemporary American music.



The Red Door

When tenor saxophoist Scott Hamilton was paired with guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli on a 1994 quartet engagement, the idea for the Zoot Sims tribute came to life. Pizzarelli, a long time associate of Sims, was a perfect choice to join Hamilton on his new album The Red Door, a tribute to the late saxophonist. A duo recording, The Red Door is yet another in the 43-year-old tenorman’s Concord discography that has been remarkably consistent (Hamilton has recorded over 30 albums for Concord).

Hamilton is very listener friendly in his refined, smooth approach and Pizzarelli has a gentleman’s caress in his accompaniment and improvisations. The combo delivers “It Had To Be You” in laid-back fashion. Hamilton sounds a lot like Sims on a lovely reading of the familiar ballad “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You?” Hamilton’s mellow saxophone swooning is executed with the integrity of his natural ease. The mid-tempo “Just You, Just Me” finds the twosome in fine form. The communication between the tenor saxophonist and guitarist make for a delightful session.



New York is the jazz capital of the world and for an artist, making it in New York means national and sometimes international recognition. After moving to the Big Apple when he was 18, saxophonist Chris Potter immediately began lighting up the scene with memorable stints with Red Rodney, Kenny Werner, James Moody, Ray Brown, Renee Rosnes, Billy Hart, and Steve Swallow. Recently, Potter can be found on the road with Mike Mainieri’s quartet, or on stage with Paul Motian, Dave Douglas, and Dave Holland’s quintet. Now a ripe 27, Potter’s new release Vertigo, his sixth for the Concord label, has the same rhythm instrumentation as his last release Unspoken, but using Potter’s peers, fellow New Yorkers, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Billy Drummond.

Potter negotiates through every twist and turn of “Shiva,” flexing his sax muscles, accompanied by Rosenwinkel’s searing and expressive guitar work. Potter has blossomed into one of the strongest young tenors today, not tomorrow. Potter finesses the solo introduction of “Act III, Scene I,” a reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with a series of lean and controlled passages. Fellow tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano guests on three of the tracks and “Modeen’s Mood,” a theme dedicated to drummer Motian is the high point of their rendezvous. With Drummond tracking the pair with radar precision, Lovano and Potter trade off, exchanging robust, mellifluous responses with each other.

Potter has as much range as there are stars in space, the possibilities are endless. With the release of Vertigo, it is only a matter of time before Potter, like Lovano, becomes the tenor to reckon with.


In This World

Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner released his self-titled debut on Warner Brothers earlier this year to mixed reviews. What most critics conveniently forgot to realize is that Turner had recorded the album two years prior to its release, and two years is a lifetime for a musician’s growth. Turner’s sophomore outing is a more accurate assessment to Turner’s current proficiency. In This World was recorded over this summer in New York and features fellow Gen-X all-stars, pianist Brad Mehldau, drummers Brian Blade and Jorge Rossy, bassist Larry Grenadier, and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Not willing to merely hang onto the coattails of John Coltrane, Turner has worked to develop his own distinctively approachable style. “Mesa” is one of six originals from the young tenor saxophonist, who builds the music with compelling lines and charismatic flourishes. Unaccompanied, Turner begins “You Know I Care” with a persuasive sensuality. Mehldau’s exquisite playing has now become his hallmark and he shifts the mood from tenderness to pure ecstasy. The subtle interaction between Blade and Grenadier tiptoeing unhurriedly through leaves the intimate setting undisturbed. Turner’s velvet whispers and his elegant logic dignifies the mellow moment as the album’s pinnacle.

Turner sounds out of this world. In This World is a sure bet to be one of the year’s finest recordings.


Spring Is Here
(Koch Jazz)

Along with Hamiet Bluiett, Ronnie Cuber, Gary Smulyan, and James Carter, Nick Brignola is recognized as one of the finest baritone saxophonists in jazz. Having performed alongside Max Roach, Stan Getz, Charles Mingus, Phil Woods, and Woody Herman, Brignola sure has the credentials. He is joined by the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra as part of a series of releases showcasing various soloists, accompanied by the orchestra, on Koch Jazz.

Brignola is the center of attention for a beautiful arrangement of “East of the Sun.” The veteran baritone player’s tasteful execution and lyrical wisdom proves why he is a consistent poll winner. An unforgettable version of “When You Wish Upon A Star” is romantic enough to have even Tinkerbell yearning for a dancing partner. Brignola’s unhurried, mild-mannered swagger is perfect. A lovely “The Very Thought of You” summarizes the essence of Spring Is Here. Brignola’s breathing baritone sax is thoroughly inviting. The saxophonist has an uncanny ability to effortlessly handle a ballad without watering down his improvisational merit.

Spring Is Here is perfect for a quiet candlelight evening for two. Laden with sultry ballads and the slow majesty of Brignola, it is a mood setter, even for the most hardest of hearts.



Magic Triangle
(Arabesque Recordings)

Trumpeter Dave Douglas may not be a household name now, but it is only a matter of time before he becomes one. Winner of the “Best Trumpeter” Award at this summer’s first annual New York Jazz Awards, Douglas has graduated from being a sideman with Anthony Braxton and John Zorn, to leading a variety of bands that includes his Sextet, his String Trio, his Tiny Bells Trio, and his Quartet with tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist James Genus, and drummer Ben Perowsky, all of whom appear on his latest release for Arabesque, Magic Triangle.

All the music on Magic Triangle are Douglas originals and he begins things with a swinging “Everyman,” forming his solos logically, sporadically accenting his mellow tone with a smear or two. “Barrage” has the trumpeter playing in unison with Potter. The duo whimsically communicate with great warmth and sweet harmony. Perowsky’s strong ride accents open up the composition. Genus’s bass lines initiate “The Ghost,” as Douglas and Potter lets the story unfold, gradually building the intensity. Douglas’s solo is a series of ascending and descending notes that demonstrate his lyrical smoothness. Potter explores the melody as he slides up and down the horn augmenting the music with an intermittent growl or scream.

Douglas’s stock is on the rise. The trumpeter may not be as publicized as fellow hornmen, Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove, or Wynton Marsalis, but in time Dave Douglas will be a household name.


Beautiful Love
(RED Records)

Since recording his debut for Billy Higgins’s World Stage label in 1994, tenor saxophonist Robert Stewart has emerged as one of the most progressive players of the instrument. The Bay Area native’s high-profile engagements with Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, and McCoy Tyner led to In The Gutta and The Force for Quincy Jones’s Qwest label. Beautiful Love is a 1994 session that the 29-year-old Stewart recorded for the European label, RED Records. Stewart’s quartet includes pianist Eric Tillman, bassist Jeff Littleton, and drummer Brett Sanders.

Stewart starts things off with a vibrant rendition of “Speak Low.” The tenorman’s aggressive, muscular tone dominates the tune at times, but it does not overwhelm the dynamic interplay between Tillman and Sanders. Sanders’s polished and powerful trapwork is a perfect compliment to Tillman’s chord- based solos. The ballad “Body and Soul” is eloquently enunciated by Stewart, as Tillman exudes his relaxed inventions. Stewart’s warm, flowing statements are accentuated by the firmly plucked figures of Littleton. Stewart has no trouble with “Canadian Sunset,” playing with energy and consummate authority, even getting occasionally ornery. The shifting rhythms of Littleton and Sanders only heighten the dexterous movements of Tillman and Stewart. The session concludes with a vigorous alternate take of “Speak Low.”

Stewart’s leadership and efforts on Beautiful Love lend merit to Billy Higgins’s referral that he is “perhaps the most important young artist to come along in decades”.

Jung on Jazz September 1998

Jung on Jazz September 1998

The Contender
(Warner Brothers)

With the success of Swingers, the rejuvenation of swing music into the fabric of American pop culture is in full swing. Los Angeles clubs like The Derby and swing bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Squirrel Nut Zipper, and Royal Crown Revue have a cult like following that drinks martinis and dances the night away. But with success comes criticism, and the critics have been particularly harsh of Royal Crown Revue, calling the nineties swing band “crude” and “not authentic jazz music”. What does authenticity have to do with enjoying music or having a good time, because that is exactly what Royal Crown Revue seems to be giving their fans.

The seven members of Royal Crown Revue, vocalist Eddie Nichols, guitarist James Achor, tenor saxophonist Mando Dorame, baritone saxophonist Bill Ungerman, trumpeter Scott Steen, bassist Veikko Lepisto, and drummer Daniel Glass may not have the technical prowess of a jazz musician, but they sure know how to have a good time. Although their version of swing music is much more Oingo Boingo then it is anything resembling jazz, they have carved a musical marketplace for themselves and they may bring more younger listeners to venture into listening to an occasional John Coltrane album or experimenting with a Miles Davis classic.

Beyond the hyped images of cigars and zoot suits, Royal Crown Revue has plenty of gusto and the album’s title track “The Contender,” “Zip Gun Bop (Reloaded),” and “Salt Peanuts” are thoroughly enjoyable. Royal Crown Revue gives the Dizzy Gillespie tune “Salt Peanuts” a new, nineties twist and in the process helps the listener appreciate the sheer brilliance of the original.

These young musicians are “money” and they know it. Royal Crown Revue may have Glenn Miller turning in his grave, but that’s probably because he is getting “jiggy” with it. The Contender is not for everyone, but it is perfect for a poolside sitting with a gin and tonic in one hand and a Cuban in the other.


Nocturnal Traces
(Blue Note)

The trumpet has been at the front line of jazz since the dawn of Louis Armstrong and immortalized in musical folklore by Miles Davis. Booker Little, Lee Morgan, Woody Shaw, Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham, Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, Art Farmer, Clark Terry, and Freddie Hubbard are all household names because of the trumpet. Wynton Marsalis, Tom Harrell, Jon Faddis, Terence Blanchard, Wallace Roney, Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, and Dave Douglas are the trumpeters of today and tomorrow, continuing the legacy of the Biblical instrument that brought down the walls of Jericho. Marcus Printup is seldom mentioned on such lists. Along with Tim Hagans, whom Printup recorded Hubsongs with last year, Printup should be.

A recent defector to Los Angeles by way of New York, Printup has been developing a loyal following playing primarily at the Bel Age’s Club Brasserie and local county museums. One can not live in Los Angeles without having some connection with Hollywood and Printup will be flexing his acting muscles in the upcoming feature film starring Dennis Quaid, Sean Connery, and the X- Files’s Gillian Anderson titled Dancing About Architecture. All this while recording his fourth album for Blue Note, Nocturnal Traces, a crossroad album for the 31-year-old trumpeter whose playing for the first time with his own band. Printup’s quartet includes Kevin Bales on piano, Ricky Ravelo on bass, and Woody Williams on drums.

Printup’s spirited “Woody’s Beat” has the horn player matching wits with a swinging Williams. Bales’s surprisingly imaginative approach challenges the leader to take flight and Printup stands tall and tempers a crisp routine. Williams, not to be outdone, lays down a furious onslaught. “Body and Soul,” the standard that tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins made famous, allows for Printup to eloquently express his warmth and strengths as a ballader. Printup’s soulful treatment fills the evening air with a stirring romanticism that lingers long after the song is over.

It is obvious that Printup has put his heart and his soul into this album and this hardworking trumpeter deserves immediate notice. Nocturnal Traces should be a must for anyone who enjoys the trumpet, anyone who enjoys jazz music, and anyone who enjoys life.


Goat Hill Junket
(MAMA Foundation)

Nineteen ninety-seven was a very good year for Anthony Wilson. The guitarist son of composer/arranger Gerald Wilson, debuted his recording career with his self-titled Grammy nominated CD on MAMA Foundation. To avoid the dreaded sophomore jinx, the young Wilson has chosen to stick with what worked for him last year for his newest release Goat Hill Junket. Utilizing another nine- piece band and including an encore performance by friend and mentor, tenor saxophonist Bennie Wallace as the album’s featured guest soloist, Wilson has game planned another sure fire winner. Wilson’s ensemble also features the fine talents of trumpeter John D’ Earth, trombonist Art Baron, pianist Mike LeDonne, bassist Danton Boller, drummer Jeff Ballard, and saxophonists Jerry Dodgion, Ted Nash, and Joe Temperley.

The cohesiveness of “The Cherry Tree” makes it plainly obvious that Wilson has inherited the harmonic sensibility of his father. The music eases its way into the listener’s heart much like a gentle wave makes its way on to the shore. But, the album’s most special moments are the two tracks showcasing the criminally ignored talents of Wallace. Wallace first guests on his own composition “It Has Happened To Me,” a number Wallace has played with his quartet in recent years at Southern California club dates. Wilson took the smaller ensemble instrumentation and fitted that for a larger band. Wallace swings throughout the tune in grand scale, working his tenor up and down in charismatic structure, adding brief tonal exaggerations for effect. With the ante upped in such dramatic fashion, both Wilson and Boller unleash impeccable performances. The session comes to a close with an animated “Stairway To The Stars.” The tenorman’s bluesy rendition is vintage Wallace. Wallace’s thrilling solo is not spoiled by an incompatible orchestration, but rather highlighted by the rousing accompaniment of an array of sounds. Wilson’s arrangements are not a frustrating listening experience due in great part to the young guitarist’s familiarity with his instruments and his keen understanding that sometimes less is more. Wallace is consistently compelling in his role and the saxophonist’s witty solo development is only a testament to his mature virtuosity. It is a sorry editorial that he does not have a major record contract.

The young Wilson’s talents are without limits and his future is one of the brightest in jazz. With his footing firmly entrenched in humility and his heart in his music, Wilson will be every bit the strong leader that his father is.


Tenor Legacy
(Arkadia Jazz)

What is the legacy of the tenor saxophone? The tenor saxophone is the signature instrument of jazz. It has surpassed its potential with the advent of jazz music and the tenor players that have graced the stages of basement, smoke-filled clubs have ensured the instrument’s appreciation. Players like Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, and the venerable John Coltrane have been innovators of the instrument and every one of them are included in saxophonist Benny Golson’s massive tribute to the almighty tenor sax on Arkadia Jazz aptly entitled Tenor Legacy. Golson heads an all-star session filled with some of the most creative minds in jazz today. Tenor saxophonists Brandford Marsalis, James Carter, and Harold Ashby, pianist Geoff Keezer, bassist Dwayne Burno, and drummer Joe Farnsworth all join Golson in his dedication to some of the most influential tenors in history.

Obviously the prime time cast is not a working band and no real innovation is on display for this session, but the music is thoroughly enjoyable, mainly due to the musicianship of Marsalis, Carter, Keezer, and Golson. “Body and Soul” has Marsalis at his most lyrical moment to date. The much publicized departure from the Tonight Show has seem to re-invigorate his playing. Marsalis’s pleasing sound and his tender reading make for an appealing experience. Next up is the Rollins’s anthem “St. Thomas” and Golson and Ashby share the honors and their solos have the casual ease and lay back attitude that the calypso number should have. The young Carter puts the “P” into personality with an exhilarating version of “My Favorite Things.” Carter is not merely “talent deserving wider recognition”, he is the most consistently entertaining tenor player today. Carter’s trademark growls and fog horn blasts are beacons in the jazz night and give the war horse standard a new and bold face lift.

A project worthy of its players, Tenor Legacy proves that the legacy of the tenor saxophone lies solely in the hands of the tenor players of the past as well as the tenor players of the future. With such musicians as Marsalis and Carter, the future is in good hands.


Young Gunn Plus

(32 Jazz)

Seven years after the death of Miles Davis, another East St. Louis native makes his debut on Joel Dorn’s 32 Jazz. A trumpeter who got his chops playing at Davis’s alma mater, Lincoln High, Russell Gunn is one of a growing number of young guns whose familiarity with jazz music is amazing. Originally released on Muse Records as Young Gunn (the cast included pianist John Hicks, tenor saxophonist Sam Newsome, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Cecil Brooks III), Adam Dorn added a couple more tunes and re-released the shamefully ignored album, re-titling it Young Gunn Plus.

From a lyrically soothing “Fly Me To The Moon” that would raise the curiosity of the staunchest Sinatra devotee, to a deeply mellow “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” Gunn shows remarkable maturity as he negotiates the standards with distinguished exactness. But the highlight of the recording is Gunn’s duet with Hicks. Hicks’s sensitivity is thoroughly inviting and he brings out the sublime beauty of the Thelonious Monk composition “Pannonica.” The bonus track “Ginger Bread Boy” includes Brandford Marsalis on tenor saxophone, James Hurt on piano, Eric Revis on bass, and Ali Jackson on drums. The muscular tone of Marsalis’s saxophone musings are a perfect foil with the finesse horn cries of Gunn.

In the liner notes the 27-year-old Gunn candidly remarks, “There’s a whole different vibe when people approach music from a truly emotional standpoint instead from a trying-to-sell-records standpoint.” Young Gunn Plus’s “vibe” is different and that is a refreshing start for a young gun who does not seem to be shooting blanks.


The Art of Rhythm

(RCA Victor)

A fluent technician, trumpeter Tom Harrell’s understated lyricism and his exceptional harmonic restraint is the standard by which trumpeters will be judged for years to come. Occupying the trumpet chair for Horace Silver and Phil Woods, Harrell has built his iron chops in the presence of strong company to become the perennial horn player of his generation. Remarkably, Harrell has maintained his elevated level of playing throughout his career and has won poll after poll. The Art of Rhythm is yet another chapter in Harrell’s near flawless discography. The musicians featured in the four different rhythm sections involve bassists Andy Gonzales, David Finck, and Ugonna Okegwo, and percussionists Leon Parker, Adam Cruz, and Milton Cardona. The album’s soloists include Dewey Redman, Mike Stern, Danilo Perez, Greg Tardy, and David Sanchez.

“Petals Danse” contains a clarinet solo from Greg Tardy. Tardy, backed by an exquisite string section, forms a delicately balanced melody that is in perfect harmony with Harrell’s charming touch. Sounding uncharacteristically reserved, Redman’s seductive inventions on “Doo Bop” should put to ease any misconceptions that Redman is merely power oriented. The all of the septet contributes to the beginning of “Samba Do Amor” and makes room for Stern’s electric riffs. Stern’s explorations are full of vitality and color. Harrell remains within his musical parameters and his technique is immaculate.

Harrell is the essence of the beauty of jazz. Every note he fingers is the perfect note for that moment and he never embellishes his music, never grandstands. Harrell is not only the trumpeter of his generation, but one of the great trumpeters of all time.


Far Horizons
(Resurgent Music)

Born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota, pianist Gerard Hagen had the privilege of coming from a musical family (as a rule, everyone played two instruments). Playing the trombone and piano, Hagen’s interests in high school tended to delve into the rock and roll genre. It wasn’t until his jazz band director turned him onto jazz that Hagen, at 18, shifted his course to devoting himself to playing jazz music. After an unimpressive trombone solo in college, Hagen turned his attention to the piano, listening to the harmonic styling of Bill Evans, Tommy Flanagan, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, and Kenny Barron. Hagen has steadily been a fixture in southland clubs for many years and releases Far Horizons, primarily a trio date with fellow Californians, bassist Domenic Genova, and drummer Jerry Kalaf, guest starring alto saxophonist Gary Foster.

Hagen elegantly walks through Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays,” thoughtfully progressing along with the lyrical and harmonic sensibility of Bill Evans. The brush strokes of Kalaf help facilitate the melancholy longing of the tune. Foster initially makes his presence felt, opening a vibrant “I Should Care,” surging to the upper registers and unveiling a dynamic solo before allowing the rest of the quartet to work their magic. Hagen’s colorful splashes and mature subtleties make for yet another fine moment. The romantic “You And The Night And The Music” is the highlight of this delightful listening experience. Hagen and his quartet cohesively interact with one another and produce a mesmerizing portrait of sensitivity. Foster’s sensual wit may be at the forefront of the foursome, but it is Hagen’s gentle, seductive phrases that steal the show.

Occasionally, there are diamonds in the ruff, and every once in a great while there is a diamond worth searching for. Hagen’s Far Horizons is one to ask the local record retailer for. Available at all fine Tower Records locations or by contacting Resurgent Music at resurgentmusic@earthlink.net, Far Horizons is a listening treasure.


Bele Bele en La Habana
(Blue Note)

Although former Irakere members Arturo Sandoval and Paquito D’ Rivera have gone on to fame and fortune in the United States (Sandoval was last seen accompanying Celine Dion and D’ Rivera earning a Grammy for Portraits of Cuba), Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes has largely remained underexposed. But with a new relationship with Blue Note and a targeted tour in support of his new release Bele Bele en La Habana, the son of Bebo Valdes might just get the notoriety he so sorely deserves. Using Afro-Cuban instrumentation, Valdes’s quartet of Alain Perez Rodriguez on bass, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot on congas, and Raul Pineda Roque on drums, explores the sounds of Cuba from danzon to mambo. The advantage of a more intimate Afro-Cuban setting as opposed to the more traditional larger ensembles is that this offers a rare glimpse into the piano stylings of Cuba’s most influential export since the Cohiba.

Valdes is an impeccable architect of drama and color and his prowess is on fine display with the son “Son Montuno.” As the leader balances creative keyboard quotes with elegantly sensual chords, Guillot and Roque mercilessly push the infectious pulse. The Cuban theme continues with the guaracha “El Cumbanchero,” as Valdes goes about surgically dissecting the piano. Valdes feasts off the group interplay and his flurries have a confident panache. Valdes is the titan of Latin jazz. Hopefully the public will take notice with the widespread availability of Bele Bele en La Habana and advance this statesman out of jazz’s shadows and into the spotlight.


Jung on Jazz August 1999

Jung on Jazz August 1999 


August 1999


Stir It Up: The Music of Bob Marley
(Telarc Jazz)

Concept albums have a very high rate of failure in this reviewer’s ears. Now that having been said, Monty Alexander’s new Telarc release, Stir It Up: The Music of Bob Marley works and works quite well. This may just be this reviewer’s high bias toward anything Marley, but discounting that, the pianist’s Jamaican heritage may have lent a helping hand to driving the grooves that makes it so a jazz interpretation of the Rastafarian’s music is not so far fetched. The pianist uses two rhythm sections, a base quartet that he simply calls USA Jazz Rhythm Section (Derek DiCenzon on guitar, Hassan J. J. Wiggins on bass, and Troy Davis on drums) and a Jamaican rhythm section that he refers to as The Gumption Band (Dwight Dawes on keys, Robert Angus on guitar, Trevor McKenzie and Glen Browne on bass, Rolando Wilson on drums, and Desmond Jones on percussion), plus a special guest appearance for trombonist Steve Turre, to tackle the monumental task of playing Marley’s music.

The catchy “Could You Be Loved” is riveting. Alexander and his band of merry men jump right into the thick of things and it results in a pretty cool effort. But nothing beats a brilliant take on “No Woman No Cry.” Alexander plays the Marley classic without hesitation and shapes the tune with logical accents and changes that don’t interrupt the song’s steady groove. If that isn’t mouthwatering enough, check out Turre’s conch shell and trombone interludes on a witty “I Shot the Sheriff.”

This is actually the first release this year that this reviewer found listening to repeatedly in the car. And stuck in gridlock on the 405, Stir It Up is a Godsend. For those who find themselves with a bit of the munchies, this is also the perfect filler, but buyer beware, if one is old-fashioned or a hard-line traditionalist, then Stir It Up probably isn’t the best bet. Otherwise, clam onto this one. It’s got “plenty of alley, no oops”.


Love You Madly
(Delmark Records)

Most people in their late seventies are content with relaxing to Wheel of Fortune after dinner and tend to shy away from heavy activity of any kind, but not Eddie Johnson. This tenor saxophonist is still swinging and doing so at the ripe old age of 78. Unlike most players half his age, Johnson has a style all his own and a warmth that comes across on record considerably well.

The only downside to Johnson is his limited discography. He’s only released two albums as a leader, and only one of those, his debut for Delmark, Love You Madly, is widely available. With the prototypical jazz quartet, piano (John Young), bass (Eddie De Haas), drum (George Hughes), and saxophone, Johnson plays a nostalgic selection from the jazz of yore.

Johnson’s tenor sermon is filled with passion and dances side by side with Young’s intellectual accompaniment on a lovely “Gravy Waltz.” Johnson is an entertaining layer with an accessible modesty in his approach and a fluency that proves that the tenor man has aged quite admirably. But it is Johnson’s utterly compelling presence on “Eyes of Love” that is stunning. Johnson’s lyrical romanticism coalesces gracefully with the superb comping from his rhythm section. The tenor saxophonist’s no frills, tasteful performance of the Quincy Jones’ melody is the highlight of the session and worth the cost of the CD in it of itself.

Johnson is truly one of the Windy City’s living treasures and Love You Madly is nicely done and rewarding from start to finish.


Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project

Widely known for his forays in scoring music for films, trumpeter Mark Isham has generally been ignored by the mainstream jazz press. But with his last album, based upon his music for the feature film Afterglow, Isham has climbed back into the good graces of the gallery. His follow-up release, Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project, should keep him there. Generously utilizing the advancements in mixing and editing technology, Isham brings along a two guitar (Peter Maunu and Steve Cardenas) quintet with bassist Doug Lunn and drummer Michael Barsimanto to record the music of the most influential trumpeter in the history of this music and whose late period had a profound effect on Isham.

Isham manages to bring the elements of the late trumpeter’s captivating hypnotism of “In a Silent Way – Milestones,” his liberal take on Davis’ “In a Silent Way.” It takes two guitarists to manage the intensity and bravado of John McLaughlin on Miles Davis’ “Right Off (Theme from Jack Johnson).” And in it’s own quirky way, it manages to work, half in part to dumb luck and half in part to Isham’s understanding of Davis’ music. That is apparent by his approach to “It’s About That Time.” All in all it is a nice hour spent.

Isham’s initial purpose was to have fun and he certainly does manage to do so. Keep in mind, that if it is innovation that one is looking for, it won’t be found here. It isn’t for everybody, but hardly anything is these days.


Yo Miles!

Where the Mark Isham tribute to Miles Davis falters, Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Kaiser’s Yo Miles! succeeds marvelously, by not simply rehashing images of Miles’ ’70s period, but expanding on his material exponentially. This reviewer got the album more than six months ago and is still trying to absorb all the music. There’s plenty of it too, on the 2-CD set.

Yo Miles! is a sonic roller coaster, complete with numerous unexpected turns and twists, steady lulls to give the listener some room to digest it all, and plenty of psychedelic electronic explorations that pack plenty of wallop. Leo Smith’s excursions are reflective for an introspective “Miles Dewey Davis III – Great Ancestor” and cuts like a samurai sword for an energetic “Big Fun/Hollywuud.” Avant-rockists should be beside themselves for a way out “Calypso Frelimo,” which is anything but tongue in cheek. Yo Miles! is two and a half hours of some of the edgiest blowing to come out in years by two fearless warriors devoted to their craft. It is just the adrenaline shot in the arm that jazz is definitely in need of.

Forget the labels, avant-whatever or acid-jazz, and get plugged into Yo Miles!.


The Real Thing
(32 Jazz)

When primal forces meet, one thing is for certain. History is in the making. So when JEAN-YVES THIBAUDET gets together with Louis Hayes, it’s a given that there is going to be some powerful ascension happening. And that’s exactly what transpires on this Louis Hayes wailing session, originally recorded for Muse in the late seventies and re-released for public viewing by Joel Dorn and his band of merry men at 32 Jazz. Largely a quintet with Rene McLean on saxophones, Ronnie Mathews on piano, and Stafford Jones on bass, The Real Thing also features trombonist Slide Hampton for three ditties.

Although Shaw is one of this music’s finest virtuosos, it is his exceptional sentiment introducing “Nisha” that is too evocative for words. Mathew’s lush chords and opulent left and right hand lines provide ample cushion for Shaw’s dreamy trumpet harmony. Witness how he subtly concludes the melody. Hayes’ hi-hat rapping introduces a dissonant Mathews and McLean offering abstract bursts for the blowing number “Loose Suite.” Hayes’ never ending bag of tricks has him augmenting snare rolls with an occasional tom accent or cymbal crash. It is the drummer’s finest moments on the record.

There is so little of Hayes’ music out there as a leader, people should be jumping all over this one. 32 Jazz has done it again, with another top shelf release in The Real Thing, which is a pretty damn good description of the drummer himself.


Reflections on Duke

Finally, after over half a century has passed, the mainstream public and media are recognizing what jazz audiences have known all along. Duke Ellington is not merely a great jazz composer, but one of America’s finest composers period. So it should be no surprise that in celebration of Ellington’s centennial, every record company and its mother are releasing box sets, or compilations, or tributes to the late band leader. Getting lost in the stampede is an interesting solo piano interpretation from renowned French classical concert pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. He is no stranger to interpreting works of jazz, having released the successful Bill Evans album a few years earlier entitled Conversations with Bill Evans.

The hallmark of jazz is its spontaneous improvisation and innovation. Which, by definition, is foreign to classical musicians, who are trained to memorize and read music. Thibaudet does just that, playing Ellington’s melodies line by line, note for note (“Jubilee Stomp”), but then again, once in a while, the pianist does seem to have an admirable knack for bringing out the refined beauty of Ellington’s work. “In a Sentimental Mood” is a fine example of this. Ellington’s most famous melody is brought to vivid life by the Frenchman, whose touch and pianism truly lift the music of Ellington to a higher pantheon. Thibaudet’s elegant treatment of “Lush Life” is also of interest, as the pianist strums the keys with his right hand and strolls along with his left.

Hopefully, this will serve as a catalyst for more classical artists to take on the challenging music of Ellington, so that one day, the Tower Records classical room will have an Ellington section.


(Astor Place)

There are certain inalienable truths: all men are created equal, one plus one equals two, don’t run with scissors, and Cedar Walton is a damn good composer. Having been composing for just under half a century, Walton has plenty of what can be referred to as standards in his songbook. Plenty, and some are revisited on his latest album for Astor Place aptly titled Roots. With a base trio of Ron Carter on bass and Lewis Nash on drums, Walton features special guest artists, Joshua Redman on tenor saxophone, Terence Blanchard on trumpet, and Mark Whitfield on guitar, each respectively for three cuts.

An impressive Redman kicks things off with a rousing “Boliva,” complete with authentic lyricism from Walton and commanding trap work from Nash. Redman, who has blossomed as an individual soloist, puts his own ideas into the Walton original “Ojos De Rojo,” keeping the theme fresh and interesting. As compelling as Redman’s time is, the most arresting portions take place with Blanchard, who is one of the most technically flawless trumpeters on the scene. Blanchard has a illuminating voice and elegantly shapes both “When Love is New” and “I’ll Let You Know” with a consummately angelic tone that would make Gabriel envious.

As an artist, Cedar Walton has established himself. It’s time for everyone outside the loop to get a heads up on his impressive resume as a composer.


Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh
(KOCH Jazz)

After being carpet bombed by an extended campaign of pop and trend-based jazz, who can blame audiences for growing accustomed to all the mediocrity of familiarity? Thankfully, re-issues are back in style and the timeless music captured from sessions of yesteryear can lead jazz through this chaotic state of commercialism. Anytime Tristano-ites Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh appear together, it’s the closest thing to a gimme these days. Originally released by Atlantic in the mid-’50s, Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh also includes the likes of pianist Sal Mosca, guitarist Billy Bauer, bassist Oscar Pettiford, and drummer Kenny Clarke.

The rhythm section falls into brief periods of lackluster playing, but Konitz and Marsh seem unaffected, playing inspired music, whether in unison or riffing off one another. A rendition of Bird’s calling card, “Donna Lee,” is fine, straight-ahead, no chaser required. Pettiford is a standout on his own “Don’t Squawk” and Konitz is particularly on for a brisk “Ronnie’s Line.”

Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh is a window into the prime of both saxophonists and is an essential edition to anyone’s jazz library. It’s heads and tails above all the so-so that is flooding the market.


The Red Quartets
(Arabesque Recordings)

With Fred Hersch on piano, Mark Dresser on bass, and Bobby Previte on drums, soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom has all of the elements needed in place for a noteworthy rendezvous on her latest Arabesque release, The Red Quartets.

Hersch’s harmonic sensibility has always been the hallmark of the pianist’s playing, and his refined touch on a cool rendition of “Time After Time” further reinforces that notion. Bloom’s reserved and subtle voice is perfectly logical for the music and completely draws the listener in. “Tell Me Your Diamonds” is a delicious waltz incorporating the lyricism of both Bloom and Hersch with the often angular edge of Dresser and Previte, both of whom play persuasively, matching the saxophonist’s romanticism. Bloom’s tangible approach continues as she keeps on exploring her softer side with a sophisticated version of “Chagall/How Deep is the Ocean.” Her remorseful treatment of the ballad results in a memorable program.

The Red Quartets is Bloom’s finest effort to date and it was a joy to hear it unfold.


(Stretch Records)

In putting together his latest group Origin, Chick Corea has assembled a remarkable cast of sure-fire stars. The young and talented Avishai Cohen mans the bass, and Steve Wilson plays the alto and soprano saxophones, Bob Sheppard, the tenor saxophone, Steve Davis, trombone, and Jeff Ballard, drums.

Playing both the marimba and piano, Corea spins a vivid harmonic sound scape on a vibrant “Wigwam.” The incorporation of Latin elements for “Armando’s Tango” and “Little Flamenco” are engaging in their cadence and well-conceived in their arrangement. “Compassion” captures the litheness of Corea’s touch. Make no mistake, this is Corea’s band and the personnel, even with their immense pool of talent, plays a limited role as individuals and more as one cohesive unit.

Bet the farm on this group and its leader. Changes is recommended to be enjoyed in high doses.


What It Is
(Blue Note)

Jacky Terrasson’s new album, What It Is, should be a watershed recording for the 33-year-old pianist. With four releases already under his belt since signing with Blue Note in 1994, Terrasson has steadily grown and put distance between himself and the rest of the pack. What It Is, from which drummer Leon Parker is surprisingly absent, packs so much punch that it ought to be able to go toe to toe with anything out there. Terrasson bassist Ugonna Okegwo returns to limit the withdrawal symptoms, and Terrasson has percussionist Mino Cinelu on board and the soon-to-be juggernaut, Jay Collins on flute, along with veteran tenor man Michael Brecker.

Brecker is restricted to only a couple of numbers, but where he shows up is formidable. Brecker easily keeps pace with Terrasson for the up-tempo track “What’s Wrong With You!.” Supported by an optimal rhythm section, Brecker contributes strongly to a thoroughly satisfying set. Terrasson’s base trio of Okegwo and Cinelu are featured for a pleasing “Little Red Ribbon.” Terrasson’s calming lyricism is well thought out and perfectly delivered. The brisk groove laid down by Terrasson on a jovial “Toot-Toot’s Tune.” is the foundation for the underrated Collins, who plays the flute and the marvelous harmonica melodies of Gregoire Maret. And if that isn’t enough, there’s always Terrasson’s take on Ravel’s “Bolero.”


Qu’a: Live at the Irridium Vol. 1
(Cadence Jazz Records)

Cecil Taylor’s contribution to the continuum is too extensive to even begin to run down. A trailblazer in the field of free jazz, the pianist’s recording presence has diminished significantly in the past decade, which, needless to say, has been a source of great concern. So it was indeed a sight for sore eyes to find this gem, Qu’a: Live at the Irridium Vol. 1. A quartet session “Qu’a” is a sprawling, hour-long improvisation that features Harri Sjostrom on soprano sax, Dominic Duval on bass, and Jackson Krall on drums.

These sixty minutes are the closest thing on record to a live Taylor performance, by all accounts a study in the avant-garde. It is complete with Taylor’s hallmark dissonant chord clusters and dense colorizations. To his credit, Sjostrom, like Taylor predecessors before him (Peter Brotzmann, John Surman, and Evan Parker), valiantly manages to keep up with the leader’s frantic pace. Both Krall and Duval are alert and play well, making one wish that the Irridium had more seats.


(AUM Fidelity)

This AUM Fidelity release gives a whole new meaning to the words “free jazz.” Test, a.k.a. Sabir Mateen and Daniel Carter on reeds, Matthew Heyner on bass, and Tom Bruno on drums, plays a brutal brand of radical improvisation that may trouble anyone that is not a dogmatic avant-garde enthusiast.

The unconventional aggressiveness of Bruno and Mateen on “huhuhuH (nite sounds on 5th)” will have traditionalists running for the hills. Mateen’s extensive soliloquizing is so adventurous that it takes multiple feedings to digest it all. The fierce blowing plays right into “Straightahead, forward motion,” another noodling session between the drummer and saxophonist that includes every acrobatic show stopper but the kitchen sink.

Test is an impressively substantial recording that at first glance, or in this case, first listen, may not be all that it is cracked up to be. But isn’t that precisely why there is a repeat button on all CD players?


Double Duke
(Naxos Jazz)

Maintaining the baritone saxophone chair in Duke Ellington’s orchestra gives Joe Temperley a uniquely qualified perspective of Duke’s music. With a quintet made of fellow Lincoln Center jazz alums, Wycliff Gordon on trombone, Eric Reed on piano, Rodney Whitaker on bass, and Herlin Riley on drums, Temperley embarks on a program that reflects the baritone saxophonist’s deep devotion for Ellington’s music.

Gordon puts his stamp on “Rain Check” with a fiery solo. There is a real raucous call and response series between Riley and the two horn players that is unbeatable. Temperley shows his sweet side, unfolding “Try a Little Tenderness” with impeccable taste. Gordon’s plunger introduction on a stirring “Danny Boy” is both effective and ends the highly entertaining record on a high note.


Marsalis Plays Monk – Standard Time Vol. 4
(Columbia/Sony Classical)

When Thelonious Sphere Monk rode off into the jazz sunset in the spring of 1982, Wynton Marsalis was just beginning his journey as a leader. Almost two decades have passed and Marsalis has gone on to become jazz’s most recognized figure and spokesperson for this music. So it seems like an obvious step for one of the most literate interpreters of jazz to be playing the music of one of jazz’s finest composers. It’s Marsalis on Monk with all the usual suspects, Eric Reed on piano, Herlin Riley on drums, Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, Wessell Anderson on alto saxophone, Walter Blanding and Victor Goines on tenor saxophone, and Ben Wolfe and Reginald Veal on bass.

Marsalis is so versed when it comes to the history of this music that it almost seems like Marsalis Plays Monk – Standard Time Vol. 4 would be a forgone conclusion, and it is. There are no real surprises, just solid straight-ahead swing. The musical dialogue on”Worry Later” from the various members of the band is some of the finest banter heard on Wynton’s Standard Time series. Anderson and Reed turn in majestic solos. The program of Monk material is nearly perfect in its execution – particularly “Reflections,” “Hackensack,” and “Brilliant Corners.” One would expect nothing less from Marsalis, and he sure delivers.


Third Eye
(Palmetto Jazz)

Recently, one question has been quite troubling: Where has the working band gone? The bands of Miles Davis and Art Blakey seem as though they were from another era, as more and more, the economics of this music systematically eliminate the working band. But, relief is in sight as young bands like the David S. Ware Quartet, the various units of Dave Douglas, the Brad Mehldau Trio, and Chick Corea’s Origin band, join established units like Elvin Jones’s Jazz Machine and Keith Jarrett’s Standard Trio. One band in particular has been making noise on a grassroots level. Ben Allison’s Medicine Wheel is now among some of the elite bands in New York. Complete with two saxophone (Michael Blake and Ted Nash), a cello (Tomas Ulrich), and an oud (Ara Dinkjian), Medicine Wheel also features Frank Kimbrough on piano, Jeff Ballard on drums, and Ron Horton on trumpet.

Allison is one of the most progressive composers as evident by his splendidly inventive “Love is Proximity,” with a haunting soprano saxophone melody and indispensible work from Kimbrough. The Middle-Eastern motif of “Kush” has an exotic elusiveness that is intoxicating. Dinkjian’s oud, coupled with Allison’s detailed treatment carries most of the music and the tandem do it all with charismatic fire. The melancholy “Random Sex and Violins” is another pleasing tune that has an ambience the is simply irresistible.

Although all eight players are impressive, the most suprising aspect of Third Eye is not Allison’s nifty bass and guitar work or that of his cohorts, but of his iron compositional chops.


Night Bird Song
(Knitting Factory Records)

With the untimely passing of Thomas Chapin last year, the music not only lost a prime time saxophonist but also one of the finest innovators in the nineties. A product of New York’s downtown Knitting Factory scene (or is it the other way around), Chapin has developed a cult like following for years, but due to his tragic death, now his music is finally getting out there to Main Street America. And it’s about time. Night Bird Song is Chapin’s final masterpiece and serves his legacy well. A trio date, Chapin teams with fellow Factory regulars, bassist Mario Pavone and drummer Michael Sarin.

Although many outside of New York may not be hip to him, Chapin is more than the average bear when it comes to laying down a flute melody, which he proudly and profoundly demonstrates all over Night Bird Song. The opening “Opening” is a fine example of Chapin’s powerful flute chops. The saxophonist’s acrobatics may seem archaically unstructured to the unfamiliar ear, but wait until they get a load of “Alphaville.” It’s a head turner.

Night Bird Song is a wonderful farewell and it’s more moving to see that the spirit of Chapin lives on through his music.



The new Avishai Cohen album is not going to overwhelm anyone. It is more likely to grow on the listener over time. Devotion is not really a departure for the young bassist, whose career has skyrocketed since his successful debut Adama hit stores last year. It features many familiars returning with Cohen, like pianist Jason Lindner, guitarist Amos Hoffman, drummer Jeff Ballard, trombonist Steve Davis, and saxophonist Jimmy Greene replacing the departed Steve Wilson.

Cohen continues where he left off on Adama by including a two part “Bass Suite #3” (“Bass Suite #1” and “Bass Suite #2” appear on Adama). The one downside is that the majority of the selections on Devotion are fairly short, leaving very little room for the sextet to maneuver. But apart from that minor detail, the rest of the album itself is chalk full of strong melodies and cohesive group interplay. “Deep Blue” is played by the group with refreshing directions and great exactness. It goes to show how much of along way Cohen has come as a leader. “Negril” is another interesting piece, that has a cheerfulness about it that is persuasively absorbing.

Cohen is on the threshold to stardom. Take note, he is bound to be heavy.


Jung on Jazz August 1998

Jung on Jazz August 1998

Other Dimensions in Music
David Sanchez
Franco Ambrosetti
Sierra Maestra
Delfeayo Marsalis

August 1998

Brad Mehldau
Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Leon Parker
Charles Gayle
Tom Harrell
Woody Shaw

Other Dimensions in Music

AUM Fidelity

other.jpg (7311 bytes)Formed fourteen years ago, Other Dimensions In Music has hidden in the shadows of the New York avant-garde movement. Trumpeter Roy Campbell Jr., saxophonist Daniel Carter, bassist William Parker, and drummer Rashid Bakr are true underground warriors of the free jazz revolution. Producer Steven Joerg is their commander in chief and the quartet prepares to battle all major label “whores” who have sold-out their musical integrity for gimmicky marketing schemes with their release on AUM Fidelity, Now!

“For The Glass Tear/After Evening’s Orange” is a thirty-minute montage of collective improvisation at its vertex. The music is not your run of the mill avant-garde, wow them with honks and squeaks, but rather thought provoking, witty dialogue between the four cohorts that remains fresh, coherent, and inspired for the entire half-hour duration. Parker bows the introduction to a dedication entitled “Tears For The Boy Wonder.” The foursome dedicated the piece to Wynton Marsalis (spelled Winston Marsalis). Campbell’s “wah-wah” cries harmonize with a subdued Carter as they prod their way through the abstract motif.

Other Dimensions In Music would probably prefer to remain underground and continue to preach the word to their loyal devotees. Other Dimensions In Music is not surrendering to the relentless attacks of A & R or marketing flunky and in that way Other Dimensions In Music will not have anyone breaking their legs falling off their bandwagon. Other Dimensions In Music is in another dimension entirely, one that is noble and just. It is guerilla warfare and Other Dimensions In Music is keeping up the good fight.


David Sanchez


dsanchez.gif (22889 bytes)The revolution is in full swing, the Latin jazz revolution that is. With the discovery of Ruben Gonzalez, the growing popularity of Poncho Sanchez and Los Van Van, and the new partnership between Chucho Valdez and Blue Note, the evolution of Latin jazz into the musical fabric of America is complete. David Sanchez, a former member of Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra, has been at work on “Obsesion” for the past two years. Gillespie, who helped pioneer the birth of Latin jazz in America, started the cycle that continues to the young tenor saxophonist. The Puerto Rican native, since moving to the mainland in 1988, has studied at Rutgers University under the fine tutelage of Kenny Barron and has developed considerable chops working with Eddie Palmieri, Paquito D’ Rivera, and Claudio Roditi. Presently, when Sanchez is not carving his own name into the jazz history books, the tenor has been spotted with Roy Hargrove’s Crisol band, with Tom Harrell, and with McCoy Tyner’s Afro-Cuban All-Stars. Sanchez refers to “Obsesion” as “the most important recording of his career” and invited an impressive line-up of young guns to come to his aid. Bassist John Benitez, drummer Adam Cruz, pianist Edsel Gomez, and a slew of percussionists and strings all make worthy contributions.

dsanchez2.jpg (10681 bytes)Sanchez caresses the Cuban melody “Los Aretes de la luna” backed by strings arranged by Carlos Franzetti. Sanchez’s recitation of the Cuban fantasy is teeming with sentiment and passion. With a rousing vocal introduction, Sanchez enters the Puerto Rican composition “Lamento Borincano.” Sanchez’s moderate flights of exploration are aided by conspirators Benitez and Cruz. Sanchez, at this point in his career seems to have an uncanny command of the technical aspects of his instrument, and to his credit the young tenor’s composing skills should not be taken lightly.

“Obsesion” is clearly the best outing that Sanchez has had and the album’s remarkable consistency is credited completely to the strong future that this young musician has.


Franco Ambrosetti
Light Breeze

franco.jpg (6029 bytes)Franco Ambrosetti has about as much economic need to play jazz as Steve Young does to play football. As an executive at Ettore Ambrosetti and Sons, his family-owned producer of automotive steel wheels, Ambrosetti has the luxury of purely enjoying jazz music for what it is. Ambrosetti’s new venture “Light Breeze,” his latest in a long line for the German-based Enja label, has him on flugelhorn throughout and joined by guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Antonio Farao, bassist Miroslav Vitous, and drummer Billy Drummond.

Abercrombie’s inventively melodic guitar lines add to the eloquence and gentle palette of “Deborah.” Ambrosetti’s focused remarks are full of empathy and translate every ounce of emotion from the ballad. The impression proceeds to a romantic “My Foolish Heart.” Ambrosetti continues to employ resourceful material as a soloist and his musical portrayal is gripping. Vitous’s offerings are top notch and flow with the gentle ease of the summer wind. Abercrombie starts Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” but it is Farao who steals the show with fascinating piano rumblings. Farao’s brisk right hand movements and spiky chords are the foundation the quintet builds off of. The ensemble is in fine form and Ambrosetti seems comfortable in allowing Abercrombie to lead harmonically.

As are “Gin and Pentatonic,” “Tentets,” “Movies,” “Movies Too,” and “Music for Symphony and Jazz Band,” “Light Breeze” is another superb outing from a stellar musician.



Sierra Maestra
Tibiri Tabara

Maestra.jpg (10220 bytes)While other bands celebrate anniversaries with brutally large and overpriced box sets, the nine-piece group Sierra Maestra celebrates their 21st anniversary with this humble release “Tibiri Tabara” on Nonesuch, a collection of their “best of” material in the two decades they have been playing authentic Cuban music together. The repertoire ranges from guaracha to descarga.

The title track “Tibiri Tabara” is a three-trumpet arrangement that defines Cuban swing. The three and a half minute guaracha is enthralling and thoroughly zestful in its entirety. Bernardo Sassetti’s dazzling piano stylings are a wonderful compliment to the chorus of brass provided by the tres trumpets and the throng of percussion. Barbaro Teuntor Garcia’s inspiring trumpet introduction and his compellingly soaring high notes help launch “Donde Va Chichi?” into the stratosphere. The array of percussive beats is spurred on by an occasional shout of encouragement and acknowledgement.

Non-believers of Latin jazz will relegate the music of Sierra Maestra as showboating and redundant, but they would not dare deny its effectiveness and dynamism. Sierra Maestra is filled with vigor and vitality and their music stands alone, full of life. The Cuban ensemble enjoys themselves and that kind of glitter is contagious. Cuba, not Disneyland, must be the “happiest place on Earth”.


Delfeayo Marsalis


Miyamoto Musashi was Japan’s most legendary samurai. His Book of Five Rings defined the standards for warriors as well as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis was inspired by Japanese drummer Masahiko Osaka, whom he met at the Berklee College of Music, and included Osaka on Musashi with saxophonist Mark Gross, pianist Yuichi Inoue, and bassist Shigeo Aramaki.

The title track “Miyamoto Musashi” is dominated by the versatility of Osaka. Brandford Marsalis guests on the track and the vernacular between Marsalis and Osaka is outstanding. “Angel Eyes” is a sentimental conversation between the members of the quintet, shaped by the tender slurs of Marsalis. Marsalis exemplifies the loneliness of the ballad, playing deliberately and gradually, letting the melody slowly unfold. Marsalis is accompanied by his father, Ellis Marsalis, on a tasteful “Only the Lonely.” The elder Marsalis adds a touch of dignity and class to the music.

Musashi is another successful outing by another competent Marsalis.

Personnel: Delfeayo Marsalis, trombone; Masahiko Osaka, drums; Mark Gross, alto and soprano saxophone; Yuichi Inoue, piano; Shigeo Aramaki, bass; Bill Reichenbach, bass trombone; Ellis Marsalis, piano; Brandford Marsalis, tenor and soprano saxophone.

Tracks: Miyamoto Musashi, Too Marvelous for Words, Angel Eyes, If You Only Knew, Tale of Genji, Summertime, Queen Himiko, Only the Lonely



D. D. Jackson
Paired Down, Volume II

Justin Time

ddjackson.jpg (6856 bytes) D. D. Jackson’s Paired Down, Volume I was a shining moment in an already burgeoning career. The duo collaborations featured James Carter, Hamiet Bluiett, and David Murray. The sequel might have been an anticlimax, had it not been for the impressive cast Jackson selected. Saxophonist David Murray, bassist Santi Debriano, and violinist Billy Band reprise their roles and are joined by trombonist Ray Anderson, clarinetist Don Byron, and flutist Jane Bunnett.

The Canadian pianist starts “Catch It,” hammering down a vibrant calypso-esque melody. Anderson steals the show, putting on a regular clinic, deftly altering the pitch on a whim. Anderson’s ability to articulate gruff growls while maintaining a big, belting tone is uncanny. “One of the Sweetest” is a exquisitely crafted interpretation. Jackson’s slow, poetic ballad is distinguished by his lyrical manner and elegant touch. Murray sounds more like Coleman Hawkins on a charming “Love-Song.” Murray’s graceful improvisations and flawless execution are inspired on a piece Jackson wrote for his parents. It is a poignant moment on the record, as Jackson remembers his mother, who passed away from cancer.

Both Paired Down Volume I and II are gems and should be a part of every collection.

Personnel: D.D. Jackson, piano; Ray Anderson, trombone; Santi Debriano, bass; Billy Bang, violin; Jane Bunnett, flute; Don Byron, clarinet; David Murray, tenor saxophone.

Tracks: Catch It, One of the Sweetest, Flute Song, Pleasure and Pain, Time, Interlude, Closing Melody.


Brad Mehldau
The Art of the Trio, Volume Two: Live at The Village Vanguard

Warner Brothers

bmehldau.gif (10662 bytes)The most celebrated pianist to record at The Village Vanguard was Bill Evans. Add Brad Mehldau to the list. Like Evans, Mehldau records The Art of the Trio, Volume Two: Live at The Village Vanguard in a trio format (with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy). That is where the comparisons end.

Among the album’s most memorable pieces is “It’s Alright With Me.” Mehldau shapes his passages with subtle changes and meticulous chord progressions. His exquisite, light touch and finesse are appealing. Grenadier walks behind Mehldau, clarifying a strong pulse. Mehldau constructs the melody of “The Way You Look Tonight,” methodically punctuating his gentle, linear lines with harmonically rich chord clusters. Mehldau’s sound is not dense or abstract, but lyrical and refined. Rossy’s quiet brushwork is highlighted by occasional tom and cymbal references.

Mehldau is not Bill Evans. On some levels, he’s better.

Personnel: Brad Mehldau, piano; Larry Grenadier, bass; Jorge Rossy, drums.
Tracks: It’s Alright with Me, Young and Foolish, Monk’s Dream, The Way You Look Tonight, Moon River, Countdown.


Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Dog Years in the Fourth Ring

32 Jazz 

rahsaan.jpg (6116 bytes)Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who was blinded soon after he was born on 1936, in Columbus, Ohio, has been an enigma. He was often accused of gimmickry for playing three instruments simultaneously, a notion he got from a dream. Kirk played the tenor saxophone, the manzello, and the stritch together, producing three part harmony using fingering techniques he developed. He also operated sirens, whistles, gongs, cymbals, and bells, and was fluent on the clarinet, flute, piccolo, and English horn. Kirk mastered the technique of circular breathing thirty years before Kenny G. In 1976, Kirk had a stroke that nearly paralyzed the left side of his body, but he still valiantly managed to perform using only one arm, until he died of a second stroke in 1977, at the age of 41. He was agile in the abstract and avant-garde forms of jazz, yet he still studied and was fluent in swing and bebop.

Dog Years In The Fourth Ring is a collection of live performance bootlegs that George Bonafacio accumulated and the album originally released on the Atlantic label Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata (never available on CD). Producer Joel Dorn and 32 Jazz releases this attractive 3-CD box set documenting to one of jazz’s colossal figures.

Kirk’s flute figures are haunting on “Domino.” His whistly sound is steady for the duration of the arrangement. Kirk augments the piece and adds depth to his virtuosity playing an instrument whose sound resembles that of a kazoo. Kirk shows he has bebop chops, focusing his energy, combining fire and attack, and burning through “Blues For Alice.” What “Lester Leaps In” may lack in sound quality, it makes up for in content. Kirk’s tone is full and rich in the middle registers and his endlessly flowing lines dispute the notion that he is merely a “glorified street musician.”

Dog Years In The Fourth Ring is one of the finest releases of 1997 and is a must for all Rah-addicts. Joel Dorn and George Bonafacio should be recognized for allowing audience to a part of jazz history that normally would have been neglected.

Personnel: Rahsaan Roland Kirk, tenor saxophone, manzello, stritch, flute, clarinet, nose flute, conch shell, whistle, black puzzle flute, black mystery pipes, harmonium, bass drum, thundersheet, sock cymbal, bells, music box, palms, tympani, gong, bird calls; Hilton Ruiz, piano; Kenny Roger, baritone saxophone; Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, bass; George Gruntz, piano; Daniel Humair, drums

Tracks: Disc 1: Box Tops And Whistlin’ Rings, Domino, Blues For Alice, I Remember Clifford, Freddie Freeloader, Lester Leaps In, Sister Sadie, One Mind/Seasons, I Say A Little Prayer, Disc 2: Jammin’ With A Wolf, Three For The Festival (excerpt), Untitled Blues, Passion Dance, Petite Fleur (Little Flower), Giant Steps, Misterioso/Blue Monk (excerpt), Rahsaantalk, Multi-Horn Medley: Satin Doll/Lover, Blacknuss, Disc 3: Something For Trane That Trane Could Have Said, Island Cry, Runnin’ From The Trash, Day Dream, The Ragman And The Junkman They Ran From The Businessman They Laughed And He Cried, Breath-A- Thon, Rahsaanica, Raped Voices, Haunted Feelings, Prelude Back Home, Dance Of The Lobes, Harder And Harder Spiritual, Black Root


Leon Parker


For drummer/percussionist Leon Parker to follow up his Belief album, one of the finest releases of 1997, he would have to have at his disposal an inexhaustible bag of tricks. The 33-year-old Parker seems to have his hands on just that, with his parkerl..jpg (5490 bytes)new release worthy of its name, Awakening. Performing alongside such talents as David Sanchez, Dewey Redman, and Tom Harrell has helped Parker develop into a “talent deserving wider recognition”, but it is as the foundation of the Jacky Terrasson Trio that he has molded himself into a percussive demigod.

Bassist Ugonna Okegwo strums the introduction to a fascinating “It Is What It Is.” With fellow drummeripercussionist Adam Cruz playing a vibrant steel pan and Sam Newsome on soprano

saxophone, Parker deftly strikes the congas on a gyrating, hip Caribbean groove. Newsome’s soprano lines swirl around the propulsive beat as an array of sounds from a wood block to a shekere weave the melodic quilt Parker’s three-minute gong solo on “Enlightenment” is a perfect display of his unique diversity. The title track “Awakening” features vocalist Elisabeth Kontomanou. Parker, who also doubles on the piano, fingers a simple, yet infectious melody’ accentuating the textures provided by the different percussionists, an acoustic buffet that includes a cow bell, crave, and wood block. The formula is ear candy for the listener.

The homogeneous albums that seem to come a dime a dozen do not stand up nearly as well as Parker’s Awakening. An album for the next generation of jazz listeners from a drummer/percussionist for the next generation, who continually strives to make a valid attempt to reach his pinnacle by pounding a poetic, yet powerful message.


Charles Gayle
Daily Bread

Black Saint

Charles Gayle may very well be the last apostle of free jazz. Free jazz as Albert Ayler knew it. Free jazz as Ornette Coleman once knew it before commercial success and mainstream marketing watered his music down. Free jazz as it should be, without compromise, without boundaries, and without preconceptions. Catapulted to the racks of free jazz heavyweights in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s by a series of phenomenal releases on Silkheart and the Knitting Factory label, Gayle has carried on the torch, playing aggressive, sometimes offensive, but always steadfast music. Daily Bread is his newest installment for the European label Black Saint, and features Gayle on the tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, and even the viola and piano on a couple of intriguing tracks. Bassist William Parker playing cello and piano, bassist Wilber Morris, and drummer Michael Wimberly, who also doubles on the violin, accompany Gayle on his quest.

Gayle’s siren-like wailings in “Earthly Things” are enough to wake the dead. Gayle punishes his instrument, relentlessly charging up and down and compressing every possible sound and every ounce of energy from the merciless music. Gayle’s acoustic firestorm seems undaunted on “Watch.” The tenor saxophone is no match for Gayle, who twists and turns his improvisations inside out, furiously blowing fog horn blasts and endless bursts of passionate screams. It is a task in itself for Parker, Morris, and Wimberly merely to keep up.

If this is not Gayle at his best, he does not have very far to go. There is never a dull moment throughout Daily Bread. It is a pulse pounding pressure cooker and simply shows that Gayle is in a realm of his own. Bravo.


Tom Harrell
The Art of Rhythm

RCA Victor

A fluent technician, trumpeter Tom Harrell’s understated lyricism and his exceptional harmonic restraint is the standard by which trumpeters will be judged for years to come. Occupying the trumpet chair for Horace Silver and Phil Woods, Harrell has built his iron chops in the presence of strong company to become the perennial horn player of his generation. Remarkably, Harrell has maintained his elevated level of playing throughout his career and has won poll after poll. The Art of Rhythm is yet another chapter in Harrell’s near flawless discography. The musicians featured in the four different rhythm sections involve bassists Andy Gonzales, David Finck, and Ugonna Okegwo, and percussionists Leon Parker, Adam Cruz, and Milton Cardona. The album’s soloists include Dewey Redman, Mike Stern, Danilo Perez, Greg Tardy, and David Sanchez.

“Petals Danse” contains a clarinet solo from Greg Tardy. Tardy, backed by an exquisite string section, forms a delicately balanced melody that is in perfect harmony with Harrell’s charming touch. Sounding uncharacteristically reserved, Redman’s seductive inventions on “Doo Bop” should put to ease any misconceptions that Redman is merely power oriented. The all of the septet contributes to the beginning of “Samba Do Amor” and makes room for Stern’s electric riffs.. Stern’s explorations are full of vitality and color. Harrell remains within his musical parameters and his technique is immaculate.

Harrell is the essence of the beauty of jazz. Every note he fingers is the perfect note for that moment and he never embellishes his music, never grandstands. Harrell is not only the trumpeter of his generation, but one of the trumpeters of all time.


Woody Shaw
Two More Pieces of the Puzzle
32 Jazz

Born in North Carolina, Woody Shaw’s family moved to Newark, New Jersey, where Shaw began to play the bugle, before picking up the trumpet. The trumpeter’s first major influence was Eric Dolphy, whom Shaw played with until the saxophonist’s death. For the next two decades Shaw worked sporadically with Bud Powell, Horace Silver, Max Roach, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey, and Joe Henderson. Shaw suffered from an eye disease that impaired his vision badly. In 1989, Shaw fell under a Brooklyn subway train and in May of that same year, passed away from his extensive injuries. Although he recorded four albums for Columbia, Shaw never had the major label contract and that has exiled him to a forgotten realm of jazz history. It is a shame that Shaw’s brilliance was not recognized during his lifetime, and that it has taken the stalwart Joel Dorn to re-introduce nineties audiences to the music of one of the most ingenious trumpeters of all time. Dorn’s 32 Jazz label has already re-released three Shaw recordings from the Muse catalog, The Moontrane, Last of the Line, and Dark Journey. Two More Pieces Of The Puzzle is a double-disc set of The Woody Shaw Concert Ensemble at the Berliner Jazztage recorded live at the Berlin Jazz Festival on November 6, 1976 and The Iron Men, a studio recording made in April of 1977. The Woody Shaw Concert Ensemble features saxophonists Rene McLean and Frank Foster, trombonist Slide Hampton, pianist Ronnie Matthews, bassist Stafford James, and drummer Louis Hayes. The Iron Men includes saxophonists Arthur Blythe and Anthony Braxton, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummers Joe Chambers and Victor Lewis.

“Iron Man” suggests Shaw’s no fear approach, as he goes head-to-head with an animated Blythe and the tandem jarring at one another, create memorable music. Shaw’s horn guides effortlessly through an inspired “Jitterbug Waltz.” Abrams brims with ideas and logically voices his opinions. The Berlin concert has all the energy and vibe that a live recording should have and the musicians are in prime form, from McLean’s engaging movements on a frisky “Obsequious” to Hayes’s steady snare rolls and ride cymbal accents on “In the Land of the Blacks (Bilad As Sudan).”

Hopefully, the re-release of Shaw’s Muse catalog by 32 Jazz will rescue the trumpeter’s music from shameful neglect and finally bring it to audiences.


Jung on Jazz July 1998

Jung on Jazz July 1998

Hank Jones
Robert Stewart
George Winston
Wynton Marsalis
George Coleman
Gregory Tardy
Michael Markus/Jaki Byard

July 1998

Hank Jones - FavorsHank Jones

Honorary degrees are not a new thing for persons associated with jazz. Dave Brubeck and Bill Cosby have both been honored by numerous higher educational institutions. The Osaka College of Music announced Hank Jones would be a permanent guest professor in 1992. Jones, the elder brother of Thad and Elvin Jones, has held recitals at the college’s central hall for the past few years. Favors is a live recording of his fifth piano workshop at the Osaka College of Music. The first half of the program is tunes performed in a trio format (bassist George Mraz and drummer Dennis Mackrel) and the latter half is the trio backed by the Osaka College of Music’s Winds of Jazz Orchestra, comprised of graduates and staff of the jazz program.

“Love for Sale” is masterfully understated and brims with class. Jones’ right hand initiates the melody with long, sustained lines, compelled by nonchalant left-hand chords. The Winds Jazz Orchestra serves Jones faithfully on a courtly reading of “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” and sustains that through the charming “How High the Moon.” Jones’ warm melodies and delicate remarks drift effortlessly above the harmonics of the strings and brass.

Favors is an inviting album with superior sound quality for a live recording. Jones is a master at his craft and deserves wider acclaim. It is a shame he has to get it overseas.

Personnel: Hank Jones, piano; George Mraz, bass; Dennis Mackrel, bass; Winds Jazz Orchestra Osaka College of Music (O.C.M.)

Tracks: Love for Sale, Favors, Passing Time, Comin’ Home Baby, Interface, Speak Low, On Green Dolphin Street, I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good), How High the Moon, A Child Is Born, Armageddon


Robert Stewart
The Force


John Coltrane has given birth to more imitators and influenced more musicians than any figure in jazz. Robert Stewart was not even born when Coltrane passed away on July 17, 1967, but Coltrane’s influence on the 28-year-old tenor saxophonist is remarkable. Stewart has developed his skills largely from performing in the Bay Area and with Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner and Billy Higgins. Stewart’s second album on Quincy Jones’ Qwest Records is accurately titled The Force and his quartet and his quartet includes fellow Bay Area musician Ed Kelly on piano (Stewart was a former student of Kelly) and fellow Marsalis alumnus Reginald Veal on bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums.

A prayer “Al-Fatihah,” with its Eastern tonalities opens the session. Stewart plays the syllables of an Islamic prayer over the drone of the synthesizer. The meditative title track “The Force” often alternates between hypnotic drones and turbulent chaos. Stewart fires off a cleanly constructed combination of moans and screams with his platter of dissonant passages a la John Coltrane. Watts lays into his drum kit, aggressively assaulting an awe- inspiring solo. Stewart buries his rhythm section for an emotionally-charged “Revelations.” The saxophonist sinks his teeth into the melody and the energy he generates is overwhelming.

The Force is only Stewart’s third album and his residence in the Bay Area has not helped his visibility, but this is a voice that, if developed correctly, cries out with potential. Stewart is still forming his own sound, but until then John Coltrane is a fine example.

Personnel: Robert Stewart, tenor saxophone, flute, synthesizer; Ed Kelly, piano; Reginald Veal, bass; Jeff “Tain” Watts, drums

Tracks: Al-Fatihah, The Force, Resurrection, Peace Within, Sanctuary, Blackness, The Black Stone, Dion, Ripple, Revelations, Love of Life


George Winston - All the seasons...George Winston
All the Seasons of George Winston

Windham Hill

Montana must have the most vividly extraordinary seasons in all the world, at least according to the music of pianist/composer George Winston. Although Winston plays a variation of styles ranging from folk, to stride, to rhythm and blues, and credits his influences as Henry Butler and Professor Longhair, Winston is more of a painter than a piano player.

All The Seasons of George Winston is a collection of piano solos from Winston’s highly successful seasons series, Autumn, Winter Into Spring, Summer, December, Forest, and Linus and Lucy – The Music Of Vince Guaraldi.

“Colors/Dance” from Autumn evokes images of falling leaves and the gentle breeze of coming winter. The summer months are represented by “Hummingbird,” a lively, floating melody that could hover over fields of daisies. His thematic piano solos continue with “Thanksgiving,” a pensive reflection of family and the warmth and comfort of holidays.

Contemporary instrumental music, a.k.a. New Age Music, has been disparaged recently with perceptions of Yanni and John Test at an outdoor arena comically directing symphony orchestras, but Winston is not in that category. All The Seasons of George Winston is an intriguing look into his 25-year career and is much more than mere elevator music.

Personnel: George Winston, piano

Tracks: Colors/Dance, The Venice Dreamer (Part 2), Living In The Country, The Cradle, Joy, Treat Street, Variations On The Canon By Pachelbel, Thanksgiving, Miles City Train, Corrina Corrina, Hummingbird, Longing/Love, Cast Your Fate To The Wind, Sandman, The Snowman’s Music Box Dance, Northern Plains, Sleep Baby Mine


Wynton Marsalis
The Midnight Blues: Standard Time Volume 5

Midnight BluesRecently, Wynton Marsalis has received just as much criticism as he has praise. Marsalis’ Blood on the Fields may have been awarded the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for music, but in jazz circles he is better known for his much- publicized feud with Keith Jarrett and his often-maligned relationship with Stanley Crouch. As much as he has done to bridge the gap between classical music and jazz, Marsalis is also vilified for spawning a movement of younger musicians to acquaint themselves with the roots of jazz music. These double standards have taken away from Marsalis’ music. That is a shame, considering Marsalis has arguably done more to promote jazz music, than any other musician in history.

Marsalis’ first installment of his Standard Time series was released in 1986 and featured drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, pianist Marcus Roberts, and bassist Robert Hurst. The Midnight Blues: Standard Time Volume 5 also incorporates the quartet format and unites Marsalis with the seasoned Lewis Nash on drums and long-time band members Eric Red on piano and Reginald Veal on bass.

Marsalis is in excellent form throughout the recording. Some of the highlights include an exquisite treatment of “You’re Blase,” with Marsalis’ radiant tone and flawless pitch in complete control, backed by Reed, Veal, Nash and a string orchestra and Veal’s majestic bowed solo introducing a sumptuous “It Never Entered My Mind,” which finds Marsalis’ heartbreaking melancholy drifting between Reed’s gentle advance. Other highlights involve a delightful “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men” and a somber “The Midnight Blues.”

The energy and emotion Marsalis is able to generate is mesmerizing. The fifth installment of the Standard Time volumes serves as a capable bookend and dismisses the unnecessary criticisms.

Personnel: Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Eric Reed, piano; Reginald Veal, bass; Lewis Nash, drums

Tracks: The Party’s Over, You’re Blase, After You’ve Gone, Glad to Be Unhappy, It Never Entered My Mind, Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home, I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry, I Got Lost In Her Arms, Ballad of The Sad Young Men, Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year, My Man’s Gone Now, The Midnight Blues


George ColemanGeorge Coleman
I Could Write a Book – The Music of Richard Rodgers


Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee was a breeding ground for jazz heavyweights. Pianist Harold Mabern, trumpeter Booker Little, and saxophonists Frank Strozier, Charles Lloyd, Hank Crawford and George Coleman were all classmates during the early fifties. Coleman, who got his start serving time with B.B. King in 1955, subsequently went on to work with Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Chet Baker and Lee Morgan. But, Coleman’s most visible stint was with Miles Davis, between 1963 and 1964, playing with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams (Wayne Shorter replaced Coleman). For this quartet session, Coleman plays the music of famed composer Richard Rodgers and he reunites with pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Jamil Nasser and drummer Billy Higgins.

Coleman picks up the soprano for the familiar “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” The saxophonist breezes through his changes and lingers above the chord voicings of Mabern. Mabern begins a lightly swinging performance of “My Favorite Things.” Coleman’s soprano is acute and he offers entertaining variations, while being wary not to emulate the Coltrane classic. Coleman’s cunning wit and familiar boppish style are featured on an up-tempo “I Could Write A Book.” The lengthy reworking of the standard is thoroughly enjoyable.

Coleman approaches the music of Richard Rodgers with a light-hearted spring in his step and the results speak for themselves.

Personnel: George Coleman, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Harold Mabern, piano; Jamil Nasser, bass; Billy Higgins, drums

Tracks: Falling in Love with Love, My Funny Valentine, Lover, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, I didn’t Know What Time It Was, My Favorite Things, Have You Met Miss Jones, People Will Say We’re In Love, I Could Write a Book, Medley – There’s a Small Hotel/Where or When/The Sweetest Sounds, Thou Swell


SerendipityGregory Tardy


Gregory Tardy credits John Coltrane with sending him down his musical path, “I’ll never forget the day I first heard Coltrane, my world was turned around.” Tardy, who has garnered high praise from famed Coltrane drummers Elvin Jones and Rasheed Ali, has been honing his tenor saxophone chops at New York’s Smalls. His Impulse debut, Serendipity, is a launching pad for his musical career and features the superb playing of trumpeters Tom Harrell and Russell Gunn, pianists Mulgrew Miller and Aaron Goldberg, and bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Eric Harland.

“Ah-ite” has an appearance by Gunn, who has been associated with the young saxophonist for the past four years. Tardy’s call and response interplay with Gunn is reminiscent of the glory days of Old and New Dreams with Tardy playing the role of Dewey Redman and Gunn playing Don Cherry.

“The Fractar Question” (Tardy’s nickname is Fractar) links the tenor with the admirable Harrell. The two harmonize in unison and take turns, offering and listening to one another’s ideas. Tardy plays superbly on the twelve-bar blues and his oratorical phrasing is advanced for such a young musician. Tardy makes his foremost impression on “Ask Me Now,” backed only by a subdued Veal.

Tardy may refer to his musical journey, thus far, as being serendipitous but this young man has earned his recognition. A fine player with solid fundamentals and a strong character, Tardy will be entertaining audiences for years to come.

Personnel: Gregory Tardy, tenor saxophone; Tom Harrell, trumpet; Russell Gunn, trumpet; Mulgrew Miller, piano; Aaron Goldberg, piano; Reginald Veal, bass; Eric Harland, drums

Tracks: Forgiveness, Blues to Professor Pickens, JL’s Wish, Ah-ite, Prisoner of Love, The Fractar Question, Whenever, Wherever, Whatever, Serendipity, Ask Me Now


InvolutionMichael Marcus / Jaki Byard

Justin Time

Joe Lovano helped develop and first premiered the straight tenor saxophone to rave reviews. Multi-reedman Michael Marcus is the second prominent player to pick up the modified tenor made by LA Sax and includes the instrument on his third Justin Time recording Involution. Marcus also operates the saxello or manzello, a reconfigured soprano saxophone and stritch, a straight alto, which Rahsaan Roland Kirk frequently employed. Marcus, who has played with Sonny Simmons, Billy Higgins, and Frank Lowe’s Saxemble, is joined by the Jaki Byard trio with Byard on the piano, Ralph Hamperian on the bass, and Richard Allen on the drums. Inspired by Gil Melle’s “Quadrama,” “Quadraphonics” is advanced avant-garde.

Working with a straight tenor, Marcus warps a version of scales, then transforms into an all out shower of bleats, whines, and squawks. Marcus’s grainy tenor sax engages in spiritual exchanges with Byard on an ethereal John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord.” Byard is a jazz encyclopedia and his knowledge of various styles lends well to his chameleon-like adaptability and creditable versatility as a sideman, as shades of Monk, Garner, Hines, and even an intermittent splash of Waller are audible. On the title cut “Involution,” Marcus plays the saxello and stritch simultaneously, a nod to the venerable Roland Kirk. Marcus merits wider recognition and acclaim. The fact that he is wallowing in the mire of jazz triviality is a discredit to the industry. Involution is not merely the title of Marcus’s album, but what he has received from an unreceptive, commercially watered-down business.

Personnel: Michael Marcus, straight tenor saxophone, stritch, saxello; Jaki Byard, piano; Ralph Hamperian, bass; Richard Allen, drums

Tracks: Israel, Quardraphonics, The Legend of Hale-Bop, Soultrane, Man From Lovejoy, Off Minor, Sacred Law, Dear Lord, Surfer Girl, Involution


Jung on Jazz June 1999

Jung on Jazz June 1999


June 1999


(Summit Records)

Brother pairings are not uncommon in jazz. Cannonball and Nat Adderley, and more recently Wynton and Branford Marsalis have all teamed up to record. Now the Watters brothers, Ken and Harry, trumpeter and trombonist, respectively, are joined by drummer Scott Neumann, bassist Scott Colley, and pianist Kenny Werner, for their debut together on Summit Records, appropriately titled Brothers.

The recording commences with the first of two versions of “The Girls Back Home,” one of the trumpeter’s originals (the second version is a radio edit). The composition’s down home appeal can be traced back to the brothers’ southern roots and includes some charming licks from Werner. The melody is catchy enough to hum. The trumpeter’s bright sound sustains much of its majesty on a surprisingly upbeat run through “Body and Soul” and a mellow “In a Sentimental Mood.” The warm environment is only elaborated by Colley’s meditative commentary.

This session demonstrates the talents of the Watters siblings and forecasts a formative career for both.


Four for One
(Naxos Jazz)

Another unexposed talent steps out of the shadows by way of NAXOS Jazz, who for the past year has steadily been releasing some of this year’s most accessible music and doing so at mid-line prices. Dejan Terzic, a 28-year-old European drummer, would not be known from Adam here in the U.S., but with the advent of his new album, Four for One, a quartet date featuring saxophonist George Garzone, pianist Dietmar Fuhr, and pianist Roberto Di Gioia, Terzic may finally make some noise stateside.

Terzic has chops as a composer. The leader’s melodic sense coupled with Garzone’s mellifluous tone creates an ideal scenario for Terzic’s two most interesting originals, “Childish Things” and “Big Argument.” The young drummer also has well-developed ideas as evident by his brisk changes and his crisp comping on “Night’s Shadow.” Terzic’s fine treatment of “Spartacus Love Theme” is also quite impressive. Accompanying Garzone, who switches to soprano, Terzic draws the listener in with his sincere brush sentiments.

An intriguingly entertaining album, Four for One is a solid record on every count.


2 X 4

Bassist Malachi Favors has long been a champion of the let free jazz ring motto. After all, Favors has been a member of Chicago’s AACM since its inception. Teaming with Japanese bassist Tatsu Aoki, Favors unleashes 2 X 4.

It should be easy for people to agree on this-for a duo bass album to work, both players had better be masters of their domain, and even that may not be enough to hold the audience’s interest. In this case, both Aoki and Favors have interesting ideas, but they struggle to develop those ideas into anything more than one substantial bass line after another. A prime example of this is “Chop Stick Blues.” “The Keeper,” with its even-tempered interchanges between Favors and his Japanese counterpart, is arguably their best moment. The various percussion effects add color throughout the outing, but just aren’t enough to prevent the overall session from dragging.

The open-form experimentation of 2 X 4, two bassists alone, is a valiant endeavor, but one whose result does not match its noble originality.


Let Yourself Go
(Nonesuch Records)

In what could quite possibly be the finest solo piano recording of the year, Fred Hersch plays an engrossing variety of selections from the Thelonious Monk familiar, “Blue Monk” to the Gershwin standard “I Loves You, Porgy.” He manages to do this without a single mundane moment, assembling abstract accents with sympathetic tenderness for a remarkable performance.

A live recital recording done at the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall, Hersch’s Let Yourself Go is the pianist letting go of any preconceived notions and candidly playing. Hersch leads off with a lush “Black is the Color/Love Theme from ‘Spartacus’.” The pianist pours his elegant romanticism over “Black is the Color,” then with effortless ease, logically connects the traditional’s last note with Bill Evan’s anthem, “Love Theme from ‘Spartacus’.” Hersch has a profound understanding of the late Evan’s work and his touching sympathy makes the tune the album’s curtain call in it of its self to a roar of applause. Other highlights include a gentle “I Loves You, Porgy” and a chromatic “Blue Monk.” The night concludes with a luminous rendition of “The Nearness of You,” a strong candidate for “Song of the Year.” It’s too much.

Originally, Hersch was not planning to even record his performance. Thankfully, he changed his mind. A must have, Let Yourself Go should be the first thing on everybody’s Christmas list this year.



The revolution that is happening in the avant-garde is not centralized to America. The movement has an equal footing in Europe and Japan and although the American form seems to be the basis of both these uprisings, they each have a distinctly individual vocabulary, blending elements within their own culture with that of free jazz. Pianist Satoko Fujii is one of Japan’s most unique voices, integrating often callous dissonance with more affable melodies. Heightening the tension are bassist Mark Dresser, drummer Jim Black, and soprano saxophonist Sachi Hayasaka.

From its opening “Sound of Stone” takes off on a dissonant path and remains contained in a cavern of discord for the composition’s duration. A solo improvisational piece, Fujii’s show of soliloquizing is compelling do in great part to her uncanny ability to finesse away from uncomfortable drones by adding some humor. “Past of Life,” with its abstract spaciousness and dark theme is draining for the listener, challenging and provoking thought. And on a much grander level, Kitsune-Bi does also.

Fujii manages to juggle the daunting task of juxtaposing traditional Japanese melodies with modern, creative improvisation and she does it all with a warrior-like bravada.


Little Red’s Fantasy
(32 Jazz)

Take away Joel Dorn’s five Woody Shaw releases on the 32 Jazz label and the local Tower Records store would have less than three recordings of Shaw readily available for purchase. To put that into some sort of perspective, that’s less than Wynton Marsalis’s output this year alone. So the good folks at 32 aren’t merely a record label, they are the chief curators of Shaw’s music. The 1976 Little Red’s Fantasy is another of Shaw’s excellent Muse sessions and features Frank Strozier on alto sax, Ronnie Mathews on piano, Stafford James on bass, and Eddie Moore on drums.

Mathews’s profound block chords and right hand flourishes serve as a catalyst for the rest of the quintet on the opening “Jean Marie.” Shaw’s resolute maneuvers are brief, graciously making room for more ensemble involvement, but still poignant. The leader’s contributions are more extended for “Sashianova,” which has some jaunty call and response moments between Shaw and Strozier. Check out the subtle romanticism of “Little Red’s Fantasy,” yet another example of Shaw’s downright diversity.

It’s 32 Jazz. It’s Shaw. It’s Shaw on 32, as one would expect, a no brainer.


Agua de Cuba

Acknowledged as one of the patriarchs of Afro-Cuban music, conguero Francisco Aguabella explodes back onto the national scene with his CuBop release Agua de Cuba, a tour de force in Latin jazz a la Aguabella style. With the aid of a top notch band, Humberto “Nengue” Hernandez on timbales, Jose “Joey” de Leon on bongos, Charles Owens on tenor saxophone and flute, Ramon Flores on trumpet, and Isaac Smith on trombone, Aguabella jams to a musical paella that includes Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” the Beatles’s “Here, There and Everywhere,” Miles Davis’s “Milestones,” along with a couple of originals.

A laid back “Watermelon Man” features a dexterous Owens, one of the baddest tenors this side of the Mississippi. The raw delivery of Owens and the fast-paced trombone sequences of Smith, in front of a horde of percussive backbeats, brings the Latin jazz warhorse to a fever pitch. Dizzy Gillespie’s well-known “Manteca” is a showcase for Aquabella’s handiwork, which has not even slightly diminished. Look out below for a cranked up arrangement of “Milestones.” The ensemble pours it on, from an array of horn cries to a pulsating beat that is liable to tear down the walls.

Aquabella isn’t simply returning to the stage, he’s blowing people off it. Agua de Cuba is some serious Latin jazz and should establish the leader as a force to be reckoned with.


Good Dog, Happy Man
(Nonesuch Records)

If jazz had a utility player, Bill Frisell would fit the profile. Equally adept in avant-garde (his work with John Zorn’s Naked City), straight-ahead (his work with Paul Motian), as well as country, heavy metal, and bluegrass, Frisell is as diverse as this country’s ethnic collage and has become the standard to which all guitarists are now measured. The Denver guitarist’s expertise of Americana is unparalleled and his music crosses over so many lines, it’s almost a shame to call it jazz. Good Dog, Happy Man, Frisell’s latest, further explores those hybrids, touching on a little bit of folk, some honky tonk blues, and even looks in on a traditional number.

Frisell opens his eleventh Nonesuch album with “Rain, Rain,” a suggestive sonnet that invites images of the rugged majesty of the Great Plains. Frisell’s indiscretion in regards to his wide employment of switches and pedals, sampling and other forms of manipulation, as he does on “Cadillac 1959,” have brought unfair criticism. Frisell’s inventive chord sequences and the guitarist’s unfailing sense of the blues gives his melody all the creditability it needs. A sonorous “Poem for Eva” caps off the recording and further displays Frisell’s seemingly limitless harmonic vocabulary and mastery of the musical language.

Good Dog, Happy Man is an essential for any Frisell fan, but the music is so superb that everyone should grab this one.


(Delmark Records)

In the wake of the passing of bassist Fred Hopkins earlier this year, drummer Kahil El’ Zabar returned to the studio with his Ritual Trio (saxophonist Ari Brown and bassist Malachi Favors) to record Conversations. Making this session even more notable is the unique appearance of tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp, who in recent years has largely been absent from the public eye.

For the majority of the outing, Brown sits in at the piano, holding his own quite admirably. The two most interesting pieces are the two “Conversations.” The first, “Conversations 1; The Introduction,” has Shepp as splendid as ever in moments of all-out aggression. The second part, “Conversations 2; The Dialogue,” is a heavy diet of Shepp, with even more vivid excitement being generated by the saxophonist. El’ Zabar unselfishly surrenders much of himself, allowing Shepp to take much of the fanfare during the long series. The result is an unintrusive one on three with a distinct balance reminiscent of Coltrane’s later recordings.

Conversations is a hearty tribute to the late Hopkins and is easily Shepp’s most enthusiastic presence in two decades.


Southern Extreme
(Drimala Records)

The partisan politics of jazz have polarized much of the music. Stigmas surrounding “progressive,” “avant-garde,” “free,” “innovative,” or “forward-looking” jazz music have only served to stunt its growth and have added nothing to jazz’s assimilation into the mainstream culture of America in the new millennium. Most major labels have avoided it like the plague, leaving the smaller independents to keep the fire burning and stretching the envelope by utilizing unconventional and unstructured (music like the music itself) sources. College radio has played a pivotal role and the advent of the internet has given progressive improvisational music a new and resourceful outreach to spread the good news. Drimala Records is a label solely making their releases available online. Southern Extreme, one of their inaugural releases, is a graphic illustration of how avant-garde can be and should be. A trio recording featuring tenor wizard Edward “Kidd” Jordan, drummer Alvin Fielder, and pianist Joel Futterman, Southern Extreme is a hardcore trip through advanced free jazz that lasts over an hour. “Mississippi Sweet” is a masterpiece with muscular solos from Jordan and wide-open interaction amongst the trio. The music struggles between contained chaos and complete anarchy as Jordan slashes and carves his way through with strong counters from both Futterman and Fielder. Jordan’s helter-skelter sermon stretches on to a striking “Plato’s Reverie.” It is all done in a pure, unadulterated form.

Southern Extreme is a powerful statement that is rousing to the senses and inspires the thinking mind. It will not disappoint. Southern Extreme can only be purchased off the Drimala Records’s.


The Montreal Tapes: Liberation Music Orchestra

During eight summer nights in 1989 at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Charlie Haden played in diverse settings ranging from a duet with guitarist Egberto Gismonti to assorted trios, the majority of which have already been released by Verve. The eighth and final night played host to Haden with the Liberation Music Orchestra, featuring such heavies as Tom Harrell on trumpet, Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone, Ray Anderson on trombone, Geri Allen on piano, and Paul Motian on drums. “La Pasionaria” draws from various Latin elements, centered around the charismatic, high-flying wailing of Lovano and the collectively supported foundation of Allen, Motian, and Haden. It also includes a steaming solo from Allen and is the most effective performance on the album. Anderson’s patented slurs and crowd-pleasing multi-phonics take center stage for a roaring rendition of “We Shall Overcome.” Anderson’s extended romp has enough energy to light the skies of Montreal for a week. Guitarist Mick Goodrick also weighs in with some sterling material of his own.

Sound quality, as with any live recording, is a concern, but the latest volume of Haden’s Montreal Tapes, like its predecessors gets very high marks. A decade has passed and to Haden’s credit, the music stands up remarkably well. Spare this record a moment or two. It’s well worth the investment.


(Challenge Records)

With so many labels dictating concepts to artists, the results have been as substantial as Dennis Rodman’s short-lived marriage to Carmen . McCoy Tyner is probably ruing the day he agreed to do that dreadful Burt Bacharach album. But there is a silver lining, because when artists are able to preserve their autonomy, it can all come together as it does on Bert Van Den Brink’s Conversations. The Dutch pianist’s regular trio (bassist Hein Van De Geyn and drummer Hans Van Oosterhout), last featured on Dialogues with Lee Konitz, returns for another quartet outing, this time with tenor saxophonist Rick Margitza.

Margitza has colossal range and is particularly impressive on the two Michel Legrand compositions, “You Must Believe in Spring” and “His Eyes, Her Eyes.” The young saxophonist refines his melodic ideas with a gracefulness that is reminiscent of his primary influence, Sonny Rollins, on a beautiful “You Must Believe in Spring.” “His Eyes, Her Eyes” has Margitza sharing the spotlight with the leader/pianist, whose playing is of the highest quality. The majestic “A Child is Born” is another elegant ballad with Margitza nudging against Van Den Brink’s tasteful touch.


Jung on Jazz June 1998

Jung on Jazz June 1998

Hank Jones
Robert Stewart
George Winston
Wynton Marsalis
George Coleman
Gregory Tardy
Michael Markus/Jaki Byard

June 1998

Hank Jones - FavorsHank Jones

Honorary degrees are not a new thing for persons associated with jazz. Dave Brubeck and Bill Cosby have both been honored by numerous higher educational institutions. The Osaka College of Music announced Hank Jones would be a permanent guest professor in 1992. Jones, the elder brother of Thad and Elvin Jones, has held recitals at the college’s central hall for the past few years. Favors is a live recording of his fifth piano workshop at the Osaka College of Music. The first half of the program is tunes performed in a trio format (bassist George Mraz and drummer Dennis Mackrel) and the latter half is the trio backed by the Osaka College of Music’s Winds of Jazz Orchestra, comprised of graduates and staff of the jazz program.

“Love for Sale” is masterfully understated and brims with class. Jones’ right hand initiates the melody with long, sustained lines, compelled by nonchalant left-hand chords. The Winds Jazz Orchestra serves Jones faithfully on a courtly reading of “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” and sustains that through the charming “How High the Moon.” Jones’ warm melodies and delicate remarks drift effortlessly above the harmonics of the strings and brass.

Favors is an inviting album with superior sound quality for a live recording. Jones is a master at his craft and deserves wider acclaim. It is a shame he has to get it overseas.

Personnel: Hank Jones, piano; George Mraz, bass; Dennis Mackrel, bass; Winds Jazz Orchestra Osaka College of Music (O.C.M.)

Tracks: Love for Sale, Favors, Passing Time, Comin’ Home Baby, Interface, Speak Low, On Green Dolphin Street, I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good), How High the Moon, A Child Is Born, Armageddon


Robert Stewart
The Force


John Coltrane has given birth to more imitators and influenced more musicians than any figure in jazz. Robert Stewart was not even born when Coltrane passed away on July 17, 1967, but Coltrane’s influence on the 28-year-old tenor saxophonist is remarkable. Stewart has developed his skills largely from performing in the Bay Area and with Wynton Marsalis, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner and Billy Higgins. Stewart’s second album on Quincy Jones’ Qwest Records is accurately titled The Force and his quartet and his quartet includes fellow Bay Area musician Ed Kelly on piano (Stewart was a former student of Kelly) and fellow Marsalis alumnus Reginald Veal on bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums.

A prayer “Al-Fatihah,” with its Eastern tonalities opens the session. Stewart plays the syllables of an Islamic prayer over the drone of the synthesizer. The meditative title track “The Force” often alternates between hypnotic drones and turbulent chaos. Stewart fires off a cleanly constructed combination of moans and screams with his platter of dissonant passages a la John Coltrane. Watts lays into his drum kit, aggressively assaulting an awe- inspiring solo. Stewart buries his rhythm section for an emotionally-charged “Revelations.” The saxophonist sinks his teeth into the melody and the energy he generates is overwhelming.

The Force is only Stewart’s third album and his residence in the Bay Area has not helped his visibility, but this is a voice that, if developed correctly, cries out with potential. Stewart is still forming his own sound, but until then John Coltrane is a fine example.

Personnel: Robert Stewart, tenor saxophone, flute, synthesizer; Ed Kelly, piano; Reginald Veal, bass; Jeff “Tain” Watts, drums

Tracks: Al-Fatihah, The Force, Resurrection, Peace Within, Sanctuary, Blackness, The Black Stone, Dion, Ripple, Revelations, Love of Life


George Winston - All the seasons...George Winston
All the Seasons of George Winston

Windham Hill

Montana must have the most vividly extraordinary seasons in all the world, at least according to the music of pianist/composer George Winston. Although Winston plays a variation of styles ranging from folk, to stride, to rhythm and blues, and credits his influences as Henry Butler and Professor Longhair, Winston is more of a painter than a piano player.

All The Seasons of George Winston is a collection of piano solos from Winston’s highly successful seasons series, Autumn, Winter Into Spring, Summer, December, Forest, and Linus and Lucy – The Music Of Vince Guaraldi.

“Colors/Dance” from Autumn evokes images of falling leaves and the gentle breeze of coming winter. The summer months are represented by “Hummingbird,” a lively, floating melody that could hover over fields of daisies. His thematic piano solos continue with “Thanksgiving,” a pensive reflection of family and the warmth and comfort of holidays.

Contemporary instrumental music, a.k.a. New Age Music, has been disparaged recently with perceptions of Yanni and John Test at an outdoor arena comically directing symphony orchestras, but Winston is not in that category. All The Seasons of George Winston is an intriguing look into his 25-year career and is much more than mere elevator music.

Personnel: George Winston, piano

Tracks: Colors/Dance, The Venice Dreamer (Part 2), Living In The Country, The Cradle, Joy, Treat Street, Variations On The Canon By Pachelbel, Thanksgiving, Miles City Train, Corrina Corrina, Hummingbird, Longing/Love, Cast Your Fate To The Wind, Sandman, The Snowman’s Music Box Dance, Northern Plains, Sleep Baby Mine


Wynton Marsalis
The Midnight Blues: Standard Time Volume 5

Midnight BluesRecently, Wynton Marsalis has received just as much criticism as he has praise. Marsalis’ Blood on the Fields may have been awarded the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for music, but in jazz circles he is better known for his much- publicized feud with Keith Jarrett and his often-maligned relationship with Stanley Crouch. As much as he has done to bridge the gap between classical music and jazz, Marsalis is also vilified for spawning a movement of younger musicians to acquaint themselves with the roots of jazz music. These double standards have taken away from Marsalis’ music. That is a shame, considering Marsalis has arguably done more to promote jazz music, than any other musician in history.

Marsalis’ first installment of his Standard Time series was released in 1986 and featured drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts, pianist Marcus Roberts, and bassist Robert Hurst. The Midnight Blues: Standard Time Volume 5 also incorporates the quartet format and unites Marsalis with the seasoned Lewis Nash on drums and long-time band members Eric Red on piano and Reginald Veal on bass.

Marsalis is in excellent form throughout the recording. Some of the highlights include an exquisite treatment of “You’re Blase,” with Marsalis’ radiant tone and flawless pitch in complete control, backed by Reed, Veal, Nash and a string orchestra and Veal’s majestic bowed solo introducing a sumptuous “It Never Entered My Mind,” which finds Marsalis’ heartbreaking melancholy drifting between Reed’s gentle advance. Other highlights involve a delightful “Ballad Of The Sad Young Men” and a somber “The Midnight Blues.”

The energy and emotion Marsalis is able to generate is mesmerizing. The fifth installment of the Standard Time volumes serves as a capable bookend and dismisses the unnecessary criticisms.

Personnel: Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Eric Reed, piano; Reginald Veal, bass; Lewis Nash, drums

Tracks: The Party’s Over, You’re Blase, After You’ve Gone, Glad to Be Unhappy, It Never Entered My Mind, Baby, Won’t You Please Come Home, I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry, I Got Lost In Her Arms, Ballad of The Sad Young Men, Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year, My Man’s Gone Now, The Midnight Blues


George ColemanGeorge Coleman
I Could Write a Book – The Music of Richard Rodgers


Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee was a breeding ground for jazz heavyweights. Pianist Harold Mabern, trumpeter Booker Little, and saxophonists Frank Strozier, Charles Lloyd, Hank Crawford and George Coleman were all classmates during the early fifties. Coleman, who got his start serving time with B.B. King in 1955, subsequently went on to work with Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Chet Baker and Lee Morgan. But, Coleman’s most visible stint was with Miles Davis, between 1963 and 1964, playing with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams (Wayne Shorter replaced Coleman). For this quartet session, Coleman plays the music of famed composer Richard Rodgers and he reunites with pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Jamil Nasser and drummer Billy Higgins.

Coleman picks up the soprano for the familiar “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” The saxophonist breezes through his changes and lingers above the chord voicings of Mabern. Mabern begins a lightly swinging performance of “My Favorite Things.” Coleman’s soprano is acute and he offers entertaining variations, while being wary not to emulate the Coltrane classic. Coleman’s cunning wit and familiar boppish style are featured on an up-tempo “I Could Write A Book.” The lengthy reworking of the standard is thoroughly enjoyable.

Coleman approaches the music of Richard Rodgers with a light-hearted spring in his step and the results speak for themselves.

Personnel: George Coleman, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Harold Mabern, piano; Jamil Nasser, bass; Billy Higgins, drums

Tracks: Falling in Love with Love, My Funny Valentine, Lover, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, I didn’t Know What Time It Was, My Favorite Things, Have You Met Miss Jones, People Will Say We’re In Love, I Could Write a Book, Medley – There’s a Small Hotel/Where or When/The Sweetest Sounds, Thou Swell


SerendipityGregory Tardy


Gregory Tardy credits John Coltrane with sending him down his musical path, “I’ll never forget the day I first heard Coltrane, my world was turned around.” Tardy, who has garnered high praise from famed Coltrane drummers Elvin Jones and Rasheed Ali, has been honing his tenor saxophone chops at New York’s Smalls. His Impulse debut, Serendipity, is a launching pad for his musical career and features the superb playing of trumpeters Tom Harrell and Russell Gunn, pianists Mulgrew Miller and Aaron Goldberg, and bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Eric Harland.

“Ah-ite” has an appearance by Gunn, who has been associated with the young saxophonist for the past four years. Tardy’s call and response interplay with Gunn is reminiscent of the glory days of Old and New Dreams with Tardy playing the role of Dewey Redman and Gunn playing Don Cherry.

“The Fractar Question” (Tardy’s nickname is Fractar) links the tenor with the admirable Harrell. The two harmonize in unison and take turns, offering and listening to one another’s ideas. Tardy plays superbly on the twelve-bar blues and his oratorical phrasing is advanced for such a young musician. Tardy makes his foremost impression on “Ask Me Now,” backed only by a subdued Veal.

Tardy may refer to his musical journey, thus far, as being serendipitous but this young man has earned his recognition. A fine player with solid fundamentals and a strong character, Tardy will be entertaining audiences for years to come.

Personnel: Gregory Tardy, tenor saxophone; Tom Harrell, trumpet; Russell Gunn, trumpet; Mulgrew Miller, piano; Aaron Goldberg, piano; Reginald Veal, bass; Eric Harland, drums

Tracks: Forgiveness, Blues to Professor Pickens, JL’s Wish, Ah-ite, Prisoner of Love, The Fractar Question, Whenever, Wherever, Whatever, Serendipity, Ask Me Now


InvolutionMichael Marcus / Jaki Byard

Justin Time

Joe Lovano helped develop and first premiered the straight tenor saxophone to rave reviews. Multi-reedman Michael Marcus is the second prominent player to pick up the modified tenor made by LA Sax and includes the instrument on his third Justin Time recording Involution. Marcus also operates the saxello or manzello, a reconfigured soprano saxophone and stritch, a straight alto, which Rahsaan Roland Kirk frequently employed. Marcus, who has played with Sonny Simmons, Billy Higgins, and Frank Lowe’s Saxemble, is joined by the Jaki Byard trio with Byard on the piano, Ralph Hamperian on the bass, and Richard Allen on the drums. Inspired by Gil Melle’s “Quadrama,” “Quadraphonics” is advanced avant-garde.

Working with a straight tenor, Marcus warps a version of scales, then transforms into an all out shower of bleats, whines, and squawks. Marcus’s grainy tenor sax engages in spiritual exchanges with Byard on an ethereal John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord.” Byard is a jazz encyclopedia and his knowledge of various styles lends well to his chameleon-like adaptability and creditable versatility as a sideman, as shades of Monk, Garner, Hines, and even an intermittent splash of Waller are audible. On the title cut “Involution,” Marcus plays the saxello and stritch simultaneously, a nod to the venerable Roland Kirk. Marcus merits wider recognition and acclaim. The fact that he is wallowing in the mire of jazz triviality is a discredit to the industry. Involution is not merely the title of Marcus’s album, but what he has received from an unreceptive, commercially watered-down business.

Personnel: Michael Marcus, straight tenor saxophone, stritch, saxello; Jaki Byard, piano; Ralph Hamperian, bass; Richard Allen, drums

Tracks: Israel, Quardraphonics, The Legend of Hale-Bop, Soultrane, Man From Lovejoy, Off Minor, Sacred Law, Dear Lord, Surfer Girl, Involution


Jung on Jazz May 1999

Jung on Jazz May 1999



May 1999



Pariah’s Pariah
(Winter & Winter)

In the nineties, everything in jazz seems to be relative. For every Joshua Redman and Nicholas Payton, there are the Brian Lynchs and the Gary Thomases who are not getting nearly as much love from the mega-merged labels and the often highly partial members of the media. Thankfully, European labels like Winter & Winter continue to give an opportunity for significant voices like Thomas to be heard. Thomas’s Pariah’s Pariah features fellow Howard University classmate, alto saxophonist Greg Osby, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer John Arnold.

The music, which ranges from fiery group interplay to meditative solo interludes, is compelling throughout. Starting with the open-form “Who’s in Control?” to the more conventional, yet skillfully articulate “Only Hearsay,” the two horns paired alongside one another work in unison and complement each other with no assembly required. “Vanishing Time” is the album’s obvious standout. Osby’s stunning solo work and Arnold’s supportive cymbal crashes makes the Thomas composition an instant classic.

There is plenty of music here and not surprisingly, it’s all excellent. Pariah’s Pariah will hopefully put Thomas back on the A-list where he belongs and shed some much deserved luster on his music, which has been neglected for too long.


Night of the Mark VII
(32 Jazz)

Bearing in mind that most of the music played on the radio these days will probably have the longevity of the macarena, the re-release of Clifford Jordan’s Night of the Mark VII should be a long drink of water for jazz enthusiasts wandering the desert of mediocrity. Another long lost Muse title unearthed by Joel Dorn and his 32 Jazz team, Night of the Mark VII is one of the tenor saxophonist’s best. With a close-knit crew of Cedar Walton; piano, Sam Jones; bass, and Billy Higgins, drums, Jordan’s Night of the Mark VII is as close as one can get to a sure thing.

The straight-ahead set has one highlight after another. The muscular tenor is in prime form on “John Coltrane.” Walton’s cohesiveness and the interaction between the quartet is particularly impressive. Jordan’s meaty tenor solos continue on “Highest Mountain.” The musicians push one another to the challenging music.

Night of the Mark VII is a killer record and is must for any serious collector of fine music.


NO Train
(Cadence Jazz Records)

Who would expect to find a legitimate avant-garde scene brewing in Los Angeles? After all, Los Angeles is a city based upon Tinseltown’s glitz and glamour and free jazz is definitely not swank. There is no real sex appeal to complex improvisations and free formed compositions. But amid the palm trees and Southern California sun, improvisers like Vinny Golia, Wadada Leo Smith, and Alex Cline have found avenues to present their art. Golia, whose 9Winds label has been releasing free jazz albums for the past two decades, plays both curved soprano and baritone saxophones with fellow Angelenos, Steuart Liebig on bass and Billy Mintz on drums.

No Train is an album composed of six extended improvisations from the trio. Interesting moments include an emotional “Improvisation #1/Trioism #11,” presenting multi-instrumentalist Golia on the baritone saxophone blowing a torrential downpour of notes and an audio menage-a-trois of furious solos entitled “Trioism #4.”

Be a part of Los Angeles’s growing avant-garde scene and buy or borrow a copy of No Train. To purchase a copy, contact www.cadencebuilding.com.


Voice in the Night

Charles Lloyd, now in his sixties, seems to be getting better with age, gradually returning to his most formative playing form during the 1960s. Lloyd’s latest, Voice in the Night, is his first album without his usual quartet, familiars Bobo Stenson on piano, Anders Jormin on bass, and Billy Hart on drummer, in almost ten years. In place are bassist Dave Holland, drummer Billy Higgins, and guitarist John Abercrombie, all marquee superstars in their own right.

The tenor saxophonist introduces “God Give Me Strength” with Coltrane intensity. Lloyd’s delivery is deliberate and hints of melancholy. Abercrombie’s fine fingerpicking and ringing twangs are convincing on an enthralling “Dorotea’s Studio.” Lloyd’s expressive voice floats over the guitarist’s canvas with the ever pleasant Higgins supporting all. A crackling “Homage” features a swinging Higgins accompanying the tenorman whose long, stretched-out improvisations are highly crafted.

The majesty of Charles Lloyd is becoming clearer and clearer and his discography on ECM is growing more and more potent. By far the most loyal and well received graduates of the Coltrane school, Lloyd’s contributions to the continuum far outweigh that of his peers. Voice in the Night is sure to be one of the year’s best.


Swing Low
(KOCH Jazz)

When one starts to get tired of making the bitter jazz face, yet still wants something with a little swing, baritone saxophonist Claire Daly’s KOCH debut, Swing Low, may be the perfect companion. Largely a quartet release with Eli Yamin on piano, Dave Hofstra on bass, and Peter Grant on drums, Daly adds tenor saxophonist George Garzone for several tracks.

Daly has tremendous chops and her full-bodied playing on “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face” works well with front-line partner, Garzone, who negotiates his solos with a remarkable simplicity. Daly’s melodic awareness on “You Make Me Feel So Young” is outstanding. Her inviting tone throughout the familiar melody is a treat for sore ears. The leader isn’t the only one that shines. Check out Yamin’s bounciful solo on a particularly enjoyable “I Thought About You.”


Traveling Miles
(Blue Note)

Hype plays such a prevalent role in society today that it seems almost impossible to imagine buying a shoe if Michael Jordan doesn’t endorse it or drinking a beer if two lizards and a couple of frogs don’t meander about it. So it is with great skepticism that anyone should believe what comes from the mega-label publicity machine in reference to what is and isn’t good in jazz. But one artist seems quite deserving of all her hype, Cassandra Wilson, by far and away the vocalist of her generation, the next generation, or for that matter, any generation. Only Wilson seems capable or even willing to develop her own identity as a vocalist, for the most part singing not so standard standards. One can’t help applauding her adventurous courage and enthusiasm to explore uncharted territories. It is with this same attitude that Wilson releases her latest Blue Note album, Traveling Miles, a collection of tunes closely associated with the trumpet legend.

There’s the guitar driven, acoustic “Right Here, Right Now” with Wilson wrapping her husky vocals around the music and that’s followed by her unpretentious version of Cyndi Lauper’s ’80s anthem “Time After Time,” as only Wilson can reinvent it. No vocalist has a better feel of Miles Davis’s classics than Wilson. Her captivating “Seven Steps” accompanied by charming vibraphone and violin riffs from Stefon Harris and Regina Carter respectively. And who can forget the moody rendition of “Someday My Prince Will Come.” Brava!

In this age of mass media consumption, who can argue with overindulging with Cassandra Wilson, a universe unto herself.


Waterloo 1985

Does Evan Parker belong in the pantheon of the avant-garde elite? Well, he certainly makes a case for himself with his Emanem release, Waterloo 1985. A live quartet recording with trombonist Paul Rutherford, bassist Hans Schneider, and percussionist Paul Lytton, Waterloo 1985 is one hour long piece, “Dark Interior.”

For the wimpy listener, this is definitely not a walk in the park. It is a marathon, Eco-Challenge like grueling exercise in progressive music and if one isn’t dedicated, it is best to not even venture into this vastly uncharted territory. Waterloo 1985 is so epic that it takes repeated listens to just comprehend all that is going on. The foursome probe the boundaries of silence and sound, building one vivid, energetic montage after another. Parker and Rutherford, both go medieval, with the trombonist going through his entire bag of tricks, warping growls and slurs with heart-stopping inventiveness. Parker, alternating between soprano and tenor saxophones, takes the whole entourage to another level with some heated monologues and exploration of his own.

Waterloo 1985 is so advanced that to get through it earns a masters in creative improvisation. For further information contact http://members.aol.com/EmanemDisc/.


Eye’ll Be Seeing You
(Knitting Factory Records)

The grass-roots popularity of the avant-garde on low budget public radio stations and over the college radio waves has created an underground groundswell for the music. It has unveiled a small but loyal market that seems to be growing in numbers, prompting homegrown indie labels to spring up, giving some much needed color to a dulling jazz landscape. One of the longest running non-traditional music labels has been Knitting Factory Records, who has been releasing material in direct correlation to the artists gracing its stages night after night. And one of those artists is bassist Mark Dresser, whose new trio release, Eye’ll Be Seeing You, features saxophonist Chris Speed and pianist Anthony Coleman exploring original, adventurous compositions by the leader.

The music is complex and challenging from the outset of “Un Chien Andalou,” a six part suite. From the eerie, modernistic drama presented by Coleman to the inventive sadism of Speed, “Un Chien Andalou” is not for the faint of heart. “A Propos De Nice,” another extended series, with its unconventional, liberal use of space and employment of angular themes is in direct contrast to its predecessor.

Eye’ll Be Seeing You marks another fine performance from Dresser, who is fastly becoming the bassist for the new millennium. It is demanding music that ought to come with a warning label saying, “Profound music that may cause profound thinking.”


Live at The Town Hall – NYC
(1201 Music)

What do trumpeter Randy Brecker, bassist Buster Williams, pianist Joanne Brackeen, saxophonist Dave Liebman, guitarist Pat Martino, and drummer Al Foster have in common? They are all on this live recording called 70s Jazz Pioneers: Live at The Town Hall – NYC. Recorded on March 20, 1998 at New York’s Town Hall on 123 West 43rd Street, this is a rare opportunity to capture these six demigods of their domain.

The sextet starts in with a lively version of Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island.” Brecker really shines with bright, scalar progressions that at times dwarfs the other all-stars. Brackeen’s harmonic embellishments and clever chords are captured by an inspired “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.” Liebman, on soprano, plays just the right balance of attention grabbing punctuation and liquid, melodic phrases.

Worthy of investigation, simply for the quality of players, 70s Jazz Pioneers: Live at The Town Hall – NYC is well worth the time. An encore is definitely in order.


Sofa King

With all the recordings that are oversaturating the market, it is impossible to discern which one to purchase and whose bandwagon to jump onto next. In naming trumpeters alone, there’s Wynton Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, Dave Douglas, Wallace Roney, Darren Barrett, Terence Blanchard, Russell Gunn, and so on. It’s enough to give even the most relaxed person a migraine. So to make the choice a bit easier, choose Scott Tinkler. Scott who? The Scott Tinkler who has just released Sofa King, a pianoless trio with bassist Adam Armstrong and drummer Simon Barker, on the European BUZZ-Records label.

A very logical improviser, Tinkler forms his solos on an engaging “Subject to Non-Refundable Confiscation” with a deep thoughtfulness that is mature beyond his years. Tinkler’s trumpet melody soars over Barker’s beefy patterns. “A Moment in the Garage” features Tinkler blowing a series of abstract runs, trading off with Barker’s timely snare raps. Armstrong begins “Serendipity” with a compelling bass line. Joined by both Tinkler and Barker, the trio makes some effective inventions.

Jump on the Scott Tinkler bandwagon fast before all the seats are taken and the audible overexposure makes everyone deaf.


Spectral Domains

In the interest of fairness, as boring as the String Trio of New York is, guitarist James Emery (one of the founding members of the STNY) has found a winning recipe with the addition of drummer Gerry Hemingway and saxophonist Marty Ehrlich (both appear on his Standing on a Whale Fishing for Minnows release on ENJA). Contemporaries, violinist Mark Feldman, bassist Michael Formanek, saxophonist Chris Speed, and vibraphonist Kevin Norton, all lend a helping hand for Emery’s second ENJA outing, Spectral Domains.

Although the septet pieces have their moments, Mingus’s “Far Wells, Mill Valley” is an attention grabber – the most interesting sequences occur during the more intimate settings. Emery’s profound twangs and articulate craftiness on a solo piece entitled “Cosmology” would certainly make proponents of swing turn a deaf ear, but for those who like a little avant-garde with their coffee in the morning, it’s a keeper. A quartet rendering of Monk’s “Trinkle Tinkle,” and the duet “Kathelin Gray” with Speed playing clarinet are the kinds of provocative statements that is lacking on most of the STNY recordings.


(RCA Victor)

Live at Birdland! is a frustratingly good album. The frustration is due to the blunt realization that this could have been five great albums and not just one. Five because a handful of notable New York groups; D. D. Jackson Group, Dave Douglas Quartet with Chris Potter, Ralph Irizarry and Timbalaye featuring sax wizard Tony Malaby, Peter Bernstein Quartet, and Jimmy Greene/Darren Barrett Quintet, all play two tunes each on the live collection, recorded during a four month period in 1998 at the Manhattan club.

The most intriguing of the five groups is the Dave Douglas Quartet and Ralph Irizarry and Timbalaye. Irizarry’s brand of Latin jazz leaves the listener drooling. Having possibly the finest young saxophonist in New York, timbalero Irizarry’s ensemble fuses percussive romps with high flying horn solos to rousing ovations from the crowd on a grooving “Rampa Arriba (Up Ramp) and a flashy “Piesotes (Giant Feet).” Of course, there are other gems like “The Frisell Dream” from Douglas. With Potter on tenor along with bassist James Genus and drummer Ben Perowsky, Douglas investigates his original, penned after a dream in which guitarist Bill Frisell was playing the tune, hence the title. It is a melody-rich piece with engaging polyphonic passages from the trumpeter/composer.

Live at Birdland! is an interesting release that could have been oh, so much more.


In Walked Buckner
(Delmark Records)

At the risk of canonizing him, Roscoe Mitchell in recent years has become one of this country’s finest and most adept multiple reedmen. On his new Delmark release In Walked Buckner, Mitchell leaves no stone unturned, playing soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, along with the piccolo flute, baroque flute, bass recorder, and clarinet. His regular quartet of pianist Jodie Christian, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath, gather for the eight Mitchell originals.

Mitchell’s method of employing space to add to the weight of his compositions has been revolutionary and he applies the same techniques here. The odd-metered “Off Shore” is a dense exchange between Mitchell and Christian. A more traditional “In Walked Buckner” has Mitchell, on tenor, producing angular phrases to Heath’s flowing pulse. There are many sides to a story and on “Three Sides of a Story” there is the Mitchell side, brash and spontaneous, the Christian side, ponderous and radical, and the Heath side, impressionistic and lean.

By Mitchell standards, In Walked Buckner is a viable outing, so by normal standards, it’s an extravaganza.


A New Organization
(Soul Note)

It is always a daunting challenge to transfer the same energy of a live show to that of a recording. Something gets lost in the process and the emotion and spontaneity of the live session is not even close to being reproduced. Recorded live at the Knitting Factory, A New Organization comes pretty darn close. A duo collaboration between pianist Borah Bergman, who has recorded duets with other saxophonists, namely Roscoe Mitchell and Evan Parker, and World Saxophone Quartet member, saxophonist Oliver Lake, this Soul Note release is a master class on advanced forms of creative improvisation in its most primal setting.

A New Organization is five extensive compositions penned by Lake and Bergman starting with “I kiss your eyes.” Made up of thought-provoking solos and unconventionally turbulent accents from Bergman, the opening tune also features Lake as the other half of this two-headed monster, brutally wailing away. Both masters of their universe brilliantly utilize silence, allowing for the listener to digest the furious action properly. The dynamic unity continues to the closing “Forever fervent,” a sonic punch that doesn’t simply push the envelope, but tears a gapping hole in it.

A New Organization is an important documentation of free jazz and is a key representation of two quintessential voices of the avant-garde.


(Sharp Nine Records)

Eddie Henderson is yet another of many artists in this music who have been shamefully underexposed. A regular member of Billy Harper’s quintet, Henderson has a couple of albums available on Milestone, but unfortunately, has not put anything out since, until now. It has been four very long years from Dark Shadows to Reemergence, his highly anticipated debut on Sharp Nine Records. Dr. Henderson, who has more degrees than most record executives have cars, valiantly returns with his quintet of vibraphonist Joe Locke, who appears on the before mentioned Milestone releases, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Ed Howard, and drummer Billy Drummond.

Henderson comfortably straddles the line on “Dreams,” embracing the basic core of the song’s theme while venturing out with dexterous explosions. “Sweet Love of Mine” offers a swinging melody with a steady tempo. Both Howard with his inspired support and Locke with his witty improvisations, make considerable contributions. A muted Henderson evokes lingering images of Miles Davis on a subdued “Saturn’s Child.” All the tunes, including four labeled “The Gershwin Suite,” are solid.

Henderson makes a triumphant return with Reemergence, which is a treat to no one’s surprise.


Cross Culture
(Loose Leaf Records)

It is not odd, considering how much interest John Coltrane had in Middle Eastern music, that members of “Generation Next” would follow in the same vein and seek the same spiritual and musical journey. Saxophonist Jay Collins has been one of the bright tenors on the New York underground scene for years. His two releases on the Reservoir label gave validity to the notion that the Portland native did indeed belong with the big boys in the Big Apple. Collins’s debut effort for Loose Leaf Records is a logical extension of the thirty-one-year-old tenor’s progression and puts him ahead of the rest because while most reedmen seem mesmerized with what Coltrane has already defined, Collins takes up where Coltrane left off, finishing the chapter for his fallen hero. Joined by Amos Hoffman, of Avishai Cohen fame, on oud and guitar, Johannes Weidenmueller on bass, and Michael Mazor on drums, Collins switches from tenor to soprano to flute to bansuri, in a diverse and entertaining set. Hoffman opens “Meshosh” on the oud and is joined by Collins, who assaults the Hoffman original on all fronts. Collins brings all of Coltrane’s intense precision and advanced lyricism to the table, egging on both Mazor and Weidenmueller to turn it up a notch and they do not disappoint. Collins also shows his remarkable depth, playing a beautiful flute melody on a haunting “Cross Culture” and blowing a series of angular, soprano lines on a heated “Zukra.” Like his mentor, J. C., Collins manages to bring the music of the East and West together with considerable ease. Cross Culture is Collins’s most significant release thus far and suggests one heck of a career ahead. Cross Culture can be purchased at all fine Tower Records locations or by email at Bluesleaf@aol.com.


Jung on Jazz May 1998

Jung on Jazz May 1998

Pat Martino
Poncho Sanchez
Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Hayden
Oscar Peterson/Benny Green
Mark Turner
The Lounge Art Ensemble
Rodney Kendrick

               May 1998

Head and Heart
32 Jazz

In 1980, Pat Martino suffered a brain aneurysm that left him with significant memory loss. He subsequently had to learn most of the aspects in his life all over again, including the basic fundamentals of guitar playing. He studied his own recordings to do so. 32 Jazz is slowly repackaging and re-releasing selections from the Muse Records catalogue. Head And Heart is a 2-CD set, two 70’s releases, Consciousness and Live. Both albums involve Eddie Green on piano, Tyrone Brown on bass, and Sherman Ferguson on drums.

There is a dark and melancholy characteristic to Martino’s playing, as exhibited on “Willow.” Martino plucks a series of licks, changing octaves and shifting harmonics. Martino bends and flexes the melody at will with potent and creative chordal passages. Martino’s distinctive, fat sound is pacified for a charming “Both Sides Now.” The absence of a backbeat only enhances Martino’s subdued changes and patterns. Martino aggressively attacks “Special Door,” laying down grinding phrases and mixing in tremolos for response. The rhythm section comes to life in support of the axe man and Ferguson works the drum kit, concentrating on the cymbals. The quartet is in fine form from beginning to end and generate very rewarding music.

Visit the Pat Martino Home Page

Personnel: Pat Martino, guitar; Eddie Green, piano; Tyrone Brown, bass; Sherman Ferguson, Drums.
Tracks: Disc 1; Impressions, Consciousness, Passata on Guitar, Along Came Betty, Willow, On the Stairs, Both Sides Now, Along Came Betty (alternate) Disc 2; Special Door, The Great Stream, Sunny.

Freedom Sound

Concord Picante

When Poncho Sanchez was in high school, he would go to see The Jazz Crusaders at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. “I wasn’t old enough to get into clubs, so I’d look through the window and listen from outside,” recalls Sanchez. The 45-year-old Latin jazz percussionist wanted to pay tribute to The Jazz Crusaders. But Sanchez wanted to do the material they released as The Jazz Crusaders, as opposed to The Crusaders (referring to their classic Pacific Jazz albums of the 1960’s).

On the heels of his best-selling album Conga Blue, Sanchez releases Freedom Sound, his dedication to The Jazz Crusaders. He is joined by two of The Jazz Crusaders founding members: trombonist Wayne Henderson and tenor saxophonist Wilton Felder (Sanchez played on their 1995 album Happy Again). Sanchez, who was 23 when he joined vibist Cal Tjader, worked with Tjader until his death in 1982. The Mexican-American has been steadily releasing albums on the Concord Picante label and has been a prolific performer in the Los Angeles clubs. The conguero is also joined by David Torres on the piano, Ramon Banda on timbales, Tony Banda on bass, Jose Rodriguez on congas and bongos, Sal Cracchiolo on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Scott Martin on saxophones.

“Prestame Tu Corazon” is a salsa number with Sanchez providing the vocals, accompanied by the bright, lively timbre of Cracchiolo’s trumpet. The album slows down for “When We Were One,” with Martin playing a long and soulful solo. Felder and Henderson are featured on four tracks.

Sanchez has many projects in development, including a bossa nova album with strings, tribute albums to Tito Rodriguez and the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown, and an album featuring an organist. “Latin jazz was such a big fire burning in my heart. It’s been an uphill battle, and I feel like I’ve finally made it to the top of the mountain. I’m looking down, saying. Man, it was a hell of a road getting here,” says Sanchez. The Los Angeles Latin jazz scene would not be where it is today without Sanchez. As Bill Cosby suggests, “If this is your first Poncho Sanchez album, I advise you to get another job because you’re going to have to buy all of the other CD’s just to catch up.”

Visit the Poncho Sanchez Home Page.

Personnel: Poncho Sanchez, congas; David Torres, piano; Ramon Banda, timbales; Tony Banda, bass; Jose Rodriguez, percussion; Sal Cracchiolo, trumpet; Scott Martin, alto saxophone; Alex Henderson, trombone; Wilton Felder, tenor saxophone; Wayne Henderson, trombone.

Tracks: Brown and Blue, Transdance, Aleluia, Freedom Sound, You Don’t Know What Love Is, Prestame Tu Corazon, MJ’s Funk, Suave Cha, When We Were One, Latin Bit, Scratch Fred Jung

Alone Together

Blue Note

Beyond the glare of Los Angeles city lights, tucked away in the old Helms Bakery facility is the Jazz Bakery. For the past decade, the who’s who of jazz has graced the stage of the Jazz Bakery. On December 21 and 22, 1996, the trio consisting of alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, bassist Charlie Haden, and pianist Brad Mehldau performed to an enthusiastic crowd. Originally scheduled as a duo studio recording, Konitz arranged for the performance to be recorded live and Haden requested Mehldau be added to the bill. Konitz and Haden played two sets as a duo and Mehldau played with the tandem for three more. Alone Together is the result of those three sets.

Konitz’s soulful legato begins “Cherokee,” a tune a fellow alto saxophonist named Charlie Parker made his own. Mehldau’s unpredictably lends well to the music as his improvisations are abstract and fascinating. Without much gratuitous showmanship, Haden maturely explores the melody. The triad adds fresh nuances to an old “war horse” “What Is This Thing Called Love.” Konitz abandons the harmonic structures of the Cole Porter standard and colors it with perfectly timed flights of fancy. Mehldau hurtles through his serpentine runs, leaving the limelight to Haden, whose moments of expression are pure magic. The mood of “Round Midnight” is captured by the somber tone of Konitz’s alto, as Mehldau and Haden judiciously fill in the gaps. The success of Alone Together is due to the musicianship of Konitz, Mehldau, and Haden. They simply take accustomed standards and shape not just new versions, but whole new tunes. Rather then reacting to the music, the threesome direct the music, and in doing so, they produce an enduring piece.

Personnel: Lee Konitz, alto saxophone; Brad Mehldau, piano; Charlie Haden, bass

Tracks: Alone Together, The Song Is You, Cherokee, What Is This Thing Called Love, Round Midnight, You Stepped Out Of A Dream

Oscar & Benny

Pianist Oscar Peterson is one of the most influential piano players of our time. Sidelined by a stroke in 1993, Peterson has fought valiantly to return to form. When asked to name a protégé Peterson nominated Benny Green, another Berkeley High School alumnus (Joshua Redman also went to Berkeley High). Oscar & Benny teams the legend and the heir apparent together at the piano along with current Peterson trio members, bassist Ray Brown (Green is a member of Brown’s trio) and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. Peterson’s recovery is amazing, as displayed on the album’s opening number “For All We Know.” As Brown and Hutchinson provide the foundation, Peterson doesn’t miss a step, confidently shaping the song with his signature swinging style.

Green’s piano voice has significantly developed into its own from his days with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Green juxtaposes left-hand accents with singing right-hand motions on a cheerful “The More I See You.” The telepathic interplay between teacher and student is the heart and soul of Oscar & Benny. A down-home rendition of “Barbara’s Blues” is right out of a saloon scene in a spaghetti western. The four hands of Peterson and Green seemingly finish off each other’s musical sentences in a marvelous display of two-handed wizardry. Green, a developing voice, and Peterson, already with his place in jazz history, join to make Oscar & Benny a most rewarding trip.

Personnel: Oscar Peterson, piano; Benny Green, piano; Ray Brown, bass; Gregory Hutchinson, drums

Tracks: For All We Know, When Lights Are Low, Yours Is My Heart Alone, Here’s That Rainy Day, The More I See You, Limehouse Blues, Easy Does It, Someday My Prince Will Come, Scrapple From The Apple, Jitterbug Waltz, Barbara’s Blues

markturner.gif (6832 bytes)MARK TURNER
Mark Turner

Warner Brothers

New York’s Smalls has been, for the past couple of years, a breeding ground for future jazz artists. Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner has made frequent appearances at Smalls and his self-titled debut indicates why he was one of the club’s most sought-after talents. Turner played on pianist Edward Simon’s second album (Edward Simon) and Simon returns the favor by joining Turner, drummer Brian Blade, and bassist Christopher Thomas. Label mate Joshua Redman contributes on a handful of tunes.

Turner prevails on the five tracks on which Redman is absent. Turner harnesses his talents and approaches “Autumn In New York” with quiet dignity and tempered restraint. Simon is soft and subdued, arousing feelings of tenderness. Turner squeezes every bit of emotion from “Magnolia Triangle.” Turner’s melodic improvisations make a lasting impression. Turner’s muscular tenor tears through “26-2” with ease and complete control. Turner’s occasional cries and surges are met at every twist and turn by an underrated Brian Blade.

The future of the tenor saxophone is the strongest in jazz. With impressive artists like Turner and Redman, jazz has a bright future for many years to come. The jazz community in New York is familiar with Turner’s exciting abilities. It’s time for the rest of the world to find out.


Personnel: Mark Turner, tenor saxophone; Edward Simon, piano; Christopher Thomas, bass; Brian Blade, drums; Joshua Redman, tenor saxophone (Tracks 1,3, and 4)

Tracks: Mr. Brown, Lost Ocean, 327 East 32nd Street, Kathelin Gray, Hey, It’s Me You’re Talkin’ To, Autumn In New York, Magnolia Triangle, 26-2

lavajazz.gif (11489 bytes)THE LOUNGE ART ENSEMBLE
Lava Jazz

Fuzzy Music

When drummer Joe LaBarbera was unable to appear at Chadney’s (Burbank, CA) with bassist Dave Carpenter and saxophonist Bob Sheppard, drummer Peter Erskine was immediately requested to substitute for the absent LaBarbera, and the Lounge Art Ensemble came to pass. Erskine, who is known for his associations with Weather Report and John Abercrombie, has recently been playing with Alan Pasqua. Sheppard was a former bandmate of Freddie Hubbard and is currently a member of Mike Stern’s quartet. Carpenter, a mainstay in Southern California area clubs has been on tour with Allan Holdsworth for the past year.

Lava Jazz is all original music from the trio. “It Already Happened” is slowly developed by Sheppard, accentuated by high and low effects and entertaining flourishes, paced by the venerable Erskine, who’s hi-hat movements are creatively stimulating. “Jung at Heart” is the highlight of the album with winding soprano saxophone lines from Sheppard. Erskine counters with tasteful brushwork of his own. The absence of a piano allows the trio to explore their own music without the usual constraints a traditional quartet may offer.

The Lounge Art Ensemble proves West Coast jazz is alive and well. Lava Jazz is available through Fuzzy Music at http://www.petererskine.com.

Personnel: Bob Sheppard, saxophones; Dave Carpenter, bass; Peter Erskine, drums

Tracks: Pesos, It Already Happened, Cats + Kittens, Jung at Heart, I Hear A Rap CD, Twelve, You Stepped In, Journey to the Center of the Blues, Pretty Toes, Jazz Marines, Five Z’s, Drizzle

We Don’t Die We Multiply


Rodney Kendrick is possibly one of the most underrated talents in jazz. Kendrick, who was the former pianist for Abbey Lincoln, has primarily featured himself with larger ensembles. The trio format of We Don’t Die We Multiply, however, allows Kendrick to garner the spotlight and does not hinder his playing style in any way.

Kendrick is at the top of his game on “Around the Corner.” He comfortably embraces the gorgeous melody. The bassist Tarus Mateen and the drummer Turu Alexander excel in their subsidiary roles. Kendrick’s reading of Abbey Lincoln’s “When I’m Called Home” demonstrates his sensitivity that is not often on display. Kendrick is still his loud and percussive self, yet he restrains his chording, and in doing so, blends well with the bottom supplied by Mateen. Kendrick returns to his adventurous side on a moody “Fight the Beast.” Alexander matches wits with Kendrick, who’s block chords are complemented by a barrage of cymbal crashes.

We Don’t Die We Multiply is the perfect introduction for those who are unfamiliar with Kendrick’s work. Kendrick shows his diversity and plays confidently in the traditional piano-trio setting. We Don’t Die We Multiply is a multiform, textured performance from Kendrick, who along with Horace Tapscott, is the most original voice on the piano.

Personnel: Rodney Kendrick, piano; Tarus Mateen, bass; Turu Alexander, drums

Tracks: Jahjuka, Around the Corner, Rhythm-A-Ning, When I’m Called Home, The New World is Ordered, Just One of Those Things, Mystery of Love, Monarch, Fight the Beast

Jung on Jazz April 1999

Jung on Jazz April 1999


April 1999


Ethnomusicology, Volume 1

An open mind and two ears are all Russell Gunn requires to enroll in Ethnomusicology. What the trumpeter touts as “what he was born to play,” Ethnomusicology, Volume 1 is a class on the future of jazz music. Enlisting teacher’s aids, saxophonists Greg Tardy and Bruce Williams, trombonist Andre Heyward, pianist James Hurt, bassist Rodney Jordan, drummer Woody Williams, percussionist Khalil Kwame Bell, and turntable wizard DJ Apollo, professor Gunn takes the listener on a crash course in Gunn-ology.

The hour-long lecture of sounds is best uninterrupted from beginning to end, but for marketing is divided into ten parts for easy listening. It transcends categories and definitions. Highlights include a rhythmic “Shiva,” dominated by heated solos from Williams, Tardy, and Gunn to the backdrop of blistering beats and “Sybil’s Blues,” a turntable dialogue with bassist Jordan, percussionist Kwame Bell, and horns. Gunn takes his work with Branford Marsalis’s Buckshot Lefonque to a whole new dimension. Heyward’s trombone solo energizes the riff even more.

Void of heavy gimmickry that hampers the music of Us3 and Groove Collective, Gunn’s Ethnomusicology, Volume 1 is a master class on where jazz can go. Make sure seatbelts are securely fastened and tray tables are in the upright position. It’s going to be one heck of a ride.


Von & Ed
(Delmark Records)

The twin tenor format is nothing new in jazz music. The classic pairing of Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, as well as Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, made dueling tenors a readily accepted concept. Both Von Freeman and Ed Petersen, sons of the Windy City, have that same dynamic chemistry. Along with pianist Willie Pickens, bassist Brian Sandstrom, and drummer Robert Shy, Petersen and Freeman revisit and update the novelty of the battling tenors with Von & Ed.

The disc starts out strong with back to back moments of inspired playing from both saxophonists and their cohorts. Both reedmen push the rhythm section on John Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.” and Miles Davis’s “Four,” with muscular horn phrases and memorable interplay. The duo coasts along for a lean “Lover Man.” Freeman’s graceful musings probe the ballad while Petersen’s robust tenor melodies throb with passion.

Von & Ed is a compelling session that offers a unique glimpse of two tenors at the top of their game. It is a lucrative listen and a solid addition to any collection.


(Palmetto Jazz)

If you don’t know who Pete McCann is, get acquainted with him fast because he is sure to be a force in a few years. A guitarist that is first rate, McCann has been spotted around and about New York with Bobby Previte. Featuring Peter Epstein on alto and soprano saxophones, Bruce Huron on tenor, Tim Lefebvre on bass, and Matt Wilson, of Dewey Redman, fame on drums, Parable is made up of twelve McCann originals.

McCann has an attractive sound that works well with two horns. The guitarist’s inventive licks are the crux of an effective “Grimlock.” “Open Gate” is a surprisingly fresh with a percussive, obtuse introduction and some heavy playing from Huron and McCann. “Hoedown” is another dynamic composition, but before all you cowboys start dusting off your boots, this isn’t line dancing friendly. It’s not that kind of hoedown. This one is pure exhiliration created by Epstein’s searching melody, underscored by McCann’s consummate guitar wizardry.

Parable is a treat, fun for the whole family, and sure to be on top ten lists at the end of ’99.


Hell’s Kitchen
Live From Soundscape

The New York loft scene in the ’70s did for free jazz what 52nd Street did for the bebop movement. It revolutionized and invigorated it. Underground hangouts like the Environ, Artists House, Ladies Fort, and Soundscape, all became places of worship for avant-gardists. Hell’s Kitchen/Live From Soundscape is a collection of six untitled improvisations from the Odean Pope Trio, the Peter Brotzmann Trio, Ed Blackwell and Charles Brackeen, and Don Cherry, all recorded between 1978 and 1983.

The first of the six improvisations features the Odean Pope Trio (Pope, tenor; Gerald Veasley, bass; Cornell Rochester, drums) tearing a hole in the ozone layer. Pope screams at the top of his range while being backed by Rochester matching wits with the saxophonist. The tumultuous music is void of any preconception and is unfiltered, no-nonsense improvisation at its finest. The Peter Brotzmann Trio (Brotzmann, tenor; Harry Miller, bass; Louis Moholo, drums) performs the second improvisation, a twenty minute long, ping pong match between the tenor player and Moholo. It evokes the best attraction about free jazz, anticipation of the next twist and the next turn.

As Joel Dorn’s 32 Jazz should be applauded for documenting essential music from some of jazz’s most unheralded yet vital artists, DIW and Kazunori Sugiyama should be credited with providing a venue for avant-garde connoisseurs to feed on pivotal moments of free jazz.


At The Point, Volume One

Who is Papo Vazquez and where the hell has he been hiding? Vazquez, the trombonist with Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache Band and a fixture in New York’s loft scene of the ’70s, working with Hilton Ruiz and Milton Cardona, has been composing. Five of his originals are featured on his new recording At The Point, Volume One, recorded live at The Point, a Bronx community arts center, featuring his new Pirates and Troubadours band (pianist Arturo O’Farrill, drummers Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez and Phoenix Rivera, bassists Tony Batista and Andy Gonzalez, saxophonists Michael Brecker and Willie Williams, conguero Richie Flores, and percussionists Tito Cepeda, Mickey Sierra, and Milton Cardona.

The infectious rhythm from Cepeda and Sierra and the dynamic melody from O’Farrill wows the listener from the start of “Baila Plena.” The stunning, virtuoso solos from Vazquez and Williams is, in a word, caliente. The solid jazz blowing continues for a marvelous “Coqui,” featuring some witty dialogue between Brecker and Vazquez, but Brecker steals the scene, playing an epic solo. Vazquez’s dervish trombone exercises coupled with the pulsating beat of Rivera and Flores and the tantalizing chords from O’Farrill makes “The Last Dynasty” the crackerjack mambo that it is. Vazquez leads the Pirates and Troubadours, who like a well-oiled machine, don’t miss a beat.

Vazquez’s At The Point, Volume One is not the run of the mill sippin’ tea. It’s a mile a minute Latin celebration that is sure to be one of this year’s best,


Live at Capozzoli’s
(Woofy Productions)

Back in the ’50s, Bill Perkins was a fixture in West Coast cool as a member of Stan Kenton’s band and for his work alongside Art Pepper and Bud Shank. Lately, Perkins can be found on the bandstand with the Clay Jenkins/Kim Richmond Ensemble playing some things that are a bit less conventional. It’s amazing to find that the saxophonist, who is fast approaching his seventy-fifth birthday, still has chops of iron. Recorded two years ago, Live at Capozzoli’s is a quintet session (Steve Huffsteter, trumpet; Frank Strazzeri, piano; Tom Warrington, bass; Kendall Kay, drums).

Perkins excels on the Monk gem, “Well You Needn’t,” weaving his solos around Warrington’s dapper bass lines and Strazzeri’s perpetual motion at the keys. Then, there is Perkins’s suave solo on “Blue Skies” that also features a passionate Huffsteter and some swinging ensemble choruses too. The group closes out the night with a pleasant rendition of another Monk tune, “Straight No Chaser.” Perkins show how, in his seventies he still can duke it out with any of the light-weight young guns with convincing authority, flawless technique, and some heated blowing.

Available through Woofy Productions at www.woofyproductions.com, this is a keeper, fun and thrills for the whole family.


I Left My Heart…
(32 Jazz)

Admittably, one of this writer’s favorite standards is the tune immortalized by Tony Bennett and most recently heard on those annoying Visa Check commericals, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” mostly because it lends itself well to karaoke and because there really is no place like San Francisco, except maybe New York. So it was almost fate to open a package from Joel Dorn’s 32 Jazz to find the Red Garland gem I Left My Heart… inside. Recorded live at the now defunct Keystone Korner in the city by the bay on May 1978, the pianist is featured in both a trio format (bassist Chris Amberger and drummer Eddie Moore) and quartet form (add Leo Wright on alto saxophone).

The set opens with a playful “Will You Still Be Mine,” slows down for a senuous “Please Send Me Someone To Love,” and who can forget the lingering “Body And Soul.” But nothing tops the rendition of “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” that would even make Mr. Bennett proud. Wright is at his best, rousing images of cable cars and morning fog, yada-yada-yada. Garland contours the fine melody perfectly, helping the spolighted altoist shine.

In a word, I Left My Heart… is happening. But who would expect anything less from Garland and 32 jazz?


(Soul Note)

Although European audiences were arguably more accepting of freer forms of improvised music in the ’60s and ’70s, that has radically changed in the latter half of the ’90s, where there seems to be an avant-garde explosion. Look no further than the popularity of David S. Ware and Charles Gayle on college radio and the growing appreciation and fanfare for Dave Douglas for proof that improvised creativity is back with a vengeance. Douglas, who began to turn heads with John Zorn, has evolved into the pre-eminent trumpeter of his time. And while younger talents like Nicholas Payton and Roy Hargrove are bastardized by their mega-conglomerate labels to record an endless line of music that lends little or nothing to the continuum, Douglas has sacrificed fleeting fame and fortune for a more lasting and noble endeavor, composing and documenting his own music, one of which has been his string band. Consisting of violinist Mark Feldman, cellist Erik Friedlander, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Michael Sarin, the string quartet joins Douglas for this eclectic program.

Douglas plus strings commences “Convergence” with a traditional Burmese melody “Chit Kyoo Thwe Tog Nyin Hmar Lar (Will You Accept My Love or Not?),” which plays like an introduction of sorts for “Joe’s Auto Glass.” The dialogue between Friedlander and the trumpeter inspires melancholy. Feldman’s reflective violin musings are breathtaking. Even the late Yehudi Menohin would have been proud. Then there’s Douglas’s lament “Tzotzil Maya,” a piece written in response to the massacre of 45 villagers in rural Mexico. Douglas passionately blows from the opening bars to the close summoning deep sympathy and sadness. There is a brutal honesty to Douglas’s voice that is compellingly featured throughout “Convergence.” Check out “Meeting at Infinity” and “Goodbye Tony,” a moving memorial to the late Tony Williams.

Get on board the Dave Douglas bandwagon before it’s too late. The next stop won’t be until well into the next millineum and who knows what will happen with the whole Y2K thing.


Best of the Rest
(32 Jazz)

When Joel Dorn bought the Muse label, he had a handful of Sonny Stitt recordings that were classics and a handful that were not so good. Dorn’s 32 Jazz immediately released Endgame Brilliance, combining Tune Up and Constellation (universally thought of as Stitt’s best albums), and last year they put out The Champ and Just In Case You Forgot How Bad He Really Was. What about the others that were not critically praised but still had worthwhile material like Blues for Duke and In Style? And so, Best of the Rest was put together. A compilation of the swingingest tunes from the remaining Muse releases, Best of the Rest is another Stitt hit on 32.

Check out Stitt’s lightning fast intro on “I’ll Walk Alone” and then his laid-back strut through the remainder of the piece. Stitt’s precise, unflappable alto makes the music echo long after the composition has concluded. For a taste of a more lyrical Stitt, there’s the Ellington ballad “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good,” which the altoist plays to a tee. Throw a warm fire and a nice Merlot into the mix and there’s one elegant evening. Stitt caresses the melody, proving he must have been a romantic at heart. For some tenor with the Stitt, there’s the excellent “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby.” Stitt’s ability to tell a story is just as proficient on tenor as it is on alto. It’s another example of Stitt’s amazing stylistic portfolio.

For those who have not had the privilege of getting a shot of Stitt, Best of the Rest is a keeper. And for those who have plenty of Stitt, who couldn’t use a little more? Add this to the fact that Best of the Rest is the last of Stitt that will be released by Dorn’s 32, and one realizes why this album may constitute breaking open the piggy bank.


(Passin Thru)

Through the Passin Thru Master Artisan Series, Oliver Lake hopes to achieve one simple goal, shed light on musicians, who because of their steadfast loyalty to their community, are unable to garner fame on a national or international level. The first artist of the series is tenor player Frederick Washington, Jr., a St. Louis native who led a group that gave pianist John Hicks one of his first starts. Hicks returns the favor, joining Washington for his debut Lilac, along with Billy Hart on drums and Neil Kane on bass.

Hicks delicately begins a haunting rendition of “Autumn in New York,” and by guiding Washington, whose evocative tenor lines are simply gorgeous. The tenor man gives a nod to the immortal John Coltrane, playing a powerful variation of the heavy-weight champion’s “Crescent.” Washington builds the theme slowly, gaining momentum with each progressive series as Hicks and Kane add fuel to the fire with hefty contributions of their own. A crafty “Sing Song,” a Washington original and “Sometime Ago” in 3/4 time are also of great interest.

It is a shame that the major record companies don’t scrap their crappy Christmas albums that aren’t worth a damn anyway, and use that budget to record an artist such as Frederick Washington, Jr., whose worthwhile offerings should be heard outside of St. Louis. Give Oliver Lake credit for having the courage to take such steps and for giving the public access to another unheralded voice crying out to be heard.



Take the Brande International Music Workshop Orchestra (BIMWO), a group of twenty young musicians from all over the world (Israel, Japan, Austria, Cuba), add trombonist maestro Ray Anderson, and the ingredients make for one killer big band. Playing six Anderson compositions the BIMWO plus the trombonist/conductor, best known for his multi-phonic exploits, perform BIMWO Swing.

Although Anderson has plenty of brow-raising slurs and growls, it is his composing and arranging competence that is most persuasive to the ear. The opening romp “Datune” as well as a cooking “Tapajack” are all fine examples of Anderson’s capability as a songwriter. But the highlight of the recording comes on a sentimental “Phoebe’s Dance.” Wonderfully backed by the orchestra, Anderson slowly generates the melody with some of the most sumptuous slide work of his career.

For those who are looking for a Ray Anderson showcase, BIMWO Swing may not be their cup of tea. It is on a whole different level and helps the listener to truly relish Anderson the composer just as much as, if not more than, Anderson the player.


A Very Good Year
(Reservoir Music)

Upon hearing Pete Malinverni’s playing, one can immediately recognize his influences, primarily Tommy Flanagan, Hank Jones, and Barry Harris. A teacher at NYU, Malinverni can regularly be found behind the keys on Sundays as his church’s pianist. Particularly effective in a trio setting, Malinverni returns to that with drummer Leroy Williams and Dennis Irwin on bass for his latest, A Very Good Year.

Malinverni exudes a range of emotions in his playing from a remorseful “It Was A Very Good Year” with delicately arpeggiated chords and a soulful “Steal Away/My Lord, What A Mourning” with its deep calming effect to a charming “Lucky To Be Me” with its lucid runs and swinging jauntiness. All the pieces are wonderfully played by Malinverni.

For anyone who isn’t fortunate enough to attend the pianist’s free show every Sunday, at least they have a couple of his Reservoir recordings available to hold them over.


Lenox Avenue Breakdown
(KOCH Jazz)

Arguably Arthur Blythe’s finest recording, Lenox Avenue Breakdown, has been out of print for too long. That is until the generous folks at KOCH re-released it. A monumental project consisting of four extensive suites, Lenox Avenue Breakdown, originally recorded in the late ’70s, has Blythe teamed with James Newton on flute, Bob Stewart on tuba, James “Blood” Ulmer on guitar, Cecil McBee on bass, Guillermo Franco on percussion, and Jack DeJohnette on drums.

A less effective version of the title track “Lenox Avenue Breakdown” also appears on Blythe’s Retroflection recording, but this impressive masterpiece is chalk full of strong playing from Newton, whose flute melody is spellbinding. Blythe’s crisp, imaginative blowing feeds off of Stewart’s dark tuba sounds. The group is supported by a fiery DeJohnette, who mercilessly pounds away. Then there’s the well executed “Slidin’ Through” and “Down San Diego Way” a nod to Blythe’s Pacific roots.

It is a pleasure to see Lenox Avenue Breakdown back in the catalog. It has been a long time coming.


Family Song
(Not Two Records)

All original music by three of the four mates, Family Song is the latest release from the Los Angeles Jazz Quartet, aka saxophonist Chuck Manning, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz, and drummer Kevin Tullius. All four are superb musicians who have sacrificed fame and fortune in New York to help progress jazz in the Southland.

Written by Tullius, the opening title piece slowly unfolds through the gentle musings of guitarist Koonse. Koonse embraces the string instruments timbral characteristics, sounding strikingly clear. Koonse’s free flowing give-and-take with tenorman Manning gives the composition even more texture. The rhythm section burns on “Resurgence.” Tullius metronomic rapping of the ride cymbal and Oles’s searching bass lines encourage Manning, who blasts a simply thrilling series of tenor phrases with passion and startling originality. Manning switches to soprano for a soothing “A Tear From New York.” The saxophonist’s astounding grace and beauty is extraordinary. Oles’s provides the quartet with a firm foundation throughout the recording, but is particularly hypnotic on the Tullius composition.

It’s difficult to be recognized for anything outside of the New York scene, but ignoring the Los Angeles Jazz Quartet would be an error of grievous proportions. They are simply the best thing going on the West Coast and should be fervently supported. Family Song is available by calling (626) 577-4841 or by mailing a request to 644 N. Madison Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101.


Look to the East
(Naxos Jazz)

Want to know what the hippest thing on the Los Angeles scene is, it’s not the Skybar or Forum seats next to Jack. It’s the Los Angeles Jazz Quartet, hands down the finest working band in Tinseltown. Look to the East is their latest venture on Naxos Jazz and all but one of the eleven selections are originals from the band members.

Chuck Manning’s streaming soprano on “Into The Dark” are met by some no-frills and refreshing comping from guitarist Larry Koonse. Drummer Kevin Tullius strokes the cymbals and Manning blows a sensational introduction to “Session With Garrin.” Koonse’s earnest guitar riffs and Manning’s sense of drama are pure delight. The spirited group interplay on “Fosselman’s” really delivers. Bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz’s deep groove adds to the progressive nature of the material that is one of the most intriguing melodies in recent memory.

Los Angeles may not have a football team and may have a symphony hall that has been in the “building stage” for the past decade, but Los Angeles resident’s have the LAJQ. Take that, New York.


Free to Be

For the past couple of years, jazz fans have been anxiously sitting on their hands for another young alto player to take on Kenny Garrett, and every year it seems they nominate Donald Harrison. But comparing the two is unfair because they are hardly the same. They both play with very distinctly different styles and have particular approaches. Harrison is a soulful player and a bit easier on the ears for some. Free to Be is Harrison’s follow up to last year’s Nouveau Swing and includes seven originals featuring a lineup of young musicians; tenor saxophonist Teodross Avery, trumpeter Brian Lynch, guitarist Rodney Jones, pianists Andrew Adair, Mulgrew Miller, and Eddie Palmieri, bassists Vicente Archer, Christian McBride, and Reuben Rogers, and drummers Carl Allen and John Lamkin.

The buoyant title track is bubbly enough to be the intro for the Tonight Show. Coupling fast streams of notes with hard accents, Harrison forms the catchy melody. Of course, no Harrison record would be complete without some props to New Orleans and “Cissy Strut” is just that, a swinging, grooving tempo. Things slow down for “Again, Never,” a tune written by Spike Lee’s father for Mo’ Better Blues. Lynch shows why he is one of the most dynamic young trumpeters, delving deep to get every ounce of emotion out of every note.

Harrison is a heck of a player and he turns in another enjoyable diverse effort.


Jung on Jazz April 1998

Jung on Jazz April 1998

Dewey Redman In London
Gloria Lynne
Ruben Gonzales
Stefan Bauer
Kevin Mahogany
Joe Lovano/Gonzalo Rubalcaba

               April 1998

Dewey Redman In London
Palmetto Records
Although his Harvard graduate son, Joshua, seems to be the golden boy of jazz, it is saxophonist Dewey Redman who has quietly been a major component of avant-garde jazz for the past three decades. Redman, who started playing the clarinet at age thirteen, played in his high school marching band with fellow avant-gardists Ornette Coleman and Charles Moffett.  With a Masters degree in Education, Redman was a teacher before moving to New York, where the mostly self-taught musician has played alongside Pharaoh Sanders, Wes Montgomery, Paul Motian, Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, and Ornette Coleman. Redman was also part of Old and New Dreams with Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, and Ed Blackwell.

Recorded live at London’s Ronnie Scott’s In London has bassist Cameron Brown, pianist Rita Marcotulli, and drummer Matt Wilson. The soft ballad, “The Very Thought of You”, has Redman sounding surprisingly tender. Redman’s sympathetic playing is mesmerizing, as he articulates a hard, yet unforced tone. The crash of Wilson’s cymbals, his superb fills, and big pulsating solo dominates “I-Pimp”. The album closes with an explosive “Eleven”. Redman takes off the gloves and blows the roof off with the abstract and structureless piece. Redman’s utilization of space and silence creates a darker mood as Marcotulli bangs clusters of chords away at the piano. The evening winds downs with Redman wailing to a chorus of applause from the crowd.

Dewey Redman In London pulls no punches, and is a good taste of what the tenor man is capable of playing. Joshua Redman may garner more media attention and sell more records than his father, but he has a long way to go to reach the plateau his father plays on. Dewey Redman has gone largely unrecognized domestically and that is a shame, for this Redman has earned his recognition.

Personnel – Dewey Redman, tenor saxophone; Cameron Brown, bass; Rita Marcotulli, piano; Matt Wilson, drums
Tracks – I Should Care, The Very Thought of You, I-Pimp, Portrait in Black & White, Tu-Inns, Kleerwine, Stablemates, Eleven

Visit the Dewey Redman Home Page

Gloria Lynne
This One’s On Me
High Note Records
It all started at the Apollo Theater, where vocalist Gloria Lynne won the “Amateur Night” competition. The Harlem diva was soon singing with Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, and Harry “Sweets” Edison. Produced and arranged by Rodney Jones, the musical director for the Rosie O’Donnell Show, This One’s On Me includes such familiar standards as “Angel Eyes,” “What A Difference A Day Makes,” and “Let’s Fall In Love.” Lynne exhibits rich chest tones on an arousing “Angel Eyes.”

The diva’s color and relaxed cadence help bring the number to an enthusiastic crescendo. Lynne vocalizes “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” with beauty and grand style. The belle’s interpretation of the ballad is eloquent and her emissions exceptional. Lynne develops “Let’s Fall In Love” gradually. Her vocals have a remarkable consistency and This One’s On Me is another sound release from this seasoned songbird.

Personnel– Gloria Lynne, vocals; Mike Renzi, piano; Bobby Forrester, organ (tracks 5, 11); Mark Sherman, vibes (tracks 2, 5, 6, 8, 9); Rodney Jones, guitar; Benjamin Brown, bass; Akira Tana, drums (tracks 1, 3, 4, 7, 10); Jesse “Cheese” Hameen II, drums (tracks 2, 5, 6, 8, 8, 11)
Tracks– This One’s On Me, Angel Eyes, What A Difference A Day Makes, In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning, It’s Autumn, While We’re Young, Here’s That Rainy Day, Snowbound, Let’s Fall In Love, Wild Is Love, All Day Long

Ruben Gonzalez
Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez
Nonesuch Records
Ask pianist Ruben Gonzalez about the Latin jazz explosion in Southern California and the rest of the country; he probably would not know anything about it. The seventy-eight year old Gonzalez has just released his debut solo effort, which has been fifty years in the making. Gonzalez, who is considered a national treasure in Cuba, played with virtually every Cuban musician, including Mongo Santamaria, but only recorded once with Arsenio Rodriguez in the early forties. A graduate of the Cienfuegos Conservatoire, Gonzalez only had piano lessons once a month, but he managed to learn over twenty-five pieces in that month’s time. Gonzalez’s sextet includes Guajiro Mirabal on the trumpet, Carlos Gonzalez on the congas, Roberto Garcia on the bongos, Amadito Valdes on the timbales, and Orlando Lopez on bass.

The album opens with an exotic cha cha cha, “La Enganadora”, with crisp solos from trumpeter Mirabal. Gonzalez is superb throughout. “Melodia Del Rio” is a sultry bolero with relaxed brasswork from Mirabal, and ginger piano playing from Gonzalez. A moody “Siboney” is a successful treatment of the Lecuona classic. Introducing…Ruben Gonzalez is a harmonically rich and swinging debut. Gonzalez has arthritis in his arms and fingers, and does not even own a piano anymore. His last piano fell apart due to wood rot and age, yet Gonzalez continues to play his beloved piano, even if he has to wait outside a hotel to play a couple of hours at the hotel bar in the early hours of the morning. A musician’s musician that truly loves his music, Gonzalez is an inspiration not only to his native Cuba, but to musicians and pianist everywhere.

Personnel– Ruben Gonzalez, piano; Orlando Lopez, bass; Manuel Mirabal, trumpet; Amadito Valdes, timbales; Roberto Garcia, bongos, guiro, cowbell; Carlos Gonzalez, congas; Alberto Valdes, maracas; Carlos Puisseaux, guiro; Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, Manuel Licea, Antonio Rodriguez, chorus vocals; Richard Egues, flute; Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, arranger and conductor
Tracks– La Enganadora, Cumbanchero, Tres Lindas Cubanas, Melodia Del Rio, Mandinga, Siboney, Almendra, Tumbao, Como Siento Yo

Stefan Bauer
Best of Two Worlds
Jazz Line
Vibraphonist Stefan Bauer learned to play both the trombone and piano, before he decided on the vibraphone. The Berklee graduate has hints of David Friedmann and has worked with Peter Erskine. Bauer’s quintet includes drummer Adam Nussbaum, guitarist Mick Goodrick, bassist Jim Vivan, and trumpeter Tim Hagans. Bauer asserts himself on a light-hearted “Look Up.” Bauer’s calculating brisk runs and prolific multi-mallet chording accentuate his capabilities as a stylist on vibes. Nussbaum pounds out dazzling fills and his solo seems to gain strength as it progresses. Hagan’s intimate lyricism on “Cafe Orchidee” echoes of Kenny Dorham. Goodrick constructs his riffs with an easy touch and hearty rhythmic verve. Best of Two Worlds is advanced post-bop with implications of ethnic world music. The absence of a piano is augmented by the harmonics of Bauer’s vibraphone fusing with Goodrick’s melodic guitar. Bauer procures a first rate quintet and the result is an exceptionally vivid and swinging album.

Personnel– Stefan Bauer, vibraphone; Adam Nussbaum, drums; Mick Goodrick, guitar; Tim Hagans, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jim Vivian, bass
Tracks– Kayak, Don’t Take The A-Train, Askale Tulem, Look Up, Cafe Orchidee, My Favorite Things, Piere, Kino, Zwiegesprach, Don’t Take The A-Train Again

Kevin Mahogany
Another Time Another Place
Warner Brothers
Kevin Mahogany is a smart singer. Mahogany understands the nature of advanced vocal technique. Mahogany ahs tremendous power and his large voice has particular ease in the higher register. The vocalist is accompanied by saxophonist Joe Lovano, pianist Cyrus Chestnut, guitarist Dave Stryker, bassist Ben Wolfe, and drummer Clarence Penn. The romantic baritone paces “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” comfortably, with slight pauses to give Lovano a sultry solo or two. Mahogany avoids overly embellishing his singing, but rather allows the music to unravel by itself. Mahogany gently caresses “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.” His verve, accuracy, and tasteful phrasing is irresistible. Chestnut’s logical improvisations linger in the background as Mahogany’s poetic treatment of the words generates a natural musical flow. There is a huge void of male jazz singers. Mahogany stands out because of his confident projection, clear enunciation, and tonal warmth. This robust baritone has a soft timbre all through Another Time Another Place that project dignity, authority, and eloquence.

Personnel– Kevin Mahogany, vocals; Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone; Randy Travis, vocals; Cyrus Chestnut, piano; Dave Stryker, guitar; Ben Wolfe, bass; Clarence Penn, drums
Tracks– Big Rub, Free, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, Cloudburst, I Believe She Was Talkin’ Bout Me, Nature Boy, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, Another Time, Another Place, Fix It In the Mix, Parker’s Mood/Kansas City

Joe Lovano & Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Flying Colors
Blue Note Records
Joe Lovano remains one of the busiest saxophonists on the scene today. Lovano, who first gained critical recognition with his contributions to Paul Motian’s quintet and trio, has become an intelligent technician, and one of the most individualistic voices in jazz. The Grammy-nominated Lovano, most recently nominated for his Quartet: Live at the Village Vanguard and Celebrating Sinatra releases, teams up with Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba in a rare duo collaboration. Lovano alternates between a soprano saxophone, an alto clarinet, and a straight tenor saxophone, custom-made for him by L. A. Sax, which he showcased in his performance at the Orange County Performing Arts Center last year.

On “Boss Town”, a reference to his Cleveland roots, Lovano allows himself plenty of space, and in turn, displays a marvelously fluent and detailed approach. Rubalcaba’s trance-like pounding of chords is a perfect compliment to Lovano’s blistering phrases. Lovano’s tone is rich throughout a lovely reading of Thelonious Monk’s “Ugly Beauty”. Dameron’s “Hot House” is articulated by Lovano’s growling tenor. Rubalcaba plays impressively at the far right of the keys, and constructs one of his most technically proficient solos. Flying Colors is an unpredictable and brilliant recording from two veteran Blue Note artists. Lovano and Rubalcaba play with moving intensity, and provide inspiring dialogue. Flying Colors is another gem by one of jazz’s most tirelessly consistent saxophonists.

Personnel– Gonzalo Rubalcaba, piano; Joe Lovano, straight tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Tracks– Flying Colors, How Deep Is the Ocean, boss Town, bird Food, Spontaneous Color, Phantasm, Ugly Beauty, Hot House, Gloria’s Step, Mr. Hyde, I Love Music, Along Came Betty

Jung on Jazz March 1999

Jung on Jazz March 1999

In the Key of Monk
(Jazz Focus)

Jessica Williams cites Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Paul Chambers, and Johnny Griffin as her main influences. The only piano player she credits is Thelonious Monk. The significance of this is that Williams seems to have her very own, distinct style and her unique voice is what makes her, along with Kenny Barron, Paul Bley, Horace Tapscott, and Marilyn Crispell, one of the finest pianists of their generation. In the Key of Monk, Williams’s tenth release on the Canadian Jazz Focus label is a solo piano performance recorded live on May 31, 1997 at Calgary’s Steinway Concert Hall.

Williams’s treatment of Monk’s “Bemsha Swing” is exquisite. She deconstructs the standard with dynamic flourishes from her right hand while laying down the bass line with her left. Williams states “Reflections” with amazing grace, probing the Monk melody with a cultivated sensitivity that only enhances the music. Williams contours the heart of “Ask Me Now,” by indulging with sublime punctuation and precise quotes that maintain the integrity of the composition.

Monk’s music is Williams’s true north and In the Key of Monk is Williams’s finest hour. What’s more impressive is that her releases are all better than 99% of what’s already out there. Brava.


(Ubiquity Jazz)

Ask Bobby Hutcherson who his influences are and one of the first names he would mention is Dave Pike. Dave Pike? Yes, Dave Pike, and it’s not dumb luck that finds Pike back on the scene. Much as the chess legend Bobby Fischer is presumed to be out of the public eye, honing his skills to even greater strengths, so too was Pike, who returns in gala fashion with Bophead. The Ubiquity Jazz release is a fitting welcome back for the vibraphonist, who is a major voice that is finally being heard once more. Joining Pike for this SoCal celebration is guitarist wizard Anthony Wilson, bassist Richard Simon, pianists Milcho Leviev and Jane Getz (for four tracks), drummers Lorca Hart and Albert “Tootie” Heath (for four tracks), and tenor saxophone legend, Teddy Edwards (for two tracks).

“A Time For Love” is a good example of why Pike is what’s hip with jazz vibes. Pike’s rhythmic prowess is proficient in the uptempo numbers, but the vibraphonist also displays his charming sense of romance for the slower grooves. Better have the rewind button handy for “Dr. Jackle” because the sonic flurries, that are abound, come so fast and so furiously, many may miss more than merely a note or two. Wilson and Getz stand out on an impressionable “Ghost of a Chance.” Wilson’s soft-toned guitar agrees with Getz’s pleasing statements.

Bophead may become the defining record for Ubiquity Jazz. Credit should go to Michael McFadin and all those at Ubiquity for not taking a gamble, but making an investment in Pike. He’s a blue chipper.



Alto saxophonist John Zorn founded Masada in 1993. Combining klezmer music with jazz, Masada grew an underground cult following and was the eventual launching pad for trumpeter Dave Douglas’s meteoric rise to fame. Zorn and Douglas, along with bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Baron made five other numbered releases on DIW before Six/Vav and Seven/Zayin.

All five prior volumes were superb and Six/Vav and Seven/Zayin are no different. The music on both Six/Vav and Seven/Zayin is vibrant. Douglas pushes the envelope of improvisation on Seven/Zayin, splattering phrases all over “Shevet.” Zorn’s melodic looseness a la Ornette Coleman makes for an open-ended “Nevuah.” Douglas’s slurs and trills on “Tekufah,” to the beat of a metronome-like Baron make room for the squawking Zorn.

Six/Vav is also not bound by song structure or fixed changes and the musicians exploit that, freely bouncing off one another. Both Zorn and Douglas fly around with abandon on the opener “Debir” and that uninhibited spontaneity continues throughout the recording, all the way to the closing “Beer Sheba.”

Masada disbanded two years ago, but their discography on DIW alone is a heavy legacy. All of the DIW numbered series from Zorn’s Masada is a must for all avant-gardists. These kicking DIW titles are the kinds of exports from Japan that is throwing our trade balance off with them.


Power Station


Michael Weiss’s resume is pretty impressive. After having done stints with George Coleman, Junior Cook, Charles McPherson, Gary Bartz, and Johnny Griffin, the 40-year-old pianist knows good saxophonists. So it is no small fluke that he picked the young lion, tenorman Eric Alexander to play on his new quartet recording on DIW, “Power Station.” The pair hooked up with bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth for one heck of a ride.

Weiss and Alexander cut loose all over this recording. Weiss’s melodic inventiveness on a swinging “Power Station,” brisk “Atlantis,” and a barn burner “Orient Express” is mind numbing. Alexander negotiates the difficult changes with relative ease. But it is their ballad work on the album that shines brightest. Backed strongly by Webber and Farnsworth, Weiss and Alexander glide through “Alone Together” on melodic wings.

The foursome put it all on the line and the results make for a rewarding listen.


Lan Xang

It seems the line between what some traditionalist circles considers what is and isn’t jazz is getting smaller and smaller. If the music isn’t swinging, or a variation on a theme from Ellington, or based upon a familiar theme, it is practically ostracized. It is in this kind of an environment where a Lan Xang may slip through the cracks. And what a shame that would be, for Lan Xang is something else. A quartet project fronted by saxophone virtuoso Dave Binney, Lan Xang’s cast is rounded out by saxophonist Donny McCaslin, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Jeff Hirshfield.

Lan Xang runs the gamut of advanced jazz music, from the ebb and flow of “Day of Fear, Night of Truth” with McCaslin’s bitter tone offering a deep contrast to the multidimensional Binney, to the funkier “2nd Line Sally” with Hirshfield’s restrained, level headed drumming keeping the players together. Then there’s the ritualistic “Bob Dole/Blee Bop Ba Blay” and the demanding “Grunge Factor,” all strong efforts in modern American music.

The dark beauty of Lan Xang captures the provocative essence that jazz music should have in order to be stimulating in the new millennium. Binney leads this group that is advancing the music forward and should not be dismissed. Lan Xang is available by contacting Mythology Records at beenknee@ix.netcom.com or by calling 1-888-684-2968.


Mode for Mabes
(Delmark Records)

It’s funny how the media tends to gravitate towards the shortcomings of an individual to determine his or her legacy. William Jefferson Clinton sat in the Oval Office during one of the most prosperous periods in American history, yet he’ll probably only be remembered for staining an intern’s blue dress. Eric Alexander, who has been developing into one of the leading tenor voices of his generation, will probably never live down his second place finish to Joshua Redman in the ’91 Thelonious Monk Competition. That’s a shame. It’s a shame because on virtually every level now, Alexander is a better player than Redman. And although Redman is the media darling and easily the most overly publicized musician other than Wynton Marsalis, Alexander could blow him off any stage. Mode For Mabes is a perfect example of Alexander’s blowing chops. Alexander’s sextet employs trumpeter Jim Rotondi, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist Harold Mabern, bassist John Webber, and drummer George Fludas.

From the outset, Alexander demands the listener’s undivided attention, fencing with Fludas in a spellbinding battle of wits on “Mode For Mabes,” before Rotondi takes over with a dynamic trumpet solo. Alexander keeps the faculty streamlined and together they produce entertaining music. Alexander’s gorgeous tone stands out as he strolls on a romantic “For Heaven’s Sake.” The tenor saxophonist’s confidence is in full bloom as he handles his way through the composition with remarkable poise. The album climaxes for Coltrane’s “Naima,” a tenor showcase for Alexander, who explores the mids and highs, adding in a colorful honk or two along the way. The tenorman quarterbacks the ensemble to a rousing finish line.

After listening to Mode For Mabes, it doesn’t take long to figure out that Alexander has got plenty of game. The most frightening thing is that Alexander is only going to get better.



For almost a decade, from the mid ’60s to the mid ’70s, Bobby Hutcherson could have been called Mr. Blue Note, recording over two dozen albums for the Alfred Lion label, both as a leader and as a sideman, most notably on Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch. But for the next two decades that followed, the vibraphonist only recorded sporadically for Columbia, Evidence, and Landmark. It seemed Hutcherson would be another in a long list of musicians to get lost in the shuffle. Not Hutcherson, who has started back on the road to recapturing the jazz world as the vibraphonist of the moment as he was during his Blue Note hey days with his first recording in half a decade, Skyline. Skyline is Hutcherson’s debut for Verve and features Kenny Garrett on alto saxophone, Geri Allen on piano, Christian McBride on bass, and Al Foster on drums.

The uptempo “Pomponio” begins with Hutcherson generating rhythmic intensity alongside a red hot Foster. Fueled by the pair, Garrett swings hard, playing a series of jarring passages. The mood slows for a dreamy “Tres Palabras.” McBride is out front for much of the introduction, plucking thoughtful, probing bass lines. Garrett’s contoured, lyrical phrases counter the textured malleting of Hutcherson. Hutcherson really lets loose for “The Coaster,” a buoyant run that is spurred on by the vibist’s eye-opening clusters. Allen’s use of space is a perfect foil to Garrett’s darting alto figures, as the pianist hesitates before carefully placing the perfect notes. Her solo is also something else, proving why she is the finest post-bop pianist to emerge since Jessica Williams.

It looks as though Hutcherson is back. Back to being in the national spotlight, back to swinging, and back to reprising his familiar role as the premier vibraphonist in jazz.


High Heel Sneakers
(Fable Records)

Going from the Las Vegas strip as a lounge musician to working in New York as a sideman with Wild Bill Davis, Benny Goodman, and Buck Clayton, tenor saxophonist Doug Lawrence sure has come a long way. Lawrence revisits the B3 funk from his days with legendary organist Davis with his second album for Fable Records, High Heel Sneakers, an organ combo with guitarist Peter Bernstein, organist Adam Scone, bassists Dennis Irwin and John Webber, drummer Willie Jones III, and congueros Carlos “Potato” Valdes and Eddie Bobe.

Lawrence gets things going with a rousing “The Lamp Is Low.” Bernstein’s gritty guitar progressions lock into the earthy groove presented by a dazzling Scone. They ignite Lawrence, who catches fire, and there is fascinating interplay between the tenorman and Bernstein. “High Heel Sneakers” has the saxophonist digging down for the low-pitched notes and sparkles in the middle ranges. Bernstein’s thoughtful arpeggios go hand in hand with Scone’s panache. An uptempo rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight” shows off Lawrence’s full bodied tone. The quintet, already in full stride, keeps the brisk pace going, jamming in aggressive fashion.

Soul Carnival, Lawrence’s debut, was well received upon its release last year. High Heel Sneakers is just as entertaining, giving the tenor saxophonist another first-rate addition to his body of work.


(NAXOS Jazz)

The organ is making a comeback in jazz. Given prominence by Jimmy Smith and legitimized by Charles Earland, Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, and Shirley Scott, the Hammond B3 has been brought back into the jazz limelight by the high profile success of Medeski, Martin, and Wood and young talents like 26-year- old Sam Yahel. Since moving to New York in 1990, Yahel has been a part of the underground Smalls scene. Joining Yahel for his debut Searchin’ are guitarist Peter Bernstein, drummer Joe Strasser, trumpeter Ryan Kisor, and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander.

Smalls has seasoned Yahel to be a confident player which is evident by his rhythmic stride on “Raining on the Rosebush (a.k.a. Double Rainbow).” Yahel soulfully swings through the Jobim tune as Bernstein’s wistful lines make the guitarist’s presence known. Time stops for the fire and a half minutes of “My Ideal,” a dreamy ballad. From Alexander’s gentle flirtations to Kisor’s juicy lyricism, the quintet shines under the slower tempo. A groovy “Block” rounds out the session with Kisor and Alexander reaching deep into their bag and out- quoting one another while Yahel and Bernstein keep things coasting along in cruise control.

Searchin’ is quite an impressive first effort from these handful of Gen-Xer’s. It seems the future is in pretty good hands. And they said the generation raised on Reaganomics and MTV were a bunch of slackers.


Lost Art Cafe
(9 Winds)

What will happen to free jazz in the millennium? It will spread like wildfire through the underground with such gold standard labels as Delmark, CIMP, AUM Fidelity, and Vinny Golia’s 9 Winds releasing aggressive, contemporary American music. Lost Art Cafe is a challenging 9 Winds release from Oddbar Trio Plus Trombone, the Oddbar part being trumpeter Brent Sandy, guitarist Steve Grismore, and drummer Jim Dreier and Trombone referring to an adept John Rapson.

“Cletus Ngugu” is colored by Grismore’s eerie guitar notes, Sandy’s spirited playing, and Rapson’s witty slurs. With Grismore providing the bass line for “Suesy Bluesy,” Rapson’s playing never falls below exciting, as the ‘boneman puts on a clinic with some of the most daring, ornery playing on record. Things get down and dirty for “Perpendicular Promenade (Johnny C.’s Superlocrian Lovefest),” as the trio plus one takes the restraints off and lets the sparks fly. Dreier’s tom pops and snare rolls keep the music from lagging.

Maybe the group should be re-titled Trombone Plus Oddbar Trio, because Lost Art Cafe is Rapson’s showcase. Sandy, Grismore, and Dreier are all top-notch players in their own rights, but Rapson seems to be in a whole other realm entirely. Highly recommended for those who keep their feet on the ground. Underground that is.


The Odyssey Of Funk & Popular Music – Volume 1

Songbook records in jazz are not uncommon. Last year, everyone and their mothers put out a Gershwin tribute commemorating Gershwin’s 100th anniversary. This year probably will not be any different for Duke Ellington’s 100th anniversary. So it is no big shock to find Lester Bowie doing a songbook concept record with his Brass Fantasy. That is until one realizes Bowie’s concept. Bowie takes on tunes made popular by pop artists The Spice Girls, rapper Notorious B. I. G., and industrial rocker Marilyn Manson for his new release The Odyssey Of Funk & Popular Music – Volume 1. The Lester Bowie Brass Fantasy has a cast that includes four trumpeters (Bowie, Joseph Gollehon, Ravi Best, Gerald Brazel), a tuba player (Bob Stewart), a French horn (Vincent Chancey), three trombonists (Luis Bonilla, Joshua Roseman, Gary Valente), a drummer (Vinnie Johnson), and a percussionist (Victor See Yuen).

Popular music is difficult, if not impossible to translate into jazz music. Just ask Bob Belden – remember the Sting rearrangements and the Prince or Artist Formerly Known As fiasco? So to tackle The Spice Girls’s “Two Become One,” Bowie has brass, and in this case, literally. Roseman’s multiphonics does not capture all the “subtleties” of a Ginger Spice, but he carries his own. “In The Still Of The Night” sounds more like a New Orleans marching band playing Dion. Interesting, but by no means groundbreaking. Puccini wrote “Nessun Dorma” as the defining moment in his opera Turandot. Bowie’s “Nessun Dorma” is not going to have Pavarotti unemployed anytime soon, but it does have its merits. The group interplay is very amusing.

The Odyssey Of Funk & Popular Music – Volume 1 is not Bowie’s finest hour, but it is fun and sometimes that’s good enough. In this case it is. Bowie’s Odyssey is Bubbalicious. And to think, there is a Volume 2 on the way.


(32 Jazz)

What makes Sonny Stitt one of the baddest saxophonists on the planet? Look no further for the answer than his Salt and Pepper (Impulse) album or one of the finest bebop recordings of the modern era, Endgame Brilliance (32 Jazz) which includes his landmark Tune Up! (Muse) and Constellation (Muse) recordings, both recorded in the early ’70s when Stitt was in his prime. The Champ is another one of those ’70s gems from the saxophonist and includes Joe Newman (trumpet), Duke Jordan (piano), Sam Jones (bass), and Roy Brooks (drums).

Check out Stitt’s lyricism on a relaxed reading of “Sweet and Lovely,” as he flirts with Jordan and Jones. Then there’s the uptempo “The Midgets” that features some hell-bent chord progressions from Stitt. Newman plays a mean horn and his “I Got You Babe” type tradeoffs with the saxophonist are quite amusing. Jordan’s commanding piano solo on “Walkin'” inspires some stellar interplay between an intense Stitt and an attentive Jones.

The Champ is yet another release on 32 Jazz that belongs in every bebop collection.


(Blue Note)

A quarter of a century has gone by since the Latin jazz superband Irakere formed. In that time, the jazz world has witnessed the dawn of the music video, mourned the passing of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie, has seen the Cold War come to an end, the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, and the birth of the Anti- Christ, “smooth jazz”. Irakere’s longevity is a testament to their music’s consistency. Much of that credit belongs to one of Irakere’s founding fathers, pianist Chucho Valdes, the greatest Cuban composer of his time. Both Valdes and his compositions are at the forefront of Yemaya, Irakere’s first album for Blue Note that reunites them with Bruce Lundvall, a pivotal player in their excursions in the States.

“Santa Amalia,” one of seven Valdes originals on the release, is a tribute to the composer’s old Havana neighborhood. The vibrant son features alto saxophonist Cesar Lopez and tenor saxophonist Alfredo Thompson, who trade invigorating quotes with one another. Based upon the changes of the bebop warhorse “Love for Sale,” Valdes’s mambo “La Explosion” has an ear-popping trumpet solo and some of the swingingest bravada on record. Valdes begins “Chorrino” by mirroring a classical pianist’s articulation and modulation before adding his own special brand of intensity and creativity, Carlos Del Puerto’s sweeping bass lines, and the driving rhythms of Enrique Pla.

Yemaya is destined to make Irakere the most sought after Cuban export since the Cohiba.


Creative Catalysts


Forty something Bob Magnuson is undergoing somewhat of a mid-life jazz crisis. A sideman to Ron Carter and Lee Konitz, Magnuson has shed his post-bop toupee and is now going commando with his first recording for CIMP (Creative Improvised Music Projects), the East Coast leader in adventurous American contemporary music. Creative Catalysts has Magnuson alternating between tenor and alto saxophones, backed only by drummer Lou Grassi.

The duo wail away on the opening “Habla” and like a palm tree, helpless in the eye of an audible hurricane, the music sways to the gale force playing of Magnuson, as the reedman drives up and down the horn, creating a whirlwind of sound. Grassi, who tears a hole in the drumskins of his toms and snare, pounds the beat relentlessly. There is no love on “I’m Over Here, Lover.” The music relaxes a bit in comparison to “Habla,” but never falls below frantic. The listener would need a coffee break just to calm him or herself down. “Subway Ride” is an e-ticket ride to cardiac arrest as the two partners let it rip and the listener is taken on a rollercoaster ride, with Magnuson’s rising squawks and belly dropping fog horn blasts. Grassi’s snare, tom, hi- hat combos are superb.

Creative Catalysts is the 62nd volume in the Spirit Room Series and features two dominating musicians at the peak of their game. It is the way free jazz should be, without gimmicks and without apologies.


The Continuum
(Delmark Records)

Just look at the Bulls with and without Michael Jordan. As the latter, they don’t even remotely resemble a collegiate team, let alone the team that won six championships. Not the case with the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, created two decades ago, the Chicago-based band lost saxophonist Edward Wilkerson, but fitting right in was reedman Ernest ‘Khabeer’ Dawkins, who actually lends more with his ferocious, no holds barred approach. Along with trombonist Joseph Bowie, percussionist ‘Atu’ Harold Murray, and founding member, percussionist Kahil El’Zabar, the EHE doesn’t skip a beat for their latest Delmark effort, The Continuum.

The quartet’s reinvention of Thelonious Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” includes an abundance of multiphonic illustrations from Bowie and spirited, alto eruptions from Dawkins. “Ancestral Song” starts with a mid-tempo groove from the percussionists and African chants from the leader El’Zabar. Dawkins’s eases back a tad for his nomadic improvisations, but still manages to keep the integrity of his edge. The phat, pulsating beat of “Ornette” is dangerously primal. Staying with the inner beast theme, Dawkins unleashes a solo that covers the spectrum from unbelievably inventive post-bop to thought provoking, cutting-edge, unabashed avant-garde with no garnish, a fitting description for the album and its band.

Since the Bulls aren’t worth watching anymore, stay at home and chill to the sounds of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, easily one of the finest groups in contemporary music today.


Jung on Jazz February 1999

Jung on Jazz February 1999

Gentle Warrior
(Criss Cross Jazz)

Influenced by the playing of Wayne Shorter and Junior Cook, Tim Warfield has been earning raves developing his own voice with the bands of Nicholas Payton and Christian McBride. Warfield, whose parents raised him in a musically rich environment, began playing the alto at the age of nine before puberty augmented the young man’s timbre and he switched over to the tenor. A music major at Howard University, Warfield began his career gigging with trumpeter Marlon Jordan, the Jazz Futures, and organist Shirley Scott. Gentle Warrior is Warfield’s third release for the Criss Cross Jazz label and features pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Tarus Mateen, drummer Clarence Penn, and trumpeters Nicholas Payton and Terell Stafford.

Warfield begins Gentle Warrior with a moody lament entitled “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face.” Warfield’s mellow stylings are impeccable and he is fully matched by Chestnut’s poise and patience. Chestnut excels on the ballad, which seems to have his natural tempo. Payton joins the quartet for “Adonis,” a light-hearted reference to the vanity of a colleague. Payton has been consistently impressive and he does not disappoint, playing the higher register passages marvelously. Warfield plays “Constant J” in 5/4 and builds the music to a frenzied intensity. Chestnut pounds block chords, opening up the tune for Warfield, who blows away at will. It is clearly the most exciting moment on the record.

Warfield is evolving into a first-rate player and he warrants much of the praise he has received for his work with McBride and Payton, but to realize his fullest potential, Warfield must continue to pursue his own voice as he has done here. Each of the eight selections on Gentle Warrior has its own personality and the music is intriguing form beginning to end.


Quintessence, Volume 1

Images of Stan Getz and Chet Baker are synonymous with the term West Coast or cool jazz. Evolving from bebop in the ’50s, cool jazz was more subtle in its approach, more introverted and laid back, then the heated playing of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Stigmatized for being too predictable and too “white”, cool jazz was a crucial in the development of jazz and made cult figures of both Getz and Baker. Quintessence, Volume 1 is a live recording from a 1983 Getz performance in Norway. Getz and Baker are joined by Getz’s quartet of pianist Jim McNeely, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Victor Lewis.

Getz’s lovely tone captures the listener from the outset of “I’m Old Fashioned.” The tenor saxophonist’s seductive, breezy delivery is entrancing, as he makes way for Baker’s wistful tenor vocals. McNeely’s lush accompaniment serves as a perfect backdrop for the pair. Although Baker’s singing sounds strained on Gershwin’s “But Not For Me,” he manages to make his way through. Perfectly at ease, Getz’s warm and friendly swing may not be earthshaking, but it is soothing to the soul, and what he does, he does better than anyone. Getz asserts himself for a good-natured “Stablemates.” Lewis deftly negotiates the changes along with the saxophonist. It is the drummer’s brightest moments on the date.

At the time of this recording, Baker was 54 years old and his skills had deteriorated significantly, but on this session the trumpeter benefits greatly from a superb rhythm section and Baker turns in a surprisingly consistent performance. Getz is his poised self and exhibits more of his fine form and romanticism. Is there a better ballader in jazz? The second volume should follow and if it is any bit as good as the first, it should not be missed..


afrocuabanfantasy.jpg (10697 bytes)PONCHO SANCHEZ
Afro-Cuban Fantasy
(Concord Picante)

A native Angeleno, Poncho Sanchez is the frontman for the most popular and well-known Latin-jazz band in the Southland. A former member of Cal Tjader’s band, Sanchez has carried Latin-jazz music to the mainstream in Los Angeles for almost two decades. Although Sanchez has recently played the House of Blues and the Playboy Jazz Festival, he still brings his music to the people, playing in local clubs like Steamer’s Cafe and the Santa Fe Springs Swap Meet. The fact that Sanchez still makes Norwalk his home reflects his no-nonsense, down-home attitude and makes Sanchez seem like a modern day Latin-jazz Robin Hood. Afro-Cuban Fantasy is the conga player’s seventeenth release for Concord Picante (the Latin-jazz arm of Concord Records) and follows back to back chart toppers Conga Blue and Freedom Sound. Sanchez’s band employs the talents of fellow Californians, the Banda brothers (Ramon on timbales and Tony on bass), David Torres on piano, Jose “Papo” Rodriguez on bongos, Sal Cracchiolo on trumpet, Scott Martin on saxophones, and Francisco Torres on trombone, and also features the sultry vocals of Dianne Reeves.

Subway sound effects introduce “Subway Harry,” a cha cha cha, but dissipates to a volatile mix of vibrant percussion and boisterous brass. Sanchez even occasionally yells a subway stop or two for emphasis. “Sambroso” is a mambo that is overflowing with heated, pulsating beats, but still remains swinging. The title track “Afro-Cuban Fantasy” has an army of percussion augmenting the pounding chords of Torres and the battalion of horns.

Latin-jazz has a poor tendency to become repetitive and tiresome, but not Sanchez. His music is consistently vibrant, full of vim, vigor, and vitality. It is the essence of life, stirring emotions to grab a partner and dance the night away or order Pina Coladas poolside. Grooving to the animated vibrations of the conguero has one asking, “How does one say Cuba Libra is Spanish again?” .


A Billy Strayhorn Songbook

(Highnote Records)

Albums based upon the Billy Strayhorn songbook are nothing new. Joe Henderson caught the ears of Grammy voters in 1991 with his Strayhorn album Lush Life. It was only a matter of time before a piano trio tackled the music of Strayhorn, one of America’s finest composers. Pianist John Hicks began his career with Art Blakey in 1964 and although he had an important partnership with Betty Carter in the late ’60s, Hicks has recently been more of a journeyman, playing with the likes of Lester Bowie, David Murray, Pharoah Sanders, and Arthur Blythe. Although, it seems Hicks has now found a home with his trio of Dwayne Dolphin on bass and Cecil Brooks III on drums.

Hicks captures the mood of utter yearning with his poignant portrait of “Blood Count” and his rendition of “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing” is moving. Hicks is in top form, unleashing a wellspring of emotion with his beautiful variation of “Chelsea Bridge” and “Passion Flower.” But it is the wonderful “Something to Live For” and “Lush Life” that clinches the deal. The two numbers are what distinguish Hicks’s tribute from all the others. The pianist sounds inspired and his melodic interludes are heartwrenching. Both Dolphin and Brooks aid greatly in Hicks’s vivid portrayal of Strayhorn’s work.


Slander (and other love songs)

When top vibraphonists are mentioned, Joe Locke should be right alongside Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, Gary Burton, Dave Pike, Mike Mainieri, Gregg Bendian, and Steve Nelson. The New York City resident has played on sessions with Kenny Barron, Walter Davis, Jr., and Eddie Henderson. Slander (And Other Love Songs) is Locke’s third Milestone release and features his quintet; pianist Billy Childs, bassist Rufus Reid, guitarist Vic Juris, and drummer Gene Jackson.

Locke’s speedy alterations and percussive intensity make everything swing on “Song for Cables.” The combative interplay between Locke and Jackson make the music exhausting, but it’s not disagreeable. Locke puts a new and inventive twist to the exploited theme of “Mission Impossible.” The vibraphonist’s maverick contrapuntal harmonics give the tired melody just what it needs, a shot of verve. An electrified version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is also of interest. Juris’s distorted, liquid tone is an ideal foil to Locke’s tantalizing mallet work.

Slander (And Other Love Songs) is Locke’s most promising endeavor and is evidence that the 39-year-old vibist belongs in the upper pantheon of jazz vibraphonists.


The Year of the  Drummer
(Basin Street Records)

Being a Marsalis in jazz is like being a Kennedy in American politics. The name alone brings pressures and expectations that are extraordinary and beyond comprehension. Jason Marsalis is the 21-year-old drummer son of Ellis and younger brother of Wynton, Delfeayo, and Branford. The young timekeeper has been playing with his father and also with his brother Wynton’s former bandmate, pianist Marcus Roberts. Tempered by Herlin Riley and Jeff “Tain” Watts, Marsalis pays tribute to these influences with his new release on Basin Street Records, The Year of the Drummer, an album of original compositions. Marsalis’s quintet includes trumpeter Antonio Gambrell, saxophonist Derek Douget, pianist Jonathan Lefcoski, and bassist Jason Stewart.

Paying homage to Watts, Marsalis is subtle and careful not to overwhelm the mature solos of Gambrell and Douget on “The Upper Second Line.” Gambrell’s tart trumpet statements are reminiscent of Lee Morgan. The original concept for “Discipline” was inspired by fellow percussionist Leon Parker. Playing essentially the same groove over and over again, Marsalis is able to utilize every inch of the drum set, mirroring Parker’s approach of simplicity. “He Who Swings De Rumba Clave” is a rumba that evolves into a cha cha, a la Danilo Perez’s “Hot Bean Strut,” off the pianist’s Impulse release Panamonk. Marsalis’s crisp rhythm shifts set up Gambrell’s buoyant notes and Lefcoski’s tasteful support.

The bar raised by Wynton and Branford is difficult to hurdle, but Marsalis has a sound foundation and is well on his way to building his own legacy. Marsalis’s compositional skills are acceptable and will improve with time, but it is his determination to establish his own voice that sets him apart from the pack. Perhaps, 1998 was the year for drummers. It was definitely Marsalis’s year.


Classic Moods

Ernie Watts is best known for his role as the tenor voice behind Charlie Haden’s Quartet West and for his extensive work with the big bands of Buddy Rich and Gerald Wilson. With a Grammy under his belt for his work on the film “Chariots of Fire,” and a handful of albums for JVC under his own name, Watts releases Classic Moods, his most intriguing material to date. A classy quartet album, Classic Moods features Mulgrew Miller on piano, George Mraz on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums.

The album opens with a mesmerizing encounter between Watts and Miller. Watts plays with passion and intelligence, crafting his solos beautifully. Coupled with Miller’s lyrical swing, Watts’s finely tailored tone and sensual romanticism meet the essence of the Ellington ballad. Watt’s treatment of “Round Midnight” is articulate and he is supported exceptionally by Miller, who fills in the gaps in memorable fashion. Watts builds “Lush Life” with a series of luscious statements. Cobb probes the depths of his instrument, outlining the tapestry of the ballad with superb brushwork.

Like Frank Capra movies and Sunday afternoon barbecues, Classic Moods is destined to be an American classic.


Journey Together
(Naxos Jazz)

Although David Sills has been playing the saxophone since he was ten, it wasn’t until he heard John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” that his passion for jazz became concrete. A graduate of Cal State Long Beach with a degree in saxophone performance, Sills has been working locally in Los Angeles and Orange County area clubs for the past five years. Sills’s debut Hangin’ Five on the Orange County based Resurgent Music label was a remarkable coming out party for the Manhattan Beach resident. Journey Together is Sill’s second record and his first for Naxos Jazz. Sills’s quintet reads like a who’s who of Los Angeles’s finest musicians, guitarist Larry Koonse, pianist Alan Broadbent, bassist Darek Oles, and drummer Joe La Barbera.

Zealous, straight-ahead fans will appreciate Sills’s spirited version of Lennie Tristano’s “317 East 32nd Street’ and Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge,” which find Sills ripping off a series of provocative passages, riding Koonse’s underlying guitar melody. La Barbera’s accents and flourishes serve the leader/saxophonist well and compel the music forward. Sills stays away from honking, squeaking, or grandstanding of any sort, opting rather to keep his playing coherent and his purpose apparent. On “Aliya,” Sills’s warm tone is alluring and his fluid playing is superb. The interaction between Sills, Broadbent, and Koonse is inspirational.

The 28-year-old tenor saxophonist sites his primary influences as John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, and Stan Getz, it isn’t bad company to be associated with. Sills avoids the sophomore jinx and Journey Together is yet another fine chapter in the David Sills story. It has been a pleasure to journey with him thus far. Sills’s Journey Together can be purchased at all fine record stores at a bargain mid-line price.


(Hannibal Records)

Riding high off the amazing success of “Malembe,” Cubanismo! has been topping the Billboard Latin charts for the past two years. Fronted by leader/trumpeter Jesus Alemany, Cubanismo! has been touring the States extensively for the past two years, bringing Cuban music to the masses. Reencarnacion is the Cuban ensemble’s latest and is sure to be a hit.

Under the watchful direction of Alemany, Cubanismo! roars into action with the pilon “El Platanal de Bartolo,” made famous in the late ’50s by Electo Rosell”Chepin” y su Orquestra Oriental. The Cubanismo! version showcases the vocal musings of the Cuban singing sensation, Rolo Martinez and a blistering tirade of brass and percussion. From the outset, Cubanismo! has the listener dancing in their seat. Next up is the mambo aptly entitled “Mambo UK.” In classic Cuban mambo form, Alemany leads the trumpet chorus, showing off his bullfighter chops with a soaring solo. The mambo also features pianist Ignacio “Nachito” Herrera, whose rich melodies and panache match Alemany’s bravado tit for tat.

Along with Los Van Van, Cubanismo! is one of the baddest Latin jazz groups on the scene. As the music of Cuba and the rhythms of the barrio blend into the fabric of mainstream Americana, Cubanismo! is destined to become a household name.


My Inspiration
(Concord Records)

When the U. S. State Department called upon Charlie Byrd to be a part of a South American goodwill tour, the guitarist was happy to answer the call. And it was that tour that enabled Byrd to come in contact with Brazilian popular music and lead to his appearance on Stan Getz’s Jazz Samba album. The rest is bossa nova history. Byrd’s latest bossa nova brigade features guitarist Romero Lubambo, vibraphonist Chuck Redd, bassist Nilson Matta, drummer Duduka Da Fonseca, tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton, and vocalist Maucha Adnet.

Hamilton’s timbre and cadence on the opening “Meninha Flor” is remarkably warm and consistent. It harks back to a Getz, on top of his game, during his bossa nova years. Byrd is equally as charming in his accommodating accompaniment. Byrd is a very respectful guitarist and upholds the Brazilian melody “Violao Quebrada” well. The guitarist’s melodic riffs and immaculate phrasing are compelling. The most intriguing point of the album occurs on Byrd’s delightful retooling of Chopin on “Freddie’s Tune.” Hamilton and Redd are tasteful in their contributions, further allowing Byrd to explore the depths of his bossa nova creativity.

Get aboard this Brazilian escapade and join Byrd for a charming bossa nova delight.


songspartthree.jpg (2171 bytes)BRAD MEHLDAU
Songs: The Art of the Trio, Volume Three
(Warner Brothers)

In recent years, vanity has run amuck in jazz. Most artists are releasing material supported by high profile, all-star musicians rather than their own working band, thus eliminating any possibility for continuity and inundating the market with confusing and inconsequential music. These all-star musicians take no shame in grandstanding, soloing with the bravado of a Latin jazz band and ultimately pulling the helpless audience into their musical vacuum. So it is always a pleasure to find a poet among these Harlequin musicians. Brad Mehldau has been the most promising young musician to emerge since Mulgrew Miller. Although Mehldau has not taken many lumps as a sideman, largely gaining his notoriety during his brief stint with wonderboy Joshua Redman, Mehldau’s chops have been growing by leaps and bounds. Growing in large part because Mehldau has been playing with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy for the past five years. In that time, Mehldau has released three albums for Warner Brothers and his fourth, the third volume in The Art of the Trio series also features his trio.

Mehldau’s reshaping of the chorus phrases of “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” is right on the money. The pianist’s distinctive lyricism and refined touch are mesmerizing, and his focused reading of the Rodgers and Hart standard sets him apart from the field. Grenadier’s sympathetic playing on “For All We Know” is simply sublime. Mehldau’s drifting melancholy is evocative as his superb fingerings are clarified by Rossy’s intuitive contributions. Mehldau’s lighthearted soulfulness is compelling on a fine arrangement of “Young At Heart.” Rossy is more forceful and he drives the war- horse standard to its edge, and then, gracefully returns it to its recognizable cadence. It is one of the high points on record this year.

Hopefully, Mehldau’s partnership with his trio will yield engaging music for years to come, but for now, we have his body of work thus far, and although it may not be groundbreaking, it has been individualistic. Like the many great pianists before him, that’s a start. Mehldau excels at the intimacy of the trio format, and Songs: The Art of the Trio, Volume Three, makes a strong argument for record of the year.


100 Years of Latin Love Songs
(Heads Up)

As one of the founding members of the groundbreaking Latin jazz supergroup Irakere, Paquito D’ Rivera has written a page in the jazz history books. But with his memorable stint with Dizzy Gillespie and his tenure as director of Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra, the Cuban saxophonist has extended that page to a chapter. Guided by famed Blue Note producer Bob Belden and accompanied by a full string orchestra, D’ Rivera recorded 100 Years of Latin Love Songs for the Seattle-based Heads Up label. An enhanced CD, 100 Years of Latin Love Songs is a collection of Latin music ranging from Antonio Carlos Jobim to Dominican composer Luis Kalaff.

D’ Rivera’s light, foggy soprano saxophone tone rounds out “Ay Ay Ay,” authored almost a century ago, yet it remains amazingly contemporary through Belden’s arrangement. D’ Rivera’s charm and his accessibility invokes a comfortable ease for the listener. D’ Rivera picks up the clarinet for a taste of Mexican sensuality on “Vereda Tropical.” D’ Rivera’s floating statements are followed in stride by the guitar of Aquiles Baez. “Acercate Mas” is a hauntingly beautiful Cuban ballad with splendid orchestration from Belden. D’ Rivera’s passion and subtle inventiveness makes for a delightfully rich program.

D’ Rivera is the quintessential balladeer, with a keen sense for romance and a touch of refined feminism to his music. 100 Years of Latin Love Songs is a pretty record, worthy of any collection.


Mambo 2000

Although it sounds cliché, Latin jazz has come a long way. From Dizzy Gillespie’s now famous meeting with Chano Pozo to Irakere’s signing on Columbia, Latin jazz has grown steadily in popularity for the past four decades. But in the ’90s, Latin jazz has been spreading like wildfire. Poncho Sanchez, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmeri, Cubanismo!, Los Van Van, and Ray Barretto have all had a hand in Latin jazz’s phenomenal success and have passed on the clave to the next generation of musicians, such as conguero Johnny Blas. Mambo 2000 is Blas’s follow-up to Skin And Bones and features pianist Mark Gutierrez, bassist Paul Perez, percussionist Jose DeLeon, and trombonists Art Velasco, Francisco Torres, Steve Baxter, Dan Weinstein, and Isaac Smith.

“Mucho Chops” doubles as the album’s opening number and also as the perfect description of Blas. Blas’s band is in prime form for his originals “Mambo To The Max,” “Feels So Right,” and “Grab A Hold of Yourself.” The title track “Mambo 2000” is powered by the heated rhythms of Blas’s congas and DeLeon’s timbales and also includes solos from all four trombonists, Velasco, Torres, Baxter, and Smith. Blas’s sizzling reworking of “Picadillo” is highlighted by Weinstein’s dynamic solo and the pulsating beat formed at the hands of Blas.

The appeal of Latin jazz is obvious; it grooves. If people want an opportunity to shed their boring and often tedious lives and move to the clave, they should look no further than Mambo 2000. Blas’s albums should have a warning label, “Beware: may cause uncontrollable movement below the hips”. Both Skin And Bones and Mambo 2000 are available at most retail stores or by calling CuBop toll-free at 1-800-SF-VIBES.



(Delmark Records)

The problem with big label releases is that no one can tell them apart. The packaging is enough to catch the eye, but musically it’s nothing that hasn’t already been done, and done, and done before. Boring is too liberal a word. It is more like audible Chinese water torture. Look no further than Kenny G, if he can even be considered jazz, and one can hear the water dropping. It is no wonder being in an elevator at Nordstroms is such a nightmare. Yet, it is always gratifying to discover an exception to the rule and that is Ari Brown. Brown has always been an exception and probably always will be an exception. A remarkably talented musician, Brown is defiantly true to his music and his art form. He is what is so frustratingly missing from most mainstream jazz today, a warrior-like, steadfast dedication to advancing the music and the technical competence to actively articulate his voice. Venus is Brown’s latest release on Delmark and features Kirk Brown on piano, Josef Ben Israel on bass, and Avreeayl Ra on drums.

Brown’s exotic tone is in peak form on “Oui Lee.” His questing style is anything but predictable. Kirk Brown chimes in with some confident swagger of his own. Brown does not let up, driving even harder on “Trane’s Example.” The composition and the quartet only gain more momentum and power as the song progresses, so two minutes into the music it becomes an all-out blowing session with Brown and Ra battling it out. And the winner is…? The listener, who is treated to some Joe Frasier-style sonic punches. Brown even manages to fuse in some Latin rhythms with Art Burton playing congas on “Venus.” Brown handles the situation, easing up a bit, but still maintaining his profound edge.

The whole album cries out for the repeat button. This is the kind of thing that will stop the incessant dripping. Very highly recommended.


Simple Pleasures
(RAM Records)

Working with pianist Kenny Werner and bassist Bruce Gertz is nothing new for saxophonist/trumpeter Miles Donahue. Both have appeared on his albums Double Dribble and The Good Listener. It’s also nothing new for Donahue to feature another saxophonist, he did on The Good Listener, so it seems familiar territory with close friends on Donahue’s latest, Simple Pleasures. Werner and Gertz reprise their roles and are joined by tenor saxophonist George Garzone, guitarist Mick Goodrick, and drummer Billy Hart.

The lingering melody of “I’ll Be Seeing You” is perfectly suited for Donahue’s energetic style as he executes a series of remarkably convincing tenor passages. Werner is a terrific pianist and he does not disappoint, coordinating swirling left hand shapes with supple right hand remarks. “Bill” is Donahue’s tribute to the late pianist Bill Evans and Werner sustains the direction of the composition for the group. Donahue picks up the trumpet for a reading of “September Song.” The trumpet is not his strongest horn, but Donahue holds his own in the company of first-rate musicians, developing his theme at a comfortable pace.

Compared to the two albums mentioned before, Simple Pleasures is Donahue’s finest outing. It is a nice way to get acquainted with his playing.


(32 Jazz)

A funny thing happened when the mainstream jazz media wasn’t looking, Woody Shaw got popular. It is a shame that like Rahsaan Roland Kirk, it’s happening in large part after the trumpeter had passed on, and although the hype is not on the level of a John Tesh, at least Shaw’s getting some well-deserved props. Finally. Joel Dorn’s 32 Jazz has some part in this Shaw renaissance, since they have released the bulk of the trumpeter’s Muse recordings, five so far. Imagination is yet another forgotten Muse recording from 1987 with pianist Kirk Lightsey, trombonist Steve Turre, bassist Ray Drummond, and drummer Carl Allen.

Shaw’s beautiful tone and superb phrasing are deployed for the title tune “Imagination,” a slow theme that is thoroughly satisfying. Turre’s delicate fills are quite complementary to Shaw’s setting. Shaw sets a brisk pace to “You And The Night And The Music” which leads to some inspired efforts from Allen and Drummond. Shaw at forty-three sounds better than most of the young players now. Shaw’s luminous take on “Stormy Weather” is astounding. The trumpeter’s melodic subtlety and sheer inventiveness are unparalleled. Shaw’s sequences are never hurried and always deliberate. There is no question that he was one of the best.

Imagination is essential for any collection. When will Dorn open the flood gates and release all of Shaw’s material in one huge box set?


From The Nile
(Ubiquity Records)

Derf Reklaw (Fred Walker spelled backwards), the legendary multi- instrumentalist with Eddie Harris, Herbie Hancock, Lionel Hampton, and Ahmad Jamal, hails from Chicago’s south side. It is one of the most underdeveloped inner cities in the United States and Reklaw’s emergence from such overwhelming adversities is a credit to his profoundly strong sense of will and character. He brings such determination and awareness to his debut as a leader for Ubiquity Jazz, From The Nile.

Introduced by the baritone vocal poetry of Kamau Daaood, “Sunrise On The Nile” has the same vibe as John Coltrane’s rendition of “Song of the Underground Railroad” with its unique orchestral approach. Pushed on by a dominant rhythm section, Reklaw’s playing of the flute goes way out, egging Rahmlee Michael Davis on, who responds with a charting trumpet solo. “Hannibal” features elephant cries and Reklaw on alto saxophone. Nick Smith repeats the chorus on the piano offering, giving percussionist Pondaza Santiel on the tumba an opportunity to explore. Reklaw, backed by Smith’s pounding block chords and synthesized elephant cries, lays into the music. Reklaw returns to playing the flute for a fascinating revamping of Coltrane’s “Ole.” With John Rangel on piano, Jeff Littleton on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums, Reklaw plays some of his finest work.

From Chicago’s inner city to Los Angeles’s Leimert Park, Reklaw has remained loyal and true to his humble roots, in music and in life. The residents of Los Angeles should recognize such creative souls as the true heroes of today. From The Nile is textured and complex music that awakens the senses, but more importantly, the mind and the soul. It should not be missed and is available in wide release or by contacting Ubiquity Recordings at www.ubiquityrecords.com.


Jungle Funk

Jungle FunkJungle Funk
by Raymond Redmond

Just exactly what is Jungle/Jazz? Take a liberal dose of Jazz vocals, add the driving drum and bass grooves most often found in the World/Beat/Jazz arena, toss in the occasional influence from the rock world and you’re there. Listening to Jungle funk is truly an experience waiting to be had.

Jungle FunkBut, is it Jazz? The same question has been asked about GURU or Jazzhole or Quincy Jones performing Acid/Jazz or some of the old stuff by Sun Ra or Pharaoh Sanders. 

Drummer Will Calhoun, formerly of Living Color, has played with such jazz notables as Jaco Pastorious, Horace Arnold, Jack DeJohnette and Wayne Shorter as well as Pharaoh Sanders. Joined by Doug Wimbish, also formerly of Living Color and world music drummer/vocalist Vinx, Jungle Funk often strays over the conventional lines drawn between the Jazz, Rock and World Music arenas, but (important point) the tracks are improvisational and creative.

Not that it’s improvisational character automatically earns it entry to the ‘Jazz’ world, but taken in context with the often ethereal percussion and the jazzy, harmonic vocals you’ve got a strong case. Some people (that I know personally, even) try to argue that this may not even be jazz. Six years ago those same people thought that Acid/Jazz was a passing fad and twenty years ago they thought that Leon Thomas just liked to Yodel

Sure, there are obvious rock influences. Yes, some of the percussions are actually (heaven forbid) LOOPS!, but it has a esoteric kind of jazzy flavor as well. Jungle/Jazz may persists in it’s current form, it may (more likely) evolves into something slightly different, as did Acid/Jazz. Is it Jazz? Listen to Jungle Funk and judge for yourself.

For more on Jungle Funk visit the Zebra Records Website

June Kuromoto (Hiroshima) Interview

June Kuromoto of Hiroshima
Talks About The Spirit of the Season
by Paula Edelstein
June Kuromoto (Hiroshima)Hiroshima is an award-winning ensemble that has continuously experienced and shared their creativity with the world for the past twenty years. With Spirit of the Season, their second release on Heads Up International, the group offers their perspective on the holiday songs and original music written especially to permeate peace around the world. Hiroshima is Dan Kuromoto, Kimo Cornwell, June Kuromoto, Danny Yamamoto, Dean Cortez, Richie Gajate-Garcia, and Terry Steele with special guests The 54th Street Choir on “Thousand Cranes.” This is one of the most beautiful holiday recordings you’ll ever hear…so listen up!

P.E.: Congratulations on Spirit of the Season. What does the holiday season mean to you as a musician, mother, provider and educator?

June K: Actually, it’s a time of year …I feel family, love, caring and sharing.

P.E.: Successful musicians demonstrate skills unrelated to the creation of music that aren’t taught or learned in a classroom, a music textbook or from performing for that matter. What skills have helped you endure the enormous success of Hiroshima and kept your music interesting to your audiences?

June K: Wow, thank you. I don’t know how to…I personally trained classically and it’s amazing how during the first half of my life, I learned all the techniques and the different songs. I was taught traditionally. In the second half of my life…you know how you erase everything and go back and try to relearn from the heart, soul and with creativity.

P.E.: The holiday standards sometimes get over familiar for some, but Hiroshima has come up with several great covers of the traditional music as well as several original holiday songs that capture the SPIRIT OF THE SEASON. How do you inspire yourself to re-write holiday favorites as well as new music?

June K: I can’t take credit for that. That’s mostly from Dan Kuromoto and Kimo Cornwell. They’re geniuses. They have this really special way of blending and they spend a lot of time with each instrument, such as my koto, and they incorporated it with the creative elements of contemporary sounds. I find them amazing, I’m in awe of them especially with such arrangements as they did for “Little Drummer Boy,” and “Spirit of the Season.” I think it shouldn’t be like this for the holiday but EVERY day.

P.E.: Terry Steele’s soulful vocals are truly loving on the title track. Wow what a great song. It talks about why we have Christmas in the first place…not about the things you can buy, it’s about the spirit you can share. June, you really deliver a beautiful ambience on koto. It’s very compelling and very refined. Please give us a brief history of how you came to play the koto.

June K: Thank you. I was born in Japan and moved here when I was about six years old. I always thought I was going back to Japan…not understanding what the move was about. So when we were here in America, I saw my teacher play at this event and when I saw and heard the instrument, I immediately fell in love with the sound. I asked my mom… “Mom, that’s the instrument I want to play. Can I learn?” I believe that was the beginning, it was my connection to Japan.

P.E.: June, do you teach the koto?

June K: Yes, I do teach the koto. I try to teach as much as possible…I feel I have an obligation. I am a very strict teacher because I was taught classically and that’s the only way that I know how to teach. That’s my basic background but I try to stay open. But my foremost goal is to teach creativity.

P.E.: You play the melody line on “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” and it’s a fine old holiday standard. However, with the koto, bells, and other percussive embellishments this presentation is given a new twist by setting it against the modern day synthesizer and traditional Japanese rhythms. How difficult was it to re-work this holiday standard?

June K: It wasn’t very difficult. Actually, that song was fun to do because it’s a fun song. Hearing an old traditional instrument play a funny song was great!

P.E.: What does a day in the life of June Kuramoto involve when preparing for a performance?

June K: Well, I have to make sure that my koto strings are not dead. My preparation usually starts around two weeks before where I am making sure that my picks and strings are okay. But I have to constantly, like all other musicians, to be informed physically so that you can endure the entire set! So it’s a constant process…being into what I have to do mentally and physically. The hard part of the new show is memorizing the songs…it’s getting more and more difficult. For a new show, with new material, I have to start within a month because I like to be comfortable. Depending on the songs, the koto cannot modulate generally. I have to work it a lot because it’s not the same scale for every song.

P.E.: Your husband Dan, wrote and arranged many of the songs that we hear on the recording including “Peace On Earth,” “Listen To The Falling Snow,” and of course the title track. However, on SPIRIT OF THE SEASON, you have composed “Thousand Cranes” with Derek Nakamoto. Does sending a thousand cranes represent the ultimate act of love or something spiritual in Japanese philosophy?

June K: Yes, there are actually many symbolic meanings for the crane in Japan. One of them is happiness because cranes mate for life and so it’s a great wedding present and it’s symbolic of happiness. But in this situation, “A Thousand Cranes” came from this peace memorial that is located in the center of the city of Hiroshima. Within it is this domelike of a little girl on top who was bombed during the war in Hiroshima. There are a thousand cranes laid within the dome for her. She survived the bombing but the radiation affected her, she later developed leukemia and had to be hospitalized. Her friend told her that if she folded a thousand paper cranes, make a wish and wish that her pain would go away. So she began to fold a thousand cranes and around 644, she passed away. So her classmates folded the remaining cranes and buried them with her. So when the word got out, children from all over the world started sending paper cranes and today, they still string the cranes inside. So people from all over the world send a thousand cranes to symbolize peace.

P.E.: What a wonderful gesture and here’s wishing the whole world peace during the holiday season and for eternity. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about SPIRIT OF THE SEASON. May you continue to be successful and happy June. We really appreciate your speaking to us here at Sounds of Timeless Jazz.com and look forward to hearing the songs in concert.

June K: Thank you.

P.E.: Keep in touch with Hiroshima at http://www.hiroshimamusic.com

Jonah Jones Quartet – Jumpin’ With Jonah

Jumpin' With JonahJumpin’ With Jonah
Jonah Jones Quartet
(Capitol Jazz/Blue Note – 1958/2000)
by Matthew Robinson

Hey, who’s that swingin’ that horn?
That sounds like “Pops!”
Well, though Jonah Jones and Louis “Pops” Armstrong were contemporaries, the comparisons stop the-Actually, Jonah and Louis do sound alike. And on this album (which takes its title from Jones’s third LP, but which is here reissued with some additional tracks), Jones puts his bell mute to many of the same songs Satchmo was known for , such as “A Kiss To Build A Dream On,” “Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?” and “Bill Bailey (Won’t You Please Come Home),” many of which he sings on as well, just like Louis (though which a much clearer, less raspy voice).

In fact, Jones noted Armstrong often as an influence, alongside Dizzy Gillespie and Bunny Berigan. Though somewhat tight and pinched, Jones’s sound is swinging and peppy, as accessible and fun now as it was when he played with the likes of Jimme Lunceford and Cab Calloway. From the oddly quick pacing of “Slowly But Surely” to the plodding pops and rolling runs of “Night Train” and the stretched-out phrasing of “Just A Gigolo,” Jones offers a variety of moods from mellow to madcap and shows why he is considered one ofjazz’s most noteworthy nonagenarians.

© 2001 M. S. Robinson, ARR

Josh Workman – Jumpin’ at the Border

Josh Workman
Jumpin’ at the Border

(Zoho – 2004)
by Paula Edelstein
Jumpin’ at the Border is guitarist Josh Workman’s latest effort and it’s a keeper! This great recording features an array of jazz styles including swing, bebop, Brazilian, cool, blues and world music. The set is a real musical journey and a remarkable voyage through jazz history…so hold on. The set opens with “Jumpin’ At The Border, a 6/8 minor blues that features the excellence of rhythm masters John Santos on percussion and Omar Clay on drums. Workman’s cool blues is truly memorable and leaves you with a feeling that you won’t forget anytime soon. “Sippin at Bell’s” is Miles Davis’ bebop blues that first featured Charlie Parker.

Once again, Josh Workman’s stunning guitar work will keep your ears thirsty for more of his great guitar chords. With “Andre de Sapato Novo,” the group further demonstrates their Brazilian music virtuosity and knowledge of the genre’s many rhythms. This choro is an example of Jacob do Bandolim’s style which features Workman’s crisp jazz guitar voice backed by an impeccable array of musical colors and textures. A slowed down tempo is what you’ll hear on “Autumn Nocturne” even though the version made famous by Claude Thornhill’s Orchestra during the Swing Era, had them jumpin’ on the dancefloor! “The Sweetest Sounds” is a jazz waltz, while “No, Me Platique Mas” is a bolero that was popularized in the 60s by Chilean-born tenor Lucho Gattica.

“Ow!” is Dizzy’s rare blues and “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” commemorates Count Basie’s swinging big band sound. Fronted by vocalist Kim Nalley, her vocal refinement is similar to the great Ella Fitzgerald. For 72 minutes, Josh Workman brings on the remarkable sounds of timeless jazz with this stellar nonet, many of whom played with such greats as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Barney Kessela nd Ella Fitzgerald! You’d be wise to check this out and don’t miss Josh Workman’s concert tour coming soon to a city near you.

Visit Josh Workman’s website for concert information.

Judith Owen – Live 2007

Judith Owen Live
@ Club Passim, Cambridge, MA – Aug. 22, 2007
by Matthew Robinson

Despite the lack of alcohol in the legendary acoustic listening room, Welsh singer/songwriter Judith Owen brought the feel of a British pub to Club Passim to celebrate the release of her crticially-acclaimed “Happy This Way” (Courgette). Filled with hard-fought joy and intimate recollections, Owens set ranged broadly. Opening with the whisperingly stirring Welsh anthem “Conway Bay,” Owens talked her way through the Streisand-meets-Mitchell echoes of “Carrie” and Richard Thompson’s Kinks-ian bluesy bounce “Painting By Numbers,” the hushed memorial ballad “Nicholas Drake,” and a deconstructed encore of “Smoke on the Water” that was a deep shade of purple indeed.

Though she hesitated on a few first verses, Owen’s stories (both sung and spoken) were personal and affecting. And whenever heavy emotions threatened (as they often did in Owen’s deeply-personal repertoire), Owen brightened the room up with her broad, confident smile and powder blue humor. With her operatic father looking on from the back row, Owen offered well-understood tastes of jazz (“Cool Life”), Prokofiev-ian classical “Dark Clouds,” and the paternal tribute “My Father’s Voice,” a loving and appreciative reminiscence that explained where Owen got her original inspiration and support.

By the time her two-hour set closed with a punchy piano-ization of “Eye of the Tiger” (an especially appropriate tune for the driven performer), the audience knew not only Owen’s music but also her heart, both of which are authentic, lyrical, and beautiful.

©2007 Matthew S. Robinson, arr.

An Interview with John Scofield – ‘A-Go-Go’

John Scofield
Talks about ‘A-Go-Go’
with Mark Ruffin

A-Go-Go In a large music library surrounded by just about every kind of music, guitarist John Scofield looks like, to quote George Clinton, a sex maniac in a whorehouse with a credit card.

Well, maybe a bit more subdued than that, but the 47 year-old musician, in a conversation that ranged from Lonnie Johnson’s 100th anniversary, to his bud’s Bill Frisell’s latest duet album, clearly was relishing a chance to talk guitar and it’s players.

The very first album he asked about was a record that Pat Metheny once called the greatest jazz guitar album ever, Wes Montgomery’s Smoking At The Half Note. Then Scofield had trouble deciding which track to hear first, but settled on Four On Six.

“When I got this record in 1967, it was just when I was getting in to jazz,” he says. ” I got this record along with a couple of other records and then have listened to it ever since. It’s really one of the high point of jazz music and jazz on the guitar especially.

“This is Wes at his peak. He had made some great records before this for Riverside and made his name as an innovative jazz guitarist. Then he had gone and made these commercial records. He made Windy, Tequila, and these had mover over to the pop area. They were not really blowing records. Then he came back and made this record on Verve. I think he had stored up some stuff, so when they went and made this record and it just all came out.”

Right now, Scofield can relate to Wes when he was having hit records. Sco, as his friends call him, latest album A Go-Go, was the sixth largest selling jazz album in the country last year. A-Go-Go is punctuated by the new Hammond B-3 organ revival groove that purists hate to admit sprang from the acid jazz movement. Scofield’s take on the sound adds what is known, “dirty guitar,” a sound he helped to pioneer.

His backing group on that album was Medeski, Martin & Wood, one of the hottest groups in America.

“I called them up and asked them would they record with me, because I heard their music,” he remembers. “I really related a lot to the rhythmic thing and just the jazz funk stuff that they were doing which is similar to what I’ve been doing. And they do it with a rather loose kind of perspective. The groove is everything.”

” MMW. They are huge. They’re like a rock band now. I mean as far a popularity. They have a whole new young audience and it’s kind of an exciting time, because there are these young people listening to this music, especially the groove kind of jazz. And they are into it, into the creativity of it and the whole thing.”

While comparing Wes Montgomery and his successes, the conversation, it seems naturally, turned to George Benson, the most commercially successful jazz guitarist of all time. When picking tunes, Scofield didn’t even consider Benson’s 70’s output on Warner Brothers and all that came afterwards. It was Benson’s early Columbia work in the 60’s with Dr. Lonnie Smith that he chose to listen to.

“George really made it as a singer,” Scofield says. ” He became a pop star, I just had a few more record sales. I think because there’s this new young audience listening to some kind of jazz, my record did better. It didn’t cross over really to the pop world. In a way, I’m glad because it’s really hard when someone becomes a big star and they can’t really play the music they want to.

“George has done well at keeping his chops up, because he can still really, really play jazz. I head him at a jam session in Nice where he went and set in with Frank Foster and he played Billie’s Bounce and he played some of the best jazz guitar I’ve ever heard and this was a couple of years ago. It’s still there, I just wish he’d do it more often.”

Scofield’s latest success is an nth of what Benson’s platinum splash was. But of what’s happened so far, he says there’s been no major change in his life and the bigger than usual royalty checks will not effect him musically. One direct result though of having a hit in the summertime was that Scofield, with Medeski, Martin & Wood did play some pretty big venues in selected American cities. And the album made Billboard Magazine’s Heat Seekers pop chart.

“I’ve never had any record that’s sold this well. I’m still grooving on that, you talk about a groove,” he laughs.

A Go-Go also represented a major change in the Scofield’s sound. After years of touring and recording with the same group, he now has a new group that just got together in January of this year. The new band features Marlon Brownden, on keyboards Will Boulware and the bassist is Matthew Garrison. Garrison is the son of Jimmy Garrison, the bassist in the legendary John Coltrane Quartet. ( ED. NOTE- JazzUSA will talk to the Coltrane’s former pianist, McCoy Tyner next month)

“Matthew is carrying on the family tradition and he’s tearing it up,” says Scofield. “I’m very excited about this group. They’re a great young band.

“The record is still in the planning stage, but by the end of the year. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to do, but these musicians will be a part of it. It’s challenging to make record after record and have them all be different.”

While perusing the library, Scofield completely ignored the Miles Davis selections, but salivated at the new Lonnie Johnson 100th anniversary re-issues. It was Scofield’s three year association with Miles, from 1982 thourh ’85 that made him a bona fide guitar hero. While it would be nice to hear Decoy or You’re Under Arrest, Scofield was relieved to find that there was no Miles from that era with him on it except the soundtrack from the film, Siesta, which really didn’t reflect what that band was about.

“It was an honor and a pleasure to play with Miles. That gig really put me out there because people were really checking Miles out. He had come out of retirement and he was more famous than ever. So people would see you with Miles and it meant and lot. And Miles featured me nice. I got to solo. But more important than that was getting to work with my musical idol. I considered him the ultimate in jazz, and then to get to play with him. I learned so much from him.”

And while it was Miles who made him a star, Scofield was in a pretty good band before joining Miles, the short lived and underrated George Duke/Billy Cobham band.

“That band was truly my first big time gig with those guys. We had a lot of fun.”

Scofield says it was those two bands, because of the rock element, were the cornerstone into changing his sound. It took the jazz from his late teens Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino and Jim Hall and added the rock & r&b that was his true background and fused them together.

“Before I was a jazz head, I was really into blues. And when I was a kid, we had rock and r&b bands and were always trying to figure out the rhythm parts to James Brown tunes. Playing with Miles and Billy Cobham just brought more of that out.”

When asked to pick one cd from his peers, Scofield ran his buddies name like water, Pat Metheny, John Abercrombie, Mike Stern but he stopped at Bill Frisell, because he heard he had a new duet album with Fred Hersch. He looked, found it, and said the session couldn’t be complete without Jim Hall’s Live At Town Hall.

“Wes, Jim Hall and those guys from the older generation didn’t have those kind of sound bending devices that we do. Bill, Pat and I have all used the sonic thing that rock and roll brought.” It was a unique experience and a noble idea, but alas, Scofield’s ears was too big for the time allotted and most of the music picked laid like dormant diamonds in the sand, sparkling but not being used. The last pick belonged to the writer whose journalistic integrity might have been challenged had not the incredibly funky, soulful and aptly titled Chank from A-Go-Go been asked about, savored and enjoyed with the very witty guitar player.

“Chank is dedicated to Jimmy “Chank” Nolan who was one of James Brown’s guitar players. It’s a two-fold thing. Chank was a guitar player with James’ band, and chank is such a musical sound, it really does sound like that guitar funk thing. That’s the way it sounds.

“James Brown is the common language of jazz/rock. It’s all jazz musicians playing over a James Brown beat.”

Junior Walker Revival

Jr. Walker A Jr. Walker and the all Stars Revival
Jazz Meets Motown
by Sidney Bechet-Mandela

Suddenly, the music of the classic Motown act, Jr. Walker and the All-Stars is showing up on a number of albums. Within the last month, three sax players, Eddie M, Richard Elliot, and David McMurray have paid homage to the late saxophonist and vocalist with inspiring covers of his hits. While it’s way overdue for contemporary jazz saxophonists to realize the influence Walker had on combining funk with pop and jazz rhythms, it is nonetheless satisfying to hear the tributes. If you’re a fan of Walker’s check these out.

Eddie M., the young sax man, most recently seen touring with vocalist Eric Benet, has re-recorded Walker’s biggest hit, What Does It Takes (To Win Your Love For Me), on his second album. The eponymous release features vocalist Karyn White handling the lead vocals on the track.. A few years ago, saxophonist Candy Dulfer breathed new life into this classic with Jonathan Butler handling the lead. This version is even hotter.

Richard Elliot’s new album is called Crush, which is a misnomer because he’s only hitting hard on just a few tunes, including a remake of Walker’s first big pop hit, Shotgun. The track features killer guitar work from both Jeff Golub and ex-Rufus front man, Tony Maiden.

Dave McMurray has the Jr. Walker and the All-Stars tour de force with two of the fourteen tracks from his new Soul Searching cd being covers of Walker’s jazzy hits. Like Walker, McMurray is from Michigan and like the late sax man he has a biting edge to his sax sound. On Walk In The Night, he featured the Motor City’s very underrated background trio, the Ridgeway Sisters, and McMurray just nails Cleo’s Mood. Both are highlights from this very tasteful album.

It’s not too late for other sax players to jump on this Jr. Walker & The All Stars revival, because he had enough hits for Boney James, David Sanborn, Gerald Albright and a few other saxophonists to work with. There’s still Roadrunner, Cleo’s Back, These Eyes and a few more to tackle. We’d love to hear them. Until then the Jr. Walker Motown anthology will suffice.

Fourplay – Journey

(RCA – 2004)
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

The opener is a cover of Sting’s fields of Gold… you can’t go wrong with that! From the first track on the CD Fourplay comes together as if they had not missed a beat in years, meshing and mingling with the ease and accuracy of old masters and old friends. Play Around It is my favorite on the CD, all bottom funky with bassist Nathan East bumping along a roadbed of smooth background vocals that set the mood… and there’s a helluva keyboard segment in this track. The title track, Journey, is smooth and measured, but not as strong as some of the material you’ll find here.

Larry Carlton‘s Cool Train is a finger-snappin, toe tappin’ romp through the coolness of life. I skipped back and played this tune again when it came in the rotation. Bassist East sings on the first five tracks of this release, including Rozil which is just the track what you want to find when you put on a Fourplay CD… mellow and skillful with a brazilian tinge. Bob James‘s Avalabop is the perfect follow as he romps on the keys with the gang in tow. This is one of those classic tracks with some good individual expression from the band members.

I also liked the last track, 147 4th St., there’s some nice guitar work from Carlton with a steady backbeat from James, and the 80-ish From Day One which is an obvious (a.k.a. good) James composition with some great James work on it. It’s sure good to see them back together again and still creating the kind of music that made their unique collaboration popular in the first place.

A Few Moments with Joshua Redman at Newport 2005

A Few Moments with Joshua Redman
at Newport Jazz 2005
by Matthew S. Robinson

After his forward-thinking and crowd-pleasing opening set at the 2005 Newport Jazz Festival, sax man Joshua Redman sat down with the press to field some questions about his new and old sounds, his move to the left coast, and how he felt about reurning to the legendary Newport stage.

With charts in one hand for the upcoming tribute to octogenarian Roy Haynes and his trucker-style ballcap in the other, Redman strolled into the artist catering area and casually took a seat at a round table of awaiting inquisitors, some of whom had been following the 36-year-old¹s career since his early days at Harvard. With his gently piercing eyes and warm, easy smile, Redman made everyone feel comfortable right away, and the questions soon began to fly.

“I just learned I was playing with Roy,” Redman laughed, quickly gazing one last time at the charts before putting them down to pay attention to the group.

And how do you feel about that, Joshua?

“I love playing here,” Redman said, noting that he wished Newport offered some after hours performance opportunities.

“I have been fortunate to play with my heroes and this is a great place to play! This is my fourth time and it is always a good, relaxed atmosphere. Especially as I now live in California, it is good to catch up with the New York Jazz community!”

While in California, Redman has been busy recording for Nonesuch and serving as artistic director for the San Francisco Jazz Collaborative, a rotating collection of composers who gather in workshops to perform and share music. “It¹s always changing,” he said, recalling such past collaborators as Brian Blade, Renee Rosnes, and many others, “and that keeps it interesting.”

Not one to settle on any one kind of music, Redman is also playing simultaneously with traditional and more technologically-advanced groups, including his own Elastic Band (with whom he appeared this go-round at Newport).

“Elastic is not swing based,” he explained. “It is more funk and rock based.

There are different instruments and a completely different repertoire.”

Even so, Redman admitted, the musical approach is the same no matter who he is playing with.

“I try to take the same approach of being spontaneous and interactive,” he explained. “Those are the core values for me.”

As a result, when he composes, Redman does not always know which band will end up playing which pieces.

“I usually do not plan it,” he said. “An idea comes, and hopefully I can write it down. Sometimes, I compose for a particular group, but when I started Elastic band, I had compositions written without a band to play them, so the sound evolved as the band took ownership.”

So is there any one guiding principle that drives your creative process, Joshua?

“I try to trust the process,” he replied. “Whatever feels musically right!”

c. 2005, M. S. Robinson, ARR

Josh Roseman Interview

josh RosemanNo Bones About It
Josh Roseman is making a name by tooting his own horn
by Matthew S. Robinson

Name: Josh Roseman
Age: 34
Gig: Trombonist

Growing up in a musical family, Josh Roseman had plenty of inspiration. Josh¹s cousin Ed was an accomplished composer and musician, and his father was an amateur musician who gave Josh his first lessons on what would eventually become his signature instrument — the trombone.

“There was a lot of music in my house,” Roseman recalls, “and there was a musical bug that traveled around. My cousin got bit pretty hard and I was the indirect beneficiary of his interests.”

Starting his own musical journey by studying bass, percussion, and a number of brass instruments, Roseman went back to the woodshed during his early teenage years, spending countless hours listening to the likes of Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder.

“My parents listened to all sorts of stuff, from Miles Davis to Marvin Gaye,” Roseman explains. “There was a lot of Soul and Jazz and I got totally sucked into listening. I was a rabid vinyl collector. Any money I had, I spent on records.”

And though Roseman had a number of musical heroes, none turned his head like saxophone legend Charlie Parker.

“I was blown away when I first heard him,” Roseman says. “There was a relentless, reckless brilliance to the music and it was also rhythmically challenging because he had total freedom within the beat. Though that disoriented some folks, it interested me. I wanted to try to deconstruct it, and I am still working on that.”

Working through the catalogs of Ornette Coleman and the later works of John Coltrane, Roseman began to find his own musical direction. “I looked for opportunities to fuse them with other things I had heard,” says the DownBeat Magazine “Rising Star.” “I was also looking for opportunities to play, and as those came up, it affected what I did.” Roseman began “playing out” in the 1980¹s, doing the Boston club circuit as a trombonist and bassist with several Jazz, Soul and Reggae bands. After taking courses at Berklee College of Music while still in high school, Roseman was granted a scholarship to The New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied under such local legends as George Garzone, John Swallow a