October 1997


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

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Henry Threadgill's Make a Move "Where's Your Cup?"

Over the past 30 years, reedman Henry Threadgill, whether with early cohorts Roscoe Mitchell (60's) and David Murray (80's), or with the group Air (70's), can seldom be labeled predictable. On alto and flute for this 1996 session, he surrounds himself with a challenging array of instrumentalists - electric and classical guitar (Brandon Ross), accordion and harmonium (Tony Cedras), a 5-string fretless bass (Stom Takeishi), and percussion (J.T.Lewis) - in seven original compositions. The overall result is a brash, intermittently lyrically captivating, sometimes jarring, but intriguing amalgam of musical styles. The absence of liner notes suggests, perhaps, that the medium is itself the message. (J.S.)

Columbia CK 67617to order

Roy Hargrove's Crisol - "Habana"

Considered by some as still in his formative years as jazz trumpeter at age 26, an exponent of the hard bop out of the schools of Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard, Roy Hargrove has certainly found his niche here. The influence of an 11 day visit with Cuban musicians in Havana (1996) has ben transferred to this studio session concluding the 1996 Umbria Jazz Winter Festival in Orieto, Italy. The group, identified as Hargrove's Crisol (Spansih for melting pot) metaphorically encompasses both the music and the musicians, many drawn from Puerto Rico (John Benitez, David Sanchez) and Cuba ('El Negro' Hernandez, Chucho Valdes, 'Anga' Diaz, 'Changuito' Quintana) to augment such players as Frank Lacy, Gary Bartz, and Russell Malone. Hargrove is in a comfortable and self-assured groove throughout, obviously enjoying the intricate and infectious rhythms that afford him opportunities to expand on what he does best ("O My She Yeh"/"Dream Traveller"/"Afrodisia"/"Mambo for Roy". This could well be a cornerstone disc in the blossoming of an exciting young talent. (J.S.)

Verve 314 537 563-2 to order

Andre Previn "Jazz at the Musikverein"

Previn, who has done it all - jazz and classical pianist, orchestral conductor, film and TV music - started as a 16 year old jazz wonder, and has lost little of his enthusiasm for that idiom over the years, returning to it periodically since the early 50's. Here, in the Musikverein in Vienna (1995), Previn is joined by bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Mundell Lowe who, in the 90's, have frequently accompanied him on such outings. With such reliable talents, it is no surprise that he swings so fluidly on such numbers as "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter", "What is This Thing Called Love", "Captain Bill", or "Sweet Georgia Brown". Though not a trendsetter, he learned his timing from drummer Shelly Manne, and his impeccable technical prowess coupled with his consummate ability to weave melodies together ("What'll I Do"/"Laura") easily allows him to transform delicate phrasings into rousing keyboard romps. This, indeed, is a good one. (J.S.)

Verve 314 537 704-2 to order

Helen Merrill "You and the Night and the Music"

Helen Merrill's voice may have deepened gently over the years, but it has lost none of its dramatic eloquence and charm. Recorded in 1996, the smaller group format here, drawn from such sensitively responsive players as trumpeter-flugelhornist Tom Harrell, pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, bassist Charlie Haden , and drummer Paul Motian, compliments the emotive qualities of her singing style - improvisationally saucy on the title tune and "I Want to be Happy" (Love the piano/flugelhorn combo here!), luminously clear on "Song of Delilah" and "All of Me", sensually smoky on "My Funny Valentine" and "Ill Wind" (labelled I'll Wind" in the notes). This is what I term "curl-up" music at its best. (J.S.)

Verve (Gitanes) 537 087-2 to order

Bill Wescott "Early Rags - Early Blues"

American born, Canadian based (since 1979) pianist/lecturer/writer Bill Wescott has had a lengthy affiliation with York University's Music Department (Toronto). Having previously studied blues and piano with blues legend Eurreal "Little Brother" Montgomery, he dedicates this 1996 CD as a tribute to him. Westcott informs us that, though some of the numbers are note-for-note transcriptions, older material, taken chiefly from sheet music, is rendered faithfully at the performer's discretion. He draws from an eclectic selection of sources - King Oliver, Lovie Austin-Alberta Hunter, Cow Cow Davenport, Hersal Thomas, Clarence Williams, and includes some rarely heard items - Will Ezell's "Heifer Dust", Cooney Vaughan's "Temblin' Blues", Jimmy Marten's "Rice Hotel". Perhaps the strangest of all is the totally genial pairing of Joplin's "Male Leaf Rag" with Giuseppe Verdi's "Di Provenza il Mar". Westcott is certainly the entertainer here, recreating musical memories regretfully too often abandoned or forgotten. (J.S.)

York Artists Signature Series YFA 00396 to order

The New York All Stars "We Love You, Louis!"

Recorded in concert in Hamburg, Germany, in 1995, The New York All Stars, fronted by trumpeter Randy Sandke, offer a chronological cross-section of compositions remembered by jazz fans as vehicles for Armstrong's cornet/trumpet and personality. The session is more of an attempt to capture the spirit and conviction of the music rather than a fidelity to the original recordings. The octet meets the challenge laudably before an appreciative audience of some 1500, sandwiching such notable examples as Joel Hellenby's upbeat trombone solo on "Big Butter and Egg Man", Sandke's torrid trumpet choruses on "Cornet Chop Suey", Mark Shane and Sandke reliving Armstrong and Hines with "Weatherbird", and Byron Stripling with Sandke and the rhythm section beating out "Swing That Music", between the opening and closing renditions of Armstrong's theme, "When It's Sleepy Time Down South". David Ostwald's liner notes are excellent. I enjoyed the dedication and vitality generated by this aggregation. I think Louis would have too. (J.S.)

Nagel-Heyer 029 to order

The International All Stars "Play Benny Goodman"

Essentially a sextet recording (the final two numbers with additional clarinettists Antti Sarpila and Allan Vache), The International All Stars, performing at Hamburg's Amerika Haus (1995), present selections "that were either recorded by Benny or should have been" (liner), the exceptions being "You", "Did I Remember" and "Our Love is Here to Stay". Concord recording artists Ken Peplowski (clarinet/tenor) and Howard Alden (guitar) are joined by vibist Lars Erstrand, pianist Mark Shane, bassist Len Skeat, and drummer Joe Ascione in enthusiastic and fresh interpretations of some early Goodman studio releases - "Stardust" (1939), "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me"(1945), "Limehouse Blues" (1941) and a medley of favourites. The concluding cut, "After You've Gone" (with three clarinets) is a real barn burner! (J.S.)

Nagel-Heyer 025 to order

The music, serving as the soundtrack for the film The Thirteen Years That Changed America produced for BBC and A&E television, has been selected from the Columbia vaults for its representative characteristics of that period in America from 1920 to 1933, when prohibition was repealed. Such anticipated names as Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman, Armstrong, Dorsey Brothers, California Ramblers, and Casa Loma Orchestra are present, as well as some lesser known aggregations from the era - Mississippi Sheiks, State Street Swingers, Bert Williams. The selctions reflect both musical tastes - Shim Sham Shimmy, Kater Street Rag, Charleston, Sugar Foot Stomp - and the issue of prohibition - Bootlegger Blues, The Moon Shines on the Moonshine, You Drink Too Much. Only "Take the A Train" (written by Billy Strayhorn in 1941) seems somewhat chronologically aberrant. It's an interesting potpourri that undoubtedly takes on greater significance in the context of the film. (J.S.)

Columbia (Legacy) CK 65326 to order

The Buck Clayton Swing Band - "Buck Clayton Live"

Buck Clayton put his trumpet aside in the 70's, after a remarkable career as sideman (Basie/Holiday/JATP) and leader. His final years were spent composing and arranging for a swing band, which he had envisioned and eventually conducted. This 1990 CD, recorded live in New York's Greenwich Village, was among his last stints before his death in 1991. The 16-piece outfit, made up of top-notch musicians, included such stalwarts as Frank Wess (tenor), Jerry Dodgion (alto), Joe Temperley (baritone), Dick Katz (piano), and Warren Vache (trumpet). It recaptures the essence of the early swing period in twelve Clayton originals with the maestro himself at the helm. It's a seventy minute blend of "relaxed and high spirited" music (liner) which big band aficianados will especially enjoy. Conjuring up whimsical reflections for this swing-oriented fan were "Swingin' on the State Line", "Rise and Shine", "Sparky", "Cadillac Taxi", and The Bowery Bunch". (J.S.)

Nagel Heyer 030 to order

Jackie McLean meets Junko Onishi - "Hat Trick"

Veteran altoist, Jackie McLean (ex Miles Davis/Art Blakey/Charles Mingus/et al) shares the spotlight with pianist Junk Onishi, still in her 20's here, and her trio - Nat Reeves (bass), Lewis Nash (drums) - in this 1996 studio disc. Strangely, no information is provided about Onishi, but we know that she already has several well-received Blue Note recordings on the market, dating from the early 90's. Hers is a formidable talent, evident in the adaptability and confidence she displays in the company of such a dominant presence who needs little introduction: moreover, "Jackie's Hat", her own composition, reveals a playful but constructive side to her art. The menu here serves the Parker - Coltrane influenced McLean well with 3 originals, 3 standards, and 3 well-known jazz compositions by others. Gutsy and flamboyant, he offers us a full range of moods and textures on such contrastingly varied works as "Solar" and "A Cottage for Sale", or "Little Melonae" and "Sentimental Journey". It's a rewarding meeting for both musicians. (J.S.)

Blue Note 7243 8 38363-2-1 to order

Antonio Hart "Here I Stand"

Comparisons are inevitable, especially for young performers such as Antonio Hart, already equated with Cannonball Adderley by some. However, on this 1997 CD, he appears to have found his own voice in a personalized series of musical statements dedicated to the "Spirit of Music, and Peace around the World" (liner). With his own quartet of John Benitez (bass), James Hurt (piano/organ), Nasheet Waits (drums), and several guest features (Shirley Scott/Robin Eubanks/et al), reedman Hart gives us a rich, powerful sound on his own "True Friends" (soprano) and the Latin-based song "Ven Devorame Otra Vez" (alto), while his more lyrical side, especially with Shirley Scott ("Flamingo"/"Like My Own"), reveals a warm, sensitive aspect to his playing. As Hart himself observes, "…this project is a jazz recording…represents a diversity of styles,"…this seems to have fulfilled that rationale meaningfully. (J.S.)

Impulse 208 to order

Diana Krall "Love Scenes"

"I selected songs that I personally liked, and that had a special meaning for me," notes Diana Krall in her liner introduction. That becomes manifestly obvious in this 1997 release with guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Christian McBride. The instrumental format, so successfully employed by Nat Cole serves her well here, both on lightly swinging numbers such as "All or Nothing at All", "They Can't Take That Away from Me", or with gentle ballads like "Ghost of a Chance" and "Gentle Rain". The clarity of her enunciation and the deep, tonal colouring to her voice with its seductive, raspy edge - "Peel me a Grape", "My Love Is" - reinforce the overall theme of this album. Moreover, her sense of timing and modulation - enhanced by the superb support offered by accompanists Malone and McBride - is rewardingly effective. On "How Deep is the Ocean", she stretches out on piano, exploring the melody favourably; though suitably spare and understated here, her piano playing deserves greater exposure. (J.S.)

Impulse 234 to order

McCoy Tyner Trio with Symphony "What the World Needs Now"

The McCoy Tyner trio, with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash, is featured on this 1996 CD with the music of Burt Bacharach and accompanied by a symphony orchestra of "excellent people from California and hand-picked top calibre New York musicians". (liner). It's a melding of contrastingly different musical elements reminiscent in feeling and effect (to my ears) of a long forgotten but successful meeting of jazz and orchestra (circa 1961) with tenorman, Stan Getz, and arranger Eddie Sauter ("Focus", …note: recently reissued). Tyner, who can be powerfully explosive in his inventive explorations of the keyboard, easily adapts to the lush world of strings, aided beautifully by the subtle rhythmic impetus of Nash and McBride, creating new and lasting impressions of Bacharach ballads. "His travels and voyages through my music are amazing," states the composer. The range of approaches is appealing, from gentle improvisatory segments - "The Windows of the World"/"Alfie" - to more animated responses with "You'll Never Get to Heaven" or "Always Something There To Remind Me". As Tyner himself concluded, "It's been my pleasure to perform melodies that I think will be around forever". At a time, perhaps, when lasting melodies are rare, he's probably right. (J.S.)

Impulse 197 to order

Karen Young/Michel Donato "Second Time Around"

As the album's title and the opening track clearly indicate, this is not the first musical collaboration between Montreal vocalist, Karen Young, and bassist Michel Donato, in fact, almost a decade has passed since their initial release on the Justin Time label. They seem ideally suited to the thirteen varied selections on this 1996 CD, ranging over standards such as "One for My Baby"/"You're my Thrill", jazz-oriented pieces with Randy Weston's "Little Niles", Mingus' "Goodbye Porkpie Hat", or "Parker's Mood", or more personal choices of Chuck Berry's "Memphis, Tennessee" and Jimi Hendrix's "Up from the Skies". Donato complements Karen Young's eclectic repertoire with its dramatic nuances, playful moments of vocalize, or sudden rhythmic changes, with ease. The overall effect is one of two instruments in perfect accord. (J.S.)

Ursh 1994 to order

Linda Feijo "The Linda Feijo Quartet"

On what appears to be the first release on her own album (No information is provided in the liner notes), vocalist Linda Feijo, recording in a Toronto studio (1997), is accompanied by Dylan Heming (piano), Ron Johnston (bass), and Marty Morin (drums), with guest appearances by reedman Steve Kennedy. I am impressed by all concerned - the sinuous backdrops laid down by Kennedy (notably on "God Bless the Child" (soprano)/"Peel Me a Grape" (tenor), the instrumental rhythm accompaniment that serves the singer so well (and especially Heming's insightful piano work on "Lover Man"/"God Bless the Child"/ his own "Pete's Doughnuts"), and, the most pleasant surprise of all, - the voice of Linda Feijo. Bluesy and sultry on "What a Difference a Day Made"/"Since I Fell for You" ( a big hit in the 60's), powerfully expressive over a wide vocal spectrum ("What is This Thing Called Love"/"Peel me a Grape"), sensitively improvisational with a wonderful sense of timing ("Lover Man"/"Everything I've Got Belongs to You"), hers is a first class talent not to be missed. But, for heaven's sake, Linda, give us some information about yourself, - please! (J.S.)

LFQ 100 to order

The Ultimate Soul Collection

This 2-Cd set is for the casual soul fan, who has heard some of these tracks on the radio or in a restaurant and would like to have them in one place. Every one of the 28 tracks was a hit, from one of several catalogues which the WEA group has access to. The first CD is loosely made up of tracks from the 60s; the second is drawn mostly from the 70s. There are no liner notes. It is difficult to comment further, since practically every track is so well known and within the overall soul umbrella they cover a lot of ground, but here are a few of them: I Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye, Respect by Aretha Franklin, In the Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett, Stand by Me by Ben E. King, Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight and the Pips, Let's Stay Together by Al Green. (C.P.)

Warner Brothers WTVD 34851 to order

Colin James "National Steel"

Regina's own Colin James turns away from some of the high powered music that he's made in the past on this more modest collection of blues. He plays acoustic guitar, including National Steel guitar, on most tracks here, and is joined by another Canadian blues guitarist of note, Colin Linden, on mandolin and acoustic guitar. Many of the tracks are either solo acoustic or acoustic duets by James and Linden. On a few they are joined by bass and drums, keyboards or horns, but overall an attempt is made to keep it simple. The material is taken from the repertoires of bluesmen from Yank Rachell to Muddy Waters, with nods to Otis Redding on These Arms of Mine, Sam Cooke on Somebody Have Mercy and Taj Mahal on Going Up to the Country. Jump blues is represented by Tiny Bradshaw's Postman's Sack and the jazz end of things by Mose Allison Your Mind is on Vacation (not My Mind, despite the sleeve). James and Linden also contribute an original apiece, with Linden's contribution being the standout Before the Dawn. How well you like this will probably depend on how well you like Colin James. It's a relaxed session, and obviously material dear to the musicians' hearts. James has a pleasant voice and the guitar playing is of a high standard, though he has a way to go to achieve the emotional depth of his idols. (C.P.)

Warner Brothers CD 19634 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 fall/winter buying:

Rating Artist Title Label & Cat. No.
**** Various "Tribute to Oscar Peterson" Telarc CD-83401
***** Steve Davis "The Jaunt" Criss Cross 1113 CD
***** Tony Williams "Young at Heart" Columbia 487313 2
***** Mingus Big Band "Live In Time" Dreyfus FDM 365832
***** J.J.Johnson "The Brass Orchestra" Verve 314 537 321-2
**** Stanley Turrentine "Salt Song" CTI ZK 65126
**** Jim Hall "Concierto" CTI ZK 65132
**** George Benson "Beyond the Blue Horizon" CTI ZK 65130
***** Junior Mance "For Dancers Only" Sackville SKCD2-3031
***** Shorty Rogers "Wherever the Five Winds Blow" RCA ND 74399

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