Jazz CDs, Pt. 1 of 2 - April 2003

We’ll start out this month with some unique vocalists...

Freddy Cole - In the Name of Love - Telarc Jazz CD-83545:

Perhaps unique is not exactly the right word for Freddy Cole, because he’s the spitting aural image of his much-loved late brother Nat. His choice of tunes and instrumental backing as well as delivery sounds like what Nat might be doing if he were alive today. The family connections keep going too: one of the great tunes here is by Freddy’s son Lionel. These are 11 sensitive and unhackneyed love songs and several have a Brazilian touch to them. Guitarist Romero Lubambo is heard on about half of the songs, and Remember Me is a duet with singer Jane Monheit. While Freddy isn’t the jazz piano wizard that Nat was, he’s chosen a topflight keyboardist in Jason Miles, who was the synthesist for Miles’ “Tutu” album and played with Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and others. Soprano saxist Jay Beckenstein of Spyro Gyra is heard on one of the tunes. Among the song writers sources are Boz Scaggs, Ivan Lins and Van Morrison.

Tracks: Harbor Lights, Just to See Her, Have I Told You Lately That I Love You, In the Name of Love, Remember Me, I’m Not Alone, Save a Little Time for Me, When It Rains, Lady Love, I Can’t Make You Love Me, I Loved You. Purchase Here

Maria Muldaur - A Woman Alone with the Blues...Remembering Peggy Lee - Telarc Blues CD-83568:

Muldaur’s producer suggested to her the possibility of doing a project along the lines of “Maria Muldaur does the songs of....” Peggy Lee had just died and Muldaur was thinking her passing had not received much notice, so she suggested the sexy songstress who worked in so many different styles of music and always in the most elegant and swinging way. This CD is the result. Muldaur was surprised to find that Lee had penned many songs as well, and included some of them here, including the album’s title track. Lee’s song, I’m a Woman, W-O-M-A-N, was adopted by Muldaur as her theme song earlier in her career. The closing tune is one Lee wrote in collaboration with Duke Ellington - I’m Gonna Go Fishin’. Dan Hicks does a guest vocal on Winter Weather, and the octet behind Maria includes talented reed man Jim Rothermel and pianist David Korkanowsky.

Tunes: Fever, I Don’t Know Enough About You, Moments Like This, Winter Weather, Some Gals Know, Everything Is Moving Too Fast, Waitin’ for the Train to Come In, The Freedom Train, Black Coffee, A Woman Along with the Blues, For Every Man There’s a Woman, I’m Gonna Go Fishin.’ Purchase Here

- John Henry

Laurindo Almeida & Charlie Byrd, guitars - Brazil & Beyond (with Bob Magnusson & Joe Byrd, bass; Jeff Hamilton & Chuck Redd, drums; Milt Holland, percussion)- Concord Picante CCD2-2173-2 (2 CDs):

This is an interesting collection from many different angles. It brings together two different original LPs from the early 80s in one package: Brazilian Soul and Latin Odyssey. Concord paired up two superb jazz guitarists known for their bringing of the sounds of Brazilian bossa nova to North America - Almeida with his Latin background and Byrd with his American folk music-based background. The initial ten-track album was primarily bossa nova while the encore album a couple years later delved into a wide variety of Latin American music. Both are at the highest level of exciting music-making, and t he interplay of the two guitars provides a stereo delight.

Engineer Phil Edwards has been held in high regard by jazz-loving audio buffs ever since the first several Concord Jazz LPs were first made available. Many place him on a level with Rudy Van Gelder in being able to capture the most impactful and perfectly balanced sound out of the performers. The fact that a number of the Concord original masters have now been reissued by other audiophile labels attests to their high sonic standing, and Concord has just announced that 30 of their top titles will soon be issued on SACD.

One of those previous reissues was the DVD-A stereo release of the Brazilian Soul session, which we previously reviewed (check the site search engine). I couldn’t resist comparing that 96K reissue to this new Concord standard 44.1K reissue. I was surprised to find that when both were played on my DVD-A player, a Toshiba 5700 without any internal mods, they sounded almost identical, with only a subtly extended high end on the DVD-A. But when the 44.1 CD was played on my highly-modded Sony 9000ES it actually sounded superior to the 96K DVD-A on the Toshiba! There was more gutsy presence to the guitar strings and everything sounded considerably more lively, with increased depth to the soundstage. (And this double CD is less expensive than the single DVD-A.) Just goes to show the quality of playback equipment is as important as it ever was in spite of the new hi-res formats. Purchase Here

- John Sunier


Dave Brubeck Quartet - Park Avenue South - Telarc CD-83570:

Well, that’s certainly a CD title with more of a ring to it than “Starbucks South NYC,” but the fact is this session was recorded live at a Starbucks on Park Avenue in July of last year, and is not the first live album to be recorded at a coffee house by any means. (For Marian McPartland’s recent live album taped at a New Jersey Chinese restaurant the owners had to do without a few of their customer’s tables that night so there was room to cram in the piano, bass and drums.) Some of this album’s stimulating brew (as Brubeck himself calls it in his notes) was rehearsed early in the morning as New Yorker’s hurriedly grabbed their coffees to get a jump start on their workday. For example, he chose On the Sunny Side of the Street to give them a cheerful little lift on their way. The jazz piano master explains that this was certainly a unique and challenging venue for both the musicians and engineers. They had to contend with the street noises, the subway sounds, the passersby ogling them in the glass windows. The sonic results were worth it. While not as percussively dynamic as of yore, Brubeck is still a master of imaginative, classically influenced harmonic improvisation. As Ellington would have done, he wrote some new works especially for this appearance. Elegy honors a Norwegian woman who was a vital supporter of jazz in her country, and Crescent City Stomp is a rollicking tribute to the spirit of New Orleans. Bobby Militello is in the reedman role of the late Paul Desmond, and it’s nice to hear him turn to flute on one of the tracks. Which are: On the Sunny Side of the street, Love for Sale, Elegy, Don’t Forget Me, Love is Just Around the Corner, On a Slow Boat to China, I Love Vienna, Crescent City Stomp, Take Five, Show Me the Way to Go Home. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Doug Lawrence - Street Wise - (Lawrence, tenor sax; Dan Trudell, B3; Ray Macchiarola, guitar; George Fludas, drums) Alltribe Records ATR0723:

Lawrence has been a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Orchestra, the Count Basie Orchestra, The Mel Lewis Orchestra and his own band, as well as appearing on over 100 records. Definitely a street-wise jazz man. His quartet is a sumptuous example of the B3-based format which has come back into the jazz mainstream with a vengeance. It never really went away in the “chitlin’ circuit” but the current mode is a bit less of an aggressively blues-based honking approach. That doesn’t mean Lawrence and his cohorts don’t swing ferociously on all seven of these tracks. He does a raunchy solo on Brother Jack McDuff’s Mellow Gravy but he can also wax Coltrane-like harmonies in an unexpected version of Hello Young Lovers. As so many other excellent players are finding, you don’t need to be on a major label to make an important contribution to recorded jazz and even have a chance at getting a spot in the charts! Tracks: Say Little Mama Say, Mellow Gravy, Mr. Clean, A Portrait of Jenny, What For, Spanyola, Hello Young Lovers. Purchase Here

Scolohofo - oh! (Joe Lovano, tenor & sop. Sax; John Scofield, guitar; Dave Holland, bass; Al Foster, drums) Blue Note 7243 5 42081 2 6:

Well, these cats are on a major label and the charts. The mouthful of a moniker is made up from the names of the four illustrious members of the quartet - get it? Each of them have established themselves as highly original composers, soloists, bandleaders and sidemen and the idea here is that they bring together their uniquenesses to create an exciting New Thing. It’s a true collective and they all have great admiration for one another’s talents. The booklet photos show oiled cables, direct boxes and other recording paraphernalia not usually exposed to outsiders. Lovano is just about the most creative and capable saxist on the jazz scene today- he makes a perfect center for this quartet. Three of the members contribute three of the 11 tunes each, and Foster contributes two. So all of the music originates from within the quartet. They were recorded live to two-track with no overdubs. Superb, improvisationally-searching modern jazz that occasionally skirts free-jazz regions but retains enough straight-aheadness to keep even conservative ears listening.

Tracks: Oh!, Right About Now, The Winding Way, Bittersweet, Short Form, New Amsterdam, In Your Arms, The Dawn of Time, Brandyn, Faces, Oh I See. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Does this next pair belong in the Jazz section? But if not, where?...

Orlando Consort & Perfect Houseplants - Extempore II - Harmonia mundi 907319: [Note: Not Released Until May 13!]

Described as “A modern Mass for the Feast of St. Michael, based on the medieval melody L’home armé.” we have here an intriguing crossover blend of medieval polyphony with both composed and improvised jazz. The Orlandos are an early music vocal quartet consisting of a countertenor, two tenors and a baritone. Perfect Houseplants (see our previous review in the Hi-Res section of their Linn SACD) is a British jazz quartet made up of a reed player, pianist, bassist and drums/electric percussion. The notes point out that medieval music and jazz share the use of improvisation as their life blood. The Orlando Consort welcomed this project to stretch out notions of authenticity and early music performance practice in its reconstruction of a mass. The melody used was probably the basis of the most so-called “parody masses” of the medieval period - a then-popular polyphonic musical form. The simple tune is translated “The Armed Man” and composers created variations on it in their masses - audiences would instantly recognize its various appearances without difficulty. The connection with St. Michael comes from the idea that the identity of The Armed Man is often shown in paintings of the period as St. Michael - the warrior angel who fought Satan in the form of a dragon in Revelations.

There are 23 sections to the mass. Some sound like normal medieval polyphony, some have an undercurrent of jazz accompaniment, and in some the two quartets really try to outdo one another in invention and ingenuity - just as the composers of the parody masses did. As with many listeners, I tend to find a little early polyphony goes a long ways with me, but due to the ever-creative improvisation element brought to the forefront in this collaboration, I was listening more deeply into the music and enjoying it a great deal more. It definitely calls for repeat listening, and the crystalline sonics make that a pleasure to do.

Stefano di Battista, soprano & alto sax (with Eric Legnini, piano; Rosario Bonaccorso, bass; Andre Ceccarelli, drums; Les Archets de Paris Orchestra/Vince Mendoza) - Blue Note 243 542406 2 1: Purchase Here

This pop-jazz excursion with classical and movie-music overtones seems a departure for Blue Note. In fact on the soprano sax tracks it may remind some of (pardon the expression) Kenny G.’s CDs. But it’s quite a level above that - a beautifully-arranged (by Mendoza) tribute to the saxist’s birthplace of Rome and its history. Di Battista played in the quartet of the late pianist Michel Petrucciani, toured with Elvin Jones and also performed regularly in Paris. The haunting and nostalgic arrangements and the focus on the famous city reminded me occasionally of Michael Legrand’s first big hit album, I Love Paris. There’s a Nino Rota film music theme, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet main theme, and some originals in a similar ultra-romantic vein. Great dinner jazz listening. Tracks: Anastasia, Amoroso, Tararuga, Romeo & Juliet, The Other Side, Arabesque, Roma Antica, The Next Nine Hours.

- John Sunier

Dino Saluzzi, bandoneon - Responsorium (with Jose Maria Saluzzi, acoustic guitar; Palle Danielsson, bass) - ECM 1816:

Bandoneonist Saluzzi has been recording for Manfred Eicher’s ECM label since 1982. Considered the greatest living master of the instrument, he is naturally influenced heavily by the tango and especially Piazzolla’s tango nuevo variety, but his improvisations also partake of elements from many other “root sounds,” including folk melodies and music of Native Americans, as well as European classical and jazz. His music was an important part of the soundtrack to Almodovar’s 1999 film All About My Mother. To open up the music of Responsorium Saluzzi invited into his musical world someone from another musical culture - Stockholm bassist Palle Danielsson. Playing with Saluzzi’s son José, the bass and guitar together provide a fascinating improvisational response to the Argentine flavored bandoneon lines. While not all of the nine tracks are based in the tango, most of them are embedded with what one writer referred to as “the unique sadness of tango.” Extremely evocative sounds that communicate with the listener more directly than some of ECM’s distinctive but unclassifiable non-classical chamber music. Tracks: A mi hermano Celso, Monica, Responso por la muerte de Cruz, Dele...Don!!, Reprise: Los hijos de Fierro, La pequena historia de...!, Cuchara, Vienen del sur los recuerdos, Pampeana Mapu.
Purchase Here

- John Henry

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