August 1997


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

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Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen Trio - "Friends Forever"

Canadian pianist Renee Rosness meets the Danish bassist N.H.O.P on a CD recorded in Copenhagen in August of 1995 as tribute to the late pianist Kenny Drew. All of the tunes performed here (except "Kenny"and "Future Child - Friends Forever", which were written by Niels for the session) are tunes that were part of the extensive library used during Niels' three decade partnership with Kenny Drew. Renee, who obviously admired Drew's playing, is very comfortable with the choice of material (listen to the sadness and beauty portrayed in "Kenny"), She is such a melodic player, who projects warmth and love, as Niels notes: "She plays from the Heart". Drummer Jonas Johansen understands the tradition perfectly and pushes and lifts with expertise whether on sticks or brushes. His solos are exciting and well thought out - listen to "Lullaby of the Leaves" for a sampling of his hard swinging approach and to "Sometime Ago" for his tender touch.

"Future Child" has a wonderful pizzicato intro by Niels which segues into a brief piano segment followed by an arco bass solo, then into a medium tempo trio outing, a fitting ending to this tribute to a most remarkable pianist. (H.H.)

Milestone MCD-9269-2 to order

Ingrid Jensen - "Here on Earth"

Role models Kenny Wheeler and the late Woody Shaw have a strong influence in the shaping of Ingrid Jensen's trumpet style. In this, her second recording as a leader, one can experience vividly the growth and maturity of this young artist, already showing a distinctive sound. Working with musicians she obviously admires - Gary Bartz - alto/soprano saxophones, George Colligan - piano/fender rhodes, Dwayne Burno - bass, Bill Stewart - drums and Jill Seifers - vocals, Ingrid displays a wealth of ideas, technique and richness in both her own compositions and her playing.

The lyrics to Bill Evans' "Time Remembered" (written by Ingrid) are given a most sensitive reading by vocalist Jill Seifers, a new voice on the jazz scene, and Ingrid's flugelhorn is mellow and warm. "Consolation" (written by Kenny Wheeler) , the other vocal on this recording opens with a wordless accompaniment by Jill to Ingrid's horn, brings to mind the interweaving voice and flugelhorn of Wheeler and vocalist Norma Winstone on the ECM recording by Wheeler from the 1990 "Music for Large and Small Ensembles". This version is not intended to be a carbon copy, but proves to be a fresh and invigorating look at one of Wheeler's most lyrical compositions. On the four tracks that Gary Bartz appears he adds an extra spark of fire to an already burning session, sample "Avila and Tequila" for a demonstration.

I look forward to much more from Ingrid Jensen both as a leader and composer, and I feel certain you will too upon hearing this particular recording. (H.H.)

Justin Time 8463-2 to order

Free Flight - "First Flight"

Add another exciting Big Band to the ranks of Canadian units very much alive and well. With five saxophones/reeds, five trumpets doubling on flugelhorns, four trombones, and four rhythm this band roars. They navigate with relative ease on charts that are mostly written and or arranged by John MacLeod (trumpet/flugelhorn) and Russ Little (trombone) both of whom have had extensive experience in the respective sections of Big Bands and also as leaders. All the material is rewarding in performance with some outstanding solo space being allotted by the leader Bob Shaw. Listen in particular to Steve Smith's piano and Jon MacLeod's flugelhorn on "Domain of Killien" a tune that paints a very vivid picture of the Canadian Northland, Joey Goldstein's guitar work on Horace Silver's "Doodlin'", or "Night Folk" written by Bobby Brough and featuring solos by Joey Goldstein, Mike Filice (tenor), Roy Styffe (alto). Cool lyricism provide a backdrop for the trumpets of Steve McDade and Jake Wilkinson on "Without a Song" resulting in a focus on colorations and blending into overdrive. Russ Little arranged Benny Golson's "Killer Joe" which features Steve McDade, Russ Little and Steve Smith. Art Blakey would be proud of this version. It was his recording that was used for many years as the theme music for a local jazz show hosted by Wally Dawson (CKLN-FM 88.1 Thursday 7am to 11am). Wally now uses the Free Flight recording. This session has plenty of fresh sounds and manages to illuminate the path a big band should be taking in order to stay alive these days. Climb aboard and experience the delights of this flight. If you are in Toronto in the future check out this web site for the opportunity to catch the band in a club or concert, you will not be disappointed. (H.H.)

UNITY 152 to order

Reg Schwager - "Resonance"

Guitarist Reg Schwager's "Resonance" was originally released on LP format in 1985 and now thankfully has been reissued on CD format (with two additional tracks, worthy pieces, not time fillers). Now many fans new and old may have the distinct pleasure of being exposed to the talented performer both as a player and composer. Born in Leiden, Holland, Reg studied violin in New Zealand at a very early age. His family moved to Canada in 1969 and he began to study classical guitar and was later introduced to jazz, which took him on many trips to other parts of the world working with a variety of seasoned players, Peter Appleyard, Phil Nimmons, Zoot Sims, Ruby Braff, Hank Jones..... It is in this trio setting that one gets to really hear the subtlety, lyricism and warm tone of his playing. With Michel Lambert - drums and Dave Piltch - bass he explores such tunes as Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz", Charlie Parker's "Ornithology", Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" plus standards "Ghost of a Chance", "Poinciana" and some original charts written by himself. It is on his own tunes that he gets a little on the outside and unleashes some explosive moments …. "Crow's Cry" is a typical example. This is a noteworthy session highlighting some exceptional playing by Schwager and cohorts. (H.H.)

Justin Time 13-2 to order

Sarah Vaughan - "in Hi-Fi"

This CD is,in part, a reissue of material (1949-52) put out by Columbia on a 12" LP (CL 745) when that recording technique was a relatively new phenomenon. In addition, there is a previously Unissued "It's all in the Mind" (1952) with large orchestra. At its core, however, are the eight selections from May 1950 with such jazz stalwarts as Miles Davis, Bud Johnson and Benny Green (trombone). In fact, these eight numbers comprise Sarah's only real album cut for Columbia, an early 10" LP (6133) titled simply "Sarah Vaughan". All later LP's were compilations of individual sessions (many still on 78's) designed to feature their new pop star recently drawn to Columbia from her contract with Musicraft records. The bonus here lies in alternate tracks from that 1950 date which, in some respects, afford us the opportunity to hear her jazz accompanists in even greater instrumental freedom. Apart from later recordings for Mercury/Emarcy in the mid 50's, these remain essential early Sarah, with the type of support that best showcased the range, power and control of her rich contralto voice. Liner notes are excellent, and photos abound. (J.S.)

Columbia (Legacy) CK 65117 to order

Louis Armstrong - "The Great Chicago Concert (1956)"

From this extensive 1956 concert, only a medley of two tunes, the opening New Orleans funeral sequence, was released on a compilation LP in 1957. Recorded live at a benefit show in the Median Temple, Chicago, miking unanticipated stage movements had proven to be a problem in sound quality at the start; moreover, the repertoire seemed repetitious of recently recorded concerts. The tapes were subsequently shelved, rediscovered, and issued on two LP's in 1980. The final two numbers "When the Saints….."/"The Star Spangled Banner" were omitted because of space commitment. Here, at last, is the concert complete on two CD's. Louis' All Stars include Trummy Young - trombone, Edmond Hall - clarinet, Billy Kyle - piano, Dale Jones - bass, Barrett Deems - drums, Velum Middleton - vocal, and an always energetic, joyous Louis Armstrong. Despite what some might consider overworked material, every concert, in retrospect, retains a unique, exciting quality of its own. And, as George Avakian states in his liner notes: "Every note Pops ever blew, and every note he ever sang, grow more precious every day. Forever".

The sound on the discs, by the way, is excellent. (J.S.)

Columbia (Legacy) C2K 65119 to order

Sue Foley - "Walk in the Sun"

Ottawa native Foley has spent the last several years in Austin, Texas, only recently returning to her hometown. This is her fourth CD for the Austin-based independent label Antoine's. Her biggest strength is as an electric blues guitarist, showcased on instrumental numbers like "The Snake". Her vocals are still the weakest link, and the songwriting is not particularly striking. The production on this CD, by Stephen Bruton, provides a fuller sound than on some of Foley's previous recordings. With Bruton's own acoustic guitar and mandolin prominent. (C.P.)

Discovery/Antoine's 74701-2 to order

Ann Rabson - "Music Makin' Mama"

Ann Rabson, co-founder of Saffire - Uppity Blues Women (5 recordings on Alligator, and counting), steps out on this first solo session. Now in her early fifties and grandmotherly in appearance, she displays a warm voice, a sense of humour, a good taste in covers, and strong piano playing, this last especially noteworthy because she only took up the piano in her midthirties. She has a strong acoustic piano style, showcased on such numbers as the closing instrumental "Blue Boogie", which she wrote. Of the 16 tracks, all but four are covers, but these are drawn from a variety of sources, from Huey Piano Smith "Baby, Once in a While", to Tin Pan Alley via Josh White "One Meatball", to Z Z Hill "Gonna Stop you from giving me the Blues". Along the way, she is joined on individual tracks by the blues duo Cephas and Wiggins, sax player Greg Piccolo, guitarist Bob Margolin and most strikingly by her sister Mimi on violin on two tracks. A highly entertaining set. (C.P.)

Alligator ALCD 4848 to order

Corey Harris - "Fish Ain't Biting"

Corey Harris could be mistaken for the young Taj Mahal on Taj's series of highly successful Columbia recordings in the late 1960's and early 1970's. There is his voice, the agile work on National steel guitar, the choice of material, a roughly equal mix of traditional tunes, some of them very well-worn, like "Frankie and Johnny", and the use of a New Orleans (his current home) horn section on four tunes, just as Taj Mahal used horns on such recordings as "The Real Thing" and "Happy to be just like I Am". Like Taj Mahal, he has a university degree (in Harris's case, in anthropology). By making this comparison, I don't mean to disparage Harris, but rather to tip him as a young bluesman to watch. Now in his late twenties, he is just beginning to taste success and this is only his second recording. He has toured with B.B. King and Buddy Guy, and played before pop audiences as an opener for acts like Natalie Merchant and the Dave Mathews Band. Most of the songs just feature Harris and his guitar. However, when he does numbers like "Worried Life Blues", by Big Maceo, or "Jack O' Diamonds" by Blind Lemon Jefferson, he manages to make them sound relevant in the here and now, and not just academic exercises. In his own material, he works in contemporary references, as in "5-0 Blues", which is about police mistreatment of blacks, where there is a reference to Rodney King (of the police in California, "they'll treat you like a King - Rodney King"). (C.P.)

Alligator ALCD 4850 to order

John Hicks - "After the Morning"

Veteran pianist John Hicks, whose early recording career hearkens back to Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers of the mid 1960's, is heard in solo recital from the 1992 Montreal Jazz Festival before an enthusiastic audience. What he presents here is a remarkable inventiveness applied with varying dynamics and insightful perceptions to a wide range of source material. With a strong chordal left hand balanced against a lyrically explorative right, we are treated to such medleys as Strayhorn's " A Flower is a Lovesome Thing"/"Chelsea Bridge", or a woven tapestry of Monkish moods and mannerisms in "Monk's Mood"/"Reflections"/"Ruby My Dear". John Coltrane's "Moments Notice" and Bud Powell's "Oblivion", the latter packed with frenetic runs and wild arpeggios, pay homage to two of his favourite jazz people. His own compositions include the title tune "After the Morning", first recorded by him in 1979 and captured here in a mode of relaxed freedom, as well as two numbers inspired by his Montreal visit, a fast paced, boppish "Mt.Royal Blues", and an earthy blues with "Mid-West Blues" ("Blues on the River"). His versatility in any style is evident, and if you're a piano fan, you won't want to miss this one. (J.S.)

DSM - DSM 3011 to order

Wynton Marsalis - "Blood on the Fields"

This work is an ambitious and powerfully stated undertaking, recorded in the Grand Hall of the Masonic Lodge in 1995 with the accompaniment of the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra composed of mainly young musicians who handle their respective roles with precision and commitment. It does have its predecessors, at least musically, in works such as Ellington's "Black, Brown and Beige, or Mingus' "Epitaph": however, the dramatic core sets it apart as does its central subject, American Slavery. The liner notes carefully point out that it is "much more than a tale of racial degradation…." But rather "a metaphor for every question of unfairness and every question of servitude." The roles of the two protagonists are expressively played by Miles Griffith (Jesse) and Cassandra Wilson (Leona), while Jon Hendricks portrays a slave buyer and the pivotal character of the wise man (Juba). The music throughout draws upon the rich historical background of the blues, folk music, spirituals, and Afro-Caribbean roots, all linked by the steady, propulsive rhythmic progression. It's a three hour listening experience (on 3 CD's), but rewarding in every way. A complete libretto is included. (J.S.)

Columbia CXK 57694 to order

Jim Hall - "Textures"

This 1996 release is, perhaps, more reflective of Jim Hall the composer/arranger than Jim Hall the guitarist. As the title aptly suggests, the various instrumental combinations support the search for new and personal forms, shapes and colours in the musical spectrum. Hall is featured both on electric and acoustic guitar with several notable soloists - Claudio Roditi, Joe Lovano, and Jim Pugh contributing along the way. Three of the seven compositions composed by Hall headline brass, including the opening "Fanfare" with drummer Terry Clarke (a frequent player on many of Hall's recordings) laying down a strong marching rhythm to the sturdy staccato bursts of brass and guitar energy, and the intricacy of themes interwoven by the flugelhorn of Roditi on "Reflections". In contrast, the harmonic and rhythmic finesse of guitar, steel drum, bass and drums on "Sazanami" conjure up a feeling reminiscent of the Jimmy Giuffre sessions of the late 1950's. Memorable as well is the plaintive voice of Joe Lovano's soprano sax on "Ragman", and the festive "Circus Dance" with it's humerous drunken waltz set against the mellow, warm strains of Hall's acoustic guitar. It's an aesthetically pleasing disc that, at times, borders the realm of chamber music. (J.S.)

Telarc CD 83402 to order

Ken Peplowski - "A Good Reed"

This 1997 disc features reedman Peplowski with Ben Aronov - piano, Greg Cohen - bass and Chuck Redd - drums, complimented on three of the seven numbers by the Loren Schoenberg Big Band, a 17 piece aggregation that provides a smooth, richly coloured orchestration to Frank Loesser's "I've Never been in Love Before", a swinging, brass-loaded treatment of "Royal Garden Blues", and a full-blown, multi-tempoed support to Peplowski's clarinet excursions on the three part "Homage Concerto for Clarinet and Jazz Orchestra". The leader's tenor swings to a Latin beat on "Luck be a Lady", takes on boppish flavours with "Dream Theme", is lyrically restrained, almost spongy behind Aronov's laid back loose and bluesy handling of "Deep". Kudos, however, goes to "purple Gazelle" (a.k.a. "Angelica"), a rarely heard 1962 Ellington composition;Loren Schoenberg's robust tenor (with a Ben Webster breathiness) joins the quartet, carrying on a Caribbean dialogue with Peplowski's sinewy clarinet, against the chordal plunking of piano and the incessant beat of drums - the essence of the Duke of the 60's. (J.S.)

Concord CCD 4767-2 to order

Michael Marcus/Jaki Byard - "This Happening"

Multi-reed player, Michael Marcus, seems intent on this 1997 recording project to project an overall mood of sublimity to the nine numbers featured, including seven of his own compositions. Selecting a stritch (a straigthened E-flat alto sax), he captures the duality of the setting surrounding the tiny Mojave desert town of Kelso, expansive and isolated "Kelso Tracks South", yet affording a sense of great spatial freedom "Kelso Tracks North", or, he uses it to fashion a tender, melodic scenario for the standard "Darn that Dream". In addition, his soprano-like saxello is earthy and elusive on "The Continuum", while the bass clarinet, with a Dolphy indebtedness, takes over Coltrane's "Giant Steps/Naima". Jaki Byard, as might be expected, is admirably responsive to Marcus's tracery, filtering some distilled Garner here and there, or laying down a flowing blues substratum behind the mournful calls of the reed on "Steppin' Down with Jaki". In retrospect, it's a kind of subdued freedom, but pleasing to the ear. (J.S.)

Justin Time Just 98-2 to order

D.D. Jackson - "Paired Down - Volume One"

Recorded in 1996 in New York City, this is Jackson's third outing as a leader. Is there a new trend starting with this label? Recent releases lean towards the duo concepts, the marvelous Dave Young's three releases with different pianists is a typical example. And now we have volume one of a two volume project with D.D.Jackson in the lead position. On this session he reaches out, creating another avenue in the somewhat new forms of jazz. The Don Pullen influences in his playing are still very evident, but his own voice is becoming much stronger, and there is evidence that this will lead to a very distinctive element in forthcoming recordings and club/concert appearances. Jackson has chosen some pretty tough challenges with such a wide variety of partners, but he meets the challenge and provides the listener with some fascinating material. James Carter on C melody , and tenor saxophones joins D.D. on two tracks, "Rhythm and Things" and "Reflections". The former track finds Carter playing with fury matched by Jackson's prodding stride styled piano under, around and over. David Murray joins Jackson on "Easy" which as the title suggests brings the tempo down and closes out the recording session in a reflective mood. Other exciting and creative members working with Jackson are: Hugh Ragin - trumpet (three tracks), Santi Debriano - bass ( one track), Hamiet Bluiett (two tracks) and Billy Bang - violin (one track). This is forceful, captivating music at it's best, I look forward to volume two with much anticipation. (H.H.)

Justin Time Just 99-2 to order

David Murray - "Fo deuk Revue"

David Murray, well known for being in the forefront of the new wave of the 90's jazz has expanded his horizons once again and in a sense returned to his real roots and brought with him the strong African influences, utilizing not only the melodies but also the musicians.

His visits to Dakar have always been a time for research and performances, but this time (May 1996) he actually recorded, in effect, a dream he had for some time, to go into a studio with some of Africa's best known musicians and create a mix of jazz and original African music of yesterday and today. Fo deuk means "where do you come from?", and Murray shows in this musical foray that he not only comes from the United States with it's constant changes in musical styles but also from Africa….the roots. With him on this outing are some members of his own band including Jamaaldeen Tacuma - bass, Hugh Ragin - trumpet, Robert Irving 111 - piano, Craig Harris - trombone, Junior Soul - vocals, Amiri Baraka - poetry reading, and Amiri Baraka Jr - vocals. Murray plays tenor saxophone and bass clarinet. This is a fine example of World Jazz with a little rap mixed in for stimulation. There are some cuts that are basically straight ahead material featuring the aforementioned band, but it is the African tracks that intrigue. (H.H.)

Justin Time Just 94-2 to order

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

***** excellent. **** good

These are some of the many CD's we at Jazz Canadiana suggest for your summer buying:

Rating Artist Title Label & Cat. No.
***** Donald Harrison "Nouveau Swing" Impulse IMPD-209
**** Antonio Hart "Here I Stand" Impulse IMPD-208
**** Frank Morgan "Bop!" Telarc CD-83413
**** Roy Hargrove "Habana" Verve 314 537 563-2
***** Ray Brown "Some of My Best Friends are....The Sax Players Telarc" Verve 314 537 022-2
***** Mingus Big Band Live in Time Dreyfus FDM365832
***** Henry Threadgill Where's your cup? Columbia CK 67617
***** Monty Alexander Echoes of Jilly's Concord CCD-4769-2
***** Charlie Haden/Pat Metheny Beyond the Missouri Sky Verve 314 537 130-2
***** Bobby Hackett Live at the Roosevelt Grill vol 2 Chiaroscuro CR(D)138
***** Louis Armstrong plays W.C.Handy Columbia CK 64925
***** Quincy Jones The Quintessence Impulse IMPD-222

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