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RECORD REVIEWS

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 releases in every issue

Complete list of CDs reviewed in JJ January 2016 (see below for excerpts):
Alden, Howard/Tony Barnard: If Kangaroos Could Dance (Bondi Shed 3503)
Altschul, Barry/3 Dom Factor: Tales Of The Unforeseen (TUM 044)
Armstrong, Louis: 24 Avril 1962/Live In Paris (Frémeaux & Associés 5612)
Austin, Tiffany: Nothing But Soul (Con Alma 001)
Barnhart, Jeff/Spats Langham: We Wish We Were Twins (Lake 342)
Berger, Bengt: Blue Blue (Country & Eastern 34)
Bertini, Duccio: A View On Standards (Temps 1474-GE14)
Bollani, Stefano: Arrivano Gli Alieni (Decca 0602547512109)
Booth, Paul: Patchwork Project (Pathway 0110)
Bull, Katie: All Hot Bodies Radiate (Ashokan Indie 001)
Catherine, Philip: The String Project Live In Brussels (ACT 9594)
Colyer, Ken: Colyer From The Archives (Upbeat Jazz 265)
Corea, Chick/& Béla Fleck: Two (Stretch/Concord CJA-37992-02)
Coryell, Larry: Aurora Coryellis (Purple Pyramid 2271)
Davis, Miles: Live In Poland 1983 (Domino 891235)
Donatelli, Denise: Find A Heart (Savant 2150)
DuBois, Scott: Winter Light (ACT 9810)
Eeg, Sinne: Eeg Fonnesbaek (Stunt 15082)
Etkin, Oran: What's New/Reimagining Benny Goodman (Motéma 234100)
Forman, Mitchell: Puzzle (BFM Jazz 24312)
Garner, Erroll: The Quintessence (Frémeaux & Associés 3063)
Green, Barry: Great News (Moletone 004)
Harrell, Tom: First Impressions (HighNote 7276)
Headless Household: Balladismo (Household Ink 148)
Herman, Woody: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1166)
Hersch, Fred: Solo (Palmetto 2180)
Howlin' Wolf/Muddy Waters: Four Classic Albums (Avid Roots 1162)
Johansson, Ronny: Japanese Blue (Imogena 206)
Johnson, Bunk: Rare And Unissued Masters Volume One (1943-1945) (American Music 139)
Kaufmann, Achim: Later (Pirouet 3084)
Knuffke, Kirk: Little Cross (Steeplechase 31799)
Kocour, Michael: Wherever You Go, There You Are (michaelkocour.com)
Kocour, Michael: Spiffy (michaelkocour.com)
Kocour, Michael/Unhinged Sextet: Clarity (michaelkocour.com)
Laka, Don: Afro Chopin (Bokone Music 30)
Laws, Hubert: Afro Classic (CTI 6006, vinyl)
Lloyd, Charles: Wild Man Dance (Blue Note 0602547125989)
Lockwood, Didier: For Stéphane (Frémeaux & Associés 8520)
Lorber, Jeff/Fusion: Step It Up (Heads Up 13793802)
Lundgaard, Jesper: 60 Out Of Shape (Storyville 1018452)
Lundgren, Isabella: Somehow Life Got In The Way (Ladybird 79556835)
Maalouf, Ibrahim: Kalthoum (Impulse 4749696)
Maalouf, Ibrahim: Red & Black Light (Impulse 4745720)
Maestro, Shai: Untold Stories (Continuite Du Torrent 101)
McKusick, Hal: Three Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1167)
McKusick, Hal: Four Classic Albums/Second Set (Avid Jazz 1172)
Nash, Derek/Acoustic Quartet: You've Got To Dig It To Dig It, You Dig? (Jazzizit 1564)
Newcomb, Larry: Live Intentionally! (Essential Messenger 12015)
O'Farrill, Arturo: Cuba: The Conversation Continues (Motéma 234084)
Osborne, Mary: A Girl & Her Guitar (Él ACMEM297)
Palmer, Jason: Wondaland (Steeplechase 31800)
Parker, Charlie: The Complete Savoy Masters (Essential Jazz Classics 55676)
Patrick, David: The Rite Of Spring (BP 25061)
Peterson, Oscar: Exclusively For My Friends (MPS 0210325MSW)
Phillips, Simon: Protocol III (Inakustik 9138)
Pizzarelli, Bucky: Renaissance (Arbors 19448)
Pizzarelli, John: Midnight McCartney (Concord CRE-37634)
Randall, Freddy: Before And After (Lake 343)
Rowe, Keith/John Tilbury: Enough Still Not To Know (Sofa 548)
Slobber Pup: Pole Axe (RareNoise 056)
Terry, Clark/Bob Brookmeyer Quintet: Complete Studio Recordings (Phono 870232)
Toldam, Simon: Kig Op 15 (Ilk 242)
Towns, Colin/Mask Orchestra: Drama (Provocateur 1044)
Various: Vocals & Instrumentals 1927-1934: Unissued On 78s (Retrieval 79078)
Various: The Complete Bee Hive Sessions (Mosaic 261)
Various: CTI Records - The Cool Revolution (Sony 888750798122)
Wollny, Michael: Nachtfahrten (ACT 9592)
Working Week: May 1985/The Livelove Series Volume 3 (Promising Music 441222)


Excerpts from the 69 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):

STEFANO BOLLANI: ARRIVANO GLI ALIENI (Decca)
The pianist again unveils his liking for the Fender Rhodes, although it has to be said he has an ability to overcome most of the slightly “sticky” qualities the electric option sometimes offers. Six of the tunes are Bollani originals, inevitably flavoured by his native Italy but these are offset against the strains of Horace Silver’s The Preacher, the Latin warhorse Quando Quando Quando, and You Don’t Know What Love Is. There is also a touch of Ellington, represented by Mount Harissa, from the Far East Suite, where he concentrates on the acoustic instrument. Bollani loves to sing and does so from time to time on his own tunes. This departure might leave a lot of jazzers cold but this is all part of the pianist’s overall performance. Past recordings present Bollani as an essentially serious pianist: Arrivano Gli Alieni also gives us the other side of his nature – the entertainer with a touch of the knockabout. (Peter Gamble) ***

PAUL BOOTH: PATCHWORK PROJECT VOL. 1 (Pathway)
What could have been a disastrous mishmash of an album proves to be one of the most enjoyable listens of the year. Multi-instrumentalist Paul Booth has drawn inspiration from a variety of musical sources to construct an album that ultimately simply celebrates the joy and warmth of music making. Skilfully combining textures from Brazilian, Afro-Peruvian, Indian, reggae and Celtic music amongst others, Booth has produced an album that feels surprisingly seamless. Apart from nods to the musical influence of Antonio Carlos Jobim on Quietude, the beauty and chaos of nature on Dragonfly and the importance of Bob Marley on an instrumental take of No Woman, No Cry, there’s even a 140-second interpretation of Twitter – surely a first? Refreshing, melodic and full of life, the album offers much to enjoy. (John Adcock) ****

KEN COLYER’S ALL STARS: COLYER FROM THE ARCHIVES (Upbeat)
This is a newly discovered live session made on a Riverboat jazz trip. The recorded sound, which derives from a cassette tape, is better than might be expected in the circumstances. The headings on the printed inserts say that Sammy Rimington is featured but the trombone of Mike Pointon is also well to the fore and the rhythm section can be heard nicely throughout the session. The tunes will be familiar to devotees of Colyer as most of them were regularly played by Colyer in this period. The CD is supplemented by a four-page printed insert with biographies of the band members together with a brief analysis of the programme by John Griffith who correctly states that the music is a joyous example of authoritative ensemble playing; I do not disagree with that. (George Hulme) ****

CHICK COREA & BÉLA FLECK: TWO (Concord)
In 2007 Corea and Fleck recorded a studio CD of duets which were released by Decca as The Enchantment. Its 11 tracks include 10 titles present on the current release of high quality recordings from subsequent concert tours. The studio tracks averaged five minutes and these average seven and a half because, in Fleck’s words from the notes, it was “something else to take these songs to the moon, with no safety net”. His mastery of his instrument means that his playing transcends the banjo’s usual limitations, in terms of both technique and tone, and though the sustaining possibilities of a guitar can’t be matched his expressive playing at slow tempos is one of his most notable achievements. Both men are virtuosi but there’s far more here than technique. A handful of light-hearted verbal introductions hint at not only the two men’s understanding on a personal level but also their sheer pleasure in making music together. (Graham Colombé) ****

ORAN ETKIN: WHAT’S NEW? REIMAGINING BENNY GOODMAN (Motéma)
This is no simple re-creation of Benny’s favourites, but the construction of cleverly conceived compositions that use fragments of the well-known originals as musical material. Following the style of the original trio 78s from the mid-30s, there is no double bass – a brave decision in this era when we expect to have bass with everything. Etkin is well to the fore in these performances, though there is a high proportion of bass clarinet, rather than the soprano clarinet that BG played. To my ears Etkin’s shallow and fast vibrato on both clarinets becomes a trifle irritating; surely the trick with vibrato is that it be done so that listeners don’t really notice? But you may disagree. Charanee Wade is an agreeable singer. Etkin is a young reed player with something new to say, someone to be watched. The booklet notes list 12 tracks. Upon playing the disc a 13th track is indicated, being a version of Moonglow that lasts five minutes and 29 seconds. (John Robert Brown) ****

MITCHEL FORMAN TRIO: PUZZLE (BFM)
No holds are barred on Forman’s new album, its mixture ranging from his own compositions to pop-rock, the latter notable for the transformation of a tune into a jazz vehicle as well as the employment without irony of its original devices. Everything begins with a conflation of Keith Jarrett and Cole Porter in mixed tempi that prefaces well over an hour of delight, surprise and virtuosity. The treatment of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time suggests that more material of its sort might be employed by jazz musicians to advantage. Forman is not averse to giving a rock feel to some of his own efforts, including the funky Passing Smile. Jonatha Brooke’s Ten Cent Wings, with its quiet vamp, just aches for a lyric to be floated above it. The organ that subtly backgrounds and broadens the soundscape of the title track, another Forman original, is used sparingly, as is the dreaded melodica, ironically sounding more like an uninvited guest, not less. (Nigel Jarrett) ****

HOWLIN’ WOLF & MUDDY WATERS: FOUR CLASSIC ALBUMS (Avid)
The two classic exponents of electric blues. Forty-three tracks on two discs. Performances of some of their best-known songs included. Really, what’s not to like? Starting with that famous moaning hum, Chester Arthur Burnett kicks off his debut album with Moanin’ At Midnight, rasping his way through a tale of nocturnal phone calls. The rest of Moanin’ In The Moonlight is almost all self-penned songs (the exception is Willie Dixon’s Evil) released as singles during the 50s, including the classic Smokestack Lightnin’. Howlin’ Wolf is the Wolf’s third release and contains some of his best-known songs. McKinley Morganfield’s somewhat more soulful tone means the second disc is a pleasing yin to the Howlin’ Wolf yang. The first half is exclusively Big Bill Broonzy tunes, with the originals given added juice by MW’s electric band. The second half is the live set from the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival. As with the Wolf disc, there are several classics here. As ever, the Avid sound production and packaging are second to none. (Dave Foxall) ****

MICHAEL KOCOUR: CLARITY/SPIFFY/WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE (michaelkocour.com)
Pianist Kocour tells us that the release of these three CDs in one year results from having “a full time teaching gig” at Arizona State University (where he’s directed jazz studies since 2004) and thus having to “complete projects in waves”. They say “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” but Kocour “does” perfectly well. The first album has him in a hard-bop setting redolent of 60s-70s dates led by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Woody Shaw and the like. Spiffy takes its inspiration from a similar period but from the more visceral end of the spectrum exemplified by organists McDuff, Smith and Patterson. It’s warm, broiling, bluesy stuff. Fine playing aside, the trilogy marks out Kocour’s versatility, the third set presenting him solo. His approach to these eight standards and two originals may be direct but he means it: “It might be fashionable to radically re-imagine standards in some new way. But I want to embrace the tunes within the stylistic framework of what they are.” His students, and listeners to this record, can be assured they’re getting the real thing. (Mark Gilbert) ****

DON LAKA: AFRO CHOPIN (Bokone Music)
The press release for this album tells us that in Afro Chopin, Laka has “...fused South African Jazz and the chord structures and rhythms of Marabi and Kwela music with Chopin’s most inspiring compositions.” However, generally speaking, what Laka seems to have produced is a somewhat uncomfortable fusion-lite and Chopin hybrid, with a texture reminiscent of some of Joe Sample’s solo albums from approximately the same period, and also of Michel Petrucciani’s Playground album, with the piano operating over a rich bed of synthesizer pads and fat-sounding five-string electric bass. Chopin composed almost exclusively for solo piano, with his piano works being some of the most idiomatic in the entire history of western classical music. It’s a hard act to follow with a fusion-style instrumentation. I enjoy South African music, good fusion, Chopin, Joe Sample and Michel Petrucciani, but the combination of these influences here somehow doesn’t work. Take A Short Left, Oh Such A Beautiful Place and the joyous Hope provide animated soloing over nice grooves, but overall the concept is more intriguing than the music. (Dave Jones) **

JEFF LORBER FUSION: STEP IT UP (Heads Up)
Many will call this stuff simplistic, and sure the core is R&B but if jazz improvisation is instant composition, Lorber prefers to take his time and give us in detailed, ever carefully crafted arrangement the same effect. We get the finished item, blues and jazz sound and all, without the errors, longueurs, blind alleys and fluff that can afflict looser conceptions. Simple though the underlying principle may be it would also be a mistake to think this music is easily got - the instrumental skill required in execution leaves no possibility of hiding insufficiency behind some spurious defence such as personal expression: the bebop-level elaboration of Fire Spirit is a case in point. The notes say the album’s closer to the older Jeff Lorber Fusion sound but to me every record he’s done has had the same virtues - tight, animated grooves; interesting chords; blues and jazz lines; ever mobile, richly detailed arrangement. All this apart, curiously, Lorber’s Thames concert cruise last summer was cancelled for lack of interest. So he can claim jazz credentials not only in musical terms but, like so many before, as a neglected artist. (Mark Gilbert) ****

ISABELLA LUNDGREN: SOMEHOW LIFE GOT IN THE WAY (Ladybird)
Isabella Lundgren displays a wide-ranging repertoire, adjusting her singing style to suit the needs of the music. The songs include some originals and also standards such as While We’re Young, Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive, Down With Love and an especially attractive Why Was I Born. The singer’s clear and fluid vocal sound is very pleasing and her treatments show intelligence and musical expertise. Her accompaniment is varied, the core trio being joined by good soloists (trumpeter Peter Asplund, trombonist Dicken Hedrenius, tenor saxophonists Joakim Milder and Robert Nordmark), and the Nordik Chamber Orchestra. The spacious arrangements, by Mats Halling who also conducts, frame the singer very well indeed. (Bruce Crowther) ****

VARIOUS: THE COMPLETE BEE HIVE SESSIONS (Mosaic)
Looked on by many as a bleak period for jazz, the 1970s were well served by a husband and wife couple who formed Beehive Records in Chicago and produced 16 LPs between December 1977 and June 1984. All of those 16 discs plus alternate takes and unissued tracks, made by Jim and Susan Neumann, bop enthusiasts, are collected here on a comprehensive, lively set of 12 CDs, mastered by Mosaic. The idea was to present top-quality jazz soloists who were working clubs at the time but rarely, if ever, being recorded. Musicians include Nick Brignola, Pepper Adams, Ted Curson, Roy Haynes, Ronnie Cuber, Cecil Payne, Sal Nistico, Curtis Fuller, Dizzy Reece, Clifford Jordan, Cy Touff, Von Freeman, Red Rodney, Jackie Byard, Johnny Hartman, Joe Wilder, Frank Wess, Sal Salvador, Eddie Bert, Mel Lewis, Art Davis, Joe Morello, Ronnie Mathews, Roland Hanna, Dick Katz and Junior Mance. The Neumanns made their last record, Arnett Cobb’s Keep On Pushin’, in June 1984 but after that just couldn’t keep going. They had made a major contribution to the continuance of modern/mainstream jazz and they must be very pleased to see this sterling catalogue in a glittering CD box, all the music intact, complete with a book of essays and photos from the sessions. (Derek Ansell) *****

VARIOUS: CTI RECORDS: THE COOL REVOLUTION (Sony)
CTI was in some quarters supposed to have signalled the death of jazz, but this box (first issued 2010) shows it wasn’t all bad by any means. Disc one especially, subtitled “Straight Up”, has plenty of mostly excellent stuff; Bob James shows himself, prior to his smooth-jazz ventures, to be a very engaging post-bop pianist. Hancock is as good plugged in as out on Hubbard’s Intrepid Fox. Elsewhere, so-called jazz-funk turncoats Stanley Turrentine, Ronnie Laws, Hubert Laws and Grover Washington demonstrate good bop chops over swing or soul backgrounds; from the marvellously tangential Joe Henderson and the mercurial Hubbard we expect nothing less and get more. Benson shows on his So What he wasn’t really the polytonalist you need to be to lift modal situations but the biggest letdown on disc one is the indigestible messing with the timing on the head of Carter’s So What; outside the head everything swings, with first-class solos from Laws and Roland Hanna. The music turns more consciously towards pop and dance floor in the later discs but jazz flavours and breaks persist, e.g. in Hubbard’s Red Clay, Desmond’s Wave, Mulligan/Baker’s Valentine and Carter’s All Blues. Above all, it’s a valuable period insight, beautifully packaged with good discography and photos, extremely generous playing time and extensive notes. (Mark Gilbert) ****

MICHAEL WOLLNY: NACHTFAHRTEN (ACT)
Wollny’s spare, pared-back exploration of the darkness on this Night Journeys album is something of a departure from his previous albums. It’s a fragmented, haunting listen, drawing inspiration from the likes of Twin Peaks and Bernard Herrmann’s score for Hitchcock’s Psycho, along with some Wollny originals and a nod to the world of Edgar Allen Poe. Most of the pieces are very brief, so the album doesn’t always achieve a sense of wholeness, but Wollny’s playing and touch are as deft as ever, and Schaefer’s atmospheric and eerily nuanced drumming adds considerably to the success of the endeavour. (John Adcock) ****

WORKING WEEK: MAY 1985 (Promising Music)
Working Week was a rare thing: a band that for a fleeting moment in the mid-80s took politically aware jazz into the pop charts while retaining musical credibility. May 1985 documents a concert on the 29th of May in Bremen. The set includes the band’s finest songs, No Cure, No Pay and Inner City Blues being just two of an excellent bunch. The band’s in great form, especially vocalist Roberts and saxophonist Stabbins. However, there are no new compositions, Sweet Nothing appears twice, once as an encore, and sound quality is poor at times, usually to the detriment of Roberts’ vocals. (Bruce Lindsay) ***

 


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