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"Brims with the creative spirit of the halcyon days of the late 60s and is an emphatic demonstration that Burton still means business"

THE NEW GARY BURTON QUARTET
COMMON GROUND

Late Night Sunrise; Never The Same Way; Common Ground; Was It So Long Ago?; Etude; Last Snow; Did You Get It?; My Funny Valentine; Banksy; In Your Quiet Place (65.58)
Gary Burton (vib); Julian Lage (elg); Scott Colley (b); Antonio Sanchez (d). New York, 2010 or 2011.
Mack Avenue MAC 1061

One of the most successful encounters between jazz, rock and psychedelia, the original Gary Burton Quartet with Larry Coryell, Steve Swallow and Bob Moses remains something of a high watermark in the vibraphonist’s career. This is not the first time that Burton has billed a group as the “new” quartet, but whereas many of his post-ECM projects have either been stellar love-ins or generous showcases of next generation talent, Common Ground is a welcome return to a regular working band of creative equals. Lage got his first big break with Burton, Sanchez appeared on the recent Burton/Metheny smash Quartet Live (Concord, 2009), and Colley should need little introduction as one of the most dependable bassists of our time.

The album opens with alumni Vadim Neselovskyi’s Late Night Sunrise, its wistful lyricism and tricky harmonic turns pure late 60s Burton. Colley’s 7/4 Never The Same Way glides majestically as Lage’s incisive phrasing interrogates its internal tensions, and the guitarist’s solo showcase on My Funny Valentine is simply breath-taking. Was It So Long Ago? is played with the customary tenderness, but it is the Sanchez composed title-track which offers the most memorable melodic hook. Closing with Keith Jarrett’s In Your Quiet Place is another knowingly backwards nod, yet in the hands of this dynamic new group only exciting possibilities emerge. A strong album bereft of empty fillers, Common Ground brims with the creative spirit of the halcyon days of the late 60s and is an emphatic demonstration that Burton still means business.
Fred Grand

 


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"The friends of good songs superbly sung with a jazz edge should need no second bidding to purchase. This is a very likely candidate for this year’s top ten"

JACQUI DANKWORTH
IT HAPPENS QUIETLY

(1) A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square; (2) In The Still Of The Night; (3 ) It Happens Quietly; (4) I’m Glad There Is You; (5) A Love Like Ours; (6) My Foolish Heart; (7) Make Someone Happy; (8) Blame It On My Youth; (9) Ill Wind; (10) At Last; (11) The Man; (12) The Folks Who Live On The Hill (56.15)
Jacqui Dankworth (v); Malcolm Edmonstone (p) with:
(1) Jimmy Hastings (f, bcl); Alec Dankworth (b); Andrew Bain (d) plus strings. (2) Karen Sharp (ts, bcl); Chris Allard (g); Steve Watts (b); Steve Brown (d). (3) Tim Garland (ss, ts); Alec Dankworth (b); Andrew Bain (d) plus strings. (4) Henry Lowther (t); Barnaby Dickenson (tb); Dave Laurence (frh); Alec Dankworth (b); Andrew Bain (d). (5) Ben Davis (clo); Steve Watts (b); Steve Brown (d). (6) Dankworth (b); Bain (d) plus strings. (7) Lowther (t); Dickenson (tb); Laurence (frh); Allard (g); Watts (b); Brown (d). (8) piano only. (9) Karen Sharp (ts); Dankworth (b); Bain (d) plus strings. (10) Tim Garland (ss, ts); Dankworth (b); Bain (d). (11) John Dankworth (as); Henry Lowther (t); Barnaby Dickenson (tb); Dave Laurence (frh); Alec Dankworth (b); Andrew Bain (d). (12) Chris Allard (g). (Edmonstone out). Various locations, 2011.
Specific SPEC 014

Ms. Dankworth’s latest CD showcases her perfect way with standards and ballads. Her clear diction and superb intonation, combined with an intimate presence, mark her out as star quality and a real credit to her musical family.

The arrangements are by her father Sir John Dankworth and range from imaginative lush orchestral through smaller groups to the final The Folks Who Live On The Hill where Jacqui is accompanied in duet by guitarist Chris Allard. The Man includes an alto sax solo by John Dankworth which he recorded some years ago on an instrumental version of the tune and which fits in perfectly.

A long list of our assorted finest musicians appear in various combinations throughout the proceedings. Standout tracks for me were I’m Glad There Is You, Make Someone Happy and the deeply affecting Ill Wind but the other selections are nothing less than top notch. The friends of good songs superbly sung with a jazz edge should need no second bidding to purchase. This is a very likely candidate for this year’s top ten.
Brian Robinson

 


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"This positive pianist is off to a flyer. Mind you, he would sound just as good in Bromley as he does in this Brooklyn venture"

LEON GREENING
COOKIN' IN BROOKLYN

(1) Action; Waterloo; (2) Exodus; (1) Know Not One; (2) Ruth; (1) The Summit; I Want To Be Wanted; Chasing Shadows; (3) Singapore (63.37)
(1) Leon Greening (p); Mike Janisch (b); Steve Brown (d). Brooklyn, New York, 29 & 30 January, 2011.
(2) same as (1) except add Vincent Herring (as). (3) same as (2) except add Alex Garnett (ts).
Leopard Records 1

Decades ago an American record producer friend asked, after listening to several new British jazz releases,  "Why do your pianists sound so timid and tentative?" How times have changed, and Leon Greening, a young Southampton-born pianist, epitomises the assured confidence of a new generation.

Times have changed too in that 50 years ago we could not have imagined that, say, Terry Shannon would fly over the Pond to New York with a couple of chums to make his first album as a leader. That's what happened here when Greening, drummer Steve Brown and tenorman Alex Garnett met up with the UK-resident US bassist Mike Janisch and altoist Vincent Herring at Systems Two Studio in Brooklyn, where all those fine Sharp Nine releases are recorded.

Greening pays tribute to predecessors Wynton Kelly, Bobby Timmons, Vic Feldman and Dudley Moore with powerful and swinging assessments of their tunes, stirs in a couple of his own numbers along with a Wayne Shorter piece and the neglected I Want To Be Wanted (also once recorded by Vic Feldman). While choosing great role models, Greening is astute enough to have found his own voice and avoided the quicksand of copying.

The tightly-knit trio material provides most interest here, although Cannonball-influenced Herring enlivens Exodus and Ruth, while Garnett joins the party on the closing Singapore.

With a note of endorsement from guitar ace Jim Mullen (“Leon Greening nails his bebop colours to the mast and lets us hear what all the fuss is about”), this positive pianist is off to a flyer. Mind you, he would sound just as good in Bromley as he does in this Brooklyn venture. Catch him when you can, starting with this surprisingly mature debut date.
Mark Gardner

 

Your Comments:

Posted by Don Emanuel, 1 October 2011, 0:25 (1 of 1)

Great review by Mark. I've been waiting for a debut recording from Greening forever, although he has made plenty of recordings as a sideman particularly with the excellent Matt Wates Sextet. I know that Leon is a big admirer of Vic Feldman and it shows here, which in my opinion is a good thing. Great stuff, can't wait for the next one.


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"The whole disc is a joy. Listen!"

THE FRANK GRIFFITH BIG BAND
HOLLAND PARK NON-STOP

Oh You Crazy Moon; Strollin’; Baby Won’t You Please Come Home; Antonia; That’s All; Shine; Body And Soul; JCC; Holland Park; Travellin’ Light; Ricochet; These Foolish Things (66.02)
Frank Griffith (ts, cl); Tony Dixon, Freddie Gavita, Steve Fishwick, Ed Benstead (t); Adrian Fry, Simon Walker, Mattias Eskilsson, Chris Gower (tb); Roger Williams (btb); Sam Mayne, Matt Wates (as, f); Bob Sydor, Karen Sharpe (ts, cl); Richard Shepherd (bar, bcl); John Turville (p); Spencer Brown (b); Matt Home (d); Tina May (v). Pinewood Studios, 17 August 2010.
Hep 2095

If big bands are dead how come new ones spring up all over the place? This one is a goodie combining the best of the tradition (Basie, Goodman etc) with a modern approach on several selections and some crisp soloing. The leader is a good tenor soloist but he chooses here to use clarinet most of the time; not a bad idea considering how underused the instrument has been in modern jazz over the years. And if anybody still thinks clarinet is not the right instrument for contemporary solos, in any context, just listen to Frank Griffith on Baby Won’t You Please Come Home. Every baby would hurry home after hearing this solo.

The opening Oh You Crazy Moon is a tightly controlled swinger and has a brisk, freshly thought out vocal from Tina May. Freddie Gavita is a young trumpeter to watch, fairly new on the scene but distinguishing himself here with some strong solo work. He shares the honours with Matt Wates’s scintillating work on Antonia with the orchestra in bristling full flight behind them. Some of the best of British talent fill the ranks of this big band and I hope they get gigs rather than just existing as a rehearsal outfit, as most of the others seem to these days.

The leader goes back to the swing era stylistically for his tenor outing on Body and Soul, every tenor player’s delight or nightmare depending on how good they are. Frank has no problem. Other highlights here include Gavita’s trumpet solo on Silver’s Strollin’, Tina on That’s All and Travellin’ Light and Karen Sharp’s rich tenor on Ricochet but really, the whole disc is a joy. Listen!
Derek Ansell

 


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"That he is a true jazz singer is in no doubt but his soulful edge could well find him appealing to music followers outside this compass"

GREGORY PORTER
WATER

Illusion; Pretty: Magic Cup; Skylark; Black Nile; Wisdom: 1960 What?; But Beautiful; Lonely One; Water; Feeling Good (68.57)
Collective personnel: Gregory Porter (v); Chip Crawford (p); Aaron James (b); Emanuel Harold (d); Chuck McPherson (d); Melvin Vines (t); Curtis Taylor (t); Yoske Sato (as); James Spaulding (as); Kafele Bandele (t); Robert Stringer (tb). New York, 19 & 20 August 2009.
Motéma 233170

Porter’s name seems to be on an increasing number of lips at the moment as the jazz vocalist to listen to. His recent well received appearance at London’s Pizza Express, a spot with Jules Holland on TV and praise heaped upon him by the likes of Wynton Marsalis have fuelled a growing interest in a singer whose sound and imagination certainly warrant attention.

His voice is a commanding instrument that lends itself beautifully to the varied tempos and mixed material represented on this Grammy nominated album. Seven of the compositions are Porter originals and despite their unfamiliarity, the power of the singer’s delivery compels us to listen. By contrast his sensitivity is evident in the performances of Skylark and But Beautiful where he has obviously given the lyrics some serious consideration. That he is a true jazz singer is in no doubt but his soulful edge could well find him appealing to music followers outside this compass. Support comes from a group of musicians including the veteran James Spaulding. They solo well and occasionally provide a touch of edginess to keep things on the boil.

It should also be mentioned in passing that the unaccompanied final track, the Bricusse/Newley opus Feeling Good, found its way on to Radio 2’s  breakfast programme recently when a topsy-turvy day had Jamie Cullum sharing presenting duties. May such outrageous irregularity at the BBC be repeated!
Peter Gamble

 


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"The problem for me is the voice: Billy can’t sing and it really shows in the studio. I mean Tom Waits can’t 'sing', but . . ."

BILLY JENKINS

JAZZ GIVES ME THE BLUES (VOTP VOCD 116). Billy Jenkins (g, v, har); Finn Peters (as); Jim Watson (o); Mike Pickering (d). 2010.

Can white men sing the blues? On the strength of this, the answer is no. The eccentric London-based guitarist has applied his wired blues sound to a clutch of jazz standards in an attempt to sharpen the focus on them; to give them a black coffee kick and to sound less like dinner jazz. It’s the sort of deconstruction that Jenkins delights in and does well. Who could forget his wonderful Scratches of Spain?

But he doesn’t carry this off, on disc at least. The problem for me is the voice: Billy can’t sing and it really shows in the studio. I mean Tom Waits can’t “sing” and nor can Howlin’ Wolf, for that matter. But Jenkins voice jars here and not in a good way. Maybe it is because the numbers are familiar.

I like him singing his own suburban blues micro-classics, such as I’m Staying In The Car. But his mojo ain’t working with material like Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me. Or God Bless The Child. Strip out the vocals and this is a rather groovy soul jazz accompaniment to your chicken in a basket. (Garry Booth)

 


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"Legacy is an essential purchase, proof positive that Wilson remains one of the absolute giants of the music"

GERALD WILSON ORCHESTRA

LEGACY (Mack Avenue MAC 1056). Wilson (cond); Dick Oatts (as, f);  Gary Smulyan (bar); Anthony Washington (elg); Renee Rosnes (p); Peter Washington (b); Lewis Nash (d) & others. 2011.

The saga that is the life and work of Wilson continues with his latest Mack Avenue release. Engaging with the diversely classical worlds of Puccini, Stravinsky and Debussy as it does on several numbers, the music largely builds (in an extensive suite dedicated to the city of Chicago) on the blues-drenched and intelligently cast, now shouting, now intimate - but always energising - grooves of New York Sounds (2003), In My Time (2005), Monterey Moods (2007) and Detroit (2009). If Wilson had only (!) given us the material gathered together on his Complete Pacific Jazz Recordings from the 1960s, splendidly reissued by Mosaic in 2000, his place in jazz history would be assured.

This series of Mack Avenue releases has proved to be an extraordinary 21st century documentation of archetypal yet evolving jazz values, whether from the point of view of chromatically vivid big band scoring or mellow small group swing. Like its predecessors, Legacy is an essential purchase, proof positive that Wilson remains one of the absolute giants of the music. (Michael Tucker)

 


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