June 2003


Abdullah Ibrahim - "African Magic"

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Over the years, I have had the good fortune to attend several concert performances by pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, the most memorable being a solo recording session in Toronto "Fats, Duke & The Monk" Sackville Records SKCD 2-3048 [1973]. For the listener, time and place become irrelevant; only the mesmerizing spell of the music matters, a seamless continuum of musical ideas, drawn from jazz, African rhythms, European and Arabic influences constantly in a state of flux, transporting you "…into a special space that only he seems to be able to create" (liner notes). Such is the magic from this Berlin concert July 13, 2001. The pianist is accompanied by bassist Belden Bullock and drummer Sipho Kunene who weave a "veil of sound …embroidering it with flickering stars…always leaving open spaces to listen through…. " All 24 are Abdullah's own, the exception being "Solitude" and "In a Sentimental Mood", tributes to his composer/friend Duke Ellington. Peter Pannle's detailed notes are excellent. Highly recommended. J.S.

ENJA/Justin Time JENJ 3301-2

Charlie Mariano - "Deep in a Dream"

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Mariano's career spans over 5 decades with highlights for many jazz fans embedded in the Kenton and Mingus aggregations. Extensive travels to India and the Far East influenced his music for an extended period, followed by immersion in fusion and rock ensembles. But his roots as a balladeer were never lost, and it is to those earlier days that he now returns with this release. With accompaniment by Bob Degen - piano, Isla Eckinger - bass, and Jarrod Cagwin - drums, Mariano begins with a spaciously atmospheric "You'd Better Go Now" his introduction to a host of standards including a melodically explorative "Spring is Here", a bluesy "I'm a Fool to Want You", or the sculpted lyricism of "The Touch of your Lips". The trio's stylings are especially suited to Mariano's sax sorties, highlighted by its own rendition of Degen's "Etosha". Mariano has clearly retained that "trademark tone" despite the passage of time. Highly recommended. J.S.

Justin Time/Enja JENJ 3302-2

Denise Jannah - "The Madness of our Love"

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If you are looking for an old fashioned jazz singer who remains committed to the traditional standards of inventive phrasing, impeccable diction, and a masterful command of jazz vocal art, then look no further, because you have discovered Denise Jannah. This honey-voiced singer is no stranger to the singing world, in fact she has been in the jazz vocal world for over 10 years, and has made many recordings for the Dutch "Timeless" label. Jannah has the distinction of being the first solo Dutch artist to have recorded on the Blue Note label.

For this project she has chosen a programme of twelve selections, nine standards and three original compositions of her own: "If Only", "Wide Awake", a track that tells a story we can all relate to, and the title track "The Madness of our Love" for which she wrote both words and music.

Jannah is a past winner of the Edison award, the Dutch equivalent of the Grammies, and has sung for world leaders including Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Whether you are caught up with the affection and emotion her voice brings to Monk's "Round Midnight" or the sensuous French lyrics she gives to Johnny Mandel's "The Shadow of your Smile", one thing is for sure, It's hard to resist the invitation to be a part of The Madness of our Love". C.S.

Blue Note 7243 5 22642 2 3

Bill Evans - "Conversations with Myself"

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This 1963 reissue was a milestone in furthering Evan's career, a gamble that, despite objections by the purists, opened new vistas as well to other recording artists. On the assumption that the rapport developed in a trio performance with bassist and drummer could be equally achieved by the pianist taking on all three roles in an interplay of overdubbed piano segments, Bill "becomes .. a three-piano team with each man playing on a different channel". The concept was really not new. Sidney Bechet had tried multi-tracking as early as 1941 ["The Sheik of Araby"], as had guitarist Les Paul [1948] and Lennie Tristano [1955], but the quality of the music here is more of a trio than a solo. The intricacies of the endeavour are reflected in the lyrical warmth and sublimely integrated melodies of such numbers as "Spartacus" or "N.Y.C.'s No Lark", the Monkish rhythms of "Round Midnight" and "Blue Monk", the crossing of harmonies and melodies with "How About You?" or "Hey There". Indeed, this remains a touchstone in pianistic exploration. J.S.

Verve 314 521 409-2

The Electronics Jazz Ensemble - "The Rat on my Piano"

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Yes, there really was a rat on the piano! Gerald Kuhn's pet, Sissy, who lived to the ripe old age of three years and two months, would run across the keyboard to get to her cage for food and water. Her little paws apparently were like Gershwin's fingers and played some creative thematic material, some used on this recording.

Kuhn, an Air Force brat, was born in an American hospital in England. He has been active in music for about 38 of his 50 years, with trombone as his instrument of choice. This CD is his first commercial release and contains such standards as "I've Got You Under My Skin", "Bewitched", "Willow Weep For Me", "Hello, Young Lovers", "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "Let There Be Love", along with jazz standards "Watermelon Man" and "Sidewinder". Kuhn lends his pen to seven originals including "Unsettled", "7&2", "Denise", "Close" and "Phil's Request".

The CD contains several forms of jazz styling from 30's swing, Latin, funk, all with excellent voicing and sparkling solos by sax men Geoff Nudell, Phil Krawzah, Matt Germaine, horn men Dave Campbell and leader Kuhn, pianist Dean Mora, vibes - Harry Smallenberg, bassist Larry Muradian, drummer - Jim Miller and vocalist - Kayre Morrison. R.F.

Nuketown NM001

Jason Moran - "Modernistic"

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After a second hearing, three words come to mind to describe the playing of pianist Jason Moran: imaginative, mesmerizing, unique. From the opening rendition of James P. Johnson's 1929 number, "You've Got To Be Modernistic", with its playful boppish-stride attack, you know that this will be a session filled with surprises. The selections reveal the wide extent of his musical interests and his application of them from the thematic fragmentation of the standard "Body and Soul", his strong, repetitious left-hand beat to the 1982 rap hit "Planet Rock", to a faithfully lyrical choice of Robert Schumann's "Auf einer burg" drawn from Liederkreis (song cycle), or a free-flowing "Time into Space into Time" by his mentor Muhal Richard Abrams. His own boogie-like elements "Moran Tonk circa 1936", the spikey rhythms to a rap, hip hop "Gangsterism on a Lunchtable", and a staggeringly moving "Gentle Shifts South", reminiscent of Bill Evans' "Peace Piece", close out this appealing programme. Highly recommended. J.S.

Blue Note 72435-39838-2

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