Jazz CD Reviews

Jazz CD Reviews, Part 2 of 2


Published on October 1, 2004

October 2004 Part 2 of 2 [Pt. 1]

Nancy WilsonNancy Wilson – R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs Very Personal) – with George Shearing, Toots Thielemans, Phil Woods, Kenny Lattimore, Ivan Lins, Gary Burton, Paquito D’Rivera and many others, featuring the All-Star Big Band – Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild MCGJ1013 – 53 minutes, * * * *:

As with any disc you get from the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, you can be assured that these guys take their work to heart, and the results will always be extremely well crafted sonically and performance-wise. This new disc from Nancy Wilson does not disappoint in either arena – the sidemen and guest artists dish out superb accompaniment and remarkable solos throughout, and the recorded sound just absolutely sparkles – this is another one of those CDs that blurs the line between what Redbook and SACD are capable of delivering.

I have to admit that I’m not really a huge Nancy Wilson fan – her offerings tend to lean a little too far towards the easy-listening side of the spectrum for my tastes – but I found this disc of mostly standards constantly surprised me with it’s straight-ahead jazziness. There are a few areas where the disc delves a bit into the maudlin – but then pulls itself out with remarkable playing by the soloists. Just listen to any of the solos by Phil Woods on alto sax, or the extremely liquid clarinet playing of Paquito D’Rivera or even the ever-elegant pianisms of George Shearing – the highlights are too numerous to list.

If you’re a big fan of Nancy Wilson, then this disc is a no brainer – even casual fans will be seduced by the superb music making and first-rate sound quality of this release. Very highly recommended.

Tracks: An Older Man is Like an Elegant Wine; Day In, Day Out; Why Did I Choose You; I Wish I’d Met You; I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart; Goodbye; How About Me; Minds of Their Own; Little Green Apples; You’ll See; That’s All; Blame It on My Youth.

- Tom Gibbs

Voices of ConcordVoices of Concord Jazz Live at Montreux – with Karrin Allyson, Patti Austin, Peter Cincotti, Nnenna Freelon, Monica Mancini, Diane Schuur and Curtis Stigers, featuring the WDR Big Band conducted by Tom Scott – Concord Records CCD2-2246-2, 2 CDs – 103 minutes – Rating: * * * * *:

This remarkably entertaining disc from Concord came as quite a surprise to me – I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t another of their excellent recent SACD releases, and was not really too pumped by the prospect of sitting through a double-disc live album – well, no need to fret, because the live sound is just superb, and the performances are equally brilliant. I found myself so entranced by the superb quality of the sound and the joyous music-making that I quickly forgot any disappointments I might have imagined.

Disc one contains more intimate, traditional jazz settings for the performers, while disc two is devoted entirely to big band renditions. Highlights come often and not too far apart here. Peter Cincotti swings hard throughout his set; while the ever-amazing Karrin Allyson delivers superb small-combo stylings, along with an excellent duet with Diane Schuur with big band on disc two. One of the big surprises for me were the offerings of Monica Mancini (daughter of Henry) – I guess the apple doesn’t fall to far from the tree, huh? Her silken vocals are absolute ear candy. Nnenna Freelon’s take on Billie Holiday’s “Lady Sings the Blues” is nothing short of magical – and Patti Austin gives Ella a run for her money with her takes on “Mr. Paganini” and Gershwin’s “Home Blues.”

Every time I sat down with this two-disc set, I found myself unable to simply just skim through the songs as part of the evaluation process – I just couldn’t stop listening to the music. Very highly recommended! [And it was simultaneously released on DVD as well, which we will review soon and might be even better!...Ed.]

Tracks: I Changed the Rules; Sway; Ain’t Misbehavin’; Moanin’; Little Boat; Charade; A Day in the Life of a Fool; Dreamsville; Deedle’s Blues; Stay Away from Bill; Meet Me, Midnight; Swingin’ Down at 10th and Main; How Could a Man take Such a Fall; Better than Anything; The Lady Sings the Blues; Out of this World; You’ll Have to Swing it (Mr. Paganini); Home Blues; How High the Moon; How High the Moon (encore).

- Tom Gibbs

Doc PowellDoc Powell – Cool Like That; Heads Up HUCD 3091 CD****:

The music on this disc is light jazz/fusion with a blend of funk and R&B. Powell’s snappy guitar work mates well with saxophone and the accompanying band. The guitar style is reminiscent of Earl Klugh and sounds just as good. Track 1 has an energy that moves the music along and although this could be categorized as “easy listening” by some, there is much more to it than that. The title track has deep, full bass that really grooves to a slower beat. Again, I thought of Earl Klugh or even Grant Green. The album is made up of a good variety of tunes–there is an inspirational version of The Beatles “Let It Be” that works well, and some of the tracks have a more electronic sound, while track 8 and 9 are more funk. The music on this disc is smooth and easy and if you like Dave Grusin, David Benoit, and other GRP artists, then you’ll like this record.

This disc is encoded with HDCD, and although I didn’t play it back with a player with HDCD decoding capability, the sound was very good to excellent. There is a good mix of different instruments and bass that would make it a nice record to audition speakers or equipment. Songs included are: Push; Cool Like That; Listen Up; Sweet G; Soul Cry Out; Let It Be (instrumental); You Mean More To Me; Hatujambo; To The East; Let It Be; More To Me.

-Brian Bloom

Carla Bley QuartetThe Lost Chords – Carla Bley, piano and all compositions; Andy Sheppard, soprano and tenor sax; Steve Swallow, bass; Billy Drummond, drums – WATT/32 53:58 ****:

One of the most interesting women in modern jazz continues to create her fascinating musical adventures of great originality. This time she has a more modest-sized ensemble, with which she traveled around Europe on tour. It fits that European audiences might dig her singular music even more than U.S. audiences. The nine selections were recorded at various venues on the European tour. It opens with a 3 Blind Mice suite which doesn’t quote that familiar tune, and closes with the suite which gives the CD its title – a three-movement work entitled just I, II & III. Wasn’t familiar with Andy Sheppard but enjoyed especially his soprano solos on some of the tracks. The note booklet has excerpts from Carla’s diary of the trip, which mainly reports on all the snafus of a group such as this traveling in Europe. There are often humorous photos to accompany the tale.
Tunes: 3 Blind Mice, Wink Leak, Traps, Leonard Feather, The Maze, Blind Mice Redux, Hip Hop, Tropical Depression, Red, Lost Chords I, II & III.

- John Henry
Two Different Two-Fers Comin’ Up…
Synergy & Statesmen of Jazz samplers
Syncopated Energy – Jazz from the Synergy Music Catalog (Art Lande, Paul McCandless, Alex Heitlinger Sextet, Russian Dragon Band, Convergence, Paul Warburton, Mary Ann Moore & others) – Synergy Music (2 discs, 56:50 & 50:42) SMCD 80023 ***1/2:

I hadn’t heard of Synergy before but they have been a very active jazz label (based in Denver) by the looks of this sampler. It appears that pianist Art Lande – known for his Rubisa Patrol recordings on ECM – is involved in the label since he now lives in that area. He plays on several of the tracks, here – with the Alex Heitlinger Sextet, the Russian Dragon Band, the trio Triangle, another trio with soprano saxist Paul McCandless, and in a duo with saxist Mark Miller. A nice variety of modern jazz of many moods and most of the tunes are originals, though the Dave Corbus Trio does a nice turn to the Bill Evans standard Waltz for Debbie. The closer to Disc 1 by the Tri-ocity ensemble is a rouser – Wayne Shorter’s Night Dream is given the B3/guitar/drums treatment from a CD titled The Art of the Jazz Organ Trio. Now that’s from an album I hanker to hear more of – guess that’s the purpose of such a sampler as this! It certainly makes the listener aware that some great jazz is going on in the Rockies. Who knew?

Statesmen of Jazz: A Multitude of Stars (30) – Clark Terry, Music Director; Trumpets/Cornets: Terry, Joe Wilder, Warren Vaché, Ed Polcer, Don Sickler; Trombones: Benny Powell, George Masso, Mycliffe Gordon; Clarinets: Buddy DeFranco, Kenny Davern, Ken Poplowski; Tenors: Frank Wess, Red Holloway, Houston Person, Bob Kindred; Pianists: Jane Jarvis, Norman Simmons, Derek Smith, Johnny Varro; Guitarists: Bucky Pizzarelli; Violinist/Vocalist: Johnny Frigo; Bassists: Keter Betts, Bob Cranshaw, Earl May, Ja Leonhart; Drummers: Louie Bellson, Eddie Locke, Jackie Williams, Dennis Mackrel; Singer: Carrie Smith – Arbors Records SOJCD 202 (2 discs) *****:

The Statesmen of Jazz were founded in l994 to use the skills of master senior musicians whose creative achievements have contributed to the changing new horizons of jazz. All have had outstanding careers in music, and range in age from the low seventies to the low 90s. Just look at the above lineup – even the Jazz at the Philharmonic didn’t match this. The Statesmen Tour has played to enthusiastic audiences from coast to coast, including at the U.N. A reviewer called them “The history of jazz on the hoof, alive and timelessly fresh.” The Statesmen did an earlier award-winner CD in 1995, but that was only a third of the members heard in this multitude. Milt Hinton was the first Music Director, and one of the players at that earlier recording session was Benny Waters, who had made his first recording in l925 and played with King Oliver. The plan is a series of small groups, each playing several numbers. Terry leads the first, Cornetist Polcer the second, trombonist Benny Powell getting a reduced-Basie-Band sound with a sextet in the third, Clarinetist Buddy DeFranco the fourth, violinist Frigo the fifth and trumpeter Joe Wilder wraps up things with a set of five which includes Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rockin’ Chair” – which clearly hasn’t gotten these guys yet! Terrific sound and terrific energy – these veterans bring the living history of jazz alive.

Tunes, Disc 1: Top and Bottom, Elijah, Backwater Blues, The Man I Love/I Loves You Porgy, Just an Old Manuscript, Cherry, Honeysuckle Rose, Tangerine, Shall We Dance, Farewell Blues, Corner Pocket, Why Do I Love You?, Shiny Stockings. Disc 2: I I Had You, Love Me or Leave Me, Medley: New Orleans/These Foolish Things/Poor Butterfly/Street of Dreams, Fascinating Rhythm, My Shining Hour, There Will Never Be Another You, Isn’t It Romantic?, Here’s That Rainy Day, I’m Growing Young With You, Emily, I Hear Music, Rockin’ Chair, Just You Just Me, Bags’ Groove, Sweet Georgia Brown.

- John Henry

A Pair of Big Band Bashes Connected With Birdland Herewith…
George Gee & Scott Whitfield big bands

George Gee Big Band – The Music of Frank Foster, “Settin’ The Pace” – GJazz Records GJ3567 ****:

Gee has a 25-year career in the music business and currently the Chinese-American leads his 17-piece band in the New York area, even playing at Birdland. This album realized a dream of his in working with not only the arrangements and originals of Frank Foster for the Count Basie Band but having Foster – one of the main leaders of that band following Basie’s passing – lead Gee’s own big band. He also retained vocalist Carla Cook for three of the dozen numbers here. Only one of them is not by Foster. In his liner notes Foster talks about the “happy swing” promulgated by Gee and his band and how well that fits in with the whole Basie feeling. Gee is certainly smiling up a storm in his three photos in the notes. Many of Foster’s tunes and arrangements had never been recorded before, so this is more than just a Basie revival band session. It’s a complete gas, and anyone who loves Basie (which has to be just about everyone) would dig this CD the most! If you have trouble finding in the shops, try www.GeorgeGee.com

Tracks: Out of Nowhere, Settin’ the Pace, Lover Come Back to Me, In a Sentimental Mood, Mambo Inn, Ready Now That You Are GG, BassinyoFace, The Very Thought of You, When Your Lover Has Gone, Autumn Leaves, I Don’t Want to Learn to Sing the Blues, Scrapple from the Apple.

Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestra East – Live at Birdland – Summit Records DVD 390, 58:33 ****:

Both this and the Gee CD show the respective bands in front of the Birdland NYC stage banner, but only this one was actually recorded live at that venue. Hadn’t heard of Whitfield before (either); he comes from the trombone section of Toshiko Akiyoshi’s big band, and also sang for years with The Pied Pipers. Add to that all the original tunes (four of them) and arrangements he wrote for this nine-track album, plus leading the band, and you have a picture of a really versatile master musician. It’s a 12-piece group, and some of the instrumentalists double and triple. I especially liked the arrangements that involved as many as three flutes. Scott sings on two of his originals and on the lovely nine-minute arrangement of his hero Bix’s In A Mist we get soprano saxist Karolina Strassmayer and trumpeter Mike Hackett in some great soloing. The closing J.J. Johnson vehicle, In Walked Horace, features Scott and two other trombonists lining up for their solos and then trading first eights and then fours – a great conclusion to a fine big band session.

- John Henry

 




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