Guido Basso, Flugelhorn, with String Orchestra cond. By Phil Dwyer - Lost in the Stars - CBC Records Jazz TRCD 3007:
Im always open to the matching of a great jazz soloist with strings or a chamber orchestra - perhaps hoping to find one eventually thats the equal of Stan Getz/Eddie Sauters Focus. I never have, but Ive heard some great music in the meantime and this CD is another in that series. I felt any album using a somewhat obscure Kurt Weill tune as its title had to have some interesting music selections, and this one does. Basso is a longtime performer on the CBC in Canada, and Dwyer - who penned most of these arrangements - heard him on the radio as a child. Dwyer even composed one completely original track honoring the Flugelhornist. Bassos horn is really part of a concertino here with piano, bass and drums against the string orchestra (the concerto). The tune choices include a Bernstein, Jobims lovely Waters of March, an Aznavour tune, and jazz from both Dizzy and Monk. The arrangement are a delight. Two of the tracks are with a live audience in the CBC studios where they were recorded.
Selections: Lost in the Stars, I Cant Give You Anything But Love, Time on my Hands, The Continental, Some Other Time, Besame Mucho, Portrait of Guido, Dont Know Why, Waters of March, Round Midnight Overture and tune, Tour de Force, Yesterday When I Was Young.
- John Henry
Richard Groove Holmes, B3 - On Basies Bandstand (with Gene Edwards, guitar; George Randall, drums) - Prestige PRCD 11028-2:
The informative notes with this CD describe it as an aural snapshot of a different time and place - the chitlin circuit clubs on a Saturday night in the 50s thru the 70s. These Afro-American soul jazz clubs were built around the B3 organ and Holmes was a mainstay of this urban club circuit who could play the hell out of the gutsy instrument. Count Basie fronted a club in Harlem during this time and this recording was made there during a late-nite set in l966. Its noted that the final track is the familiar Night Train, which would continue to be heard in many of those clubs after the 70s, when they dropped the soul music and became strip clubs. Tunes:
Indiana, Moanin, When I Grow Too Old to Dream, Rifftide, This Here, Nicas Dream, Night Train.
- John Henry
Professor Peter OBrien - Jazz Piano of a Celtic Soul - Arbors Jazz ARCD19295:
Dublin-based professor of music at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Peter OBrien first hear the music of Fats Waller when he studied in Paris at age 17 and is now known as one of the best stride piano ticklers in all of Europe. He has performed with Stephane Grappelli, Bud Freeman and Will Bill Davidson and a couple years ago recorded a live two-piano album with the late Ralph Sutton, to whom he has dedicated this new album. As the title would indicate there are a couple Irish tunes here, but he swings them, and he opens the disc with a Bach Prelude and closes it with the Turkish March and plus a little jig by Mozart. OBriens Fats Waller Medley is a kick and shows he plays stride as someone born to it. Tracks; Prelude No. 9, Aint Misbehavin, I Found a New Baby, Davenport Blues, Bohemia Rag, Nocturne in B Flat, Alligator Crawl, Brother Can You Spare a Dime?, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, Macushla, The Professor Stomps, Liza, Fats Waller Medley, Hymn to Freedom, After Youve Gone, Rondo a la Turca, A Little Jig.
Ryuichi Sakamoto - moto.tronic / moto.video - Sony Classical SK 93044 (CD + DVD):
This is another in the growing number of two-disc music releases with one a DVD devoted to videos of the performer(s) and the other containing the standard music CD. Why it is on Sony Classical when nothing on it is classical is a further stretch of reasoning, but never mind. The avant, faintly pornographic illustrations may further confuse those uninitiated to the world of the Renaissance Japanese composer, classical and rock musician, pianist, and actor. The notes began with Sakamotos proclamation in giant caps: I WANT TO BREAK DOWN THE WALLS BETWEEN GENRES, CATEGORIES OR CULTURES. The bonus videos are five in number. One is a lovely version of his famous theme from the soundtrack of the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, three are from a live performance by his multi-cultural ensemble which includes performers on Japanese folk instruments, drummers, three Geisha-type singers, several jazz sidemen, and a black vocalist singing in English. Reminded me a bit of Kitaros extravaganzas. There are no translations of the Japanese. The last video is from a performance by the Brazilian Duo Paula and Jaques Morelenbaum, with whom Sakamoto plays very authentic-sounding bossa nova on piano (and has recorded same for Sony Classical).
The music CD presents several of his soundtrack themes, including from the films Little Buddha and The Last Emperor (in which he also acted). Some of his music, such as Neo Geo, mixed super-catchy melodies with electronica and near-Philip Glass minimalism. The final track is the same bossa nova tune as presented in the final video track, but completely deconstructed by turntablist Alva Noto. Awright, none of this is really jazz, but we dont have a Thoroughly-Crossed-Over Section so there is where it goes! Selections are: Forbidden Colours, Energy Flow, O Grande Amor, The Last Emperor, Railroad Man, Risky, Before Long, Desafinado, Lost Child, Little Buddha, Neo Geo, Opus, Anger - Rare Force 2 Meg Mix, Insensatez Remodel.
- John Sunier
Miroslav Vitous, doublebass - Universal Syncopations (with Jan Garbarek, soprano and tenor sax; Chick Corea, piano; John McLaughlin, guitar; Jack DeJohnette, drums) - ECM 1863:
Vitous is regarded as a legendary bass player, yet this is his first recording in a decade. The Prague-born bassist was one of the founding members of Weather Report and in recent years has toured with Chick Corea and Roy Haynes as a trio. He also teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music, and has created a MIDI sound library of symphony orchestra samples for arrangers and composers. His first date as a leader of a group was a l969 ECM LP titled Infinite Search, regarded as the preliminary search for the style that eventually became known as jazz fusion. This new CD is sort of a sequel or continuation of that idea. Just look at the sidemen - you cant loose with such a lineup! Vitous attributes his compatibility with Garbarek to their shared Slavic soulfulness - though born in Norway, Garbarek is half Polish. They have a way of hearing melodies with shared folk roots. Vitous is not one to throw together a session just to get out a new release after all this time - this one was recorded over a two-year period. I think its one of the best ECM jazz releases in some time. Tracks are: Bamboo Forest, Univoyage, Tramp Blues, Faith Run, Sun Flower, Miro Bop, Beethoven, Medium, Brazil Waves.
- John Henry
Bill Cunliffe Sextet Plays the Music of Earl Zindars - How My Heart Sings (with Bob Sheppard, reeds; Bobby Shew, trumpet & Flugelhorn; Joe LaBarbera, drums; Bruce Paulson, trombone, Jeff DAngelo, bass; Justin Ray, Flugelhorn on two tracks) - Torii Records (no number):
Fans of pianist Bill Evans will probably be familiar with the name Earl Zindars - Evans liked this music so much he recorded nine of his tunes during his career. Zindars lives in San Francisco and sent jazz pianist Cunliffe (who also learned of the composer from the Evans recordings) a big book of his tunes, from which Cunliffe selected ten for this CD. They cover ballads, up-tempo tunes, and experiments with various unusual time signatures similar to what Dave Brubeck did. Perhaps the latter grew out of Zindars also being a jazz drummer and symphony percussionist. His tune Heads or Tails on this album, for example, wends its way thru 5/4, 4/4 and 3/4. Its difficult to tell if the fresh and exciting impact of this music is more due to Zindars originals or to Cunliffes colorful and clever orchestrations, but the final result is an outstanding collection of music that will be completely new to most of us.
- John Henry
Marty Ehrlich - Line On Love (Ehrlich, alto sax & bass clarinet; Craig Taborn, piano; Michael Formanek, bass; Billy Drummond, drums) - Palmetto Records PM 2095:
If you haven't heard of Marty Ehrlich, you should. The Village Voice called him one of the most formidable multi-instrumentalists since Eric Dolphy. His stellar compositional and improvisational skills grow out of both the new music classical field and the free jazz of the late 1960s, but his inventive and narrative style is for the most part quite accessible - even for those fans whose ears curdle at raucous free jazz blowing sessions. Ehrlich is strongly based in blues and bebop and even his atonal avantgarde material carries a strong emotional communication. To my ears it is a parallel to the serial works of classical 12-toner Alban Berg vs. the emotionally autistic music of most of the other 12-tone Schoenbergians. Ehrlich was an original member of the late Julius Hemphills Sextet and has conducted and performed the music of this innovator in long-form jazz compositions. If you are open to digging into some complex and completely unpredictable jazz improvisation that requires more than one hearing to fully assimilate, Ehrlichs your man. Tracks: Hymn, Like I Said, Line on Love, Julians Theme, Turn Circle and Spin, Solace, St. Louis Summer, The Git Go.
- John Henry
We wind up with historical jazz reissues of two important lights in jazz history - one in the traditional jazz era and the other in the swing era...
The first really great white jazz musician, and the first of jazz historys martyrs (as jazz writer Scott Yanow calls him), Bix blazed across the musical firmament during the Jazz Age and epitomized its carefree attitude. He came to fame for his wild cornet solos in the Jean Goldkette dance band, of which there are five examples in this 20-track collection. There are tracks from his high-class Dixieland group Bix and His Gang, and from groups led by trombonist Frankie Trumbauer (with Joe Venuti on violin). The set ends with a couple humorous novelties, especially Barnacle Bill the Sailor, in which Venuti joins in with some unexpected asides. The transfers are excellent, with the expected scratch reduced but the music coming thru with clarity. After digging this one youll probably want to get Vol.l 1 in the series too.
Tracks: Wa-Da-Da, Clementine, Jazz Me Blues, At the Jazz Band Ball, Theres a Cradle in Caroline, Slow River, Sunday, Clarinet Marmalade, Idolizing, Riverboat Shuffle, Ostrich Walk, Im Gonna Meet My Sweetie Now, Blue River, Way Down Yonder in New Orleans, Borneo, My Pet, Take Your Tomorrow, Baby Wont You Please Come Home, Bessie Couldnt Help It, Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
Claude Thornhill and his Orchestra - The Rare Columbia Recordings - Collectables COL-CD-7549:
Thornhill was a pianist, composer, and leader of one of the most acclaimed big bands of the late 30s, the 40s and the early 50s. He had learned orchestration at the side of Andre Kostelanetz, played piano behind four Billie Holidays hits, and befriended both Artie Shaw and Gil Evans. He was the first to use French horns in his band, and his tonally lush arranging style was the gestation of the later cool jazz genre which grew out of the decline of the big bands. His best-known composition was probably Snowfall, which is not on this CD, but there are 25 other tracks which give a good feeling of the distinctive style of Thornhills music. Most include vocals and mostly by singers little known today. There are also several clever swing arrangements of classical themes such as Schumanns Traumerei, Old Vienna by Godowsky, and Lehars Yours Is My Heart Alone.
Tracks: Harbor Lights, Stop! Youre Breakin My Heart, Ebb Tide, Dont Save Your Love, Old Vienna, The Bad Humor Man, The Doll Dance, Traumerei, Do I Worry?, Paradise, Orange Blossom Lane, Everything I Love, Rose ODay, I Said No, Something to Remember You By, Night and Day, Shell Always Remember, Count Me In, Im Getting Tired So I Can Sleep, I Dont Know Why, Yours Is My Heart Alone, If You Were the Only Girl in the World, So Would I, Oh You Beautiful Doll, Polka Dots and Moonbeams.