Friday, August 30, 2013

The Kids are All Right!

"Hang Time" (Tapestry 2013) is a set of music by two bands at the Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts, one directed by Greg Gisbert and one by Eric Gunnison.

All of the music was written and played by the students, who were grouped into Group Giz, an octet, and Group Gunn, a septet. What the pieces say, first and foremost, is that htere are any number of outstanding young musicians coming out of conservatories around the country (in addition to those coming up through non-conservatory paths), and that jazz should be in good hands for at least the near future. The music here is largely mainstream, derived from the foundations of swing, bop, and post bop, wqith individual touches adding latin, rhythm and blues, and other streams. The music changes from cut to cut ans the composers do, but the solid play is always there, highlighted by some hard working tenors and altos in particular. "Gotta Listen" is a nice funk piece, while "Buenas" stands out for its latin inflections. A big band piece, "Home" is well rounded and give  the ensemble a real chance to demonstrate its tightness and swing sounds.

Nothing showy, nothing spectacular, but a clear demonstration that there are many excellent young players who will be worth following in the future. And kudos to their instructors, here and at all the other schools teaching the next generation.

Flutes, Flutes, and More Flutes!

This one's pretty simple -- if you like flutes in jazz you'll love this recording. If not, you have two choices, pass or listen and change your mind.

Product DetailsAli Ryerson's Jazz Flute Big Band Gamer Changer" (Capri Records 2013) is Ryerson's reminder to the jazz community that the flute should be a mainstream instrument. Even given its history in jazz with players like Herbie Mann, Hubert Laws, Sam Most, Frank Wess an others, the flute is still mostly a second instrument for sax players and a lesser light in jazz combos and writings. Ryerson note how many jazz flautists have stories of rejection in the world of jazz education, something expereinced first hand by my daughter in high school, and when flutes are featured, many see the music as too light, too close to the world of smooth jazz.

What a shame. Jazz flute is a beautiful sounding instrument, whether it be the standard flute, alto or bass or contra bass flute, all featured herein, and Ryerson intends to demonstrate their beauty by assembling not one, two, or three flutes for her band, but 19 flutes in a wonderful chorus, backed by a rhythm section of piano, bass, and drums.

Let's meet the flautists:  Ryerson, Holly Hoffman, Hubert Laws, Nestor Torres, Marc Adler, Jamie Baum, Andrea Brachfield, Fernando Brandao, Bob Chadwick, Kris Keith, Billy Kerr, Paul Lieberman, Keith Underwood, Richard Ford, Zachary Kellogg, Rachel Rogers, Jonathan Royce, Donna Sevcovic, and Stan Slotter.  Hoffman, Laws, and Torres are highlighted as soloists.

And the rhythm section:  Mark Levine on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, and Akira Tana on drums and percussion.

This is a labor of love that took a decade to put together for Ryerson, and a remarkable one at that. When played as a chorus, the various flutes -- alto, tenor, bass -- sound much like the sax section of a big band, with nice harmonies, chordal arrangements, and selected soloists. When a single flute steps out for a solo, the combinations are lovely to hear. The rhythm section plays a key role in keeping the beat, providing the solid flooring underneath, and creating a few powerful solos themselves.

The jazz ensemble takes on a set of standards and brings a new shine to them, soft and endearing as flutes are, but also toe-tapping and dynamic as the best of jazz ensembles are. Songs include "Daahoud", "Stolen Moments", "Con Alma" and seven more.  It's a mainstream tour de force for jazz flutes. Sure it's light on the ears, but it's not light jazz. It's a full throated jazz CD asking you to reconsider the role of the flute, and it succeeds brilliantly.



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Reykjavik: A Haven for Music Lovers

Enjoyed my time in Iceland, mostly touring the incredible countryside full of fjords, geysers, hot steam fields, mountains, glaciers, lava formations, volcanos......and seeing whales, puffins, and seals in their natural habitats.

We spent a couple of days in Reykjavik as well, a really lovely city of charming buildings, parks, and general calm. And of music of all types, including the music of the Reykjavik Jazz Festival. Some of Iceland's rock music stars are well known in the U.S. already -- Sigur Ros, Bjork, and Of Monsters and Men -- while the jazz musicians are less known. I will have a post on them shortly, but today want to comment on the availability of CDs and vinyl at not one, two, or three stores, but at four music stores as well as at several bookstores. And this is not just rock, but also classical, jazz, folk etc. from Iceland, Europe and the U.S. Reykjavik is basically a music lover's dream location, four plus stores located in easy walking distance of each other.
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The first and foremost store to visit  is 12 Tonar, where music is featured, discussed, heard, and sold like it should be. Be prepared to spend a while here at the most comfortable and accomodating music store I havea seen in ages. The collections are strong in each area, particularly with European labels and especially Icelandic labels including their own imprimateur for the jazz collection. Customers can open any CD they like, and can listen on one of about a dozen CD walkmen located around the shop next to comfortable easy chairs and couches. The store staff offers espresso while one listens along with knowledgable advice or information if requested. Here is a link to an article from Gramophone magazine about the store with more details and praise.

and from Buzzfeed, this link has 12 Tonar, with interior pictures, right below Amoeba Records:
http://www.buzzfeed.com/mariasherm/best-record-stores-around-the-world

 
Where do you go from here? That is actually an easy choice. Just as 12 Tonar features a great selection of new music, Geisladiskabud Valda has an overwhelming amount of used CDs, vinyl, and DVDs stuffed into a very small space just up the street. It is an incredible treasure hunter's delight, piles and piles of all types of music from all over the world. Jazz is but a small part of the collections but pretty strong for the used CD/vinyl hunter. there were probably about 200 CDs of Icelandic jazz in two columns, and then another four columns of general jazz CDs, belwo which had to be at least 100 Miles Davis CDs, and then a large number of Coltrane and Rollins also separated out. And then to top it off there were boxes that had yet to be sorted and shelved with more jazz. I picked up some used Icelandic music by ADHD and Joel Palsson at about half of what they were priced at in the other stores, plus a 1979 ECM CD by George Adams called "Sound Suggestions."  Lots of ECM in fact on the shelves. And for  those who like 60s rock, there were huge selectrions of music by the Grateful Dead, Jethro Tull, The Doors, Bob Dylan and others right up front. A great place to spend a day browsing if one has the time.
The next store to visit is associated with a local record label,  Smekkleysa (Bad Taste) Records, which largely produces indie music including music by the Sugar Cubes and Sigurd Ros. While most of the music is geared to other genres like rock and indie, there is a small but effective area committed to jazz CDs, and people who have an interest and knowledge of the Icelandic jazz scene. Not the best place to go first, but a nice place to check in on for random selections and to discuss possible selections with a knowledgeable salesperson.

Skifan - Reykjav√≠k, IcelandThose are the three independent record stores in Reykjavik, but there are several other places to buy music, including jazz. One is Skifan, a more mainstream store with a more mainstream vibe. Plenty of music there including jazz, but the jazz selection is limited for the most part to the most recent issues and some compilatoins and such from non-Icelandic sources. Still, just having a store like this with a jazz collection is a plus in most places these days, so hooray for Skifan.  

The other places to get jazz CDs would be bookstores, of which Eymundsson is the largest and best known chain in Iceland, with two stores in downtown Reykjavik. The downtown store in the City Center has an excellent collection of jazz and was willing to play one or two CDs if asked, and is a definite placae to vist since each store seemed to have one or two CDs that others did not. A note here -- if you are ever in Akeyuri in the north, which is a charming little town, the Eymundsson there has an overwehlming jazz CD collection (and a great English book section (like in Reykjavik as well)where I was able to purchase the newest books by two of my favorite Icelandic mystery writers, Arnaldur Indridisson and Yrsa Siggursdottir before they have been published here.) Anyway, I do recommend a visit to Eymundsson for music and books. And good coffee as well.

So that's it, a gold mine for those interested in new listening experiences. I was returning for a second time to Iceland so I was aware of some of the music, but found a number of new and interesting players or bands --- Hot Eskimos and ADHD had not been on my radar before, while new music was there from K Trio, Agnar Mar Magnusson and others for me to hear. In all I picked out 19 CDs to take back with me, and I intend to produce a post about them shortly. Suffice it to say that being able to listen to most of them beforehand was incredible, a real return to the days of yesteryear around here, and allowed me to pick and choose -- I acutally did reject about as many as I took. 

Iceland is a great place to visit for its beauty, its people, and its music. We are already planning to go back to see the Southeast and Eastern fjords that we have yet to visit after two trips, and I will always look forward to grazing among the great record stores as well.  





  

The Impossible Gentlemen: "Internationally Recognised" (and Impossibly Good)

The new CD by the international quartet The Impossible Gentlemen hits the streets right after Labor Day. Called "Internationally Recognised" (Basho 2013), I am finding it even more enjoyable than their first, the self-titled CD for which they subsequently received this year's Parliamentary Award as the Jazz Ensemble of the Year. I hope this new CD will raise the profile of the group in the U.S., where they are still flying under the radar.  

Product DetailsThe Impossible Gentleman is a jazz supergroup formed in 2010, whose members include The U.K.'s Gwilym Simcock and Mike Walker on piano and guitar respectively, and the U.S.'s Adam Nussbaum and Steve Swallow on drums and bass respectively. Steve Rodby sits in on two songs here on acoustic bass and also produced the recording. Simcock is a youthful and outstanding pianist and composer who has been featured on this blog before, and he wrote or co-wrote five of the eight pieces; Mike Walker wrote or co-wrote five as well, while Steve Swallow wrote one. The play as would be expected from such a telented group is uniformly tight throughout and quite varied from song to song.
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The lead-off piece "Heute Loiter" comes right out of the 70s fusion movement, with Walker out front on the electric guitar supported by the engaging rhythms provided by Nussbaum on the kit and Swallow's solid bass. It's followed in turn by a more melodic and even flowing "Just to See You" where the melody is in the hands of Swallow and Simcock, underpinned by the addition of Rodby's acoustic bass which allows Swallow to do his thing. It's a lovely little tune that features the lyricism of Simock as a composer and player.

"Modern Day Heroes" is another Simcock piece with additional parts added by Walker. It's introduced by Nussbaum on drums, and then Simcock and Swallow enter with a jaunty little melody. The tune trades back and forth between the bass, guitar, and piano, but the piano really drives this upbeat melody supported by the rest of the band. Very infectous toe-tapping music with a decidely strong beat and group ethos. Simcock takes a strong turn on the solo midway through the piece that is wonderfully light and airy and then plays back and forth with Walker until gradually Walker takes over with great support by Nussbaum.

"The Silver of Other Lovers" is a Mike Walker composition, written expressly for Simock, and to capture Walker's fascination with combining jazz, pop, and classical music into a "new, organic whole." Simcock steps in front here with a strict left-hand pattern and some really nice lyrical imrovisation from the right, as determined by Walker as composer. Walker backs up the piano later with some hard guitar phrases, and the whole thing comes together to create a fine piece. "Crank of Cam Bay" is a humorous piece based on a story of Steve Swallow's, but the narration of parts of the story interrupt the very fine piece of music and is more a distraction than anything else. I'm sure it sounded fun and wacky and reflected the crazy side of the group but to me it falls flat.

After that, the tightly constructed and marvelously played music continues with "Love in Unlikely Places" by Simcock and Walker, which is a small piece of beautiful, pastoral music between the piano and guitar. "Barber Blues" follows with a thoroughly modern take on the blues based on the methods of classical composer Samuel Barber, with angular melody lines and short vibrant solos from each member including the bass and drums. It's lively and rollicking.

"Ever After" closes the set with a Swallow tune, another delicate piece of lyrical charm, played quietly by Simcock first and then the others, with tasteful rhythms and colors by Nussbaum underneath. It's quiet, peaceful, and a clear counter-point the the previous tune, thus demonstrating the range and abilities of this marvelous band.

As I said, I enjoyed this CD more than the award-winning first one. I found it more lyrical, more tightly constructed, and at times playful and captivating. First Class.



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Off on Vacation and the Reykjavik Jazz Festival

I'll be in Iceland beginning next week and into the following week and in a rare stroke of magic, for the second time this summer I will be at a jazz festival. Having been at the Montreal Jazz Festival in July, it is now time to turn to the Reykjavik Jazz Festival. I've written a bit about the fine jazz recordings I picked up two years ago when we were in Iceland, and have posted recently on the wonderful new recording by Sunna Gunnalaugs, so I am really looking forward to a couple of nights at the Festival once we are finished touring and settling back in Reykjavik for the end of our trip.

If you don't know Iceland or its jazz, or for that matter its literary history from its sagas to the modern mystery you are missing one of the great thrills of your life.

Back before the end of the month.

Two Mainstream CDs: Harold O'Neal and Peter King/Alan Skidmore



Here are two exciting, vibrant mainstream CDs that I received this past week that deserve your attention, one by some young up-and-comers in the U.S. and one by some old pros in the U.K..

Product DetailsFirst up, the young guns. From the U.S. comes Harold O'Neal's "Man on the Street" (BluRoc Records 2013), a modern mainstream CD led by the young pianist. O'Neal has two previous sessions as leader under his belt on the Smalls Label that I posted about on January 2, 2012. O'Neal is a wonderfully talented pianist and composer who was born in 1981 in Tanzania but was raised from age 3 in Kansas City. His mentors were Bobbby Watson and Andrew Hill, as well the music of classical composers like Franz Liszt, and his compositions demonstrate a blend of jazz and classical music along with the freedom of expression he garnered from widely varied education. The two previous sessions, Marvellous Fantasy (Smalls 2011) and Whirling Mantis (Smalls 2010) were a quartet and a solo outing, and for this effort O'Neal has another quartet that includes Marcus Strickland on sax, Marcus Gilmore on drums and Joe Sanders on bass
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All the music is by O"Neal. The first piece, "The Dean of Swing" is a tour de force for Strickland who is out front for much of this modern hard bop (post bop?) piece until O"Neal picks up and runs with the tune late in the nine minute composition. The second piece "Is It This" is introduced by Strickland but quickly turns to O"Neal for an extended section of imaginative play. "The Ballad of Jean Grey" is a quieter, more introspective piece that O'Neal leads, demonstrating some more delicate and soulful play. Behind him Gilmore and Sanders keep the pace strong. "Gossamer's Lilt" continues with the softer side of the group and in this case is strictly a piano trio in which O'Neal is center stage with a quiet and moving tune. Strickland returns with another piece written for his lead, "Man on the Street" and he wails away with the others comping for him. The piece gets very high spirited and Strickland gets a bit shrill at times during his extended solo. "Childlike" returns the CD to a quieter place, with what sounds like a soprano sax and piano duet on a very nice, lyrical tune. It's just the two of them playing quietly, with no bass or drum support, and it is a highlight of the CD. "P.L.C" is a straight 50's style hard bop piece with parts for each member, and some nice soloing by Strickland on a more mellow tenor. O'Neal is up next and then Sanders with equally impressive solos. "Seraglio" starts with some classical piano runs that never let up; it is a solo piece for O"Neal and is closer to Debussy and Liszt than Parker and Monk. Beautiful, absolutely riveting. Finally, the CD ends with the soprano of Strickland leading the way on a mid-tempo song that finishes once again with the exquisite piano of O"Neal.

O'Neal is an exceptional young talent on the piano, as demonstrated on his early CDs and particulalry his solo piano set. Here is continues to shine, but also shines as a composer, with a wide palette and many interesting ideas that he expresses through diverse songs, interesting combinations, and particularly in writing for the sax of Strickland. This is a really nice CD of modern mainstream and impressionistic music that hints at more good things to come. My only complaint is the packaging -- no list of players, no credits on the songs -- makes it hard to know who's who and what's what.

Product DetailsFrom the U.K we have music from a veteran crew, led by sax players Peter King and Alan Skidmore on alto and tenor respectively, entitled "Forever Elvin" (Miles Music 2013), and also featuring Steve Melling on piano, Alec Dankworth on bass, and Martin Drew on drums. It's simply a hard dring hard bop homage to Elvin Hayes, seven extended pieces that give each player many chances to shine. Nothing fancy here, just good straight ahead play by these veterans. A lovely alto introduces "Body and Soul, and then the nine minute piece moves over to the piano of Melling and tenor of Skidmore as well. But overall it is Peter King's song. "E.J's" blues follows and returns to some real up tempo swinging play, begun by Skidmore and the hard charging drumming of Martin Drew, but also with solos for Melling and King. The tour de force here is the hard charging "Passion Dance", opened by the piano but turned over to the saxophones to drive it forward until Melling picks it up with a Tyner like solo. It has all the force and passion of the Tyner original(s) and blows up quite a storm. 

There is not a whole lot more to say. This is a wonderful live date full of passionate play by some skilled veterans of the U.K. scene.

Mellow Modern Sounds from Abroad

Four CDs that I picked up this week from bands and labels from overseas, respectively ECM, Storyville, ACT, and Pig records.

Product DetailsThis past week Christian Wallumrod Ensemble released "Outstairs" (ECM 2013), which marks the ninth time the pianist has recorded for ECM as either a leader or sideman and the first release of this ensemble since 2010. Wallumrod has been recording since 1992 using themes from a wide range of sources and while this is broadly chamber jazz it is very sparse and intensely personal, far closer to the avant-garde and therefore takes a lot of patience and time to get used to. Wallumrod blends free-improv, avant-garde, Norwegian folk, early church music, and 20th century classical (think John Cage) into a quietly played stew. The instrumentation is unusual:   Wallumrod on piano, harmonium and toy piano; Eivind Lonning on trumpet, Gjermund Larsen on violin, hardanger fiddle, and viola; Espen Reinertsen on tenor sax; Tove Torngren on cello, and Per Oddvar Johansen on drums and vibes. But though it is a sextet, seldom are all the players involved at the same time, and the voicings vary greatly from song to song, making for some unusual sounds. The music is quiet, the impact is not in dynamic changes but rather in the different blends of the instruments and the use of lots of pauses and spaces between the notes.   "Stille Rock" opens the set with simple piano chords, unusually placed breaks, and quiet drumming that gradually comes front and center wtih the strings. It's strangely captivating, more drama than song.  "Bunadsbangla" is more tuneful, a simple folk melody, and "Tridili No 2" a song built on semi-calssical string sounds. "Beatknit" is perhaps the oddest song, with the piano striking a series of simple chords with various instruments providing contrasts and then the same simple rhythm is picked up by the drum until some ominous droning notes come in at barely pianisimo. This one is more about drama than melody and clearly the most avant-garde piece in the set. "Folkskiss" is anicely done little melody built on the accordion, whcih sounds like a church organ in this quiet setting. "Third Try" is another piece of the avant garde, a piece that begins with ominous tones from the percussion and simple quiet tones from the others, and stays there for three minutes. "Outstairs" is a small tune of delicate melodies and spaces and unusual sounds. "Exp" closes with the most lyrical piece, a piano driven melody that gradually includes the entire ensemble in an impressionistic tune played quietly at a very slow pace.  

Lots of modernism and quiet drama here but not lot of melodies or lyricism. Fascinating music/sounds but not for the faint of heart.   

The Morten Haxholm Quartet's "Equilibrium" (Storyville 2013) is a nice set of modern mainstream jazz that caught my eye because of the sidemen to Haxholm, a Danish bass player --- Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar, Ari Hoenig on drums, and Frederick Menzies on tenor sax. Its a nice set of eight pieces with a couple of standards including "Night and Day" and six compositions by Haxholm. Haxholm's compositions are bright, played in unusual keys, and scored to provide each of the players with plenty of space.  Kreisberg is particularly effective on the opener, "Giacometti", a nice mid-tempo homage to the sculptor with lots of long and elastic lines. He gives way to Haxholm who solos over the strong base played by Hoenig until Kresiberg and then the band come in to complete the song. "Ezra" is mid-tempo song named in honor of Ezra Pound. The soulful melody is played beautifully by the tenor sax. All of Haxholm's tunes are in this same general tone, nicely witten melodies at a mid-tempo pace with lots of opportunities for each player. The one standard "Body and Soul" has Kreisberg on lead throughout, with a solo for Hoenig.

Nice modest set of modern mainstream compositioons, with strong play particularly from Kreisberg.    


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 I've come to trust Challenge Records for producing some very fine music and "Being There, Here (Challenge 2013) from the Elan Mehler Trio does not disappoint. Mehler is a Broklyn-based, Israeli pianist, working here with Todd Hedrick on bass and Max Goldman on drums. This is a set of 10 songs covering a range of composers including Ellington, Monk, and Jobim among others, with a single original by Mehler. The music is uncommmonly rich and beautiful, starting in with a dreamy redition of "In a Sentimental Mood," with some nice arco bass play enhancing the sound quite nicely. Lush tones dominate throughout, with quiet beauty shining through on pieces When I Fall in Love" and "Solitude". "Yes Indeed" becomes a slow burner in Mehler's hands as it builds in intensity. Goldman is a particularly subtle drummer who seems to pay homage to Paul Motian with his use of brushes and coloration, and Hedrick controls the tempo and rhythms nicely from his bass. "Bemsha Swing" is riveting, a bouncy piece done initially in the style of Monk but gradulaly growing into a fine up-tempo swing as the title implies. Each piece is finely layered with multiple textures from the combination of the three players, who's classical backgrounds provide some of the emotional overtones for the music. Nothing is rushed and notes are lingered upon to great effect, with touches of players like Mehldau or Jarrett peaking out from the music.

This is an absolutely beautiful CD that any lover of classic piano trios will enjoy. Sensitive play and a love of the music prevails. Highly recommended.


Product DetailsThe final entry for this blog is the exciting music of the Jim Blomfield Trio on "Wave Forms and Sea Changes (PIG 2013). This is Blomfield's first CD as a leader and the U.K pianist makes the most of it, along with Roshan Wijetunge on bass and Mark Whitlam on drums. As I listened, here are the adjectives I wrote down about the music:  powerful, exciting, breathtaking at times, and driven. I also noted the very lyrical and long flowing melodies countered with a strong and sometimes slightly dissonant left hand that increases the interest and resonance of the music. This is modern and innovative music that stays within the framework of the mainstream, with just enough use of spiky rhythms and dissonance to heighten the interest within each of Blomfield's ten compositions. The first piece is "Return Of The Easton Walk" and it is full of compositional twists and turns that exite the ears, along with dynamic changes and interesting interplay. Its edgy aat times, flowing at others, and the back and forth creates greata drama nad interest in the piece. is full of ideas, contrasts and exemplary musicianship. A spiky and percussive opening gives way to a flowing, gentle but oh-so-brief melody, before Blomfield returns to the edginess of the opening bars.  "N Trance" follows with another nice tune, as does "Sea Changes." And as the CD progresses, there continues this constant movement between lyricism and dynamic chang, consonance and dissonance, but never is a robust or showy way. The variety increases one's interest in the music, the three members layer each song with thier insturments in an organic way, and the set is well-conceived and flowing.

This is an outstanding debut from a band I hope to hear more from. It has a distinct style and vision in a world of many modern piano trios, one that needs to be heard. Another sound recommendation.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Cruising the Bins, Part Two: Filling in the Gaps

This post is not about the $ 2.00 bargains. It's about looking more closely at the regular bins and finding the older CDs, many athat are no longer in circulation, and filling in the collection. It's about some nice finds that a worthwhile additions to anyone's collection.

And please note that the formating is still not functioning properly so I may not have the bolds and italics all in place in the formats I regularly use.

Product DetailsEddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway "A Duet of One" (IPO 2008). After buying and listening to "Live in Santa Fe" by this duo, which appeared only last month, I went back and picked up this one they did a few years back. Of course its as good as the new one, with outstanding stright-ahead play of songs like ""I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and "After You've Gone" among the 10 songs in the set, recorded live at the Jazz Bakery. Two masters doing what they do best, entertaining. 

Product DetailsCedar Walton "Composer" (Astor Place 1998). I've seen Walton a couple of times live at the Village Vanguard, where he is in residence during the Chritmas week, and he is just marvelous. I have loads of his music but didn't have this sextet, which includes Roy Hargrove on trumpet, Christian McBride on bass, Vincent Herring on alto, Ralph Moore on tenor, and Victor Lewis on drums. This is a really nice tight band playing nine Walton compositions with style and many bravura solos. Great pick up.

Product DetailsSonny Clark "My Conception" (Blue Note 2000) was originally recorder at the Van Gelder Studios in 1959 in two sessions. Clark is teamed with Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, Paul Chambers and Art Blakey on one set, and Clifford Jordan, Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers and Pete LaRoca on the other. Just nameing those folks should tell you how good this recording is, one that I somehow missed in my collection of Clark CDs. No longer.

Product DetailsThe Steve Kuhn Trio "Year's Later" (Concord 1993). This is a pianist with magic fingers whose music never disappoints, and I was reaally surprised that I didn't have this in my collection. This is Kuhn with David Finck on bass and Lewis Nash on drums with Kuhn sounding as expressive, impressive, and innovative as ever as he rolls through songs by Ellington, Stayhorn, waldron, Count Basis, and Horace Silver.

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Jonathan Kreisberg "The South of Everywhere" (Mel Bay Records 2007). I only began to examine Kresberg's catalogue after I purchased and enjoyed his most recent outing, "One" (New For Now Music 2013). This CD is easy on the ears, with supporting members Matt Penman on bass, Mark Ferber on drums, Gary Versace on piano, and Will Vinson on alto sax pitching in with some nice restrained support. Kreisberg wrote 6 of the titles, and the other two are "The Best Thing for You" and "Stella By Starlight". Good stuff.

Cruising the Bins: The $ 2 Finds

As Sally's sadly closes up shop soon, I have spent a lot time recently cruising the regular and bargain bins, and came up with some nice stuff. Here are the $ 2 finds, some by some very well known artists, and each worth a listen if you see them.

Product DetailsProduct DetailsKate McGarry, "Mercy Streets" (Palmetto 2005) is a nice, not great early effort by the singer whose last, "Girl Talk" (Palmetto 2012) was one of the outsatanding vocal CDs of last year. Here she mixes some folk, jazz, ragtime, and pop itnto a nice stew. I especially liked her version of Bjork's "Joga" and her "Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?".

Product DetailsJuan Carlos Quintero, "Los Musicos" (Moondo Records 2000) is a nice lating jazz CD with Quintero on accoustic guitars baked by piano, bass, drums, accrodion and percussion. Quiet and restrained at first, but gets lively in the middle. Quintero has a significant discography and this is one of what seems like a string of solid latin outings.

Product DetailsLalo Schifrin "Ins and Outs and Lalo Live at the Blue Note" (Aleph Records 2003) is the outstanding find of the day, with Schiffrin on piano backed on some tunes by Joh Faddis, Grady Tate, and Dick Oates, in other words household names; and by a quartet including the recently departed Sam Most on flutes. You may only know Schiffrin from his musical scores, and you should get to know him for his outstanding piano play as well. The is definitely one you should look for.

Product DetailsMark Colby "Reunion with Vince Maggio" (Corridor Records 1998) is a nice straight ahead duo of Colby mostly on tenor and Maggio on piano, and they do a nice job on some mainstream gems like "You and the Night and the Music", "Lester Left Town", and "Up Jumped Spring" among the 11 songs. This is a very likable CD -- if you see it you should buy it.

Product DetailsChampian Fulton " Champian Sings and Swings" (Sharp 9 2012) is a lovely set of 12 songs sung by Fulton and backed by herself on piano, Hide Tanaka on bass, Fukushi Tainaka on drums, Stephen Fulton on trumpet, and on four songs Eric Alexander on tenor. The arrangements hum, the singer has a nice swing voice, and the set contains some terrific numbers like "Summertime", "You're Starting to be a Habit", and It's Alright With Me."

Product DetailsProduct DetailsTriosence with Sara Gazarek "Where Time Stands Still" (Charleston Square 2012) was the biggest find in the two dollar bin, a really nice semi-jazz, smi-pop/folk outing. The name Sara Gazarek caught my eye, and based on how much I like her last CD "Blossom and the Bee" (Palmetto 2012) his was an easy choice, and one that proved to be a good one. Gazarak and Trioscence leader Bernard Schuler wrote all the melodies and lyrics and the album radiate warmth and joy in equal amounts. Ths band is European and inlcudes the piano of Schuler along with bass, drums, guitars, and a viola and violin. This is a really nice recording worth hearing.


Next post, the bins.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Satoko Fujii" "Gen Himmel" (Libra 2013)

cd jacket "Gen Himmel"Satoko Fujii is back after only a short time since "Spring Storm" (Libra 2013) with a solo piano CD, "Gen Himmel" (Libra 2013), only her third solo release during the past two decades. She dedicates this CD, the title of which means "Toward Heaven" to those friends who have passed away in the past two or three years. The music is not meant to be solemn, but it is rather intended to be a peaceful, happy recording meant to stress the happy and beautiful lives they each led.

Once past the first one minute of the CD, which opens inside the piano with some rather harsh sounds, the music settles in with a series of 12 lyrical passages. It is a CD unlike most others I have heard from Fujii, with less experimental sounds and more lyrical passages than ever before.

As noted, once the first minute passes, the short title tune settles into a nice passage of quiet reflection. Some songs are haunting, others uplifting. "In the Dark", the second tune, is played as if Fujii was thinking about each note before it is hit, a very deliberately paced melody that flows nicely from start to finish with great simplicity and charm. "Hesitation" is played inside and outside the piano but is much different than the opener, with a simplicity as well to its melody. "Take Right" is the longest tune at eight minutes. It starts as a pretty little abstraction of a tune, more like listening to raindrops falling, builds in intensity, and then settles back again. It is a dazzling peace with complex chords and harmonies.

All in all this is a special impressionistic set of music that will thrill those who like modern lyricism ala Myra Mehlford, Paul Bley and others. Its definitely modern but not way out on the edge, in fact it is not edgy in the least. Meditative at times and intense at others, the music is complex, lyrical, and lovely. A beautiful set to float away upon.   

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fred Hersch and Julian Lage: "Free Flying" (Palmetto 2013)

Product DetailsI would guess that almost everyone who appreciates jazz knows the name and music of Fred Hersch but I am not sure how well know his partner on this new CD, "Free Flying" (Palmetto 2013) is.

Julian Lage was born in 1987 in California and was the subject of the Academy Award nominated documentary "Jules at Eight." as a young virtuoso on the guitar. He became a protege of Gary Burton at a very young age and recorded with him on two CDs in 2004 and 2005, Generations and Next Generation. Next he was part of Taylor Eigsti's band on Lucky to Be Me and Let It Come To You, and finally he recorded his first CD as leader at age 22, Sounding Point (EmArcy 2009), which was nominated for a Grammy in 2009. His second CD as leader was the equally impressive Gladwell (EmArcy 2011). His work on the acoustic guitar is riveting, clean and pure sounding, delivered with all of the colors of the emotional rainbow. His influences are clearly from many sources, jazz, folk, chamber, latin, bluegrass are all a part of his soundscapes.

Gladwell by Julian LageThe two partners in this new endeavor, played live at the Kitano in New York in February of this year, are perfectly matched. Both know how to work with virtuoso partners and together they produce incredibly lyrical music. Much of the set is music compposed by Hersch and while much of it is what is generally called chamber jazz, there are some surprises. ""Stealthiness" is as close a free almost avant-garde piece with all sorts of edges but played with enough restraint to be a comfortable fit as it breaks up the flow of quietude nicely. The tango of "Songs Without Words #3 is a highlight, along with the very moving  "Gravity's Pull", and there is a great rendition of "Monk's Dream" to close the set. Whether playing solos, comping, or playing in harmony this is some of the best music I have heard all year.

Hersch has been a force on the jazz scene for a while and Lage is and will be one for a long time as well.  All I can think to tell anyone reading this post is that the music is exquisite and so beautiful that it can give one the chills. Grab a copy when it is one the street in September.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

On the Straight and Narrow: Mainstream Music I Have Just Purchased

This is a simple and straight-forward post, just as the music is straight-forward mainstream jazz (but not simple). So here is a list of things I have purchased in the past couple of weeks. Some aare new, some fill in spaces in the collection, but all are excellent. They are:

"Maybeck Recital Hall Series" (Concord 1990 - 1996) Volume 21 Jessica Williams, Volume 1 Joanne Brackeen, Volume 5 Stanley Cowell, Volume 25 Cedar Walton, Volume 36 Toshiko Akiyoshi. For a short period of about seven years, Concord produced a series of 42 solo piano recitals (and 10 duo recitals) from the Maybeck Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, a hall that according to the literataure has an unusually rich and warm, yet bright and clear acousit quality, along with two Yamaha Grand Pianos with their own exquisite sound. The list of jazz pianists is of course a who's who of the greats around for these recitals, beginning with Joanne Brackeen and including luminaries such as Hank Jones, Steve Kuhn, Jaki Bayard, Dick Hyman, John Hicks, Keny Barron, and on and on. Each recording is a gem -- the soloists chose their programs, which inlcuded many standards but also a number of originals, and played them before a small house of perhaps 60 people. I had a number of the recordings in my collection, but did a search recently to add to them, adding the  five listed above. Many are out of reach price-wise since they are all discontinues, but these were not and are well worth the time to find. From the ones I have I would particularly note the Hank Jones, Fred Hersch and Kenny Barron recitals, but all are worth having at a reasonable price. For solo piano lovers these are  must.

Product DetailsTommy Emmanuel and Martin Taylor "The Colonel and the Governor" (Mesa Blue Moon 2013) -- Two veteran British guitarists get together with acoustic instuments to play 14 tunes, among them "Jersey Bounce", "Heat Wave", Lullaby of Birdland", and "Secret Love." Beautiful.

The Jimmy Amadie Trio | Live! At the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Jimmy Amadie Trio "Live! at the Philadelphia Museum ofArt" (TP Recordings 2013) -- Amadie's story is amazing and if you don't know it you should check it out. Briefly, he developed severe tendinitis in his hands about 50 years ago while playing with some of the name bands of the period. It was so bad and required so much surgery that for years he couldn't play, or could only play for about 30 minutes at a time, with months of rest in between. Somehow he put out a number of top-notch recordings over the years, ecah taking several sessions to complete. But this one is different -- it is a recording of what  will be his last performance for us, a one hour plus recital of 12 vgreat old standards played in the style of Oscar, Hank or others with whom Amadie once hung with. Great set and a worthy valedictory.
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Charlie Watts "Watts at Scotts" (Sanctuary 2004)-- When he is not  at his usual place on the Rolling Stones bandstand, Charlie Watts likes to reach back into his formative days to play jazz. A formidible jazz drummer, Watts has produced a couple of big band CDs as well as a few others, including a drum solo CD honoring other greats. Here he has financed a very formidable tentet with many well-knows players from the U.K. and the continent like Julian Arguelles on baritone, Gerard Presencer on trumpet, and Peter King on alto and soprano saxes. Two CDs full of choice playing.

Product DetailsEthan Iverson, Lee Konitz, Larry Grenadier, Jorge Rossy "Costumes are Mandatory" (High Note 2013) -- Just out, this CD lists all four names as co-leaders, and the way the music is belended by these old pros speaks to that beutifully, although Lee Konitz, the sax master at age 85 does get out in front a lot. Which is a good thing since he still has the chops to do some marvelous things with his alto. Iverson supports Konitz with some fine improvisation and comping of his own throughout, and the team of Grenadier and Rossy keep it all under their control with a sterling floor for them to play on. Many Iverson compositions, a few by Konitz plus "Blueberry Hill" and Body and Soul" make for a fine set.

Product DetailsEddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway "Duke at the Roadhouse" (IPO Recordings 2013) -- What fun these two were having one night in Santa Fe, as was the audience, as these two old pros spun out tunes like "I'm Beginning to See the Light" , "Mood Indigo" and "It Don't Mean a Thing" among the ten tunes honoring the Duke. Clarinet and piano, with a touch of cello by James Holland and a tenor by Daniels makes for a lot of fun, a lot of swing, and a great time. These two have done it before on IPO, and I am really glad they did it again. I love this CD.

Product DetailsBernt Rosengren, "Live at Jazzcup" (Stunt 2013) -- Year ago there was a ad campaign showing a people with a range of ethnicities eating LKevy' rye bread, with the tag line "You Don't Have to Be Jewish to Love Levy's." With this CD it is abundantly clear you don't have to be American to swing like there's no tomorrow. Bernt Rosengren on tenor sax, with a piano trio of Ole Kock Hansen on piano, Jesper Lundgaard on bass, and Niclas Campagnol on drums step lively with six extended tunes -- "Autumn Leaves", "I'm Old Fashioned", "Body and Soul", "There Will Never Be Another You", "Lover Man", "Jazzcup Blues" -- that have great panache and plenty of room for fresh ideas and tuneful play. Great straight jazz from overseas.

Big Catch-up Post

More issues with the blogging site -- cannot edit properly, and cannot use tools properly. So please bear with me as I try to do a catch-up post on new music I have bought in the past few weeks. And there is a lot of it.

Product DetailsRandy Brecker "Nights in Calisia" (Summit 2013) -- So now that I am on record as saying I prefer my jazz without strings, I am once again retracting that. This is a beautiful and rich sounding CD with the Wlodek Pawlik Trio and Kalisz Philharmonic Orchestra and Brecker sounds as good as I have heard from him.

Edgar Knecht "Dance on Deep Waters" (Ozella 2013) -- Another fine and beautiful CD from another interesting German Label that also produces Helge Lien, an outstanidng piano trio that I have noted before, and the Kari Ikonen Trio (see next). Lovely modern impressionistic music, mellow and lyrical.

Kari Ikonen Trio "Bright" (Ozella 2013) --  Delightful modern piano trio with both originals and covers including "Giant STeps" and "I Fall in Love Too Easy" played with great intuition and imagination.


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Tony McManus "Mysterious Boundaries" (Compass Records 2013) -- Acoustic guitar virtuoso from Ireland playing incredibly beautiful solos on a number of classical pieces, a bit different than his past reocfdings which are great but mostly folk tunes . Here the finger picking style is singing on pieces by Bach.Satie, Couperin and others. If you like guitar work this is a real plum.
The Aperturistic Trio | Truth and Actuality

Chucho Valdes "Border Free" (Jazz Village 2013) -- With the Afro-Cuban Mesengers and a guest shot by Branford Marsalis, this is another great one from Chucho and the gang. Great piano playing, great rhythms and arrangaements, an all around hit.

The Aperturistic Trio "Truth and Actuality" (Inner Circle Music 2013) -- Jerome Weidman on piano, Steve Williams on drums and Harve S on bass are a potent piano trio playing pretty traditional mainstream jazz with a real adventerous spirit. Really upbeat and intuitive play by the group, they are having fun and you will too on this easy to miss CD. Watch for it. Widman's an old master with a short discography as leades but one you should seek out on earlier CDs. 

Dmitri Kolesnik "Blues for Dad" (Boheme 2001) -- Stumbled upon this fine CD of straqght-ahead mainstream jazz when I went behind the leader and found his playing partners -- Eric Alexander, and Lenny White specifically. Five songs by the leader and one by pianist Andrei Kondakov this is a standard Blue Note quintet group of trumpet, tenor, piano, bass, and drums and that's the sound they get. Have not seen much from Kolesnik since but this is a nice CD nonetheless.

In Concert
Tingvall Trio "In Concert" (Skip 2013) -- I've been meaning to do a full post about these guys but have never gotten to it so in order not to overlook them entirely I want to note this live effort by the trio of Martin Tingvall on drums, Omar Rodreguez-Calvo on bassand Jurgen Spiegel on drums. Another of the long line of Northern European piano trios but with its own sensibility brought by a truly international team. Modern impressionism, lyrical, with mixed slow and up-tempo songs, they fit snuggly with Marcin Wasilewski Trio, Helge Lien, and even Bad Plus with a mix of jazz and a bit of rock as well as the pulsing beat from their Latin drummer Calvo. This is their fifth CD -- the others were equally good. This is a highly recommended CD for piano trio lovers -- a bit outside but easy to listen to and love. 

T.J Martley "Meditations Vol. 1" (Tzigane 2012) -- The title says it all, these are very nice, quiet piano meditations. Restful, quiet thoughts by Martley played with a delicate touch. Very nice

More coming in my next post. By the way, I don't love everything I buy and listen to in case you are wondering. But I'd rather post on the ones I like/love and leave the rest unsaid. "If you can't say something nice, say nothing at all."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My 200th Post: A Special Post for a Special Place

This is my 200th post since beginning this blog about 18 months ago, and I wanted a special subject for it.

Sally's Place, as I have written about many times before, is the record store in Westport, Connecticut where I spend a lot of my time, talking with Sally, with customers; looking at new and old CDS; and learning as much as I can about jazz and other musical genres. Sally White is now 84 years of age, looks much younger, and acts much younger still. She attributes it to her daily yoga workout and herbals like ginko for the memory; whatever it is it sure does work.

Sally is proud to note that she has been selling music on Main Street since 1958, first at Melody House, then running the record department at Klein's, and finally for the past 28 years at her own store "Sally's Place." 

And it isn't just jazz that she sells and knows so much about -- she's a whiz about classical, show music, folk, rock, effectively everything. Ask about the Grateful Dead or Doors and she'll tell you about seeing them when they were still playing at school auditoriums; ask about the James Gang and she'll give you chapter and verse about Joe Walsh and all the groups and solo work he's done; but most of all ask about jazz, her great love.

Sally grew up in Norwalk -- one of her classmates was Horace Silver. She talks about the great days of taking the train into New York, see the shows on 52nd Street, or even earlier about movies with big bands playing on the stage afterwards. She'll talk about those nights and how they'd end up at Bradley's in the wee hours before returning home. And most of all she'll tell you about some of the musicians she's met along the way, how she was serenaded for her birthday one night at a club in New York, or what a gentleman Red Garland, one of her favorites turned out to be when she met him.

Her favorites are Chet, Frank, and Oscar, but also Red is up there. The fifties were her decade and Blue Note her label, and while she loved the old days she is hip to everything since.

Then she'll tell you about the people she has known in Westport who over the year frequented the store, names like Dave Brubeck, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodard, Gerry Muligan, Alan Arkin, Keith Richards, Mary Travers, Bennie Wallace and many many more. And the young kids she knew who grew up to be musicians like John Schofield and Adam Nussbaum.  Adam still sends her a postcard from every stop he makes on his tours. The autographed pictures around the store are testament to the many folks she knows and has known, and include many others too, Carla Bley is up there, as is Javon Jackson, both on signed photos too.

And there are the various knick knacks and other assorted memorabilia that fill the place with joy --- Frank Sinatra champagne, Frank Sinatra wine, Frank Sinatra Tomato Sauce, Frank Sinatra cigars, Frank Sinatra busts ----see a pattern yet; but also a Satchmo bust, a Columbia Music clock, speakers given to her from Blue Note, a photograph of "One Day in Harlem" and so much more.

And then if you are around the store for any length of time you'll find an incredible number of patrons who she has known for 40 or even more years, who are often bringing in the next two generations of the family to meet her. And all the folks who worked for her at one time or another and still come back from out of town to see her. Or the kids who got hooked on music because 25 years ago she gave them an album to hear that opened their eyes to new musical experiences. Or you'll see she gets calls for special orders from everywhere, friends of friends who directed them here, or folks who left Westport but not Sally.

Hang around long enough and you'll see that this is one big family. Sally is all about service to the customer, helping the customer find the exact recording they want either in the store or via special order, or offering suggestions when asked. She does everything with joy and passion and it radiates outward to everyone. The most important customer is the one she is talking to -- she won't pick up the phone to interrupt helping the person who walks in the door. They'll call back if they need something is her mantra, and they will need to call back because there is no answering machine. And no cellphone. And a computer for the customers because she cannot use one. This is old style service just like when she started 28 years ago. Inventory is kept in her head, and new orders and requests for special orders on spiral notebooks in her handwriting. Orders are made by phone to her suppliers, and most can be filled within one day from when a person makes a request. And she mails CDs for free.

Sadly Sally has had to announce she is going out of business at the end of August. Not because she wants to; after all, she says there is no better place to be each day, seeing everyone and doing what she loves. She had hoped to keep going until the end or as she likes to say "until they carry me out." Time didn't catch up with her, the music industry did. She made the move easily from LPs to cassettes and CDs (and even back to LPs again), but she couldn't overcome the impact of, first, internet shopping and, next, MP 3s, and finally Spotify and Pandora and the rest. Her customer base eroded, internet pricing hurt her most of all on new pop and rock music, but also on her core jazz. The woman who had seen Sam Goody come and go in Westport as well as Strawberry, the Barnes and Noble music section, and several other music stores has finally had to call it a day. Last year it was Cutlers, an institution up the road in New Haven and Colony in Washington and Bleeker Bob's and who knows who else. This year it's Sally's.

And we're losing more than just a music store and Sally's company. We are losing a bit of our souls, a bit of what makes our town special, and a lot of history. We are losing a place for our musical community comes together to talk. Where will Campy, Neil, Jud, Art, Steve, Steve, Michael, Friday Fred and the rest of us find each other to talk about music? Where will young people still learn about music, both today's and yesterday's rom someone who really knows. And we can never replace Sally, never ever, not her passion, her love of music, her love of every one of us, nor her deep knowledge.

Of course we wish her all the best but we also wish she could stay with us a little longer, and I know she feels that way too.

[Some final notes: Sally is still taking special orders for music, and still has a lot of great stuff on hand. She is also selling the memorabilia to interested customers, so if you want something call her at 203-254-0303. Because of course she doesn't have a website either!]

[And finally, for those interseted, Sally has recently been profiled in many Southern CT newpapers and also by Spike Wilner of Small's Jazz Club, so you can read more about her there.]