April 1997


All of Hal's monthly reviews will be made available here in Hal's "Picks From the Past".

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Jelly Roll Morton - "Last Sessions"

Composer/Pianist Jelly Roll Morton (c1890-1941) was one of the most flamboyant figures in early jazz. Apart from the memorable Red Hot Pepper and orchestral sides cut for RCA Victor (1926-30), his legacy includes recently reissued Library of Congress interviews (1938) and these last sessions, originally on the General label, a compilation of piano solos and small group recordings (Hot Six/Hot Seven) complete with "Spanish Tinge" and the inimitable Morton vocals. Riding the impetus of New Orleans revival, Morton recaptures that traditional flavour, especially in such numbers as "King Porter Stomp", "Shake It" and "Mama's Got a Baby". It's good to have these available once again.

Commodore label CMD-403 to order

Kenny Barron - "New York Attitude"

Kenny Barron has been a consummate musician on the jazz scene since the late 50's, whether in a supportive role (e.g. Dizzy Gillespie/Freddie Hubbard/Yusef Lateef/Stan Getz) or in self-directed smaller combos. He is an extraordinarily imaginative pianist, a fact attested to by this album, originally released on LP in 1989. Rufus Reid (bass) and drummer Freddie Waits (alas, no longer with us) provide superb accompaniment, the former acoustically resonant and unobtrusively powerful, the latter deftly adroit with the brushes. On the CD are three bonus selections, including an alternative take of Gershwin's "Embraceable You", as well as a lightly swinging "My One Sin", and a dramatically moving rendition of "You Don't Know What Love Is." It all makes for true piano artistry fashioned in select company.

Uptown label UPCD 27.41 to order

Earl Hines - "At Home"

It's not often that a listener is privileged to be entertained personally in the home of an illustrious jazz pianist. And, if that performer happens to be Earl "Fatha" Hines, and the piano an antique Steinway grand (circa 1904) in mint condition, the sense of anticipation is even more enhanced. Hines whose credentials need no verbal embellishment, was given the instrument as a gift from admiring fans, and he draws memorably both upon his own vast repertoire and the technical wonders of a unique keyboard with such standards as "You Are Too Beautiful" and "You'll Never Know", tossing in a few originals as well - "Minor Nothing", "Moon Mare", and "The Cannery Walk". There's even a rare Hines' vocal on "It Happens To Be Me". This re-release of a 1970 LP, now on CD, invites you to join a master at play in the leisurely confines of his own home. Take note, however, that this private concert lasts only 40 minutes.

Delmark label DD-212 to order

George Shearing - "Favourite Things"

Out of the Ambrose orchestra of the 30's, through numerous quintet sessions from the 40's to 60's, and with countless trio and solo performances over the past three decades, this British-born pianist has maintained a high level of artistic integrity and wide popularity. The scope of his musical storehouse of selections defies limitation. Here, in solo format (1996), he reveals just how varied and unpredictable his approach can be - an exquisite baroque-flavoured "My Favourite Things", a Satie-like rendering of Dave Brubeck's "Summer Song", a playfully folksy interpretation of Stephen Sondheim's "Anyone Can Whistle", a fugal perspective to Artie Shaw's "Moonray", a brief but provocatively Erroll Garnerish "P.S.I Love You" - to identify peripheral fringes of jazz here, the improvisational imagination of Shearing nevertheless overrides categories. This is for anyone who enjoys music played from the heart.

Telarc label CD-83398 to order

James Gelfand/Michel Donato - "Setting the Standard"

Compacting 29 different pieces into an hour's listening would seem to suggest that Canadian-based musicians Michel Donato (bass) and James Gelfand (piano) have decided to make a CD sampler (1996). Which indeed they have, with a cross-section of selections ranging from popular songs such as "Autumn Leaves"/"Somewhere Over The Rainbow", bossa nova ("Black Orpheus"), blues ("Swinging Shepherd Blues"), and familiar jazz standards ("Donna Lee"/"Oleo"). The average 2 minute playing time affords the artists ample opportunity to display their versatility and rapport over a vast expanse of settings as well as offering the listener a steady diversity of musical dialogue.

DSM label DSM 3005 to order

Billy Lester - "Captivatin' Rhythm"

Pianist Billy Lester has released his first recording (1995), a compilation of re-mastered trio and solo pieces from studio and concert performances (some of these are fade-outs). Eleven of the twelve numbers are Lester originals and, though one detects the accredited influences of Sal Mosca and Lennie Tristano, his is a distinctly unique voice, evident in such varied compositions as the rousing opener, "So Nice" (trio), the complex "G Minor Jazz" (solo), the lyrically melodic "To Julie" (solo), a tongue-in-cheek "Sweet and Lively" (trio) and a swinging "Core-Curriculum" (trio). Perhaps the title of the final cut, "Entirely Billy", is most expressive of the overall concept he achieves.

Zinnia label 108 CD to order

Pete Malinverni - "This Time"

Born in Niagara Falls, New York, Malinverni brings a storehouse of playing experiences (Mel Lewis, Don Menza, Jerry Dodgion, Michael Moore, Lew Soloff, et al) to his new trio album (1996), with bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Leroy Williams. Influenced by Bud Powell, Bill Evans, and Ahmad Jamal, he exhibits a remarkable fluency in the presentation of such energetic offerings as "A Line for Nichols" and "How Deep is the Ocean", while other numbers like "This Time" and "Deep River" uncover gentler, more introspective horizons. The mood changes on the disc have been carefully considered to reflect these stylistic qualities. Moreover, rhythmic support throughout is exemplary; note especially "Beautiful Love" and "good Question".

Reservoir label RSR CD 147 to order

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