Jazz CDs, Pt. 2 - June 2002

Metalwood ­ The Recline; Telarc CD-83564 CD:

Metalwood is actually a jazz quartet from Canada, although you'd have no idea from the name of the group. The group consists of trumpeter/keyboardist Brad Turner, saxophonist Mike Murley, bassist Chris Tarry, and drummer Ian Froman. In addition, there are a few guest artists who appear, including: John Scofield on guitar, Mino Cinelu on percussion, and DJ Logic spinning the turntables. The Metalwood sound is a mixture of fusion, funk, and 70s jazz. The band says a few of their influences include Weather Report, the HeadHunters, Return to Forever, and electrified Miles Davis. You can easily hear those influences in the tunes on The Recline. All the songs are originals in the jazz tradition, but some are clearly modernized with sampling and scratching. I felt, that in parts, the music reminded me of the Jazz Crusaders, or even Chick Corea. The recording has a wonderful "live" feel to it even though the tracks are recorded in a studio. It is definitely worth checking out. Songs included are: Strollin', Steeplejack, Bumpus, Mr. Mike, U.B. The Monster (Intro), U.B. The Monster, Lemming, New Pants, The Hipster, Pressure.

- Brian Bloom

Jack Jeffer's N.Y. Classics Big Band - New York Dances - Mapleshade 03632:

New on the jazz scene in Manhattan, this is a 12-piece band seeking some new directions in modern jazz. Discovered by avant saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett, Jeffer's aggregation is recorded for the first time in Bluiett/s Explorations mini-series on Mapleshade. Leader, composer, and bass trombone/tuba player Jeffer loaded his 11 associates into a big van and traveled down to the Washington CD area to record Mapleshade's cramped but acoustically conducive studio. Jack - a native of the British West Indies - didn't get into music until age 18 when he almost simultaneously heard a live concert of works of Webern on the radio and first heard the Duke Ellington Band live. He toured with Sadler Wells Ballet orchestra, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie and Ray Charles among others. He was later band manager for Clark Terry's Big Band, where the writing for the band by Ernie Wilkins developed his own interest in composing for big bands. He founded N.Y. Classics in l988 and they've been playing various venues in Manhattan ever since. There are eight Jeffer originals here, five of them constituting the suite New York Will Keep You Dancing - which uses waltzes, merengues and sambas among other dance forms. Not much hall reverberation due to the tight quarters, but very strong and very natural brass timbres and impact. Sounds like the real thing - not a studio-massaged concoction! Tracks: Duof March, Mood Indigo, Say Amen Brother, First Time at Last, Sweet Emma, Corcovado, Suite: New York Will Keep You Dancing, Caravan, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.

The Dutch Jazz Orchestra led by Jerry Van Rooijen - You Go to My Head (Billy Strayhorn and Standards) - Challenge Records CHR 70090:

The Dutch Jazz Orchestra specializes in jazz projects involving unknown works by unsung heroes of jazz. Well, Strayhorn isn't exactly unknown, but what makes this unique is all these 14 tracks are arrangements of other composer's tunes. Strayhorn said that he always devoted the same attention to arrangements as to his originals. Only one of these was ever recorded commercially, so this CD is certainly a premiere. Dutch bands are great for resurrecting obscure but worthwhile material and playing it with the preciseness and seriousness of, say, Mozart or Mahler. Music of Frank Zappa, Raymond Scott and others have been brought to a whole new audience this way. Strayhorn was influenced by Debussy & Ravel and his own tune Lush Life could describe his music fairly accurately. Sax or Flueglhorn solos are standouts in many of the arrangements and four of them include vocals. Tracks: Autumn in New York, Where or When, The Man I Love, I'll Remember April, I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance, Moon River, Lover Man, You Go to my Head, Night and Day, Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man, I'll Buy That Dream, Skylark, I've Got the World on a String, Yesterdays.

- John Henry

Old School - Peter Epstein, alto sax; Scott Colley, bass; Peter Erskine, drums - MA Recordings M1058A:

Another in the major series of purist "recorded on the fly" by Todd Garfinkle albums - using 96K modified Pioneer DAT recorder and modified B & K mikes. Plus presented in tastefully artistic alternative jewelbox packaging - for example this cover art runs long ways instead of the normal orientation. M-A's designs make all other CDs on your shelf look rather crude. Audiophile technical details fanatics will flip over all the specs Todd lists - even to the exact length of the Cardas mike cables he uses! (12 meters if you care.) What's different about this jazz trio session, recorded in a church in New York's Chelsea district, is that its almost mainstream compared to most of M-A's efforts. The title refers to the simpler approach to not only the recording but also the musical preparation. The experienced players jelled instantly even though not a regular constituted trio - a good thing that was, since drummer Erskine has to rush to the church from a session on the latest Diana Krall album and they had only four hours to record the entire album. Six of the ten tunes are contributions from the trio members, two are short on-the-fly improvisations, and the closing congenial tune is from Duke Ellington: Vitamin C, Circumspective Pursuit (for Jim Hall), Twelve, Meanwhile, Zelzah, After Tomorrow, Monsaraz, Improvisations one & two, For Harry Carney.

Nascer - João Paulo, piano; Peter Epstein, alto & soprano sax; Ricardo Dias, accordions - M-A Recordings M059A:

Here's saxist Epstein again in quite a different setting. M-A's Garfinkle has recorded frequently in Portugal, and most of his efforts have involved folk music of the region in one way or another. This CD is a very special collection of the three musicians' interpretations of Portuguese and Sephardic folk melodies. All ten tracks are traditional tunes, harmonized primarily by pianist Paulo. The CD title is Portuguese for "to be born" and it refers both to music and to life. There are some jazz influences but you couldn't say any of these "swing;" mostly this is just three fine players "orchestrating" in their own personal way these beautiful and often wistful melodies. Some reminded me of the strong emotional quality of Portuguese fado singing. The blend of the piano with the two dissimilar reed instruments gives a very unusual and yet appropriate timbre to the improvisations. Recorded with one-point mikes and 96K DAT, this time in a reverberant church in Lisbon, the sonics are faultless.

- John Henry

Bix Beiderbecke - Riverboat Shuffle (1924-29 Recordings) - Naxos Jazz Legends 8.120584:

One of the seminal figures in jazz, Beiderbecke was the first jazz original of the white race. He was an amazing cornetist, but also a pianist and composer in the style of Debussy (His piano solo on "In a Mist" is on this CD.) Bix played with the Wolverines, Jean Goldkette, Frankie Trumbauer and finally the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Alcohol and a self-destructive streak were his downfall and his early death robbed the jazz world of one of its greatest geniuses. The 18 78-rpm sides here include many small groups, including one in which his hugely popular duo with guitarist Eddie Lang is joined by trombonist Trumbauer. There is no Whiteman band track but several Trumbauers. Restoration engineers David Lennick and Graham Newton did a terrific job on the sonics, starting with the best collector's 78s and at the end of the chain employing the best digital noise-reduction - the CEDAR process. These are worlds better than the early reissues on the Columbia label that I've listened to for decades now. And at a mere tuppence to boot.

Tracks: Riverboat Shuffle, Davenport Blues, Singin' the Blues, For No Reason At All in C, Three Blind Mice, Krazy Kat, In a Mist (Bixology), Royal Garden Blues, Goose Pimples, Wringin' an' Twistin', Sorry, Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down, Thou Swell, Louisiana, The Love Nest, Old Man River, Futuristic Rhythm, Somebody Stole My Gal.

Norman Granz' J.A.T.P. At Carnegie Hall, l949 (with Ray Brown, Sonny Criss, Coleman Hawkins, Hank Jones, Shelly Manne, Fats Navarro, Charlie Parker, Flip Phillips, Tommy Turk) - Pablo PACD-5311-2:

The Jazz At the Philharmonic series mounted by Norman Granz in the 40s and 50s was a celebration of the jazz jam session. He put the jazz musicians on the concert stage and insisted on racially integrate audiences - both radical moves at the time. Critics of the jam session approach complained about some of the seemingly endless solos by exhibitionistic players playing to the audience overmuch. (Just being pioneers for the rock musicians to come, eh?) But this CD of tracks issued for the very first time in any format shows a different side of JATP. The l949 concert is like a jazz festival evening where everyone is on top of their game and egging one another on to greater heights. The first three tracks feature a seven-piece ensemble fronted by saxists Parker, Criss & Philips; the last four tracks use a quintet with the rich tenor sound of Coleman Hawkins plus the trumpet of Fats Navarro at the forefront. Granz' spoken introduction is unintelligible to me, but the music - although low-fi - is cleaned up enough to be listenable. Just imagine you're listening thru a worn-out kitchen radio instead of your high-end hi-fi.

Tracks: Leap Here, Indiana, Lover Come Back to Me, Rifftide, Sophisticated Lady, The Things We Did Last Summer, Stuffy.

- John Henry

The Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) Jazz Awards 2002, the sixth annual presentation of honors to jazz musicians and their supporters by the organization representing more than 400 writers, broadcasters, photographers and new media professionals worldwide, announces their list of nominees in 38 categories of achievement, as well as grandees selected by the JJA board for discretionary honors.

Here are the top-of-the-list nominees for the Jazz Awards 2002, listed alphabetically by first names:

1. Lifetime Achievement In Jazz

Cecil Taylor

Clark Terry

Elvin Jones

Lionel Hampton

Marian McPartland

2. Musician Of The Year

Dave Douglas

Dave Holland

Joe Lovano

Sonny Rollins

William Parker

3. Album Of The Year (Released April 15, 2001 - April 15, 2002)

Billy Bang, Viet Nam - The Aftermath, Justin Time

Cassandra Wilson, Belly of the Sun, Blue Note

Dave Douglas, The Infinite, BMG/RCA

Charlie Haden, Nocturne, Verve

Dave Holland Quintet, Not for Nothin', ECM

Keith Jarrett Trio, Inside Out, ECM

4. Reissue Of The Year

Artie Shaw, Self Portrait, BMG/RCA Bluebird

Billie Holiday, Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia, 1933-1944,

Columbia Legacy

John Coltrane, Live Trane, Pablo

Miles Davis, The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions, Columbia Legacy

Thelonious Monk, The Columbia Years, Columbia Legacy

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