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AUDIOPHILE AUDITION - web magazine for music, audio & home theater

Part 1 of 2 [Part 2]

Van Morrison – What’s Wrong With This Picture?; Blue Note 90167 CD:

This disc starts off slow with a traditional jazz flavor mixed with backing orchestra and a bass clarinet. Once Van Morrison’s vocals enter the picture, it is clear whose record this is. Morrison has been making records since the late 60s and has drawn a following over the years. Many of his early years were spent listening to blues and jazz records. This is clearly reflected in this album. Track 2 is upbeat with a big horn section and organ, and has more of a rhythm and blues swing to it. Track 3 is different as well, with more of a soft soul/funk combination groove. A few blues numbers follow, but most of the tunes are in the jazz style. Fidelity is quite good and from the white and blue CD label, you know that the disc is mastered from better than 16 bit tapes (probably 20-bit).

The album flows along naturally and gives the listener a wonderfully mellow, relaxing feeling. Morrison fans are sure to embrace this record, and anyone who likes popular jazz/blues records with vocals will get their money’s worth. Recommended. Songs included are: What’s Wrong With This Picture?; Whinin' Boy Moan; Evening In June; Too Many Myths; Somerset; Meaning Of Loneliness; Stop Drinking; Goldfish Bowl; Once In a Blue Moon; Saint James Infirmary; Little Village; Fame; Get On With The Show.

-Brian Bloom

The Peter Malick Group featuring Norah Jones – New York City; Koch Records KOC-CD-8678 CD:

The story behind this album is probably the story of how many great works came into being—chance, desire, and a little determination. It seems that Malick happened to be in a club in the summer of 2000 and heard Norah Jones perform a captivating rendition of “Since I Fell For You.” After talking with her, a gig was set up and was fairly well received. It wasn’t history just yet. Apparently, the band met with some difficulty, but once they recorded the title track for this album, everything changed. The song was infused with life and soul beyond anyone’s expectations by the second take (the one on this disc)! “New York City” is a really good tune, but other tracks like “Deceptively Yours” and the band’s cover of “All Your Love” make this record a keeper. The fidelity is very good, though not perfect, suffering from a slight softness. The style is a little jazz, a little blues, and a lot of fun. The album doesn’t weight you down, and is instantly seductive. Fans of Norah Jones’s Come Away With Me should add this disc to their collection immediately, but its appeal goes well beyond Jones’s brand of music. I think you’ll really dig it. Songs included are: New York City; Strange Transmissions; Deceptively Yours; All Your Love; Heart Of Mine; Things You Don’t Have To Do; New York City (radio edit).

-Brian Bloom

Oscar Peterson - Dimensions: A Compendium of the Pablo Years - Pablo/Fantasy 4PACD-4439-2 (4 CDs boxed set):

Perhaps the most famous living jazz pianist, Canadian keyboardist Peterson has had a monumental career carrying on the amazing virtuosity of the great Art Tatum. One difference has been Peterson’s focus more on standards from the Great American Songbook and less on the classical themes often quoted by Tatum. This collection brings together 25 live performances plus 21 studio tracks, all produced by Norman Granz between l953 and l986. In addition to solo stints and tracks with his famous trios - one with Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis and the other with Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen. Then there’s tracks from the famed quartet which included Joe Pass on guitar. Other settings have Peterson playing with such big bands as Basie and Ellington, backing Ella Fitzgerald, and even playing Gershwin on the clavichord in a duo with guitarist Joe Pass. Some of the jazz greats who appear on these are Dizzy, Coleman Hawkins, Milt Jackson, Clark Terry, Toots Thielemans, and Johnny Hodges. The pre-1958 tracks are mono and some sound a bit dated, but sonics improves as we get into the stereo era. A worthwhile 36-booklet comes with the set, containing an essay by Keyboard Magazines’s Ernie Rideout and many full-page photos of Peterson.

Contents: Disc 1 - That Old Black Magic, Tenderly, How High the Moon, The Way You Look Tonight, You are Too Beautiful, Smedley, Someday My Prince Will Come, Daytrain, Moonglow, Sweet Georgia Brown, C Jam Blues, Wes’ Tune, Okie Blues, You Can Depend On Me
Disc 2 - You Are my Sunshine, Caravan, Stella by Starlight, Little Jazz, Soft Winds, Mean to Me, Oh Lady Be Good, On a Slow Boat to China, summertime, Blues for Birks, How Long Has This Been Going On?, Hogtown Blues
Disc 3 - Blues Etude, Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?, I’m Getting Sentimental Over You, Reunion Blues, I’m Confessin’, Goodbye, Falling in Love with Love, Nigerian Marketplace, Sometimes I’m Happy, Medley: Perdido/Caravan, Cool Walk
Disc 4 - Take the A Train, 5400 North, Exactly Like You, Au Privave, If I Were a Bell, Nuages, Some of These Days, Lady Di’s Waltz, Stuffy

- John Henry

A couple more pianists up next...

Ezra Weiss, piano - The Five AM Strut (with Michael Philip Mossman, trumpet; Antonio Hart, alto sax; Kelly Roberge, tenor sax; Leon Lee Dorsey, bass; Billy Hart, drums) Umoja Productions 6-57677-00312-6:

Young Portland, Oregon-based pianist/composer Weiss wrote all nine tracks on this superb sextet date he recorded in New York City with some of the top sidemen around. His theme was to capture the soul satisfaction/exhaustion coupled with exhilaration which a jazz musician might have after a very late gig in the city. Weiss says he was very influenced by jazz tradition in his writing, naming such as Mingus, Art Blakey, Monk, Horace Silver and Woody Shaw among others. Antonio Hart is a takes some blistering alto solos, and fellow Portlander Kelly Roberge is terrific on tenor. While many of the tunes are very melodic, I especially dug The Clown Feature - which Weiss originally wrote for a student circus and which reminded me of the San Francisco-based former circus band Kamikazi Ground Crew. Selections: Symmetrics, A Time for Healing, Tear Shells, One for Wendell, Waiting, The Clown Feature, For the Youngins, The Five AM Strut, I Regret.

The Best of Art Tatum - The Pablo Solo Masterpieces - Pablo PACD-2405-442-2:

Regarded as the greatest jazz pianist ever, Art Tatum was an amazing virtuoso who could throw off endless imaginative variations on a popular theme - improvising them on the spot without special written arrangements. Stride piano was one of his foundations but he seemed to bring together many different styles, including classical. One of the many stories about him is that he really wanted to be a classical pianist but being black that was impossible for him. It is true that Horowitz and Tatum had a mutual fascination for each other’s performances.

Back in the LP era one of the most prized sets for jazz fans was the 13-LP set on Pablo of all the solo piano recordings made for Pablo by Tatum. Then in the CD era they were re-issued on a 7-CD Pablo boxed set. Having taken place in 1953 thru 1955 they are all mono, which is not a serious problem, but both the LPs and CDs suffered from a certain distortion that I found extremely annoying. I don’t know what they did at Fantasy in the remastering of this sampler from the Tatum solo material, but most of that strange distortion is now gone and this is a very listenable disc. If you don’t have any Tatum in your collection at all, this is the one to get.

Tracks: Too Marvelous for Words, I’ve Got the World on a String, Stompin’ at the Savoy, You Go to My Head, Makin’ Whoopee, Stardust, Crazy Rhythm, Mean to Me, Body and Soul, Ain’t Misbehavin’, I Cover the Waterfront, Would You Like to Take a Walk?, Cherokee, In a Sentimental Mood, Night and Day, Tear for Two, I Didn’t Know What Time It Was, Over the Rainbow, On the Sunny Side of the Street, Someone to Watch Over Me

- John Henry

The Best Of Art Tatum’s Pablo Group Masterpieces - Pablo PACD-2405-440-2:

These dozen tracks are selected from the 6-CD set on Pablo of Tatum’s small group recordings made during l955 & 56. Again, they are mono and being a larger ensemble stereo is sometimes missed, but these are all classics and Tatum’s cohorts are some of the brightest lights in jazz of the period - Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich, Buddy DeFranco, Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Benny Carter, Louis Bellson, Harry Sweets Edison, Barney Kessel among them. Producer Norman Granz set up a total of seven different group sessions, and there is at least one track from each of them here. Selections: Perdido, Memories of You, You Took Advantage of Me, All the Things You Are, Body and Soul, Under a Blanket of Blue, The Moon is Low, Just One of Those Things, Street of Dreams, Somebody Loves Me, My Ideal, Deep Night.

- John Henry

A pair of releases from another fine pianist...

Geoffrey Keezer, p. - Sublime - Honoring the Music of Hank Jones - in Duets with Kenny Barron, Chick Corea, Benny Green, Mulgrew Miller - Telarc Jazz CD-83563:

I always did dig that two-piano jazz, and when all the tunes are from a master like Hank Jones and the lineup of guest pianists reads like that above, you can’t loose. Keezer is a 33-year-old leading pianist today who was greatly influenced by hearing Hank Jones recordings as a teenager. He especially liked the wide-open intervals Jones favored in his left hand. And Jones was a protégé of Art Tatum - see, it all fits together! Keezer especially dug the two piano recordings which Hank Jones did with Tommy Flanagan and others and wanted to do a similar duo album himself. This is it. Keezer is on the left channel and his four guests take their turns on the right channel. What a kick! It really is sublime. I love listening to two-piano jazz such as this in a car or on headphones, where the separation is wide.

The Duo Tracks; Angel Face, Hank’s Blues, Passing Time, Time Warp, Lullaby, Things Are So Pretty in the Spring, Sublime, Favors, Alpha, Intimidation.

Geoffrey Keezer, p. - Falling Up (with 12-piece ensemble) - MaxJazz MXJ207:

A real tour de force by pianist/composer Keezer. He plays not only piano but Fender Rhodes, Vibes and Marimba on this session, for which he did most of the arrangements and composed five of the selections outright. His ensemble includes guitarist Paul Bollenback, Ingrid Jensen on Flugelhorn and one track by vocalist Glair Martin. Keezer has selected some exotic instruments for a different sort of (authentic) Hawaiian-influenced sound, including bamboo noseflute, tuned bamboo pipes, and bass clarinet, and one track uses a sample from the Asian-American Jazz Orchestra. The only completely solo piano track by Keezer is Duke Ellington’s rare T.G.T.T., and he closes the CD with a trio version of a Bach Prelude. Great sound and great packaging from MaxJazz. Tracks: Falling Up, Shiny Shell Lullaby, The Horsewoman, Palm Reader, Featherfall, Gollum’s Song, Navigating by Starlight, Famous Are the Flowers, T.G.T.T., Mirrim, Prelude in E Flat.

- John Henry

Continue to Part 2 of Jazz Reviews

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