January 2001


Assorted Musicians - "Silence in Jazz"

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On the premise that "The future of jazz is written in its history", Verve has released a composite of some of its recording artists (1946-1984) drawn from its extensive catalogue - re-releases, remastered, and revitalized technologically. Selections were chosen for their historical value, both studio and live sessions, by musicians representative of their time. Thus, the venture seems a fitting beginning to a new millennium in which the evolution of the music is undoubtedly destined to undergo significant changes. Ranging from the distinctive tenor flow of Lester Young "Back to the Land", and the dramatic power of Charlie Parker "Bloomdido", the understated elegance of Bill Evans/Jim Hall "I've Got You Under my Skin" or the economical lyricism of Lee Konitz "People Will Say We're in Love", to the compact energy of Charlie Haden's trio "Turnaround", the fulfilment of Verve's undertaking has begun. Further discs in the series are planned. JS

Verve 314 541 788-2

Chet Baker

In a way, these 3 discs encapsulate the musical life of trumpeter Chet Baker (Dec 23/29 -- May 13/88). A fragile, sensitive being with an aura of innocence about him, Baker's meteroic rise to stardom was short-lived; with energy finally depleted, his brief career was too soon snuffed out in its own final glow.

Chet Baker - "This Time The Dream's On Me" Vol 1

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Having burst onto the scene with Gerry Mulligan, with his own quartet Baker was now fulfilling the promise that jazz fans anticipated. As Mulligan had stated, "Chet was a kind of fresh talent....I've never been around anybody who had a quicker relationship between his ears and his fingers" (liner). The 2 concerts here, the first from the Carlton Theatre in L.A. (Aug 12/53 - previously unissued) and the second (May 9/54) from the Masonic Temple, Ann Arbor, capture that "budding talent", live before receptive audiences. With Russ Freeman -piano, Carson Smith - bass, and Larry Bunker - drums (#1-5), Bob Neel - drums (#6-14), Baker shows his improvisational facility, blowing up a storm with "All the Things You Are", "This Time the Dream's on Me', or a Latinized "Maid in Mexico", easily shifting to a cooler, balladic style on "My Funny Valentine" and "My Old Flame". The genesis to stardom was set in motion. JS

Pacific Jazz 7243 5 25248

Chet Baker - "Chet Baker in Paris"

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An 8 month European tour (1955-56) helped to broaden the scope of Baker's appeal. His most consistently successful recording dates were those on the French Barclay label, perhaps stimulated by the fresh, alive ambience of a Paris that fostered a plethora of active jazz musicians and bistros, accompaniment by players generally unfamiliar to him, arrangements by such skilful notables as pianist Francy Boland, bassist Pierre Michelot, or reedman Bobby Jaspar. The selected numbers here, a blend of quartet and orchestral settings, reveal a lyrical, restrained Baker, plumbing the melodic lines of such standards as "Tenderly", "Summertime" and "Alone Together", rising to more animated demands of "Sad Walk" (with Dick Twardzik on piano), Phil Urso's "Exitus", or Michelot's "Not Too Slow". Chet's breakthrough vocal "Everything Happens to Me", with its sense of haunting intimacy, was to become an element that would, over the years, attract countless new listeners. JS

Emarcy 543 547-2

Chet Baker - "You Can't Go Home Again" (2CD)

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By 1977, Baker clearly showed the ravages of his long struggle with heroin.Trips to the U.S.A. were few. He preferred the European setting where people equated his physical decline in romantic terms, viewing him as a great artist, "...an angel of melody...suffering for his art" (liner). Americans generally saw him as "...a relic of the fifties", a "...one time golden boy who had destroyed his gifts". Hence, this New York session was not an easy one for Baker. As well, the orchestral context was quite unfamiliar for him with its use of electric guitars, bass, and pianos, though Don Sebesky's arrangements softened their deployment. There is considerable overdubbing. Ten tracks are unissued or alternatives. Certainly, both Baker's instrumental tone and voice had deepened; uncharactistically, there were fiery, Miles-like moments in his playing that suggested a feeling of overcompensation for techniques long dissipated, though the intent was obviously from the heart. Baker returned to Europe shortly after. JS

Verve 314 543 516-2

Guido Basso - "The Holy Jazz Concert"

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The affinity between jazz and religious music in North- America is not as far-fetched as one might believe. Historically, the roots of early jazz can be traced back to a rhythmic freedom and sense of communal togetherness that pervaded the psalmody of early church gatherings. Recorded in the spacious ambience of Toronto's Grace Church-on-the-Hill, the Gentlemen and Boys Choir and St. Cecilia Choir are joined by trumpeter Guido Basso, with piano, bass, organ, and percussion, in a programme of hymns and traditional English choral music largely arranged by percussionist Brian Barlow. Apart from such pieces as Elgar's "Ave Verum Corpus", an arrangement of three short works by William Byrd "Three Byrd Voices", and the traditional "Amazing Grace", we have John Dankworth's "Light of the World", Barlow's own "Sing to the Lord a New Song", and a 3-part "New Orleans Medley" of familiar hymns. The core of the concert is William Byrd's "Mass for 4 voices", its 8 parts alive with the fervour of voice and improvisational instrumentation of the players, especially Basso, whose burnished tone is a strong unifying element. JS

Rhythm Tracks 0002

Ketil Bjornstad / David Darling - "Epigraphs"

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Though Bjornstad and Darling have definite links to jazz dating back to the 70's, the former leading his own groups and the latter notable in support of such aggregations as those of Ralph Towner, Terje Rypdal or Paul Winter, this CD seems almost devoid of the rhythmic, dynamic elements of jazz. The 16 miniatures, works composed by pianist Bjornstad and cellist Darling or arranged pieces by such composers as William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, Guillaume Dufay, Gregor Aichinger, display a unity of intent more in keeping with the roots of classical music.This is not to dismiss the finely-poised balance of piano and arco cello that produces moments of restrained beauty, textural nuances, subtle tonal shifts - all readily detectable with careful listening. Noteworthy are the 4 variations on "Epigraph No.1", from its introspective solo piano rendition to the damped version "Var.3", for Darling's "Song for TKJD" and "Silent Dream" with their ambience electronically extended to bring out the fullness of strings, sounding much like the works by Arvo Part or John Tavener. This disc deserves repeated hearings, be it jazz or not. JS

ECM 1684 314 543 159-2

Dave Brubeck - "One Alone"

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For Brubeck, the paucity of solo performances over the years was a matter of choice. Only a handful of solo albums marks a legacy of his recorded output spanning half a century. For Brubeck, "...collaboration is the thing, one imagination feeding another". The 13 numbers on this disc (recorded from three seperate sessions between 1997 and 2000 ( are drawn from the 30's and 40's, favourite pieces echoing lyrics familiar to listener and pianist alike. Despite a relaxed, understated restraint evident throughout, the subtle complexities inherent in his playing emerge effortlessly - the dramatic ending to "I'll Never Smile Again", the intricate counterpoint to "One Alone", the stride-like interlude injected into "You've Got Me Crying Again", a shifting tempo or meter "Someone To Watch Over Me"/"Harbour Lights", a playful toying with the melody of Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me". Two polished Brubeck originals "Summer Song"/"Weep No More", miniatures from earlier days, prove fitting additions to the programme. JS

Telarc CD-83510

Miles Davis - "Blue Miles"

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Miles Davis passed away almost a decade ago. He was innovative right up his last recording, sometimes to the skeptism of the listener.

The album "Blue Miles" is a treat from beginning to end, comprising of ballads recorded between 1956 and 1967. Many of the mainstays of various of the trumpeter's groups appear. John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Wynton Kelly and Wayne Shorter, are just a few of the A-Teams of musicians lending support as well as two tracks directed by the master arranger, Gil Evans.

Miles' own compositions "Blue in Green", "Drad Dog" and "Circle" are part of this grouping of eight selections taken from such albums as "Round About Midnight", "Kind of Blue" and "Someday My Prince Will Come". Vintage Miles at his melodic best. RF

Columbia / Legacy CK 61405

Bill Evans - "The Last Waltz"

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Bill Evans lived barely half a century, but in that time his life was thoroughly covered in many places. In print, with Peter Pettinger's moving biography (1998) "How My Heart Sings" {Yale University Press}, and musically in the various compact disc sets produced over the last decade.

"The Very Early Sessions" - mid 1940's to early 1950's - 4 CDs
"Riverside" - 1956-1963 - 12 CDs
"Verve" - 1962-1970 (+1957) - 18 CDs
"Fantasy" - 1973-1978 - 9 CDs
"Secret Sessions" - 1966+1975 - 8 CDs
"Village Vanguard" - June 4-8, 1980 - 6 CDs

The latest offering is a true gem. "The Last Waltz" are Evans' final sessions recorded live at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco between Sunday, August 31 and Monday, September 8, 1980. The 8 CD set will put the pianists many fans in "Evans' Heaven". Bill was to only play two more dates at Fat Tuesday's in New York City, before admitting that his strength had totally ebbed away. He spent three days at home, and one night in Mount Sinai Hospital before succumbing on September 15, 1980.

Bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera joined the pianist in 1979 and were the make-up of this final trio. Bill seemed revitalized and rejuvinated. This last musical document of over 66 selections in no way displays that the end was near.

Evans' playing is as creative as ever on the 36 different compositions. Listen to six different performances of Miles Davis' "Nardis", five of them over fifteen minutes in length, and you'll learn what "makes" a jazz musician! - the thought processes are unbelievable.

Bill, the composer, shines brightly on "Turn out the Stars", "Yet Ne'er Broken", "Knit for Mary F", "Your Story", "Letter to Evan", "Five", "Tiffany", "Re: Person I Knew", "34 Skidoo" and of course "Waltz for Debby". A partial list of his 'standard bag' include "Like Someone in Love", "Polka Dots and Moonbeams", "But Beautiful", "The Touch of Your Lips", "My Foolish Heart", and a "A Sleepin' Bee". These become exhilarating performances.

Compliments to Todd Barkan, owner of the Keystone Korner, who produced the sessions, and recording engineers Milton Jeffries and Mark J. Romero, who captured this late treasure of the keyboards last hurrah.

Liner notes, by Derek Richardson, in the booklet that accompanies the box set, are extremly informative.

For a complete tune listing please go to www.fantasyjazz.com/htm/evans4430.html. RF

Milestone 8MCD-4430-2

As an addendum to the above review by Rob Fogle; during an interview I did with Bill in Toronto in the 70's, I mentioned, that to me, he was the Keats and Browning of the piano. (John Keats - 1795-1821, English poet. A principal figure in the romantic movement), and the Browning (Elizabeth Barrett - 1806-61, English poet. Her poems were so well received that she was seriously considered as a possible successor to William Wordsworth - 1770-1850, (English poet who created the English Romantic movement), as Poet Laureate. Bill shrugged, smiled and said, "Well, that is really nice, thank you, but do you really think I am a poet at the piano". My reply was, then, and still is today, an unequivocal YES. (Hal Hill)

Karen Gallinger - "Remebering Bill Evans"

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With the support and encouragement of Nenette Evans (Bill's widow), vocalist Karen Gallinger captures the essence of the pianists's compositions in song, the first such tribute almost totally dedicated to his works. Supported by the superbly responsive trio of Tom Zink - piano, Larry Steen - bass, Chris Wabich - drums, with selective appearances by guitars and cello, the vocalist's deep contralto voice resonates with both the passion and insight demanded of such a daunting undertaking, from the balladic beauty of "Turn Out the Stars", "Waltz for Debbie", or the sense of deeply-felt loss with "We Will Meet Again", to the lyrical delicacy of "Dawn Preludes (Time Remembered)", the light rhythmic swing of "Interplay", the slightly Latin-tinged pulse in "Remembering the Rain" (with lyrics written by Evans, but never recorded by him). Hers is an original voice, sultry but with an enormous range; as well she contributes lyrics to 4 numbers, notably "Funkallero" and "Dawn Preludes". Don Sebesky's brief but poignant, closing piece is a touching conclusion to the disc. Highly recommended. JS

Seabreeze SB 3041

Hampton Hawes - "Bird Song"

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Though these sessions (2) were recorded in 1956 and 1958 respectively, this is not really a re-release. During this period, pianist Hawes was at the zenith of his creativity and growing popularity, so that the shelving of this material, just now discovered and issued, seems inexplicable. On 9 of the 12 selections (Jan 18/56) are bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Larance Marable; the remaining 3 (March '58) feature Scott LaFaro - bass and Frank Butler - drums. Hawes' percussive, staccato-like left hand works solidly in sync with the horn-like runs of his right, especially on such swinging numbers as Charlie Parker's "Big Foot", Ray Brown's "Ray's Idea", or in fragmenting the melodic lines of such standards as "Stella By Starlight" and "I Should Care" into an infinite number of possibilities. With such superlative rhythmic support, Hawes is able to show his unerring ear for what constitutes seamless group interaction. This is a winning example of an undervalued contributor to one of the great transformational eras of jazz. JS

Contemporary OJCCD-1035-2

Sheila Jordan / Cameron Brown - "Accustomed to the Bass"

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As is the case with most noteworthy jazz musicians, Sheila Jordan remains uniquely recognizable. Her dramatic voice, at once inventive and challenging, with unexpected turns of phrase, takes on instrumental proportions not, unfortunately, appreciated by many. Through the Belgian organization Jazz'Halo, this duo performance with bassist Cameron Brown (out of George Russell, Archie Shepp, Don Pullen) is her first public appearance in this format to be recorded. As Cameron states: "Voice and bass is exacting. If you make a mistake, there's no place to hide"; yet the combination allows both "...so much freedom and spontaneity." The chosen material Sheila had been singing for years, and the receptive audience "...understood everything, even improvised lyrics". It's a wonderful journey, from the bitter sweet to spontaneous laughter, that satisfies both musicians and those in attendance. Highly recommended. JS

HighNote HCD 7042

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