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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 October 2016 (see below for excerpts):
Adderley, Cannonball/Sextet With Joe Zawinul: Complete 1962 Live Performances (Phono 870258)
Adolfo, Antonio: Tropical Infinito (AAM 0710)
Alexander, Joey: Countdown (Motéma 234279)
Allen, Harry/All Star Saxophone Band: The Candy Men (Arbors 19450)
Ambrose, Ari: Retrospect (SteepleChase 31816)
Aprea, Ron: Pays Tribute To John Lennon (Early Autumn 1117)
Aprea, Ron/Sextet: Remembering Blakey (Early Autumn 1111)
Auld, Georgie: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1192)
Blake, Seamus/Chris Cheek/Reeds Ramble: Let's Call The Whole Thing Off (Criss Cross 1388)
Boaters Project: The Boaters Project (Frith & Dean 001)
Bolling, Claude/Big Band: From CB to CB With Love (Frémeaux & Associés 8523)
Brown, Les: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1193)
Burroughs, William S.: Let Me Hang You (Ernest Jenning Record Co/Khannibalism 122)
Charles, Ray: The Atlantic Years - In Mono (Atlantic 0081227944568)
Choe, Eugenia: Magic Light (SteepleChase 33127)
Coolman, Todd: Collectables (Sunnyside 4025)
DE3: Live At Maxwell's (Sunnyside 1448)
Drăghici, Damian: The American Dream (Century Jazz 3187)
Dylan, Bob: Fallen Angels (Columbia 88985308022)
Eilertsen, Mats: Rubicon (ECM 477 4315)
Ellington, Duke: The Treasury Shows, Vol. 21 (D.E.T.S. 903 9021)
Erskine, Peter/Trio: As It Was (ECM 475 5832)
Guy, Barry: The Blue Shroud (Intakt 266/2016)
Haarla, Iro: Ante Lucem/For Symphony Orchestra And Jazz Quintet (ECM 473 2371)
Hamasyan/Henriksen/Aarset/Bang: Atmospheres (ECM 471 4269)
Hayes, Tubby: The Long Shadow Of The Little Giant (Acrobat 4389)
Hayes, Tubby: Split Kick - Live In Sweden 1972 (Savage Solweig 004)
Hodges, Johnny/Ben Webster: Complete 1954-61 Small Group Studio Sessions (Phono 870255)
Hodges, Johnny/Wild Bill Davis: Featuring Grant Green/Joe's Blues (Phono 870262)
Hodges, Johnny/Wild Bill Davis: Featuring Les Spann & Mundell Lowe/Blue Hodge (Phono 870264)
Hodges, Johnny/Wild Bill Davis: Featuring Kenny Burrell/Mess Of Blues (Phono 870263)
Hodges, Johnny/Wild Bill Davis: Con-Soul & Jazz/Wild Bill Is The Boss! (Phono 870265)
Holiday, Billie: The Complete Carnegie Hall Performances (Poll Winners 27352)
Jazz At Berlin Philharmonic VI: Celtic Roots (ACT 9836)
Joelle, Florence: Life Is Beautiful If You Let It (Zoltan 009)
Katché, Manu: Unstatic (Anteprima/Musicast 18021)
King, B.B.: Four Classic Albums (Avid Roots 1203)
Kozlov, Boris: Conversations At The Well (Criss Cross 1389)
Langeland, Sinikka: The Magical Forest (ECM 477 6831)
Marks, Roger: In Retrospect (Upbeat 270)
Martinez, Pedrito: Habana Dreams (Motéma 234238)
Mingus, Charles/The Jazz Workshop All Stars: The Complete 1961-1962 Birdland Broadcasts (Solar 4569972)
Mintzer, Bob: All L.A. Band (Fuzzy Music 022)
Modern Jazz Quartet: Lonely Woman (Atlantic PPAN SD1381)
Moten, Bennie: The Bennie Moten Collection 1923-32 (Fabulous 2058)
National Jazz Ensemble: Featuring Gerry Mulligan (Dot Time 8002)
Niehaus, Lennie: Complete Fifties Recordings (Phono 870253)
Noy, Oz: Who Gives A Funk (Abstract Logix 052)
Nunez, Gerardo/Ulf Wakenius: Logos (ACT 9822)
O'Farrill, Chico: The Complete Norman Granz Recordings (Malanga Music 831)
Päivinen, Pepa/Hannu Risku: Duo (Lumni 389)
Palombi, Luigi: Duke Ellington Piano Works (Dynamic 7743)
Pearson, Duke: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1198)
Pegasys: Pegasys (SLAM 572)
Pellisier, Florian: Cap De Bonne Espérance (Heavenly Sweetness 136)
Perdomo, Luis: Spirits And Warriors (Criss Cross 1387)
Perko, Jukka/Avara: Invisible Man (ACT 9819)
Peterson, Oscar: With Strings (Essential Jazz Classics 55696)
Pifarély, Dominique: Tracé Provisoire (ECM 478 1796)
Portal, Michel: Men's Land (Label Bleu 6513)
Preminger, Noah: Dark Was The Night: Cold Was The Ground (noahpreminger.com)
Raney, Jimmy: Live In Tokyo (Elemental Music 906092)
Rollins, Sonny: What's New? (RCA Victor/Legacy 88985308592)
Saft, Jamie/New Zion: Sunshine Seas (RareNoise 065)
Sambeat, Perico/Big Band: Voces (Nuba 7853)
Seim, Trygve: Rumi Songs (ECM 473 2253)
Steps Ahead/WDR Big Band Cologne: Steppin' Out (Jazzline 77033)
Texier, Henri: Sky Dancers (Label Bleu 6720)
Various: The Rough Guide To Brazilian Jazz (Rough Guide 1345)
Various: Tempo Anthology, British Modern Jazz 1954-60 (Acrobat 7101)
Vitous, Miroslav: Music Of Weather Report (ECM 377 2956)
Weiskopf, Joel: Where Angels Fear To Tread (SteepleChase 31813)
Z, Bojan Z/Julien Lourau: Duo (2Birds1Stone 29387402)


Excerpts from the 73 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):

JOEY ALEXANDER: COUNTDOWN (Motéma)
At 13 years of age, Joey Alexander has released his second album. Building upon the natural swing and unique improvisational style that garnered much praise and success a little over a year ago with the double Grammy nominated My Favourite Things, Countdown reflects his rapid growth and maturity as an artist/composer with a bright future in jazz. Alexander’s arrangements still carry the same mesmerising level of intuitive musical understanding and fresh artistic reimagining that informed his debut. The opening drum roll of the Coltrane title track is an apt introduction to this piece. Leading into a rapid swing drum beat before Alexander announces himself with robust chordal punctuations, it is followed by lightning fast articulations. His improvisations flow naturally and beautifully, meandering through nuances of Monk to Evans to classical hints of Chopin. The result is hypnotic aural fare. Alexander is clearly an exciting prospect for the future of jazz. (Jason Balzarano) ****

HARRY ALLEN’S ALL STAR SAXOPHONE BAND: THE CANDY MEN (Arbors)
This stimulating CD is a departure from Harry Allen’s usual small group sets. Together with his New York Saxophone Band he revisits the Four Brothers sound of Jimmy Giuffre that was one of the defining features of Woody Herman’s Second Herd. The arrangement here is not Giuffre’s but the one Al Cohn wrote for a 1957 date – Four Brothers Together Again. All other charts are Harry’s and his imaginative writing, brilliantly interpreted by an all-star sax section, makes this a contender for CD of the year. His own delightful ballad I Can See Forever deserves to become an instant standard. (Gordon Jack) *****

RAY CHARLES: THE ATLANTIC YEARS – IN MONO (Atlantic)
Ray Charles is not easy to review because he doesn’t fit into any category. On the comprehensive notebook to this well-produced set the questions are posed: Was he a gospel artist singing blues? Was he a blues singer performing jazz? Was he a jazz virtuoso blending gospel and blues? The answer, which the booklet writer answers himself, was “Yes, yes and yes”. This set follows Warner/Atlantic’s previous excellent box set of Coltrane’s discs for the company by presenting seven vinyl LPs of Charles between 1952 and 1959 including some outtakes which were issued after he had left to record for ABC Paramount in 1959. All are worthy of release, with strong music. As to the LPs themselves they are handsomely produced as exact facsimiles of the originals even down to the glossy front and eggshell rear covers. (Derek Ansell) ****

DAMIAN DRĂGHICI: THE AMERICAN DREAM (Century Jazz)
Anyone worried about feckless migrants need only take a look at Damian Drăghici for reassurance. Never mind his bebop virtuosity on something as rare and refractory as the pan-flute and his accumulation here of a roster of star jazzers, he is a member of the Romanian parliament, state councillor on Roma issues and since 2014 an MEP in the European Parliament. When did you last see a leading politician’s alma mater listed as Berklee College of Music? Drăghici’s instrument is in fact the Romanian nai, a diatonic pan-flute with a sound similar to the Andean pan-pipes that have droned away in shopping precincts for years. It’s shaken out of any such stupefaction here as Drăghici whirls through such bebop and Latin test pieces as Donna Lee and Spain. (Mark Gilbert) ****

BOB DYLAN: FALLEN ANGELS (Columbia)
If like me and Max Jones you have long sensed a connection between Bob Dylan and jazz you should perhaps investigate this CD and its preceding companion (Shadows In The Night) which has similar standard material. It’s the rhythmic mastery of Dylan’s singing which relates to jazz and here he brings his time-worn voice to venerable songs that include All The Way, which was on Billie Holiday’s very last album. Dylan has hopefully plenty of life in him still and the world-weariness of Teagarden’s singing might be a better reference point. The backings unfortunately have little connection with jazz. (Graham Colombé) ***

PETER ERSKINE TRIO: AS IT WAS (ECM)
Peter Erskine has had quite a career trajectory, starting with the big bands of Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson and then moving into more fusion-orientated bands such as Weather Report, the Brecker Brothers and later accompanying soft-rock band Steely Dan. Erskine’s musical sea change into the world of ECM came via John Abercrombie, with whom he recorded four albums. The Swedish double bassist Palle Danielsson came to prominence accompanying Jan Garbarek and Keith Jarrett on their respective ECM albums but has been a key player on many albums and accompanied Bill Evans at a 1965 concert in Stockholm. British pianist John Taylor, who died in 2015 aged 72, was a driving force in this trio. However, tempting as it is to regard these recordings as a collective project, it’s made clear in the comprehensive and informative box set liner-notes that this is not actually the case. Erskine is quoted as saying that he had two key instructions for the trio: “I was very specific that: number one, dynamically, the goal was to get audiences to lean forward in their seats to hear us; and number two, most importantly, that we think of and consider solos to be non-events”. Both these edicts issued by Erskine are remarkable since the former dictum is immediately evinced by the sheer lack of dynamism in the playing. Spanning five years, the albums show how a trio of musicians can play together not just well, but superlatively. (Roger Farbey) ****

TUBBY HAYES: SPLIT KICK – LIVE IN SWEDEN 1972 (Savage Solweig)
Great music bubbled out of Tubby like hot water from a geyser. He had to work all over Europe and the first four tracks on Split Kick give the feeling of Tubby being imposed on a group rather than playing within the quartet. This was near the end of his life when he often seemed to flag but his playing is as good as it ever was, and the flute work on the last two numbers quite outstanding. Hallberg was one of the finest of jazz pianists, still in his pomp in 1972 and he has a fine solo on Off The Wagon, a Hayes staple and a very good tune. I Thought About You is a sublime tenor ballad performance with a lovely solo from Hallberg. Prince is a fine manifest of robust flute playing. I don’t know how Simon Spillett manages to write so much and with such brilliance about Tubby Hayes. The album is graced by long, thorough and beautifully written notes from the master, alive with beautiful phrases. (Steve Voce) *****

JOHNNY HODGES & BEN WEBSTER: COMPLETE 1954-61 SMALL GROUP STUDIO SESSIONS (Phono)
What’s not to like here? These are top-flight swing-era musicians moving sleekly along in the mainstream with all the confidence their status implies. The co-leaders fit together seamlessly, their individual love for and expertise with romantic ballads in evidence throughout the albums brought together for this collective release. Inserted among the ballads are easygoing mid-tempo excursions that have a similar romanticism. There is really nothing to choose between Hodges and Webster, indeed their collaboration is not one based in rivalry, not even of the friendly persuasion kind. Rather it is a meeting of minds and emotions, as well as an opportunity to display their superb instrumental skill. Although the bulk of the solos are theirs, many other good ones are heard, notably those by Brown’s trombone and Baker’s trumpet. As might be expected from the pianists, bassists and drummers on hand, the rhythmic flow is smoothly supportive. (Bruce Crowther) ****

FLORENCE JOELLE: LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, IF YOU LET IT (Zoltan)
The title is what little Jimmy Scott used to say to Florence when she was doing press for him. Her voice is about as far as possible from Jimmy’s, rich and low and with an unaffected huskiness. The songs are mostly original, with the Hodeir Si Tu Savais and the Féline/Misraki and Yves Montand-associated Chez Moi (usually Venez Donc Chez Moi), plus a lovely traditional tune Johnny, Tu N’es Pas Un Ange making up the set. Great accompaniment from the guys, who make a tiny group seem as flexible and as full or minimal as a big-budget studio ensemble. (Brian Morton) ***

ROGER MARKS: IN RETROSPECT: MARKS OUT OF TWENTY (Upbeat)
Plymouth-based Roger Marks, much praised by Humph in his radio shows, has assured technique and a very full and rich tone. He turned professional in 1977 with the excellent Rod Mason, and continued to play traditional jazz with his own Armada Jazz Band, touring for many years. Developing and broadening his style, he formed a quartet in 1998 playing mainstream (often seasoned with Latin) with confident aplomb. Unusually versatile, Roger blends something of Chris Barber’s poised jauntiness with lively and quick-witted ideas in the George Chisholm school, and touches of Vic Dickenson’s wry and supple tonal inflections. The Armada backing gives reliable and capable enough support, but some excellent piano, featured on only four tracks, enhances Roger’s ideas with greater harmonic richness and depth. A sparkling Cheek To Cheek sizzles with storming upbeat stride from the late Duncan Swift, and is a standout track in a very enjoyable and well-played album. (Hugh Rainey) ****

PEDRITO MARTINEZ GROUP: HABANA DREAMS (Motéma)
The Pedrito Martinez Group brought new angles to Cuban jazz with its eponymous debut album (Motéma 233785) in 2013, notably in the energetic staccato piano figures of then pianist Ariacne Trujillo, and this one follows the form, incorporating other stylistic colours into the core Cuban sound. Wynton Marsalis returns on two tracks and star singers Rubén Blades and Angélique Kidjo are added. The first Martinez group came together for gigs at the Guantanamera restaurant in New York in 2006. Martinez had arrived from Havana in 1998, aged 25. The liner refers to his “unquenchable appetite for work” and the vitality in this record – packed, like the last, with musical incident – proves that’s no idle flattery. The US-Cuba rapprochement of 2014 meant he was able to record legally in Havana and this album is the result, featuring Cuban family and familiars. The notes tells us Martinez is a musician’s musician, sought out by New York players regardless of style. It’s believable – he’s a force to be reckoned with, a virtuoso conguero, a facilitator, a fount of musical energy and positivity. It’s a great pity his 2013 London Jazz Festival appearance was rendered mush by the sound system at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. (Mark Gilbert) ****

DUKE PEARSON: FOUR CLASSIC ALBUMS (Avid)
Four LPs are collected here – two Blue Note trio sets, a Donald Byrd quintet date and a Pearson five-man combo session. Much underrated in his time, Pearson was a light-touch, sensitive pianist who could transform basic material and enhance good standards. With Pearson well supported by Taylor and Humphries the trios are superior sets in the Blue Note tradition. 3am is the standout track, a spontaneous blues, not scheduled for the recording but too good to leave out. Byrd In Flight was Donald Byrd’s album and features sterling work from Hank Mobley, Jackie McLean and the pianist and trumpeter. The one non-Blue-Note session here is Hush, first issued as a Jazzline LP and the best of the entire batch. With Byrd and Johnny Coles and a tough rhythm section, the quintet do justice to a selection of originals and two good standards. (Derek Ansell) *****

LUIS PERDOMO: SPIRITS AND WARRIORS (Criss Cross)
Born in 1971 in Caracas but long domiciled in New York, Perdomo’s pianistic affinities range from Bud Powell to Keith Jarrett, and from Oscar Peterson and McCoy Tyner to Paul Bley and Chick Corea. Hence the engaging blend of rhythmic drive and lyric reflection in this maturely conceived, beautifully played post-hard-bop album, where Perdomo is joined by some of the finest on the NY scene, including that veteran magician of stick and brush, Billy Hart. The opening six tracks constitute the Spirits And Warriors suite, richly and diversely voiced tributes to friends who died too soon; other thought-inducing pleasures include a brushes-caressed piano trio reading of Hermeto Pascoal’s Little Church, many a mile from Miles’s version on the 1970 Live Evil. (Michael Tucker) ****

STEPS AHEAD: STEPPIN’ OUT WITH WDR BIG BAND COLOGNE (Jazzline)
This line-up contrasts significantly with that of the Steps Ahead Reunion gig I saw at Ronnie Scott’s in July this year (see my review). For example, Bill Evans is here on saxes, sounding rather more like original band member Michael Brecker than Donny McCaslin, and also there’s no pianist, which, with no offence to the excellent Eliane Elias, suits this album because the big band performs the function of the piano, albeit in a different way. However, a few of the tunes are common to both, and one such tune, Don Grolnick’s Pools, has such a powerful big band arrangement that at times the soloists seem a little lost in the mix; this is not the case on other tracks, and Abene’s arrangements seem to increasingly suit the tunes through the programme. The arrangements are far more than just large-scale harmonisations of the originals, with some new introductions, some with very subtle woodwind work, and also, as the press release tells us, “[new] interludes, along with the subtle reharmonizations, rich voicings, and savvy bits of counterpoint”. It’s also a nicely varied programme, ranging from the uptempo swing of Steppish to the bright rhythmic intricacies of Oops and frequent funky back-beat grooves. (Dave Jones) ****

VARIOUS: THE TEMPO ANTHOLOGY: BRITISH MODERN JAZZ 1954-60 (Acrobat)
The first three CDs are straightforward reproductions of three Tempo compilation albums with the addition of reinstated sections originally not present on the original vinyl due to time constraints. The fourth CD is made up of tracks from various other releases from a label which operated from 1955 to 1961. As interesting as the sounds might be, the most enlightening element of the set is the accompanying booklet with an excellent essay from Simon Spillett, who was able to speak with former label boss and octogenarian Tony Hall. He had his hands more than full pushing the cause of British jazz at a time when home-based critics were for the most part dismissive of the local product. Allied to this, Hall had a constant battle with parent company Decca whose lack of support left him somewhat out on a limb. It has to be noted the musicians themselves did little to help in their tardy attitude to recording at the less than popular West Hampstead studios where much of the material was created. Listening to it many years later, this music should be viewed as a stepping stone for greater things to come; it may not have matched the output of the Blue Note factory but playing catch-up proved to be something UK musicians were particularly adept at. (Peter Gamble) *****

 


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