Jazz CDs, Pt. 2 - November 2001

Talk about crossover - these two CDs take genre-mixing into whole new areas!...

Joe Trio - Set 'em up, Joe - (Cam Wilson, violin/Allen Stiles, piano/Laura McPheeters, cello) - CBC Records MVCD 1145: The Joe Trio is one of a growing number of small ensembles trying to subvert the uptight concert hall decorum and make classical programming interesting to and at the same time fun for a wider audience. Their brand of vigorous eclecticism knows no borders whatever, and may include rock, jazz, TV themes, or Celtic fiddle, and their performances are often broken up with parodies of children's stories or soap operas. Their delightful arrangements contribute to the fun, often conjuring up much larger musical forces. I know the instrumentation here and some of the classical composers listed seem to put this CD in the Classical rather than the Jazz section, but the Joe Trio is so much fun that it just seems more appropriate in looser section. They sometimes sound like chamber music a la Spike Jones. You also get an unlisted additional track after No. 13, and it's backwards. You simply must hear the trio's "D'eau a Simpsymphony," which turns out to be one of the most hilarious musical parodies compositions ever - the eight-minute epic is variations on the musical theme from The Simpsons! Look at the 13 tracks and you'll see why this didn't belong in Classical: Paint It Black/ Hiccup de Tango/ Joe Canada/ The Way You Look Tonight/ D'eau a Simpsymphony/ Dumka 6/Nocturna/ If Ever You Were Mine/ Dumka 2/ Linus and Lucy/ A Little Noir/ Der Flipperzauberer/ Orange Blossom Zorbet.

- John Henry

David O'Rourke & Lewis Nash's Celtic Jazz Collective - Aislinn - Mapleshade 08032:

Someone had an LP of bagpipe jazz as I recall, but this is quite a ways beyond that. We have here four top Irish traditional players plus an American guitarist and a pianist plus rhythm section. The Irish instruments are Uillean pipes, concertina, button accordion, and fiddle. There are also some guest shots, including a bouzouki player - who blends in with great aplomb. Some of the tunes the jazzmen are just sort of grooving behind the Irish players but on others everything jells in a wonderful swinging assault on musical boundaries. There's even a version of a classical piano work by John Field. If you're open to musical experimentation that's super easy on the ears, pick up this one. Being from Mapleshade the sonics are right there too: The Old Bush/ Kiss the Maid/ The Maid Behind the Bar/ The Woman of the House/ The Salamanca/ The Banshee/Planxty Charles O'Connor/ St. Anne's Reel/ Beannaigh Sinn Aathair/ An Pheadair/ The Munster Hornpipe/ The Belfast Hornpipe/ Field: Nocturne in B Flat Major/ The Dunmore Lasses/ Farrell O'Gara's Favorite/The Kid on the Mountain/ Old as the Hills/ King of the Pipers/ Whinny Hills Of Leitrim/ The Morning Star/ Martin Wynnes/ The Pigeon on the Gate/ Drowsie Mariah/ The Maid Mehind the Bar/ The

- John Henry


+++ A Quick-Audition of a quartet of jazz pianists... +++

Joe Augustine - Cool Today, Jazz Tonight - 1201 Music 6012-2:
Eric Reed - Happiness - Nagel Heyer 2010:
Hal Schaefer, solo piano - A Date to Remember - Summit DCD 295:
Sarah Jane Cion - Summer Night - Naxos Jazz 86071-2:

Augustine was new to me, but the guy is a master of the keyboard. He styles himself as somewhere between Oscar Peterson and Dave Grusin with a bit of Fats Waller stride thrown in. More than a piano trio, Augustine is supported by both a drummer and percussionist and guitarist Denny Jiosa has plenty of exchanges with Augustine. Groove Attitude/ Night Train/ Cool Days, Jazz Nights/ Fever/ Special Day/ Samba de Boyz/ Nature Boy/ Peel Me a Grape/ St. Thomas/ Funk n' Games/ Love for Sale/ No More Tears.

Eric Reed has an even larger ensemble - a tentet, to be exact. The pianist has impressive technique and forward-looking musical ideas and has been acclaimed by many publications. He was a protégé of the late John Lewis of the MJQ. All tracks except Mood Indigo here are his own compositions: Happiness/ Three Dances/ Say You Care/ Fine and Brown/ Crazy Red/ Black Beauty/ Mood Indigo/ Romantic Rag/ Devil in a Dress/ Someone Else's Love.

I recall having a prerecorded open reel tape of Hal Schaefer's Trio back about l954 and he's still going strong. He got his union card at age 14 and used to be the intermission act for the Ellington band! This time he's solo, and the CD title alludes to the 14 tunes being primarily a nostalgia trip in tribute to his late wife Brenda. Lots of sophisticated ballad treatments and two Schafer originals: Too Marvelous for Words/ Tenderly/ Baubles, Bangles & Beads/ How Deep is the Ocean/ Gone With the Wind/ Blues for Marilyn/ I'm Old Fashioned/ Blues for Brenda/ I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter/ Imagination/ Meditation/ All the Things You Are/ Smoke Gets in Your Eyes/ Solitude.

Sarah Jane Cion's second CD for Naxos Jazz is another winner. Her sensitive stylings betray her classical background and a predilection for Bill Evans and Chick Corea. Tenorman Michael Brecker steps in to solo on two of the tracks, and there are six Cion originals of great interest. She dismisses her sidemen for a closing solo piano medley of three tunes, ending with the theme from Cinema Paradiso: Never Never Land/ Walking on the Moon/ Summer Night/ Gabrielle/ Stage One/ Prisoner of War/ Psychic Warrior/ The Safflower/ Medley.

- John Henry


+++ Swinging Jazz Vocalists Times Four is our Second Quick Audition... +++

Diane Schuur and Maynard Ferguson - Swingin' for Schuur - Concord Jazz CCD-4982 2:
Joey DeFrancesco - Singin' and Swingin' - Concord Jazz CCD-4861-2:
Tierney Sutton - Blue in Green - Telarc Jazz CD-83522:
Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass - Sophisticated Lady - Pablo PACD-5310-2:

None of these four vocalists are part of the cool school of delivery a la Patricia Barber et al - they are all right out there, and probably none more so than the amazing Diane Schuur. Her super wide range and tremendous vocal power proves an absolutely made-in-heaven match for the spirited high trumpet style of Ferguson, who is now 73 but hasn't lost a bit of his punch either. The arrangements are great, Phil Ramone was the producer, and this is a kick of a CD from start to finish. Dig Schuur and Ferguson egging one another on in the highest registers on several of the tunes: Just One of Those Things/ Besame Mucho/ Deep Purple/ Autumn leaves/ My Romance/ Love Letters/ East of the Sun/ Midnight Sun/ I Fall in Love Too Easily/ Lush Life/ Just Friends/ Let's Fall in Love.

I don't recall Joey DeFrancesco singing a single number when I heard him at the B3 Bash of the the San Francisco Jazz Festival, but it turns out the Hammond virtuoso also has a relaxed and jazzy vocal talent. He's accompanying himself on his B3 but there's also a big band and even strings to back him up in big-time fashion. And he even doubles on trumpet on a couple tracks: You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To/ Mr. Dennis Houlihan/ They Say It's Wonderful/ Did You Hear Him Hollar?/ Mack the Knife/ One Mint Julep/ In the Wee Small Hours/ I Thought About You/ The Sidewalk is Wild/ Let Me Love You Tonight/ Kansas City/ Danny Boy/ I'm Getting Sentimental Over You.

Tierney Sutton started in the Boston area. After moving to Southern California she hooked up with the Jack Sheldon Big Band and eventually formed a quartet with three of the sidemen. Her first CD for Telarc was vocal versions of great jazz instrumentals. About half of the tunes on this new CD are Bill Evans standards and the others are just plain standards. Hers is a distinctive voice that stands out from most other female jazz vocalists today: Just Squeeze Me/ Blue in Green/ Autumn Leaves/ Turn Out the Stars/ Never Let Me Go/ Sometime Ago/ Very Early/ You and the Night and the Music/ Detour Ahead/ Someday My Prince Will Come/ Just You Just Me/ Waltz for Debby/ Tiffany/ We Will Meet Again/ Old Devil Moon.

What can be said about the stellar achievements of both Fitzgerald - one of the last century's greatest jazz vocalists - and guitar Pass - one of the greatest on his instrument? The first half of this disc comes from a live concert in Japan in l983 and the second half from another concert earlier in Germany, in l975. The simple (but often not-so-simple) solo guitar offers a chance to really dig into Ella's vocal art and hear every breath and phrasing with great clarity. It's easy to see why the chronological order was reversed, because although the first selections are very good, one can hear how much more on top of things Fitzgerald was in l975 - before some health problems intervened.

- John Henry

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