April 2002


Jacques Loussier Trio - "Baroque Favourites"

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Pianist Jacques Loussier followed a somewhat circuitous route - cabaret pianist, ballet accompanist, musical instrumentalist for French singing stars on tour, orchestral arranger with Algerian TV - before settling on the original concept that was to sustain him for four decades: to play the classics in swing time, focusing especially on J.S.Bach. With this latest CD issue (2001), he has made some fascinating and unusual choices of material from the Baroque period: Johann Pachelbel, Marin Marais, Alessandro Marcello, Tomaso Albinoni, Domenico Scarlatti, and George Frideric Handel. With bassist Benoit Dunoyer De Segonzac and drummer Andre Arpino, Loussier begins with Handel's "4-part Sarabande", follows with Marin Marsais' "La Sonnerie de Sainte-Genevieve du Mont", strongly reminiscent of Paul Desmond's (with Dave Brubeck) "Take Five", and concludes with Handel's "Organ Concerto in F major", and extended work transcribed for piano. As well, Marcello's "Oboe Concerto in D Minor" takes on a delightfully fresh airing with the trio. Recommended. JS

Telarc CD-83516

Paul Bley / Gary Peacock - "Partners" (014-730-2)
Paul Bley / Jimmy Giuffre / Steve Swallow - "The Life of a Trio: Saturday" (014-731-2)

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The above CD's were recorded 2 days apart in December of 1989. The four players involved have been a part of the development of modern jazz since the early 60's, part of a new breed "…with an urge to cross over into new territories, to discover new dimensions…", devoid of any interest in a "…future in media or commercial terms" (liner). Despite the critical cries of "too modern", "too free", and "It doesn't swing", they pursued a course in which "...the notion of freedom is only free as a result of painstaking discipline..." (liner). Their affinity of purpose is evident here.

The pairing of close friends Gary Peacock - bass and Paul Bley - piano is confined to 5 of the 15 numbers on the first CD, with a lengthy sharing of conversational exchanges on "Who's Who Is It?", blending the inherent melodic beauty of "Hand in Hand", or playfully capturing the more familiar lines to Ornette Coleman's "Latin Genetics". Solos reveal a propulsive, powerfully rhythmic Peacock "Pleiades Skirt"/"Twitter Pat", and an imaginatively unpredictable Bley, adventurously free in his excursions into "Octavon", or replete with contrasting moods and tempi, capable of dark sonorities with "Afternoon of a Dawn".

The presence of reedman Jimmy Giuffre with bass - (Steve Swallow) and Bley - piano adds another textural dimension to the music on the 2nd disc. His brief, uncharted flight into the "Clarinet Zone", a moody clarinet that leads the trio through "Turns", and his mournful soprano delineating the traces of "Someone", are memorable. Swallow uses the electric bass to advantage, especially in his responses to Giuffre's soprano "We Agree", or in punctuating the trio's momentum with "Clusters". Bley remains ever inventive, tentatively explorative on "Owl Eyes", melodically provocative with "Even Steven". There were neither rehearsals nor alternate takes here. They were, considering the results, unnecessary. JS

Owl - See Catalogue Numbers Above

E.S.T. - "Somewhere Else Before"

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Devoid of information concerning the performers or place of performance, the music captivated me nevertheless because of its relaxed charm, the tidy, closely-knit presentation of the group, and by the intrigue of the trio's unusual choice of name (Eastern Standard Time? Electroshock Treatment?). As well, with Esbjorn Svensson - piano/keyboards, Dan Berglund - bass, Magnus Ostrom - drums, all three contribute to the percussive elements additionally, most notably to the spectral depiction of "The Wraith", the intricacies laid out in "Dodge the Dodo", and the provocative eastern flavour accorded the only standard on the CD, "The Face of Love". The keyboard artistry of Svensson is strongly suggestive of Keith Jarrett, eliciting great melodic beauty with "Pavane" and the title tune, yet full of free-ranging runs on "The Wraith". One can almost forgive the lack of meaningful notes since the music displays such variety and afforded this listener much pleasure. Note: an 11th number is recorded but not listed. JS

Columbia CK 85834

John Tank - "Canadian Sunset"

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Canadian-born tenor man John Tank has served as an accompanist intermittently in a myriad of groups over 3 decades from stints with Sam Rivers, Paul Jeffrey, Hal Galper, and Charlie Mingus (his final recording), remaining chiefly an itinerant player cyclically moving from Toronto to New York to London. Hence, it is good to see him leading his own quartet with support here from Peter Madsen - piano, Ted Trimble - bass, and Mike Clark - drums. He has reshaped the lineage of such tenor men as John Cultrate, Johnny Griffin, or Joe Henderson into a style very much his own, pursuing complex melodic ideas with 3 originals "Tank Toon", "Steppin' Up", "Have You Heard This Song Before?", giving a nod to his roots in Eddie Heywood's "Canadian Sunset", tackling free-flowing interpretations of Bacharach's "A House is Not a Home" and Victor Herbert's "Indian Summer". He switches effortlessly to soprano on 2 numbers. Deservedly a disc to be enjoyed many times. JS

TCB 20902

Bill Anschell - "When Cooler Heads Prevail"

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One of the outstanding features evident from the start is the trio's matchless lock-step unity, each intuitively responsive to the others. From the opening "Sweet and Lovely" with Anschell's discursively melodic yet lyrically delicate keyboard sorties, to the rich harmonic colouring with sudden shifts in momentum afforded "Dear Old Stockholm: to Anschell's jaunty explorations of the familiar lines of Randy Weston's "Little Niles" with polyrhythmic measures of bass and drums, there is a natural, complimentary blend of group dynamics to achieve respective ends. Anschell, born in Seattle, has made Atlanta his home since 1989, joining Atlanta-based drummer Woody Williams and bassists Rodney Jordan/Neal Starkey to play and tour extensively. His skills are considerable, brought out in the diversity of selections chosen - the traditional "Angels Watching Over Me", "La Flor de la Canela", and 5 original pieces by the pianist. Highly recommended. JS

Summit DCD 311

Stevens / Siegel / Ferguson - "Trilogue"

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Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens, bassist Tim Ferguson and drummer Jeff Siegel have been together for over a decade now, and the cohesiveness of the trio is reflected in this varied, challenging programme on their most recent release (2000). The title's play on the word 'dialogue' suggests the conversational nature of their lengthy partnership, musically depicted on 3 prior CD's and in numerous concert appearances. Three of the nine numbers are originals by each of the trio's members, Ferguson's "Vernazza" (subtly delineated by piano/bass), Siegal's "Eliza Isabella", and Stevens' "The Lockout", all worthy of inclusion with the more familiar pieces, such as the harmonically fanciful "Some Enchanted Evening", Strayhorn's tragically beautiful "Blood Count", or Chano Pozo's flamboyantly rhythmic "Tin Tin Deo". Indeed, a 'Trilogue' with finesse and elegance! JS

Imaginary Jazz IMX-012

Brad Mehldau Trio - "Progression"

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Brad Mehldau's began his musical career as a classical pianist. He started piano lessons at the age of six, and continued until the age of fourteen, later he became interested in Jazz and moved to New York City. There he developed his own style while working in bands led by Jessie Davis, Mark Turner and David Sanchez. Mehldau gained international exposure when he joined Joshua Redman and toured the United States and Europe.

His latest CD release "Progression" art of the trio, volume 5, is a continuation of a concept that started in 1997 with "The Art of the Trio", volume one. Recorded live at the Village Vanguard in New York City, this two CD set is refreshing, expressive and very satisfying. The music is fresh and energetic, with Mehldau adding new faces to some old standards. Disc one opens with a nice up-tempo rendition of "The More I See You" and immediately reminds us why Mehldau is one of the most compelling, eccentric and daring young pianist in Jazz.

He has a great sense of improvisation and swings instinctively with an authority that defines his piano mastery. Mehldau may not be the most expressive piano player; still there is a sense of affection in the understanding and interpretation of the music he plays. Although Larry Grenadier's bass solo remains a high point of this recording, and drummer Jorge Rossy adds his excellent sense of timing and rhythmic expression. This is for the most part Mehldau's show.

The session is divided by originals and standards "Dream's Monk"; a Mehldau original is the only one on disc one which otherwise feature standards like "Alone Together" and "Cry Me A River." I particularly love the treatment given to "River Man" a tune made famous by singer Andy Bey.

Other tunes that warrant mentioning are 'Secret Love" on Disc Two, here is Mehldau at his finest in an almost Waltz tempo, tempered with classical overtones. On the other hand "Sublation" is played with a free expression tempo that swings along with a sense of pleasure. "Progression" is a musical statement. It is easy listening, swinging sometimes bluesy and melancholy with Mehldau sounding like Bill Evans, mainly on the slower tunes. I found "Progression" entertaining, enjoyable and a pleasure to listen to. CS

Warner Bros 9 48005-2

Pat LaBarbera - "From the Heart"

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New York born saxophonist and music teacher, Pat LaBarbera, comes from a family of talented musicians. Alumni of Berkley, he is considered one of the finest soloists in jazz. LaBarbera has played with Count Basie and Woody Herman and for many years was the featured soloist in the bands of Buddy Rich and Elvin Jones. Over the years his woodwind work has been featured on more than 70 jazz and popular albums. A master player with a passionate tone, his solos are well constructed and delivered straight "From The Heart," which so happens to be the title of his latest CD, his second on the Justin Time label.

"From The Heart" is a well written, well arranged and well played CD. The music is fresh, very melodic and easy listening. There is a sense of dimension, confidence and looseness about the band, which is well reflected in their playing. His brother Joe accompanies LaBarbera on drums, George Cables on piano and Rufus Reid on bass. This session features three of Pat's original compositions, "Dream Steps;" "Another Day In The Sun;" and ""Fantazm," (a tune inspired by drummer Elvin Jones) All songs are well performed, with equal contributions from all the musicians.

The title track "From The Heart" written by Joe LaBarbera, has for me, really captured the essence of this recording, its melodic tones, haunting melodies added to the deep soulful playing of LaBarbera on Soprano is so right for those special quiet moments. Other selections include "I Wished on the Moon" (a reworking of an old Sinatra classic), "Second Time Out", "Just Say Yes", and "Kind Of Bill", a tribute to the late Bill Evans LaBarbera is a powerhouse performer, a fact that is continuous through this recording.

This CD represents LaBarbera at his best, presenting the jazz audience with a listening treat; "From The Heart" is one of the most satisfying recordings that I have reviewed. If there were any reason to spend money on a CD, this would be it. Thumbs up! Highly recommended! CS

Justin Time JUST 163-2

Tony Quarrington - "Deep River"

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Saskatoon born, Toronto raised Tony Quarrington is an exciting jazz guitarist and a prolific composer with over 500 jazz and popular tunes to his credit. In addition, he has produced more than 30 albums for many artists in all genres of music. He began his jazz career in 1970 and counts among his musical influences guitarist Ed Bickert and Sonny Greenwich. He has also worked with such stars like Jane Bunnett, Dave Restivo, and Mike Murley. His latest release, the second on the Cordova Bay label is entitled Deep River, which happens to be the name of an Afro-American spiritual.

For this project Juno winner Pat LaBarbera on tenor and soprano saxophones joins Quarrington. Niel Swainson on bass, Greg Pilo on Drums, Doug Riley on Hammond B-3, Fender Rhodes and electric piano. There are 9 tracks on this CD, 7 are Quarrington originals and two crossovers "Deep River" and "Old Devil Moon". The opening track "Aurora" starts with a swinging bluesy arrangement that immediately establish Quarrington's ability to swing, aided very nicely by the superb drumming of Greg Pilo.

Quarrington's guitar work is superbly imaginative, sometimes tempered with elements of rock, which adds extra flavour to the band. This is a very thoughtful CD with impressive work from all the musicians Pat LaBarbera emerges as an equal partner, his well constructed solos are played with a smooth relaxed tone while Riley's organ add extra bottom to the group's sound. I really enjoyed this CD, among my favourites are the ballads, "A Snow-Like Grace" and the very thoughtful solo guitar version of "Old Devil Moon." With the release of "Deep River" Quarrington has confirmed that this is not just first-rate music by first-rate musicians. This is music to be enjoyed. CS

Cordova Bay CBR-0222

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