September 2004 Part 2 of 2 [Pt. 1]
Part 2 of Jazz starts off with a pair of Gershwin albums…
Clark Terry, with Jeff Lindberg and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra – Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess – A440 Music group (no #) *****:
Well, here’s an answer to those absurdly long CD order numbers of some of the major labels – no number at all for this CD! It’s a pretty identifiable disc, and could only be confused with one other – the same music and even the same arrangements featuring Miles Davis. Evidently the magnificent Gil Evans arrangements were never published and arranger/conductor Jeff Lindberg had to transcribe all of them from the original classic Davis/Evans Porgy & Bess. Everything except the tune Gone is directly the opera Porgy & Bess. This is the first time in almost 50 years that a major figure in jazz has recorded the Gil Evans charts.
What’s different and worthwhile here: Cleaner and richer orchestral sound from what sounds like a larger ensemble, but most of all an entirely different trumpet sound from Terry than Miles produced. Terry always had just as unique sound as Miles – more rich and warm, with more touches of humor and charm vs. the super-cool, hard-edged and metallic sound of Miles. Also, Miles was a young man when he taped his session with Evans and Terry is now 84. The same general Miles’ timbre is heard thruout his original Porgy & Bess, but Terry expresses the differing moods of Gershwin’s songs in the opera by changing approach and tone, becoming more emotional for something like Gone, Gone, Gone and more tongue-in-cheek for It’s Ain’t Necessarily So, for example. On the non-Gershwin tune, Gil Evans’ own Gone, Terry switches to Flugelhorn. Truly a vital and very worthwhile different view of a jazz-arranging classic; it would be fascinating to slip into your changer the entire Miles version followed by Terry’s.
Tracks: Buzzard Song, Bess You Is My Woman Now, Gone (Evans), Gone Gone Gone, Summertime, Bess Oh Where’s My Bess?, Prayer, Fisherman/Strawberry & Devil Crab, My Man’s Gone Now, It Ain’t Necessarily So, Here Come De Honey Man, I Loves You Porgy, There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon for New York.
– John Henry
Gershwin for Trumpet – Juraj Bartos, trumpet/Peter Breiner, piano – Naxos Light Classics 8.554302, 50:15 ****:
While an unassuming trumpet/piano duo disc, this one is nearly as satisfying as the major Porgy & Bess production above. Bartos is one of those new breed of performing artists who straddle the jazz and classical worlds with aplomb. He is principal trumpet in the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and has won awards playing with various jazz groups in his country as well as abroad. Breiner is a Canadian composer of Slovakian origin who created one of the sets of witty arrangements in Baroque style of Beatles tunes. He has an international career as a pianist, having played Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue around the world. His Gershwin arrangements for this album are fresh and invigorating and perfect for listeners who have heard these Gershwin tunes many times, may not be tired of them, but would be bored by run-of-the-mill arrangements. Recorded in the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, sonics are top flight. Selections are: But not for me, They can’t take that away from me, The man I love, How long has this been going on?, Embraceable you, A foggy day, It ain’t necessarily so, Love is here to stay, By Strauss, But not for me.
– John Henry
Terry Gibbs, vibes – 52nd & Broadway: Songs of the Bebop Era (with Nicholas Payton, trumpet; James Moody, tenor & alto sax; Sam Most, flute; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Tom Ranier, piano; Dave Carpenter, bass) – Mack Avenue MAC 1018 ****:
Another jazz light who’s been around for close to 8 decades and is still going shining brightly. Gibbs had a big band for some time, and in this return to the larger format he envisioned doing tunes from the Bebop era with a string section playing the choruses and his vibes leading a small group in front of them. He also contributes a vocal on Lemon Drop. The swinging sound of Sam Most’s flute adds a nice 60s-sort of feeling to a number of the tunes. The tunes are from bebop mainstays such as Dizzy, Tad Dameron, and Monk. Several – such as Dizzy’s inspiring Salt Peanuts – are taken at breakneck bebop tempi. The closing number is a Gibbs original and also lots of fun. The string section is not just playing a lush and comforting backdrop for the jazz ensemble, but were obviously arranged by talent familiar with big bands and bebop. They often become an integral part of the sound, just like a big band, only strings instead of brass. Have to confess I’m a pushover for jazz with strings but this one offers so much more than most that I’m impressed no end.
Tracks: Round Midnight, Jumping with Symphony Sid, Lemon Drop, If You Could See Me Now, Groovin’ High, Cherokee, Night in Tunisia, Lover Man, Salt Peanuts, Perdido, Doxy, Bopstacle Course.
– John Henry
Ben Allison & Medicine Wheel – Buzz (Allison, bass; Michael Blake, tenor & sop. sax; Ted Nash, tenor sax & flute; Clark Gayton, trombone & bass trombone; Frank Kimbrough, piano/Wurlitzer/Prepared piano; Michael Sarin, drums) – Palmetto Records PM 2101 ****:
Allison is one of the most original voices in jazz today. The general demeanor of his four originals out of the seven tracks here is one of searching tonality but on the cutting edge of what beyond it – for me – turns into loft-jazz turnoff. There’s an Andrew Hill tune, a Beatles tune, and one by saxist Blake. I don’t usually dig it when things get too funky, but Allison’s R&B Fantasy is a kick and half. Everyone in the sextet is on their toes and turns in some great solo work. This is modern jazz to sit down and listen to closely – not background music by any means. The title tune is also the longest on the disc at eight minutes and it sure enough has a buzz goin’ for it. Tracks: Respiration, Buzz, Green Al, Mauritania, Erato, R&B Fantasy, Across the Universe.
– John Henry
Steve Swallow/Ohad Talmor Sextet – L’histoire du Clochard (The Bum’s Tale) – (Steve Swallow, bass; Ohad Talmore, tenor sax; Russ Johnson, trumpet; Meg Okura, violin; Greg Tardy, clarinet; Jacob Garchik, trombone) – Palmetto Records PM 2103 **** 1/2:
Bassist Swallow is of course well known for his work with partner Carla Bley as well as for the ECM label. Like some of that label’s disc, this one came without any notes so I have no background material on it. (Also in a cardboard sleeve, not a jewel box.) Suffice it to say if chamber jazz and extremely imaginative arrangements are your bag you should pick up on this one. The classical inspiration for it was obviously Stravinsky’s chamber work The Soldier’s Tale. It even quotes part of that work at the end of the seventh and last track. There is no narrator such as Stravinsky used (though strictly instrumental versions are often heard), but going by the titles alone one gets it is a sort of narrative about a homeless man. Hullo Bolinas is one of the tracks; that’s a small community north of San Francisco into which a homeless person would fit well. They have been in the news for constantly hiding the signpost that directs drivers to their bayside berg off the main coastal highway. All the music is by Swallow, and another influence I hear here is that of iconoclastic composer Harry Partch, especially in the subject matter and in the few words and sounds heard in the music.
– John Sunier
Jan Garbarek – In Praise of Dreams (Garbarek, saxophones; Kim Kashkashian, viola; Manu Katché, drums) – ECM 1880 ****1/2 [Release date: 9/21]:
Garbarek is one of the most innovative saxists in the world today. He has performed with symphony orchestras in “third stream”-type works, on an acclaimed series of choral recordings with the Hilliard Ensemble, with jazz artists such as Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Eberhard Weber and others. This month is the 35th anniversary of the ECM label and Garbarek was one of the first artists signed up by founder Manfred Eicher when he began the label. While coming up with a variety of different mixes of artists and genres, the label has retained a generalized “ECM sound.” In this new release not just the classical and jazz worlds have been joined, but also that of rock with drummer Katché and even film scores with violist Kashkashian. She came to fame as the viola soloist on the soundtrack music of Eleni Karaindrou to the films of Theo Angelopoulos, including Ulysses Gaze and The Beekeeper, and also as soloist in the music of Georgian composer Giya Kancheli.
Garbarek also worked on some of the Karaindrou scores, and when he was planning this new album her emotional, beautifully mournful sound came to mind. The lonely, rhapsodic sounds Garbarek is known for work wonderfully well with the sound of Kashkashian’s viola and together they create a timeless musical space not unlike that explored by of some of the Eastern European meditative/spiritual composers such as Kancheli and Arvo Paart. Garbarek plays both tenor and soprano sax as well as synths on this date and drummer Katché uses some electronic drums, but the use of electronics is very subtle. African-French drummer Katché keeps the sax/viola interplay of lines moving along and well-supported. This is an ineffably lovely excursion into a kind of world music probably different from anything you may have heard before, and an anniversary release of which Eicher and ECM deserve to be proud.
Selections: As seen from above, In praise of dreams; One goes there alone, Knot of place and time, If you go far enough, Scene from afar, Cloud of unknowing, Without visible sign, Iceburn, Conversation with a stone, A tale begun.
– John Sunier
Mark Van Overmeire, guitarist – Impresiones (with Arne Deforce, cello; Jozef Duoulin, piano; Osman Martins, voice; Gsenael Micault, bandoneon; Alexander Busschaert, electric guitar; Carlo Van Belleghem, electric bass) Kramusica 001 ****:
Van Overmeire is a composer, classical guitarist and percussionist from Belgium, and his new CD was influenced by both Yo-Yo Ma and Pat Metheny. While this is closer to what one generally thinks of as world music than the Garbarek disc above, it still displays plenty of original thinking and sounds. A four-year stay in South America was the main stimulus for the album concept. He experienced breathtaking impressions of this area and has translated them into a colorful and diverse chapters in a musical journey. The choice of instruments gives a hint of the influences here – the bandoneon of his time in Argentina, for example. The cello has a strong voice in the proceedings, and Mark himself plays in addition to the guitar, the drums, percussion and synths. These are not just folk music-derived selections – the compositions switch wildly from jazz to folk to classical to klezmer to soundtrack. An adventurous musical travelogue free of all the expected cliches. Tracks: Cotopaxi, Patagonia, La Danza de Los Emigrantes, Titicaca, A Bokher Un a Meydl, Os Menino Inocentes.
– John Henry
A couple of distinctive jazz vocalists to close out this part…
Judi Silvano – Let Yourself Go (with Michael Abene, piano/arranger/ conductor; Dick Oatts, soprano & alto sax; Ingred Jensen, trumpet & Flugelhorn; Dan Silverman, trombone & others) – Zoho Music ZM 200412 ****:
There are seven other players in Silvano’s Little Big Band on this new disc, the sixth feature album from the acclaimed singer but my introduction to her I must admit. She made a big splash singing on some tracks of Joe Lovano’s album Universal Language. Critics have compared her voice and stylings to such as Annie Ross, Mel Torme and Ella Fitzgerald. The 11 tunes are all standards but she gives them fresh new life , aided by the witty arrangements and playing of her cohorts on the session. Silvano reports that she did a lot of experimentation with original music and felt it was time to return to some of these songs she grew up with and could present with some experience behind them. I Love Paris is an illustration of Silvano’s love of both that city and French music in general. She has a great respect for the lyrics, like a great cabaret singer, but still swings them mightily. There is a joyousness about her delivery that adds a spark absent from some super-cool songstresses such as Patricia Barber. Perhaps this derives from Silvano having danced professionally before concentrating on her singing. The CD is also a present to her jazz-loving mother on her 80th birthday.
Tracks: Let Yourself Go, Let’s Fall in Love, Why Do I Love You?, I’m In the Mood for Love, I Only Have Eyes for You, When I Fall in Love, I Could Write a Book, I Love Paris, Our Love Is Here to Stay, Goodbye, Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.
– John Henry
Patricia Barber – Live – A Fortnight in France (with Neal Alger, guitar; Michael Arnopol, bass; Eric Montzma, drums) – Blue Note Records 7243 5 78213 2 2 ****:
The CD was recorded at three different theaters in three French cities, including Paris, and Barber does one tune in seemingly impeccable French. All the lyrics are in the note booklet – a nice touch not often found anymore. Five of the tunes are originals and five covers. She wanted to do a recording of live appearances in France because she loves the people, language, food and wine, and has a good following there. Barber said one thing she likes about the French is that they’re not cloying – and that’s a bit like her music. Right. This is cool, chic and smart stuff. Her piece White World is quite unsettling until you realize it is based on the character of Oedipus. She feels it is also about imperialism and the war. Her interpretation of the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood is quite different from any you may have heard. She doesn’t change the gender of the girl referred to in the song. Barber doesn’t ever shout to get her ideas across, so you have to listen closely. Her spare piano stylings fit the vocals superbly. While not an avid fan, I found this the most enjoyable Barber album I’ve auditioned. All the other Barber discs I have are SACDs but I didn’t find this one suffered a bit from the inferior format.
– John Henry