Hits & Misses March 1998

March 1998
Hits and Misses

  1. The Montreal Tapes/Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba/Verve
    With the Pope pointing a finger directly in Castro face, the Cuban jazz explosion is old hat as far as the revolution is concerned. Suddenly, Rubalcaba is everywhere. This album represent the pianist as Americans have come to know him, introspective, mellow and lyrical beyond belief with a dash of fire. His style certainly contrasts the upper register energy that is heard on most of the new Cuban jazz. There are some old bootlegs of the pianist’s early career that are available where you can hear the Cuban fire of today’s bands. This trio album is heads and shoulder over the new duet album Rubalcaba has out with saxophonist Joe Lovano on Blue Note and is one in a series of eight albums of the same title that bassist Haden made with various artists for Radio Canada International.

  • Mystic Infancy/J.P. Zanella/Lost Chart
    If this record doesn’t make the JAZZUSA year end list, contemporary jazz will have a great year. You won’t hear this Montreal based sax player and his band on the radio but trust us on this one, if you like, hot electric music, exciting Brazilian harmonies and rhythms with broad based and angular, almost be-boppish melody lines find this record. Bug the distributor Allegro at www.allegro-music.com/-allegro. All serious lovers of contemporary Brazilian jazz need to know is that the album was recorded in Canada and Brazil with guest appearances by the exciting underrated Brazilian guitarist Victor Biglione. Pianist Marcos Ariel contributes a song and his piano as well as percussion work by the brilliant percussionist Armando Marcal.
  • Jazzberry Pie/Denny Jiosa/Blue Orchid
    This guy’s first two records were such new age/wallpaper garbage, that we pretty much ignored his last release, “Lights Of The City” which earned the guitarist a 1997 NAC publishing award from SESAC. This record isn’t that great but it does show stylistic growth and is nicely recorded. The sequencing on this record is pretty unique and some of the rhythms aren’t your standard NAC radio fare, although he should do well there with some of the slower tunes on the album. If you’re looking for adventure, this isn’t the answer. “Jazzberry Pie,” won’t urge you to rush to sample the album before it, but it is a very listener friendly album, and we tried to hate it.
  • Mose Allison/Gimcracks And Gewgaws/Blue Notegeegaws.gif (21427 bytes)
    With the help of producer Ben Sidran, who worships at the altar of Mose, this Mississippi wise cracker has put together his most solid album since the 60’s. It seems since his Atlantic years of days gone by, Allison has never put together a full complete enjoyable album, but this 14 song set is right on the money.

    Allison set the standard for the second generation of witty jazz piano playing vocalists molded from Hoagy Carmichael, and he obviously still has a lot yet to say. The album opens with the autobiographical “MJA, Jr.” which is very reminiscent of the “you can call me john, but you don’t have to call me …” commercials. It ends with a short poignant look at discrimination against the elderly called “Old Man Blues.” In between there’s life on “The More You Get,” conflict on “Somebody’s Gonna Have To Move” and death on “What Will It Be”.

    1. Que Viva Mingus/Mingus Big Band/Dreyfus
      This is one of those albums that shines in places and has more than a few dull edges. Most of the big band music of the late Charles Mingus took an acquired taste, although these guys make it a lot more fun. This time, like the bassist himself, they seem to be taking themselves a bit too seriously as they have grown.. Like avant-garde music, this is better heard live, maybe which is why their last album, the Grammy nominated “Live In Time” was so good. The musicianship as always is impeccable, and the Latin moods are quite enjoyable, but there’s some stodginess and cockiness within the grooves of this release.

    You Know The Feeling/Brian Bromberg/Zebra
    If you’re into multi-numbered basses taking melodies, solos and carrying the bottom in the Stanley Clarke mode with a dash of new age and NAC. Stop. Bromberg is an excellent sideman, producer and he’s made better solo records. The enormous promise of Brian Bromberg still has yet to be fulfilled.

  • Three Day Weekend/Evan Marks/Verve
    This is the third guitarist to have defected from the San Diego based band Fattburger. Steve Laury was the original and by far the best. Marks, on his second effort has just about abandoned the Wes Montgomery octave style of playing that was a trademark of Fattburger and Laury’s. That’s not why this album doesn’t work, but it certainly could have helped. The opening tune is the best on the album. It’s an exciting acid-jazz romp complete with vocoder repeating the title line “I Like My Wah-Wah Funky.” It’s down hill from there with drummer and record company exec Guy Eckstine throwing those darts looking for airplay with predictable music and uninteresting solos.. Art Porter makes one of his last recording appearances, but if you close your ears for a second, you’re sure to miss him.
  • Change Of Pace/Jeff Burak/Gallery
    We have a suspicion this is one of those records that’s marketed to alternative retail outlets like flower shops, and linen stores. The sound design is solid and done by Herbie Hancock’s personal sound designer Mars Lasar, and sax man Greg Vail certainly is showing some emotion throughout his playing. Busak is the weak link and it’s a serious breach.