Selected reviews


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Jazz Journal offers unrivalled coverage of recorded jazz old and new, with more than 20,000 words of expert comment and discography on recent jazz issues in every issue

Complete list of CDs reviewed in JJ June 2015 (see below for excerpts):
Amargant, Gabriel: And Now For Something Completely Different (Fresh Sound FSNT 466)
Ash, Vic: The Quintet & Jazz Five Studio And Live Recordings 1959-1961 (Acrobat 4382)
Bailey, Dave: Quintet/Sextet (Phoenix 131609)
Baker, Chet: Live At The Subway Club (Domino 891225)
Baker, Chet/Russ Freeman: The Legendary 1956 Session (Poll Winners 27326)
Bennett, Tony/Lady Gaga: Cheek To Cheek (Streamline 0602537988976)
Blaser, Samuel: Spring Rain (Whirlwind 4670)
Braff, Ruby/Coleman Hawkins: Braff!! (Phoenix 131608)
Brown III, Otis: The Thought Of You (Blue Note 0602537877003)
Butterworth, Will: Live (Music Chamber 14)
Cavalli/Moniz/Pinheiro: Cinema & Dintorni (Fresh Sound FSWJ 046)
Cohen, Avishai/Triveni: Dark Nights (Anzic 0045)
Coleman, Ornette: Beauty Is A Rare Thing (Warner 0081227956196)
Coltrane, John: The 1962 Graz Concert (In Crowd 996693)
Coltrane, John: So Many Things (Acrobat 7085)
Congeroo, Natty And The Flames Of Rhythm: Vol 1 (CJRO Records 710)
Cowell, Stanley: Are You Real? (Steeplechase 31790)
Curry, Irma: Love Is A Necessary Evil (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 851)
Cyminology: Phoenix (ECM 470 9147)
Danish Radio Big Band: Spirituals (Storyville 101 4293)
Davis, Miles: Live In Berlin 1969 (Domino 891224)
Davis, Miles/Sonny Rollins: Complete Studio Recordings (Essential Jazz Classics 55662)
Eastwood, Kyle: Time Pieces (Jazz Village 9570034)
Ellis, Don: How Time Passes + New Ideas + Jazz Jamboree '62 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 860)
Eubanks, Kevin/Stanley Jordan: Duets (Mack Avenue 1092)
Fitzgerald, Ella: Live In Paris 1957-1962 (Frémeaux & Associés 5476)
Fossum, Jens: Bass Detector (Ozella 057)
Francis, Zoe: The Very Thought Of You (Diving Duck 023)
Getz, Stan: Complete Interpretations Sessions (Essential Jazz Classics 55661)
Gibbons, Polly: Many Faces Of Love (Resonance 1022)
Gillespie, Dizzy: Live At Ronnie Scott's Volume 1 (CAP 1040)
Gillespie, Dizzy: Live At Ronnie Scott's Volume 2 (CAP 1042)
Gillespie, Dizzy: Live At Ronnie Scott's Volume 3 (CAP 1043)
Gillespie, Dizzy: Live At Ronnie Scott's Volume 4 (CAP 1044)
Gillespie, Dizzy: Dizzy Gillespie and Stuff Smith (Poll Winners 27324)
Gillespie, Dizzy: A Musical Safari/Live At The 1962 Monterey Jazz Festival (Solar 4569957)
Giuffre, Jimmy/Jim Hall: Complete Studio Recordings (Phono 870227)
Guidi, Giovanni: This Is The Day (ECM 470 9271)
Haffner, Wolfgang: Kind Of Cool (ACT 9576)
Halle, Gunnar: Istanbul Sky (Ozella 056)
Hayes, Tubby: Symphony/The Lost Session (Acrobat 4383)
Heath, Jimmy: The Thumper + Really Big! (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 858)
Heath, Jimmy: The  Quota + Triple Threat (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 859)
Khan, Steve: Tightrope/The Blue Man/Arrows (Beat Goes On 1178)
Langeland, Sinikka: The Half-Finished Heaven (ECM 377 7155)
Levy, Allegra: Lonely City (Steeplechase 33118)
Mabern, Harold: Afro Blue (Smoke Sessions 1503)
Martino, Pat/Gene Ludwig: Young Guns (HighNote 7258)
Martino, Pat/Jim Ridl: Nexus (HighNote 7274)
McNulty, Chris: Eternal (Palmetto 2176)
Melford, Myra: Snowy Egret (Yellowbird 7752)
Miller, Marcus: Afrodeezia (Blue Note 002277802)
Montgomery, Wes: In The Beginning (Resonance 2014)
Pass, Joe/Les McCann: Something Special (American Jazz Classics 99102)
Payne, Tammy: Viva Outsider (Ninety&Nine 20)
Pelt, Jeremy: Tales, Musings And Other Reveries (HighNote 7270)
Raymond, John: Foreign Territory (Fresh Sound FSNT 464)
Reys, Rita: The Cool Voice Of (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 861)
Roberts, Matana: Coin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Thee Constellation (Constellation 110)
Russell, Barbara: Swing With Me + Golden Blues (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 856)
Salvador, Sal: Colors In Sound Orchestra Complete 1958-1964 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 852)
Shaw, Artie: Artie Shaw Collection 1932-54 (Fabulous 2048)
Soft Machine: Switzerland 1974 (Cuneiform Rune 395/396)
Spanier, Muggsy: Muggsy Spanier Collection 1924-49 (Fabulous 2047)
Speake, Martin: The Quiet Mind (Pumpkin 007)
Van Eps, George: Once In Awhile (Jump 12-06)
Various: Hot Stuff! Early Jazz Revisited (Upbeat Jazz 264)
Vaughan, Sarah: Original Album Series (Warner 0825646179787)
Vaughan, Sarah: A Time In My Life (Boplicity 031)
Viseur, Gus: Paris Jazz Accordéon (Milan 399 679)
Walrath, Jack: Unsafe At Any Speed (SteepleChase 31795)
Wild Card: Organic Riot (Top End 03)

Excerpts from the 72 CD reviews in this issue (see a free sample of full print reviews; subscribe to see 12 months of Jazz Journal
including over 20,000 words of CD review each issue):

Tony Bennett at his best, matched by delightful vocal performances from Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. The lady sings and swings beautifully, seasoning her performances with one or two moments of surprise. With 15 choice songs, terrific arrangements by Jorge Calandrelli, Marion Evans, Brian Newman, Alex Smith and Steve Kortyka, fleet soloists (Joe Lovano among them), a large string section, plus some fizzing chemistry between the two singers, this is an enchanting CD. It was released in autumn 2014 [and is only reviewed now due to difficulty in obtaining supply – Ed]. Live shows scheduled in 2015 include the Royal Albert Hall in London on 8/9 June. (John Robert Brown) *****

If Braff’s reputation as a difficult individual to deal with has been well documented, this was constantly offset by his consistent ability to deliver both on the bandstand and in a plethora of recordings, as is perfectly illustrated on these 18 tracks. His natural adherence to players from previous decades, Bix and Louis being his constant inspiration, earned him a following from those wary of all things modern; consequently he epitomised those musicians of a “mainstream” persuasion. The presence of Hawkins, Brown, Pierce and Co. undoubtedly enhanced the music, their contributions perfectly worthy, but it is to the leader we constantly turn, his magnificent tone allied to a formidable attack and always demanding attention. (Peter Gamble) ****

Tristesse and nostalgia are evoked with accordion and often highly effected guitar in this set from Fresh Sound’s new world-music imprint. Italy is closer to home than most places one associates with world music. Also, the music quite often sounds like something Bill Frisell might do (but maybe Americana is world music too). In any event, a romantic European mood is created as the trio work through a number of Italian film themes by Morricone, Rota and others. There’s plenty of very good jazz soloing – more than one finds on many so-called world “jazz” records, and Amore Per Tutti becomes a swinging blues. Best tune: Morricone’s odd-metre Il Clan Dei Siciliani – marvellous. Europe is exotic all right. (Mark Gilbert) ***

Formed in 2012, this London based six-piece group socks out lively, upbeat jump/jive and swing music in entertaining show-band style on their debut album. Natty, as front man and hep cat, delivers enthusiastic, gritty vocals in vintage hip style (shades of Calloway and Jordan), on every track. The unhackneyed repertoire draws on some established swing era standards, interspersed with originals written and arranged in appropriate style. There’s little subtlety or contrast, with the emphasis firmly on entertaining and whooping up the audience with plenty of booty riffs, which the group does well, punctuated with some good short solos from the horns. With a lively approach and rhythmic drive, the Flames Of Rhythm should prove popular with today’s younger audiences, and are probably in fact best enjoyed in live performance, which can be sampled at (Hugh Rainey) ***

Curry’s voice is strong and melodic, she phrases beautifully, enunciates clearly, interpreting lyrics with understanding, and altogether sings with real jazz feeling. After some decades away from the spotlight (these recordings span 1950-1965), in March this year Irma Curry was interviewed by Marc Myers for his JazzWax website. On the strength of this hugely enjoyable album she richly deserves to be much better known. This release is a good (very nearly the only) place today to hear her and is very warmly recommended. (Bruce Crowther) ****

The term “pastoral” seems a woefully inadequate descriptor for this third album by German-Iranian singer Cymin Samawatie and her Berlin-based group, Cyminology. Trained both in classical music and jazz, the singer has an approach that frequently sounds European despite the Farsi lyrics. On tracks such as Talaash Makon there’s even an air of English folk music to her voice. The universal language of jazz can be subtle and a dearth of visceral energy here can, and does, enhance the effect when the jazz elements are heard; the sporadic bursts from the rhythm section only seem to make their occasional presence all the more rewarding. Overall, this is a near-faultless, beautifully executed recording. (Roger Farbey) ****

Twelve-tone writing, Stockhausen, Cage, Third Stream, wonky time signatures, sound effects: there’s plenty here to scare the horses. Ellis’s credo was to make use of the widest range of expressive techniques available to him. These early records might have been better served by having Out Of Nowhere or Essence sandwiched in rather than the intriguing but not essential Polish live material. Paul Bley, who featured on both those records, was an important catalyst for the trumpeter, though it was in Jaki Byard that Ellis found his most sympathetic collaborator. Byard’s alto playing is almost as significant here as his unmistakably chunky and angular pianism. Excellent, clear documentation by Fresh Sound. (Brian Morton) ****

This is Gibbons’ debut US release, which pretty rapidly follows her excellent 2014 UK release My Own Company (on Diving Duck Recordings) which I reviewed briefly in JJ, and which was a strong contender for my top five releases reviewed in JJ in 2014. This new release also includes a DVD of her American debut show at the Resonance Records Studios. The set focuses a little more on Gibbons’ interpretations of the songs of others than did My Own Company and is a very enjoyable introduction of an extraordinary singer to the US market, but next time I’d really like to hear something more along the lines of My Own Company, with more new compositions by Pearson and Gibbons. (Dave Jones) ****

This recently formed Gillespie quintet (with Al Gafa, Mike Longo, Earl May and Mickey Roker) arrived in London during August 1973. Fortunately, engineer Peter Bould was on hand to record several nights’ work by the trumpeter’s band in which much of its repertoire was explored. Dizzy was ringing the changes to ensure no air of sameness crept into performances. At the time he described the band as the best he’d ever led – an exaggeration, of course, but this was a very compact, together unit which achieved a high performance level in the weeks at Scott’s. These four CDs – capturing four and a half hours of ceaseless interest and variety of mood – fill a significant gap in the Diz discography. A vital and essential portrait in sound of the most formidable brass stylist and shaper of modern jazz in his absolute prime. (Mark Gardner) *****

Sometimes CD reissues hit you right in the G-spot. Was that (you wonder) really recorded more than half-a-century ago? The Philadelphia Heath brothers were in their pomp when these superb sessions were recorded for Riverside and they still bear the stamp of originality, top musicianship and good taste. Leader Jimmy was responsible for the arrangements and had that rare talent which can make a small combo sound like more than the sum of its parts. And with the unusual disposition of a French horn as a front-line instrument, this was a beautifully balanced group, due in part to the mercurial horn-playing of Julius Watkins (died 1977). His extraordinary technique challenged the passionate solo flights of the (then) young Freddie Hubbard with articulate lines and exciting leaps into the high register. It still sounds quite impossible. (Anthony Troon) *****

Here’s another superb production from BGO, collecting three important albums from late 70s New York and providing an extensive and informative new essay with new commentary from Khan himself as well as a full discography. These things are surely a labour of love. Khan says these albums were “ Brecker Bros. records, only with a little more focus on the guitar.” In fact, they sound inimitably like Steve Khan records, offering a rich mix of modal changes (including frequent use of the piquant Lydian Augmented), imaginative arrangements, clean, highly syncopated funk, bluesy ballads, cutting yet lyrical guitar breaks, plus predictably accomplished solos from Dave Sanborn and Mike Brecker. There’s barely a dud moment across the three albums, but to sample Khan’s genius at its freshest, his solo on The Big Ones is hard to beat. As Donald Fagen says in the reproduced typically droll encomium from Arrows: “Don’t let anyone tell you he’s just another guitar player.” (Mark Gilbert) *****

The Brooklyn-born bassist and multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer makes his Blue Note debut with a set inspired by his role as UNESCO Artist For Peace and spokesperson for the organisation’s Slave Route Project. Like many before him, Marcus Miller wanted to return to the source of the rhythms that make North America’s music so rich. I wondered if musical coherence might fall victim to the project’s ambitions, but a marriage of styles and genres – from highlife, R&B, rap, gospel, jazz and classical – generally works well. The musicianship is uniformly outstanding, led by Miller’s expressive bass driving the intoxicating rhythmic interplay and embellished by several stellar guest soloists. The core contributors remain his touring band of younger musicians, who get better and better as a unit (see my November 2013 review of his LJF gig). (Francis Graham-Dixon) ***

A substantial encounter with the recorded works of Artie Shaw, amounting to 43 tracks on two CDs. These include include Any Old Time, Shaw’s brilliant tour-de-force as songwriter, arranger and clarinettist, which he created in 1939 for Billie Holiday, though here sung by Helen Forest. Shaw’s famous solo on Stardust from 1940 is included, as is his menacing theme tune Nightmare, the perfect example of Shaw twisting the tail of listeners’ expectations. Concerto For Clarinet displays that leisurely octave glissando up to high G; young reed players still like to attempt that one. Sidemen range from Adrian Rollini via Jelly Roll Morton, Hank Jones and Buddy Rich to Ray Conniff, Zoot Sims and Tal Farlow – a delightful diversity. The booklet notes are lengthy and informative, though one takes issue with author Paul Watts’s assertion that Shaw later became “a highly successful author”. (John Robert Brown) *****

The material on this CD/DVD set is said to be the only official visual recording of the lineup that made the July 1974 studio album Bundles. Cuneiform apologise for the quality of the audio and video, taken from damaged tapes, but while not hi-fi, it’s quite serviceable. Bundles is talked of as a landmark early fusion album, and that assessment seems fair given the rock-derived riffing and the complexity, harmonically and metrically, of Bundles, which, with its pedal-point chord changes and dense sequence of odd-metre bars and finger-busting ostinati packs more incident into its first minute than most of the other compositions put together. The other fusion signifier is the presence of Allan Holdsworth, the first guitarist to properly satisfy the definition “jazz-rock” by soloing with the harmonic sophistication (though not idiomatic phrasing) associated with bebop. The full potential of fusion was mostly realized in the States but this is a valuable document of Britain’s substantial contribution to the style. (Mark Gilbert) ****

The press release says Viseur (b. Belgium 1915) “transcended the musette style to take [the accordion] to the doors of swing and jazz”. Hearing the several traditional waltzes here some may doubt this, but in common-time pieces such as the Phrygian-flavoured Wind And Strings (with gipsy guitar accompaniment), Josette (with clarinet and guitar solos) and the clarinet-led Fausse Monnaie the jazz, often Hot-Club style, is clear. On the 50s-ish blues 46eme Avenue Viseur hits some outlandish intervals in his solo and contemporary French jazz accordionist Richard Galliano calls Viseur “an avant-garde accordionist”, citing Flambée Montalbanaise as evidence. In any event, it’s all beautifully evocative of old Paris. (Mark Gilbert) ****


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