James Carter - Live at Bakers Keyboard Lounge (Carter, reeds; David Murray & Franz Jackson, tenor sax; Larry Smith, alto sax; Johnny Griffin, tenor sax; Kenn Cox, piano; Gerhard Gibbs, B3; Ralphe Armstrong, bass; Leonard King, drums; Richard Pistol Allen, drums) - Warner Bros. 48449-2:
Carter has been responsible for some highly individual albums in the past, usually highlighted by expertise on several different members of the saxophone family. Since all the horns here are saxes there is the feeling of a saxophone quintet with keyboard and rhythm section - my kinda jazz. With sidemen such as David Murray involved how can you lose? The tracks with the B3 are of course my favs. There are vocals on a couple of the numbers. This particular watering hole seems to gain its fame from a bar designed to look like a giant keyboard - theres a photo of it. Organist Gibbs is featured on Soul Street, and the swinging group vocal sounds therein dont seem to be coming from the players, but I didnt know any B3 had sampled vocal sounds like that. Plus this track seems to have two-channel surround possibilities - must try it out via Pro Logic II on a bigger system. The tune choice is terrific: Tricotism, Soul Street, Freedom Jazz Dance, I Cant Get Started, Free and Easy, Low Flame, Sack Full of Dreams, Foot Pattin
- John Henry
John Pizzarelli, guitar & vocals - Bossa Nova (with ensemble) - Telarc CD-83591:
Pizzarelli has been recording at a steady pace lately and this is his fifth album for Telarc. His latest immediately strikes me as one of the best, and it didnt take long to uncover the probable reason - all the arrangements for the string quartet and for the quartet of flutes on three of the tunes are by the great Don Sebesky, just about the most creative and tasteful arranger around today. Pizzarelli pegs his love of bossa nova to hearing Joao Gilberto singing Besame Mucho on a radio station in l981. He performed for the first time in Brazil in l996 and got much more involved in the nations music. He has some Brazilian musicians on this date, including the grandson of Jobim singing with him The Girl from Ipanema in Portuguese. This is one of the freshest-sounding and most listenable odes to the bossa nova which has been done in recent years. Just delicious! Tracks: One Note Samba, Fascinatin Rhythm, The Girl from Ipanema, Your Smiling Face, Estate, Desafinado, All Those Things, I Remember, Francesca, Love Dance, So Danco Samba, Waters of March, Soares Samba
- John Henry
Dom Minasis DDT+2 - Time Will Tell (Dom Minasi, guitar; Tomas Ulrich, cello; Ken Filiano, bass; John Bollinger, drums; Carol Mennie, vocal) - CDM Records 1003:
New York-based guitarist Minasi recorded previously for Blue Note. The DDT designation same from a trio he had with himself (the first D), cellist Tomas (the T) and a bassist whose first name began also with a D but who no longer is with him. The adventurous guitarist achieves an adventurous sound pairing his instrument with cellist Ulrich, and also pairing up the more closely-related strings of the cello and the string bass. As he says, with the double stops Ive got a whole orchestra with these guys. The set has tunes either written by or inspired by Wayne Shorter, Dizzy, John Coltrane, Monk and Eric Dolphy. Doms wife Carol handles the vocal for the closing Round Midnight. It wont take much time to tell that youre going to like this CD if you like jazz guitar in a group with unusual string voicings.
Tracks: Witch Hunt, Time Will Tell, DMP, My Soul Cries Out, Be Op Be Op Be Ah, John, Waltz for Eric, Round Midnight
- John Henry
Kerry Strayer Septet featuring Gary Foster - Mentor (Strayer, bar. & sop. sax & arrangements; Gary Foster, alto, tenor sax , flute, clarinet; Barry Springer, trumpet & Flugelhorn; Earlie Braggs, trombone; Frank Mantooth, piano; Bob Bowman, bass; Todd Strait, drums; Gary Helm, percussion) - Kerry Strayer Productions CD-0301:
Heres reed man Gary Foster again, joining saxist and arranger Strayer, who is based in Kansas City. Strayer got attention a few years back for his tribute to Gerry Mulligan album on Palmetto. He makes sophisticated charts out of tunes by Charlie Parker, Jimmy Rowles, Billy Strayhorn, Ray Noble, Dave Brubeck, Clare Fischer and Alan Broadbent. Two originals by Gary Foster are also presented. While Strayer continues the heritage of the Kansas City sound, his septet digs into the bop era with a vengeance on some of these tracks. The impact of the ensemble is greater than what you might expect from just a sextet - a mark of some great arrangements.
Tracks: Saturday 10AM, Gaviota, A Flower is a Lovesome Thing, Sweet Lips, Siempre Me Va Bien, Dont Ask Why, Yardbird Suite, In Your Own Sweet Way, The Peacocks, I Hadnt Anyone Till You, Warne-ing
- John Henry
Joe Utterback, piano - Night Train - Connoisseur Society CD 4232:
While not known as a jazz label, Connoisseur Society has issued five previous albums by this versatile pianist-composer. Utterback has a doctorate in music and teaches both jazz and other music courses. He has composed over 150 jazz-influenced works. His jazz piano style encompasses everything from early ragtime thru Ellington, eschewing funk and free jazz. While he delivers some tunes in a clean and straightforward manner, he can break into breathtaking classically-derived virtuosity that might remind one of Art Tatum and Horowitz combined. This is one handful of an ivory-tickler! The clean piano acoustic of Connoisseurs 96K original recording, plus the sonic environment of Tarrytowns Music Hall aid in the appreciation of Utterbacks utter keyboard command.
- John Henry
Béla Fleck & Edgar Meyer - Music For Two (Fleck, banjo & guitar; Meyer, doublebass & piano) - Sony Classical SK 92106 (CD plus bonus DVD-Video):
This is the type of new release that completely destroys all possible strict categories of both music and formats. To start with the technical side, it follows a rapidly increasing trend of providing a DVD video of a musical act alongside a music-only CD or hi-res disc by that musicians or group. The Enhanced CD idea never did catch on very well and had limited capacity and picture quality, so this a great way of seeing your favorite performers doing their thing as well as having an audio album of either the same music or something different. (Even Sony themselves were a bit confused by the combination, because the advance DVD came far ahead of the CD and without any artwork of packaging; but the item in the stores will offer both the DVD and CD together.
The next problem was deciding where to put this review in this issue - the sort of thing that has been happening almost every month lately. Often the DVD is just a few tunes or an interview and really secondary to the music disc. But in this case I felt the 40-minute film on the DVD was almost as important as the music CD and almost put this in our DVD-Video section. Then there is the question of whether this is classical or jazz or Something Completely Different - as Monty Python used to say. Sometimes the original influences are highly identifiable, as in the classical selections from Bachs Well-Tempered Klavier or the Partita No. 1 or the ones that sound like rather intellectual bluegrass-pickin improvisations. Fleck and Myer simply refer to it as homegrown music thats a blend of all their respective influences. The fact is this is light years from the usual deliberate approach to so-called crossover music indulged in so ambitiously by some of the major labels recently. Banjo and doublebass duos are not exactly an everyday sort of musical experience, but the performers found them surprisingly compatible and complementary to one another. .
Fleck and Myer have been connected musically for almost 20 years now and began a more intense collaboration on Flecks 2001 classical CD for Sony, Perpetual Motion. Fleck had also played on Myers 1997 CD Uncommon Ritual. They worked up an evening of duo music together and began a tour with it in 2001. The DVD is an intimate documentary on this tour featuring the unusual duo, and was videotaped by Belas brother. It gives the viewer a close look at the rigors of life on the road and is honest and direct in showing some of the strained moments between the two musicians along the way of their getting to know each other better - not just musically but in other aspects of their lives. it also includes two bonus audio-only tracks - one original tune by each of the composer/performers.
Tracks on CD: Bug Tussle, Invention No. 10, Pile-Up, Prelude No. 24, Solar, Blue Spruce, Canon, The One I Left Behind, Menuetts 1 & II fr. Partita No. 1, Prelude No. 2, Palmyra, The Lake Effect, Largo from Sonata by Eccles, Allegro Vivace from Sonata by Eccles, Wrong Number, Woolly Mammoth, Wishful Thinking
- John Sunier
Skip Heller, guitar - Fake Book (with Robert Brashnin, reeds; John Wicks, drums & percussion; Joe Doria, organ - guests: Jay Roulston, trumpet; Stan Ridgway, harmonica & vocal) - Hyena TMF 8318:
At first blush this seemed like the same old same old. The cover looked like a 5-inch reduction of an early l950s LP cover. But then I noticed the second tune was by Les Baxter, the penultimate by Raymond Scott and in the middle was Jerry Goldsmiths theme from the film Chinatown. Plus there was a B3 on the date. NOW I was interested! Heller talks in his notes about being fascinated by the exotic sound of Baxters Sophisticated Savage. He called up the dean of whats now called Bachelor Pad Music, who invited him over and taught him the theme on the piano. He also opines that Scotts Powerhouse is the most familiar tune that most people know but have no idea what the title is. Anyone with this sort of quirky musical knowledge has to appeal to me and most be worth auditioning. Actually, I doubt if many of these offbeat tunes would even be in any fakebook.
I wasnt disappointed. Heller is a fine guitarist and his group swings mightily. He even was honest enough to include two live performances recorded at a Seattle bar to show what the band really sounds like without studio tricks. The variety of reed instruments played by Drasnin plus the varied sounds of the B3 contribute to the rich and full sound of this small group of players. Recommended!
Tracks: The Yodel, Sophisticated Savage, Never Can Say Goodbye, Chinatown theme; Arriverderci Roma, Monks Mood, Cold Duck Time, Sometimes It Snows in April, Just Squeeze Me, Powerhouse, The Man In Me
- John Henry