Selected reviews


CDs and DVDs for review can be sent to the Ashford address under Subscriptions.  Do not send any other type of review material (e.g., books) but email for advice.


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 January 2014 (see below for excerpts):

Alexander, Eric: Touching (HighNote HCD 7248)
Astatke, Mulatu: Sketches Of Ethiopia (Jazz Village JV 570015)
Baekkelund, Kjell/Bengt Hallberg: Jazz & Classic Life Concert (Studio Stemma)
Baker, LaVern: Sings Bessie Smith (Warner 7567-90980-2)
Barbieri, Gato    : Fenix (BGP CDBGPM 268)
Barefield, Eddie: The Eddie Barefield Sextet (Progressive PCD-7151)
Bebe, Søren: EVA (From Out Here Music FOHMCD004)
Berger, Bengt: Beches Brew Big (Country & Eastern CE27)
Brass Jaw: Minted (Keywork KWRCD012)
Brass Mask: Spy Boy (Babel BDV13121)
Brubeck, Dave: At Carnegie Hall (Columbia C2S826)
Burton, Gary: Good Vibes (Warner 8122796939)
Carter, Benny/Bill Coleman/Henri Chaix: The Three C’s (Sackville SKCD2-2058)
Clarke, Kenny/Francy Boland: Jazz Is Universal (Warner 8122796847)
Coleman, Ornette: Ornette On Tenor (Warner 008122796405)
Coleman, Ornette: Ornette! (Warner 8122796406)
Connor, Chris: A Portrait Of Chris (Warner 8122796840)
Connor, Chris: Chris Connor (Warner 8122796361)
Connor, Chris: Chris Craft (Warner 8122765942)
Courthaliac, Laurent: Pannonica (Jazz Village JV 570023)
Echoes Of Swing: Blue Pepper (ACT 9102-2)
Ellington, Duke: At Fargo 1940 Special 60th Anniversary Edition (Storyville 103 8435)
Evans, Gil: Svengali (Warner 8122796933)
Fischer, Clare/Big Band: Thesaurus (Warner 8122796678)
Fringe Magnetic: Clocca (Loop)
Fringe, The: 40 Years On The Fringe (Stunt STUCD 13072)
Garrick, Michael: Prelude To Heart Is A Lotus (Gearbox GB 1517)
Giuffre, Jimmy: The Four Brothers Sound (Warner 8122796596)
Gordon, David: Speaks Latin (Nimbus Alliance N16241)
Gordon, Dexter: Daddy Plays The Horn (Bethlehem BCP-36)
Grappelli, Stéphane: Stéphane Grappelli Ensemble (Moosicus N 1303-2)
Hampton, Lionel: Three Classic Albums Plus (Avid AMSC 1093)
Henriksen, Arve: Places Of Worship (Rune Grammofon RCD 2147)
Herman, Woody: Woody Herman’s Big New Herd At The Monterey Jazz Festival (Warner 8122796846)
Horn, Paul: In India/Cosmic Consciousness - Paul Horn In Kashmir (BGOCD1104)
Irakere: Live At Ronnie Scott’s Birmingham - The 1995 BBC Recording (FHR Remasters FHR20)
Jackson, Milt: In A New Setting (Limelight LS 86006)
Jarrett, Keith: El Juicio (The Judgement) (Warner 8122796918)
Jarrett, Keith: Mysteries + Shades (BGO CD1099)
Jones, Thad: The Danish Radio Big Band & Eclipse (Storyville 1038432)
Kirk, Rahsaan Roland: Rahsaan Rahsaan (Warner 8122796859)
Klugh, Earl: Hand Picked (Heads Up HUI-33201-02)
Kneebody: The Line (Concord CRE-34495-02)
Lee, Peggy: Let’s Love (Warner 8122796580)
Lindgreen, Ole: Fessor And The Great Ones (Storyville 103 4283)
Lloyd, Charles: Soundtrack (Warner 8122796417)
Lloyd, Charles: Forest Flower (Warner 7567813632)
Lloyd, Charles: Charles Lloyd In Europe (Warner 8122796723)
Lloyd, Charles: Charles Lloyd In The Soviet Union (Warner 8122796598)
Lloyd, Charles: Dream Weaver (Warner 8122796945)
Lloyd, Charles: Journey Within (Warner 8122797153)
Lloyd, Charles: Love-In (Warner 8122754072)
Lloyd, Charles: The Flowering (Warner 8122796597)
London, Julie: Calendar Girl + Around Midnight (Fine And Mellow FM608)
López-Nussa, Harold: New Day (Jazz Village JV 570021)
Lund, Lage/Will Vinson/Orlando Le Fleming: Owl Trio (Losen LOS 123-2)
Mance, Junior: Harlem Lullaby (Warner 8122754312)
Manne, Shelly: Jazz Gunn (Warner 8122796850)
Martinez, Pedrito: The Pedrito Martinez Group (Motéma 233785)
Mezquida, Marco: My Friend Marko (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 426)
Mitchell, Roscoe: Live At “A Space” 1975 (Sackville SK 2080)
Nichols, Red: Both Sides Of The Five Pennies (Retrospective RTS 4227)
Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band: Party Seven (Jump Steady 01)
Parker, William: Wood Flute Songs (AUM080–87)
Potenza, Frank: For Joe (Capri 74127-2)
Reeves, Dianne: Beautiful Life (Concord, no number)
Rivers, Mavis: The Capitol Years 1959-1960 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 808)
Rivers, Mavis: The Reprise Years 1961-1962 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 809)
Roberts, Matana: Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile (Constellation CST098-2)
Rosengren, Bernt: Live At Jazzcup (Stunt STUCD 13082)
Sarpila, Antti/Roberscheuten/Wrobel: Three Tenors Of Swing On Stage (Click EW 1301)
Segundo, Compay: Guantanamera - The Essential Album (Rhino 2564642895)
Shavers, Charlie: Four Classic Albums (Avid AMSC 1085)
Stitt, Sonny: Meets Sadik Hakim (Progressive PCD-7034)
Thilo, Jesper: Strike Up The Band (Sackville SKCD2-2050)
Thomas, Leon: The Leon Thomas Album (BGP CDBGPM 270)
Tigran: Shadow Theater (Universal, no number)
Tolstoy, Viktoria/Jacob Karlzon: A Moment Of Now (ACT 9727-2)
Various: Jazz From London 1957 (Acrobat ACMCD4368)
Vitous, Miroslav: Infinite Search (Warner 8122797130)
Walrath, Jack: To Hellas And Back (SteepleChase SCCD 31760)
Wasserfuhr, Julian & Roman: Running (ACT 9545-2)
Wennerström, Cecilia: Lydian Mars (WELACD 005)
Westbrook, Kate/Mike Westbrook: The Serpent Hit (Westbrook WR001)
Wolf, Warren: Wolfgang (Mack Avenue Mac 1077)
York, Pete: Basiecally Speaking (ACT 9101-2)

Excerpts from the 86 CD reviews in this issue:

SKETCHES OF ETHIOPIA (Jazz Village JV 570015)
A hugely enjoyable album where Astatke, “the king of Ethio-jazz”, offers a rich call-and-response mix of colours and grooves, blending brassy and/or vocal-led Afro-funk and Latin accents with reflective cello, traditional instrumentation (recorded in Ethiopia) and a pleasing range of jazz timbres and accents courtesy of Astatke’s excellent, London-based Step Ahead Band: there are also fine vocals from one Tesfaye. (Michael Tucker) ****

The 60s was a turbulent and revolutionary period when jazz music was changing quite dramatically and not always for the better. However Kenny Clarke and Francy Boland managed to breathe fresh life into a big-band tradition that was all but a distant memory when this album – their first – was recorded in 1961. It features a somewhat slimmed-down version of the band because in later years another trombone and tenor were added as well as an extra drummer in 1967 – Kenny Clare. Very few bands have boasted such an array of powerful soloists and Box 703, an up-tempo blues, introduces two of the principals – Derek Humble and the unsung giant of the baritone, Sahib Shihab. (Gordon Jack) *****

ORNETTE COLEMAN: ORNETTE! (Warner 8122796406)
Ornette!, the third of the classic Atlantic quartets, has Coleman playing his dancing, melodic lines with little or no regard for musical form or structure. It works because the music is so fresh and different; full of rhythm, melody and blues. Ornette! benefits from Scott LaFaro’s equally scant regard for convention and his dipping, driving, often high-pitched lines are totally different to the big sound and bass lines that were usual at the time. Listen here particularly to his driving, double-stop laden solo on W.R.U. and the impeccable arco sound of his imaginatively constructed solo on C.&D. This quartet motored along irrespective of the liberties being taken with bar lines and such. Proof Readers is an extra track from this session which did not appear on the original LP release. (Derek Ansell) *****

GIL EVANS: SVENGALI (Warner 8122796933)
The six-track Svengali is back with us again and as often observed remains an Evans success story in blending electronic sounds with the acoustic. Some of it sounds marginally dated some 40 years down the line but in terms of atmosphere it is difficult to criticise. George Russell’s Blues In Orbit is a standout track with fine solos from Harper and Sanborn and Summertime has guitarist Dunbar filling the famous Miles Davis role. (Peter Gamble) ****

The sleeve-notes tell us that The Fringe "long ago gave up playing tunes." Hmm . . . must get my ears seen to, as I kept hearing tunes all the way through this session, and readily memorable, whistleable and singable tunes at that. Garzone and Lockwood rarely abandon an underpinning melodic concept. I first heard The Fringe on their 1989 album The Return Of The Neanderthal Man (Popular Arts NR 5006) when they were already a well-established unit. Their music still feels as fresh, exuberant and inquisitive as if they had just got together last week. This is one of those recordings that make you very sorry you weren't at the gig but very glad that you've got the CD. (Barry Witherden) *****

It’s probably true to say that nothing else sounds quite like this band, but this doesn’t necessarily guarantee compelling music. In so far as there is a pervasive air in this programme then it’s one of contemporary chamber music as opposed to anything connected with jazz. Both parts of Dreams Of Dylar try too hard to be something different, but at least they’re free of contrivance. Andrew Plummer’s voice dominates Stitched In and Back Under, where he sings lines like “With hot milk porridge is made” and other options that Cole Porter would never have gone for. (Nic Jones) **

Grappelli’s divinely insouciant playing probably reflected a mindset which helped him survive the leaner years between the QHCF days and his super-annuated renaissance. This album is the third in NDR’s mining of its 60-year-old recorded archive (see Brian Morton’s article in JJ 1213), and if what’s to come is as satisfying it’ll be eagerly awaited. Grappelli is at the top of his game. These are suave interpretations of standards and Quintette numbers, now and then flashing with conservatoire brilliance. (Nigel Jarrett) ****

It would not be entirely indefensible to suggest that some of these tracks are a 21st-century equivalent to Bobby Hackett’s recordings with strings. (I’ll abstain from any obvious late-50s Miles Davis comparisons.) Like Hackett, Henriksen can take surface prettiness and intensify it into deeply affecting, ravishing beauty. Pigeon-holing controversies aside, this album is full of exquisite, atmospheric, mystically evocative sounds. Henriksen’s trumpet tone is warm, burr-edged, lambent, sometimes remarkably flute-like, his falsetto vocals are ethereal and beguiling, and his lines are lyrical, delicately-crafted and full of grace. (Barry Witherden) *****

Founded in the 60s, the Danish Radio Band attracted several distinguished composer/conductors from the USA, Thad Jones among them. Having kicked off as a highly ranked trumpeter, he was by now even more renowned for writing skills and, coincidentally with the radio band that still featured some arrangements by others, even ran a separate orchestra, Eclipse. His relaxed, stop-start approach to basic material had moved big-band writing on from the Basie tradition and, with little to choose between them, both albums testify to his enduring mastery of the form. Three sessions, two benefiting from a live atmosphere. (Ronald Atkins) ****

This exuberant début quartet recording by the New York-based and highly rated Martinez stokes the fire of Cuban tradition to both full-on and fresh effect, his prodigious technical abilities projecting an irresistible joie de vivre. Wynton Marsalis, John Scofield and Steve Gadd are among the notable guests who contribute (separately) to individual tracks. Welcome as their vibrant contributions are, the core quartet is so tight, and projects such a flowing and driving wealth of call-and-response feeling and energy – with female pianist and vocalist Trujillo especially impressive – that one is left in no doubt as to whose album this is. (Michael Tucker) ****

Bassist and band-leader William Parker is a huge presence on the contemporary jazz scene. He’s also a huge presence in any venue you’re fortunate enough to catch him at – a guarantee of a totally committed, no-holds-barred performance. Born in 1952 in New York City, in his earlier career he worked with Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor and Billy Bang and more recently with the late David S. Ware and Matthew Shipp. Since the late 90s his work has been superbly documented by AUM Fidelity and Thirsty Ear. These labels’ recordings are beautifully produced and documented, and the current eight-CD box set from AUM is no exception. Parker’s playing is spectacular throughout: his warm sound anchors the groups and he enlivens the performances with highly creative solos. A stellar set of recordings by a non-pareil group of musicians. (Andy Hamilton) *****

Samoan born Mavis Rivers (1929-1992) came on like a whirlwind in 1959 and all through 1961-2. She made the sterling tracks heard on the first CD of The Capitol Years with first-class backing orchestras conducted by Nelson Riddle and Jack Marshall. Even better from a jazz point of view is the second Capitol disc with Mavis singing on the first 12 tracks with Marty Paich’s orchestra and with sterling solos from Jack Sheldon and Bud Shank. Frank Sinatra rated her very highly and signed her to his new Reprise label, whence the double Reprise CD which includes Chuck Sagle’s jazz-laden orchestra with Shorty Rogers as featured soloist. The late 1950s and early 60s were a golden age for jazz vocalists, most of them female and Mavis Rivers was one of the best. These two double CDs from Fresh Sound are indispensible to anybody who loves good jazz-vocal albums. (Derek Ansell) ****

With five time-tested standards treated to mature, unforced perfection and a mellow medium-groove blues to wrap things up, this recent live recording of the 75-year old Rosengren in top form might just be my record for 2014. Bassist Lundgaard captured the unfolding magic of this music from Copenhagen’s Jazzcup club with a simple Zoom H2n recorder placed immediately in front of the Swedish tenor legend: overall, the recording quality is 99 percent crystal clear, serving perfectly well what is some of the very best modern mainstream music I’ve heard in many a year. Once in a while a record comes along which reminds one just how much beauty – and yes, meaning – can lie within that deceptively simple term, “straight ahead”. Scarcely out of my CD player for the past weeks, this is one such. (Michael Tucker) *****

Recorded a couple of years ago at concerts in Holland and Germany this is a first-rate album of mainstream swing jazz featuring a European septet; the three tenors are Frank Roberscheuten, Antti Sarpilla and Englebert Wrobel. Whilst the group call themselves The Three Tenors of Swing the joy of this album for me is the variety of sound introduced by the use of different combinations of reed instruments, not just tenor sax. The selection revolves mainly around jazz standards with a fair sprinkling of Ellington; all the arrangements were done by the band members with Antti Sarpila credited with seven out of the 15 as well as providing three original compositions including a new Misty Morning. (Jerry Brown) ****

Tolstoy and Karlzon have pulled off something remarkable here: the transformation of what is essentially a catalogue of popular songs into an engaging, powerful album that has the capacity to lift hairs on the back of the neck. Lyrics are sung with a passion that moves them from components of a song to lived experiences, and that is down to the beauty of Tolstoy’s voice and the superlative accompaniment from Karlzon. Tolstoy’s voice is an interesting mix of styles, in the lower range quite bluesy and soulful, whilst in the higher register similar to Diana Krall, only with more substance. What starts out sounding like it’s going to be just one more ballad album with a bit of angst builds to just over an hour of compelling storytelling through the medium of song. (John Adcock) *****


post a comment