December 2000 (Vol. 2)


Michael Occhipinti "Creation Dream, the Songs of Bruce Cockburn"

RealAudio Sample

Co-leader of JUNO award winning NOJO (Neufeld Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra), guitarist Michael Occhipinti steps away from the larger ensemble into a smaller unit to perform the music of one of Canada's foremost pop artists, Bruce Cockburn. There is a link with Cockburn's music and jazz, Bruce studied jazz composition at the Berklee College of Music in the 60's and later used jazz musicians (Gary Burton, Pat LaBarbera, Freddie Stone, and Katherine Moses) on some of his 25 albums he has recorded over the past thirty years.

Occhipinti brings together a most exciting group of musicians: Andrew Downing - bass, Barry Romberg - drums, Kevin Turcotte - trumpet, Mike Murley - tenor, Hugh Marsh - violin, with special guest appearances by Don Byron - clarinet/bass clarinet, ("Mistress of Storms"), ("Rumours of Glory"), ("If I Had a Rocket Launcher"), and Bruce Cockburn - guitar ("Pacing the Cage"). Producer Jon Goldsmith sits in on one track ("One of the Best Ones"), playing piano, plus some additional percussion work by Jean Martin. The instrumentation utilized for each piece responds exceptionally well to the arrangements by Occhipinti, who revels in the challenge he set himself. A true master of the art of jazz today.

True North TND 216

Nancy Walker "Luminosity"

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In her second recording as a leader (the first: "Invitation" Unity 155), Nancy uses the same bassist and drummer (a working unit, with her on most of her gigs), Barry Romberg, a most inspirational and exploratory percussionist, and Kieran Overs, a member of the elite bass players that make Toronto their home. Added to this cast of exceptionally creative musicians is vibist Stefan Bauer (from Winnipeg), who injects another dimension, on the selections he is featured.

The eight tunes chosen for this recording reflect Nancy's distinctive and personal style, be it one of her originals, or arrangements of tunes written by a composer she obviously admires. There are four tunes by Nancy "Twice around the Park", "Luminosity", "The Inside Line" and "Old Souls", plus Carla Bley's "Syndrome"; Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman", Duke Ellington's "Angelica" (Purple Gazelle), and Lennon/McCartney's "The Long and Winding Road".

This recording offers a rich blend of irresistible rhythms, lyrical melodies, and exciting ensemble and solo features that engage the listener with each listening. The colours of the compositions, when blended with hues provided by the participating musicians constitute a vivid palette

Unity UTY 1473

Tracey Wilkins "I Wish I Knew"

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For her first recording, vocalist Tracey Wilkins fronted a ten-piece band, on this, her second release she works with a quintet singing twelve standards, arranged by tenor saxophonist Andy Ballantyne, who along with William Sperandei - trumpet, David Braid - piano, Michael McClennan - bass and Mark McLean - drums, supply swinging support and solos that compliment the splendid vocals by Tracey. There are some real old chestnuts; all made the more attractive with the polished and exciting presentation. "It Might as Well as be Spring" (Sperandei's attention to beautiful phrasing), "Honeysuckle Rose", (Braid's, Dave McKenna inspired style), "Oh, Lady Be Good", McLennan's bright and energetic spot; throughout the recording his performance is a joy to hear). "I've Never Been in Love Before" (Ballantyne's solid swinging tenor, a feel-good tone). His backing on "My One and Only Love", is lush and full of passion.

This is indeed a fine performance from beginning to end, a splendid documentation in the life of a fine jazz vocalist.

Independent TAW-2000-1

Oscar Peterson "Trail of Dreams"

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When two musical giants/geniuses meet, one expects extraordinary things to happen, and they do so in this release by Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson and French composer/arranger/conductor Michel Legrand. The string section (from the Toronto Symphony), under the direction of Legrand, never gets in the way of the quartet, Peterson - piano, Ulf Wakenius - guitar, Neils Henning-Orsted Pedersen - bass and Martin Drew - drums, but rather enhances and, in some instances, serve only as a backdrop to the performances by the individual soloists, and/or quartet."Trail of Dreams", comprising twelve 'sound scapes' is inspired by a 16,000-kilometer recreation trail that spans Canada. (from liner notes).... "I feel that the music speaks to the picturesque and photographic scenic quality of various places in Canada that the Trans Canada Trail passes through", explains Peterson.

It does just that, very much like his "Canadiana Suite" did in 1964, and even, at times, has that sameness about it.

Oscar has written some exciting and memorable music for this suite, and much of it is very descriptive in sound, of the landmarks associated with it. O. P. gets into a soulful groove on "Cookin' on the Trail" and gives Wakenius equal space to solo. "Banff the Beautiful", celebrates the beauty of that picture-perfect part of Canada, breathtaking visions of trees and valleys, and the strings, underneath the quartet, paint the canvas with elan.

There is a wealth of great music on this disc, an eloquent tribute to Canada, and another showcase of Peterson's enormous talent.

Telarc CD-84500

Rob McConnell Tentet - "Rob McConnell Tentet"

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Reducing the "Boss Brass" (21 members including the leader), to a total of 10, has not reduced the power and strength of this unit, comprising of members of the 'big' band. There are more opportunities for the individual members to solo, including Rob, and they are all exceptional personalities who enjoy the music.

This debut CD of the 'Tentet' offers 11 outstanding examples of musicianship in playing, writing and arranging. The recording presents a varied programme of well known standards and originals that range from "Old Devil Moon" featuring Alex Dean on tenor), through "Speak Low" (Steve Wallace - bass), "Con Alma" (Steve McDade - muted trumpet), "Lush Life" - Guido Basso -fluglehorn, "Two Bass Hit", a showcase for the saxophone section - Mike Murley, Alex Dean - tenors, P.J.Perry - alto (for those who remember, something akin to Jazz at the Phil, in excitement is generated here). The diversity of tunes and the swinging performances captured here should auger well for the band to capture a new audience as well as satisfy the old friends of the "Boss Brass". The rhythm section of Terry Clarke - drums, Steve Wallace - bass and Dave Restivo - piano perform with verve throughout, creating all the elements of great jazz. Clearly this recording is labour of love, and the JustinTime label deserves high praise for signing Rob to a contract, that I feel sure will see further releases of equal importance.

Telarc CD-84500

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