September 2004

Each month we provide a series of CD reviews plus "Star Rated" items.

You can listen to clips of some of our picks. You'll need a RealAudio Player to do this, and you can download by clicking on the following icon:

Our reviewing staff members are:

John Sutherland: John has a keen interest in piano jazz and brings with him a wealth of knowledge in this area.

Robert Fogle: Rob is Director of Musical Services for Fogle Entertainment in Toronto, as well he hosts his own radio programme on CHRY-FM (105.5). His background as a fan, in jazz music is extensive, and he is a serious collector of all genres of the music.

Colin Smith: Colin began his interest in jazz in his native Jamaica, and since settling in Toronto has become more involved in the music he loves. He is the school programme director for the Markham Jazz Festival and hosts his own jazz show on CKLN-FM (88.1).

Bob Eckersley: Bob Eckersley emigrated from England in 1957 and settled in Owen Sound (Northern Ontario), where he worked as an inspector for the government on Highway construction. His interest in jazz started during the war years, and though he is not a trained musicologist, he listens from the heart and judges accordingly.

By way of identification, reviewer's initials are inserted at the end of each review.

Previous Picks

Takashi (Matsunaga) – "Storm Zone"

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Apart from a photograph depicting Takashi as an exceedingly youthful-looking young man, the enclosed liner notes (done in interview format) tell us only that Michel Petrucciani may have influenced his left hand piano technique or, as he states, “…I usually never add anything to a song once it’s done”. All compositions here are his own, drawn from diverse sources; “I try to keep my antenna up for all kinds of music, not just jazz.” With bassist Daiki Yasukagawa and drummer Junji Hirose, the trio offers us some up-tempo rhythmic explorations with the likes of a Spanish-flavoured “Southern Cross”, a pulsating “Jungle Song”, a light and breezy “New Morning”, a mysteriously eastern “Moko-Moko” with a delightful arco bass solo. These are tempered by balladic interludes with a serenely beautiful “The Do-Ton-Bori River”, or the sad “The World of Sorrow”, and darkened “The Doorway to Dreams”. It’s a balanced and appealing programme. Recommended.


Blue Note 5 98178 2

Ron Davis Trio – “Mungle Music”

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Recorded at Puck’s Farm Studio in Schomberg, Ontario, Canada, pianist Ron Davis leads his trio with bassist Drew Birston and drummer Ted Warren in a rhythmically varied set of numbers including 8 originals. Always on ‘touch control’, Davis proves himself as an independent and original voice both at the keyboard and as a composer. His pairing with bassist Birston on such works as the lively, dance-like opener “D’hora”, the punctuated “Blues 54”, or the melodic arrangement to Kreisler’s “Sad Love Waltz/Liebesleid”, as well as machine-gun delivery to “Popeye” and “Not What You Think”, or the balladic beauty afforded moments with guest altoist Richard Underhill to “Down by 3” and “Summon Someone”, all serve to give notice that this is indeed a trio destined for longevity and well-deserved plaudits. My highlight: the energetic piano/drum exchanges and tempo shifts to “Mark’s Mungle”. J.S.

Davinor Records 1321

Mikole – “Six Horn Strut”

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Multi-instrumentalist Mikole displays his arsenal of reed horns with supportive players Pat Danna – guitar/violin, Gary Nieves – drums, Bruce Grafrath and John Hurst – basses. His amazing versatility begins with a swinging tenor on the old chestnut “Struttin’ with some BBQ” followed by a rhythmically upbeat bassoon/bass clarinet (some overdubbing) version of “I Love Paris”, a flute/guitar rendition of “The Masquerade is Over”, a gently balladic clarinet “I’ll Close my Eyes”, a soprano sax/vocal sharing to “Marilyn”, with Danna doing the serenading to his own composition. As well, there is the wonderful tempo shift to the violin/bassoon pairing on “All of Me”, and a bluesy, understated “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” featuring guitar and Mikole’s tenor saxophone. Do give this one a listen; you won’t be disappointed. J.S.

MC Music 1003

Broadway – “West Side Story”

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“…..with ease, sophisticated and a dash of the sublime…..”, Broadway quartet captures the lyrical, visual sentiment of the original production envisioned by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. This is the result of the creativity of the players – Ali Ryerson – flutes, Rex Cadwallader – piano, Mike Asetta – bass, Arti Dixson – drums – in developing and exploring the thematic content of each number, yet probing incisively behind the obvious so that the various characters and the geographical details are brought to life here. From the dramatic opener “Jet Song” to the final sad nostalgia that grows into a hopeful future “Somewhere”, the cohesiveness of the group (on their debut recording) is maintained. This is “…a collaborative project”, “with no star billing”, though each performer warrants such accolades. Highly recommended. J.S.

Stanza USA 03001

Marilyn Lerner/Sonny Greenwich – “Special Angel”

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The session here is “….a work of simplicity, subtlety, strength and soul” shared by two artists successfully bridging the generational gap between them. The legendary guitarist, Sonny Greenwich, who performed frequently in Toronto’s after-hours clubs in the 60’s before ill health forced him into semi-retirement is paired with Montreal-born Marilyn Lerner a “…self-described experimental romantic” who pursues creative improvisations at the keyboard. With 7 of the 10 works showcasing original compositions, the duo offers an eclectic range of numbers from the hauntingly beautiful “Ainstria”, “Spiritual”, the long-forgotten pop culture of the 50’s “My First and Last Love”, “Special Angel”, to the improvisational freedom of “Simple Pleasure” or “Mosaic”. Their bonding is indeed “…. A magical musical experience”. J.S.


Terry Gibbs = “52nd & Broadway, Songs of the Bebop Era”

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The high speed king of bebop vibes appears on this recording with some equally exciting and dedicated friends to present a “Can’t stop playing this CD” set of Bebop chestnuts including “Round Midnight”, in waltz time featuring Nicholas Payton – trumpet (Clifford Brown inflections), “Lemon Drop” with Terry scatting (Woody Herman fans will remember the original version) and drawing Sam Most in to scat and play flute, “Doxy” in a mellow mood with strings and more Most, “Lover Man”, beautiful French horns and strings set the scene for relaxed solos by Gibbs, Most and Tom Ranier –piano, “Salt Peanuts” off to the races again, with Terry burning, “Cherokee” very reminiscent of the original Diz and Bird version with some exceptional soloing, and a ringing solo by drummer Jeff Hamilton, and Ranier, “Perdido” the string intro here is brilliant, bright and swinging” and “Bopstacle Course”, fast and frenetic with outstanding solo work from Gibbs, Most and Ranier. Bassist Dave Carpenter is rock steady throughout the whole CD.

The string section literally swings its @#%& off on the up-tempo tunes, the written parts are a pure joy.

The CD was produced by Terry Gibbs. My copy being an advance copy has some tune title errors and no information about the strings, French horns, but I must admit I had a pleasurable time listening again and again, and again. The music speaks volumes.


Mack Avenue Records MAC 1018

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