Jung on Jazz May 1998
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.
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
|LEE KONITZ/BRAD MEHLDAU/CHARLIE HADEN
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 PETERSON/BENNY GREEN
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
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
|THE LOUNGE ART ENSEMBLE
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