August 2004


Each month we provide a series of CD reviews plus "Star Rated" items.

You can listen to clips of some of our picks. You'll need a RealAudio Player to do this, and you can download by clicking on the following icon:

Our reviewing staff members are:

Sean Bray: Sean is a guitarist based in Toronto, Canada. He studied at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, leads his own group, and has four CD's released under his own name, and has performed at numerous concerts and club dates. You can visit Sean's site at

John Sutherland: John has a keen interest in piano jazz and brings with him a wealth of knowledge in this area.

Robert Fogle: Rob is Director of Musical Services for Fogle Entertainment in Toronto, as well he hosts his own radio programme on CHRY-FM (105.5). His background as a fan, in jazz music is extensive, and he is a serious collector of all genres of the music.

Colin Smith: Colin began his interest in jazz in his native Jamaica, and since settling in Toronto has become more involved in the music he loves. He is the school programme director for the Markham Jazz Festival and hosts his own jazz show on CKLN-FM (88.1).

By way of identification, reviewer's initials are inserted at the end of each review.

Previous Picks

Wayne Escoffery - "Intuition"

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Tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery has certainly raised the bar with the release of "Intuition".
This is the second recording for the Nagel Heyer label and portrays his remarkable range, degree of fluency and masterful control, and is a true demonstration that he belongs in the company of great players.
On this recording, the young and talented trumpeter Jeremy Pelt joins Escoffery, along with bassist Gerald Cannon, pianist and fender Rhodes - Rick Germanson, and the irreplaceable polyrhythmic dynamo Ralph Peterson. There are nine tracks, four of which were written by Escoffery.
The title track "Intuition" gets things started with some spirited Coltrane-like playing by Escoffery. Midway through the disc we are treated to a guest performance by the sensational vocalist Carolyn Leonhart, whose rock-tinged voice really gives a new meaning to the standard "I Should Care". Here, again Escoffery's versatility is in evidence with some excellent playing on soprano saxophone. "Intuition" is by far one of the better recordings that I have had the pleasure to review. It can be easily described as a meeting of the minds of five very capable musicians who understand the importance of playing well together and know what is required to record a quality product that will undoubtedly be a pleasure to hear. This is a fine recording, performed with no shortage of energy and verve. C.S.

Nagel Heyer 2038

Robert Stewart - "Heaven and Earth"

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I must admit that this is my first opportunity to hear the Los Angeles based, self-taught tenor saxophonist Robert Stewart, and what a pleasurable experience it has been.
"Heaven and Earth" is a selection of mainly smooth jazz. The exceptions being "That's the Way of the World" and "Peace Within".
After repeated listening, I am reminded of Horace Silver's "United States of Mind", a recording that sings the praises of a healthy lifestyle whereas "Heaven and Earth" deals mainly with our presence here and life in the hereafter. The real story here for me, is Stewart's playing. His willingness to play relaxed solos that are both lyrical and melodic is simply breathtaking. I truly enjoyed the thoughtful interpretation and dynamic musical approach he demonstrates on "Send in the Clowns" and the classic "Here's to Life". The title track "Heaven and Earth" displays the soulful playing of pianist Glen Pearson. Drummer Bill Norwood plays a dual role by adding his vocal talents to the opening track "Children of Light".
What is appealing and very evident about this recording is that it is smooth jazz played in a style that is not normally associated with that genre. I am convinced that Stewart's passionate and straight from the heart distinctive playing is changing the game of smooth jazz. This is indeed a beautiful recording, one that will fit nicely in anyone's collection. C.S.

Nagel Heyer 2045

Martin Sasse Trio – “Close Encounters”

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Lately I have been thinking that most of the new recordings I have heard suffer from a chronic shortage of talent, integrity and imagination. Well, the powers at Nagel Hayer Records have changed my thinking.

I am happy to say they had the wisdom and foresight to link the brilliant alto saxophone player Vincent Herring with the award-winning pianist Martin Sasse. Both of these players are no strangers to the big time, and are accomplished bandleaders, which could well account or the reason why this latest recording is one of the most satisfying and well-balanced I have heard, for quite some time. It has an abundance of well-conceived ideas, refreshing elements and inspiring solo work.

There is a display of spirited playing and great articulation by Herring on his own composition “Don’t Let Go”, before handing over the reins to Sasse, who serves up some tasty and delightful playing of his own. “Blue Herring”, written by Sasse as a tribute to Vincent, provides the rhythm section with an opportunity to shine, punctuated by some killer drumming by Hendrick Smock, whose playing remains constant and in focus throughout the entire recording.

“Groove Machine”, an original by Sasse, is a funky mid-tempo performance, and Herring’s dynamic musical approach is most noticeable. There is a high level of compatibility within the band, making it a recording you would most certainly want to have in your library. Highly recommended. C.S.

Nagel Heyer 2044

Bill Evans Trio – “Getting Sentimental”

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Since his passing in 1980, there has been a proliferation of releases on disc featuring pianist Bill Evans as soloist and in trio format, material taken mainly from concert performances and club dates. This present CD, recorded live at the Village Vanguard in January, 1978, by Mike Harris, a dedicated documenter of Evan’s career, featured drummer Philly Joe Jones and bassist Michael Moore, the latter auditioning at the time for the role previously held by Eddie Gomez. Moore, who had great admiration for Evans, stayed with him only 6 months, feeling that the pianist had moved away from the freshness and melodic beauty that had characterized his earlier playing, and “…was getting too fast, too robotic”. Judge for yourself as you listen to the sudden tempo shifts on numbers such as “How My Heart Sings”, “I Should Care”, or Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way”, but balance those with the impressionistic moments to “Re: Person I Knew” and “Turn Out the Stars”. J.S.

Milestone 9336-2

Johnny Hartman – “Hartman for Lovers”

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The underrated lush baritone voice of the late Johnny Hartman (1923-83) suffered unfairly in the popular appeal accorded singer Billy Eckstine. In the late 40’s, after brief stints with Earl Hines, Dizzy Gillespie and Errol Garner, he went solo with club dates and media appearances, singing hits and standards in his own inimitable way – melodically, unhampered by gimmickry, plumbing the depths of a ballad’s lyrics “…as though nothing else mattered.” Recording with Coltrane and Jacquet in the 60’s, he drew attention from a jazz-oriented audience as a singer capable of more than sentimental songs; yet, ironically, that is what he did and continued to do best. Selections on this disc are taken from the years 1963-1966, sessions incorporating Coltrane, Jacquet, arrangers Gerald Wilson and Oliver Jones, small combos with Hank Jones, Barry Galbraith, and others. He remained always a true artist, “….a singer’s singer”. Listen to the background music for the love scenes in the recent movie “The Bridges of Madison County” for a contextual focus that only Hartman could provide. Then listen to the music on this CD. You’ll want to. J.S.

Verve 000121402

Shelly Manne & His Men – “Yesterdays”

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The ubiquitous drummer Manne played with almost everyone from Coleman Hawkins to Ornette Coleman, yet became stigmatized as a West Coast “cool” player as he pursued his multi-faceted career in the Los Angeles area. A sophisticated rhythmic player, he chose supporting roles over the more dramatic showmanship. On this JATP tour to Europe (specifically Zurich/Copenhagen on the disc) in 1960, Manne offers swinging evidence of this behind the bebop trumpet of a short-lived Joe Gordon – “Cabu”, a lush tenor ballad – “Yesterdays” with Richie Kamuca, a walking bass feeling to Milt Jackson’s “Bags’ Groove”. All 5 extended numbers are previously unreleased, and give us rather rare opportunities to marvel at “…the relatively sparse recorded evidence of this particular line-up”, as well as Manne’s infrequent role as leader outside of California. J.S.

Pablo PACD-5318-2

Gerry Mulligan – “Mulligan meets Monk”

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West Coast cool meets East Coast bop! Fluid, sinewy baritone sax meets quirky, inventive piano! Mulligan takes on a piano at last! This sounds, indeed, hardly like a match made in heaven. However, in some respects, it works, especially on the more straightforward balladic numbers such as “Round Midnight” and “Sweet and Lovely”. Despite the presence of Monk’s sidemen – bassist Wilbur Ware/drummer Shadow Wilson – on the date (August, 1957), and Mulligan’s own preference to work mainly with Monk’s tunes (One Mulligan original and a standard rounded out the picture), only “Rhythm-a-ning” strikes the listener as a decidedly awkward pairing. There are 4 bonus tracks (alternate takes) on the disc. Apart from the obvious historic meeting of two such disparate jazz figures, the audio is especially noteworthy here. Not to be ignored! J.S.

Riverside 1106-2

Cindy Church – “Tribute to Music of Hoagy Carmichael”

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Unquestionably, pianist-bandleader-vocalist-songwriter Hoagy Carmichael was one of the great musical talents of the 20th century. Long after his own-recorded legacy has faded into the annals of collectibles, the songbook of his compositions will continue to be heard and to give pleasure to millions. This tribute, recorded live in Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio (2001), features Joe Sealy – piano/vocals, George Koller – acoustic bass/vocals, and vocaliste extraordinaire Cindy Church with a collection of Carmichael songs ranging from the familiar to the surprisingly forgotten. Cindy’s distinctive renditions stem from her genuine sensitivity to the lyrics, especially with “I Get Along Without You”, “Can’t Get Indiana Off My Mind”. Or “Stardust”, while George (sounding a little like Hoagy himself on “Ole Buttermilk Sky”) and Joe afford masterful support (and memorable solos) throughout. Their instrumental version of “New Orleans” with arco bass and moody piano is a highlight. Recommended. J.S.

SeaJam 1007-2

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