Jazz CDs, Pt. 1 - June 2002

David Klein Quintet - My Marilyn (David Klein, sax; Miriam Klein, vocals; Mulgrew Miller, piano; Ira Coleman, bass; Marcello Pellitteri, drums) - Enja ENJ-9422 2:

I never considered myself a Monroe fan, but after spending time with this unique CD - plus recently seeing the DVD reissue of the funniest movie ever made, Some Like It Hot - I could quickly become one. Saxist Klein has taken ten tunes from some of Marilyn's 29 films as a touching tribute to the psychological, cultural, and spiritual phenomenon of Monroe. She was ahead of her time in many areas without knowing it. Far from the dumb blonde type off-camera, Monroe loved classical and jazz. The Rite of Spring was her favorite concert work and she played Ella Fitzgerald and Sinatra records all the time.

The vocalist on many of the tracks is the leader's mother, and her voice is an uncanny recreation of Marilyn's, if Marilyn had been a jazz singer. Mulgrew Miller's piano support is central to the success of these sparkling versions of the tunes. The booklet is full of great Monroe photos and quotes, and the jewel box is packaged in a larger classy cardboard box that is much easier to open than the sliding sleeves over most ECM and Nonesuch jewel boxes. Included is a great list of books on Monroe as well as selected web sites. Recorded at a Swiss studio, the sonics are super clean and well-balanced. Tracks: Kiss, My Heart Belongs to Daddy, Incurably Romantic, You'd Be Surprised, Let's Make Love, She Acts Like a Woman Should, Specialization, Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend, Some Like It Hot, I'm Through with Love.

- John Henry

Bobby McFerrin - Beyond Words (with Chick Corea, piano; Bass/guitar/percussion, Richard Bona; Drums, Omar Hakim; Percussion, Cyro Baptista & guest soloists) - Blue Note/Angel 7243 34201 2 3:

This must be the first CD I've ever seen sharing its label between Blue Note and Angel Records, which is part of McFerrin's contract with them. It illustrates the genre-stomping that McFerrin has been doing for years now - traveling the world as a classical conductor one-third of the time and vocalizing the rest. He has created a whole new adventurous, wordless musical language entirely his own and beyond category. On his latest the Renaissance man of modern music takes his wide-ranging vocalizations thru 16 tracks with bows to world music, blues, classical, jazz, electronic and more. On many tracks super-vocalise performer McFerrin also debuts on the XP-80 Roland electronic keyboard. Each track seems more amazing than the last one - his vocal (and rhythmic) creativity is unsurpassable and in person seems to communicate instantly to all audiences - whether musical sophisticates or not. All but one of the tracks (Corea's Windows) are originals left over from an abandoned attempt at fulfilling a commission for an opera. McFerrin's son joins him on "mouth percussion" on one track. Tracks: Invocation, Kalimba Suite, A Silken Road, Fertile Field, Dervishes, Zigggurat, Sisters, Circlings, Chanson, Windows, Marlowe, Mass, Pat & Joe, Taylor Made, A Piece A Chord, Monks/The Shepherd.

- John Sunier

Joe Lovano - Viva Caruso (with Joe Lovano Street Band, Opera House Ensemble) Woodwind Orchestrations by Byron Olson - Blue Note 72435 35986-2 4:

This has to be a first in the current full-bore effort of the major labels to come up with financially-rewarding classical/jazz crossover ideas for albums. I've had some good ideas in this area, but I would have never thought of this one. My first thought was, well, Lovano is Italian and so is Caruso. Also great melodies are central to both an operatic singer and a jazz saxist. But the main idea of this tribute to Caruso is that both men were not only Italian but also tenors! Get it?

The project all started when Lovano's bassist gave him a copy of the biography of Caruso by his last wife. Lovano read it, then spent much of two years studying Caruso's recordings and life. Lovano had been the primary sax soloist on an album by orchestrator Byron Olson and Blue Note's prez brought them together for the Caruso tribute. For the dozen tracks they selected mostly songs that the (vocal) tenor had recorded. They are not all operatic in nature - some are pop songs of the period and also folk songs. On Caruso's operatic 78s, the Victor Company liked to back him with a small woodwind ensemble, so Olson did the same on half of these selections. The other half are arranged for the larger Opera House Ensemble. Each track displays somewhat different instrumental groupings - Lovano's philosophy is the create, not re-create. Near the disc's end is a four-movement original suite composed by Lovano - a semi-programmatic work describing the annual Carnival in Naples. The entire album is a delight to hear - a wonderful way to broaden the audiences for both classical and jazz!

Jane Bunnett, flutes/sop. sax - Spirituals & Dedications (with Dean Bowman, voice; Stanley Cowell, piano; Larry Cramer, trumpet/Flugelhorn; Mark McLean, drums; Kieran Overs, bass; Dewey Redman, tenor sax) - Justin Time JUST 169-2:

The latest cooperative effort from the Canadian flutist and her trumpeter husband. I raved over their previous project with Havana musicians. The theme this time around is to honor music inspired by spirituals and spiritual music. Pianist Cowell was invited to participate due to his unusual and extremely cooperative Piano Choir. The dedications side consists of tributes to various musicians - among them Don Pullen, Paul Robeson, Roland Kirk, and Charles Mingus. Some of these are tunes associated with the particular musician while others are original compositional tributes. A pensive yet musically radiant collection of tunes: Don's Light, A Laugh for Rory, I'm Gonna Tell God, Illusion Suite, Shadrack, Cal Massey, Powerful Paul Robeson, Nobody Knows, Ecclusiastics, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.

- John Sunier

Bill Charlap, piano - Stardust (with Kenny Washington, drums; Peter Washington, bass; guests: Tony Bennett, Shirley Horn, Jim Hall, Frank Wess) - Blue Note 723-5-35985-2 5:

Another tribute. This one to Hoagy Carmichael - with 11 of his great songs and featuring a star-studded lineup of guest artists. Charlap is only 35 and I hadn't heard him before although he's a genuine talent. Perhaps he's had a difficult time getting attention due to his playing in a style more predominant several decades ago - a piano trio stressing great melodies and a subtle drummer and guitarist who don't try to blast with listener with high decibels. The great American song repertory is his field and his extended and thoughtful improvisations shed new light on the familiar tunes. Horn gets the title tune for her vocal track and Bennett does I Get Along Without You Very Well. Flute master Frank Wess adds new life to Rockin' Chair and Blue Orchids, and Jim Hall gets a delicious extended unaccompanied guitar section in Two Sleepy People. Tracks: Jubilee, I Get Along, Rockin' Chair, I Walk With Music, Two Sleepy People, The Nearness of You, One Morning in May, Blue Orchids, Georgia on my Mind, Stardust, Skylark.

Arturo Sandoval - My Passion for the Piano (with Ed Calle, sax; Dennis Marks, bass; Ernesto Simpson, drums; Samuel Torres, percussion) Columbia CK 86374:

Just as McFerrin started out on piano and just now makes his keyboard debut, famed Latin jazz trumpet star Sandoval practices piano as much as trumpet (inspired by Dizzy Gillespie's model) but only now has recorded his first all-keyboard album. Sandoval feels the piano work has made him a better trumpeter, and he also feels his recently-acquired Bosendorfer piano has made him a better pianist. The magnificent instrument was originally custom-made for Oscar Peterson and those ten extra keys come in handy during some of the low bass Latin comping that Sandoval does. (But on the other hand there wasn't any of that "stuck-record" Latin montuna piano stuff that gets on my nerves). He also uses his piano in composing some classical concertos. Half of the dozen tunes here are Sandoval originals. I hadn't realized it before, but on the strength of this picante swinging outing Sandoval is surely one of the legendary Havana Piano Masters. Tracks: Blues in F, Romantico, Departure, Esta Tarde, All the Things You Are, Surena, Stella By Starlight, Time Before, Marianela Says Goodbye, D.A.S.S., The Windmills of Your Mind, Blues en Fa.

- John Henry

 

Tom Harrell, trumpet - Live at the Village Vanguard (with Jimmy Greene, tenor sax; Zavier Davis, piano; Ugonna Okegwo, bass; Quincy Davis, drums) - RCA Bluebird 09026-63910-2:

Regarded as one of the most creative jazz performers and composers today, Harrell was voted Composer of the Year in Down Beat's Readers Poll last year. Seven of the eight tracks from this live appearance are his originals - one written with his wife Angela. His sidemen wax enthusiastic in the line notes about Harrell's challenging music which keeps them on their toes and yet responsive to one another. But the element of challenge doesn't mean the listener has to work hard to get into this music - it's plenty accessible. He plays with alternate scales in the opening Asia Minor, with time signatures in When the Rain Begins, and one of the more experimental tracks is Design - inspired by a planned concert with Ornette Coleman. The non-original tune is Everything Happens to Me and Harrell learned it from a Billie Holiday recording, attracted by its healing quality. Tracks are: Asia Minor, Manhattan 3 AM, Where the Rain Begins, Blues in Una Sea, A Child's Dream, Design, Everything Happens to Me, Party Song.

John Tank Quartet - Canadian Sunset (Tank, sop. & tenor sax; Peter Madsen, piano; Ted Trimble, bass; Mike Clark, drums) TCB 20902:

As the CD title hints, saxist Tank is Canadian. He follows in the footsteps of older masters such as Joe Henderson and Sonny Rollins and his dues paying includes playing with Charlie Mingus and several of his alumni. Tank is not a show-off - he stresses the melodic with long and flowing lines, but is partial to slightly out-of-kilter rhythms. Pianist Madsen has a smooth, mostly single-note style that supports Tank niftily. Six of the tracks are originals either by Tank or his sidemen. The Canadian jazzman was recorded in New York for this Swiss label and the final CD was manufactured in Austria. The international effort is an exceptionally listenable jazz quartet outing. Tracks: Canadian Sunset, Tank Toon, A House is Not a Home, Surrounded by the Night, Steppin' Up, Have You Heard This Song Before?, Indian Summer, Talk to the Hand, Angela.

- John Henry

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