August 2002


George Essihos - "Solo Journeys"

RealAudio Sample

Vancouver-born pianist Essihos has released his 3rd CD (recorded 2000-1) here, but his first as soloist, having worked earlier in both duo and trio formats. His reasoning is that a solo performance demands more intimacy and challenge while allowing greater freedom at the same time. He has chosen a varied selection of personal favourites, ranging from standards by such notable composers as Julie Styne, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, and George Gershwin, as well as numbers by Bill Evans, Ram Ramirez, and four originals. He draws upon his classical training, and the influence of Evans and Shearing, especially in such pieces as "Echoes of Spain", "Make Someone Happy", a Debussy-like "In a Chinese Garden", strong traces of Evans "Peace Piece" with "To Renate", his multi-tempoed, texturally-layered variations on "What is This Thing Called Love". Versatile, creative, and polished, he obviously enjoyed this outing, as we do. JS

Independent GE-3-2001

Silje Nergaard - "At First Light"

RealAudio Sample

Silje Nergaard, who already has 6 CD's to her credit and has become a seasoned international singing sensation both in concerts and on record throughout Europe and Asia, remains, sadly, virtually unknown in North America. Perhaps this, her 7th album, "…a sonoric soundscape of subtle harmonic textures and rhythms, mixed with seductive melodies…", will help to establish her identity here at last. The Norwegian vocalist is supported by the trio of Tord Gustavsen - piano, Harald Johnsen - bass, and Jarle Vespestad - drums, with additional musical accompaniment by an array of horn, rhythm, and string players (overdubbed in Stockholm). Nine of the 12 selections are her own compositions. Hers is a distinctively recognizable voice, Blossom Dearie-like in its lightness, pitch, and phrasing, displaying a strong sense of melodic inventiveness; yet she can swing too "Let There be Love"/"Keep on Backing Losers". All songs performed in clear, impeccable English. Recommended. JS

Emarcy 014 748-2

John Surman / Jack DeJohnette - "Live in Tampere and Berlin"

RealAudio Sample

The relationship and rapport between Surman (reeds) and DeJohnette (drums/piano) goes back to 1968 in London where their "…immediate affinity…" led to their pairing of ideas and energy on numerous occasions over the years. During the 80's and 90's, they joined forces "…when crowded schedules allowed". On this disc (2000), they are "…committed to free improvising and spontaneous composition", with the exception of the 7th and final piece "Song for World Forgiveness" in which some pre-arranging is done. In addition to their usual instruments they busily incorporate synthesizer and electronic equipment, which give the impression of a much larger aggregation than the duo involved. On "Mysterium", the blend of keyboard synthesizer and the syncopations of an electronic drum create a hauntingly cavernous background to Surman's soprano; with "Outback Spirits", the electronic drum gives a tympani effect to Surman's soprano played through a digital delay unit. The music is a heady experience, mixing the "exultant and tumultuous" with the "tender and carefully considered moments". JS

ECM 440016376-2

John Coltrane - "Live Trane: The European Tours"

RealAudio Sample

The musical excursions of tenor man John Coltrane in the 50's had been largely based on the bebop chording of his predecessors (Parker/Rollins/Gordon), complicated chord patterns built into improvising on scales around familiar tunes with the occasional balladic development; retaining a lyrical core. They were expansive blowing sessions, a hard-driving flow of musical phrases and ideas; Coltrane pushed these techniques to their limit, creating what some have described as "sheets of sound" in his playing.

By the 60's Coltrane had abandoned the linear style of the bop era in a relentless search for new territories to explore with new modes of self-expression, experimenting with open-ended modal forms free from harmonic restraints. His approach was one of great technical virtuosity with speed and accuracy of execution foremost. It was "…a kind of transcendence…wherein one's feelings and emotions become the sound". Many performances were lengthened beyond what most listeners could comfortably handle. A growing interest in Indian music led to his inclusion of the soprano sax (c1960) in an effort to mirror its sounds and subtleties. The presence of a responsive support was essential. The trio of McCoy Tyner - piano, Jimmy Garrison - bass, and Elvin Jones - drums seemed ideally suited to his pursuits, constantly reshaping and altering the flow beneath his sorties, or scaling down to respond to those moments when the piece took on a lush, poignant beauty in Coltrane's never-ending musical journey, always searching for what was possible rather than what was or is.

These live session, recorded between November '61 and November '63 in European cities (Paris/Stockholm/Hamburg/Berlin/Stuttgart) pleased Coltrane who felt that he garnered energy from crowd response; yet, they had their limitations as recordings too - extraneous noises, inconsistencies in performance, the often dulling effect of repetition of numbers (a limited band book). For example, the concert dates here feature 6 "My Favourite Things", 5 "Mr.P.C."/"Impressions", 4 "Naima", interesting but weighing heavily on the listener's patience as recordings. Nevertheless, they represent historic gems" the time he transformed his music (and by extension, the rest of jazz) forever". The enclosed booklet contains excellent notes and photographs. Much of the material had been previously unreleased. Basically for Coltrane completists. JS

Pablo 7PACD 4432-2 (7 CD's)

Dutch Jazz Orchestra - "Strayhorn and Standards"

RealAudio Sample

Billy Strayhorn, the composer of such memorable compositions as "Lush Life", "Chelsea Bridge", "Day Dream" and Take the "A" Train", arranged some 600 songs over three decades for the Ellington orchestra most of which were performed or recorded by the Duke. Yet numerous arrangements remained shelved, often remaining only as "…page after page of notes". None of those on this disc was ever recorded commercially (except "Where or When"), and eight of the fourteen are world premieres. Leader Jerry Van Rooyen has painstakingly resurrected these Strayhorn arrangements, giving them musical life while maintaining "uncompromising respect of the original scores". Dates of the arrangements are given (e.g. "Autumn in New York" - arranged 1948/"The Man I Love" - arranged 1943/"Lover Man" - arranged 1945-46). The orchestra is a polished aggregation, with excellent soloists including Toon Roos - tenor, John Ruocco - clarinet, as well as vocals by Marjorie Barnes. JS

Challenge CHR 70090

Hoagy Carmichael (Beloved and Rare Songs) - "Stardust Melody"

RealAudio Sample

A representative collection of Carmichael songs, both familiar and long-forgotten, are given fresh interpretations by a host of vocalists and instrumentalists, including trumpeter Richard Sudhalter whose recent publication of a new Carmichael biography coincides with this release. Amidst the sprinkling of support from Sudhalter - trumpet, Ben Aronov - piano, Howard Alden - guitar, Dan Levinson - reeds, Tom Artin - trombone, Joe Cocuzzo - drums, we have the inimitable phrasing of pianist-vocalist Bob Dorough "New Orleans"/"Big Town Blues", the mellow voicing of bassist-vocalist Jim Ferguson "Moonburn"/"The Lamplighter's Serenade", the vibrantly distinctive voice of Barbara Lee "April in my Heart"/"The Rumba Jumps". Instrumental highlights include a swinging version of "Little Old Lady" and the nostalgic strains of "Snowball". The session is a trip down memory lane with the music of one of the great composers of popular song. JS

A Records AL 73231

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