Pee Wee Russell - "Jazz
Legendary clarinetist Charles
"Pee Wee" Russell (1906-1969), whose granulated but
always passionate playing is readily recognizable, is featured
extensively on selected Commodore reissues from 1938 to 1945.
Drawn from sessions (including some alternate takes) with Eddie
Condon, Muggsy Spanier, Wild Bill Davison, The Three Dueces, and
his own Hot Four, they reflect admirably the energy and mood swings
that made him one of the foremost jazz players of his era. The
supporting cast is outstanding. This is for anyone interested
in the roots of jazz.
Commodore CMD-404 to order
Albert Nicholas - Art Hodes
- "The New Orleans-Chicago Connection"
New Orleans born clarinetist
Albert Nicholas (1900 - 1973) and Russian born (by way of Chicago!)
pianist Art Hodes (1904 - 1993) who had recorded together in the
'40's are paired here in quartet format with bassist Earl Murphy
and drummer Freddy Kohlman for this 1959 Chicago session. The
mellow tones of Nicholas (who had played with the likes of Luis
Ruissell, King Oliver, Armstrong and Morton in the 20's and 30's)
and the blues-based stylings of Hodes (ex Frank Teschmacher and
Bechet in the 40's) are compatibly suited to this musical agenda.
Note especially the subtle exchanges on "Ain't Misbehavin'",
the rousing accord of "Blues my Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me",
and the Bixian mood afforded I'm Comin' Virginia". The disc
includes master as well as alternate takes.
Delmark DE-207 to order
Barbara Sutton Curtis - "Old
Following in the footsteps of
her elder brother, pianist Ralph Sutton, Curtis displays her penchant
for the melodic songbook, preferring to air those timeless numbers
that have served jazz players well over the years. This second
Sackville release gives listeners a further opportunity to hear
the piano artistry of one too long hidden from the acclaim she
merits. Drwan from two live performances (November 1987 and October
1993) at Toronto's Café Des Copains and Montreal Bistro
respectively, Curtis shows us the wide range of her repertoire,
from Ellington's "Love You Madly", Garner's "Eldorado",
Willard Robison's "Sharecroppin' Blues (coupled with Gary
McFarland's "Chuggin"), to Pete Johnson's "Blues
on the Downbeat", as well as a sprinkling of Porter, Gershwin,
Kerns, Wilder, et al. Some of her choices will surprise you. Like
her brother, she preserves the melodic tradition, yet offers us
her own unique voice in the process. If you missed the earlier
CD, this is one to look for.
Sackville SKCD 2-2042 to order
Randy Weston - "Earth
As the pianist Randy Weston himself
states, "The overall concept of this CD is love, romance,
and the beauty of life". Recorded in Montreal (1995) with
the strings of the Montreal Symphony (conducted by Paul West)
and with arrangements by Melba Liston, the trio of Weston, Christian
McBride - bass and Billy Higgins - drums emerges delicately but
rhythmically from its lush surroundings with such familiar Weston
compositions as "Hi-Fly", "Berkshire Blues",
and "Little Niles" (one of four numbers in a waltz mode
here). The two portrait pieces - "Billie Holiday" and
"Vivian" - are moving tributes to very special people
in his life. As did Charlie Parker some forty-five years earlier,
Weston's decision to record with strings makes for a valuable
and rewarding insight into the sensitive nature of this artist.
Verve (Gitanes) 314 537 088-2 to order
Bob Mover (featuring John Hicks)
Despite successful stints with
such notables as Charlie Mingus, Lee Konitz, and Chet Baker, reedman
Bob Mover, with his extensive tours abroad, remains an elusive
figure on disc. Fortunately, I caught him once in Toronto with
Abdullah Ibrahim's Ekaya, and was terribly impressed by his alto
playing. In this recent CD, recorded live in Montreal, he is accompanied
by renowned pianist John Hicks, two Montrealers - Eric Legace
- bass and Lorne Ellen - drums, and Danish born trumpeter Jake
Wilkinson. The quintet rapport is of a consistently high calibre,
each player being given ample space to step front and centre before
an appreciative audience. Memorable are Legace's arco bass on
a moody "Something to Remember You By", Hicks' blistering
solo on "Airegin", Wilkinson's playful handling of his
own "You're Right, I Don't", and Mover throughout, but
in particular on the contrasting mood swings of "Something
and "Television". Plenty of energetic playing here.
DSM 3010 to order
Eric Alexander - "Too Soon
This is a blue chip meeting of
young bloods playing some standards and originals in an Art Blakey
groove. Trombonist Steve Davis was a member of the final Blakey
band and fits into this working unit like a glove. As a working
unit they play once a week to a full house at a bar on Broadway
in New York City, and it shows, the unity and tightness of ensemble
playing. It is a spirited band bursting at the seams with ideas
and each soloist produces an affable lesson in the art of conversation.
The front line is exceptional, Eric Alexander - tenor, Jim Rotondi
- trumpet and flugelhorn and Steve Davis - trombone. The rhythm
section is made up of David Hazeltine - piano, Peter Washington
- bass and Joe Farnsworth - drums. Whatever the tempo, the band
is impeccably limber, listen to the title track which opens up
with the fiery trumpet work of Rotondi, the haunting brass choir
intro to Alexander's solo spotlight on "Dedicated to You".
Alexander is followed by brief statements by Davis and Rotondi,
then back to Alexander in a very sentimental mood. He obviously
knows the lyrics to this tune. Other highlights include Hazeltine's
latin arrangement of Burt Bacharach's "Alfie" and "Betcha
By Golly Wow". The last track "Captain's Song"
is an uptempo piece that has some Wayne Shorter influences and
has Eric paying tribute to to Joe Henderson and George Coleman.
Alexander knows how to programme a persuasive recording, this
is worthy of your collection, and if you are in New York at any
time check them out in live performance.
Sharp Nine CD 1006-2 to order
Johnny Costa - "Dream"
Johnny Costa celebrates the lyricist
Johnny Mercer on this 1995 release. Mercer worked with a multitude
of great popular composers - Hoagy Carmichael , Jermome Kern,
Jimmy Van Heusen, Harold Arlen, Harry Warren, just to name a few.
His lyrics are a legacy of popular music in themselves over three
decades from the 30's to the 50's. Pianist Johnny Costa (brother
of vibraphonist/pianist Eddie) seemed always considered by discographers
to be on the fringes of jazz; ironically, but not without some
justification, he was once thought of as an Art Tatum replacement.
Here, on such numbers as "I Remember You", "Jeepers
Creeepers", "Too Marvelous for Words", "That
Old Black Magic", and "Day In, Day Out", he puts
to rest those doubts. The overall result is a relaxing, infectious
musical panorama of one of the outstanding American songwriters
of all time.
Chiaroscuro CRD-341 to order
World Saxophone Quartet - "Takin'
it 2 the Next Level"
Made up of tenorman David Murray,
Hamiet Bluiett (baritone), Oliver Lake (alto), and John R Purcell
(saxello/tenor), the latter replacing the late Julius Hemphill,
the WSQ is joined by Donald Blackman (piano), Calvin Jones (bass),
and Ronnie Barrage (percussion) on this 1996 CD for a programme
of fresh, challenging and often startling music. Spawned from
the late 70's, the WSQ continues to redefine the boundaries of
jazz and the saxophone, incorporating musical facets from the
blues - "When the Monarchs Come to Town", popular music
- "Ballad After Us", African and Caribbean rhythms -
"Rio Australopithecus", with touches of Mingus - "Blues
for a Warrior Spirit", Monk - "Wiring" and Coltrane
- "Endless Flight" thrown into the mix; yet, there always
remain surprises, such as the brief but beautiful Blackman rendition
of his own - "The Peace Before", or the gorgeous Murray-Bluiett
saxophone dialogue on - "The Desegregation of Our Children".
Needless to say, it's music that defies time and definition. One
of my record choices of the year!
Justin Time 93-2 to order
Gene Bertoncini - "Jobim-Someone
to Light Up my Life"
Antonio Carlos Jobim passed
away in 1994, but his music lives on. Beroncini's association
with that composer/guitarist and with Brazilian music dates back
almost to the beginning of Jobim's rise to popularity in North
America. Playing a nylon-stringed classical guitar with its distinctly
unique tonal qualities, Bertoncini performs all 14 tracks on this
1995 disc in single takes. The only accompaniment is provided
by percussionists John Arrucci and Jon Bates. Despite what you
may think you hear, there is no overdubbing. The range of melodic
inventivness is stunning, and all the anticipated numbers are
there - "Corcovado", " Triste", "O Amor
em Paz", "O Insensatez" (fused with a Chopin prelude),
"Felicidade", as well as some that may surprise you.
Chiaroscuro CRD-343 to order
Mike Rud - "Whyte Avenue"
A relative newcomer on the recorded
jazz scene, Edmonton born guitarist Mike Rud is showcased in a
recent quintet setting with Canadian pianist John Stetch, tenorman
Bill McHenry, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Jorge Rossi. Having
performed with, among others, Herb Ellis, Kenny Wheeler, and P.J.Perry,
and studied with Jim Hall, he displays his compositional skills
on such pieces as "Whyte Avenue", "Sonny Greenwich"
and "Life with Billy" (six of the eleven numbers are
originals). Standards too are given memorable treatment - Rud
and Stetch on "The Shadow of Your Smile", Rud and rhythm
section on "The Nearness of You", and McHenry's tenor
on "Like Someone in Love". The talent here is undeniable.
Rud shows that, granted the right context and further opportunities
such as this, his is a guitar voice to be reckoned with.
Jazz Focus JFCD 016 to order
Lily White - "No Pork
Saxophonist/composer Lily White
leads her septet - Kenny Rampton (trumpet), Conrad Herwig (trombone),
David Phelps (guitar), Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), Chris Dahlgren
(bass), Eric Halvorson (drums) in twelve original compositions
(ten by Lily herself) on this 1996 release. Many of them have
intriguing titles, and the performances are equally refreshing:
"Cairns" (with tenor and trombone suggestively marking
the boundaries the music will take), "Lumpy" ( liveley
rhythmic interplay of bass, drums and alto), "Bastard Song"
( a trombone-tenor tandem). Well executed and balanced mood swings
(e.g. "Connection" to "Loss/Annie Sprinkle
to "Inner Dirge"), an overall fluidity of expression,
and the group's solid commitment to and obvious enjoyment of the
music itself make this a worthy disc. Lily's versatility on either
horn (tenor/alto) is unquestionable. And I do like the piano work
of Michael J Stevens.
Jazz Focus JFCD 017 to order
Highly recommended CD's without
reviews, star rated as follows:
These are some of the many CD's
we at Jazz Canadiana suggest for your summer buying:
||Label & Cat. No.
||"Remembering Bud Powell"
||Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny
||"Beyond the Missouri Sky"
||Verve 314 537 130-2
||Verve 314 537 022-2
||Jackie McLean meets Junko Onoshi
||Blue Note CDP 38363 2 1
||"The Beautiful Thing"
||Verve 314 533 186-2
||"Four for Trane"
||Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves
||"Salt & Pepper"