February 2006

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

Our reviewing staff members are:

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).

Bob Eckersley: Bob Eckersley emigrated from England in 1957 and settled in Owen Sound (Northern Ontario), where he worked as an inspector for the government on Highway construction. His interest in jazz started during the war years, and though he is not a trained musicologist, he listens from the heart and judges accordingly.

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

Previous Picks

Bill Charlap/Sandy Stewart – “Love is Here to Stay”

Pianist Charlap’s immense talent as well as his passionate commitment to celebrating the past creators of the American songbook have been decidedly influenced by his songwriter father and vocalist mother. Hence, the alliance of mother-son on this CD should come as no surprise. Their rapport is immediate, each responsive to breathing new life into familiar tunes, yet shaping the songs faithfully to the lyrics. The treatment is unpretentious, emotionally insightful “The Boy Next Door”/ “Where is me”? tenderly romantic “Always”/ “Our Love Is Here To Stay”, suggestively enhanced “I’ve Got A Crush On You”/ “Do It Again” medley. Today’s young singers could learn much from listening carefully to the richly varied approaches given to standard material by Sandy Stewart.
Highly Recommended.


Blue Note 60340

Bill Evans – “The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961”

Some years ago I was playing some music for a bass player friend, and upon adjusting the sound I remarked, “Is that too much bass? ”. The reply was quite simply, “There is no such thing as too much bass”.

Upon listening to Bill Evans music, I feel the same way; “There is no such thing as too much Bill Evans”.

This 3-CD box set of outstanding music attests to my statement. Taken from a recording done on June 25th, 1961, (afternoon sets 1 & 2) and (evening sets 1, 2 & 3) during a two-week engagement, this is the magical trio of Evans, Paul Motian and Scott LaFaro. Actually these were the last recordings done by this trio, Scott was killed in a car crash ten days later.

The recording quality is, to my ears, superb, capturing that true jazz club ambiance, a little chatter from the audience as well as the musicians, and an occasional sound of glasses clinking (not too intrusive); the fact this recording is issued in 20-bit K2 Super Coding System puts you on stage with these three marvellous musicians.

There were actually five sessions recorded on the above date, and three were released under these titles: “Sunday at the Village Vanguard”, “Waltz for Debby” and “More from the Vanguard”.

Although many of the tunes had been recorded before, mostly studio recordings, these all sound so fresh: “My Romance” swinging hard with Scott making statements over the piano, “Gloria’s Step” (take 1) full of energy from all three members, the very essence of listening to each other and propelling the tune to greater heights. No individual dominance here, a true trio.

Those tunes that are repeated in other sets during the day and evening include “Gloria’s Step”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “All of You”, “My Romance”, “Detour Ahead”, “Waltz for Debby”, “Jade Visions”. There is a version of “Some other Time” from the afternoon set, where the trio is totally ‘as one’, probably more so than on any of the other tunes.

If you don’t have any Bill Evans in your collection, this is a ‘must own’, and if you, like me, have many, get it anyway. It is a true masterpiece.

Very Highly Recommended.


Riverside 3RCD-4443-2

Bill Evans Trio - “At Shelly’s Manne-Hole”
Thelonious Monk – “Alone in San Francisco”
Art Pepper – “Winter Moon”

Not all pre-recorded jazz performances merit reissue on CD; however, for very distinctive reasons, each of the above warranted re-release. The Evans’ date (1963), played before an attentive, responsive audience, is a masterful session with bassist Chuck Israels who had replaced the ill-fated Scott LaFaro earlier,and drummer LarryBunker. Included in the repertoire are a hauntingly meticulous treatment of “ ‘Round Mdnight” and several rare Evans’ excursions into the blues with “Swedish Pastry” and “Blues in ‘F’/Five”. The bonus track of “All the Things You Are” truly showcases the trio.

As well, any solo performances by Monk effectively displays those qualities which set him uniquely apart, especially with such pieces here as “Blue Monk”, “Reflections”, or “Pannonica” on this 1959 session. Moreover, note how he has introspectively conceptualized “You Took The Words Right Out of My Heart” and “There’s Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie”, two numbers seldom included in his recorded output. In addition, the latter (take 1) is presented as a bonus.

Though string accompaniment is often an unsuccessful venture for a soloist, altoist Art Pepper rises to the occasion on this 1980 reissue, proving the point from the very opening “Our Song”. The presence of arranger Bill Holman and Pepper’s regular rhythm section of bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Carl Burnett, as well as guests Stanley Cowell – piano and Howard Roberts – guitar help make this a memorable outing worthy of re-release. An unissued “Ol’ Man River” and two alternates are also welcomed inclusions.


Riverside 9487-2
Riverside 1158-2
Galaxy 5140-2

Brad Mehldau – “Live in Tokyo”
Brad Mehldau – “Day is Done”

Whether in solo performance (A) or in small group context (B), Brad Mehldau distinguishes himself as an imaginative, skilfully adept, entertaining jazz keyboard artist. Before an enthusiastic Tokyo audience, his 2003 solo concert is comparable to a master piano class in originality, bold inventiveness, and superb craftsmanship. Be it the assertively rhythmic opener “Things Behind the Sun”, the playful quirkiness of “Monk’s Dream”, the measured lyrical reshaping to Gershwin’s “How Long Has This Been Going On”, or the gradual unfolding and dynamic progression afforded “Paranoid Android”, the listener is treated to an astonishing display of creative talent and insight. Accompanied by bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard (B), both sensitively responsive to Mehldau’s magic, the pianist presents a challenging programme incorporating the finely detailed lines of the familiar “Alfie”, the jaunty, lyrically fragmented “No Moon At All”, a scintillatingly evocative interpretation of “She’s Leaving Home”, the spikey though delicate touch to a Latinized “Granada”, a propulsively animated “Artis”. “Martha My Dear”, a solo cut, is a study in polyrhythmic counterpoint. Recommended CD’s for discerning collectors.


Nonesuch 79853-2
Nonesuch 79919-2

Michel Camilo – “Solo”

Dominion-born pianist Michel Camilo, actively involved in the music scene since the mid-80’s, cites Bill Evans, George Gershwin, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Paquito D’Rivera among significant influences in his career. Having performed in many formats, this disc is his first as soloist; “I took my time conceptualizing so I could make a statement”, he states. Balancing both moods and musical sources – Brazilian, Cuban, and Puerto Rican rhythms and songs, jazz-oriented selections, and 4 original compositions – Camilo draws upon a wealth of experience evident in the range of numbers from a blues-based “Reflections” a “ ‘Round Midnight” tango, to a ruminative “Corcovado”. In addition, one senses his carefully considered choice of method and sequence throughout.


Telarc 83613

Robert Clasper – “Canvas”

Pianist Robert Clasper is a new name on Blue Note and a fresh musical voice for me. With strong support from bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid, he exhibits a fortuitous blend of technical skill and improvisational insight. All but Herbie Hancock’s “Riot” are Clasper originals, from the delicately up-tempo opener “Rise and Shine” to the sensitively-rendered “I Remember”, incorporating a recorded vocal excerpt by his mother melting into a “…wistful Clasper improvisation”. Noteworthy are “Canvas”, a catchy melody shared with guesting tenorman Mark Turner, the repetitively mesmerizing “Jelly’s Da Beener”, and the winding flow of “Chant” interwoven with the wordless voicing of vocalist Bilal.


Blue Note 77130

Previous Picks