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RECORD REVIEWS

Jazz Journal offers unrivalled coverage of recorded jazz old and new. We carry more than 20,000 words of expert comment and discography on recent jazz issues in every issue. Here's what we reviewed in the November 2012 issue:

New issues:
Susie Arioli, Mick Coady, Abat Cohen, Dena DeRose, Elina Duni, Kurt Elling, Duke Ellington Legacy with Houston Person, Georgie Fame, Liz Fletcher, Antonio Forcione, Forgas Band Phenomena, Wolfgang Haffner, Jeff Hamilton, Yaron Herman, Fred Hersch, Hot Club Of Detroit, Manu Katché, Sandra Marlowe, Mark Masters, John McLaughlin, Brad Mehldau, Monday Michiru, Maurizio Minardi, Pete Oxley/Nicolas Meier, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Thomas Starace, Jacky Terrasson, The Bad Plus, Trance Formation, John Turville, Florian Weber

Reissued or unissued archive material: Chet Baker, Count Basie, Louis Bellson, Andy Bey, Milt Buckner, Charlie Byrd, Serge Chaloff, Buck Clayton-Buddy Tate, Joyce Collins, Larry Coryell, King Curtis, John Dankworth, Miles Davis, Paul Desmond, Teddy Edwards, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Red Garland, Michael Garrick, Johnny Griffin, Billie Holiday, Willis Jackson, Illinois Jacquet, Peggy Lee & Quincy Jones, Shelly Manne, Harold McNair, Carmen McRae, Marilyn Moore, Oscar Peterson, Woody Shaw, Hal Smith's Roadrunners, Sun Ra, All Night Long OST, Randy Weston

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Excerpts from over 70 CD reviews in the November 2012 issue of Jazz Journal:

COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA: THE ATOMIC MR. BASIE (Phoenix)
"Constantly reissued, these famous recordings capture the Basie band at its awesome best, romping through Neal Hefti's tailor-made compositions and arrangements. Most readers partial to Basie will have long owned the album, but in these days of CD bonus tracks this release renews the interest again. Of primary interest are the closing six tracks, comprising a complete 17-minute soundtrack from an NBC-TV show in June 1958, with very acceptable sound quality." (Hugh Rainey) *****

LOUIS BELLSON: FOUR CLASSIC ALBUMS PLUS (Avid)
"This collection offers four full LPs plus five out of eight tracks from the album Drummer's Holiday. Good value considering the low price of these sets. Bellson was one of the big three of the swing era big band drummers, along with Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. When he joined the Duke Ellington orchestra his flamboyant but always swinging drumming seemed to revitalise even that august organisation." (Derek Ansell) ****

ANDY BEY: ANDY AND THE BEY SISTERS (Blue Moon)
"Half a century ahead, the music sounds amazingly fresh. Meticulously rehearsed, the trio's textures never stop still while passages of three-part harmony often have that slightly dissonant edge you get from gospel groups. Hard to judge their long-term impact but a dollop of scat sampled (if that's the term) on a James Carter album could have been inspired ultimately by what the women get up to on Smooth Sailing. Singing splits jazz fans, but readers deriving pleasure from any points between Paul Whiteman's Rhythm Boys and Manhattan Transfer (who may have picked up their big-selling Chanson D'Amour from the Beys) should very definitely try to hear this." (Ronald Atkins) *****

JOYCE COLLINS: GIRL HERE PLAYS MEAN PIANO (Fresh Sound)
"The big surprise here, shock even, is that given what a mean piano the girl played, she received so few invitations to record later . . . Joyce Collins (1930-2010) had few opportunities to shine but as the CD blurb says, 'the loss is ours'. This CD is one of the best piano trio discs I have heard in years and is highly recommended without reservation. Five stars? It deserves ten. As usual Fresh Sound is to be applauded for providing comprehensive notes, including originals and, unlike some, crediting the original recording company." (Derek Ansell) *****

DENA DEROSE: TRAVELIN' LIGHT (MaxJazz)
"DeRose began as a pianist, forced into singing when an accident left her unable to play. That she returned to playing has allowed her to become one of the best singer-pianists jazz has known. Throughout this set it is possible to hear how thoroughly she has absorbed the essence of jazz piano history. My self-imposed rule of not allocating five stars to CDs by anyone whose name doesn't begin with Louis, Duke or Charlie, was already under threat when DeRose began to sing Travelin' Light. Unreservedly recommended to anyone, whatever their stylistic leanings." (Bruce Crowther) *****

KURT ELLING: 1619 BROADWAY - THE BRILL BUILDING PROJECT (Concord Jazz)
"Elling reinterprets the songs considerably, reharmonising some and adding a jazz sensibility throughout to what were essentially of-the-moment and often throwaway pop songs. Best of all are a smoky smooch through I Have Only Eyes For You, Elling reaching deep down in his voice for effect, and a breathtaking take on Carole King's So Far Away. Not all his treatments work well, notably the cod-psychedelic version of Pleasant Valley Sunday that gets him into all sorts of vocal contortions. But then the unadorned American Tune, in which you really concentrate on his vocal authority, restores good order, while Tootie For Cootie ends proceedings in fine swing style." (Simon Adams) ****

ANTONIO FORCIONE: SKETCHES OF AFRICA (Antastic)
"There is some very attractive music here and the cast of musicians and singers is strikingly cosmopolitan, including two men from Forcione's native Italy, bass players from Australia and France, a female Norwegian singer, a Brazilian drummer and Africans from Gambia, Senegal, South Africa and Zimbabwe. In bringing together such diverse people to make such homogeneous music Forcione has produced something remarkable - music with some African musicians and Africa as an inspiration but not quite like any music Africa itself has produced. 'World music' is a very imprecise label but if it means anything it must cover CDs such as this. How much this music has to do with jazz is a different question altogether." (Graham Colombé) *****

JOHNNY GRIFFIN: THE LITTLE GIANT/CHANGE OF PACE (Fresh Sound)
"This is a useful pairing of two of Griffin's best Riverside albums, plus a bonus track. The first album, The Little Giant, is by a noisy Messengers-like sextet with Mitchell and Priester and the urbane Wynton Kelly mopping up all the flying sweat. Try Griff's cheeky take on Playmates as a sampler. The second set, Change Of Pace, has the unusual lineup of arco bass, pizzicato bass, French horn, tenor and drums. It opens some interesting sonic possibilities as the mellow basses and horn contrast with Griffin's incisive tenor. As a bonus, there's a rare B-side of Griff doing the theme from The Guns Of Navarone - the Little Giant up against the Large Artillery, as it were. It's all 24-bit digitally remastered and highly recommended." (Simon Spillett) *****

FRED HERSCH TRIO: ALIVE AT THE VANGUARD (Palmetto)
"I briefly reviewed Hersch's duet with clarinettist Nico Gori in the September issue, and didn't exactly rave about it. But this trio set is something else, a fact recognised by Hersch himself, who regards it as possibly his 'best trio playing on record'. He's right, for it is extraordinarily good. Throughout there is a relaxed flow to his playing that releases him from some of his usual formality. There is also a joyous feel to proceedings, a mood set by the opening Havana and the uptempo Segment, the only Charlie Parker composition in a minor key. Hébert and McPherson worked together as Andrew Hill's last rhythm section, but have adapted well to their new surroundings. All three have produced an album they should be hugely proud of." (Simon Adams) *****

MANU KATCHÉ: MANU KATCHÉ (ECM)
"The fourth, eponymously titled ECM release from the French-Ivorian drummer finds Katché laying down richly conceived yet spacey grooves as funky as they are reflective, with the tempered potency of the British keyboard player Watson's Hammond B3 lines enhancing the overall mellowness of approach to fine effect. Less really can mean more and it's typical of this compelling, conceptually vivid disc that Katché should choose to close the set with the brief and limpid piano rumination that is Dusk." (Michael Tucker) ****

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN AND THE 4TH DIMENSION: NOW HERE THIS (Abstract Logix)
"Fusion, which McLaughlin helped to invent, implied not only an aggregation but a density. There's less blurring chromaticism for its own sake now, even when the music's at its most fiery. McLaughlin was ever the gravitational centre and in his 70th year still has the authority to force the pace. Today he seems to be drawing on a lifetime's experience without repetition or nostalgia. On this album, all is wondrously free-flowing yet reined in and co-operative. It can't be far short of McLaughlin's apotheosis as both team-player and awe-inspiring individual." (Nigel Jarrett) *****

BRAD MEHLDAU TRIO: WHERE DO YOU START (Nonesuch)
"After the release earlier this year of Ode, a set of Mehldau compositions, comes a companion volume of covers recorded on the same two days, with Jam the only Mehldau original. It's an interesting choice of material: jazz warhorses from Clifford Brown and Sonny Rollins alongside two Latin numbers, a Nick Drake song (as ever), a rock classic in Hey Joe and, to conclude, a sublimely beautiful treatment of a Johnny Mandel piece. Tempo is largely slow to middling, the overall mode sombre and restrained. If I have a criticism, it is that Mehldau locks himself into a groove for too long, with some tracks outstaying their welcome. And at almost 80 minutes, this results in a lengthy set that is tad overindulgent." (Simon Adams) ****

MARILYN MOORE: MOODY + OH, CAPTAIN! (Fresh Sound)
"Too often, Marilyn Moore (1931-1992) was viewed a mite disdainfully because she sounded like Billie Holiday. One is tempted to ask: So what? The reality is that Moore was a very good jazz singer who admired Holiday, whose way of treating songs struck chords within herself, and decided to follow that path. It happened that her vocal sound was very similar to how Holiday sounded in her early years. What was she supposed to do? Fake a different sound? Fortunately, she didn't do this and the positive results were some very attractive recordings. Adding to the many positive aspects of this CD is Fresh Sound's customary attention to detail and quality, in sound and presentation, which includes original liner notes from Bethlehem and MGM releases." (Bruce Crowther) ****

PETE OXLEY - NICOLAS MEIER: TRAVELS TO THE WEST (MGP)
"There can be something so delicate and at the same time robust in a duet between two truly accomplished guitarists and this album is a real exemplar of that possibility. As well as the self-penned material, there are four covers: Milton Nascimento's Vera Cruz provides Latin exuberance, Metheny's Travels is a wonderful bluesy centrepiece and Chick Corea's Spain and Armando's Rumba embrace the set's strong Iberian heart. Put simply, for any lover of guitar music - jazz or otherwise - this swinging, exhilarating note-perfect journey is probably going to be 2012's must-have album." (Dave Foxall) *****

WOODY SHAW: WOODY PLAYS WOODY (High Note)
"Shaw made his mark with intriguing work on the still-neglected and oft-underrated sessions that Eric Dolphy recorded for Alan Douglas in the spring of 1963. This CD assembles six later performances, all of which were previously available on the Muse label, but never in one compilation. Shaw's son, Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw III, provides informative and enlightening insert notes. Although he was comfortable with the more 'outside' music of Dolphy, and he occasionally employed a slightly sour intonation, this collection reminds us that Shaw's improvisations were fundamentally lyrical, even romantic. This CD serves as an excellent memorial, and I hope it will begin a trend to have his music better represented in the catalogue." (Barry Witherden) *****

THE BAD PLUS: MADE POSSIBLE (Concord)
"In their decade-long existence, these professed 'avant-garde populists' have presented an uncompromising body of originals, plus genre-crossing covers, to a wide audience. Material and treatment both have a popular appeal, though Made Possible, their eighth studio release, is a departure in being entirely originals, plus one cover, Paul Motian's Victoria - a tender tribute to the late drummer. There's hardly a straightahead swing groove on this album, with rock rhythms and odd time-signatures predominant, and some of the tracks - Pound For Pound, for instance - sound like contemporary pop songs. There's so much to say about this remarkable disc, it invites an article rather than a review." (Andy Hamilton) *****

JOHN TURVILLE TRIO: CONCEPTION (F-IRE)
"Bristling with creativity, the John Turville Trio embraces a range of musical influences to produce a set that never loses a sense of balance between melodic, gently swinging piano trio jazz, and more edgy, experimental material. Turville's style has been compared with that of Keith Jarrett and John Taylor, but there are also hints of Lou Levy here. Equally at home with material from Radiohead and George Shearing, the trio perhaps shows its considerable strengths best on Shearing's Conception. They walk the song effortlessly through several changes in tempo and direction, giving the impression they could do this all day and still come up with something fresh to say. Consistently inventive and beautifully performed throughout, Conception is one of the best jazz recordings I've heard in 2012." (John Adcock) *****

 

 


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