Jazz CDs - February 2002

Don Byron - You Are #6 (More Music for Six Musicians) - Byron, clarinet & bass cl.; James Zollar, trumpet & flugelhorn; Edsel Gomez, piano; Leo Traversa, bass & vocals; Milton Cardona, percussion & vocals; Ben Wittman, drums & percussion; plus 15 guest performers - Blue Note 32231:
So what is the latest concept album from the amazing clarinetist? Bit difficult to pin down this time. He’s done all-classical arias, all klezmer music, but perhaps this one is intended to be more mysterious keeping in mind its title which comes from the cult TV series The Prisoner. There is lots of interesting percussion - Caribbean and African - and the album opens with some Hollywoodish pseudo-African music from the movie Hatari. There is some calypso and some rap, even ending with a turntablist’s mix by DJ Spooky. Byron has dedicated the CD to: Claude Greene, Buster Bailey, Tito Puente and Sly Stone - that may give some idea of what his intention is. There is also a very arcane chart on the inside of the unfolding notes - looks like it dates from the Middle Ages but makes no sense to me - perhaps that’s also Byron’s intent. There’s a number of vocals, lots of great solos, and it’s all lots of fun - which should be apparent from song titles like Dub-ya and Belmondo’s Lip.
Tracks: Hatari Theme, You are #6, Klang, B-Setting, A Whisper in my Ear, Dub-ya, Belmondo’s Lip, Shake ‘Em Up, You Are #6.5, No Whine, Dark Room, Belmondo’s Lip DJ Spooky Mix.

Ritesh Das and the Toronto Tabla Ensemble - Weaving - Naxos World 76018-2:Speaking of rap, I didn’t expect some of that in the middle of this album of East Indian drumming. Might use my player’s programming feature for the first time as a result - if I could figure it out. The idea is that Das is breaking out of the strict Indian classical music form of just one tabla and assembling up to seven plus other interesting percussion. Then he invites in other performers to interact with the tabla ensemble. One of the prominent performers among the nine tracks here is jazz bassist Ian de Souza, founder of an Indo-fusion band something in the model of John McLaughlin’s Shakti. The non-rap tracks are a kick, and while the tablas don’t excite the deep end for subwoofers their timbre is quite delicate and easily mushed up by inferior reproduction, so this CD can be not only a stimulus to get your hiney shakin’ but also to test your components’ accuracy.

- John Henry
Charles Pillow, soprano sax, bass clarinet, English horn & oboe/ensemble - in This World - Summit DCD 301:
Delightful music making in the jazz/world music vein of the group Oregon - especially when multi-instrumentalist Pillow solos on the soprano sax or oboe a la Paul McCandless. His octet of sidemen are also top-flight and the result is an extremely satisfying album of chamber jazz with a classical flavor. Several of the tracks are trio situations, such as English horn/guitar/piano. The players never seem to exert themselves to mix styles innovatively but just flow along very naturally.
Tracks; Cor Anglais, Charlotte, In Nomine/De Profundis, Folk Song, Quiet Village, Soundtrack to Fiction, Aria, While, Fraction, Ramayana, Reaching.

Ted Piltzecker, solo vibraphone - Standing Alone - Equilibrium EQ43:
And Piltzecker certainly is standing alone. This solo album takes more guts than, say, a solo piano or organ album. He keeps all four mallets flying in an often multiple-voiced style that quickly makes you forget anything at all is missing. The session is all standards that Piltzecker has played in a variety of contexts, mostly with other performers. Fans of the vibes will have good vibes about this one!
Tracks: My Romance, My One and Only Love, In You Own Sweet Way, In a Sentimental Mood, Trieste, God Bless the Child, Body and Soul, Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans, Blue in Green, Invitation, Like Someone in Love, Naima, La Malanga.

- John Henry

Tom Harrell, trumpet & fluegelhorn/13-person ens. - Paradise - BMG Bluebird 09026-63738-2 :
Harrell is not only a most tasteful trumpet player but also a busy composer, and all nine tracks here are his originals. The accompanying ensemble is heavy on strings and this may remind some of many sax & strings albums but with trumpet instead of sax. Coming from a big band background (Kenton, Herman) Harrell has a good feeling for interesting interplay with and among the players in the ensemble. The first half of his wistful Morning Prayer features only string quartet, with Harrell joining in plus guitar and bass for the more upbeat second section.
Tracks: Daybreak, Baroque Steps, Nighttime, Wind Chant, Paradise Spring, Morning Prayer, Wishing Well, Sunrise.

Dave Frishberg - Lookin’ Good - Concord Jazz CCD2-4998-2 (2 CDs):
A reissue of two earlier Frishberg albums, this duo album has the l977 Getting Some Fun Out of Life on one disc and l990’s Let’s Eat Home on the other. They differ from some of the more recent efforts by the unique composer/singer/pianist in that more of the tracks are solo piano than nowadays. And Frishberg’s ivory-tickling is great fun - influenced by such as Fats Waller, Bix, Jelly Roll Morton and Ellington. And it’s not just piano and rhythm section here either - Frishberg’s very individual arrangements of the vintage jazz tunes feature such greats as Rob McConnell on trombone, Snooky Young on trumpet and Marshall Royal on alto sax.

But those who like Frishberg for his witty, acerbic lyrics and hip delivery of same will not be disappointed. They’ll find such hilarious ones as Lookin’ Good, Let’s Eat Home, and I Was Ready. (They’re have to go to other of his albums for his masterpiece “My Attorney Bernie.”)
Tracks: (whew!) Lotus Blossom, I Would Do Anything for You, Stevedore Stomp, Violet Blue, Old Man Harlem, Dear Bix, Save It Pretty Mama, Alligator Crawl, In a Mist, Wonderful One, Getting Some Fun Out of Life, King Porter Stomp, Brenda Starr, Let’s Eat Home, Al Cohn Medley, Matty, The Mooche, I Was Ready, Strange Music, Billy Strayhorn Medley, A Ship Without a Sail, Lookin’ Good, The Underdog.

- John Henry

Guitarists Galore..Acoustic Mania - Talking Hands - Naim CD020:
Antonio Forcione on acoustic guitar with nylon strings and Neil Stacey on steel string guitar and guitar synthesizer make up Acoustic Mania. They continue a long tradition of guitar duos in jazz and put together their combined experience with a whole range of styles, including gypsy jazz, flamenco, Brazilian, blues, bop, Nashville, avant, you name it. They both contribute to the nine tracks on the disc, and there is one each by Joe Zawinul and Egberto Gismonti. This is great improvising on a bunch of great tunes. It’s also ideal for in-car listening - one guitarist on each side of you trading riffs!
Tracks: Birdland, David, Festival, Karate, Letter from Spain, Talking Hands, Dylan, Czardas, Snow.

Antonio Forcione - Live! - Naim CD054:
Italian jazz guitar virtuoso Forcione has made quite a stir in the U.K. And recorded several CDs for this label operated by the high end audio component-maker. This, however, is his first live session and it proves his tremendous talents are not the result of studio trickery by any means. His mastery of his instrument is extreme - some have called him the world’s best guitarist. Actually, that should be instrument(s) because Forcione performs here on both nylon as well as steel-stringed guitars plus a fretless guitar. This audience obviously contributes to the excitement, not only of the listener but also to the performer who is urged on to new musical risk-takings.
Tracks: Heartbeat, Acoustic Revenge, Sereno, I Heard It Thru the Grapevine, Mirage, African Dawn, Diary, Nocturne, Black Magic, Night Passage.

- John Henry

Jim Hall X 2 on the next two CDs...

Jim Hall & Basses (Scott Colley, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, George Mraz, Christian McBride) - Telarc CD-83506:
Clever twist on the “duet” album idea here - Hall, who plays both electric and acoustic guitars, pairs himself up with give master string bass players - each with a quite different style and sound. And that’s it - nobody else involved - just the ten strings altogether vibrating like there’s no tomorrow! Four of the tracks are complete improvisations called Abstract and some of the most fascinating interplay of the two stringed instruments occurs in them. The opening track with Holland introduces the idea, except that on this one Hall is playing a 12-string guitar. The two instruments carry on a two-part invention for 6 1/2 minutes not that different from those of Bach.
Tracks: End the Beguine!, Bent Blue, Abstract 1, All the Things You Are, Abstract 2, Sam Jones, Don’t Explain, Dog Walk, Abstract 3, Besame Mucho, Dream Steps, Abstract 4, Tango Loco.

Ron Carter and Jim Hall - Telepathy - Concord Jazz CCD2-4963 2 (2 Cds):Another two-fer from Concord. Both sessions were taped live in the early 1980s: the first, “Live at Village West” was recorded in New York and the second, “Telephone,” was recorded during the Concord Jazz Festival in Concord California. The two super-skilled jazzmen have played together many times both in the studio and live. Each has his own readily identifiable style and they have a mutual admiration that makes their duo a fruitful one. The improvisations include a half dozen originals by either Hall or Carter, balanced with standards of Monk, Kern, Gershwin and others. With the absence of the rhythm section one gets to really delve into the creative straight-ahead improvisations of the two masters. What a trip!

Tracks: Bag’s Groove; All the Things You Are; Blue Monk; New Waltz, Down from Antigua; Summer Night; St. Thomas; Embraceable You; Laverne Walk; Baubles, Bangles and Beads; Telephone; Indian Summer; Candlelight; Chorale and Dance; Along Together; Stardust; Two’s Blues.

- John Henry
Marian McPartland and Willie Pickens, Live at the Jazz Showcase - Ain’t Misbehavin’ - Marian McPartland and Willie Pickens, pianos - Concord Jazz CCD-4968-2:

Marian McPartland has carried on her NPR show Piano Jazz for well over two decades now, and began to run out of pianists to have as guests and play duos with her on the program. So she began to include singers and other instrumentalists as well as having some of her favorites back again. One of these favorites turned out to be a pianist at the opposite pole from the classically-trained, traditional, Teddy Wilson-ish style of Britisher McPartland. Willie Pickens lives in Chicago, where this live duo session was taped. He’s a forceful, two-fisted blues-tinged pianist not known for his reserve. Both pianists were surprised at how well their contrasted styles meshed in two-piano improvs - so well they ended up with some live appearances together, such as this one. Marian plays on the left channel and Willie on the right. Here’s another CD that’s perfect for in car listening. As Marian says of her first stint in a vaudeville piano quartet act - “It was a great gig!”

Tracks: Ain’t Misbehavin,’ Along Came Betty, Close Your Eyes, It Don’t Mean a Thing, Spring Is Here, Night and Day, Paper Moon, Autumn Nocturne, Just One of Those Things.

Warren Vaché, cornet & flugelhorn and Bill Charlap, piano - 2gether - Nagel-Heyer Records 2011:

Still another sort of duo, pairing up a musician Wynton Marsalis recently called “one of the great underrated trumpet players” with a young pianist jazz writer Phil Elwood called “high in the ranks of outstanding contemporary jazz pianists.” Both players did their own arrangements of the 11 tracks here and they’re just superb. Two are originals from Charlap; I especially liked the classically-influenced Nip-Hoc Waltz (playing around with the letters in Chopin’s name) and the major-length treatment of Ellington’s classic Prelude to a Kiss.
Tracks: If I should Lose You, You and the Night and the Music, Darn That Dream, What’ll I Do, Easy Living, Nip-Hoc Waltz, Etude #2, Soon, Dancing on the Ceiling, Prelude to a Kiss, St. Louis Blues.

- John Henry

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