March 2002


Sonny Rhodes - "A Good Day To Play The Blues"

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The turbaned Texan has spent most of his musical career, with his lap steel guitar, on the West Coast, playing loose, relaxed modern blues in a distinctive Rhodes style.

T-Bone Walker was one of his earliest influences. After a stint in the navy he played in the bands of Freddie King and Albert Collins, his instrument at that time was mainly bass.

In California, L.C. Robinson gave him his start on lap steel guitar and Percy Mayfield got him inspired to write.

This latest CD has a collection of typical Rhodes music with eight originals and five compositions by fellow group member Bob Greenlee.

I particularly loved "If the Blues Fit, Wear It", "She's Not Happy Unless She's Sad" and the closer "Good Day to Sing and Play the Blues". This one reflects a lot that has happened in the leaders personal life. A nice relaxed effort. RF

Stoney Plain SPCD 1273

Etta James - "Blue Gardenia"

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Johnny Otis in San Francisco discovered Etta James; they collaborated on a major R&B hit "Roll With Me Henry" in the mid 50's.

A decade later she was a bigger star in Europe than Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, and in the '70's she was again on the charts after a drug rehabilitation programme.

Moving ahead to 2001 we find Miss James in great voice; this time its jazz, an album packed full of a wonderful collection of standards.

In November 2000, the instrumental tracks were assembled without the vocalist who had a sudden flu attack. Arrangements are by pianist Cedar Walton fronting an ace group of West Coast musicians. Saxman Red Holloway is heard to good advantage on "In My Solitude", "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying", and "Don't Worry 'Bout Me". You'll hear Ronnie Buttacavoli on "There is No Greater Love", George Bohannon on "Come Rain or Come Shine", guitarist Josh Sklair on "Love Letters" and "Cry Me a River", and the pianist is given lots of solo space.

The vocalist, after fifty years, sounds as fresh as ever and did her part three months after the musicians.

On the final track, Etta gives way to another vocalist, none other than her mother, Dorothy Leatherwood, who presents a moving version of the title song "Blue Gardenia". RF

Private Music BMG 01934-11580-2

Nat "King" Cole - "Night Lights"

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More than 35 years after Nat "King" Cole's passing we are regularly treated to newly discovered treasures. This latest release from Capitol's vaults of his is indeed a welcome addition for any of the Cole's fans.

The orchestra is arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, enough reason alone to pick this one up, and we are treated to a dozen previously unreleased and four previously unavailable on CD, selections.

Will Friedwald, who wrote the well-constructed liner notes coined the right phrase, "It is a Cole-mine!"

When originally recorded only a handful of the tracks came out as singles. Four songs "I Just Found Out About Love", "Dame Crazy", "Love Me As Though There Were No Tomorrow" and "Too Young To Go Steady" all appeared in the never to be Broadway show "Strip for Action" written by Jimmy McHugh, a close friend of Nat. The last of these four became a Cole hit.

There are other gems offered on this mid 1950's recording, "Never Let Me Go" by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, "Once Before" by Evans, "To the Ends of the Earth" and a couple of remote songs with solo work by valve trombonist Juan Tizol, "I Promise You" and "The Way I Love You". RF

Capitol 72435-31964-2-4

Marc Ribot - "Saints"

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Who is Marc Ribot? The compact disc has no information about the solo guitarist, no recording date, though we can establish it was recorded in New York City by J.D.Foster.

Mr. Ribot evidently likes Albert Ayler and provides interesting renditions of three of Ayler's compositions "Saints", "Holy Holy Holy" and "Witches and Devils". Ribot plays one of the slowest versions of "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" that one can imagine, I found myself trying to push it ahead.

I'm not a John Zorn fan and Ribot's interpretation of the saxophonists "Book of Heads #13" has me glad that I'd skipped "Heads" 1 thru 12.

Why do musicians try to mix computers with their music? Try to sell this one called "Empty" on E-Bay.

A few enjoyable moments nevertheless, Lennon and McCartney's "Happiness is a Warm Gun", the old standard "I'm Confessin' ", the traditional "St. James Infirmary" and "It Could Have Been Very Very Beautiful". It could have been very very beautiful if the guitarist had not tackled Leonard Bernstein's "Somewhere". RF

Division One / Atlantic CD 83461

The New York Trio Project - "Fifth House"

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Adam Rafferty - guitar, John Menegon - bass, Jeff Seigel - drums. A well tuned-in trio; guitarist Rafferty one of New York's best, following in his mentor, pianist Mike Longo's footsteps, has released three albums as a leader, also performed with the likes of Bob Cranshaw and Benny Golson. Bassist Menegon, a Canadian from Montreal, but a New Yorker for about two decades, has provided backing for tenor men Dewey Redman and David 'Fathead' Newman, and drummer Seigel was part of Sir Roland Hanna's trio for six years.

The album contains ten cuts of varied selections. The title tune is John Coltrane's "Fifth House", and finds a reprise with a second take at the close of the recording.

The trio's interpretations of such jazz masters works as pianist Hanna's "Like Grains of Sand", Chick Corea's "Guijira", Horace Silver's "Peace", Wayne Shorter's "Beauty & the Beast" and the aforementioned Coltrane composition, show some fresh creativity. There are also four trio originals, two by Menegon, "It's Funny" and "Aorbee", and one by Seigel "One for Jimmy", written for tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath. Adam Rafferty wrote "No Means No". RF

Imaginary Jazz IMX014

Allan Vache / Harry Allen - "Allan and Allen" (CD 074)
The Sidney Bechet Society - "Jam Session Concert" (CD 076)
The International All Stars - "Play Benny Goodman (Vol 2)" (CD 045)

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Nagel Heyer records continue to showcase the best in mainstream jazz featuring some of the prominent jazzmen playing today. For those who prefer their jazz upbeat and swinging, these recent releases are guaranteed not to disappoint.

Recorded in Orlando, Florida, the quintet of clarinetist Vache, tenor man Allen, pianist Eddie Higgins, bassist Phil Flanagan, and drummer Eddie Metz stoke up a storm from the opening "Lover Come Back to Me", swing freely on the Basie/Edison number "Jive at Five", before launching into two diversely rhythmical originals, Higgins' moving "Lake Ponchartrain Blues" and Flanigan's torrid pairing of "Allan and Allan". The remaining 9 tracks offer a diversity of moods and solo exploits from the tender tenor rendition of "Where Are You?", Vache's vocal on Nat Cole's catchy "Straighten Up and Fly Right", the bouncy amalgam of tenor, clarinet, and piano with Lester Young's "Tickle Toe", to the lively tenor/clarinet duo and Higgins' stride-oriented piano as they tear through Waller's "Stealin' Apples". The rhythm section is exemplary throughout.

Responding to an invitation by the Bechet Society in NYC to attend a concert in Greenwich Village, Sabine and Hans Nagel-Heyer (from Hamburg, Germany) enthusiastically agreed to record this subsequent session with "….a selection of world-wide jazz musicians" for their own label. All numbers are Bechet composed or recorded. Though not intended as a replication of Bechet originals, they retain his spirit. Evan Christopher (clarinet) captures the essence of Bechet's drive and insight on such pieces as "Blues in the Air", "Passport to Paradise", and "Petite Fleur", while trombonist Wycliffe Gordon adds spice and sensitivity with his interpretations of "Basin Street Blues" and "Mood Indigo". The plunger mute of trumpeter Spanky Davis takes on "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me" a la Cootie Williams, while the whole band is propelled along, especially with "Rosetta", "St. Louis Blues", or "Royal Garden Blues", by Mark Shane - piano, Jack Lesberg - bass, and Jackie Williams - drums. Highly recommended.

This disc complements the 1st release (vol 1), recorded live at Amerika Haus in Hamburg, Germany. It is a compilation of songs "…that were either recorded by Benny or should have been". The musicians - Ken Peplowski - clarinet/tenor, Lars Erstrand - vibes, Howard Alden - guitar, Mark Shane - piano, Len Skeat - bass, Joe Ascione - drums, with Antti Sarpila - clarinet and Allan Vache - added for the final 3 numbers - were "…reminiscing in tempo…about one of our greatest influences in jazz… Faithful reproduction was not an issue. The songs reflect a wide spectrum of Goodman's recording dates over a lengthy career: "Body and Soul" (1935), "Everything I Love" (1941), "Lulu's Back in Town" (1951), "Jubilee" (1958). Though "Jingles" and "Sleep" were never recorded by him, they might, indeed, have made excellent vehicles for his ever-explorative clarinet. All selections fairly bristle with Goodman-like fervour. JS

Nagel-Heyer - See Catalogue Numbers Above

Various Artists - "Ebony Rhapsody - The Great Duke Ellington Vocalists"

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In retrospect, it seems startling that early critics tended to agree that his "…choice of vocalists has not been Ellington's strongest suit" when his orchestra was always so outstanding. That view certainly has changed today. As Ellington stated, "Each seemed to join us at the right time, when they were doing with songs just right for what we were playing". Moreover, singers like Adelaide Hall and Kay Davis often used their voices like instruments in a wordless 'vocalese', or, with Ray Nance and Betty Roche, to scat melodies in wordless improvisation; others, such as Joya Sherrill, Al Hibbler, Ivie Anderson and Herb Jeffries, were straight-ahead stylists with distinctive modes of presentation. This release, covering periods from 1927 to 1946, provides us with 20 examples of singers who were "virtually a story in their own", and proved without a doubt that "…the human voice was as integral to the sonic vision of Ellington and Strayhorn as the trumpet, the saxophone, or the piano". JS

Bluebird 09026 63863-2

Oscar Peterson - "The Harold Arlen Songbook"

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Promoter/producer Norman Granz (1918-2001) influenced a vast array of jazz and popular musicians who gained well-deserved prominence because of his efforts. Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson was one such gifted performer who was "…thrust…into the center of the jazz world, where he has remained for five decades". This CD release, produced by Granz, is a compiled reissue of two LP's, one from 1954,the other from 1959, each showcasing the music of songwriter Harold Arlen (1905-1986). It's a journey through some of the most well known tunes in the American repertoire of popular music. Bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis join Peterson on the earlier Clef session with a range of jazz interpretations from the bluesy "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" to a Tatumesque rendering of "Over the Rainbow"; drummer Ed Thigpen replaces Ellis on the later Verve set, with Peterson obviously more dominant in this trio format, taking solo honours on "Ill Wind" and another version of "Over the Rainbow". JS

Verve 314 589 703-2

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