January 2000


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

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Various - "Jazz at Day’s End"
Various - "Morning Cup of Jazz"

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Still another extension of Concord’s budget-priced compilation, "Music That Makes the Moment," unfolds with these two releases (There are approximately a dozen CD’s on the market now), each thematically selected "…to fit particular occasions." The numbers range from lightly swinging instrumentals and vocals, "…mood-inducing standards," to Latin-edged performances designed to lift the spirits. Drawn from the broad scope of Concord’s vaults, such artists as Scott Hamilton, Carol Sloan, Gene Harris, Al Cohn, Dave McKenna, Poncho Sanchez, Maynard Ferguson, Gary Burton, et al, fulfil the needs of respective mood swings. If general response is the criterion, the popularity of this project seems assured. (J.S.)

Concord CCD-5203-2 to order
Concord CCD-5208-2 to order

Marian McPartland - "Hickory House Trio: reprise"

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This remarkable 80-year-old pianist continues to enrich the jazz scene with her energetic and creative ventures both on disc and National Public Radio (Piano Jazz Series) where she has spawned a widespread interest in the music through her piano encounters with a host of formidable musicians. She remains one of Concord’s foremost jazz artists. With this 1998 session, recorded live at Birdland, she rejoins musical compatriots Bill Crow – bass and Joe Morello – drums with whom she shared the spotlight at the Hickory House over 40 years ago. The 2-night reunion, rejuvenating many of the numbers they knew so well – "I Hear Music", "Falling in Love with Love", "Tickle Toe", "Symphony", serves as a testament to the close affinity often established among musicians, a bond unaffected by the passage of time. The original Hickory House trio dates, unfortunately, were never recorded. (J.S.)

Concord CCD-4853-2 to order

Fred Hersch - "Let Yourself Go"

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Revisiting the New England Conservatory of Music where he performed as a student in the late 70’s, Cincinnati-born pianist, Fred Hersch, seems inspired in this 1998 faculty recital before a live audience at Jordan Hall. "Most of the tunes here are old friends…," he states, and the performance itself is clearly reflected in the CD’s title. From the sensitively-rendered medley of "Black is the Colour"/"Love Theme from ‘Spartacus’, and adept reworking of the building blocks to Kurt Weill’s "Speak Low", to the gradual unfolding patterns of Alec Wilder’s "Moon and Sand", a percussively jaunty "Let Yourself Go", or a refreshing approach to the discursive intricacies of "Blue Monk", Herche’s playing infiltrates all the interstices of emotion both with clarity and a seemingly inexhaustible creativity. Highly recommended. (J.S.)

Nonesuch 79558-2 to order

Rich Franks/Alex Darqui/John Patitucci - "For Our Friend"

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Dedicated to the late bassist, Jaco Pastorius, drummer/leader Rich Franks, together with Alex Darqui (piano) and John Patitucci (bass), issue his first album under his own name. As producer Bernsen notes, "Jaco’s and Alex’s compositions provided great vehicles for these three improv masters to really stretch…..". Six of the ten numbers are Darqui originals, and reveal a Jarrett-like spontaneity in their presentation – rapid tempo shifts clustered around independent solo excursions ("Unit Sketch"), fluid, loosely fragmented melodies with multi-rhythmic changes ("Stream"), spacious, balladic pieces filled with keyboard colour ("En Debutant"). All trio members are given extensive solo opportunities, but it is their total absorption of roles around a fixed musical core that stands out. It is noteworthy that all profits from the sale of this CD are to be used for the education of musically talented children. (J.S.)

Port-Of-Call Records POC 001 to order

Charlie Haden Quartet West - "The Art of the Song"

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Bassist Charlie Haden, pianist Alan Broadbent, tenorman Ernie Watts and drummer Lawrence Marable are Quartet West. On the premise that "…good music not only lasts forever, but stays fresh forever," the Quartet is joined by vocalists Shirley Horn and Bill Henderson, and the lush strings of a chamber orchestra, all arranged and conducted by Alan Broadbent. A far cry from the earlier days of his Liberation Music Orchestra or the Jazz Composers Orchestra, Haden here pursues "…his love of melody and lyricism", drawing freely from the songbooks of Bernstein, Kern, Nat Cole, and Jimmy Van Heusen, injecting two romantically-flavoured originals ("Ruth’s Waltz"/"Easy on the Heart") as well as charming melodies from Rachmaninoff and Ravel into the mix. Haden’s touching vocal on "Wayfaring Stranger" is a rarity indeed. Low-key jazz as it may be, the music is impeccably presented. (J.S.)

Verve 547 403-2 to order

Lalo Schifrin - "Talkin’ Verve"

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Though Argentinian pianist, Lalo Schifrin, relocated to NYC in 1958, he "never stopped looking south…" to the popular songs of his native land. As pianist/composer/arranger with Dizzy Gillespie (1960-62) and Quincy Jones (mid 60’s), he gained recognition by an international audience which soon led him to Hollywood and the more lucrative and satisfying tasks of composing and scoring for film and TV. This present compendium captures his abilities in those earlier years (1962-66) in the company of some fine musicians – Dizzy Gillespie, Bob Brookmeyer, Cal Tjader, Jimmy Raney, Jim Hall, and J.J.Johnson. The jazz artistry of his brief solos on "The Chains" or "Chorale" mingles with the Latin rhythms of "Samba Para Dos" and "Peanut Vendor", with occasional classical sorties into Gershwin’s "Prelude #2" and Teleman’s Baroque-tinted lines in "Old Laces". As the liner notes so aptly state, he is the master of "…enchanting melodies, enrapturing rhythms, flashy colours". (J.S.)

Verve 314 547 185-2 to order

Various - "Duke Ellington Swings"

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Yet another CD surfaces in celebration of the centenary of Ellington’s birth, a swinging assortment of some of the familiar of Duke’s many compositions. All but two have appeared on previous Telarc releases. The line-up of performers is impressive – Mel Torme/Oscar Peterson/Ray Brown/Dave Brubeck/Jim Hall/Ahmad Jamal/Andre Previn/Bobby Short/Joe Pass. Yet it is often "The-boys-in-the-band" who steal the show, notably trumpeter Clark Terry ("In a Mellow Tone"), the duet of guitarist Ulf Wakenhuis and pianist Benny Green ("Cotton Tail"), altoist Bobby Militello ("Take the A Train"). Highlights, too, are Hall’s guitar solo on "In a Sentimental Mood," Torme on drums with "Rockin’ in Rhythm," Brubeck’s imaginative, change-of-pace handling of "Things Ain’t What They Used to Be". What makes it all work is Duke’s music, always "…harmonically sophisticated, rich in melody, and emotionally accessible" (liner). Recording dates here range from 1989 to 1998. (J.S.)

Telarc CD 83429 to order

Civica Jazz Band – Ensemble dell’Orchestra Sinfonia di Milano Giuseppe Verdi - "The Symphonic Ellington"

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An interesting twist to the proliferation of Ellington tributes is this 1999 CD recorded in Milan, Italy, at its prestigious Teatro Lirico. Its main purpose was to "…highlight Ellington’s diverse compositional methods…" especially his remarkable ability to integrate jazz and classical components in extended format. The three major works featured are the 6-part suite "Night Creature" (revised 1963 version) commissioned by composer/conductor Don Gillis, his 1943 3-part piece "New World A-Comin’ " for symphonic orchestra and jazz band, and a 1969 4-part suite "The Three Black Kings" (never completed by him) performed posthumously (1976) in ballet form by choreographer Alvin Ailey. Interspersed are the 1928 "Swampy River" and "Take the ‘A’ Train" (1941) with pianists Marco Fumo and Enrico Intra respectively. The overall result is an amazingly polished restatement of Ellington’s intent with solos faithfully notated by the Duke. The musicians – students and teachers from The Civic Music School and from one of Milan’s principle orchestras – are to be congratulated for their insight into Ellington’s music as well as the general undertaking of such a challenging task. Liner notes by Maurizio Franco offer an excellent pre-listening perspective to the three Ducal suites. Highly recommended. (J.S.)

Soul Note CD121319-2 to order

Florian Ross - "Seasons and Places" (A)
Florian Ross - "Suite for Soprano Sax and String Orchestra" (B)

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(A) Trained at the Cologne Conservatory, pianist Florian Ross has already had a busy career both as a performer and composer for large orchestras, film, and theatre. On his debut recording with tenorman Matthias Erlewein, trombonist Nils Wogram, bassist Dietmar Fuhr, and drummer Jochen Ruckert, he presents an array of ten original compositions, all strongly in the post-bop mode. The polished interaction among the musicians is evident from the opening "By Any Means Necessary" with the tenor solo building on the integrated framework laid down by the quintet. Solo spots are special – the powerfully stated trombone work on "Ology Elegy", Florian’s harmonically rich handling of the theme with "Sea Greene", the tenor’s abrasive and sinewy core to the lyrical "In Case You Haven’t Heard", the piano/trombone energy that takes us into "Clapham Junction", the delicate bass lines that carry us through "Winteraire". The liner notes confirm that "One of the primary tasks of a bandleader is to choose the players who will best breathe life into your music"; Florian Ross has chosen well. (J.S.)

(B) Drawing upon the works of a number of English composers for his inspiration – Britten, Delius, Warlock, Elgar - Ross discovered that their "…harmony and melody of that period {came} very close to the modern jazz idiom". Re-orchestrating one of their compositions into a jazz context, Ross’s Suite began to take shape, leaving room for improvisation by the musicians. The incorporation of a string ensemble and a featured soprano sax "…fitted the pastoral ‘English’ feel the composition should have" Ross suggests. The Event String Ensemble was made up of freelance players who had experienced in a variety of musical settings, and saxophonist Dave Liebman seemed a natural choice for the project. The Suite (1996-98) is in 7 parts, with an overture and 5 interludes (piano/bass/soprano/Band). It’s a fascinating work, filled with multi-mood swings, changing textures, and colours, instrumental creativity. Liebman is outstanding in the lead role. (J.S.)

(A) Naxos Jazz 86029-2 to order
(B) Naxos Jazz 86037-2 to order

Michael Feinstein - "Big City Rhythms"

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Saving his treasured Gershwin songs perhaps for more intimate contexts, Feinstein surrounds himself with a 20-piece big band (his first session ever with such an expansive aggregation) led by trumpeter/flugelhornist Maynard Ferguson. It’s a widely varied programme aptly showcasing the dynamic range of his voice as well as the vast extent of his repertoire. He’s one of the few singers who charmingly retains introductory verses to songs "The Very Thought of You"/"The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else". Mood and tempo are carefully balanced in selections from a rousing opener "Close Your Eyes", a propulsive "One Day at a Time", to a mellow "Girl Talk", or a nostalgic medley of "When Your Lover Has Gone"/"The Gal That Got Away". Yet, as the title suggests, swing is the thing. His own lilting "The Rhythm of the Blues" and ebullient "Swing is Back in Style" fir well into that mode. Ferguson’s band adds lively and tasteful support throughout. (J.S.)

Concord CCD-4869-2 to order

James Darren - "This One’s From the Heart"

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Darren’s musical career began in the 60’s with 12 albums and a host of top-10’s and numerous awards. Then singer turned actor was featured in prominent TV roles and Hollywood films extending into the 80’s before establishing himself as director of such TV programmes as Melrose Place, Beverely Hills 90210, and Walker, Texas Ranger. Now, following a 10-week stint as hologram singer Vic Fontaine on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he has been offered a multi-recording contract with Concord Records. Success in the world of entertainment appears to come second nature to him. Most of the tunes here are those popularized by his Star Trek counterpart – "The Best is Yet to Come", "All the Way", "Just in Time", "Dancing in the Dark" – standards "…for lovers of classical, swinging crooning". With a voice seemingly undiminished by time, he has come full circle, returning to "…first love". (J.S.)

Concord CCD-4868-2 to order