Monday, December 31, 2012

Notable recordings of 2012 - Part 1

The first of several days recapping some of the finer jazz and blues releases that came out recently. Today I focus on recordings I reviewed in the first half of 2012.

New Jazz Recordings

Bass clarinet specialist Jacob Stein had a marvelous Delmark release, The Story This Time. "Stein has put together a fine band for the musical explorations heard on this very absorbing recording." 

Catherine Russell had another album of musical treats with her latest album, Strictly Romancin’ (World Village). It is the vein of her well received Sentimental Streak and Inside This Heart Of Mine, with a similar program of mostly long forgotten blues, ballads, love songs and swing from the twenties to today.

The Planet D Nonet, a group of musicians from the Motor City who perform a range of music issued a terrific double CD, We Travel The Spaceways: The Music Of Sun Ra (East Lawn Records).

The Rick Germanson Quartet had one of several excellent Live at Smalls recordings on the clubs Smalls Live label. Pianist Germanson was joined that night by the trumpet of Dr. Eddie Henderson, the bass of Paul Gill and the drums of Lewis Nash for some sterling hard bop. 

Saxophonist Paul Carr, who produces the annual Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in Maryland each February, had a terrific recording, Standard Definition (PCJ Music), on which he was joined by  Terell Stafford (trumpet), Joey Calderazzo (piano), Mike Bowie (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums). It was selected by Capital Bop as among the best 2012 jazz recordings by DC area artists.

Saxophonist and composer Dan Blake has a new release on BJU (Brooklyn Jazz Underground) Records, The Aquarian Suite, where he leads a piano-less quartet with Jason Palmer on trumpet, Jorge Roeder on bass and Richie Barshay on drums. "The mix of Blake’s stimulating writing with the high level of the performances, both in terms of the intelligent and spirited solos, and high level of the ensemble playing result in this excellent release."

Evan Christopher had a new release in his Clarinet’s Road series, In Sidney’s Footsteps(STR Digital Records). As indicated by the title, the music of Sidney Bechet is inspiration for the music here, although not all the performances are of songs recorded by Bechet. "There is a presence to his clarinet and the performances on this wonderfully recorded album that continues to delight after repeated listening. In Sidney’s Footsteps may be Evan Christopher’s most exceptional recording yet. Given the high level of his prior albums, that is saying something."

Harmonica wizard Gregoire Maret had an eponymously titled debut recording for Entertainment One. Maret’s playing is delightful and captivating. This is music that should have a wide appeal given the wonderful playing as well as the lyricism evident throughout this. Wonderfully recorded, GrĂ©goire Maret’s self-titled debut should bring him well-deserved recognition.

Another release by the SmallsLive label in its Live at Smalls series of recordings was by the trio of tenor saxophonist Ralph Lalama, Bopjuice. This excellent location recording evoked the classic Sonny Rollins Live at the Village Vanguard.

New Blues

About Heritage Blues Orchestra, And Still I Rise (Raisin’ Music) I wrote "The foundation of the Heritage Blues Orchestra are the voices of Junior Mack, Bill Sims, Jr., and Chaney Sims who bring such a range of moods and emotions in the marvelous vocals here. This trio could do a recording without instrumental accompaniment and be as compelling as they are here. And I Shall Rise is an compelling, contemporary exploration of African-American musical roots.

Mark Hummel’s Blues and Lonesome: Tribute to Little Walter (Rockinitus Records) is an excellent compilation from recordings he has made over the years in homage to Little Walter.

Michael Roach and I had an association with the DC Blues Society two decades ago, and I had been following his maturation as a performer over the years after he left his native Washington and moved to England. He has also become important as a blues educator and historian. Innocent Child is his most recording on his Stella Records label. The varied repertoire here is matched by Michael’s natural, heartfelt vocals and adroit and thoughtful guitar. The result is the marvelous music on Innocent Child

Fifty years after Big Bill Broonzy’s passing, Billy Boy Arnold recorded a tribute album, Sings Big Bill Broonzy on Electro-Fi.  "This recording was heralded in Bob Riesman’s Broonzy biography, and its release has met the expectations for it. Today, one might find it hard to appreciate how significant Big Bill was in the history of the blues. Along with Riesman’s book, this tribute recording addresses that in a fine and spirited manner."

Guy Davis issued a memorialization of his one-man show, The Adventures of Fishy Waters: In Bed With the Blues, on his Smokeydoke Records with assistance from Bob Porter which enables those who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Davis perform this show to enjoy it. The music and stories are about 91 minutes and therefore spread over two CDs.

Quintus McCormick, Delmark release Still Called The Blues. Delmark's Steve Wagner recalled his reaction when he first heard Quintus McCormick when recording his 1st Delmark album, Hey Jodie. “Wow this cat could be the next Johnnie Taylor!” I might suggest a bit of Tyrone Davis and Artie ‘Blues Boy’ White as well after hearing McCormick’s new Delmark release Still Called The Blues. This will appeal to a very wide grouping of blues lovers and is proof that Quintus McCormick is among today’s finest blues and soul performers.

Nathan James had an excellent Delta Groove CD, What You Make Of It, with his touring band, The Rhythm Scratchers. " I was not familiar with Nathan James’ music prior toWhat You Make Of It, but I was impressed to already acquire one of his prior recordings. There is some seriously good, original blues by Nathan James and The Rhythm Scratchers here."

Reissues or Newly issued Vintage Jazz and Blues Recordings

Dr. Robert E. Sunnenblick produced for his Uptown label a Dexter Gordon live album, Night Ballads Montreal 1977. Gordon was with his band of Eddie Gladden on drums, Rufus Reid on bass and George Cables on piano. This CD has over 70 minutes of ballads which might  be a bit much for some in one sitting. Still the terrific music makes this a highly recommended addition to the body of Long Tall Dexter's recordings. 

Reissue Universal released on its Hip-O-Select label, the four-CD Heart & Soul: A Retrospective, that in its four CDs surveys Etta James recordings from her debut as The Wallflower doingRoll With Me Henry, for Modern Records to the previously unissued 2007 recording of Rodney Crowell’s Ashes By Now. This was issued prior to her passing.

Tom Hoskins recorded and interviewed Hurt at the time of his location of Mississippi John Hurt on March 3, 1963. These recordings, the first since Hurt recorded in the 1920s, were issued on a fascinating new release on Spring Fed Records, Discovery: The Rebirth of Mississippi John Hurt. Wonderfully remastered, the CD has 19 tracks including a previously unissued and lengthy interview where Hurt and his wife talks about his early life and recordings, and life after those recordings.

Barbecue Any Old Time: Blues From The Pit 1927-1942 (Old Hat Records) is a relatively recent compilation of vintage jazz and blues recordings that celebrate barbecue, the distinctly southern American form of cuisine, usually slow--cooked over a pit. "This mix of lively downhome blues and rollicking early jazz and vocal harmony recordings is a definite musical feast well digesting like the delicious culinary tradition the songs salute. WIth the excellent annotation and engineering of the source material, this is an excellent collection."

Ruf Records issued a double CD set by Omar and the Howlers, Essential Collection. This is a career and label spanning compilation that covers the two or so decades of the recording career of Omar Dykes. I noted that nothing on this was less than first-rate.

Among the better reissues celebrating 40 years of CTI was the CTI Masterworks release of Stanley Turrentine’s Don’t Mess With Mister T. The addition of bonus tracks make this even stronger a reissue than a simple reissue of the original album would have been.

An excellent compilation of modern West Coast Uptown Blues is the English Ace collection of Al King and Arthur K Adams, Together: The Complete Kent and Modern Recordings. I wrote that this "is an important reissue of two powerful, if neglected blues artists (although thankfully Adams is still with us and continuing to make strong, original music)."

It is odd to hear Herman ‘Little Junior’ Parker referred to as a fairly obscure figure in the history of African-American music as Dave Penny does in the liner notes of the excellent two-disc, Fantastic Voyage public-domain reissue, Ride With Me, Baby: The Singles 1952-1961.  This is a very welcome, overdue, and highly recommended, reissue of Parker’s singles from the first decade of his recording career. 

No comments: