December 2003


Lori Cullen - "So Much"

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The Ron Davis trio is the perfect complement to Lori's honest, straightforward renditions of the 13 tracks on this recent CD. She possesses a throatiness that adds an appealing texture to her vocal stylizations, especially on such numbers as the haunting "Eleanor Rigby", the lonely cry of "Every Day I Have the Blues" , the child-like observations expressed with "Little Things" . Yet she can belt out the lyrics to "Cherokee" , allowing the piano of Davis and Drew Birston's bass opportunities to solo with her, or she an swing with their support to Joey Nash's "So Much Larger Than Life" . Lori and Davis sigh the regret behind Ellington's "Anymore Don't Get Around Much" , capture the fanciful on "If I Only Had a Brain" with the trio eliciting the movements of the man of straw, and reflect the memories of the lovesick duo with "Two Sleepy People" . It's an enjoyable vocal album in every way. I wish, only, that I knew more about Lori Cullen, for notes provide scant information. Nevertheless, highly recommended. J. S.

Rosemary Lane/Cullinor 2358

Holly Cole - "Shade"

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Canadian vocalist Holly Cole presents a selection of standards accompanied by a host of musicians in changing format, including pianist Aaron Davis, bassist Dave Piltch, trumpeter/flugelhornist Guido Basso, reedman Johnny Johnson, drummer Mark Kelso, et al. Piltch and Davis have been with Cole since the early 80's. She shifts moods easily and provocatively, from the atmospheric, pulsating "Heat Wave" or "Too Darn Hot" to the seductively "Something Cool" and the swinging lyricism of "A Cottage for Sale", utilizing artfully the instrumentation and a multiple-voice technique to heighten effects. Especially noteworthy is the delicate balance of voice/piano with "We Kiss in a Shadow"; the vibrant pace given to Rodgers/Hart's "Manhattan", the languid spaciousness afforded "Lazy Afternoon". Cole is a veteran singer with a fine ear for recapturing the familiar in her own unique way. J.S.

Alert 6152810392

Jack Teagarden - "Muskrat Ramble"

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On July 18, 1958, Teagarden took his sextet, "… a group of youngsters in immaculate tuxedos…" into Vancouver's Orpheum Theatre for the second of two nights. Scheduled as a stopover for the visiting Princess Margaret, the princess failed to appear, the result of an overbooked itinerary. The auditorium, though only filled to half capacity, erupted time and again in enthusiastic response "…to some of the finest genuine Dixie ever to come their way". Though now 53, Teagarden proved himself still of the smoothest trombonists in all of jazz. The band's soloists, though unnamed, were polished and formidable in their respective roles, whether beating out such warhorses as "Original Dixieland One-Step", "High Society", or "Muskrat Ramble", or laying down the blues to "Atlanta Blues", "Beale Street Blues" (with T's Texas drawl), and "St. James Infirmary". On the following day, the Vancouver Province newspaper wrote most favourably of the concert, with the lead 'Cheers for the Big T'. Princess Margaret had missed a good one! J. S.

Just a Memory JAM 9149-2

John Stetch - "Standards"

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It's difficult to imagine that Edmonton-born pianist Stetch gained early experience (6 years) as pianist and song-dance man with a hometown polka band. Fortunately, performers such as Bill Evans, Richie Beirach and Kenny Werner have left a more indelible impression on Stetch. Nevertheless, Stetch is very much his own man. A prolific composer, he is also familiar with a wide variety of musical sources, including the classics, and draws upon that knowledge when it suits his purpose. The numbers on this disc reflect this. Charlie Parker's "Segment" is a tribute to the altoist, a monody built around single notes and broken chords; "Out of Nowhere" is given an Argentinean flavour with the coda suggestive "…of my favourite pedal-point master - Frederic Chopin"; "Embraceable You" employs a prelude by J.S.Bach "as a template for this sparse" rendition; "Stella by Starlight" is given an ethereal treatment suitable for its ghost story origin. There is nothing ordinary about Stetch's approach to standards. Each is carefully considered, and uniquely transformed into a memorably designed restatement of the original. Highly recommended, J.S.

Justin Time JUST 190-2

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