December 1997


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J.J.Johnson - "J.J.Inc"

RealAudio Sample
Columbia has released this 1960 session of the J.J.Johnson sextet with cohorts Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Clifford Jordan (tenor) and a rhythm section of Cedar Walton (piano), Arthur Harper (bass) and Albert "Tootie" Heath (drums), a well-oiled group that functions with interchangeable parts, each capable of carrying the impetus forward. All compositions are by Johnson, except Gillespie's "Blue 'n Boogie", a rapid-fire rendition featuring Hubbard on muted trumpet. Johnson is at his mellow best in interaction with other horns such as on the stereotypical Indian rhythms of "Mohawk" or the funky "Fatback" where he readily reinvents the melody and changes tempi in mid-flight. His solos, though intricately phrased, remain fluid, warm and clear on the swinging "Minor Mist" and a moody "Aquarius" with its subtle harmonic shifts built over a simple rhythmic progression. This is an excellent example of Johnson's ability to adapt the trombone to the music of that period and of his compositional contributions to the jazz idiom. There are three bonus tracks here, including an all-out extended version of "Fatback". (J.S.)

Columbia (Legacy) CK 65296to order

Aziza Mustafa Zadeh - "Jazziza"

Despite little information provided by the liner insert, the CD itself offers the listener a fairly accurate sample of the talents displayed by pianist/vocalist Aziza Mustafi Zadeh. Her vocal range, from contralto to soprano, is quite extraordinary, notably on such numbers as "Lover Man" or "Black Orpheus" (Shades of Cleo Laine!): however, one wonders how much more effective that sensuous, articulate voice might have been without the strong tendency for voice overdubbing or the inclination to employ it almost instrumentally in lengthy scat choruses. Several of the works are instrumental (e.e. "Sunny Rain"/"Character"), and she shows a strong, confident assurance at the keyboard, harmonically inventive, rhythmically adept. There is plenty of variety in choice of moods and selections, with accompanists Toots Thielemans ("My Funny Valentine"/"I Can't Sleep"), Philip Catherine ("You've Changed" et al), and the percussionist Eduardo Contrera giving good support. (J.S.)

Columbia (Germany) 487897-2to order

Carol Akerson/Bob Winter - "The Piano Love Songs"

When was the last time (or any time) you heard "World Weary" (Noel Coward), "Little Jazz Bird" (Gershwins), or "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love" (from the show "Decline and Fall of the Entire World") - (Cole Porter?). These are only three of the fifteen numbers on this duo debut album by vocalist Carol Akerson, offering a wide and unusual range of material. Unpretentious, fresh and appealing, comfortable in several languages ("Corcovado"/"Ce Sacre Piano"), she shows indeed why she would easily adapt to the worlds of cabaret, musical theatre, or the concert stage. "The piano has been my guide and companion through the world of music", she states, and certainly Winter's accompaniment with its unerring sense of anticipation and melodic inventiveness seems all that she needs (though wouldn't she have been a bandleader's delight in 40's). Deliberately playful with "Little Jazz Bird" or "Brush Me Off", bluesy on "Thanks for Nothing", gentle with the ballads "Lush Life" or "Summer's End", Akerson reveals the depth of her ability in many varied contexts. This is a thoroughly enjoyable first outing. (J.S.)

Seaside 200 to order

James Bazen Big Band - "Tonight He's Mine"

Reedman James Bazen leads his Maryland-based big band on this 1996 CD of standards and originals. It's a well-balanced aggregation driven ostensibly by drummer Steve Steve Larrance, with excellent solos by such performers as trombonists Doug Elliot ("Tonight He's Mine"/"The Funky Little Drummer Boy"), tenor man Kellogg Johnson ("Syeeda's Song Flute"/"Chillin' "), and trumpeter Mike Davis ("The Funky Little Drummer Boy"). Bazen himself, who charted most of the numbers, shows his versatility on flute ("Summertime"), alto sax ("Stranger Things"), soprano ("The Funky Little Drummer Boy") and clarinet ("Danny the Samba Boy""). Four of the eleven compositions have vocals - Patty McKay, offering a wide dynamic range and great flexibility with the lyrics on "Willow Weep for Me", while Debbie MacFarlan treats her own "Tonight He's Mine" with a rich, strong voice to an orchestral Latin Beat. The relaxed, almost bluesy "Chillin' " and John Coltrane's Syeeda's Song Flute" proved most satisfying for this listener. (J.S.)

Seaside 146 to order

Artie Barsamian's Boston Big Band -
"Everything Happens to Me"

RealAudio Sample
This is a smoothly-oiled, interactive big band from Boston, revealing a high calibre of consistency and musicianship. There are several obvious reasons for this: the experience it has gained since its founding in 1979 on the concert/club circuit; the fact that many of the players are drawn from the nearby Berklee College of Music; the apparent low turnover of its members over the years; the interchangeability of the roles of the musicians as soloists; the contributions of skilled arrangers such as Dick Lieb (who charts six of the thirteen numbers on this disc). There is attentive balance of ballad style and uptempo performances, with leader Barsamian active on baritone, clarinet, and alto. Kudos go to tenor man Mike Rossi ("Body and Soul"/"Fall Line"), trombonist Steve Piermarini ("Red High Heels"/"Taboo"), and guitarist John Baboian ("Caravan/Berklee Shuffle"), though to omit anyone is an oversight. Liner notes, like the music, are rewarding. (J.S.)

Seaside 147 to order

Dawn Sierra - "A Little Rain Must Fall"

RealAudio Sample
On this her debut CD, Dawn Sierra dips into the blues bag for her unifying theme. Strong originals mixed with some beautiful old standards result in a heady brew of soul and sass. She has a gorgeous voice, refined and mellow, that holds your attention on all the eleven tracks here. I am reminded of Sheila Jordan on some of the tunes, and that is meant as a high compliment, not as a comparison. Pianist Paul Tobey writes some exceptionally attractive tunes and is the epitome of what a singer always wanted as an accompanist. Dawn's caressive passionate plea on "Don't Explain"captivates, and her treatment of "You Don't know what Love is"/ "Miss Otis Regrets" indicates she has lived some of these songs herself. Pat LaBarbera's tenor soars, dips and swings loose on "Cheek to Cheek", and is soulful on "Another Day Alone"/ "A Little Rain Must Fall". Bassist Pat Collins and drummer Mark G. McLean lend effective support throughout and make this one of the most interesting CD's to hit the market in recent months. (H.H.)

Unity 154 to order

RIAS Big Band Berlin - "The Music of Trumpet Kings"

RealAudio Sample
It's rare that a recording can capture the essence of the past without sounding like a carbon copy. The RIAS (Radio In the American Sector) under the leadership of trombonist Jiggs Whigham and featuring soloists Harry Allen (tenor saxophone) and Randy Sandke (trumpet) brings to life some wonderful charts by well known trumpet players (most of them no longer with us), and the nineteen members accept the challenge with authority. The trumpet masters selected for this tribute include: Louis Armstrong ("I Love Louis") a chart by Randy Sandke based on Armstrong's "Shine", ("Cloudy") by Bix Beiderbecke, ("Echoes of Harlem") otherwise known as "Cootie's Concerto" written by Duke Ellington to showcase Cootie Williams, ("Little Jazz Boogie") written by saxophonist Buster Harding when he was in Roy "Little Jazz" Eldridge's band in the early 1940's, ("I Can't Get Started") made famous by Bunny Berigan back in 1937, ("Melancholy Rhapsody") from the film "Young Man With a Horn" which featured Harry James playing on the soundtrack, ("Randy's Rolls Royce") a late composition and arrangement by Buck Clayton, ("Shaw 'Nuff") by the trumpet king from the Bebop era Dizzy Gillespie (the trumpet section jumps out at the listener on this, and the sax section sound like a highly charged Supersax), ("All Blues") by Miles Davis ,(trumpeter Till Bronner captures the magic of the Prince of Darkness on this performance, ("Turnstile") a Gerry Mulligan composition from the classic Mulligan/Chet Baker Quartet days, here given a small group treatment with tenor/trumpet backed only by bass and drums, ("Relaxin' at Clifford's) another small group rendition written by Sandke for the memory of Clifford Brown and featuring Sandke, Allen and Trombonist Whigham and guitarist Ingo Cramer, ("Moontrane") a wonderful Woody Shaw composition and ("Birdlike") written by Freddie Hubbard. All of the charts express a deep love for not only the trumpet kings but also the sound of the big band recorded here. There is never a dull moment, the soloists express fire and emotion, and the rhythm section is solid throughout. This particular recording not only got me checking out the original sessions by the Kings, but also has me placing this CD back on the sound system in the music room and in the car. More please! (H.H.)

Nagel-Heyer CD 037 to order

Highly recommended CD's without reviews, star rated as follows:

***** excellent. **** good

Highly Recommended CD's, for your Christmas stocking, without reviews and star rated as follows:

Rating Artist Title Label & Cat. No.
**** Bernard Primeau "Virage" Swing'in Time 97001-2
***** Renee Rosnes "As We Are Now" EMI 72438 56810 2 8
**** Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir "Hamba Ekhaya" Justin Time Just 96-2
**** Dizzy Gillespie "Bird Songs" Telarc CD-83421
***** Wheeler/Konitz/Holland/Frisell "Angel Song" ECM 1607
**** Rosenberg Trio "The Collection" Verve 537 152-2
***** Steve Turre "Steve Turre" Verve 314 537 133-2
***** Howard Johnson "Right Now!" Verve 537 801-2
***** Makoto Ozone Trio featuring John Scofield Verve 314 537 503-2
***** Jan Harrington "Christmas in New Orleans" Nagel Heyer NHR SP4
**** John Nugent "West of Flatbush" NY JAM 1195CD
***** Pat Metheny "Imaginary Day" Warner 9 46821-2
***** McBride/Payton/Whitfield "Fingerpainting" Verve 314 537 856-2
***** Wild Bill Davison "The Jazz Giants" Sackville SKCD2-3002
***** Oscar Peterson "Live at CBC Studios" Just a Memory 9507-2
***** Weather Report "Heavy Weather" Columbia/Legacy CK 65108

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