Chick Coreas Elektric Band - To The Stars - (with Frank Gable, guitar; Eric Marienthal, sax; John Patitucci, bass; Dave Weckl, drums) - Stretch Records SCD-9043-2 ****:
As most of you know, Chick is a Scientologist and therefore naturally revers the groups found L. Ron Hubbard. This album is Chicks effort to provide a musical setting for one of his favorites of Hubbards many sci-fi novels - To The Stars. One composition describes the character of the spaceships captain Jocelyn, then there are numbers tied in with various incidents in the novel and illustrated with quotations from the same. In between most of the tracks are one-minute or so Port Views, which portray the vistas of space as seen thru the portholes of the ship - these function as musical interludes. Chick appropriately goes heavily electronic in keeping with this outer space saga. He uses, among other gadgets, a Yamaha Disklavier, a Yamaha strap-on keyboard, Rhodes 76, Spectrasonics Trilogy, and a bunch of different Mac computers.
Great fusion fun, and certainly of higher musical value than the typical sci-fi band that plays at Trekkie confabs. There are some guest appearances by saxist Steve Wilson and percussionist Pernell Saturnino. Tracks: Check Blast, Mistress Luck - A Portrait, Mistress Luck - The Party, Johnnys Landing, Alan Corday, House of Heaven, The Long Passage, Jocelyn The Commander, Capt. Jocelyn - Tribute by His Crew, Capt. Jocelyn - The Pianist.
- John Henry
Bill OConnell, piano - Latin Jazz Fantasy (Duo, Trio, Quartet, Quintet, Orchestra) With Dave Valentin, flutes; Bob Malach, tenor sax - Random Chance RCD18, 55:19 ****:
OConnell is a product of Oberlin and an award-winning composer who has had over a hundred of his tunes recorded by various artists. He has played in many different Latin-leaning aggregations and his objective is to bring together Afro-Cuban and Orchestral music, which he sets out to accomplish on this enterprising album. All ten tracks are his own compositions, and his instrumentation runs from simple duos all the way to full orchestra. A string section including two cellos gives a classical sound to the opening, Barcelona. But the jazz horn section plus the solos from guests Valentin and Malach are in the Latin style, and the two come together successfully. The congas contribute to much of the proceedings, but on Pogo Sticks it is the bass line that communicates the Afro-Cuban rhythm. The music of Debussy is called up in the duo of piano and tenor sax on 6 for Claude. This is an altogether charming and most listenable album demonstrating that all the good sounds in recorded jazz today dont have to come from historical reissues.
Tracks: Barcelona, Fast Eddie, After the Dust Settled, Latin Jazz Fantasy, Maybe Tomorrow, Pogo Sticks, Laurie, Wind It Up, 6 for Claude, El Yunque.
- John Henry
Andreas Öberg Invites Yorgui Loeffler & Ritary Gaguenetti (guitars; with Svein Aarbostad, doublebass) - Hot Club Records HCRCD 148 (Distr. by Qualiton) ****:
Any fans of Django-inspired jazz should seek out this delightful disc in spite of its mouthful of a title.There seems to be an especially strong gypsy jazz appreciation in Norway, and several different groups have produced CDs of multi-guitar-centered small group swing in the Reinhardt tradition. There are more than 30 different CDs of this type of music listed in the liner of this album. Except for the string bass, these musicians have eliminated the other instruments and concentrated solely on swinging their three guitars like mad. They are spaced out across the soundstage and described in the notes as being located at left channel, center channel and right channel. Those of us with three identical frontal speakers will really appreciate this album.
There are only a couple actual Django tunes, although the disc closes with one of the performers blues for Djangos grandson Bireli. Denzil Bests Move is one of the familiar tracks and theres a contribution from Sonny Rollins, but many of the rest come from other members of the trio. Terrific sonics too. Wow - this is my thing. Dig it! Tracks: Coquette, Move, Bei Dir War es Immer So schon, La Promenade, Blue Drag, Bossa Andreas, I Love You, Miro Latcho Tchavo, Pent=Up House, Swing for My Son, Djangos Waltz, Blues for Bireli.
- John Henry
With Malice Toward None - The Music of Tom McIntosh (Kenny Barron, Richard David, Benny Golson, Stefon Harris, Roger Kellaway, James Moody and others) - IPO Recordings 1005 ****:
McIntosh is another trombonist who is even better known in some circles as a composer. He played in the Jazztet led by Golson and Art Farmer as well as in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. Pianist Tommy Flanagan recently played his music and stated McIntosh was his favorite composer. His best-known tune is undoubtedly The Cup Bearers, which opens this collection from an all-star band. The composer has been laboring pretty much in obscurity, so this is a much-deserved tribute to his talents. It includes four pieces never before recorded. There are also two tracks not by McIntosh which spotlight the rhythm section. McIntosh is currently one of the top educators in the jazz world and has also created music for film and TV. This disc provides a welcome introduction to or re-familiarisation-with the unique musicianship of this very creative and important figure in modern jazz. Tracks: The Cup Bearers, The MVP, Ruptures in the Rapture; Minor Consolation, With Malice Toward None, Balanced Scales Equal Justice, Im Out - No Hating, Billies Bounce, Long Ago and Far Away.
- John Henry
Rosa Passos, vocals & guitar - Amorosa (with piano/bass/drums/percussion and special guests Paquito DRivera, clarinet; Rodrigo Ursala, tenor sax; Henri Salvador, vocals) - Sony Classical SK 92068 ****:
In Brazil Rosa Passos is known as the Joao Gilberto of skirts. She is considered the artistic heir of bossa nova, and includes several songs by Gilberto on this album which tied in with her brief tour of the U.S. in August. As a youngster Rosa Passos was inspired by both the music of Gilberto and of Antonio Carlos Jobim. Some songs by the latter bossa nova pioneer as also part of the new album. One of her guest performers is a 87-year-old French chanson and bossa nova singer who once worked with Django Reinhardt. Clarinetist DRivera has also appeared with Passos before, and it was on Yo-Yo Mas two Obrigado Brazil albums that Passos was first introduced to many North American listeners. There is one bonus track on this CD of her performing with Ma in a Jobim tune. One reviewer proclaimed that Passos has done what so many vocalists have attempted since the days of Astrud Gilberto but failed to do: shes made the bossa nova sexy again... Her voice is 100% better than Astruds too - warm, evocative and totally on-key.
Tracks: Voce vai Ver, Wave, Besame Mucho, Pra que Discutir com Madame, Lobo Bobo, O Pato, Retrato em Branco e Preto, Eu Sambo Mesmo, Essa e PrO Joao, Que reste-t-il de nos amours, SWonderful, Chega da Saudade.
- John Henry
Branford Marsalis Quartet - Eternal (with Joey Calderazzo, piano; Eric Revis, bass; Jeff Tain Watts, drums) - Marsalis Music/Rounder 11661-3309-2 ****:
While his bro Wynton is a genius and all that, I find it still lean toward listening to Branfords albums more frequently, and a new one is also an event. He has established his own record label, distributed by Rounder. The general theme of this new one seems to be in the area of the ecology and perhaps spiritual values. Several of the tracks hint at a sorrowful or lonely situation. The quartet plays with great sensitivity and lyricism on most of the tracks. They turn Billy Holidays vehicle Gloomy Sunday into a 13-minute mini-symphony. Pianist Calderazzos Lonely Swan has little to do with Tchaikovskys and is certainly a more swingin swan. Branford varies his saxes to fit the tunes, giving more variety than the typical tenor or alto sax quartet. Tracks: The Ruby and the Pearl, Reikas Loss, Gloomy Sunday, The Lonely Swan, Dinner for One Please James, Muldoon, Eternal.
Joey Calderazzo, solo piano - Haiku - Marsalis Music/Rounder (no # listed) ****:
If you like the pianist in Branford Marsalis quartet, heres an entire solo album devoted to just him. He came to fame with Michael Brecker and is now regarded as one of the most exciting jazz pianists today. This is his debut disc on Marsalis Music and brought out a concern about doing a solo piano album. However, Calderazzo sates that the music he was writing now demanded that he focus on the solo piano to capture what was in my head. He experimented by scheduling solo gigs occasionally. One in England was supposed to be 70 minutes long and end up running two hours. He said that was the breakthrough.
He listened to other solo piano albums, both classical and from Art Tatum, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and others. But he didnt imitate; in fact he states this is the first album that really sounds like me. The title tune was originally one he wrote for his trio, but he began to give it its own special groove in the unaccompanied form. It sounds to me like he quotes a well-known theme from one of guitarist Pat Methenys albums. One track with classical influences is Chopin; he was listening to Chopin nocturnes and says it changed the way he played ballads. Stride piano styling he picked up from Art Tatum and Jelly Roll Morton are re-created in Dancin for Singles. At Branfords suggestion, they recorded in a recital hall in Toronto. Calderazzo says a good hall, with natural acoustics and a couple mikes in the back, is the only to go - I cant imagine recording solo in a studio.
Tracks: Bris Dance, Haiku, The Legend of Dan, Chopin, Just One of Those Things, Dienda, A Thousand Autumns, Dancin for Singles, My One and Only Love, Bris Dance - Revisited.
- John Henry