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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 edition.

Complete list of CDs reviewed in JJ December 2013 (see below for excerpts):
Allen, Geri: Grand River Crossings (Motéma 233768)
Ammann, Sebastien: Samadhi (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 425)
Ammons, Gene: All Stars Complete Recordings w. Jackie McLean & Mal Waldron (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 797)
Ammons, Gene: All Stars Complete Recordings w. Mal Waldron, Pepper Adams & Art Taylor (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 798
Armstrong, Louis: The Complete Satch Plays Fats (Essential Jazz Classics EJC55601)
Bang, Billy: Da Bang! (Tum CD 034)
Barber, Chris: 1961-62 (Lake LACD325)
Barber, Chris: 1959-60 (Lake LACD324)
Beard, Jim: Show Of Hands (Moosicus M12102)
Bellson, Louis: Big Band Jazz From The Summit & Small Band Unreleased Studio Session (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 783)
Brecker, Randy: The Brecker Brothers Reunion Band (Moosicus M12172)
Brubeck, Dave: February 28, 1958 Niedersachsenhalle, Hannover (Moosicus 2CD N 1302-2)
Caillaud, Cédric: Swingin' The Count (Swing Alley SA 022)
Cary, Marc: Four Directions (Motéma 233784)
Coltrane, John: The Complete Paul Chambers Sessions (Essential Jazz Classics EJC55600)
Coltrane, John: The Heavyweight Champion: Complete Atlantic Recordings (Warner/Rhino 8122796427)
Dagnino, Erika: Signs (SLAM CD 546)
Desmond, Paul: First Place Again (Warner 0081227971229)
Dice Factory: Dice Factory (Babel BDV12110)
Dodson, Marge: In The Still Of The Night/New Voice In Town (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 785)
Duke, George: Dreamweaver (Heads Up HUI 3417002)
Ellington, Duke: Afro Bossa (Warner 0081227971236)
Ellington, Duke: Concert In The Virgin Islands (Warner 0081227968458)
Ellington, Duke: Ellington '66 (Warner 0081227968441)
Ellington, Duke: Retrospection - The Piano Sessions (Phoenix 131594)
Evans, Bill/Bob Brookmeyer: The Ivory Hunters (Phoenix 131578)
Farmer, Art: Sing Me Softly Of The Blues (Warner 0081227967260)
Farmer, Art/Jim Hall: Live At The Half-Note (Warner 008122796420)
Farmer, Art/Jim Hall: Interaction (Warner 0081227969479)
Farmer, Art/Jim Hall: To Sweden With Love (Warner 0081227134129)
Ferguson, Maynard: M.F. Horn/M.F. Horn 2/M.F. Horn 3 (BGOCD1110)
Fitzgerald, Ella: Sings Sweet Songs For Swingers + Get Happy! (Essential Jazz Classics EJC55609)
Flanagan, Tommy: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz AMSC 1091)
Fowler, Reuben: Between Shadows (Edition 1042)
Garland, Red: Halleloo-Y' -All + When There Are Grey Skies (Essential Jazz Classics EJC55604)
Gillespie, Dizzy/Hans Koller New Jazz Stars: NDR 60 Years Jazz Edition, No.1 (Moosicus N 1301-2)
Haas, Arno: Magic Hands (Foxtones FM1313)
Hersch, Fred/Ralph Alessi: Only Many (Cam Jazz 7864-2)
Hersch, Fred/Benoit Delbecq: Fun House (Songlines SGL 1600-2)
Hersch, Fred/Julian Lage: Free Flying Palmetto PM2168)
Hodes, Art    I Remember Bessie    Delmark DE 254
Hyman, Dick/Ken Peplowski: Live At The Kitano (The Victoria Company VC 4393)
Jazz Crusaders, The: At The Lighthouse '62 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 807)
Kaleidoscopic Spatial Orchestra: Dreams Of The Future (Hôte Marge 05)
Kennedy, Tom: Just Play! (Capri 74122-2)
Lewis, John/Sacha Distel: Afternoon In Paris (Phoenix 131597)
Lorber, Jeff/Fusion: Hacienda (Heads Up HUI-34476-02)
Lundgren, Jan: Man In The Fog (Bee Jazz BB059)
May, Tina: Divas (Hep CD 2099)
Mingus, Charles: Complete Atlantic Recordings 1956-1961 (Warner/Rhino 8122796523)
Mingus, Charlie: The Quintessence (Frémeaux & Associés FA 293)
Mitchell, Blue: And Orchestra (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 790)
Mitchell, Blue/Junior Cook: Quintet Sessions (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 789)
Newton, David: Out Of This World (Trio 590)
Parker, Charlie: Intégrale Charlie Parker Vol.6 (Frémeaux & Associés FA 1336)
Pell, Dave: Four Classic Albums (Avid AMSC 1084)
Powell, Bud: Bud Powell In Paris (Warner 008122796419)
Rimington, Sammy: Live At The Joiners Arms Southampton (Sam CD 011)
Ritz, Lyle: Plays Jazz Ukulele (How About Uke? + 50th State Jazz) (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 810)
Rosolino, Frank: Turn Me Loose! (Warner 0081227966829)
Shin, Yeahwon: Lua Ya (ECM 374 4030)
Shorter, Wayne: Beginnings (Properbox 178)
Simmons, Kaz: Signs (Fast Awake FA-UKCD04)
Smith, Jimmy: Bashin' (Essential Jazz Classics EJC55607)
Smith, La Vergne: Complete Recordings 1954-1956 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 799)
Terry, Clark/Bob Brookmeyer Qnt: Complete Live Recordings 1962-1965 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 800)
Various: Campi Qui Boogie! (Barcelona boogie woogie festival 2012) (Swing Alley SA 023)
Various: ECM: Selected Signs III-VIII (ECM 2350-55)
Various: Roll 'Em: 103 Rompin' Boogie Woogie Classics (Properbox 177)
Waller, Fats: Complete Victor Piano Solos (Phoenix 131591)
Wallumrød, Christian: Outstairs (ECM 373 3062)
Wardell, Anita: The Road (Specific Jazz SPEC017)
Weave, The: The Weave (Rufus Albino)
Wheeler, Kenny: Six For Six (Cam Jazz 7866-2)
Wolfe, Ben: From Here I See (MaxJazz MXJ 608)
Zawinul, Joe: Zawinul (Warner 008122796403)


Excerpts from the 77 CD reviews in this issue:


RALPH ALESSI & FRED HERSCH: ONLY MANY (Cam Jazz 7864-2)
This duo is just wonderful. It opens with the brief and surprisingly acerbic Ride, the two nervously marking out their territory, before progressing to the lyrical Hands, Hersch’s poised lines balancing Alessi’s full tone. Monk’s San Francisco Holiday, one of only two covers on the set, is full of jaunty attitude and intense chromaticism, Peering and Humdrum showcases for Alessi’s bruised lyricism. The lengthy Someone Digging is also acerbic, Hersch’s lines brittle and edgy. The concluding Snap is a lyrical delight. Throughout, there’s no sense of rush or bustle, instead a quietly empathetic sonic dialogue between two highly intelligent performers. (Simon Adams) *****

RANDY BRECKER: THE BRECKER BROTHERS BAND REUNION (Moosicus M12172)
What’s remarkable here, as so often, is Brecker’s compositional genius and the energy and sheer hard work that must go into these magnificent edifices of aural architecture, viz. the labyrinthine paths described by the various sections and transitions of First Tune, from full-on Brownian funk and screaming rock to a cool samba sequence for solos. Also remarkable is the power of the soloists on this opening track, not least Mike Stern, who seems to play some new lines and inject a burning new vitality into familiar ones. (Mark Gilbert) *****

JOHN COLTRANE: THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: THE COMPLETE ATLANTIC RECORDINGS (Warner/Rhino 8122796427)
The contents of this boxed set were first put together in 1995 and that edition seems to be still available. This re-release comes at less than a third of the price of its predecessor and buying separately the albums contained here would cost at least twice as much while not providing the many alternative takes. The 70-page booklet contains much interesting commentary and reminiscence as well as useful information, including the dates of release of the original albums which were often at variance with the chronology of the recordings. Overall there is so much fascinating and rewarding music here that five stars are awarded without hesitation. (Graham Colombé) *****

DICE FACTORY: DICE FACTORY (Babel BDV12110)
Powerful thematic development, clarity of ideas, precision playing, rhythmic and dynamic variety – what more could one want from music? Not much, this record seems to say. Dice Factory are an acoustic English quartet in the nominally abstract style this writer typically finds tedious and uneventful, but these men have evidently worked hard at creating a near flawless and constantly engaging series of musical episodes – here reviewed woefully late after release (October 2012). We don’t know who wrote the notes but he/she is spot on when speaking of the record avoiding “any of the typical Euro-jazz clichés” – the definition can be extended to include virtually all territories, either side of the Atlantic. It was recorded long before it was issued – nearly three years ago now – and the band hardly crosses our radar anymore. Maybe I misjudge their potential, or others have failed to recognise it. (Mark Gilbert) *****

DUKE ELLINGTON: RETROSPECTION: THE PIANO SESSIONS (Phoenix 131594)

When these recordings were made many big-band leaders were disbanding their outfits. Ellington kept his going, but branched out into extra-curricular sessions with small groups. This CD presents all his trio recordings from 1953-57. The 1953 tracks in particular are typically melodic, urbane, elegant, drily witty, providing numerous examples of Duke’s ability to create lush, consonant harmonies without sinking into schmaltz. He mixes well-known and unfamiliar compositions, finding equally interesting angles in both categories. From 1957, both takes of All The Things begin reflectively before moving into a more incisive and rhythmic mode, yet each is distinct. (Barry Witherden) *****

DUKE ELLINGTON: AFRO BOSSA (Warner 8122797123)

"Bossa" is a misnomer, an attempt to capitalise on the then popular style. It’s more Afro-Caribbean and is one of the most delicate of the later Ellington/Strayhorn sets. Cootie Williams makes a refreshing and pungent return to the band, while the indispensible snow-capped peak of the soloists was the superlative Hodges. There are many new and appealing themes along with maybe the best ever recording of an old one – Pyramid – featuring the old boys solo team. (Steve Voce) *****

BILL EVANS & BOB BROOKMEYER: THE IVORY HUNTERS (Phoenix 131578)
Normally I’m not much of a one for piano duets, but The Ivory Hunters is different. Over 50 years on it is still fresh and invigorating, and the addition of the excellent 29 October 1959 cuts, where everyone relishes Giuffre’s suave and incisive charts, makes this a highly desirable issue. The Newport JF, 6 July 1957 cuts with Evans, Don Elliott  and Ernie Furtado are negligible. Reviewing them in 1997 as part of the behemoth 18-CD Evans on Verve collection, I commented on the bland ethos and transient nature of the music, and see no reason to alter that judgment. They’re pleasant enough, but I can’t imagine anyone playing them very often, or indeed at all. But the rest of this issue is resplendent and certainly worth its five stars. (Richard Palmer) *****

ART FARMER: ‘LIVE’ AT THE HALF-NOTE (Warner 8122-79642-0)
What makes the recordings from the Half-Note club particularly rewarding is the extra vitality added to the music by the men’s response to an audience. (Though it must be said that some background chatter makes it clear that not all of them were attentive.) The direct simplicity of Farmer’s solo on Stomping At The Savoy reminded me that he once expressed great admiration for Buck Clayton. On this track, as on the similarly long and even brisker I Want To Be Happy, Hall reveals uncommon extroversion and it’s these tracks rather than the ballad features which earn the CD five stars. Discographies show many unissued tracks from these club recordings and they must surely be worthy of issue now that the reputations of Farmer and Hall are so firmly established. (Graham Colombé) *****

REUBEN FOWLER: BETWEEN SHADOWS (Edition 1042)
What an extraordinary debut from Reuben Fowler this is. The young horn player graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 2012, the same year he won the Kenny Wheeler Award, which facilitated this quite stunning orchestral album. Composed and arranged by Fowler, the work has all the old fashioned values of tightly swinging ensemble playing and drop-dead solo passages. But at the same time it also sounds fresh, contemporary and genuinely thrilling. (Garry Booth) ****

DIZZY GILLESPIE/HANS KOLLER: NDR 60 YEARS JAZZ EDITION, NO.1 (Moosicus N 1301-2)
Dizzy Gillespie’s 1953 recordings with his own quintet are decidedly uneven with an over-emphasis on novelty vocals which marred, in particular, the Paris concert sides. When the band arrived in Hamburg for a radio broadcast, bebop scat singer Joe Carroll was thankfully sidelined, and the agenda was strictly jazz. Unsurprisingly the outcome was the most satisfying set to survive by this band. (Mark Gardner) *****

ARNO HAAS: MAGIC HANDS (Foxtones FM1313)

It’s 90s-style jazz-funk (one hesitates with “smooth” – it’s got edge, definitively not Kenny G) with David Sanborn surely a prime inspiration, but buffed up to glisten like the work of Everette Harp, Marc Russo, Richard Elliot and the like. Formally, there are no surprises, the music following familiar formulae. But there is a thrill and delight, as always with this kind of music, in the bluesy expression and the attention to fine architectural detail. Sound, tone and instrumental balance are immaculate and there’s sterling soloing from Haas and Randy Waldman, most impressively on Sahara Nights. The notes have it right when they say this is “music to liberate ourselves from the daily routine, spread positive moods, activate the brain, the heart and the dance floor.” Full marks to Foxtones for showing Germany can groove too. (Mark Gilbert) ****

DICK HYMAN/KEN PEPLOWSKI: LIVE AT THE KITANO (Victoria VC 4393)

These two musicians are from different generations but there is no resulting gap. Far from it, as these two masters of their craft are linked as if working with but one mind and both are in superb form on this very attractive date. The music making is always melodically gorgeous, rhythmically stimulating, and filled with moments the listener wants to hear over and over again. It’s a nice selection of pieces, with even the familiar being treated to new clothes. The audience at the Kitano is so well behaved you’d hardly know they were there; maybe they were simply sitting in stunned awe. I know I would have been. This is a must for mainstreamers and pretty nearly everyone else for that matter. (Bruce Crowther) *****

JEFF LORBER: HACIENDA (Heads Up HUI-34476-02)

The majority of the pieces here are deep in the Lorber pocket – nimble-footed, pulsing, harmonically rich, intri- cately detailed jazz-funk of the not-so lite variety pervaded by Lorber’s Rhodes/Yamaha DX7 sound. Whoever suggested the electric piano defeats individual expression was well wide of the mark: Lorber’s tonal and arranging signature is immediately identifiable on numberless funk and soul productions of the past few decades. There’s no denying the formulaic nature of much of the playing and writing but it’s hard to name any musician who exhibits neither style nor cliché. There are, however, many who lack individuality – one thing Lorber is not short of. Excellent improvisations within the through-composed frameworks from the leader (frequently), Eric Marienthal (Raptor, in trades with Lorber) and Larry Koonse (Solar Wind) round off a buoyant and engaging set.
(Mark Gilbert) ****

JAN LUNDGREN: PIANO SOLO – MAN IN THE FOG (Bee Jazz 069)
One of my favourite pieces from Lundgren’s 1997 Swedish Standards trio album is the concluding solo rubato rendition of Olle Adolphson’s lovely, deeply reflective song Nu Har Jag Fått Den Jag Vill Ha. I’ve long hoped that Lundgren would record a solo album in this vein. Recorded on an excellent Steinway at Oslo’s fabled Rainbow Studio, Man In The Fog is the ultra-reflective album I’ve been waiting for all these years. Harmonically subtle, but never overburdened, the music is shorn of any too-overt jazz rhythmic impetus, offering instead passage after passage of jazz-inflected limpidity. Fauré’s Rêve is accorded the sort of reading which would seem to suggest that, following Lester Young’s advice, Lundgren has paid due attention to its lyric of “unknown splendours” and “mysterious night”: beauty might not yet have saved the world, as Dostoevsky hoped it would, but it would be a poorer world without such luminously intelligent and poetically wrought albums as this. (Michael Tucker) *****

TINA MAY: DIVAS (Hep CD 2099)
May brings a familiar conversational immediacy to this well-trodden but by no means hackneyed repertoire. Take her version of You Don’t Know What Love Is. If Billie Holiday’s late-period interpretation is your paradigm (which would be unfortunate), then Tina’s reading and Frank Griffith’s arrangement might seem featherlight. In practice, they reinvent the song and find a new truth in the lyric. Likewise When The World Was Young, which Edith Piaf sang as if she was as old as the rocks and Tina sings as if the world really were still waiting for the sunrise. She’s not blind to subtlety and mystery, though, as Baltimore Oriole confirms. She’s harmonically subtle, phrases with the kind of irony that’s only possible in English – this despite flirtations with French material here – and she always sings for the group. A good group it is, too, cleverly deployed to suit the song. It’s a lovely, lovely record. (Brian Morton) ****

CHARLES MINGUS: PASSIONS OF A MAN: THE COMPLETE ATLANTIC RECORDINGS 1956-1961 (Warner/Rhino 8122796523)
I’ve said before that it doesn’t make entire sense to talk about the “Atlantic years” as if they were unitary or consistent. Mingus’s creative and experimental fires were at their height and there is a strong sense of connectedness between projects, but there is also a feeling that whenever he went into a studio to make a commercial recording, Mingus was only able to chip off a tiny fragment of the great edifice he was building. The very idea that one record might be a culminating achievement was probably alien to him. To that degree, he is an artist who very much lends himself to the box set and the long view. The music is, as the first of these is attributed, “Mingus Jazz”. There’s no other word for it and nothing else for it but to steep yourself in these torrid, wonderful compositions. (Brian Morton) *****

JOE ZAWINUL: ZAWINUL (Warner 8122796403)
Part of Warner UK’s issue of 100 of the Japanese 1000YEN series, this new Warner UK release reminds us that the hugely influential Zawinul was a reasonably rare case of a keyboard player who sounds completely distinctive (as opposed to pianists, who generally tend to sound more distinctive). The overall feel of the album is one of atmospheric soundscapes, either very long or short, and it’s quite uneventful in conventional terms, but that’s the nature of this kind of material. There are no bonus tracks on this release, but although the album is quite short, it’s already a statement in itself. (Dave Jones) ****

 


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