Friday, December 14, 2012

And the Hits Just Keep On Coming

Several new CDs arrived in the mail this past week that I would like to report on.

front_cover_NEWMyriad 3 "Tell" (ALMA Records 2013) is the first of my CDs with a 2013 date, and a very good one at that. I will have to remember it at the close of next year -- it is that good. Chris Donnelly, who last year had a very good CD entitled "Metamorphosis" (ALMA 2011), is back this time on piano with Dan Fortin on bass and Ernesto Cervini on drums. Donnelly is on the music faculty at the University of Toronto, where he also received his Masters of Music in Jazz Performance. He debuted on CD in 2008 with Solo (ALMA 2008) featuring a blend of original material and arrangements of jazz standards, a recording that earned him a Juno nomination (the Canadian Grammys).  The music was composed by the three band members, excepting "C Jam Blues" by Duke Ellington, and fits nicely into the category of modern lyrical music. Its not music with tunes that can be readily hummed, but the melodies are quite attractive. The opener "Myriad" ops with a nice mid-tempo melody, transitions into a faster dynamically interesting middle section,  and then finishes with a hybrid of the two. A very stirring beginning. "For the Dreamers" is in fact a dreamy piece, but "Fractured" and "Disturbing Inspiration Parts 1 and 2" are hardly fractured or disturbing, but rather interesting and leaning more to the impressionistic side. Haunting might be a better word to describe them. Fortin really gets in on for "C Jam Blues" and the whole group is true to the pulse of the music even as they play with the rhythms and freely improvised. Donnelly is clearly one to watch. Great CD. Highly recommended. 

Hal Galper sounds more energized and expressive than I have heard him in a while, on "Airegin Revisited" (Orgin 2012), with Jeff Johnson on bass and John Bishop on drums. Galper has a long discography and this to me is one of the best as it shakes off any lingering sameness that I had begun to feel from his recent CDs. Right down the middle mainstream music, it features the title song "Airegin", an homage to Sonny Rollins for which he shifts around some of the patterns to create a dynamic reworkingfor his group. Johnson's bowing adds a new texture, while Bishops keeps pushing the tempo throughout from his drum set. Other strongly played covers are an extended 11 minute, romantically divine "Embraceable You" by Gershwin, and "Conception" by George Shearing, but the real surprise is an unexpected tribute to Sam Rivers. His "Melacholia" is played slowly in honor of Rivers' passing but retains Rivers expanded ideas on rhythm and sound. Galper's own "One Step Closer" explores Bralian rhythms and is a short but lovely composition. This is a solid, energetic CD.

Jeff Johnson also has one of his own as leader, "Suitcase" (Origin 2012) which leans somewhere between the lyrical and the impressionistic, as Johnson tries to bring his wanderings around the country to his musical compositions. With Hans Teuber on saxophones, bass clarinet and alto flute; Steve Moore on piano, and Eric Eagle on drums, there are a lot of different sounds and textures to the music. Johnson plays both the accoutic bass and his Fender, adding to the sounds. "Avion" is a personal favorite as it features the sounds of Teuber's bass clarinet from its lowest E flat to well up on the upper register in concert with a really nice piano melody and strongly played acoustic bass to create a very nice, comtemplative piece. "Kiwi" and "Artist" similarly paint lovely pictures in my mind as they stretch out, with mellow sounds from Tauber and quiet but strong support from the others. And Johnson's lead on the melody for "Letters for Marcy" paints a wonderful, quiet picture from a man living out of his suitcase, followed by the quiet soulful sound of Teuber's sax. Not quite sure whata to make of the last piece "Soweto Man" which has a lovely flute part but it is played over a very strong, marchlike drum set, which makes a jarring contrast. All of the compositions are Johnson's except one by the group, and are a really nice, creative set of expressonist pictures in music. A real stunner.   

Three more I can recommend -- one down the middle, and two outside but wonderfully lyrical.

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