December 2000 (Vol. 1)


Lyle Mays - "Solo"

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Apart from a brief stint with the Woody Herman band, much of pianist Lyle May's musical career has been shared in conjunction with guitarist Pat Metheny (from mid 70's). His extensive compositional skills have also graced film scores and documentaries. The world of electronics, with its facility to modulate the textures, moods, and densities of sound, has been of special interest to him. On this 1998 release, all but 2 of the 10 original numbers are improvised at the keyboard, acoustic piano performances simultaneously fed to a computer by a Yamaha Disclavier system (Don't ask!), permitting him to add/shape orchestral patterns into a synthesized meld of sounds. The results are quite startlingly varied, each title conceptually reflecting the music - the beautifully stark, crystalline "We Are Alone"/"Black Ice"; the melodic progressions of "Let Me Count the Ways"/"Long Life"; the assertive, jagged-edged "The Imperative" or "Lightning Field". It's music that transcends the term 'jazz'.

Warner Brothers CDW 47284

Joey Calderazzo - "Joey Calderazzo Trio"

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Although this is Calderazzo's first recording for Columbia, the pianist has been on the jazz scene since 1987 when he joined the Michael Brecker band, following that with 4 recordings as leader, and a sojourn with the Branford Marsalis group. Initially "an excitable young burner" in the mode of McCoy Tyner, he has since learned " let go of some of that technique and explore the emotional side of music more", as evidenced here on the gentler "Haiku" or the balladic "Catania". All compositions are his own, excluding the intricately-shaped opener "The Oracle", or a super-charged "Detonation". The selection of John Patitucci - bass and Jeff 'Tain' Watts - drums as musical mates is a decisive plus; their empathetic accompaniment and well-placed solos provide impeccable support.

Columbia CK 69886

Al Molina - "The Gift"

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West Coast based trumpeter/flugelhornist Al Molina has been on the jazz scene since the late 60's, having accompanied the likes of George Cables, Johnny Griffin, Jessica Williams, Bill Watrous, as well as playing in Europe and the Far East. This CD, his third as leader, features him in a quintet context as player/composer/arranger, with 9 of the 10 numbers his originals.

Beautifully inspired ballads ("Rebecca"/"Claudette") shared respectively by piano - Jeff Pittson, trombone - Al Bent and piano-string synthesizer/flugelhorn truly demand lyrics. A boppish flavour pervades most of the tunes from the lively "Ginair" or "Gone, But Not Forgotten - Shorty Rogers" to the Latin-bop of "Boppin' La Conga" and "Oriental Delights". Richie Beirach's "Broken Wing" is treated to the mournful, mysterious magic of synthesizer and flugelhorn. A rewarding sesion.

Jazzer Records JZCD1002

Roy Haynes - "Roy Haynes Trio"

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For half a century, Haynes has remained the consumate timekeeper, held in high priority by innumerable musicians for his effortless transitions from delicate brushwork to surging dynamics. On this 1999 disc, recorded in 2 sets - a studio session from New York City, and a live performance at Boston's Schullers Jazz Club - he shares the spotlight with pianist Danilo Perez and bassist John Patitucci in a retropsective sequence of numbers paralleling his own career as drummer with the likes of Bud Powell - "Wail", Sarah Vaughan - "Shulie a Bop", Stan Getz - "Dear Old Stockholm", or Pat Metheny - "Question and Answer". Propelled by the energetic duo of Haynes and Patitucci, pianist Perez reaffirms his Latin roots, especially with Chick Corea's "Folk Song" or Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys", scaling down to the balladic beauty of "It's Easy to Remember" and Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss". The trio coalesces in exemplary fashion throughout.

Verve 314 543 534-2

Charles Sibirsky - Mark Josefsberg Quartet - "The BQE"

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Sibirsky - piano and Drori Mondlak - drums from Brooklyn literally bridged the gap to link up with vibist Josefsberg and bassist John DeCesare from Queens in order to make this recording, apparently their first as a foursome; hence, the significance of the title, The 'BQE' (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway). The blend of originals and standards was freely improvised with tempi and breaks not pre-arranged. Results are pleasingly varied - the shifting rhythms and spontaneous accents depict the flow of the title tune; the evolving patterns of "I Remember You" build around the opening melodic statement; the contrapuntal voices of piano/vibes lead into a spirited bass solo on "Give It Time"; a discursive mobility captures the familiar lines of "Have You Met Miss Jones?". The complementary nature of the group is never in doubt.

Zinnia 113

Various -"If I Could Be With You"
Various -"The Re-discovered Louis and Bix "
Various -"Ellington For Lovers "
Various -"C'est Magnifique "
Various -"Swingtime "
Various -"Sweet Sue "
Various -"Raisin' the Roof "
Various -"Blues in Our Heart "
Various -"Blues of Summer "

One of the major recording studios showcasing solid mainstream jazz today is based in Hamburg, Germany. The Nagel Heyer label has become synonymous with swinging performances by outstanding musicians dedicated to the concept that everything old can be made new again. Such melodic joy abounds in the music on the CD's before me.

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1) With fresh arrangements by Randy Sandke, trumpeter Byron Stripling and friends carve out a programme of Louis Armstrong numbers (If I Could Be With You, NH 1010) drawn from a broad scope of favourites - "West End Blues", Struttin' With Some Barbeque", "When It's Sleepy Time Down South", "Mack the Knife". Veteran performers Bobby Haggart - bass and Kenny Davern - clarinet are joined by such younger players as Joe Ascione - drums, Mark Shane - piano, or Joe Helleny - trombone in an amalgam of two sessions (1995/1998) paying tribute to one of the legends of jazz.

Nagel Heyer NH 1010

2) The Re-discovered Louis and Bix (NH 058) offers jazz afficianados a truly unique treat - 9 lost musical gems composed by Louis Armstrong, either never recorded by him, or withmasters destroyed or truncated; in addition, to round out the music, are 7 tunes either never released or attributed to Bix Beiderbecke. It's a heady experience to hear these compositions faithfully and excitingly restored from registered lead sheets (relegated to the obscurity of archival files) by Randy Sandke's New York All Stars, including Wycliffe Gordon - trombone, Ken Peplowski - clarinet, Howard Alden - guitar, Dick Hyman - piano, et al (1999).

Nagel Heyer NH 058

3) Subtitled "The Duke's Most Romantic Songs", the CD Ellington For Lovers (NH 1009) offers a compendium of performances from 1993 to 1998 by groups ranging from small aggregations to octets. The anticipated numbers are here - "Sophisticated Lady" (Harry Allen Quintet), "Warm Valley" (Allan Vache Swingtet), "Creole Love Call" (Oscar Klein's Anniversary Band) - as well as the infrequently heard: "Blues To Be There" (Danny Moss/Roy Williams Quintet), "Azalea" (Butch Miles and Friends); the disc wraps up with a 5-part Ellington medley (Rex Allen's Swing Express). A Ducal feast not to be missed!

Nagel Heyer NH 1009

4) Recorded live at Hamburg's Hanse-Merkur Auditorium (1999), the sextet of trombonist/leader George Masso chose to honour one of America's most popular composers, Cole Porter, with extended performances of 7 of the songwriter's hit tunes (C'est Magnifique - NH 060). Masso, Lou Colombo - trumpet, and Harry Allen - tenor, play the melodic nuances of "It's Alright With Me", "What Is This Thing Called Love", or "Get Out Of Town" to the well-oiled rhythm accompaniment of pianist Johnny Carro, bassist Phil Flanigan, and drummer Jake Hanna, - all to the delight of a receptive audience.

Nagel Heyer NH 060

5) The aura of the dance craze of the late 30's is recreated by the New York City All-Star Big Band (Swingtime - NH 059), led by trumpeter Warren Vache whose credentials hearken back to stints with Benny Goodman, Vic Dickenson, and Bob Wilber. The internationally diversified 11-piece group fairly sizzles on "From This Moment On" or "Jumpin' At The Woodside", captures the flavour of that earlier era with originals "Swingtime" and "B.D.Blues", rolls easily into the ballad "A Portrait of Jenny". Vache is interested in "...bringing this music to a largely young audience...", sessions like this should have that desired effect.

Nagel Heyer NH 059

6) Fats Waller was one of the most entertaining figures and prolific composers of the 30's; "His singing, his humour, his rhythmic piano artistry have made untold listeners happy.....", and it is to these attributes that pianist Ralph Sutton & Friends (Sweet Sue, NH 057) pay tribute on this 1999 release. From the opening interplay of piano, tenor - Brian Ogilvie, trumpet - Jon-Erik Kellso, guitar - Marty Grosz, bass - Dave Green, drums - Frankie Capp, on "Moppin' and Boppin' ", the swinging tandem of clarinet/trumpet on "Yacht Club Swing", to the vocal stylings of guitarist Grosz, theWaller magic emerges. It's joyous, foot-tapping music throughout.

Nagel Heyer NH 057

7) The album's title (Raisin' the Roof - NH 054) is a significant clue to what transpires on this CD, for Allan Vache's clarinet and Jim Galloway's soprano stir up a storm to the swinging backdrop of a rhythm section made up of John Bunch - piano, Howard Alden - guitar, Michael Moore - bass, and Jake Hanna - drums. The reeds mesh wonderfully, exchanging lead roles on such numbers as "Cakewalkin' Babies from Home" or Sidney Bechet's "Si Tu Vois Ma Mere", soloing dexterously and imaginatively with "Oh Sister, Ain't That Hot" and "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor". There's plenty of room too for the other players to break out on their own. Highly recommended!

Nagel Heyer NH 054

8) Though David Ostwald's Gully Low Jazz Band (Blues in Our Heart - NH 051) has no fixed personnel, it plays as though it does. Guided by tuba player Ostwald, the 7-piece band, Randy Sandke - trumpet, Wycliffe Gordon - trombone/vocals, Ken Peplowski - clarinet/alto, Mark Shane - piano, Howard Alden - guitar/banjo, and Herlin Riley - drums - begins by torching Ellington's "Jubilee Stomp", then lightly swings into the lovely ballad "When Day is Done", re-emerging to reinvigorate Armstrong's "Don't Forget To Mess Around". It's a balanced pattern followed throughout, injecting new life into such timeless numbers as "Thou Swell", Benny Carter's "Blues in my Heart", or the earthy vagaries of "Who' Sit". And it's a pleasure to hear the pulse of the tuba backing proceedings all the way. Enclosed notes are excellent.

Nagel Heyer NH 051

9) A blues sampler (Blues of Summer - NH 1011) affords the listener an opportunity to hear a cross-section of jazzmen (in a blues' mode) that have been featured prominently on the Nagel-Heyer label from 1990 to 1999. Performances range from a full-blown 16 member Buck Clayton Swing Band "Black Sheep Blues" to the delicate solo guitar of Oscar Klein "Oscar's Blues"; there are 7 original compositions in addition to such recognizable selections as Billy Strayhorn's "Intimacy of the Blues" (Dave Glasser/Clark Terry/Barry Harris Project), "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" (Bob Wilber), or "Everyday I Have the Blues" (Harry Allen). Warm and relaxing best describes the overall effect.

Nagel Heyer NH 1011

All of the above CD's reviewed by John Sutherland.

Ellis Marsalis - "Duke in Blue"

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Ironically, the least well-known member of the Marsalis family is the father. Seldom playing outside his native New Orleans (by choice), he makes only scattered appearances on disc; as you listen to this Ducal tribute, you may well wonder why. Now in his late 60's, his roots run deep and broad - from Willie 'The Lion' Smith and Jelly Roll Morton to Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman; from composer to educator. The famous sons obviously had a rich heritage to draw upon. In keeping with the CD's title, interpretations are thoughtfully and sensitively rendered. The familiar "Prelude to a Kiss"/"Mood Indigo"/"Creole Love Call" are treated to fresh insights, while the less frequently heard pieces "Squatty Roo"/"Reflections in D"/"Melancholia" are delightfully resurrected. His own concluding composition, "Duke in Blue", carefully captures the Ellington essence. A piano disc to enjoy many times over. J.S.

Columbia CK 63631

Oscar Peterson - "A 75th Birthday Celebration"

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Pianist Oscar Peterson has entertained and amazed audiences worldwide for over half a century. His energy, skill, and innovative imagination come into play every time he sits down to improvise on his favourite instrument.There is no such thing as a poor O.P. performance; hence, any compilation of his prolific recorded output becomes a matter of personal choice. This present CD, chosen from Verve files (1952-70) as a fitting tribute to the Canadian pianist on the occasion of his 75th birthday, catches him in a variety of contexts - mainly in trio format with the likes of Ray Brown, Ed Thigpen, Herb Ellis, or Barney Kessel; as soloist ("Lulu's Back in Town"/"Someone to Watch Over Me"/"A Little Jazz Exercise"/"Orange Coloured Sky"). Three of the 21 numbers are Peterson originals, the final cut being his moving "Hymn to Freedom" (1962). This is a worthy microcosm of the many moods fashioned by this living legend. J.S.

Verve 314 543 902-2

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