September 2001


Freddy Cole - "Rio de Janeiro Blue"

RealAudio Sample

Singer/Pianist Freddy Cole is one of the few remaining great jazz singers. While sounding a great deal like his older brother Nat "King" Cole; he has personality and style of his own. His smoky vocals tend to be a bit dark and laid-back. On his latest offering, his second on the Telarc label he sings both American Classics and Brazilian-influenced tunes.

There are eleven songs on this CD "Rio de Janeiro Blue", and they range from Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You", the all-time jazz favourite by Antonio Carlos Jobim "Sem Voce", sang in Portuguese, and a Cuban Bolero "Delirio". An excellent pianist, Cole takes great pains in selecting the material and musicians for his recordings, and on this occasion he places himself in two different settings, a septet that displays Latin American stylings and his regular band with guitarist Jerry Byrd, bassist Herman Burney and drummer Curtis Boyd. This is a well-balanced CD that has something for everyone. The Latin flavoured rhythms invites you to dance, while Cole's smooth and romantic voice invokes serene and pleasant thoughts. I love the treatment given to Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You". The crisp, hard tenor sax playing of Eric Alexander makes it the blowing track of the session. This is augmented by Cole's stop-time interlude and rich altered harmonies.

On "Yellow Days", Cole finds himself in the company of such greats as Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Duke Ellington, who have all recorded versions of this tune. A self-described storyteller, Cole's performance throughout this recording is delivered with emotion, passion and clarity. His piano playing, arranging skills and versatility have stood the test of time. As he approaches his seventieth birthday, he is singing better than ever and hopefully will do so for a long time to come. CS


Ed Cherry - "The Spirits Speak"

RealAudio Sample

I was not familiar with Ed Cherry or his music. My only recollection is hearing his name mentioned in the company of some notable musicians, and having listened many times to this CD, his debut on Justin Time label, I was totally amazed.

This latest offering is also a new vision for the guitarist, whose style is deeply rooted in the avant-garde. Cherry, a native of Connecticut, has worked with Tim Harding, Brownie McGhee and Dizzy Gillespie.

On this latest selection he leads a quartet formation of guitar, saxophone, organ and drums, performing on eight compositions, four of which are his own.

The title track "The Spirits Speak" provides an illustrative path for his improvisational expertise, while Jimmy Hendrix's influence is aptly demonstrated on Andy McKee's "Top Hat".

Joe Ford limber and swinging playing combines with Lonnie Smith's funk influence and imaginative organ playing adds a rich range of intensity, colour and texture to the recording. Although this is Cherry's date, all members of the group contribute very nicely to this effort. Drummer Nasheet Waits lays down a groovy beat with ease, always staying attuned to the group effort. Cherry, for the most part is easily the dominant voice. Singer Laird Jackson adds excitement and finesse with her vocal stylings on two tracks; Horace Silver's "Peace", and her own composition "Share a Life". Her pensive vocals and pleasant timbre is delivered with passion and conviction.

This is a joyous CD, the music is funky, happy and very tasteful, and is equally suited for listening or dancing. A 'must-have' for music lovers. CS

JUST 155-2

Toots Thielemans - "Blues Pour Flirter"

This is another in the series of recordings done in Paris during the late 50's and early 60's now being released on the Gitanes label. In recent years Toots Thielmans has almost completely forgone playing solo guitar in favour of his breezy whistling and guitar playing. This session recorded in the Polydor studios in Paris on January 4th or 5th features the Belgian musician, who was part of a monumental jam session at the Salle Pleyel Theatre in 1949 with artists such as Charlie Parker, Sidney Bechet and Miles Davis, and who later became a member of the famous George Shearing Quintet, is here displayed in a somewhat subdued setting.

Some moments of Wes Montgomery's style of playing appears along with light vocal self-harmonies as well as a Les Paul touch, but nothing lifts the spirit.

The rhythm section of George Arvanitas - piano, Roland Lobigeois - bass and Philippe Combelle - drums, do their job without stepping on any toes.

A Thielmans original "Le Trottoir" has some good moments and Toots' other instrument (the whistle) surfaces on the last two numbers "Honeysuckle Rose" and an original "The Flirt". RF


Donald Byrd - "Byrd in Paris"

A terrific, and reasonably priced series of 50 recordings retracing jazz musicians listened to in Paris over the past seven decades is now available on Gitanes Jazz Productions.

"Donald Byrd in Paris" is a concert recorded at the Olympia in Paris on October 22, 1958. Although it only contains five selections, it is filled with almost 50 minutes of hard driving music. I had forgotten what a wonderful instrumentalist Byrd was. His later efforts have sometimes gone in unusual directions. At the time of this concert the trumpet player had recently left the master drummer Art Blakey, and his new quintet was following in the musical footsteps of Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Davis and J.J.Johnson alumnus, saxophonist Bobby Jasper proves to be a powerful force, he breaks through on flute with his original "Flutes Blues". Byrd and Jasper allow the rhythm section their moment on "Ray's Idea" (written by bassist Ray Brown). Pianist Walter Bishop shows why he was Charlie Parker's choice of the ivories years earlier. Bassist Doug Watkins, another Blakey grad and Art Taylor, an ace drummer, round out the rhythm section.

"Blues Walk", often credited to Clifford Brown and Sonny Rollins, but actually saxophonist Chris Wood's composition conclude a most entertaining piece of history. RF


Bill Evans/Don Elliott - "Tenderly An Informal Session"

Bill Evans' musical career is well documented. Beginning with his recordings in his home studio as early as 1943 at the age of thirteen (his son Evan has now made these gems available), up to his final efforts a week before his passing, released a couple of years ago. His boyhood friend, Donald Elliott Helman, was born October 21, 1926 in New Jersey. Multi-talented, and using only his first two names, he sang, played vibes, piano, trumpet, bongos, accordion and mellophone, an instrument worthy of many miscellaneous jazz poll wins in the mid 1950's. Bill was three years younger and although proficient on violin and flute, forged his musical career on piano.

This latest piece of gold is from a collection recorded in Elliott's Connecticut home studio in 1956 and 1957. It finds Don sticking to vibes with his friend playing his principle instrument. These recordings appear to be part get-together and part rehearsal between two old pals, not meant for release but more to be used as an exploratory mission.

"Tenderly", "I'll Take Romance", "Laura", an original "Blues #1", are performed in a duo setting. Complete with Elliott mouthing some rhythm sounds, the next half dozen selections have the pianist exploring alone.

Frank Loesser's "I'll Know" from "Guys and Dolls", a short version of a later staple in his repertoire, "Like Someone in Love", an even shorter rendition of Victor Young's "Love Letters" followed by "Thou Swell", a then new Sonny Rollins composition "Airegin" and Matt Dennis' "Everything Happens to Me", are almost pure Evans.

An over eight minute "Blues #2" brings Don and his vibes back into the fold before the master of the ivories again solos on another Victor Young standard "Stella By Starlight", and his own composition "Funkallero". Part of the beauty of this collector's item is the conversation between Bill and Don. We are privy to Bill saying "Hey, let's watch some TV….. let's listen to some of that from the beginning" and more…….

It's wonderful to now have the opportunity to hear this newly available piece of jazz history. Bill passed away in 1980 and his good friend Don followed four years later, but for a precious few moments we're back with them. RF

Milestone MCD-9317-2

Art Blakey - "Paris Jam Session"

A concert from the series "Jazz in Paris" recorded fourteen months after Donald Byrd's "French Adventure".

On December 18, 1959 Art Blakey brought his group and guests into the Theatre Des Champs Elysees.

Walter Davis Jr was now the drummer's pianist with Jymie Merritt - bass, Lee Morgan - trumpet and Wayne Shorter - tenor sax. Two Americans living in Paris at the time also appear on this recording. Saxophonist Barney Wilen, who had just turned 20, playing alto rather than his usual tenor, and one of the fathers of bop, pianist Bud Powell each get a chance to show their stuff on two of the guest pianist's compositions, "Dance of the Infidels" and "Bouncing with Bud". Powell it turns out was a surprise attraction and had to be pulled on stage minus his ever-present beret.

The other two compositions on this fast paced recording "The Midget", a Lee Morgan original, and the burning version of "A Night in Tunisia" round out an evening of concert highlights from the Messengers at their best. RF


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