April 1998


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

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Jane Bunnett and the Spirits of Havana - "Chamalongo"

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Soprano saxophonist/flautist Bunnett has a love affair with the music of Cuba, and on this, her second recording for EMI/Canada she continues to explore and expose the mysteriously seductive sound of the Cuban musicians. She has surrounded herself with some of Cuba's best, including 72 year old Frank Emilio who is considered the father of Cuban jazz piano, vocalist Mercedes Valdes; whose sensuous voice captures the very essence of life in Cuba, Yosvanny Terry, a young tenor saxophonist , whom Jane had met in Paris some years ago (listen to - his first recording as a soloist on - "Freedom at Last", he bursts forth with a searing solo that will leave you breathless); and then there's pianist Hilario Duran whose playing has few equals in this setting. On "Descarga A La Hindemith" bassist Carlitos del Puerto excels with a fiery solo over a boiling rhythm section, and provides a strong anchor to the rhythm section on the balance of the tracks.

There are the Cuban Folkloric all-stars too, pulsating under each soloist and Larry Cramer's trumpet joining in on the celebration. This is exciting music played by an exuberant group of musicians, but it is the leader who dominates with her characteristic high energy, virtuosity, sensitivity and wit. For more chapters in this series I urge you to refer to "Jane Bunnett and the Cuban Piano Masters" (on EMI), "Brazil/Cuba" and "Rendez-vous" (these are on the Justin Time label). (H.H.)

EMI Music Canada 7 2438 23684 2 7 to order

Mark Eisenman - "The Chant"

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The joyful nature of this session; a debut recording for Eisenman as a leader with bassist Steve Wallace and drummer John Sumner, is evident to the listener from the opening bars of track one (the title track). Eisenman has recorded some fairly obscure tunes here by composer/players for whom he obviously has a great deal of admiration and respect The trio creates a happy and infectious mood on Ray Bryant's "Reflection" with some block chords by pianist Eisenman, joyous hard swinging bass from Wallace and impeccable time from Sumner. There are two solo piano tunes on the eleven track CD - Thelonious Monk's " 'Round Midnight"; taken at a medium tempo for the most part, with an occasional nod at some Monkism's, overall an all to brief excursion. And Matt Dennis' "Everything Happens To Me" is treated to a much slower tempo, allowing Eisenman to fully explore the melody in a somewhat reflective mood. Also represented on this session (with the trio) are tunes by Russ Freeman, Benny Golson, John Lewis and Junior Mance.

An impressive recording, well engineered, showcasing a pianist who deserves to be heard by a larger audience. (H.H.)

Unity 163 to order

Charlie Haden - "The Montreal Tapes"

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Recorded live at the 1989 Montreal International Jazz Festival by Radio-Canada was a series of 8 concerts paying tribute to bassist Charlie Haden, each bringing together musicians with whom Haden had played over an illustrious and lengthy career. Verve records has already released some of these, including this present CD featuring Haden with pianist Geri Allen and drummer Paul Motian. There are few bass players who can match the improvisatory range, richness and sensitivity of Haden, and the superb interaction of this musical triumvirate reinforces that observation. His stylistic adaptability is evident throughout, from the riveting bass solo ("Blues in Motian"), a sudden shift from overdrive to delicate fluidity as he saws and shards "Fiasco" in a terpsichorean duet with pianist Allen, to the deep, darkly-toned atmosphere he creates behind Allen's filtering of the melodic lines to "In the Year of the Dragon". Motian provides dramatic overtones, lightening or accelerating the pace to compliment the demanding qualities of the six original compositions. This is a disc not to be missed. (J.S.)

Verve 537 483-2 to order

Randy Sandke - "Awakening"

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In essence, this is not a jazz album, but rather a showcase for Sandke's adaptability to many musical contexts as well as a testimony to his own creative spirit as composer/arranger. The first seven numbers, recorded in 1997 with members of the Bulgarian National Symphony, reflect both his classical roots with "Fugue State 1, 11" drawing upon Bachian fugal concepts, and a reasonably faithful rendering of Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question" ( beautifully subdued but expressive), as well as shimmering tributes to Ellington/Strayhorn ("Bouquet") and Bix ("Cloudy"). The centrepiece, "Overture for the Year 2000", draws upon the full orchestra in a developing series of tonal fragments by woodwinds, strings, percussion, and brass. The remaining compositions feature Sandke with a jazz ensemble, (recorded in NYC, 1988), with the group's double rhythm (11/4 - 4/4) washing over Jim McNeely's churning piano solo on "Sea Change", a trio evolving a synthesized dream world with "Awakening", or Sandke's clear, mellow trumpet lines on a brief solo offering of "Prelude to a Kiss". A disc especially for those with broad musical perspectives. (J.S.)

Concord 42049-2 to order

Highly recommended CD's without reviews, star rated as follows:

***** Excellent
**** Good

Rating Artist Title Label & Cat. No.

**** Michel Lambert 5ieme Cycle de 7 Rant 9725
**** Dylan Cramer The First One DSM DSM3016
***** Melvin Rhyne Mel's Spell Criss Cross 1118CD
**** Bill Stewart Telepathy Blue Note 7243 8 53210 2 3
***** Barry Elmes Different Voices Cornerstone CD107-2
***** Ranee Lee Seasons of Love Justin Time JUST 103-2
***** Oliver Jones Have Fingers, Will Travel Justin Time JUST 102-2


***** Wild Bill Davison The Jazz Giants Sackville SKCD2-3002

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