July 1997


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

By way of identification reviewers initials will be inserted at the end of each review. We welcome John Sutherland to the reviewing staff at Jazz Canadiana. John has a keen interest in piano jazz and brings with a wealth of knowledge in this area. For additional reviews by John please see Coda and Performing Arts Magazine, in the latter he delves into Classical music as well as jazz.
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Pee Wee Russell - "Jazz Original"

Legendary clarinetist Charles "Pee Wee" Russell (1906-1969), whose granulated but always passionate playing is readily recognizable, is featured extensively on selected Commodore reissues from 1938 to 1945. Drawn from sessions (including some alternate takes) with Eddie Condon, Muggsy Spanier, Wild Bill Davison, The Three Dueces, and his own Hot Four, they reflect admirably the energy and mood swings that made him one of the foremost jazz players of his era. The supporting cast is outstanding. This is for anyone interested in the roots of jazz.

Commodore CMD-404 to order

Albert Nicholas - Art Hodes - "The New Orleans-Chicago Connection"

New Orleans born clarinetist Albert Nicholas (1900 - 1973) and Russian born (by way of Chicago!) pianist Art Hodes (1904 - 1993) who had recorded together in the '40's are paired here in quartet format with bassist Earl Murphy and drummer Freddy Kohlman for this 1959 Chicago session. The mellow tones of Nicholas (who had played with the likes of Luis Ruissell, King Oliver, Armstrong and Morton in the 20's and 30's) and the blues-based stylings of Hodes (ex Frank Teschmacher and Bechet in the 40's) are compatibly suited to this musical agenda. Note especially the subtle exchanges on "Ain't Misbehavin'", the rousing accord of "Blues my Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me", and the Bixian mood afforded I'm Comin' Virginia". The disc includes master as well as alternate takes.

Delmark DE-207 to order

Barbara Sutton Curtis - "Old Fashioned Love"

Following in the footsteps of her elder brother, pianist Ralph Sutton, Curtis displays her penchant for the melodic songbook, preferring to air those timeless numbers that have served jazz players well over the years. This second Sackville release gives listeners a further opportunity to hear the piano artistry of one too long hidden from the acclaim she merits. Drwan from two live performances (November 1987 and October 1993) at Toronto's Café Des Copains and Montreal Bistro respectively, Curtis shows us the wide range of her repertoire, from Ellington's "Love You Madly", Garner's "Eldorado", Willard Robison's "Sharecroppin' Blues (coupled with Gary McFarland's "Chuggin"), to Pete Johnson's "Blues on the Downbeat", as well as a sprinkling of Porter, Gershwin, Kerns, Wilder, et al. Some of her choices will surprise you. Like her brother, she preserves the melodic tradition, yet offers us her own unique voice in the process. If you missed the earlier CD, this is one to look for.

Sackville SKCD 2-2042 to order

Randy Weston - "Earth Birth"

As the pianist Randy Weston himself states, "The overall concept of this CD is love, romance, and the beauty of life". Recorded in Montreal (1995) with the strings of the Montreal Symphony (conducted by Paul West) and with arrangements by Melba Liston, the trio of Weston, Christian McBride - bass and Billy Higgins - drums emerges delicately but rhythmically from its lush surroundings with such familiar Weston compositions as "Hi-Fly", "Berkshire Blues", and "Little Niles" (one of four numbers in a waltz mode here). The two portrait pieces - "Billie Holiday" and "Vivian" - are moving tributes to very special people in his life. As did Charlie Parker some forty-five years earlier, Weston's decision to record with strings makes for a valuable and rewarding insight into the sensitive nature of this artist.

Verve (Gitanes) 314 537 088-2 to order

Bob Mover (featuring John Hicks) - "Television"

Despite successful stints with such notables as Charlie Mingus, Lee Konitz, and Chet Baker, reedman Bob Mover, with his extensive tours abroad, remains an elusive figure on disc. Fortunately, I caught him once in Toronto with Abdullah Ibrahim's Ekaya, and was terribly impressed by his alto playing. In this recent CD, recorded live in Montreal, he is accompanied by renowned pianist John Hicks, two Montrealers - Eric Legace - bass and Lorne Ellen - drums, and Danish born trumpeter Jake Wilkinson. The quintet rapport is of a consistently high calibre, each player being given ample space to step front and centre before an appreciative audience. Memorable are Legace's arco bass on a moody "Something to Remember You By", Hicks' blistering solo on "Airegin", Wilkinson's playful handling of his own "You're Right, I Don't", and Mover throughout, but in particular on the contrasting mood swings of "Something….By" and "Television". Plenty of energetic playing here.

DSM 3010 to order

Eric Alexander - "Too Soon to Tell"

This is a blue chip meeting of young bloods playing some standards and originals in an Art Blakey groove. Trombonist Steve Davis was a member of the final Blakey band and fits into this working unit like a glove. As a working unit they play once a week to a full house at a bar on Broadway in New York City, and it shows, the unity and tightness of ensemble playing. It is a spirited band bursting at the seams with ideas and each soloist produces an affable lesson in the art of conversation. The front line is exceptional, Eric Alexander - tenor, Jim Rotondi - trumpet and flugelhorn and Steve Davis - trombone. The rhythm section is made up of David Hazeltine - piano, Peter Washington - bass and Joe Farnsworth - drums. Whatever the tempo, the band is impeccably limber, listen to the title track which opens up with the fiery trumpet work of Rotondi, the haunting brass choir intro to Alexander's solo spotlight on "Dedicated to You". Alexander is followed by brief statements by Davis and Rotondi, then back to Alexander in a very sentimental mood. He obviously knows the lyrics to this tune. Other highlights include Hazeltine's latin arrangement of Burt Bacharach's "Alfie" and "Betcha By Golly Wow". The last track "Captain's Song" is an uptempo piece that has some Wayne Shorter influences and has Eric paying tribute to to Joe Henderson and George Coleman. Alexander knows how to programme a persuasive recording, this is worthy of your collection, and if you are in New York at any time check them out in live performance.

Sharp Nine CD 1006-2 to order

Johnny Costa - "Dream"

Johnny Costa celebrates the lyricist Johnny Mercer on this 1995 release. Mercer worked with a multitude of great popular composers - Hoagy Carmichael , Jermome Kern, Jimmy Van Heusen, Harold Arlen, Harry Warren, just to name a few. His lyrics are a legacy of popular music in themselves over three decades from the 30's to the 50's. Pianist Johnny Costa (brother of vibraphonist/pianist Eddie) seemed always considered by discographers to be on the fringes of jazz; ironically, but not without some justification, he was once thought of as an Art Tatum replacement. Here, on such numbers as "I Remember You", "Jeepers Creeepers", "Too Marvelous for Words", "That Old Black Magic", and "Day In, Day Out", he puts to rest those doubts. The overall result is a relaxing, infectious musical panorama of one of the outstanding American songwriters of all time.

Chiaroscuro CRD-341 to order

World Saxophone Quartet - "Takin' it 2 the Next Level"

Made up of tenorman David Murray, Hamiet Bluiett (baritone), Oliver Lake (alto), and John R Purcell (saxello/tenor), the latter replacing the late Julius Hemphill, the WSQ is joined by Donald Blackman (piano), Calvin Jones (bass), and Ronnie Barrage (percussion) on this 1996 CD for a programme of fresh, challenging and often startling music. Spawned from the late 70's, the WSQ continues to redefine the boundaries of jazz and the saxophone, incorporating musical facets from the blues - "When the Monarchs Come to Town", popular music - "Ballad After Us", African and Caribbean rhythms - "Rio Australopithecus", with touches of Mingus - "Blues for a Warrior Spirit", Monk - "Wiring" and Coltrane - "Endless Flight" thrown into the mix; yet, there always remain surprises, such as the brief but beautiful Blackman rendition of his own - "The Peace Before", or the gorgeous Murray-Bluiett saxophone dialogue on - "The Desegregation of Our Children". Needless to say, it's music that defies time and definition. One of my record choices of the year!

Justin Time 93-2 to order

Gene Bertoncini - "Jobim-Someone to Light Up my Life"

Antonio Carlos Jobim passed away in 1994, but his music lives on. Beroncini's association with that composer/guitarist and with Brazilian music dates back almost to the beginning of Jobim's rise to popularity in North America. Playing a nylon-stringed classical guitar with its distinctly unique tonal qualities, Bertoncini performs all 14 tracks on this 1995 disc in single takes. The only accompaniment is provided by percussionists John Arrucci and Jon Bates. Despite what you may think you hear, there is no overdubbing. The range of melodic inventivness is stunning, and all the anticipated numbers are there - "Corcovado", " Triste", "O Amor em Paz", "O Insensatez" (fused with a Chopin prelude), "Felicidade", as well as some that may surprise you.

Chiaroscuro CRD-343 to order

Mike Rud - "Whyte Avenue"

A relative newcomer on the recorded jazz scene, Edmonton born guitarist Mike Rud is showcased in a recent quintet setting with Canadian pianist John Stetch, tenorman Bill McHenry, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Jorge Rossi. Having performed with, among others, Herb Ellis, Kenny Wheeler, and P.J.Perry, and studied with Jim Hall, he displays his compositional skills on such pieces as "Whyte Avenue", "Sonny Greenwich" and "Life with Billy" (six of the eleven numbers are originals). Standards too are given memorable treatment - Rud and Stetch on "The Shadow of Your Smile", Rud and rhythm section on "The Nearness of You", and McHenry's tenor on "Like Someone in Love". The talent here is undeniable. Rud shows that, granted the right context and further opportunities such as this, his is a guitar voice to be reckoned with.

Jazz Focus JFCD 016 to order

Lily White - "No Pork Long Line"

Saxophonist/composer Lily White leads her septet - Kenny Rampton (trumpet), Conrad Herwig (trombone), David Phelps (guitar), Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), Chris Dahlgren (bass), Eric Halvorson (drums) in twelve original compositions (ten by Lily herself) on this 1996 release. Many of them have intriguing titles, and the performances are equally refreshing: "Cairns" (with tenor and trombone suggestively marking the boundaries the music will take), "Lumpy" ( liveley rhythmic interplay of bass, drums and alto), "Bastard Song" ( a trombone-tenor tandem). Well executed and balanced mood swings (e.g. "Connection" to "Loss/Annie Sprinkle….." to "Inner Dirge"), an overall fluidity of expression, and the group's solid commitment to and obvious enjoyment of the music itself make this a worthy disc. Lily's versatility on either horn (tenor/alto) is unquestionable. And I do like the piano work of Michael J Stevens.

Jazz Focus JFCD 017 to order

Highly recommended CD's without reviews, star rated as follows:

***** excellent. **** good

These are some of the many CD's we at Jazz Canadiana suggest for your summer buying:

Rating Artist Title Label & Cat. No.
***** Chick Corea "Remembering Bud Powell" Stretch SCD-9012-2
***** Eddie Daniels "Beautiful Love" Shanachie 5029
***** Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny "Beyond the Missouri Sky" Verve 314 537 130-2
**** Jim Hall "Textures" Telarc CD-83402
**** Shirley Horn "Loving You" Verve 314 537 022-2
***** Didier Lockwood "Storyboard" FDM 36582-2
**** Jackie McLean meets Junko Onoshi "Hat Trick" Blue Note CDP 38363 2 1
**** Stephen Scott "The Beautiful Thing" Verve 314 533 186-2
***** Steve Swallow "Deconstructed" Watt 78118-23209-2
***** Archie Shepp "Four for Trane" IMPD-218
**** Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves "Salt & Pepper" IMPD-210
**** Gabor Szabo "The Sorcerer" IMPD-211
***** McCoy Tyner "plays Ellington" Impulse IMPD-216

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