Jazz CDs Pt. 2 - September 2003

Tony Monaco Trio, with special guests Joey DeFrancesco Trio - A New Generation: Paesanos on the New B3 - Summit Records DCD 400:

What a blast for B3 fans! It’s great to hear two keyboards of any sort improvising together, but what possibly could be better than a pair of B3s with two of the best organ jazz masters today? On top of that, each one retained his own rhythm section - guitarist and drummer - so there’s a powerhouse rhythmic foundation behind all this. Plus...these are not the old B3s that Hammond hasn’t made for decades now, but a brand new digital, MIDI-capable version of the B3 from Hammond-Susuki that replicates the sound and feel of the original in a lighter and less massive case that might ensure more performers traveling with their B3s. The new B3 has digital “tone wheels” and is used with either solid state or vacuum tube Leslie rotating speaker cabinets. And wait, there’s something else special here: Monaco doubles on the accordion and DeFrancesco on the trumpet!

Monaco and DeFrancesco interact beautifully, continuing the tradition of past “organ battles” by Jimmy McGriff and Richard Groove Homes and others. The two newer-generation B3-ers are carrying on the traditions of their fathers and forerunners in another way: They recorded all their MIDI files for their organ students and uploaded them to Monaco’s website along with organ synth software. The students can then download the data to their computers, read and learn every note they played, learn the drawbar settings and practice along with Monaco and DeFrancesco using a Music Minus One approach of tracks mixed without the organ - only the rhythm section! The disc has a bonus short interview with a B3 aficionado who evidently owns a club featuring B3 performers. Tracks are: Pasta Faggioli, Homily, Katarina’s Prayer, Flat Tire, Mona Lisa, Mozzarella, Aglio e Olio, Oh Marie, Waltz of the Angels. Purchase here

- John Henry

Ray Brown, bass - Walk On (with Geoffrey Keezer, piano; Karriem Riggins, drums on Disc 1; Disc 2 see below) - Telarc 2CD-83515 (2 CDs):

These were the final Ray Brown Trio recordings before his death in July of last year. They didn’t record the tune Walk On, but it’s a jazz standard and makes a touchingly appropriate album title. Brown may have played on more recordings than any bassist around. He had a very long career of providing a highly dependable and swinging bass line for all sorts of music, while keeping his own individual style. He also demonstrated a strong love of life - always full of entertaining stories. He recorded 19 albums for Telarc. If you don’t have any Ray-centered albums in your collection already, this one would be a great place to start.

On the second CD Ray is joined by: Monty Alexander, Benny Green, fellow bassists Christian McBride and John Clayton (who also wrote some of the notes in the booklet and is referred to as Brown’s “adopted son.”), and drummers Gregory Hutchinson and Lewis Nash. Three of these tracks have the three bassists arrayed across the front soundstage, and another has two of them hard left and hard right. Brown had done this sort of fun festival of basses before - he called them SuperBass summits; one of the tunes (by Ray) is titled Much In Common. The Ray Brown Suite is also new music from Brown himself. Tracks: America the Beautiful, Sunday, Stella By Starlight, Lined With a Groove, Honeysuckle Rose, Fried Pies, You Are My Sunshine, That’s All, Ray Brown Suite, Hello Girls, F.S.F., Stardust, Evidence, Woogie Boogie, In a Mellow Tone, The Nearness of You, Much in Common, This is Always, Three By Four, Down By the Riverside. Purchase here

- John Henry

A couple of perfectly pleasurable pianists up next...

Michel Camilo, piano - Live At The Blue Note (with Charles Flores, bass; Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, drums) - Telarc 2CD-83574: (2 CDs):

This album gives you two hours and a quarter with one of the most arresting jazz pianists playing today, plus his very receptive live audience and great rhythm section. Dominican-born Camilo is not just a pianist but also a composer and arranger for many different performers, and he appears with symphony orchestras and has done music for films. Both Dizzy Gillespie and the Labeque Sisters have recorded his composition Caribe. London’s Philharmonia Orchestra commissioned his Rhapsody for Two Pianos and Orchestra. His style could be described as the antithesis of, say, Count Basie’s. Camilo plays the entire piano sort of like a Latin Errol Garner with more finesse, and with an irrepressible energy coming from his Caribbean musical origins. The 18 tracks total on the two discs are mostly Camilo originals, including several brand new tunes which hadn’t been performed live until his Blue Note engagement. One track is an unusual medley of Blue Bossa and Happy Birthday to You. There’s little doubt that this compendium of two long sets conveys more excitement via the sense of risk in the improvisations than if the album had been recorded in the studio. I once interviewed Camilo and he’s one of the really nice personalities in jazz. Purchase here

Cyrus Chestnut, piano - You Are My Sunshine (with Michael Hawkins, bass; Neal Smith, drums) - Warner Bros. Records 48445-2:

Pianist Chestnut’s last album, Soul Food, made it to the Top 10 on the jazz charts. Blues, gospel and jazz are the main ingredients of this entirely instrumental outing. Chestnut is a large man with a large, straightforward and strongly spiritual manner of making music. His style reminded me of the gospel-influenced jazz piano of Les McCann, and like Michel Camilo, Chestnut also plays all over the piano. If he had a Bosendorfer at hand I’m sure his left hand would be spending lots of time down in those extra notes on the left end of the keyboard. He even has on the CD a tune he wrote honoring Errol Garner - Erroling. There are several straight gospel numbers and hymn, often given classical colors along with the beat. Marcus Roberts co-producer the album. Chestnut says in the notes that he wants to convey a spirit of hope and love in his music, and he does. Tracks: God Has Smiled On Me, It’s All right With Me, For the Saints, Precious Lord, You Are My Sunshine, Erroling, Total Praise, Lighthearted Intelligence, Sweet Hour of Prayer, Hope Song, Flipper, What a Fellowship, Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior. Purchase here

- John Henry

Skitch Henderson and Bucky Pizzarelli: Legends (with Skitch on piano and Bucky on guitar: John Pizzarelli, guitar; Jay Leonhart, bass; Nicki Parrott, bass; John Cocuzzi, vibes; Sherrie Maricle, drums; Sara Caswell/Johnny Frigo/Andy Stein/Aaron Weinstein, violin section) - Arbors Jazz ARCD 19285:

This masterful duo-centered CD seems to be belong with the two Bix Beiderbecke albums reviewed in Part I this month. The 14 selections all bring back a style of improvisation which began in the early traditional jazz era and took us thru the swing era with the small groups. The Pizzarellis are getting lots of attention this month. Henderson is probably best known as bandleader on TV’s original Tonight Show, and now at age 85 conducts various pops concert orchestras around the world. He had worked in Hollywood, was Sinatra’s accompanist, played at NYC’s Copacabana nightclub. Bucky (John’s father) has four previous albums for Arbors and some SACDs for Chesky. Both men are indeed legends. And the string quartet really swings here - not like the one on the historic Charlie Parker With Strings session. This is great stuff; you don’t need to be moldy fig to dig it. Tunes: Kiddin’ on the Fiddle, You Stepped Out of a Dream, Three Little Words, Emaline, Tea for Two, Liza, Out of Nowhere, Blue Bells of Scotland, Snowfall, Raggin’ the Scale, When Sunny Gets Blue, Cedric’s Blues. Purchase here

- John Henry

Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan - Two of a Mind (with Jim Hall, guitar; Joe Benjamin, John Beal & Wendell Marshall, bass; Connie Kay, Mel Lewis, Ed Shaughnessy, drums) - RCA Bluebird First Editions 0926-64019-25:

This was one of my absolute fav LPs; in fact I used to use the 1962 album as a test disc for channel ID since Desmond’s unmistakable alto was always on the left and Mulligan’s deep baritone sax always on the right speaker. I’m sure I didn’t chuck the vinyl but damned if I can find it now - (still have some boxes to unpack). Anyway this is a 96K remastering from the original session tapes, and I’m certain Mulligan’s lowest notes didn’t go nearly as low on the LP as I’m now hearing. Plus there’s a host of extras on this superb reissue: it has the original cover photo and photos from the recording session, newly-written liner notes, plus five bonus tracks that weren’t on the vinyl release. The final two bonus tracks are a previously unissued and untitled blues waltz which has a false start on one track and then runs for a glorious ten minutes on the other track. The notes say these bonus tracks don’t match the balance of the original tracks, but they sound pretty darn good to my ears.

The unique duo was not just contrasted by the pitch range of their respective saxes but also by their personalities. Desmond was very withdrawn and self-effacing while Mulligan was more of a Type A person - just like Desmond’s longtime partner Dave Brubeck. Their musical styles seem to follow these tacks as well, although they sound like kindred spirits anyway. The reason for the three listed drummers and bassists is that the album was recorded at three different sessions with different sets of session players. The two saxists had done a similar gig for the Verve label five years earlier (which means it was probably just mono). Desmond throws in such of his usual quick musical quotes, and for some reason many of them here turn out to be tunes popularized by Judy Garland. Mulligan’s wife at the time, the comic actress/singer Judy Holiday, named the one swinging track that briefly quotes a Rimsky-Korsakov chestnut - Blight of the Fumble Bee. On the Way You Look Tonight Desmond overdubbed a second alto part, giving the track a trio of saxes. This is a fantastically inventive session with two masters of the sax that has lost none of its original impact. Tracks: All the Things You Are, Stardust, Two of a Mind, Blight of the Fumble Bee, The Way You Look Tonight, Out of Nowhere, Easy Living, All the Things You Are (Alt.), The Way You Look Tonight (Alt.), Untitled Blues Waltz 1 & 2. Purchase here

- John Henry

Sonny Rollins, tenor sax - The Bridge (with Jim Hall, guitar; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Ben Riley and Harry T. Saunders, drums) - Bluebird First Editions 82876-52472-2:

This is the reissue of the 1962 album in which Rollins returned to the studio after suddenly disappearing from the New York jazz scene for three years to “woodshed.” In his desire to hone his chops he anonymously practiced his horn from the pedestrian walkway on the Williamsburg Bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. A jazz writer did a piece on him using a fictitious name, but from the description of exactly how he sounded the jazz world figured out it was Rollins.

The album is regarded as re-launching Rollins’ career. It was the first he made with a guitarist in the rhythm section instead of a piano, and that allowed him to explore ideas he worked out along on the bridge on so many nights. The remastering producer feels it was one of the most significant Bluebird jazz releases of the time. The technical work that mastering engineer Mark Wilder put into this disc bears fruit in a comparison I did with a previous audiophile reissue of the session on a gold DCC CD. The Bluebird aluminum reissue has more high frequency extension and more “slam” - in fact so much so that the ballads (such as Where Are You?) actually sounded slower on the gold DCC due to the more mellow laid back sonics! Purchase here

- John Henry

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