March 1998


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Various - "The Art of the Bass"

This 1997 CD is a compendium of selections from the Justin Time catalogue, recorded over the past few years and with the focus on bass players in a variety of contexts. From the duet features - Dave Young and pianist Oliver Jones in shifting roles with a steady "Bass Blues", the high speed fingering of Santi DeBriano and pianist D.D.Jackson on "Chick-isms", the smouldering voice of Jeri Brown with bassist Pierre Michelot on the traditional "Greensleeves" - to a tightly-knit trio rendition of Lester Young's "Lester Leaps In" (Red Mitchell), the flat, percussive bass lines of Jamaaladeen Tacuma on "Blue Muse", or the electric sounds of Avery Sharpe with vocalist Jeri Brown ("Fresh Start"), the bass makes its presence felt. Add to these the names of Ray Brown, Neil Swainson, Rufus Reid, John Clayton, Steve Wallace, and "The Judge" himself (Milt Hinton) in a moving supportive role to Ranee Lee's offering of "When a Woman Loves a Man", and you can understand why this is an excellent cross-section not only of bass highlights but also of the kind of jazz product captured on disc by the Justin Time label. (J.S.)

Justin Time TAO 6503-2 to order

Various - "The Art of the Guitar"

Still another exploration of Justin Time's extensive catalogue of performers, with the emphasis here on guitar, is also available on yet a further 1997 release. Most of the compositions are originals, and the instrumentation and styles quite varied. The crisp, clear chords of Brian Hughes eastern-flavoured "Nasca Lines", the finger-flying Tony Purrone with Jimmy Heath's 60's composition, "Ginger Bread Boy", or Richard Ring's rapid-fire beat of the islands on "Milt's Calypso", contrast sharply with the warm, muffled tones of Peter Leitch's own "Guess Again", or the gently impressionistic interplay of guitarist John Abercrombie and bassist Don Thompson on "Fall Colours". The CD is rounded out with fine efforts by Russell Malone, Nelson Symonds, Reg Schwager and Herb Ellis in the company of formidable musical companions. This is a great disc for guitar addicts, or for those interested in expanding their vision of the jazz scene. (J.S.)

Justin Time 6502-2 to order

Various - "Swinging Jazz for Hipsters"

Two sequential CD's (1997) by the Concord label offer the listener a wide selection of styles, instrumentation and contexts, with headline stars drawn from previously released recordings. Though the appellation "hipster" is somewhat dated now, the music here isn't. The initial disc ranges extensively from the trio sounds of Ray Brown ("The Candy Man") and pianist Stefan Scaggiari ("Honeysuckle Rose") to the group led by Captain Jack McDuff at his Hammond B3 organ ("Goin' Out of my Head"), from the latin beat of Tania Maria's festive "I Can Do It" and Charlie Byrd's "The Girl from Ipanema" to the warm flow of Ruby Braff's New England Songhounds on "Days of Wine and Roses", from the velvet tones of Mel Torme ("Walk Between Raindrops") to the smoky contralto voice of Ernestine Anderson on Paul Simon's "Feelin' Groovy". The names of Stephane Grappelli, Hendrik Meurkens, Ron Eschete and Howard Roberts are prominent as well. Volume 11 features the cool, elastic sounds of the Jim Hall quartet ("Bemsha Swing"), a jaunty "Mr.Gentle & Mr. Cool" with Ken Peplowski, the flashy, percussively Latin-edged Frank Vignola trio with "Tico, Tico", a moodily introspective "Gone" (Gerry Mulligan/Scott Hamilton), and the lush ambience of Bacharach's "The Look of Love" with Scott Hamilton and strings. In addition to second outings by Torme, McDuff and Byrd, are numbers by Gary Burton, The Heath Brothers, Carmen McRae and Monty Alexander. The two discs reflect the depth of commitment by Concord over the years, and afford listeners ample opportunity to sample the musical spectrum. (J.S.)

Concord 4791-2 (Vol 1)/4792-2 (Vol 11) to order

Mel Torme - "My Night to Dream"

RealAudio Sample
This is compilation month, it seems. But what worthier focus than Mel Torme, whose 15 year association with the Concord label tops off a career that began over fifty years ago. The central theme in this collection is love; as Mel states, it is ".my chance to reflect on all the moods, sights, sounds, colours and senses that have passed through my life in the department of love." Numbers are drawn from the 7 albums (1983-1995) with personnel to match Mel's purpose and mood - pianist George Shearing on such ballads as "My Foolish Heart", the seldom heard Johnny Mercer composition, "How Do You Say Auf Wiedersehen?", or the vocalist's own "After the Waltz is Over"; Rob McConnell's Boss Brass with "A House is Not a Home" or Alec Wilder's 1939 hit, "I'll be Around"; a Marty Paich Dek-tette/Torme reunion with "More Than You Know"; orchestral strings conducted by Alan Broadbent and "Moonlight Becomes You"; Matt Dennis' "Angel Eyes" in the company of Cleo Laine and John Dankworth. Mel wanted an album "exclusively of songs that have the air of moonlight at midnight." This is it! (J.S.)

Concord 4790-2 to order

Allen Farnham - "Allen Farnham meets the RIAS Band"

RealAudio Sample
Who says big bands are dead? The RIAS (Radio in America Sector) Big Band, formed in Europe shortly after WW 11, remains a top notch studio/broadcast aggregation, currently under the leadership of conductor/trombonist Jiggs Wigham. This 1996 CD incorporates a quintet within that big band format, the latter led by pianist Allen Farnham who both plays and arranges all the numbers on the disc, including three of his own compositions - the spirited opener, "RIAS-ticity", a multi-textured "Gai-Kichi" with the punctuated, propulsive drive of piano, percussion, and full band, as well as a quintet offering of the lyrically moody "Lost in Zurich". The remaining members of the quintet are given plenty of room to groove throughout, with tenorman Chris Potter confident and fluid on "Samba de Sorvete", sinewy yet tender with the ballad "My Foolish Heart", and harmonicist Hendrik Meurkens blending a strong rhythmic sense into Jobim's bittersweet "Triste". Both the band and bassist/drummer (Chris Berger/Tim Horner) lay down a polished, well-oiled framework, effectively culminated in the closer, John Coltrane's "Cousin Mary". Especially for big band aficionados. (J.S.)

Concord 4789-2 to order

Henri Chaix Trio - "Just Friends"

RealAudio Sample
Sackville records releases its sixth disc featuring the Henri Chaix Trio; recorded in performance before an appreciative audience in Villigen, Switzerland (1996), the session was to be the last for bassist Alain Du Bois who tragically succumbed to a lengthy illness a few months later. With drummer Romano Cavicchiolo, the group had been together for over thirty years, evident not only in the title, but also in the precision and cohesivness of their playing - the steady rhythmic pulse provided in such numbers as "Just Friends", "I Would Do Anything for You", or "The Moon is Low", or the impeccably spaced breaks of "I've Got My Fingers Crossed", or sudden tempo accelerations with "I Surrender Dear". Essentially a mainstream player, Chaix draws much of his material from earlier standards - the playful, relaxed swing of Waller's "Squeeze Me", the 1935 hit, "Lulu's Back in Town", or riding the riffs with Sy Oliver's "Easy Does It; yet, always melodic-centred, he readily rolls into the blues ("How Long, How Long Blues"), fashions a gentle after hours' feeling ("Sweet Substitute"), or explores adventurously a tune at full throttle ("Second Balcony Jump"). This was a foot-tapping group that aimed to please, and didn't miss the mark. (J.S.)

Sackville SKCD2-2048 to order

Mark Shane/Terry Blaine - "With Thee I Swing"

RealAudio Sample
For several years, Mark Shane was the house pianist at Eddie Condon's in NYC, and that same interactive enthusiasm is carried over to this 1997 CD recorded live at Hamburg's Hanse-Merkun auditorium. It's a mainstream romp from the torrid instrumental opening ("I Never Knew") to the final go-round with everybody letting loose on Cow Cow Davenport's "Mama Don't Allow". Featured vocalist, Terry Blaine, swings with drive and assurance on "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" or "why Don't You Do Right", adding a little raw-edged spice to Ethel Waters' 1921 hit "Oh Daddy" and Handy's "St.Louis Blues". The highlight for me was the solo and "fill-in" work behind the vocalist by cornettist Ed Polcer, trombonist Tom Artin, and clarinet/tenor man Allan Vache. As the leader states, this is "a band that wants to play", and the crown response indicates that they did that to the satisfaction of everyone. (J.S.)

Nagel-Heyer 040 to order

Dave Turner Sextet - "Samba D'Athena"

Montreal-born altoist Dave Turner leads an aggregation put together from members of his own quartet and local musicians for this 1997 session recorded before an approving audience at the concert hall of Montreal's Concordia University. His alto ranges from the fluidly explorative ("El Frijol") to the wistfully lyrical ("You Won't Forget Me"), tenderizing the melodic lines of Baden Powell's delicate "Samba Em Preludio", sinewy and exuberant on the title tune. Pianist Tilden Webb offers some finely filigreed work on the ballad "You Won't Forget Me" and hammers home the beat to Turner's samba original. Aron Doyle's horn solos on "Cootz" and Hal Galper's "Inner Journey" are noteworthy. Galper's composition is demanding, but the interplay of alto, trumpet and piano is up for the challenge of its sophisticated harmonies. The rhythm section is in sync throughout as the mood shifts from Latin pulse to boppish runs. (J.S.)

DSM 3012 to order

John Bickerton Trio - "Drinking From the Golden Cup"

Not only is this the trio's first recording as a working unit, but also it is a relatively early example of LNM's "newly-formed, musician-run, independent jazz label". All of the compositions on this 1997 CD are Bickerton originals; the pianist is joined by bassist Ben Allison and percussionist (occasionally flautist) Tim Horner in a programme of improvisatory but always melodically-centred pieces. The close integration of the players in their pursuit of individual freedom of interpretation makes for some interesting listening, notably on such numbers as the opening title tune with the piano featured over a rapidly oscillating rhythm, broken by Horner's brushwork interlude and the restless energy of Allison's bass accompaniment; the tremulous tango beat woven by the trio in their expansion of the theme for "Don Quixote and Don Juan Meet Their Fate in Brooklyn"; or the sudden temp shifts demanded in "The Common Wealth".

Titles are as intriguing as the music, from the tentative, free-ranging exploration of textures in "Snowfall" (not the Claude Thornhill version), to the introspective manifestations of a "Midnight Epiphany on Westbound 46". Canadian-born Bickerton shows, too, his versatility and commitment to experimentation throughout. (J.S.)

Loud Neighbours Music (LNM) 9701 to order

Peter Axelsson Quartet - "The Natural Way"

RealAudio Sample
From Sweden comes a new listening experience for me, and a most impressive one at that. Bassist/arranger Peter Axelsson and reedman Krister Andersson date their recording careers back to the early 80's with the likes of Goran Lindberg, Jan Walgren and Visby Storband; somewhere along the way, their paths crossed and the rapport shown here (1995) reflects a strong conceptual affinity to their musical approach. Joined by pianist Tommy Kotter and drummer Magnus Gran, they fashion a programme that seems divided into two distinctly different phases. The first, with two Billy Strayhorn numbers and Eric Coates "London by Night", is offered over a loose rhythmic backdrop; the second, with a sudden adrenalin surge, bites into Benny Carter's "When Light's Are Low" with the seamless, Coltrane-like sax swirling above keyboard chord clusters and a driving rhythm. Even the shortened repeat of Coate's work becomes a more animated experience. The highlight rests with the standard "As Time Goes By", a free-flowing sax exploration of all the facets of the melody against tentative, disparate trio musings - a polished, powerful performance. Kudos to the arranger! (J.S.)

Valve Records 9701 to order

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

***** Excellent
**** Good

Rating Artist Title Label & Cat. No.

***** Harry "Sweets" Edison Live at the Iridium Telarc CD-83425
***** Dennis Rowland Now Dig This! Concord CCD-4751-2
***** Jimmy Witherspoon With the Junior Mance Trio Stony Plain SPCD 1231
***** Jay McShaan Hootie's Jumpin' Blues Stony Plain SPCD 1237
***** Ray Bryant Trio Ray's Tribute to his Jazz Friends JVC JMI-7503-2
***** Jeri Browns April in Paris Justin Time JUST 92-2

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