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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 November 2017 (see below for excerpts):

Amram, David: Music For Splendor In The Glass + The Manchurian Candidate (Soundtrack 606382)
Balvig, Christian/Frederik Bulow/Adrian Christensen: Associated With Water (AMP AT015)
Bareket, Or: OB1 (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 527)
Berne, Tim/Snakeoil: Incidentals (ECM 576 7257)
Bernstein, Peter: Signs Live! (Smoke Sessions 1705)
Binker And Moses: Journey To The Mountain Of Forever (Gearbox 1537CD)
Bloch, Lena/Feathery: Heart Knows (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 531)
Bourne, Matthew: Isotach (Leaf Bay 105)
Bradley, Michelle: Body And Soul (Merry Lane, no number)
Brooks, John Benson: Folk Jazz U.S.A. & Alabama Concerto (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 937)
Butterworth, Will: The Nightingale And The Rose (Jellymould 027)
Coffin, Jeff: Next Time Yellow (earuprecords.com)
Cowell, Stanley: No Illusions (SteepleChase 31828)
Davis, Steve: Think Ahead (Smoke Sessions 1704)
Elgart, Les & Larry: Sound Ideas (Blue Moon 894)
Ellington, Duke/Charles Mingus/Max Roach: Money Jungle (State Of Art 81189)
Evans, Bill: Another Time The Hilversum Concert (Resonance 2031)
Fitzgerald, Ella: Live At Mister Kelly's 1958 (Essential Jazz Classics 55721)
Fitzgerald, Ella: The Complete 1960-61 Ella In Berlin (Essential Jazz Classics 55719)
Flying Horse/Big Band: Big Man On Campus (Flying Horse 050117)
Friden, Anna: Up High (Losen 176)
Frisell, Bill/Thomas Morgan: Small Town (ECM 574 6341)
Gerschlauer, Philipp/David Fiuczynski: Mikrojazz - Neue Expressionistische Musik (RareNoise 083)
Grdina/Houle/Loewen/Delbecq: Ghost Lights (Songlines 1621)
Gruz, Sergio: Indios (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 530)
Heise, Mathias/Quadrillion: Decadence (Giant Sheep Music 0272)
Herdsmen, The/The Kentonians: Paris Sessions 1954-1956 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 939)
Hope, Elmo: Five Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1256)
Hyman, Dick: The Soulful "Mirrors" Sound! (Blue Moon 893)
James, Etta: The Tight Time (Electra PPAN EKS61347, vinyl)
Jones, Peter: Under The Setting Sun (Howlin' Werewolf 003)
Kellhuber, Lorenz: Live At The Montreux Jazz Festival (Blackbird Music 201730)
Kirby, John: The Biggest Little Band In The Land (Retrospective 4312)
Lloyd, Charles/New Quartet: Passin' Thru (Blue Note, no number)
London, Frank/Glass House: Orchestra Astro-Hungarian Jewish Music (Piranha 3063)
London, Julie: The Julie London Collection 1955-62 (Acrobat 3206)
London, Julie: Calendar Girl (State Of Art 81183)
LRK Trio: If You Have A Dream (Losen 186)
Mahanthappa, Rudresh/Indo-Pak Coalition: Agrima (rudreshm.com)
Marocco, Frank: Like Frank Marocco (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 940)
Microscopic/Septet, The: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down To Me: The Micros Play The Blues (Cuneiform Rune 425)
Miller, Dominic: Silent Light (ECM 572 8484)
Moffett, Charnett: Music From Our Soul (Motéma 0227)
Monk, Thelonious: Criss Cross (Columbia CS 8838, vinyl)
Moody, James: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1261)
Morgan, Jane: The Day The Rains Come (Retrospective 4314)
Morgan, Lee: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1255)
Morrison, James: The Great American Songbook (ABC 481 5433)
Most, Sam: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1245)
NYSQ: Sleight Of Hand (Whirlwind 4704)
Oregon: Lantern (Cam Jazz 7916)
Pavone, Mario/Dialect Trio: Chrome (Playscape 060316)
Pizzarelli, John: Sinatra & Jobim @ 50 (Concord CJA00055)
Pohjola, Verneri: Pekka (Edition 1092)
Rogers, Adam: Dice (Adraj 001)
Sarmanto, Heikki: Open Skies (Svart 080)
Sarmanto, Heikki/Serious Music Ensemble: The Helsinki Tapes - Live At N-Club 1971-1972 Vol. 1 (Svart 398)
Sarmanto, Heikki/Serious Music Ensemble: The Helsinki Tapes - Live At N-Club 1971-1972 Vol. 2 (Svart 399)
Sarmanto, Heikki/Serious Music Ensemble: The Helsinki Tapes - Live At N-Club 1971-1972 Vol. 3 (Svart 400)
Sauter-Finegan Orchestra: Four Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz 1246)
Scott, Christian: Diaspora (Ropeadope 365)
Springer, Mark: Circa Rip Rig And Panic (Exit 016)
Steele, Colin: Diving For Pearls (Marina 82)
Stewart, Grant: Roll On (Cellar Live 100616)
Stiles, Danny 5: In Tandem (Progressive 7175)
Thiroux, Katie: Off Beat (Capri 74146)
Tingvall Trio: Cirklar (Skip 9157)
Turner, Jim: Magic Fingers (Solo Art 172)
Unhinged Sextet: Don't Blink (OA2 22145)
Unitrio - Argentieri-Borey-Tissot: Picasso (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 534)
Vampires, The: The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke (Earshift 017)
Vaquer, Toni/The Voodoo Children: Volume 1 (Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 532)
Various: The Passion Of Charlie Parker (Impulse! no number)
Wilner, Spike: Odalisque (Cellar Live 120416)
Wright, Lizz: Grace (Concord, no number)


Examples of the 75 album reviews in this issue (see more reviews as printed; subscribe to see 12 months of the print edition of Jazz Journal
, including over 20,000 words of CD review each issue):


TIM BERNE’S SNAKEOIL
INCIDENTALS
(2) Hora Feliz; (1) Stingray Shuffle; (2) Sideshow; (1) Incidentals Contact; Prelude One/Sequel Too (64.11)
(1) Berne (as); Oscar Noriega (cl, bcl); Ryan Ferreira (elg); Matt Mitchell (p, elec); Ches Smith (d, vib, pc). Rhinebeck, New York, December 2014. (2) as (1) but add David Torn (g).
ECM 576 7257
****

As with You’ve Been Watching Me, recorded during the same set of sessions, this album expands the basic lineup of Snakeoil with guitarist Ferreira. In addition, producer Torn joins in on additional guitar on the introduction to Hora Feliz and the final part of the 26-minute Sideshow.

Hora Feliz seeps into consciousness with a chamber-music-like opening passage, gentle and intricate, gradually building in density and volume, until it suddenly lurches into tempo and an angular ostinato prefacing free improvisations. With Berne’s music the powerful immediacy of the playing never overwhelms the carefully wrought material, and this sometimes alarmingly precarious balance is maintained throughout the album. For me the rangy, meandering Stingray Shuffle conjured up, weirdly, visions of the tripods from The War Of The Worlds – had they been merely inquisitive rather than aggressive. Textures are brittle yet organic, and as the piece develops the sounds of the interweaving instruments, augmented by subtle electronics, resolve into a keening ensemble and a final theme.

The piano introduction to Sideshow folds in and around itself, before being joined by complementary lines from the reeds. Mitchell’s rumbling left hand and restless, glinting right provide a strong backbone, and the piece is typical of Berne’s compositions in its success at moulding the extreme complexity of its parts into a cohesive, heaving wave of ensemble sound. Noriega is especially fiery on Incidentals Contact and there are some nice, chiming ensemble passages by Berne, Mitchell and Ferreira leading to a sharp, startling stop. Prelude One/ Sequel Two reverts to a chamber-music feel and engaging alto and bass-clarinet solos and sums up the album: complex, adventurous, sometimes forbidding but ultimately seductive.
Barry Witherden


BILL EVANS
ANOTHER TIME: THE HILVERSUM CONCERT

You’re Gonna Hear From Me; Very Early; Who Can I Turn To?; Alfie; Embraceable You; Emily; Nardis; Turn Out The Stars; Five (47.45)
Evans (p); Eddie Gomez (b); Jack DeJohnette (d). Hilversum, Netherlands, 22 June 1968.
Resonance 2031
****   

Following last year’s Bill Evans release Some Other Time: The Lost Session From The Black Forest (1968), favourably reviewed in August’s JJ by Derek Ansell, here comes another Resonance Evansonian discovery: a previously unknown “live” trio performance with the same personnel – who also appeared at the 1968 Montreux Jazz Festival. This studio recording (for a Dutch radio programme) was made in front of a small audience who warmly applaud each composition. Produced by Resonance’s indefatigable Zev Feldman and George Klabin, this is a beautifully packaged and illustrated compilation with exemplary essays by journalist Marc Meyers, Dutch critic Bert Vuijsje, and interviews with pianist Steve Kuhn (on Bill Evans), Gomez and DeJohnette – who only spent six months with the trio before being poached by Miles Davis.

The set opens with an initially ruminative and then sprightly Evans on You’re Gonna Hear From Me, with pulsating support from Gomez and delicate brush/symbol work from DeJohnette. A lilting Very Early has Evans happily exploring his own composition and allowing Gomez (who was not entirely satisfied with his bass tone) generous solo space. Embraceable You is almost entirely a Gomez feature, with Evans and DeJohnette staying discretely in the background. Who Can I Turn To? receives a ravishingly melodic work-out – with another extended Gomez solo – before he reunites with Bill for a fleet conclusion. Other delights include a pensive Alfie, a sensitive and gentle Emily and an uptempo Nardis, with DeJohnette weaving complex but entirely appropriate patterns before embarking on an intelligent (but overlong) solo. That reservation aside, this is, as Zev Feldman understandably enthuses, “one of the best sounding of all Bill Evans’s live albums”. Buy!
John White



THE HERDSMEN & THE KENTONIANS
PARIS SESSIONS 1954 & 1956

CD1: (1) Pot Luck; So What Could Be New?; Palm Café; Just 40 Bars; (2) The Gypsy; Thanks For You; Embarkation; Wet Back On The Left Bank; (3) Ballad Medley – These Foolish Things You Go To My Head Darn That Dream I Cover The Waterfront (53.50)
CD2: (4) Why Not?; Steeplechase; I Remember You; Blues Martial; The Way You Look Tonight; Falling In Love Is Wonderful; Jive At Five; (3) Daniel’s Blues; Scrapple From The Apple; Buhaina (77.49)

(1) Dick Collins (t); Cy Touff (bt); Bill Perkins, Dick Hafer (ts); Henri Renaud (p); Red Kelly (b); Jean-Louis Viale (d). Paris, 23 April 1954.
(2) Cy Touff (b t); Jerry Coker (ts); Ralph Burns (p); Jimmy Gourley (g); Jean-Marie Ingrand (b); Chuck Flores (d). Paris, 5 May 1954.
(3) Dick Mills (t); Carl Fontana (tb); Don Rendell (ts); Henri Renaud (p); Curtis Counce (b); Wes Ilcken (d). Paris, 4 May 1956.
(4) Vinnie Tano (t); Carl Fontana (tb); Don Rendell (ts); Martial Solal (p); Curtis Counce (b); Mel Lewis (d). Paris, 3-4 May 1956.
Fresh Sound FSR-CD 939
****
   
How relaxed the French jazz scene was! Can you imagine a British record company sweeping a load of American musicians off the plane and into a studio to record them al fresco? That’s what first Charles Delaunay and then Daniel Filipacchi did here.

I dipped my toe in the water with the (1) band on a 10” Vogue that came out over here. This was a civilised but mightily swinging band with Perkins outstanding and subtle stuff from the other tenors, Hafer and notably Jerry Coker (in the day I had a brilliant jazz primer by this fine man, but alas it’s long gone). Burns binds his group together, but Renaud was no slouch. Collins was kept for his delicate solo work, and the fractious Touff was certainly good at swinging, despite his ridiculous bass trumpet. The (1) session had only a few pencilled lead sheets to work from, but for the second Coker had sweated on the substantial Embarkation and Burns had come up with the excellent Wet Back (Chuck Flores’s nickname).

Don Rendell is the outstanding soloist on the 1956 tracks and his Waterfront is the best performance in the medley. Counce had Foolish Things. He left Kenton when Fontana told him “You’re leaving this band. Whether you leave horizontally or vertically is up to you”. You didn’t mess with Carl. He’s his majestic self here.

Vinnie Tano’s family lived in the black ghetto in Philadelphia, the poorest of the poor. He hustled to keep the family alive and at the same time taught himself to play the trumpet, although he had no education and didn’t learn to read or write. He was one of the most competitive players around, and always thought he could play a better solo than the next guy. Often he could, and you can hear his great strength and range here, even though you’ll find no mention of him in the jazz books.
Steve Voce


FRANK MAROCCO
LIKE FRANK MAROCCO + DIAMOND CUFFLINKS AND MINK
[Like Frank Marocco] (1) Southern Fried; Frank’s Tune; Tiny’s Blues; It Could Happen To You; Road To Morocco; Lunham Bridges; Fascinating Rhythm; Umbrella Man; Anything Goes; Take The “A” Train; [Diamond Cufflinks And Mink] (2) Night In Morocco; Yours Is My Heart Alone; Happy Samba; Wind And Rain In Her Hair; Body And Soul; Dobre Drums; Southbound Express (74.31)
Marocco (acc) with:
(1) Victor Feldman (vib); Al Hendrickson (elg); Lloyd Lunham (b); Milt Holland (d). Hollywood, 19 January and 23 February 1960.
(2) Gary Foster (as, ts); Dave Koonse (elg); Putter Smith (b); John Tirabasso (d). Hollywood, California, 2 December 1977.
Fresh Sound FSR-CD 940
****
   
Some regard the accordion as a bit of a joke, but I like the harmonically teeming sound, gravelly and rich with overtones – the same appeal as the harmonica, with a similarly folky exoticism. It swings unfailingly everywhere in the 1960 Like Frank Marocco, with a top-notch Californian small group. It’s micro-arranged (no problem in that) with pithy solos. Among the highlights are Tiny’s Blues, a bright boppy theme with some lively trading, and Road To Morocco, a brisk bebop theme. I love the varied use of that cloudy Lydian ending, e.g., on Frank’s Tune, Road To Morocco and Fascinating Rhythm (on which Feldman has a great break). It’s a 50s classic that Donald Fagen copped to close Walk Between The Raindrops. The unvarying timbres and the smooth production can get a little cloying but the musicianship is constantly engaging.

The 1977 set has a lot more jazz – a lot more soloing anyway – notably from former Akiyoshi-Tabackin bebopper Gary Foster. Happy Samba has a taste of the sort of thing Concord was putting out in 1977, Foster in the Brazilian context reminding of Paul Desmond. In the yards of soloing there is more “jazz” than in the 1960 date but in a sense less musical interest. The drums are very jam-session, Tirabasso purveying a cardboard-box drum sound and loose execution. Very much of its time and a musical low point, his Dobre Drums is a shapeless modal meditation that gets nowhere. Happily, quality is restored with the fleet bebop blues closer, Southbound Express.

Jordi Pujol has dug out another gem. Like Frank is a real pleasure and I’d likely never have known the estimable Marocco otherwise, a stone exponent of the bebop and changes vocabulary on a still unusual jazz instrument.
Mark Gilbert


NYSQ
SLEIGHT OF HAND

Soul Eyes; Ask Me Now; In A Sentimental Mood; Sleight Of Hand; I Fall In Love Too Easily; This I Dig Of You; Detour Ahead; Lover Man (57.40)
Tim Armacost (ss, ts); David Berkman (p); Daiki Yasukagawa (b); Gene Jackson (d). Music Inn, Yamanakoko, Japan, 27 July 2015.
Whirlwind 4704
*****
    
This is the sixth release, spread over a 12-year period, from the New York Standards Quartet, whose members enjoy reunions to refresh pieces from the jazz repertoire. Composers represented in their latest choice selections include Mal Waldron, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Hank Mobley and Jule Styne. Obviously, this type of long-term musical association fosters a rapport that increases with time. It is apparent from the opening bars of Soul Eyes through to Lover Man, and stands out in the 6/8 treatment of Monk’s Ask Me Now.

Pianist Berkman shines on the Monk, without resorting to any Monkisms. The pianist is also responsible for the lone new original which lends its title to the CD. Armacost limns a restrained and brief account of In A Sentimental Mood and is similarly poised on Detour Ahead. Great to hear Hank Mobley’s This I Dig Of You swung at full throttle, recapturing the joy that Hank expressed in the tune. Sleight Of Hand is a return to the land of bop with its attractive unison statement between tenor and piano. Lover Man is delivered, unusually, at brisk tempo with no thematic statement. This a happy romp for the quartet (Armacost on soprano), revealing the Ram Ramirez song in a different light and an escape from the dirge that it can become.

A session filled with goodies by an imaginative group that steers clear of cliché and predictable routines. One to savour.
Mark Gardner


ADAM ROGERS
DICE
Dice; Chronics; Sea Miner; The Mystic; The Interlude; Flava; Elephant; Crazy; L The Bruce; Seven (55.52)
Rogers (g, cl, bcl, syn, org; pc; samples, loops); Fima Ephron (b); Nate Smith (d). New York City, 2017.
Adraj 001
****
   
Aching with Fima Ephron’s solid electric bass lines and Nate Smith’s raw, slamming drums, Dice is a disc far flung from any of the music that earned Adam Rogers the reputation as one of most acclaimed guitarists on the New York jazz scene. In fact, on first spin the din of this album (Rogers’ eighth as a leader) owes more sonically to Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies or Clapton’s Cream than say, Wes, Benson or Grant Green. The content’s much more involved though, often sounding like a distillation of Wayne Krantz with perhaps a little Frisell in The Mystic.

Ballsy and bluesy, it’s a disc that encapsulates Rogers’ many scattered styles and influences, and as a sideman to such luminaries as Randy and Michael Brecker, Bill and Gil Evans, Paul Simon, Larry Coryell, Terence Blanchard, Chris Potter and Kenny Barron to list just a few, one that again surrounds him with top-drawer players in Smith and Ephron. Indeed, the heavy clout of the rhythm section throughout complements the guitarist’s robust and raunchy style, laying down thick, irregular grooves under daring, edge-of-your-seat blues riffs.

Away from the wail and screech of tracks like Chronics, Dice or the Dolly Dagger-like Sea Miner, the floaty intro into The Mystic or the seductive reading of Willie Nelson’s Crazy eventually pull to the fore the guitarist’s more fluid, swinging fret work. Then of course it’s time to jump to something more funky or abruptly dart into a metal-heavy odd time signature that features some sweet clarinet playing from Rogers. File under quality fusion.
Mark Youll


GRANT STEWART
ROLL ON
Thinking Of You; Here I’ll Stay; After You’ve Gone; Just As Though You Were Here; Un Poco Loco; End Of A Love Affair; Fats Flats; Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans; Roll On (49.23)
Stewart (ts); Paul Sikivie (b); Phil Stewart (d). Vancouver, Canada, c. 2016.
Cellar Live 10616
*****
    
With his second Cellar Live session in the trio context pioneered by Sonny Rollins in the late 1950s, tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart clearly relishes the freedom and elbow room afforded by the absence of chordal accompaniment. It is a fact that the prime period of Rollins is Grant’s greatest influence, but inspiration from this source has never been obsessive or stultifying. Stewart is very much his own man, operating in the modern mainstream. His lines are mobile and logical and not over-crowded. The legacy from Rollins is mainly tonal and, to a lesser extent, in phrasing.

Stewart flourishes in the beautifully sustained and interactive backdrop provided by his brother, drummer Phil Stewart, a fount of rhythmic energy, and the subtle and supple lines of bassist Paul Sikivie. These three players form a close unit, reading the direction and momentum of performances to perfection. The leader has delved profitably into the byways of bop (Un Poco Loco, Fats Flats), refurbished some old chestnuts (After You’ve Gone, End Of A Love Affair, Do You Know What It Means), held up some graceful, neglected bonbons (Here I’ll Stay, Just As Though You Were Here) and polished up a memorable melody (Thinking Of You). There’s an impressive workout on Elmo Hope’s tricky, twisty tune, Roll On, a challenging piece that rivals Bud Powell’s Un Poco Loco in its convoluted changes.

The tenorman takes all these varied confections in his stride, showing his tender way with ballads and his assured forcefulness at high tempo in, for example, After You’ve Gone. Grant Stewart is in his mature pomp, the creative juices flowing, and in the trio format he projects his style more fruitfully than ever.
Mark Gardner


UNHINGED SEXTET
DON’T BLINK

Don’t Blink; The Swinger And The Saint; Low Talk; None The Wiser; Purple Lilac; Autumn Fall; Folk Tune; Sense Of Semantics (49.47)
Vern Sielert (t); Will Campbell (as); Matt Olson (ts); Michael Kocour (p); John Hamar (b); Dom Moio (d). Arizona, 7 & 8 October 2016.
OA2 22145
****   

This band is made up of six musician/composers from different corners of the United States who have come together to play music in the style they love for this their second CD. They play in the highly durable hard bop style that came to full fruition in the 1960s. The opening track Don’t Blink immediately demonstrates their cohesive unity, the ensembles clear and crisp and very much together. Pianist Kocour plays a free-flowing solo and drummer Moio gets a short workout. The next selection is a medium-tempo swinger with punchy tenor sax and a brassy, blues-based trumpet solo. Here, as before, the rhythm section flows along purposefully with no sign of strain whatsoever. Campbell’s acidic alto makes a nice contrast with the tenor in solo and the pianist once again provides a hard-driving solo segment.

Low Talk is a moody ballad tempo piece, very much in the minor mood and offering emotive solos from the saxes and a tightly muted trumpet contribution. Very atmospheric in the hard bop tradition. Hamar, on bass, takes a solo before the horns return to take it out mournfully. Purple Lilac is a slow and rather sombre ballad with some lyrical flugelhorn and melancholy saxes. Bassist Hamar introduces Sense Of Semantics with a short bass solo and he is there again in the middle and at the end to round it off. Hamar’s Folk Tune is a gentle trip through folksy territory with everybody on good form.

There are few major soloists today with the musical charisma of the giants of the 50s and 60s but the music has survived and grown with groups such as Unhinged so perhaps the next batch of major soloists will emerge from bands like this. I hope so.
Derek Ansell


VARIOUS
THE PASSION OF CHARLIE PARKER
Ornithology (Meet Charlie Parker); Visa (The Epitaph Of Charlie Parker); Yardbird Suite; K.C. Blues (So Long); Bloomdido (Every Little Thing); Moose The Mooche (Los Angeles); My Little Suede Shoes (Live My Love For You); Segment (Fifty Dollars); Scrapple From The Apple (King Of 52nd Street; Salle Pleyel; Au Privave (Apres Vous) (50.32)
Madeleine Peyroux, Barbara Hannigan, Gregory Porter, Kurt Elling, Kandace Springs, Jeffrey Wright, Melody Gardot, Camilie Bertault (v) with unidentified musicians including (ts), (g), (p), (b), (d). New York, 2017.
Impulse!, no number
**
 
Described in a press release as “a musical play full of music informed by bebop, but free of the literal trappings of bebop” (whatever that means), this conflation of Bird’s music with lyrics added by David Baerwald features a number of singers skating on thin ice and sometimes sinking.

The problem in vocalising Parker’s lines is that the maestro set high hurdles which take some clearing. It was conceived as instrumental music, and those attempting its intricacies too frequently sound strained as they tongue-twist towards the relief of an ending. Alas, the instrumental interludes are frequently strident and bear little resemblance to Parker’s creative outpourings, and verge on the tedious. The lyrics are pretty daft, and there’s nobody here in the Eddie Jefferson or Annie Ross class to make the words meaningful.

It is a cheek for the compilers to put their tune titles with the original name in brackets; I have reversed the process above. Even more audacious is to put Bird’s picture on the cover with the title The Passion Of Charlie Parker – a come on if ever there was one. Sure enough the disc is to be found in the Parker slot at HMV! If the project proves anything, it is that Parker’s music is best enjoyed when Bird is playing it. Oh, and why is tenor sax so prominent in the back-up band – why no alto? A dodgy “tribute”, poorly presented, with inadequate information.
Mark Gardner


SPIKE WILNER TRIO
ODALISQUE
The Upasaka; The Odalisque; You; Little Girl Blue; Hopscotch; You’re My Everything; It’s The Talk Of The Town; A Stitch In Time Saves Five; Sweet Georgia Brown (61.00)
Wilner (p); Tyler Mitchell (b); Anthony Pinciotti (d). Vancouver, 4 December 2016.
Cellar Live 120416
*****
    
Spike Wilner is a co-owner of Smalls in New York, the founder of the SmallsLIVE label and an authority on the music of Willie “The Lion” Smith. He’s also a talented pianist whose style draws on Smith and his contemporaries as well as modern influences such as Kenny Barron. Odalisque may do nothing to enhance his status as a club and label entrepreneur, but this richly rewarding album does much to enhance his status as a musician. Wilner, drummer Anthony Pinciotti and bassist Tyler Mitchell sound relaxed and cool, a trio of equals. The music is beautiful.

The musicians bring fresh approaches to American Songbook standards. Walter Donaldson’s You is given a breezy, fast-paced, bop treatment; Wilner plays much of Sweet Georgia Brown in a punchy, staccato, fashion over Mitchell and Pinciotti’s swinging groove; You’re My Everything opens as a melancholy ballad, then kicks into a medium-tempo swing that replaces the melancholy with a more joyous mood – Mitchell’s solo adds warmth and good humour. Wilner’s tunes are impressive and range from the sophisticated A Stitch In Time Saves Five (in 5/4, unsurprisingly) to the playful Hopscotch, the shifting rhythms and rich melodies of The Upasaka to the cheery jauntiness of the title track.

The trio recorded Odalisque at the home of Will and Norah Johnston, in front of a small audience composed presumably of friends of the hosts. The setting lends intimacy, audience appreciation is restrained but warm, sound quality is excellent despite the unusual venue. The result is a stylish, unshowy album, as fine an example of the piano trio as I’ve heard for some time. I’m officially in love with this record.
Bruce Lindsay

 


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