January 2006

Each month we provide a series of CD reviews plus "Star Rated" items.

Our reviewing staff members are:

John Sutherland: John has a keen interest in piano jazz and brings with him a wealth of knowledge in this area. John was head of the English department in a secondary school for over 20 years. His first exposure to jazz as a teenager was the purchase of Louis Armstrong's "Struttin' with Some Barbeque" His collection of music today includes, apart from a very large jazz section; an extensive classical collection, most of which are of a contemporary concept.

Robert Fogle: Rob is Director of Musical Services for Fogle Entertainment in Toronto, as well he hosts his own radio programme on CHRY-FM (105.5). His background as a fan, in jazz music is extensive, and he is a serious collector of all genres of the music.

Colin Smith: Colin began his interest in jazz in his native Jamaica, and since settling in Toronto has become more involved in the music he loves. Colin was the school programme director for the Markham Jazz Festival during its formative years. He also hosts a jazz radio show {One Flight Up} on CKLN-FM (88.1) in Toronto on Tuesday mornings from 7:00 am to 11:00 am.

Bob Eckersley: Bob Eckersley emigrated from England in 1957 and settled in Owen Sound (Northern Ontario), where he worked as an inspector for the government on Highway construction. His interest in jazz started during the war years, and though he is not a trained musicologist, he listens from the heart and judges accordingly.

By way of identification, reviewer's initials are inserted at the end of each review.

Previous Picks

Cheryl Fisher – “Joyride”

With the release of “Joyride” (Life in the Jazz Lane) Cheryl Fisher has served notice that she is ready to stake her claim as one of Canada’s premier jazz singers. This Alberta born songbird sings with conviction, dedication and a renewed sense of purpose. For this recording, she has enlisted the services of some of Toronto’s finest musicians, which includes drummer Terry Clarke, bassist Neil Swainson and guitarist Reg Schwager. Also present on the recording are Phillip Strange – piano and Eric Allison – flute and clarinet on selected tracks. Although Ms Fisher counts Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Sheila Jordan among her many influences, she manages to show she has a style and sound that is hers alone.

The thirteen tracks represent a musical feast, offering something for every diverse taste; there are some familiar standards, some lesser-known tunes and a selection of her own originals. She chose Duke Ellington’s “In a Mellow Tone” as the opening track and immediately demonstrates her relaxed phrasing and confident vocal approach. On “J’Adore”, a Fisher original, her sensuous tones are well complimented by multi-reed player Eric Allison’s excellent flute playing. Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring” is given a charming set of lyrics by Fisher, adding to the very pleasant ambiance created throughout the recording. The material chosen has been tastefully and lovingly compiled to suit everyone’s listening pleasure.


Catfish IPJ10313

Canadian Jazz Quartet – “C.J.Q.”

This is the premier recording of the CJQ with Frank Wright – vibraphone, Bob Price – bass, Gary Benson – guitar and Don Vickery – drums, the latter two original members dating back to its founding in 1989. All four have been active players on the Toronto jazz scene for decades, and the comfortable rapport evident on the 14 selections here speaks for itself. It’s a varied collection of numbers with the group swinging in on “Easy to Love”, going gently Latin with “Gentle Rain”, imaginatively introspective on Benson’s own “Labrador”, beautifully balladic to “My Foolish Heart”. Supporting Wright’s mellow vibes and Benson’s melodically assured guitar throughout are Price’s resonant bass and the tastefully propulsive rhythm of drummer Vickery. Recommended!


CJQ 001

Greg Osby - “Channel Three”

Sandwiched between opening and closing works by reedmen Ornette Coleman – “Mob Job” and Eric Dolphy – “Miss Ann”, representative music by two of “….contemporary improvised music’s most inspired thinkers at the peak of their imaginative prowess”, are 7 original compositions by saxophonist Osby with bassist Matt Brewer and percussionist Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts making up the trio format. The channelling of the threesome, deliberately devoid of the presence of a chordal instrument, proves rewarding indeed, shifting the focus squarely on the individuality of the players to generate cohesion, notably on “Vertical Mold”, “Diode Emissions”, and “Channel Three”. An exciting new venture for Osby!


Blue Note 60671

Jake Langley – “Diggin’ In”

Toronto resident and National Jazz Awards winner Jake Langley spent much of his early career touring with Blues Master Bobby Blue Band and organist Merle Sanders. Maybe that explains his fondness for the setting of an organ jazz trio, and the willingness to keep him in the company of organist extraordinaire Joey DeFrancesco and super drummer Terry Clarke. Together they excel in producing some very funky down home soulful organ trio jazz.

The seven tracks on this CD include Dexter Gordon’s “Cheesecake”, Freddie Hubbard’s “Gibraltar” as well as Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child”, and Langley’s own “The Garage”. This band works well together, always aware of each other’s ability and execution. Langley’s playing is superb, his polished thoughtful guitar lines always stick to the original melodies. DeFrancesco for the most part, seems rather laid back, somewhat reluctant to break out into something exciting, except for a burning solo on “Gibraltar”. Terry Clarke appears extremely comfortable laying down some nice propelling rhythms. “Diggin’ In” offers some very compelling and pleasant listening, and will surely please the many lovers of organ jazz trio. This CD serves notice of Langley’s continuance to become more confident and a powerful voice in jazz.


Alma AC14292

James Carter – “Live at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge”

James Carter is one of the most technically expressive and startling musicians to ever play the saxophone. Truly to form, he has lived up to these descriptions since playing with Wynton Marsalis at the age of sixteen. A multi-talented reed player, he is known for his propensity to flash and showmanship. And so it was when he returned to his old stomping ground for the recording of this CD. Joined by a plethora of stars, Johnny Griffin, David Murray and Franz Jackson, the result could have easily been the battle of the giants, instead of being nothing short of sensational.

Opening with the soprano, Carter shows off his amazing articulation and stylistic expertise on Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism”, supported by the funky organ playing of Gerard Gibbs. The session was suddenly propelled in another dimension when Carter locked horns with Murray on Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance”. This is a no holds barred, knock down blowing session. This is an excellent recording, with a strong audience reaction showing approval of a good time from a band delivering a message in a manner that swings free and easy.

Carter continues to show his versatility as he moves comfortably through soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones with enormous energy, conviction and self-assurance. The recording concludes with “Foot Pattin” featuring all four tenors swinging, honking and bopping their way through a grand finale.


Warner Bros 48449-2

Lizz Wright – “Dreaming Wide Awake”

Having listened intensively for many hours to this magnificent recording I can say with all honesty that Lizz Wright is a combination of many elements that make her one special singular talent. This recording is a combination of jazz, gospel, folk and rhythm & blues that is delicately packaged and delivered in a composed, soulful and prayerful manner. Wright is a trained gospel singer; in fact it is quite evident on the very memorable, soulful and somewhat solemn self-penned “Hit the Ground”. Her smoky voice is full bodied in tone and has a maturity and poise that far exceed her years.

For this recording Wright wrote her songs from chords she made up on the guitar, instead of the piano as she did on her previous release “Salt”. For a change in style, she engaged the talents of producer Craig Street, who has worked with such luminaries as Cassandra Wilson and K. D. Lang. Together with the collaboration of some gifted song writers and musicians they have managed to create an impressive and original recording.

There are twelve songs on this CD, including three Wright originals. They range from the 1960’s “A Taste of Honey”, which is given a new bluesy arrangement, to Neil Young’s “Old Man” and the classic “I’m Confessin’”. All of the songs are well chosen, tastefully arranged and extremely well sung. I have no doubt that “Dreaming Wide Awake” is a prelude to awakening the unlimited talent that is Lizz Wright. Highly Recommended.


Verve B000406902

Nina Simone – “Let It Be Me”

The late Nina Simone was the consummate artist as a jazz singer, pianist and composer. Internationally recognized, and known as The High Priestess of Soul, her limitless musical talent crossed all genres, and transcends all boundaries. “Let It Be Me” was recorded live in concert at the Place Des Arts, Montreal, Canada in 1980; and in typical Simone style she provided a variety of songs and dialogue to spread her message. This by all accounts was a happy and pleasurable time for all. The audience appreciated her performance for which she was rewarded with enthusiastic shouts and constant applause.

This is by no means one of her better recordings; but it is a menu of Simone staples delivered with a haunting, sultry and extremely expressive voice to satisfy any musical appetite. The selections range from a shortened version of Janis Ian’s “Stars” to “Ain’t Got No; I Got Life” a song from the controversial Broadway musical “Hair”. “Let It Be Me” and Everly Brothers classic, is tenderly performed as a vocal duet with flautist Hannibal. And, yes we must not forget the ever-popular “Sea Line Woman” a chanting song first recorded by Simone at Carnegie Hall in 1964. She ends this concert with one of her most famous compositions “Mississippi God Damn”; a powerful song of dread and disgust and skilfully performed with a remarkable sense of drama and timing.


Just a Memory JAM 9156-2

Wayne Shorter – “Beyond The Sound Barrier”

In the 1960’s Wayne Shorter was the brilliant composer and tenor giant with Art Blakey and Miles Davis groups. Then there was a sudden turn of events, which led to his musical adventures into the land of fusion with Weather Report. Thirty somewhat years later he is back with a new acoustic quartet consisting of drummer Brian Blade, pianist Danilo Perez and bassist John Patitucci. “Beyond The Sound Barrier” is their second live recording, and third overall.

The repertoire is extremely interesting, and demonstrates Shorter’s ability to push the envelope in his quest for new musical exploration. For example there are no jazz standards, or any recognizable song forms. In reference to the bands playing, there is no melody or solo format, instead they continue in a cohesive manner, always feeding each other.

The opening track “Smilin’ Through” sets the tone of expectation with some cascading soprano sax playing by Shorter, aided along nicely by Perez ‘s somewhat classical piano approach. Patitucci’s bowed bass playing stands out on Felix Mendelssohn’s “On Wings Of Song” is tasteful, and ads extra spice to the already interesting mix.

Despite the difference in arrangements and structures this is a very exciting and spontaneous recording that warrants some detailed listening. “Beyond The Barrier” is fair confirmation that Shorter and his band is the most innovative and searching group in jazz today. An exceptionally well played and produced recording that is highly recommended.


Verve B00451802

Star Rated Picks

New Releases:




Label & Cat. No.


Al Cohn

“The Al Cohn Quintet” (reissue)

Coral CRL 57118


Sonny Rollins

“Without a Song – the 9/11 concert”

Milestone MCD 9342-2


David Gibson

“The Path to Delphi”

Nagel Heyer 2052


Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane

“At Carnegie Hall”

Blue Note 0946 3 35174 2 4


Bill Frisell


Nonesuch 79828-2


Bill Frisell


Nonesuch 79863-2


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Previous Picks