September 1997


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Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen - "Those Who Were"

Over the past three decades, bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen has, as Oscar Peterson's liner tribute to this 1996 release states, "...stepped forward and created the median by which all other bass players will be evaluated." Certainly, from the opening Gershwin rendition of "Our Love is Here to Stay", Pedersen shows us that the bass is no longer simply a musical timekeeper but rather a solo instrument capable of great beauty and virtuosity. The leader is joined on two tracks by Ulf Wakenius and drummer Victor Lewis (Alex Riel on two tracks), with guest appearances by tenorman Johnny Griffin and vocalist Lisa Nilsson. The scope of the musical agenda is rich, harmonically and texturally - from a lovely Carl Nielsen melody ("Derfor Kan Vort oje Glaedes"), rousing Pedersen originals ("With Respect"/"Guilty, Your Honour"), the luscious lyrical voice of Lisa Nilsson on the title tune, to the bittersweet phrasings of Griffin with "You and the Night and the Music". Noteworthy throughout is the splendid accord fashioned by Guitarist Wakenius. (J.S.)

Verve 533 232-2 to order to order

Hamiet Bluiett & Concept - "Live at Carlos 1"

One of the few baritone players still making waves, Hamiet Bluiett's group, Concept, features pianist Don Pullen, bassist Fred Hopkins, and drummer Idris Muhammad (with additional African percussion by Chief Bay) in five extensive numbers (three of which are Bluiett originals) recorded live from the Carlos 1 Club, NYC, in 1986. Excerpts from the liner notes such as "burnished tone and quicksilver ideas" or "tensile strength...razor-sharp tone" perhaps best reflect what listeners have come to expect from this explosive, uncompromising reedman - and he doesn't disappoint. It's a free-wheeling rhythmic feast tempered only by occasional descents with a deliciously warm interlude of "Full, Deep and Mellow" (catch the delicately lyrical keyboard work of Pullen!), a playful Pullen solo on Sonny Rollins' "Oleo", or Bluiett's brief, bluesy introduction to Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia" before the tempo is charged up. If you like your jazz innovatively raw-edged, pulsating and spontaneous, this 1997 release is for you. It will definitely make my top ten this year. (J.S.)

Just A Memory (JAM) 9129-2 to order

Aldo Romano - "Intervista"

The quartet of Aldo Romano (drums), Stefano di Battista (soprano & alto), Nelson Veras (guitar) and Palle Danielsson (bass) offers a programme chiefly of Romano originals (with one exception) on the first of two CD's released in 1996. In a varied array of tempi and mood swings, the group conveys a convincing sense of rapport despite an obvious leaning towards improvisational freedom. At times the interplay is gentle and introspective ("Open Secret"), lilting and explorative ("White Page"), even hauntingly enchanting ("Inner Smile") ; yet, the wild, rapid fire of "Some More for H.T." or the frenetic "Poet of the Hash" built around a more restrained melodic core reveals another side of this aggregation's capabilities. Without question, the soloists are outstanding in their respective roles. The second CD is a personal journey into three Parisian quarters frequented by Romano as sources of musical inspiration. It takes the form of an interview in French (reproduced in English in the liner notes), interspersed periodically with segments of music drawn from his own compositions, with the notable exception of a fiery and fanciful aria from Verdi's Nabucco. It's an intriguing undertaking, adding valuable insights into a world of jazz that is distinctly not American. (J.S.)

Verve 537 196-2 to order

Larry Bluth - "Live at Orfeo"

Pianist Larry Bluth, bassist Don Messina, and drummer Bill Chattin appear here on "their first commercially available recording", live performances (with minimal background distraction) from the Orfeo club in Manhattan's East Village, recorded in November, 1991, and January, 1992, respectively. Ten of the twelve selections are composed by members of the trio, a cohesive group obviously well acquainted with one another's stylistic nuances. Though they capture, at times, an Ahmad Jamal ambience in understating melodic lines or in abandoning explicit melody for the suggestive only (I'll See You in my Dreams"/"Tell'n Tales"), Bluth's strong Tristano/Mosca connection soon dispels that comparison. Sparse, angular, elastic, he swings the trio through numbers such as "The Dumbwaiter" or "Liana", almost skirting the melody, invading it fleetingly, playfully interjecting familiar bits from recognizable standards. Balancing an active explorative right hand against an intermittent chordal left, he improvises freely on boppish pieces like "Empathy" and "For Dean", or builds around the ballad-like melodic cores of "Francine" and "A Song for Lauren". The tightness of group dynamics contributes significantly to his ability to do that. An enjoyable first outing!

Zinnia 105CD to order

Larry Bluth - "Five Concerts & A Landscape"

In their second release, a compendium of five concerts, recorded in various NYC venues from 1993 to 1995, the Larry Bluth trio restricts itself almost exclusively to a range of standard material; however, there is nothing stale about the musical treatment of familiar tunes in the hands of this threesome. In fact, it makes for an interesting comparison with the previous disc, allowing the listener to more fully appreciate the intricacies of improvisation surrounding the anticipated. Many of the selections begin in a straightforward manner, establishing the recognizable melody, then fragmenting it, or toying around its periphery, seemingly pursuing it before drawing it back for the closing - "My Melancholy Baby"/"Lover, Come Back to Me"/"Darn That Dream". Here, too, the bass and drums are given more prominent roles, most noticeably on the final cut, "I'll Remember April", where the mike balance favours them. It=s a trio I would like to see in performance. How about a trip to one of Toronto=s jazz spots? (J.S.)

Zinnia 109CD to order

Dodo Marmarosa - "Pittsburgh 1958"

Any recorded material by Dodo Marmarosa is an unexpected treat, but especially so if it is previously unissued. Following a rapid rise to piano stardom in the late 40's, there were woefully few recordings after 1950. Aside from the four sessions documented from different sources between 1956 and 1962, all drawn from privately taped club dates, informal gatherings or a home-taped TV show, the lengthy liner notes afford an excellent historical perspective of the man and his music. In a 38 second introduction, Dodo himself (June 1995) prefaces musical portions. Twelve of the eighteen cuts were recorded in 1958 on a Webcor recorder hidden under the piano at Pittsburgh's Midway Lounge. "Dodo was there for only one week, and there was hardly anyone in the place, "states his friend, Danny Conn. What a tragedy, for on numbers such as "Topsy"/"Billie's Bounce"/"Cherokee", we hear again what an amazing extemporizer he was, or how masterfully he dominated a keyboard. It's not digital hi-fi, and there are a few tape speed problems, but the performance is memorable. As is the remaining music, chiefly quintet arrangements, with an illuminating Danny Conn on trumpet B Bud Powell's "Oblivion", "You're my Thrill", or "Dodo's Blues". But the music can only hint at what might have been, revealing a talent too soon withdrawn from the public ear. (J.S.)

Uptown 27.44 to order

Laura Fygi meets Michel Legrand - "Watch What Happens"

This is not a jazz album. However, what it does offer is a great collection of songs and motion picture gems composed by Michel Legrand and sung by Laura Fygi (no information given) who is stunning to look at (photographs are included) with a voice to match. Recorded in Hilversum, The Netherlands, it features a small trio accompaniment set against a large studio orchestra conducted by Legrand as a background for the exotic Laura. Four of the fifteen numbers do swing lightly, including the title tune. The music overall is lush and romantic. I recommend that it be savoured by a crackling fireside, with toasted marshmallows, a warm brandy, and shared with someone who would appreciate the ambience as well as the music. (J.S.)

Mercury 534 598-2 to order

Benghazi Saxophone Quartet - "Night Time Uptown"

This is the premier disc of the Halifax-based saxophone quartet featuring players drawn from diverse musical experiences - Don Palmer (soprano), Kenny MacKay (alto), Chris Mitchell (baritone), and Paul Cram (tenor). Such groups have come a long way since the Brown Brothers novelty quintette at the turn of the century; this foursome is refreshingly different. Composer/Arranger Cram describes the group dynamics as "tangential" with "equal voices voices interacting". Indeed, it's amazing how much propulsion can be generated without the conventional piano/bass/drums (eg: "Revolutions"/"In a Minor Mood"/"Freedom Jazz Dance"), or how full a sound can be sustained with minimal spatial pauses between numbers. The quartet presents an intriguing mix of selections from Ellington ("Caravan"/"It Don't Mean a Thing"), Coltrane ("Central Park West" in medley with Bud Powell's "Parisian Thoroughfare"), Warne Marsh's playful "Bop Goes the Leesel", to Kid Ory's "Muskrat Ramble" with the trad flavour cleverly brought out by subtle sax interaction. Moreover, each performer is given a brief solo spot to display his own adeptness. Though tenorman Cram emphasizes that the chosen name, Benghazi, was selected for its exotic, evocative implications, its Arabic translation, "sons of the conqueror", serves them well here. Highly recommended! (J.S.)

Justin Time JTR 8461-2 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.
**** Luis Salinas "Salinas" GRP GRD-9855
***** Jimmy Bruno "Live at Birdland" Concord CCD-4768-2
***** Carla Bley "Goes to Church" WATT 78118-23127-2
**** Charlie Parker "Boston,1952" Uptown 27.42
**** Frank Sinatra "Live in Australia, 1959" Blue Note CDP 7243 8 37513 2 7
**** Miles Davis "Live at Fillmore East" Columbia C2K 65139
**** Miles Davis "Live at Philharmonic Hall" Columbia C2K 65140
***** Miles Davis "Live-Evil" Columbia C2K 65135
***** Miles Davis "Black Beauty" Columbia C2K 65138
**** Miles Davis "Dark Magus" Columbia C2K 65137
***** Carmen McRae "Sings Lover Man & other Billie Holiday Classics" Columbia CK 65115
***** Jimmy Rushing "Rushing Lullabies" Columbia CK 65118
***** Billie Holiday "Complete Commodore Recordings" Commodore CMD-2-401
***** Lester Young "The Kansas City Sessions" Commodore CMD-402
***** Lester Young "This is Jazz - 26" Columbia CK 65042

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