Jazz CDs, Pt. 2 for July-Aug. 2003

William Parker Violin Trio - Scrapbook (Billy Bang, violin; Hamid Drake, drums; Wm. Parker, bass) - Thirsty Ear Recordings THI57133.2:

All six selections here are originals from bassist Parker. Violinist Bang is one of the few jazz violinists today and one of the even fewer avant or New Jazz violinists. These composed works aren‘t nearly as atonal and intense as much loft jazz, though the violin with rhythm section format does stress the more coarse and high impact approach to the music. The gospel influence is strong in the longest work on the disc - Sunday Morning Church. Fans of the violin in jazz will surely want to latch onto this one since it represents the cutting edge of the instrument’s tenuous place in jazz today, acting as a bookend to any recording of Stuff Smith and other jazz violin pioneers that may be in your collection. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Paolo Conte, piano and voice - Reveries (with ensemble) - Nonesuch 79818-2:

Attenzione! Il cantante brizzolato is back with his second album of 16 original songs on Nonesuch. All in Italian except the first in French, and even less English words this time - only five: spleen, reverie, symphony, memory. All in the same stanza, as in “Oh spleen, Oh reverie”...Go figure. Complete English translations in the booklet of course. Terrific arrangements and instrumental backing. You’ll hear snippets of classical, folk music, cabaret, Kurt Weill, trad jazz, bebop, tango, what have you. Conte has an unusual ability to conjure up feelings and emotions in his imaginative lyrics, and then delivers them with such gusto that you don’t seem to miss that much if you fail to look at the translations. Get this disc and follow his own advice given in Come Mi Vuoi?: "...some music that’s sensual too. Put it on loud so it fills the room with spells, bangs and fireworks...” So he’s an audiophile too! Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Pat Metheny, solo baritone guitar - One Quiet Night - Warner Bros. 48473-2:

Most of these dozen tracks were taped by Metheny himself in his home shortly after breaking in a brand new baritone guitar. He had rediscovered a special sort of tuning trick known as low Nashville tuning, and experimented with it on different tunes during an entire evening. Later he felt he was really on to something and decided to release the recordings of just the single guitar and a mic as an album. This is it. No electronics, overdubbing or other tricks, and you can hear that there are a few little flaws here and there - such as a big pop on the first track that could have easily been edited out. But the sound of the low-pitched guitar is quite lovely and all but three of the tracks are Metheny originals - including that of the CD’s title. The sound reminded me of the mostly open-string guitar pickin’ featured on the early Windham Hill records. The title is very apt because it does sound like late-night strumming.

Tracks: One Quiet Night, Song for the Boys, I Don’t Know Why, Another Chance, Time Goes On, My Song, Peace Memory, Ferry Cross the Mersey, Over on 4th Street, I Will Find the Way, North to South East to West, Last Train Home. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Martial Solal Trio - NY-1 (Live at the Village Vanguard)- (with Francois Moutin, bass & Bill Stewart, drums) - Blue Note 584391-2:

This CD marks the first appearance of the 74-year-old Algerian jazz pianist at the Greenwich Village jazz center and his first recording for Blue Note. The date was just a week after September 11th, 2001, but in spite of the chaos in the streets he created a great atmosphere in the club. The title tune is an original Solal dedicated to the all-news cable channel which he watched all that week. Only a single stereo mike was used because of logistical problems associated with the disaster. The drums and bass don’t come across with the presence of most multi-miked jazz trios but overall the sound actually seems more natural and realistic. Four of the tracks are evidently by a relation - Claudia Solal. There’s only seven tracks and some of the improvs go on as long as 13 or 14 minutes, venturing into some fairly drawn-out variations that seem to have only the most tenuous relationship to the tune’s melody or harmonies - some may get lost in the chaos. Tracks: NY-1, What Is This Thing Called Love, Suspect Rhythm, Body & Soul, Zig Zag, Softly As In a Morning Sunrise, Lombardy.Purchase Here

- John Henry

Virginia Mayhew, tenor & soprano sax - Phantoms (with Ingrid Jensen, trumpet & Flugelhorn; Allison Miller, drums/percussion; Harvie S., bass) - Renma Recordings 6397CD:

In Mayhew’s third CD as a leader she drops the piano of the earlier sessions and goes with a piano-less quartet led by the two horns. She’s been leading a band since l985 and working with these sidemen and women since 1996; her bassist is the only male member of the quartet. Though only two of the tunes are her original compositions, she did all the arrangements and used Kenny Barron’s tune Phantoms as the CD title. This was tied in with the way 9/11 affected this New Yorker on an emotional level. Playing around with unusual time signatures is one of focuses in this album. Mayhew has a gutsy tenor sound but her soprano sax is captivating on I’m a Fool to Want You and the waltz-time tune Fall. Horn-mate Jensen is extremely versatile as well and the two make for a strong and distinctive front line sound. You go girls.

Tracks: Theme/Phantoms, I Love You, Monterey Blues, I’m a Fool to Want You, Babble On, Live Your Life, Facil, Fall, Dubai, Rhythm-a ning, Theme. [If trouble locating this, try www.virginiamayhew.com]

- John Henry

Morelenbaum2/Sakamoto - A Day in New York - Sony Classical SK80018:

It seems like just recently I reviewed the first Morelenbaum2/Sakamoto CD but actually it was last September. I recall wondering what the well-known Japanese music figure was doing involved with a bossa nova duo from Brasil. That CD, “Casa” was entirely devoted to music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. It turns out the Brazilian husband & wife duo (cello & vocals) and the Japanese pianist and rock/electronic pioneer have been friends and collaborators for over a decade. They mounted a world tour after release of the Casa album and during that time the music took on an even deeper meaning for them. They were joined on the tour by guitarist Luiz Brasil and percussionist Marcelo Costa, who also did many of backing vocals. The last concert of their tour was in New York City and the next day they went to a studio and recorded this album as a remembrance of their experience. The preponderance of the 11 tracks are by Jobim, but Gilberto and Veloso are also represented, as well as a collaboration of Sakamoto and cellist Morelenbaum. Many of the tunes really swing; can’t fathom why both these CDs were released under the Sony Classical aegis. This one is just as enjoyable a bossa nova excursion as the first album and fans will want to have both. Purchase Here

- John Henry

We close out this issue with a highly unusual variety of formats on two discs in one album...

The Ric Sanders Group in Lincoln Cathedral (Sanders, violin; Vo Fletcher, guitar; Michael Gregory, drums/percussion; guest: Rick Wakeman, piano) - Heliopause Records HPVP101CD “Hybrid Enhanced CD” [Stereo & Binaural CDs, plus 2 DTS 5.1 tracks and one MPEG Video track]

The trio of improvisers recorded in the great cathedral in late September of 2001, feeling that the world needed the healing power of music and art after the tragedy (making this the third album in this section tied in with 9/11). The music cannot be called jazz but it really isn’t folk or New Age either. The tunes come from McCartney, George Harrison, Chick Corea and Jimi Hendrix as well as the trio itself. Wakeman is heard only on the track Little Wing.

What makes this effort unique is the various formats used to point up the interesting way the trio uses the reverberation of the cathedral’s spaces. First, the ten tracks on the standard CD have quite a bit reverb on them, giving the trio a richer and larger sound. Then on the second disc in the album there are five tracks provided in true binaural sound for headphone listening with any stereo headphones. This provides an instant and convincing demonstration of the realism possible with binaural, when compared to hearing the same selections on headphones from the first of the discs. You must use headphones, because speaker playback of these five tracks will sound too distantly-miked compared to the first stereo CD. There is also a sixth track, but it is merely a voice warning to be sure you have your player or preamp/receiver set to decode DTS for the next two tracks - otherwise you may hear an ear-rending hash of noise which is the undecoded DTS bitstream.

There are only two sample DTS 5.1 tracks and if you have the required decoder they offer an interesting spatiality, but can’t hold a candle to the binaural tracks. Now what was highly unusual about the binaural tracks was that the three musicians seemed to moving all around the cathedral - sometimes the violinist, for example, would seem to inexplicably wander off into a highly reverberant area of the cathedral. Well, putting the disc into your computer and accessing the MPEG Video track will explain all. This 19-minute track shows the three performers playing inside the cathedral, where they are separated some distance from one another. But while they jam for that time on a medley of In a Silent Way and It’s About That Time, you soon notice a fourth figure on the screen. He is moving about very slowly and wearing some kind of tall fuzzy booties. His slow movements almost look like ti chi.

This turns out to be binaural recordist Dallas Simpson, who feels that just putting down a dummy head in front of the musicians and leaving it for the whole recording is boring. and creative movement of the sounds makes it much more interesting listening. This of course flies in the face of standard binaural technique, where if you wear the mics in or on your ears you must be very careful to never turn your head from straight ahead lest the performers onstage will shuffle off the stage in the opposite direction when anyone listens to the recording on headphones! So sometimes the listener is way off in a corner of the cathedral where the music is almost entirely reverberation in the huge space, and other times you are right up next to the violinist as though you were playing the violin yourself. Close your eyes for quite an interesting demonstration.

Tracks on Stereo CD: A Lifetime’s Love, Little Wing, Tune for the Land of Snows, Crystal Silence, Life Itself, Threedom, In a Silent Way/It’s About Time, Remembrance Day, The Rose Hip, Calico Skies. Tracks on Binaural CD: Little Wingg, Life Itself, Threedom, Remembrance Day, It’s About Time; DTS Tracks: Life Itself, Tune for the Land of Sorrows; Video: In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time. [You probably won’t find this UK album in the U.S., so try www.voiceprint.co.uk]

- John Henry

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