Jazz CDs, Pt. 1 of 2

Dave Frishberg - Do You Miss New York? Live at Jazz at Lincoln Center - Arbors Jazz ARCD 19291:

Here is the Woody Allen of modern jazz with a perfect audience of New Yorkers who miss nothing in his witty word play, imaginative references and dry, self-deprecating personality. How many singer-songwriters in jazz or pop write songs about baseball heros, their personal attorneys, incisive views of how the country has gone to hell, and parodies of Caucasians getting deeply into Native American culture and music? It’s just Dave, his vocals and solo piano and it’s more than enough for his fans. His introductions to some of the tunes are almost as good as the tunes themselves. And he’s not a bad ivory-tickler either - he once did an entire solo piano disc of ragtime-flavored tunes. Oklahoma Toad sounds like it could be by Hoagy Carmichael. Frishberg’s Swinging the Classics Medley brings back the trend in the 30s and 40s of big bands “swinging” well-known classical themes. Frishberg is one of those highly individual songwriter vocalists which are the only ones I personally enjoy immensely - artists with unique talents, although having a Sinatra or Krall-quality voice may not be one of them. (Among them are Bob Dorough, Blossom Dearie, Mose Allison and Randy Newman.)

Tunes; Quality Time, I Was Ready, Jaws, Do You Miss New York?, Oklahma Toad, Little Did I Dream, Swing the Classics Medley, The Hopi Way, The Difficult Season, Zanzibar, Eastwood Lane, My Country Used to Be, I Want to Be a Sideman, Heart’s Desire. Purchase here

- John Henry

Bill Mays Trio - Going Home (with Matt Wilson, drums; Martin Wind, bass) - Palmetto PM 2090:

Sensitive and lyrical pianist Mays dedicated this album to the memory of three jazz greats and friends who have all “gone home:” Shelly Manne, Red Mitchell and Jimmy Rowles. One of the tracks is a seven-minute touchingly tender version of Dvorak’s Going Home theme. Mays also wrote four of the 11 tracks and arranged all of them. Some are inspired by his away-from-NYC home in northeastern Pennsylvania in a place called Shohola. He closes the program with his only vocal, on Red Mitchell’s I’m a Homebody. Crisp pickup of May’s Steinway and good balance without overbearing drums as on so many discs. Tracks are: Judy, You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, Shohola Song, Home, On the Road, Shoho Love Song, Nosey Neighbors, In Her Arms, Comin’ Home Baby, Going Home, I’m a Homebody Purchase here.

- John Henry

Two recent releases from an audiophile jazz label...

John Previti Quartet - Swinging Lullabyes for my Rosetta - (Preveti, bass; John Cocuzzi, vibes & piano; Rich Whitehead, guitar; Big Joe Maher, drums & vocals; Marianna Previti, vocals) - Mapleshade 09632:

Previti started out on guitar and has played bass for such guitarists as Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis. In this session under his own name he works in a swing and jazz mode, with some of the tunes having almost a 1920s sound to them. The vocals are mostly on ballads such as I Can’t Believe You’re in Love with Me, and Mrs. Previti does a nice job on them. The band really turns Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz into a major and very swinging statement. The bass comes thru clean and deep via Mapleshade’s direct to two-track analog tape approach. And the 1911 Steinway in their studio, about which I have complained before, sounds just fine here. Tracks: My Rosetta, I Thought About You, The Lady is a Tramp, I Can’t Believe you”re in Love with Me, In a Sentimental Mood, Wabash Blues, Jitterbug Waltz, Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter, Reflections, Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me, On the Street Where You Live, Don’t Blame Me Purchase here.

Frank Foster’s Loud Minority Big Band - “We Do It Different” - Live at NY’s Jazz Standard (with Dennis Rowland, vocals; Jon Faddis, trumpet; Cecil Bridgewater, trumpet; Bill Saxton, tenor sax; James Stewart, bariton sax; Danny Mixon, piano; Earl May, bass and more) - Mapleshade 09532:

Saxist, arranger and leader Foster led the Count Basie Band for a decade and organized the Loud Minority seven years ago. His big band swing arrangements for the new group are just a excellent as his charts for Basie but this aggregation has its own special sound that isn’t just emulating the Basie sound. A lot of effort and courage went into makeing this CD. Foster - in his seventies - was recovering from a stroke and this was his first live appearance since it occurred. Mapleshade’s Pierre Sprey had to haul and set up a lot of gear to record the band live with a similar audio fidelity to the hundred or so sessions he has recorded in his own home studio. Vocalist Dennis Rowland is a standout, and the drummer was a petite woman called in at the last minute when the band’s regular drummer was out of town. It all jelled and the result is one of the most enjoyable big band recordings I’ve heard in some time. Tracks: G’on an’ Git it Y’All, Stella By Starlight, Wild Women Don’t Worry, Fos’ Alarm, Lover, Shiny Stockings, Where or When, Cecilia is Love, You Go to My Head, Skull Doug-Ery. Purchase here

- John Henry

Lee Konitz with Alan Broadbent - Live-Lee - Alto sax/piano duo recorded live at The Jazz Bakery in LA - Milestone MCD-9329-2:

Lee Konitz has been around a long time - he was born only seven years after Charlie Parker and is recognized as one of the very few true innovators on the alto. Though he spent over a year with the Kenton Band, most of his work is with small groups, and in the late 60s he did an LP for Milestone called The Lee Konitz Duets, which paired him with various partners as a duo. This new disc is a return to the same idea, partnering with the nimble fingers of New Zealand pianist Broadbent. He played with several big bands, was with Charlie Haden’s Quartet and is currently Diana Krall’s music director.

The duo plied their improv groove for a week at The Bakery - their first time playing together - and these 11 tracks are selected as the cream of the crop from the final three nights that were recorded. The ability to get really good sound nowadays in a live situation like this proves its value; this wouldn’t have been nearly as edgy and exciting as a standard studio session (and wouldn’t be as easy to listen to if it sounded like those live Charlie Parker recordings). Both are fans of the great Lennie Tristano and Broadbent studied with him, so there is a link there. One would never guess from the imaginative out-in-the-open interaction of the pair - no drums, no bass - that they hadn’t gigged together for years. A complete delight! Tracks: I’ll Remember April, Sweet and Lovely, Sequentialee, If You Could See Me Now, Cherokee, Gundula, Keepin’ the News, Easy Living, 317 East 32nd Street, Ex Temp, Subconscious-lee. Purchase here

- John Henry

Here are dueling trumpet players both recording on the same label...

Jeremy Pelt - Close to my Heart - (with Mulgrew Miller, piano; Peter Washington, bass; Lewis Nash, drums; David O’Rourke, guitar & arranger; plus string quartet - MaxJazz MXJ 403:

No notes with this one, but although I’d like to know something about Pelt, they’re not really needed to enjoy this laid-back outing featuring trumpet and flugelhorn. Only four of the 11 tracks feature the strings - they are very tastefully arranged and never sound the least bit corny as some trumpet and strings arrangements have. There are some nice combinations of Pelt with just guitar or with pianist Miller plus bass and drums. These tracks could fit into a “Dinner Jazz” type of format but that doesn’t mean they lack depth and expression. Reminded me of some of the Clifford Brown recordings. Tracks: Weird Nightmare, Excerent, Take Me in Your Arms, 502 Blues, All My Life, Don’t You Know I Care, Pioggia di Perugia, It’s a Beautiful Evening, This is the Moment, Why Try to Change me Now?, In Your Eyes. Purchase here

Terell Stafford - New Beginnings (with Mulgrew Miller, piano; Derrick Hodge, acoustic & electric bass; Dana Hall, drums; Steve Wilson, alto and soprano sax; Dick Oatts, alto sax; Jesse Davis, alto sax; Harry Allen, tenor sax) - MaxJazz MXJ 402:

A completely different sound here, although the pianist is the same as on the first trumpet album. The presence of quartet of saxophones is a major factor, presenting a rich tonal bed for the trumpet and flugelhorn solos. At the center of the CD is a three-movement suite Stafford was commissioned to write. It’s second movement is dedicated to the trumpeter’s mentor Jon Faddis. The rest of the tune selections are highly individual - Oscar Levant’s Blame It on My Youth, one by Ray Noble, and the closer is the traditional African song Kumbaya. Mulgrew Miller’s piano stylings are a major contributor to the success of this great-sound jazz album. Tunes: Soft Winds, I Don’t Wanna Be Kissed, He Knows How Much You Can Bear, Selah, Le Maurier, Berdas’ Bounce, Blame It On My Youth, The Touch of Your Lips, Kumbaya. Purchase here

- John Henry

Satoko Fujii Orchestra - Before the Dawn - Natsat MTCJ-3010:

Satoko Fujii is a younger Japanese composer, pianist and bandleader in the mold of Toshiko Akiyoshi. She also a husband who plays in the band. This album was recorded at a Japanese jazz festival last year. The leader has brought together some 15 of the best improvisors in Japan, and she also plays synthesizer. She also has a second big band based in New York City. Their combination of group interaction, advanced technical skills, seriousness and absurdity reminded me of the Willem Breuker Kolecktif. Some of the tracks get pretty far out into free jazz realms and the violent changes of orchestration and volume level reminded me of some of the Eastern European spiritual composers such as Kancheli. The haunting quality of some of the tracks are exemplified by CDs’ title tune. Tracks: Pakony, Joh-Ha-cue, Wakerasuka, Before the Dawn, Yattoko Mittoko. Purchase here

- John Henry

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