April 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 www.seanbray.com.

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

Verve 4400655542

Terence Blanchard - "Bounce"

Veteran trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard is also highly recognized for his work as a writer of film scores for the Spike Lee movies "Mo Better Blues" and "Malcolm X".
After many years and numerous recordings for the Columbia label, he has found a new home at Blue Note Records. Of course we are all well aware of Blue Note's association with great trumpet players over the years. Names like Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and Kenny Dorham immediately come to mind.
Blanchard's first recording "Bounce" can be easily described as his most accomplished to date, and this is true for many reasons.
First he assembled a nine-track programme, eight of which are new compositions written by Blanchard and various members of his band. Secondly, he has taken a great risk by recording with two keyboard players. The result is a well-written, cleverly arranged and brilliantly executed recording. For "Bounce", Blanchard has assembled a brilliant septet which includes saxophonist Brice Winston, drummer Eric Hatland, pianist Aaron Parks, guitarist Lionel Louke, bassist Arandon Owens and Hammond B-3/Fender Rhodes master Robert Clasper.
Opening track "On the Verge" is a nice up-tempo tune that features some excellent piano playing by Aaron Parks, and a nice display of tenor playing by Brice Winston, who is one of the brighter tenor players in jazz today. "Nocturna" explains why Blanchard is held is such high esteem as a player. His melodious lines, sharp stylish and elegant tone provides such wonderful and pleasurable listening.
Blanchard is not afraid to take risks, a fact that explains why he has a style of his own. He has been called one of jazz's most sophisticated and erudite composers and I strongly suggest you take a good listen to this recording, for you will be in for a most pleasant and memorable treat. C.S.

Blue Note 7243-5-90953-2-5

Geoffrey Keezer - "Sublime"

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This is the ultimate tribute album to a pianist (Hank Jones) whose own albums remain…."a virtual encyclopedia of jazz piano" and whose playing is still "utterly contemporary" despite his reputation as "one of the essential pillars of modern jazz piano". Thus, Geoffrey Keezer has been inspired to undertake this project. However, it is truly a dedication to Jones the composer as much as to his playing prowess. All compositions are Hank's originals with the exception of "Favors", a number that had become a kind of signature tune for him over the years. Keezer has selected two pieces for solo performance, "Angel Face" and "Sublime", each incorporating harmonic concepts by Jones. But it is the duets (2 each) with Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Benny Green and Mulgrew Miller that highlight the music of Hank Jones, as each performer brings his own chosen interpretations of personal selections in free improvisation with Keezer. It's a joyous celebration, highly recommended. J.S.

Telarc CD-83563

Lee Konitz (w Alan Broadbent) - "Live-Lee"

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While there still remains a plethora of alto players, old and new, strongly influenced by the Parker-led revolution of the 40's/50's, Lee Konitz continues to speak in his own voice, reflecting a cooler form of jazz identified with pianist Lennie Tristano. He is "a true innovator", a consistently individual creative force in jazz. Here, his long, flowing lines, modified somewhat in emotional tone, are punctuated both by his own sense of rhythmic accentuation and by Broadbent's piano accompaniment as improviser (Broadbent had shared Tristano's influence as teacher, mentor - 60's). Recorded in 2000 at Los Angeles' Jazz Bakery before an appreciative audience, the session offered a programme of the new and the familiar, the former written by Konitz "Ex Temp"/"Gundula"/"Keepin' the News"/"Sequentialee". As Orrin Keepnews (liner notes) observes, Lee is "a certified iconoclast", one who retains the role of "an explorer at work". J.S.

Milestone MCD-9329-2

Dick Goodwin Quintet - "Studio Time

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This delightful quintet from South Carolina proves itself long on experience but fresh in desire to please. The group has obviously been together for some time, though recording output seems minimal ("Our last one was an LP"). The programme, a mixture of originals and standards, showcases the players in carefully considered contexts. The familiarity of group dynamics is displayed in a solidly swinging opener "I've Found a New Baby" and a "zippy Dixieland" closer "China Boy", but it is the instrumental features for soloists that reveal the sheer joy of their efforts: Terry Trentham's bass on "The Provincial Correspondent" or his bossa beat with "Jobim's Closet"; Goodwin's trumpet flair on "Miss Information" or his Clyde McCoy muted "Sugar Blues"; the percussive bounce of guitar (Dwight Spencer) and piano (Goodwin) with "Shiny Stockings", or their tender pairing on "Waltz for a Princess"; the mellow clarinet of Doug Graham to a traditional "Just a Closer Walk" and "I'll be Seeing You". Great fun. Recommended. J.S..

WIN 01-5

Buddy Rich and Harry "Sweets" Edison - "Buddy and Sweets"

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The year was 1955. Both the drummer Rich and trumpeter Edison had been part of the popular JATP series. Rich, already spanning a career as the driving force behind the bands of Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Artie Shaw and Bunny Berigan, was leading his own aggregation and still topping Downbeat's poll as top drummer; Edison, after 17 years with the Basie band, had taken on a less strenuous role with studio work in L.A. Paired on this quintet session, including Jimmy Rowles - piano, Barney Kessel -guitar, John Simmons - bass, they offer 7 exciting numbers (3 originals) with highlights centred on Rich's explosive solos to "Yellow Rose of Brooklyn" and "Barney's Bugle", and Edison muted to "Easy Does It" or "You're Getting to be a Habit", but fiery, unmated with "Now's the Time" and "All Sweets". Though but 40 minutes (total time), still worth the cost, especially the two extended group performances of "Easy Does It" and "Barney's Bugle". J.S.


Regina Carter - "Paganini: After A Dream"

As the CD'S title might suggest, jazz violinist Regina Carter's pursuit of a dream was about to become a reality. After months of delicate negotiation she "…was about to become the first non-classical violinist to play Paganini's violin, an Italian national treasure". The treasured instrument was Guarneri's 1743 "Cannon" with its "enormous natural sound"; the setting was Genoa, Italy, hometown to Paganini and his violin. Despite much scepticism concerning the physical well-being of the violin and the debasement of its artistic legacy in a jazz mode, the 9 numbers offered here from Ravel's "Pavane pour une infante Defunte", to Fauré's "Apres un réve", or Morricone's "Cinema Paradiso" confirms the concert was a rousing success, with two standing ovations. With added strings, the CD that followed remains a tribute both to Carter and those whose patience and understanding brought the endeavour to fruition. J.S.

WIN 01-5

Richard Underhill - "Tales From the Blue Lounge"

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Dedicated to all those who have influenced him over the past 20 years, this is the debut album of saxophonist Underhill, founder of the group Shuffle Demons, who assembles a formidable line-up of jazz musicians to help present 10 of his own compositions shaped from references to concepts by such diverse musical sources as "…Monk to Mingus to Ornette Coleman to Mancini". There are some 15 players aligned in various groupings from the spirited quartet opener "Surfing" with tenor and alto saxes (Bob Brough/Underhill), bass and drums, to a full-bodied 11-piece "The Blue Lounge", adding reeds, brass, and percussive highlights to its shifting tempos. Dave Restivo moves from piano to organ to the steady pulse of "Big" and the solidly swinging "Chillin' ". Brough and Underhill capture the bouncy melodic core to "Mr. Fezziwig"; share a call-response pattern with "Pegasus", warm to a balladic interplay on "Lazy Afternoon". A truly fun diversion comes with the rhythmic predictability and hand-clapping accompaniment afforded a delightful "The Old Guys". Recommended. J.S.

Stubby SRCD-777

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