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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 albums reviewed in JJ September 2017 (see below for excerpts):

Alguacil, Mayte: Trav'lin Light (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 1005)
Attias, Michael: Nerve Dance (Clean Feed 411)
Baker, Chet: Born To Be Blue (American Jazz Classics 99135)
Baptiste, Denys: The Late Trane (Edition 1093)
Bartz, Gary: Harlem Bush Music (Uhuru Top Shelf, vinyl)
Belardi, Pol: Creation/Evolution (Double Moon 71181)
Bell, Lori/Ron Satterfield: Blue(s) (loribellflute.com)
Beresford Hammond: Each Edge Of The Field (The 52nd CD004)
Bowie, Joseph/Oliver Lake: Live At 'A Space' (Sackville 2010)
Braysher, Sam/Michael Kanan: Golden Earrings (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 1007)
Byrd, Charlie: Sixties Byrd: Charlie Byrd Plays Today's Great Hits (Él Records ACMEM328CD)
Carroll, Joe: Man With A Happy Sound (Blue Moon 1637)
Carroll, Joe: The Epic & Prestige Sessions (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 935)
Cathcart, Dick: Pete Kelly's Blues/His 25 Finest (Retrospective 4308)
Cohen, Anat/Marcello Goncalves: Outra Coisa (Anzic 0055)
Cohen, Anat: Brasileiro Rosa Dos Ventos (Anzic 0057)
Cohen, Ben/Sonny Dee/Laurie Chescoe: Remembering Ben Cohen Vol.2 (Lake 353)
Colligan, George: More Powerful (Whirlwind 4708)
Coltrane, John: Giant Steps (mono) (Warner/Atlantic 1311, vinyl)
Elgart, Larry: Visions + The City (Blue Moon 890)
Evans, Bill: The On A Monday Evening (Fantasy 0888072019713)
Fish, Laurence: Sen's Fortress (O.A.P R1702)
Fitzsimmons, Kevin: Working Day & Night/Live At Pizza Express Jazz Club (Jazzwurx 012)
Fordham, Julia: The Language Of Love (Red River 180)
Getz, Stan: Split Kick (Warner/Roost LP 423, vinyl)
Gold, Dave: Heaven On Their Minds (My Only Desire 002, vinyl)
Hamlin, Johnny: Polka Dots And Moonbeams & Powder Puff (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 932)
Hayes, Louis: Serenade For Horace (Blue Note, no number)
Heckman, Steve: Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute (Jazzed Media 1074)
Heliocentrics, The: A World Of Masks (Soundway 93)
Henriksen, Arve: Towards Language (Rune Grammofon 2192)
Hirt, Al: Horn A-Plenty (Blue Moon 891)
Horn, Jazzmeia: A Social Call (Prestige 00112)
Iversen, Anne Mette: Ternion Quartet (bjurecords 062)
Iversen, Anne Mette/Quartet +1: Round Trip (bjurecords 061)
Jackson, Milt/John Coltrane: Bags & Trane (Warner/Atlantic 1368, vinyl)
Jenkins, John: Young Jenkins 1957 Quintet Sessions (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 931)
Kelly, Wynton/Wes Montgomery: Smokin' In Seattle Live At The Penthouse (Resonance 2029)
Kern, Jerome: The Songs Of Jerome Kern (Retrospective 4310)
Kolker, Adam: Beckon (Sunnyside 1486)
Krog, Karin: The Many Faces Of Karin Krog (Meantime/Odin 9560)
Lady Sings The Blues: Laughing At Life (Big Bear 55)
Lake, Oliver/Featuring Flux Quartet: Right Up On (Passin' Thru 41236)
Latchin, Gabriel: Introducing Gabriel Latchin Trio (Alys Jazz 1501)
Lindsay, Arto: Cuidado Madame (Ponderosa Music & Art CD 139)
Lundqvist, Anna: Mewe (Prophone 169)
Mantilla, Ray: High Voltage (Savant 2160)
Martin, John: The Hidden Notes: Spirit Of Adventure (F-ire 92)
Merrill, Helen: With Clifford Brown (State Of Art 81177)
Mezei, Szilard/Jon Hemmersam: Floating Orange (Slam 578)
Millennium Jazz Orchestra: Lookin' East (millenniumjazzorchestra.nl)
Mills, Irving: Hotsy Totsy Gang (Retrieval 79082)
Morgan, Lee: The Roulette Sides (Warner/Stateside Roulette SR52616, vinyl)
Most, Sam: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1245)
Nachoff, Quinsin: Ethereal Trio (Whirlwind 4706)
O'Higgins, Dave: It's Always 9.30 In Zog (JVG 018)
Pastorius, Jaco: Truth, Liberty & Soul (Resonance 2027)
Pell, Dave/Octet: The Complete Trend & Kapp Recordings 1953-1956 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 936)
Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So It Is (Legacy 88985417912)
Primitive London: Planet Savage (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 525)
Prosser, Hayden: Tether (Whirlwind 4705)
Psychic Equalizer: The Lonely Traveller (hugoselles.com)
Rae, Maya: Sapphire Birds (Cellar Live 101816)
Reynolds, Jamie: Grey Mirror (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 528)
Rushton, Ruby: Trudi's Songbook (22a 015)
Sauter-Finegan/Orchestra: Four Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz 1246)
Sirene 1009: Sirene 1009 (busterandfriends.com)
Skonberg, Bria: With A Twist (Okeh 88985406022)
Smith, Tommy: Embodying The Light (Spartacus 025)
Stevens, Matt: Preverbal (Ropeadope, no number)
Tanner, Jeannie: Words & Music (Tanner Time 8 88295 55876 1)
Tormé, Mel: Sings His Own California Suite (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 496)
Tuomarila, Alexi: Kingdom (Edition 1090)
Vallés, Oriol/Joan Casares: Smack 7 Dab (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 1006)
Various: Keep It Light - A Panorama Of British Jazz: The Modernists (Él Records ACME327)
Various: Soho Scene '61 (Rhythm And Blues 042)
VerPlanck, Billy: And His Orchestra 1957-1958 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 934)
Wakenius, Ulf/Eric Wakenius: Father And Son (ACT 9843)
Whyte, Ronny: Shades Of Whyte (Audiophile ACD-353)
Wilde, Wilfried: Oscilenscope (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 526)
Williams, Gary: At The Movies (BOS Entertainment 6823)
Yang, Jeong Lim: Déjà Vu (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 529)


Examples of the 82 album 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):


MAYTE ALGUACIL: TRAV’LIN LIGHT (Fresh Sound New Talent 1005)

Mayte Alguacil is from Mostoles, a small town just outside Madrid and was trained at the ESMU Music School in Barcelona. Her record is remarkable: the music comes across as basically simple, with voice and on most tracks just guitar and bass, but it is completely unique and satisfying to the listener. The bad fortune epic Everything Happens To Me is given a heartfelt reading which convinces that she is in tune with every emotion expressed in the lyrics. She is similarly impressive on I’m Old Fashioned, singing with great intimacy and accompanied by just guitar and bass.

Many ingredients are required to make a vocal record as successful as this and Mayte appears to possess them all. Most of these standards are associated with star names but Mayte’s versions are all her own – fresh, and owing little or nothing to other vocalists. There is a special richness and warmth of expression in Mayte’s voice and delivery that is rarely encountered. As you will have gathered, this CD is highly recommended.
(Derek Ansell)
*****


LORI BELL & RON SATTERFIELD: BLUE(S) (loribellflute.com)
When reviewing Bell’s previous award-winning album, Brooklyn Dreaming (JJ 0216), I remarked on her inventiveness and subtlety, qualities that are immediately apparent in this new release. Bell’s choice of repertoire here includes three of her own compositions and one by Joni Mitchell, which fit well with works by jazz masters Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Oliver Nelson and McCoy Tyner.

As the track and album titles make clear, the theme here is the blues, an underlying influence on all areas and eras of jazz, with Bell’s interpretations finding the richness and colour inherent in the genre. This is apparent in the way that Bell brings her subtle instrumental skill to material that is innately earthy, thus ensuring very effective contrasts. Also, here and there, are interpolated hints of other musical genres.

Satterfield is an ideal collaborator, providing accompaniment that cushions, counterpoints and drives Bell. More than half of the tracks required only one take, thus underlining the rapport these two musicians enjoy. This is another recommended album from Bell, one that is filled with first-rate music that can be enjoyed on many levels.
(Bruce Crowther)
****


STAN GETZ: SPLIT KICK (Warner/Roost, vinyl)
If you play these tracks in chronological order, starting with On The Alamo, you will be able to hear a distinct change in Getz’s playing over the two and a half years. This was when he began, quite deliberately, to drop the high, ethereal, piping sound which had first brought him success, in favour of a less mannered, more robust style. “It’s fun swingin’ and getting hot for a change”, he told Metronome in December 1950. The catalyst for this seems to have been the arrival of the effervescent, 22-year-old pianist, Horace Silver. Joining Getz proved to be a major step in Silver’s career as a composer, too. Split Kick was his first recorded composition.

Of course, this material has been issued in many forms since, including complete, chronological CD editions. I’ve got one, so why did I feel so absurdly pleased to receive this imitation antique? Partly, I suppose, it’s just sticking two fingers up to the digital age. But I’ve already got an original vinyl LP 423 (in a plain cardboard cover, admittedly) and I’m still delighted. It doesn’t have the noises-off that come with the original, and the bass is clearer. I haven’t compared it minutely with the CDs, but I don’t suppose there’s that much difference really.

It’s probably like books. There’s pleasure in having good editions of your favourite books, even though you’re quite content to read them in scruffy paperbacks, or even on a Kindle. It’s the content that matters most, but sentiment plays a part, too. And what’s wrong with that?
(Dave Gelly) ****


DAVE GOLD BIG BAND: HEAVEN ON THEIR MINDS (My Only Desire Records, vinyl)
Along with familiar names such as Alan Hawkshaw, Dave Gold was a regular contributor to the UK library music scene, specifically for companies such as KPM and Bruton Music. But, Gold, like his late father Harry (and his Pieces of Eight), was a true jazzer as evidenced by this all too short set.

Gold’s big band, also known as the Dave Gold Orchestra, made several recordings for BBC Radio 2’s Jazz Club and Sound Of Jazz. This particular session was gleaned from the former show, broadcast 11 August 1974. The session was taken from the only extant tape and remastered in very high resolution. Although in mono this doesn’t detract from the superb quality.

This was an electric big band in every sense, as witnessed on the dynamic Andrew Lloyd Webber title track, with sterling solos from Cliff Hall on electric piano and the underrated guitarist John Girvan. Gold was a bit of a musical magpie; his own composition O’Connell Street starts in Dankworthian mode and progresses to something redolent of the Clarke Boland Big Band. The opening to Jimmy Webb’s Pocketful Of Keys even contains a passing nod to Frank Zappa’s Cleetus Awreetus Awrightus from The Grand Wazoo. The second Gold original, Nostalgia (Ain’t What It Used To Be) comprises a pastiched opening à la David Rose’s The Stripper with some fine baritone from Ronnie Ross, then evolving, via a complete handbrake turn, into a super funky number, with notable drumming by the redoubtable Harold Fisher.

Get the LP deck out of the loft for this one.
(Roger Farbey) ****


AL HIRT: HORN A-PLENTY (Blue Moon)
In part, this CD represents the return of an old friend; I owned a copy of Horn A-Plenty when it first appeared on vinyl in 1961. Today it stands as a minor milestone, being a reference that catalogues a small part of the post-bop progress in high-note jazz trumpet playing after Harry James and Dizzy Gillespie. With less screech than Cat Anderson, and a heavier tonguing technique than Maynard Ferguson, Hirt’s was an alternative - and somewhat commercial (some might say vulgar) - way forward in the days before the arrival of players such as Allen Vizzutti or Doc Cheatham.

Hirt soars in what may be termed a vaudevillian style, while Billy May provides an appropriately virile accompanying ensemble, eschewing the familiar May trademark of portamento-laden unison saxophones while avoiding Hirt’s familiar high-voltage Dixieland which, presumably, the trumpeter normally provided to please his New Orleans tourist or conference audience. Making effective use of the lower brass and employing harp, marimba and tubular bells, on four of the tracks four French horns replace the saxophones, an elegant Billy May touch.

Behind all of this, Irv Cottler smashes the ensemble along delightfully, to demonstrate why Frank Sinatra employed him so much. Great fun.
(John Robert Brown) ****


JOHN JENKINS: YOUNG JENKINS (Fresh Sound)
Two solid hard-bop sessions from the mid-50s are presented here in one package. The title Young Jenkins fits well as, regrettably, there never was an old Jenkins as far as jazz is concerned. He was put in the studio first by Prestige and then by Blue Note and these tracks were followed by at least another six as leader or sideman but, curiously, he never recorded again after 1959.

This set kicks off with the Blue Note session where Jenkins’ bluesy sound recalls Parker and certain aspects of Jackie McLean. It is a slightly softer approach than either of those masters but very warm and lyrical. Burrell’s solos on guitar sparkle and Sonny Clark is an ideal pianist for this sort of everyday Blue Note session. Chambers and Richmond complete an ideal rhythm section, the drummer hired presumably because Jenkins had recently worked with a Mingus band.

Richmond turns up again on the Prestige session from two weeks earlier. Timmons and Ware make an equally compelling rhythm team and the frontline partner is Jordan, a thoroughly reliable tenor man of the time. Jenkins is particularly effective on ballads which bring out the best of his lyrical approach. Timmons is on great form both solo and comping. Although the Blue Note was recorded in stereo this release uses mono tapes which I find odd. Tasty blowing all round though.
(Derek Ansell) ****


WYNTON KELLY/WES MONTGOMERY: SMOKIN’ IN SEATTLE, LIVE AT THE PENTHOUSE (Resonance)
An unfairly neglected Kelly and a justly celebrated Montgomery made two seminal recordings together – Full House and Smokin’ At The Half Note. Now, thanks to Zev Feldman and George Klabin at Resonance, we have a splendid and previously unreleased “live” session by the two principals – accompanied by talented newcomer Ron McClure and already distinguished veteran Jimmy Cobb.

On all counts, this is a major addition to their joint and respective discographies. The original format, with Kelly’s trio opening the proceedings and then joined by Montgomery, has been wisely retained by the producers. Again, the sound quality – given the age of the original tapes – is remarkably good. As for the actual performances, only superlatives are in order. The opening No Greater Love has the joyously and nimble-fingered Kelly (ably backed by McClure and Cobb) setting an exhilarating pace, followed by a variously tempoed Not A Tear. Wes joins the trio to offer astonishing “thumb-plucked” versions of – among other titles – a jaunty Jingles, ruminative What’s New, and atmospheric West Coast Blues. Throughout, Wes and Wynton interact perfectly; neither hogs the limelight, but instead they form a quartet of co-equals. Try the intimate What’s New and Jobim’s lilting O Morro Não Tem Vez as samplers.

The accompanying (illustrated) booklet is an added bonus. Informative essays by Feldman, DJ Paul De Barros, recording engineer Jim Wilke, reflections by Jimmy Cobb and Ron McLure (“Like Being Baptized”) Kenny Barron and Pat Metheny put the sessions and performers in context. Metheny’s tribute to Montgomery deserves quotation: “Wes is in a special category. I always feel like I’m enriched in ways that transcend music when I hear Wes”. Yes,indeed.
(John White) ****
        

KARIN KROG: THE MANY FACES OF KARIN KROG (Meantime/Odin 9560)
This anthology of recordings made between 1967 and 2017 is released to celebrate Karin Krog’s 80th birthday. It’s hard to believe, because her voice and general demeanour over that half century betray no signs of the passage of time: no rough edges or drop in pitch, and certainly none of the grande-dame stuff. I chose an album of hers as one of my top 10 for the JJ critics’ poll in January and the question of her age never even occurred to me.

Nevertheless, you might suspect that six CDs featuring the same voice, even with a huge and diverse supporting cast, was overdoing it a bit, but you’d be wrong. There seems to be no limit to Karin Krog’s curiosity and enthusiasm when it comes to jazz of all kinds. The listing above (more than somewhat condensed for reasons of space) will give you some idea of the extraordinary breadth of her talent and interests. The duets alone constitute a remarkable collection of styles and approaches, as she happily establishes common ground with Roger Kellaway one minute and Archie Shepp the next, not to mention two of the best bass players ever and a wonderful surprise from the late Bengt Hallberg. Like most people, I suppose, I had always associated him with the subdued delicacy of his piano alongside Stan Getz in the 50s. Here, though, he delivers a rousing performance in virtuoso manner, which the singer clearly relishes.

Altogether, it’s a box of delights, a brilliantly chosen collection, always with something special about to come up and keep you listening. Like the promise of Dexter Gordon singing, or a solo by Clark Terry, or the intriguing Voice Shadow, a duet improvisation with John Surman’s bass clarinet, “using one of my favourite electronic vocal effects”. (She has enough of them to have favourites?) And, of course, she seems to know every song ever written, which leads to some delicious choices – I’m Shadowing You (by Blossom Dearie and Johnny Mercer), for one, and Oscar Brown Jr’s lyric to Miles’s All Blues, for another.

Finally, a word about the substantial accompanying booklet. There’s a longish and very readable introductory essay by Duncan Heining, based on an interview with Karin Krog, that sets the background and context with brisk efficiency. This is followed by a catalogue of the musical items, each accompanied by one of Karin’s chatty and sometimes quite revealing little notes.
(Dave Gelly) *****


GABRIEL LATCHIN: INTRODUCING GABRIEL LATCHIN TRIO (Alys Jazz)
Although he has been active on the UK jazz scene for some time, appearing at the Barbican, Ronnie Scott’s and the London Jazz Festival, Gabriel Latchin has only now released his first album. Curiously, it was laid down over three years ago, but, like good wine, has matured in the interim. The 11 titles include seven Latchin arrangements of jazz standards, with solo performances of Lush Life, Can’t We Be Friends and four sprightly and excellent originals. On all the trio tracks, starting with Carlora – Latchin’s tribute to Phineas Newborn – he is ably supported by Farmer and Morrison.

Introduced to piano jazz by his grandmother, who gave him an Oscar Peterson CD anthology, Latchin was an instant convert. After studying economics at the University of Edinburgh, he graduated from the Guildhall School of Music. In his informative liner notes, Latchin acknowledges Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum, Monk, Barry Harris, Bill Evans and Bud Powell as among his major influences. Out of this rich amalgam he has evolved an eclectic and distinctive “swing- to-bop” pianistic style.

Highlights from Introducing are a ruminative and emotive interpretation of Lush Life, a hard- swinging original, Trane Spotting, and a joyous It Had To be You. Easy To Love has a delicate introduction which segues into a slightly Garnerish and wholly satisfying performance. Off The Latch derives from the chord sequences of Frank Loesser’s Slow Boat To China, while the closing Blues For Billy (dedicated to Billy Higgins) has haunting echoes of All Blues from Kind Of Blue. The only slightly underwhelming track is a boogie-woogie based, initially monotonous version of Stompin’ – but it improves. Highly recommended.
(John White)
****


ANNA LUNDQVIST QUINTET: MEWE (Prophone)
Reminiscent at times of Flora Purim, but very much her own muse, Lundqvist is well established in her native Sweden and has received glowing press notices there for several years now. Initially from a classical background, she responded to the energy of Led Zeppelin (there’s plenty of rock power in the title track here) and was subsequently inspired by the new wave of Swedish jazz musicians – exemplified by the late Esbjörn Svensson – who came to prominence in the latter half of the 1990s. Further affinities include McCoy Tyner and Kenny Wheeler and on this, her fifth quintet recording, Lunqvist has created something rather special, blending to stirring poetic effect sometimes Latin, sometimes rock-driven energy with freshly configured jazz literacy.

Eschewing traditional lyrics, her questing, consistently compelling suite of all-original compositions features dynamically astute, cleanly and beautifully phrased vocal sound-colour melodies (sample the soaring, liquid reflections of My Joy or Without And Within) set in a purposive yet sensitive range of group and solo figures as rhythmically strong as they are spatially imaginative. Almgren and Kallerdahl are consistently impressive, in both up and reflective modes, while guest Krister Jonsson contributes some arresting electric guitar: hear Insomnia and MeWe. Stina Larsdotter and Tobias Hedlund add further occasional texture to songs already rich in shape-shifting intelligence, feeling and form – including transitional “little noises” or “found soundscapes”. An excellent release.
(Michael Tucker) ****


DAVE O’HIGGINS: IT’S ALWAYS 9.30 IN ZOG (JVG)
Dave O’Higgins is a well-established presence on the UK jazz scene, but it still comes as a surprise to realise that It’s Always 9.30 In Zog is the saxophonist’s 19th album as leader. His colleagues are equally well established and have been part of his quartet for six years. This lengthy relationship shows in the quality of playing on this stylish and enjoyable record.

Zog is a planet located in a black hole, where everyone breathes water, and the home planet of O’Higgins’s wife Judith (according to O’Higgins, at least). On the evidence of the title tune it’s a rather jolly place. It’s Always 9.30 In Zog is a great opener, driven by de Krom’s propulsive drums and the pulse of Geoff Gascoyne’s bass. Is it 9.30 in the morning – hectic, hurried? Could be, but there’s a real feeling of excitement and anticipation: in Zog, it’s apparently always 9.30 on a Friday night. The Zogians are heading out for some fun and O’Higgins and chums are out to provide it.

There are seven more O’Higgins originals on offer. Alien With Extraordinary Ability is one of many that bounce along with an irresistible vitality (thanks again to de Krom and Gascoyne). It’s also an example of what gives the album its most distinctive sound – the pairing of O’Higgins’s soprano and Harvey’s Rhodes. The sound is bright, clear and, with Harvey at his most creative, a little bit futuristic in a Jetsons kind of way. Brixton, written by Brazilian
musician and O’Higgins collaborator Chico Chagas, features a tenor/Rhodes pairing of great warmth. Slinky, seductive and mellow, it forms a fine album centrepiece.
(Bruce Lindsay) ****


JACO PASTORIUS: TRUTH, LIBERTY & SOUL, LIVE IN NYC: THE COMPLETE 1982 NPR JAZZ ALIVE! RECORDING (Resonance)
Serendipity played a major role in the release of this compelling double CD set. In 2011, record producer Michael Cuscuna introduced Resonance’s Zev Feldman to Tim Owens, producer of Jazz Alive!, a weekly public broadcast radio show that aired across the US from 1977 to 1983. At the meeting Feldman noticed Jaco Pastorius’s name on a list of tapes. A huge fan of the phenomenal bassist, Feldman was determined to release this live recording on his label but it took six years of negotiating with various parties before this came to fruition. The concert was remixed by the original recording engineer Paul Blakemore with spectacular results.

Although not overtly stated, the line-up here is actually Pastorius’s Word Of Mouth big band, first assembled for his 30th birthday celebration concert in December 1981, following his departure from Weather Report that year.

The opener is the storming Invitation, and Donna Lee is played in unison with jaw-dropping panache by Pastorius, Mintzer, Bargeron and Molineaux. The sophisticated Three Views Of A Secret amply highlights Pastorius’s considerable compositional skills. Special guest Toots Thielemans appears on the final four tracks of the first disc and on three of the second. Don Alias’s solo on Okonkolé Y Trompa is a veritable masterclass in bata and conga, spanning 10 minutes before he is joined by Pastorius on resonant, harmonics-rich bass. On Bass And Drum Improvisation, Pastorius can’t resist a rendition of Purple Haze. The set concludes with a rousing version of Fannie Mae, embellished by Thielemans’s harmonica and Pastorius’s strident vocals. The wildly enthusiastic audience applause reflects the superb quality of the concert.

Considering the relative paucity of Pastorius’s back catalogue, due, in part, to his tragic demise at the age of just 35, this is an important addition to his canon, containing the entire concert including 40 minutes of music not aired on the original broadcast. This welcome release includes a fascinating and revealing 100-page booklet containing articles, interviews and photographs (worth another half star). The recording is also available as a three-LP vinyl set. It’s a fitting legacy for one of jazz’s innovative geniuses.
(Roger Farbey) ****


BILLY VERPLANCK: AND HIS ORCHESTRA 1957-58 (Fresh Sound)
If it was a personal matter I’d give this six stars. When I first heard these tracks more than half a century ago I was inspired to get in touch with the very amiable and talented Mr VerPlanck and we had many enjoyable phone conversations. Billy, even more so than I, was a Bill Harris nut and here he built a temple to his idol. He also wails out a very passable attempt at replicating him on Duh-Udah (Billy’s only fault was his love of silly titles). Sadly, you won’t find any reference to Billy in the encyclopedias. He was married to the equally delightful Marlene who to this day remains one of the best singers in the business.

There are inspiring and early performances from Wilder, Woods, Costa and Adams and, when he couldn’t get Bill, Billy used the greatest of the unsung trombonists, Frank Rehak, who hands out lessons on 10 of these tracks. Needless to say this is essential for Harris fans. The great man, whose playing influenced every jazz trombonist from the 40s on, had just returned to Herman from a self-inflicted exile in Florida. He had entered the second stage of his playing – less robust but endlessly twitchy. VerPlanck made sure that he was heavily featured but still left plenty of space for his other giants to solo.

Billy wrote the non-standards although, as was his wont, producer Ozzie Cadena slaps his name on seven of them. They’re good, clean and functional and the idea of scoring Bird’s Mood solo for three flutes was most imaginative (Rehak’s good here). This was some of Powell’s and Jaspar’s earliest work and they both play with great fire, as does the young Pepper Adams. Winds is an attractive, gently swung Ill Winds. I still don’t know how Billy managed to assemble such great bands. Now go away and let me listen to it all again.
(Steve Voce) *****


ULF & ERIC WAKENIUS: FATHER AND SON (ACT)
Unlike some guitarists who like to noodle around lost in introspection, Ulf Wakenius offers a big, open sound, full of drama and presence. That quality is doubled on this release, where Ulf is joined by son Eric. Without fuss, they work through a solid programme that demonstrates light and shade in their musical partnership. The playing is first class and if the choice of material won’t win prizes for originality – with inclusion of songs by The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel – the album certainly scores highly for musicality and virtuosity. The sound quality and dynamics are also outstanding.
(John Adcock) ****


GARY WILLIAMS: AT THE MOVIES (BOS Entertainment)
Gary Williams confesses himself at the edge of jazz, more in the world of cabaret. He made his name with various big bands and orchestras, including the BBC Concert Orchestra. But we all know that jazz and cabaret share the same rich seam of show and movie material, the overlap between the two beyond unravelling. The presence here of How Deep Is Your Love might have some jazz fans blanching but as ever, the truth is in the interpretation. The “movies” are the pretext for a varied and often modern programme covering work ranging from Joni Mitchell (Both Sides featured in Love Actually) to Randy Newman (from Toy Story 2), Burt Bacharach and Irving Berlin.

Williams has taken care to set his mahogany baritone in high quality arrangements (by Phil Steel, Paul Campbell and Caleb Collins – to whom thanks for some crafty re-harmonisations) and the whole set is sprinkled with obbligati and solos from some of London’s finest, including Graeme Blevins (e.g., flute on Spooky and Getzian tenor on Almost In Love), Nigel Price and Anthony Kerr (e.g. on Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat). The three-star rating reflects the fact it’s not a full-on jazz set. For the whole project, it’s a four.
(Mark Gilbert) ***

 


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