Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Notable Jazz and Blues of 2012 - Part 2

This is the second blog recapping some of the finer jazz and blues releases that came out recently. Today I focus on recordings I reviewed in the second half of 2012.

New Jazz Recordings

Our Thing (Motéma Music) is the first time studio collaboration between Israeli-born guitarist/composer Roni Ben-Hur and Panamanian-born bassist/composer Santi Debraino. The musical delights of this trio is captured in a beautifully engineered recording which is also one of the better jazz guitar recordings this listener has heard recently.

Cassandra Wilson's, Another Country (eOne Music), is a collaboration with the Italian guitarist and producer, Fabrizio Sotti. From the opening moments of Red Guitar, to the closingOlumutoro, Wilson's sultry and intimate vocals benefits from the backing.

Brazilian born drummer Duduka Da Fonseca bridged the world of samba and jazz on Samba Jazz - Jazz Samba (Anzic Records). With a band of well-regarded players (and bandleaders): Anat Cohen - clarinet and tenor saxophone; Helio Alves - piano; Guilherme Monteiro - guitar; and Leonardo Cioglia on bass, he produced an appealing album with strong ensemble playing on a varied set of compositions. 

Ernest Dawkins Afro-Straight (Delmark) is a terrific recording of straight-ahead jazz from an ensemble led by Dawkins, who is most associated with free jazz, as they tackle tunes from Coltrane, Shorter, Gillespie as well as an original blues from the leader. This is an excellent recording that easily refutes the stereotype that free jazz players can’t play straight-ahead.

Cornetist Josh Berman & His Gang, 
There Now (Delmark) is an imaginative free-bop release that includes very original interpretations of songs associated with the Chicago Jazz of the thirties. I found it a most imaginative and fascinating recording, full of surprises and passion.

Five members of Brooklyn Jazz Underground, a cooperative association of jazz artists from Brooklyn, NY, collaborated on a new recording A Portrait of Brooklyn on the association’s sister company, Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records. It is an excellent collection of first-rate original compositions and terrific playing.

New Blues Recordings

Vicksburg Blues (Red House Records) is the first collaboration between pianist and clarinetist Butch Thompson and singer-guitarist Pat Donohue and mostly explores classic blues in the vein of Leroy Carr, Tampa Red and Big Bill. "This is simply the finest album of blues piano and guitar duets in a number of years and certainly one of the finest new blues albums I have heard in 2012."

Johnnie Bassett had a new release on Sly Dog Records, I Can Make That Happen. This was another well produced and enjoyable recording. He died not long after this was released but was still making it happen with his soulful and sophisticated blues.

There are several songs on Linsey Alexander's Delmark debut Been There Done Thatthat if were recorded thirty years ago would be viewed as blues classics. This was one of the finer blues albums I heard in 2012. 

Michael Burks, Show of Strength (Alligator). What turned out to be a posthumous release was a stunning display of his fiery fretwork and soulful singing performing some fine material. 

Omar and the Howlers, Too Much Is Not Enough (Big Guitar). There is the second album of JimmY Reed's music Omar Dykes has put together and this includes the alte harmonica master Gary Primich about others. 
These are wonderfully paced performances and many ‘blues players’ would do well to see how one can take familiar material and make it sound fresh and vital

The Lioness of the Blues, Sista Monica, most recent recording on her Mo Muscle Records label is Living In The Danger Zone. A singer that combines the power of an Etta James with the nuanced delivery of Ruth brown, Sista Monica has produced another strong release.

Willie Buck with The Rockin’ Johnny Band had a new album on Delmark, Cell Phone Man. Evoking Muddy Waters, His vocals exhibit some of the same expressive qualities and with the strong backing here (which at times suggests some of the outstanding Delmark albums of the late sixties and seventies) Buck produced an outstanding recording of real-deal Chicago blues.

Fourteen Stories is the self-released recording by the Red Lotus Revue, a band rooted in fifties’ Chicago blues. They produced a strong collection of Chicago styled blues.

Vintage Jazz and Blues Recordings

Magic Sam, Live 1969 - Raw Blues (Rock Beat label). Exceptional previously unissued club recordings by legendary Magic Sam backed by Bruce Barlow (later with Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen) on bass and Sam Lay on drums. Soul may not be quite hi-fi, but the performances are searing.

Don Sebesky’s Giant Box was part of the CTI Masterworks reissues of classic CTI albums marking the label’s 40th Anniversary. The performances onGiant Box display how his ambitious synthesis of classical, jazz and popular music was realized. His orchestrations frame the featured players here and enhance the solos that exhibit the skill and imagination of some of the greatest jazz musicians of four decades ago.

Celebrating a half century of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a new box set on Columbia/Legacy, The 50th Anniversary Collection. It spans there recordings and includes some previously unreleased material. This is a joy and soulfulness of all of the performances here on this celebration of 50 years of what is truly a cornerstone of American culture, not simply music.

Labor Records issued a new Louisiana Red CD, When My Mama Was Living, bringing together 16 tracks comprised of one track on CD for first time and the rest previously unissued selections or unissued alternate takes. This new release of unissued songs and alternate takes is welcome as. Louisiana Red was in quite fine form during this period.

Grant Green, The Holy Barbarian/ St. Louis 1959 (Uptown Records). This is first release of live recording of nearly 70 minutes of what was a strong performance of blues and hard-bop organ jazz in St. Louis at a short-lived pioneering venue.  Beautifully packaged this is as exciting release as Resonance Records recent Wes Montgomery CD.

Louis Armstrong & the Allstars, Satchmo at Symphony Hall - 65th Anniversary: The Complete Recordings (Hip-O-Select). A double CD reissue that includes previously unissued music that is one of the classic traditional jazz recordings and one of the most legendary performances of Armstrong’s career which thankfully is finally available in a complete issue.

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