New Jazz Adds – 7/15/2015

New Jazz Adds – 7/15/2015

Randy Brecker / Trumpet Summit Prague – The Mendoza Arrangements, Live (Summit): “High-brass firepower is the theme of Trumpet Summit Prague, and there’s plenty of the good stuff to go around, thanks to the on-point playing and improvising of a trio of trumpeters. Here, American players Randy Brecker and Bobby Shew, and Jan Hasenöhrl, founder of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, join forces with the CSNO and St. Blaise’s Big Band in a 2012 concert at the celebrated Smetana Hall.
But this project is less about a long-form cutting contest than it is about high-level sparring and appealing playfulness.  Take Thad Jones’ “Three and One”, where the trumpeters open with round robin volleys followed by unison lines and tangy three-part harmonies.  A short time later, Vince Mendoza’s arrangement has Hasenöhrl going baroque for a bracingly agile exchange with drummer Martijn Vink, followed by the big band’s return in full swing, underscored by the orchestra.  Brecker steps in for a similarly agile solo before the three recombine to restate the melody.
Shew, a virtuoso player too often taken for granted, is center stage on a lush version of Kurt Weill’s “Lost in the Stars”; his flugelhorn, whether stating the melancholy melody or sailing in flights of improvisation, is a thing of beauty, expertly cushioned by the large ensemble.  Brecker is featured on two of his originals:  the album-opening “Village Dawn”, with its hopscotching melody and a bracing solo spiced with smears, high-speed runs and high-register forays; and the bluesy, hard-grooving “Creature of Many Faces”, which offers solo space for several other players.  The program, recorded for Czech television, also offers Mendoza’s own “Rhumba Alias” and a wild and wooly version of Ellington’s “Caravan”, with even more space for three part trumpet harmonies and round-robin soloing.  Three’s a crowd?  Not this time.” (Philip Booth, JazzTimes)  Click here for a video of “Village Dawn” the opening of this performance.

George Cables – In Good Company (HighNote): Dual connotations here: Cables first acknowledges the compositional company to which he adds his own – all of this material was composed by John Hicks, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, or Kenny Baron (in addition to two Cables’ compositions) and his performing group which includes Essiet Essiet (b)) and Victor Lewis (d).  The group covers a lot of ground and it is all beautiful!  Click here for a sample of Cables on piano. Note: This song is NOT on the above disc.

Jeff Denson Trio + Lee Konitz – Jeff Denson Trio + Lee Konitz (Ridgeway): Born in Arlington, VA, Denson, developed an early love for music and then bass. Denson entered Northern Virginia Community College in 1997. Here he met Herb Smith, an intense and influential teacher, with whom he played professionally for a number of years in every corner of the local scene. A single lesson with the great post-bop bassist Butch Warren led to another traditional aspect of true jazz education – a personal mentorship built upon hanging out on the scene and listening, questioning and learning first-hand from musicians. By 2007,  Denson and his trio joined forces with Lee Konitz, becoming the legendary figure’s first regular ensemble. He is an educator and maintains leadership in four different musical projects, one of which is called the “Jeff Denson Trio plus one.  This is the inaugural formation and recording of that project and THE ONE is Lee Konitz! The remainder of the trio are Dan Zemelman (piano) and Jon Arkin (drums). There are three Konitz originals here (one of which is a solo performance) and one by Denson and Konitz. A nice tribute to a master and connection from the student.  Click here for an introduction to the set.

Roberta Donnay & The Prohibition Mob – Bathtub Gin (Motema Music): Roberta Donnay is a swinger in the mellow groove with the slightest dash of Betty Boop.  While most of the songs here made their debuts in the late 20’s through the mid 30’s, there are three co-written by Donnay published in 2014, a very cool version of “Shake Sugaree” (not done in the same era style) and a slick version of “Just What The Doctor Ordered”.  The band includes Sam Bevan (b), Michael Barsimanto (d), Rich Armstrong (cornet, trumpet, flugelhorn), Sheldon Brown (sax), and Wayne Wallace (trombone) with sit-ins by Nicholas Breade (vocal), Deszon Claiborne (d), Danny Grewen (trombone), Annie Stocking (vocal) and Steve Malerbi (chromatic harmonica). These tunes are naughty but not really bawdy.  Click here for a sample of the title tune.

Eldar – World Tour, v 1 (New Struggle): Eldar Djangirov has been described as “a blend of musical intelligence, organizational savvy, enthusiasm and prowess that was all the more impressive for seeming so casual…  an ebullient impressionist” (NY Times); “…his playing shows brilliancy, complexity, and discipline…  he’s serious about his music, he’s thoughtful about what he does” (Dr. Billy Taylor); and “a genius beyond most young people I’ve heard” (Dave Brubeck). This disc offers eleven live explanations for the praise his has received.  The styles vary significantly from one selection to the next, but you won’t have any questions about the sincerity of the accolades after listening to him. Mostly he plays with Armando Gola (bass) and Ludwig Alfonso (drums), but Ferenc Nemeth and Jonathan Joseph take the drum kit for one piece each and Eldar solos on three.  A tour de force!  Click here for a sample of one of the performances from this disc.

Christian Finger – Ananda (Strikezone): This is composer / drummer / director Finger’s third release and, in the words of reviewer Bob Blumenthal, “It takes an exceptional composer, leader and percussionist to conceive a program ambition and scope…Finger is all three in one person, and Ananda marks him as an exceptional and exemplary musician.”  Finger himself explains, “Ananda is Sanskrit for ‘The world is bliss,’ which is what I wanted the music to convey.”  The musicians involved are Zach Brock (violin), Vadim Neselovsky (piano), Dave Stryker and Peter McCann (guitars), Adam Armstrong (bass), Finger himself with the addition of Jeff Ballard on one cut (drums), a vocal by Bobby Harden and the addition of the Mivos String Quartet (Olivia De Prato and Joshua Modney, violins; Victor Lowry, viola; and Mariel Roberts, violin cello).  Click here for a live version of the opening cut.

Melody Gardot – Currency Of Man (Verve): Gardot has an amazing life story and on this, her fourth release, she has created a powerful statement about life and human relations.  Many of the songs point heavily at the social injustice in our country, in the elitism that discriminates against the poor, the immigrant, the African-American population, even the abandonment of loved ones for personal gain. Gardot acknowledges her own weaknesses and personal desires in such a seductive yet straightforward way that it’s disarming. At the same time, her message is that it’s not your money or power that brings real love and desire into your life. Her performances, though laid back and beautiful, are intensely emotional and filled with impending  doom while also being deeply spiritual.  Stunning.  Click here for to listen to a sample from this disc.

Marty Grosz & The Fat Babies – Diga Diga Doo (Delmark): “Hey, Mister Peabody! Where are we going today?” “Well, Sherman, how about Chicago? The Delmark Studio where we can witness the first time Marty Grosz recorded there, let’s see that was 1960, but it sounded more like 1930.  In fact, we could just play this disc and the music would be in exactly that style. The group includes Marty Grosz (g, banjo), Andy Schumm (cornet), John Otto (clarinet, sax), Jonathan Doyle (clarinet, sax), Dave Bock alternating with Panic Slim on trombone, Jim Dapogny and Paul Asaro alternating on piano, Beau Sample (b) and Alex Hall (d). It’s swell!  Not so crazy like that Jim Kweskin guy. There’s some nice easy blues swing here.  Click here for a live performance by Marty Grosz. Note: This performance is not on the above disc.

Heads Of State – Search For Peace (Smoke Sessions): This performance is an audience with the inside keepers of the flame who have come together to rekindle some of the great jazz compositions and honor the geniouses of the jazz lexicon.  Based upon their personal experiences and interactions in part of in combinations with Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jackie McLean and Benny Carter, saxophonist Gary Bartz, pianist Larry Willis, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster have risen to be the “heads of state“ of the most creative period  in the history of jazz. This is a live in studio performance recorded to keep a record of a live in club performance from some months earlier. The setlist includes “Impressions” (Coltrane), “Search For Peace” (Tyner), “Capuchin Swing” (McLean), “Summer Serenade” (Carter), “Lotus Blossom” (Strayhorn), two compositions by Bartz and two standards.  Everyone is in great form, so stop reading and listen as soon as you can!  Click here for a sample song from this disc.

Paul Keeling – Ancient Lights (Self-produced): Paul Keeling’ new release is a melodic, flowing and delightful recording of the pianist’s newest compositions. The interplay between Keeling and his bandmates is wonderful – Keeling is both composer and leader, but also spins terrific musical comps and harmonies around his colleagues when they are the lead instrumentalists. In addition to Keeling, the core trio includes Adam Thomas (b) and Bernie Arai (d) and they are augmented by Brad Turner (trumpet, flugelhorn) on six songs, Jon Bentley (tenor sax) on five, Tristan Paxton (g) on three and trombone player Hugh Fraser and Toto Berriel (percussion) on each. The additions give the disc variety and a deep richness. This disc features terrific individual performances, with some wonderfully melodic interplay.  Click here for a live performance by Keeling in a trio setting.  Note:  This song is not on the above disc.

Michael Kocour – Wherever You Go, There You Are (OA2): Pianist Michael Kocour played with the late saxophonist James Moody for the last decade of his life and was profoundly influenced by his musical and philosophical insights. He also cites the words of pianist Mulgrew Miller as the anchor for his own musical belief: “…jazz is both a progressive art and a folk art…moving the music forward or establishing a unique identity do not demand leaving traditional elements like swing, blues and song form.”  The set list on this solo piano / Fender Rhodes disc is his demonstration of that thesis. In addition to playing two of his own compositions, Kocour draws from the songbooks of Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Harris, Irving Berlin, Harry Warren and Thelonious Monk to demonstrate his lens on this perspective.  Click here to listen to the title song.

Lee Smith – My Kind Of Blues (Vectordisc): This is veteran bassist Lee Smith’s second release as a leader and includes four of his original compositions as well as a variety of songs including  “Afro Blue” (Mongo Santamaria with whom Smith played for 5 years) and “Alone Together” (Dietz & Schwartz).  Smith has worked with numerous jazz and soul groups, but has now moved to the leader’s role as the best way to continue growing. The supporting musicians are Anthony Wonsey (piano), Joe Magnarelli (flugel horn, trumpet), Tim Warfield (soprano sax), Marc Adler (flute) and Justin Faulkner and Byron Landham (alternating drummers). Doc Gibbs guests on percussion on three songs.  This is a very solid disc that showcases many aspects of Smith’s playing as the songs change from heady jazz to latin and ballad to cool swing. Click here for a brief interview with Lee Smith.


Professor Bebop


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