February 1999


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

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Emile-Claire Barlow - "Sings"

RealAudio Sample

Newcomer on the scene Emile-Claire is a refreshing voice amongst the many singers who are recording today. She sings in a warm, clear, fluid manner, not afraid of stretching from a low note to high note, the latter are always crystal clear. This is a splendid debut release with invigorating arrangements of standards such as "I Thought About You", "The Shadow of your Smile" which cleverly segues into "All the Things you Are", "You Don’t Know What Love Is" and jazz classics "Stolen Moments", and "Billie’s Bounce" (here she uses her voice as another front line horn very effectively). The wordless voicing on Hermeto Pascal’s "Pipoca" paints brilliant images of Brazil. Her salute to Ella Fitzgerald on "How High the Moon" is a pure delight showcasing the strong influence of the late great lady of jazz.

The super selected group of musicians backing up Emile-Claire get plenty of room to show of their exceptional talents, John Johnson on soprano, Tom Szczesniak – piano and accordion (his solo on the latter instrument on "Pipoca" is full of emotion and fire), Rob Piltch – guitar, Vern Dorge and Chris Mitchell – tenors, Russ Little and Terry Promane – trombones, Guido Basso – flugelhorn (poignant on "You Don’t Know What Love Is" and searing on "How High the Moon"). Let us not forget the contributions of bassist Scott Alexander ( constantly lifting the proceedings), Emile-Claire’s father Brian – drums, vibes, percussion (swinging hard and holding everything together), plus other members, trumpeters Chase Sanborn and Steve McDade. This is a session that demands repeated listening whether for a favourite track/tracks or the CD as a whole. Whether telling a story, evoking a mood or swinging like there’s no tomorrow the proceedings on this recording are beautifully dealt with by a crack group of musicians. I think I’ll place the CD back in my player and take some time out to listen again. (H.H.)

RT CD 0001 to order

Stan Getz/Eddie Sauter - "Mickey One" (film sound track)

RealAudio Sample
The 1996 film, starring Warren Beatty, was not a commercial success. The music from the soundtrack, composed by Eddie Sauter and featuring tenorman Getz, was quickly forgotten – a collector’s item for the Getz fans indeed. Its re-release incorporating the initial 12 tracks from an MGM LP as well as the music from the film score itself reveals the affinity between the two men whose roots date back to the Goodman band of the mid-forties. Sauter always claimed that it was a more challenging role for Getz than his now classical Focus album, and Getz’s improvisational creativity certainly carries the day here. The full orchestra, with added strings and percussion, is of indeterminate makeup, though recognizable names such as Roger Kellaway – piano, Richard Davis – bass, Mel Lewis – drums, and Clark Terry – trumpet/flugelhorn have since surfaced. It is "……a rare melding of image, dialogue and music…" (liner), with Getz flourishing brilliantly on such numbers as "The Succuba" or "Shaley’s Neighbourhood Sewer & Pickle Club Rock", mesmerizing lyrically with "A Girl Named Jenny" and "Touching in Love". The multi-tracked solo excerpts from "Mickey’s Flight" offer rare insight into Getz’s skill and acuity. (J.S.)

Verve 314 531 232-2 to order

Fred Hersch + Bill Frisell - "Songs We Know"

RealAudio Sample
The pairing of guitar and piano, especially in a duo setting, can be like taking an imaginative journey into two musical minds, each letting go and giving at the expense of nothing and the results being spectacular. They can go together like the martini and the olive but more times than not the result can be like a Molotov cocktail. Lucky for us, Fred Hersch and Bill Frisell dovetail their musical visions on this beautifully recorded CD of the songs that they know. All eleven songs are standards and the listener is treated to a very fresh and sometimes whimsical take on these pieces that could have otherwise been quite mediocre because of the number of times we have heard them before.

The expressive interplay on tunes such as "Someday my Prince will Come", "Wave", "It Might as well be Spring" and "What is this thing called Love" as well as a somewhat eerie rendition of "Yesterdays" make this recording a must have. It just seems to get better each time I play it. (S.B.)

Nonesuch 79468-2 to order

Quincy Jones - "Big Band Bossa Nova"

RealAudio Sample
The Brazilian rhythms of the bossa nova (new wave) gained rapid popularity in the 60’s and early 70’s; such familiar performers as Charlie Byrd, Stan Getz, Bud Shank, Jim Hall, Laurindo Almeida and Quincy Jones soon championed its carnival-like atmosphere. As an arranger/conductor, Jones was a master in assembling top notch musicians for his varied sorties into jazz, film, or popular music, as is evident on this 1962 re-release. Though numbers are of relatively short duration (the disc runs about 35 minutes), the propulsive energy balanced among brass, reeds and percussion is sheer magic. Featured soloists include altoist Phil Woods ("Lalo Bossa Nova"/Samba de Una Nota"), trumpeter Clark Terry ("Boogie Stop Shuffle"/"Chega de Saudade") and guitarist Jim Hall ("Desafinado"). Popular standards such as "On the Street Where You Live", Leroy Anderson’s "Serenata", and "A Taste of Honey" (a previously unissued track) take on expanded interpretations rhythmically and harmonically. And catch Roland Kirk’s readily identifiable flute on the opening "Soul Bossa Nova". (J.S.)

Verve 314 557 913-2 to order

NOJO - "You are Here"

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One of Canada’s finest contemporary Jazz Orchestra’s is co-led by two remarkable talents – guitarist Michael Occhipinti and pianist Paul Neufeld (Neufeld Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra) who also share the compositional credits for this recording which has, as a very special feature, the additional talents of clarinetist Don Byron.

The tunes are at times, humerous, slightly outside, but at all times creating finely balanced tensions.

Taking a friend to hear this particular rendition of the band in performance he remarked that he felt they were "quirky….but damn…. they could hold your attention and make you feel good". An apt description.

The presence of Byron just adds another dimension to the proceedings and every member extends him or herself to extreme levels of energy and joy. (H.H.)

Auracle AURCD 1006 to order

Tyler Yarema - "Gotta Bran’ New Suit"

RealAudio Sample
Take a step into the past with a young band performing music associated with the likes of Pete Johnson, Fats Waller, Big Joe Turner, Otis Spann, Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. The influences of the above mentioned artists are strong in everything that pianist/vocalist/composer Tyler Yarema and his Rhythm do on this debut CD. Yarema is more than capable of providing all the rhythmic intensity, melodic and harmonic improvisation than anyone could desire, but in the presence of equally inspired musicians he shines like a bright star playing piano, and he has a good voice for the material chosen here. In collaboration with vocalist Terry Wilkins he wrote two of the songs "Why Did God Make Boogie-Woogie?" (showcase for Tyler’s warm and saucy piano playing) and "For One More Day" (a melodic and mellow offering with some flowing phrases by trumpeter Chris Whiteley and alto saxophonist Chris Gale). Gale is featured on baritone on some of the tracks, most notably with a roaring, funky solo encouraged by shouts from the rest of the band on "Sing, Sing, Sing", there is also some gutsy trumpet by Whiteley and hot two fisted piano from Tyler. Plenty more blues and boogie delights can be found on all of the other tracks, making this recording an experience that should not be missed. Recording quality is exceptional too. (H.H.)

Radioland RACD 10011 to order

James Brown - "First Dance"

Four young musicians performing strong and memorable original compositions written by Brown (guitar) on this independently produced CD.

John Obercian has to be one of the most tasteful and, when required, one of the hardest swinging drummers around the Toronto scene.

On either alto or soprano saxophones Ernie Toller is a pure joy to listen to, fluid, probing and focused.

Bassist Andrew Downing presents rock solid support and supple solos.

The leader James Brown is exploratory, inventive with a natural fluency and a ton of endless, intriguing ideas. (H.H.)

XX1 Jazz XX1-CD 2 2162 to order

Tracey Wilkins - "Some Other Spring"

With strong influences from Ella Fitzgerald, Wilkins has a natural empathy for standard compositions. With arrangements split between Paul Ashwell (trombone/euphonium) and Andy Ballantyne (alto/flute) the 10-piece band lifts vocalist Wilkins to high levels of excitement.

Plenty of solo space is given to members of the band: Jason Logue, Jake Wilkinson - trumpet/flugelhorn, Ballantyne, Quinsin Natchoff – tenor/flute, Kenny Kirkwood – baritone, Ashwell, David Restivo – piano, Reg Schwager – guitar, Andrew Downing – bass, Kevin Dempsey – drums.

At times the band sounds much larger than 10 pieces, especially noticeable on "Caravan", "Night and Day" and "My Romance". (H.H.)

RDRCD-2950 to order

Michael Occhipinti - "Surrealist Blues"

Another outlet for guitarist Occhipinti, on this small group session (one of his working units), he gets plenty of opportunity to display his technique and solo work (he doesn’t solo much with NOJO). This is a really exciting group also, with some outstanding fellow musicians, Mike Murley – tenor/soprano, Barry Romberg – drums, Andrew Downing – bass plus special guests Paul Reddick – vocals and harmonica (title track) and Darrell Grant – piano (two tracks).

Occhipinti is a gifted composer, and the conception in this setting is to have one foot outside and the other not quite on the inside. The compositions heard here effectively engage each musician’s manner to maintain high levels of tension and challenge. Grant’s presence on the two tunes leaves one breathless in anticipation of his working more with the band. A most successful outing for all concerned. (H.H.)

Auracle AURCD1005 to order

David Occhipinti - "David Occhipinti"

Cousin to Michael and also a guitar player leads a trio with Jim Vivian – bass, Kevin Dempsey, with the addition of Dave Restivo – piano on four of the ten tracks on this CD recorded in 1997.

David plays with a rounder (Jim Hall influenced) darker tone than Michael, yet can also stretch outside.

This is a spirited group demonstrating the ability to offer strength, inventive solos and infectious rhythm. A joy to experience. (H.H.)

Unity UTY-153 to order