June 1997


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

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Arlene Smith "Stirred Not Shakin'"

Recorded back in November 1995 at the Montreal Bistro in Toronto this CD has only just been released, but it is well worth waiting for. The smoky voice of Arlene Smith is backed by some of the crème de la crème of Toronto's jazz musicians. The club offers a most intimate setting for Arlene as she takes us on a trip down memory lane with some "old chestnuts". Listen to what she does to the lyrics on "Out of this World", "I Wonder Why", "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" in the company of guitarist/arranger Reg Schwager, Neil Swainson - bass, Mark Eisenman - piano, Jerry Fuller - drums and Mike Murley - saxophone.

Solos by Eisenman, Schwager and Murley intertwine with the vocals of Smith and help to create an atmosphere of a happy get together of old and dear friends. If you remember and like the styles of June Christy and Anita O'Day then this recording is for you.

Arlene's previous CD was done in the company of a big band (mostly members of the Boss Brass), a sextet and strings with guests Kenny Barron and Bob Cranshaw under the direction/arrangements of Rick Wilkins. This new CD is a wonderful follow up to that.

A special mention should be made for the sound quality, the engineer was Phil Sheridan who was also responsible for the first CD……clear, warm and well balanced.

Independent 776127-0320-2 to order

Kenny Wheeler & Paul Bley - "Touche"

It is ironic that both of these musicians made their names outside of Canada, possibly because their music was more readily accepted in Europe than here at home. Sure they do have a tendency to work outside the jazz mainstream and are considered mavericks. The music on this CD is a mixture of originals by both Bley and Wheeler and makes one wish they had been able to tour in this format. The pairing of such talents is rare, each muisician exhibits a sense of telepathy toward the other and both are genuine innovators .Stretch your imagination a little and explore the the avenues of improvisation by Wheeler and Bley.

Justin Time JUST 97-2 to order

Peter Leitch "Up Front"

This newest release by Peter Leitch is his 12th album as a leader, and in this setting (trio) he is at his most rewarding. His choice of associates is outstanding, with long time friend Marvin "Smitty" Smith on drums and newcomer Sean Smith (no relation) on bass they meet the challenge of the charts, a mix of standards and originals. The opening track "You're my Everything" allows Marvin to display the vigor and energy he is known for in lifting up the soloist. In contrast the bass lines on "Portmeiron" (a Leitch original) are gentle and persuasive and almost become the dominant figure under Peter's solo. Peter caresses the Ellington/Russell composition "I didn't know about you", and Django Reinhardt's "Nuages", but is bold and roars on "Up Front" and "Millennium, part one" (both Leitch originals). This is a solid straight ahead session that puts the guitarist in the front ranks of players today.

Reservoir RSR CD 146 to order

Dave Young - "Side by Side"

This is Dave's third recording in the setting of bass and piano duets and he has had another dream come true, that of being able to record with his favourite piano players, on this particular meeting which was done on seven different sessions in three cities over a five month period. But then the list is magical too: Oscar Peterson, Cedar Walton, Tommy Flanagan, John Hicks, Mulgrew Miller, Ellis Marsalis, Cyrus Chestnut, Oliver Jones, Kenny Barron, Barry Harris and Renee Rosnes. Eleven different age factors and styles must have been a challenge that only a bassist of the stature of Dave Young could possibly meet. Unsurpassed imagination, dramatic tapestries and playful surprise nuggets make up for eleven gems that will leave you asking for more from "In a mellow Tone", "Milestones", "Lament", "Don't Blame Me", "Think of One" to "Joshua", "Marie Antoinette", "Count Two" and "Is That So?", "Soul Eyes" and "Juicy Lucy".

Justin Time JUST 91-2 to order

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