July 2003


Myriam Alter - "If"

RealAudio Sample

The Belgian composer/pianist was raised in a Judeo-Spanish family with musical influences drawn from many sources. Trained as a pianist, she abandoned her craft for some time, and discovered her penchant for composition on her return to the musical world. Her main concerns became "…all the cultural influences that have formed her as a person and as a musician". Her music "…breathes Andalusian airs and bows to Tango Nuevo…". She selected players here who reflect those emotions, including bandoneon improviser Dino Saluzzi and pianist Kenny Werner. Hers is an individual approach to romanticism, evident from the gentle opening strains of the Spanish-flavoured "Waking Up" to the sweeping melodic lines of the closing "Where You Belong". The trio, clarinet, and ever-present bandoneon pulsate with lyrical delicacy "I Think of It", display a dramatically evocative melody "An Intrigant Melody", or carry on a spirited conversation "Children Play". The jazz element, however, is generally of minimal interest to the development of Spanish motifs and rhythms. J.S.

ENJA/Justin Time JENJ 3303-2

Gregg Kallor - "There's a Rhythm"

RealAudio Sample

Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Brad Mehldau, Kenny Barron, and Fred Hersch: these are the pianists who have strongly influenced the piano stylings of the 24-year-old Gregg Kallor, though he "…infuses their stylings with streaks of harmonic and rhythmic inventiveness". On this, his self-produced debut album, he blends a mix of appealing originals with a sprinkle of standard numbers, accompanied by bassist Chris Van Voorst Van Beest and drummer Kendrick Scott. Confident and controlled, the young player has learned his trade well, imbuing tunes with a trademark technique that is decidedly his own. He shifts easily from a relaxed, cool "The Voice of Reason", the swinging yet delicate touch of "Double Down", to the gentle, ballads of simple folksong "There's a Rhythm", or Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye". This initial CD serves as a forerunner of exciting things to come. J.S.

3G Records 107001

Jim Hall - "Downbeat Critics' Choice"

RealAudio Sample

Since the 50's, Hall's sensitive, versatile guitar sounds have been featured with innumerable musical cohorts as well as in solo performances. Drawn from 5 different contexts, the selections here (1995-2001) were released on the Telarc label previously, numbers given "..insightful commentary from Downbeat scribes on Hall's enduring genius and undeniable impact on modern jazz". All choices are Hall originals, reflecting his compositional skills as well as his unique style. The album Dialogues present him with "…five musician friends in open-conversation"; Textures emphasizes his compositional talents, accompanied by an extended support from players; Live at the Village Vanguard parades a host of formidable musicians in a concert milieu; By Arrangement finds Hall in "…small combo interplay.." in a palette of imaginative explorations; Jim Hall & Basses proves how "… expertly he configures rhythms with fellow rhythmakers". Collectively, these albums offer a broad cross-section of Hall's continuing adaptability to the ever-expanding world of jazz. J.S.

Telarc CD-83557

Rich Wetzel - "Groovin Higher Jazz Orchestra Live!"

RealAudio Sample

The name of the orchestra speaks for itself; trumpeter Rich Wetzel has put together a high-powered group of twenty-one top musicians from the Tacoma, Washington area. This CD was recorded at the Rialto Theatre, May 25, 2002, with special guest Wayne Bergeron, also a trumpet player; a third horn man, Greg Lyons is a sensation playing lead Wetzel has the "Maynard Ferguson stratospheric sound" and carries the band to searing heights. If you are a fan of Stan Kenton or Maynard, you are sure to enjoy this, the orchestra's second recorded output.

On hearing "MacArthur Park", arranged by former Fergusonite Adrian Drover in the 1070's and "Malaguena" arranged by Bill Holman in the 1950's for the Stan Kenton orchestra, some happy memories returned to my ears. "Tell Your Story" written and arranged by another top West Coast band leader Bob Florence, features Bergeron on flugelhorn with a Latin touch is a real winner. Jimmy Van Heusen's beautiful ballad "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" has an equally beautiful alto sax solo by Cliff Colon.

There are four other selections, each given the fine treatment by Wetzel. The concert must have been terrific to have been heard live, but my critique is that the recording appears like as if the sound engineers were picking up the sound with microphones in the balcony. It is most unfortunate that the sound was not taken into consideration for the CD. Another point of interest, is it possible that Rich Wetzel is a relative of the great trumpet player Ray Wetzel who graced the trumpet section of the Stan Kenton Orchestra from 1945 - 1948? R.F.

Independent - visit www.richwetzel.com for more information on this and other recordings.

Al Jarreau - "All I Got"

RealAudio Sample

Blues Preacher, Scat Master, and Jazz Improviser extraordinaire Al Jarreau is the only singer to have won Grammies in three different genres. His unique vocal style and innovative musical expression has captivated audiences worldwide with albums like "Glow" and "Look to the Rainbow". This recording is a fine selection of eleven wonderful songs with Jarreau joined by a stellar band of musicians including Kirk Whalum, Larry Williams, and long-time producer Paul Brown, and here Jarreau demonstrates why he is one of the most critically acclaimed singer of our time.

This is not a true jazz recording, instead it is a remarkable collection of feel good songs, best described as a jazz-soul mosaic, delivered in a style that's warm, peaceful, sometimes laid back, but always charismatic. Some of the highlights include the gospel tinged "Feels Like Heaven To Me", the earthy duet with guest, legendary crooner Joe Cocker on "Lost and Found", the accappella "Route 66", and the jazzy "Oasis". "All I Got" is a recording that showcases and further endorses the distinctive and versatile Al Jarreau in this superb performance of tomorrow's music today. C.S.

GRP 3145897772

Brenda Earle - "All She Needs"

RealAudio Sample

Canadian-born pianist/vocalist/composer Brenda Earle has already made her mark on the jazz scene with two previous releases. She displays an extensive vocal range "from the sweet to the sultry". At the keyboard she is confidently capable of reflecting the varied demands suggested in her own compositions. Together, this makes for a unified, insightful blend of voice and instrumentation whether she swings "The Honeymoon is Over", Jobim's "This Happy Madness" or shifts to a more subdued mood "My Last Apology". Her own songs speak of love "Wonderful", loss "Out of Love", and the human experience. She is indeed "a natural entertainer". Bryden Baird's trumpet adds atmospheric dimension to the polished, closely-knit support from Craig Earle - bass, Kevin Coady - drums on several numbers. J.S.

Allsheneeds Music ASNM 002

Previous Picks