Hits & Misses May 1998

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Brian CulbertsonKenny DrewCedar Walton
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Jessie DavisGephart/LongYusef Lateef

May 1998

Kenny Drew, Jr.
The Rainbow Connection


The Japanese label JazzCity originally recorded and released pianist Kenny Drew, Jr.’s The Rainbow Connection a decade ago. Drew, the son of bop pianist Kenny Drew, Sr. teams with the sons of drummer Charles Moffett, bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer Codaryl Moffett. Trumpeter Terence Blanchard joins the trio on a couple of selections.

“Confrontation,” a Drew original starts off the release. An understated Blanchard delivers clean, flowing lines, indicative of his days with the Jazz Messengers. Drew’s single note meditations and chord substitutions are embellished by the tasteful accompaniment from the Moffett brothers. Drew takes on Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning” with great swing and bravado. Drew’s percussive bebop romp is augmented by the blitzkrieg of accents set down by Codaryl Moffett. The title track, “The Rainbow Connection,” is a solo piece from Drew. Drew’s intelligent self-exploration is a window into his development. The Rainbow Connection is a fine effort from all concerned and is very deserving of a re-release.

– Fred Jung

Brian Culbertson
blue Moon/Atlantic

Culbertson’s first album, Long Night Out, was recorded in his crowded apartment that he shared with three college roommates in Chicago. The album was a spirited affair which added some spice to the standard commercial jazz fare and sold very well. The next two albums sold well too, but the spirit was gone. signof4.gif (12753 bytes)He became a computer master of harmless grooves and predictable melodies that flattened wallpaper. There’s no doubt the kid can play and write, and now at 25, he’s showing maturity in both. The spirit has returned thanks to less machinery and a nice mix of all-star veterans from Chicago and Los Angeles.

– R. Redmond

Visit The Brian Culbertson Web Site

signof4.gif (12753 bytes)Cedar Walton
32 Jazz

Personnel: Cedar Walton, piano; Sam Jones, bass; Louis Hayes, drums; Clifford Jordon, tenor saxophone Tracks: Holy Land, This Guys In Love With You, Cheryl, Down In Brazil, St. Thomas, Naima, All The Way, I’ll Remember April, Blue Monk, Bleecker Street Theme

Originally recorded live at Boomer’s in New York on January 4, 1973 and released as A Night At Boomer’s Volumes 1 and 2 on Muse Records, Naima is another attractive compilation from Joel Dorn and the 32 Jazz family. The Cedar Walton trio with Walton on piano, Sam Jones on bass, and Louis Hayes on drums, also features the proficient tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan.

The Sonny Rollins’s anthem “St. Thomas” has one emotional outpouring after another from a flawless Jordan. Walton’s unique way of shaping the harmonics is evident and he unleashes into a series of jaunty runs before bowing out to Hayes. Hayes explodes in an array of drum rolls to a chorus of applause. For “Naima,” Walton puts the piano to work, exploring the instrument from top to bottom egged on by Jones’s throbbing bass. Jordan returns once more for a lyrical “I’ll Remember April.” Jordan is radiant and in top form, his warm tenor smoothly running through the uptempo composition. Walton continues developing his lines with logic and unmistakable finesse and charm.

32 Jazz, by lowering prices on re-released material and combining albums is better serving the consumer. Other record companies should take notes from Joel Dorn, here’s someone who really is doing it for the music.

– Fred Jung

Jesse Davis
First Insight

thagoround.gif (20174 bytes)For years Concord records has been signing unknown acts but restricting their first few albums to jazz standards and the American popular song. If they have some success, sales wise or in stature, the company eventually allows them the freedom to explore their own compositions. Young Jesse Davis is at that stage. Those standard ladened albums of his past showed a fiery presence on the saxophone with all the breadth of a veteran, but the freshness of youth. Give Concord credit for allowing this monster of a talent to develop, but the a&r staff should know some artists are players, some are writers. Some instrumentalists can sing, some can’t. The personel here is outstanding but they’re like great actors with a mediorce script.

– R. Redmond

Visit The Jessie Davis Biography Page

thagoround.gif (20174 bytes)Brian Gephart / Bob Long Quartet
Water Logic

The Chicago based Brian Gephart/Bob Long Quartet’s new recording Water Logic is almost as ambiguous as the album title. It is an enigma, on one hand, because saxophonist Brian Gephart, pianist Bob Long, bassist Ken Haebich, and drummer Mark Ott show signs of brilliance. Yet on the other hand, the pop influenced backbeat that prevails on the majority of the album’s ten pieces, takes away from what these musicians have to offer, which is very intriguing at times.

“Marbles” is a prime example. It starts off, drifting into the smooth jazz idiom, then gets direction from a solid effort from Haebich. Gephart’s Rollins-esque repetitiveness is interesting for a time before lagging into a comfortable groove.

Water Logic has a tendency to wander into predictability. The quartet has fine musicians in their own right, but their compositions lack substance and their playing traps itself into “safe” zones. The music seems unfocused and that allows Water Logic to meander from lounge music, to elevator jazz, then to something broadcast to shoppers at Nordstroms.

– F. Jung

Yusef Lateef
Nine Bagatelles

This may come as a shock to those who know this legendary Detroit reed player from his glory days with Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd and Kenny Burrell, but back in the early 80’s when NARAS decided that New Age records sold enough to warrant a Grammy category, they gave the first award to Yusef Lateef. That said, know what you’re meandering into here, sometimes Yusef does, sometimes he doesn’t. Although it’s much more an avant-garde record than new age, he does go there. It’s a duet project with multi-layered keyboard tracks and Ornette Coleman’s drummer Kamal Sabir playing lots of cymbals.

There’s lots and lots of room for imrpovisation and through out it Lateef actually does some, otherwise he seems to be repeating phrases melodically and harmonically. The most interesting part of the record is that the man still has that haunting tone on flute and whenever he plays it, which isn’t often, the music instantly becomes warm. Other than the tunes with a Middle Eastern flare and the opening track which lays down a Miles Davis early 90’s groove, this might as well be nine bag-o-tails.

– R. Redmond

Reviews in ‘Hits and Misses’ section are strictly the opinion of the individual author and not that of the ownership or management or advertisers of JazzUSA.