Saturday, May 30, 2020

Take 5 With Elvin Jones

I still remember seeing Elvin Jones at the Tralfamdore Cafe in Buffalo. It was an amazing weekend of music. The only member of the band I remember was guitarist Ryo Kawasaki. It was great to watch Elvin behind the drums with the energy and joy he displayed while playing.

Today we sample a few of the recordings he played on starting with one with the classic John Coltrane Quartet. Here is "Chasin' The Trane" that for parts is a duet.


Here is Elvin with saxophonist Joe Farrell and bassist Jimmy garrison from 1968 performing "Ginger Bread Boy."


One of Elvin's first recordings was with Sonny Rollins at the Village Vanguard. When Sonny signed with Impulse Records, Elvin and Jimmy Garrison were on some of the sessions including "East Broadway Run Down."


Elvin made a few recordings with his brothers Thad and Hank. here they perform "Three and One."


Our final selection is with Pat LaBarbera on sax, David Williams on bass and Ryo Kawasaki on guitar, playing "Three Card Molly" a few years after I saw Elvin in Buffalo.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Blind Lemon Pledge Goin' Home

Blind Lemon Pledge
Goin' Home
OFEH Records

Blind Lemon Pledge is the roots and blues name for James Byfield. Recently, I reviewed a recording by him as Blind Lemon Jazz that consisted of mostly originals he wrote evoking the Great American Songbook. However, he left the vocals on that release to another singer. This present album features his guitar and vocals with bassist Peter Grenell. The two tackle a variety of well-known blues songs with a few more recent blues-based folk songs.

The performances have the feel of a house concert with the simple instrumentation. Byfield is an affable, if not outstanding, singer and a vigorous guitarist. He interprets a broad range of material, including a straight-forward cover of Muddy Waters' "I Feel like Going Home," with him playing slide on a resonator guitar. A stripped-down interpretation of Little Willie John's "Fever" is followed by a heartfelt, pleading rendition of Walter Davis' "Come Back Baby," with a nicely constructed guitar solo. I was not familiar with J.J. Cale's "Crazy Mama." Byfield's whispering vocal and slide playing make this among this album's high points. Byfield's "Sugar Rush" is an amusing bawdy blues with some impressive 12-string guitar. An unplugged duo version of Fenton Robinson's "Somebody Loan Me a Dime" is followed by a spirited rendition of "Big Road Blues." Also noteworthy is an imaginative interpretation of Lonnie Johnson's "Too Late to Cry." A remake of Hot Tuna's "I Know You Rider" has a country-folk feel.

While I would be hard-pressed to find this to be an essential recording, "Goin' Home" has many charms that will appeal to folk-blues and Americana enthusiasts.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here he performs "Come Back Baby."

 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Avishai Cohen Big Vicious

Avishai Cohen
Big Vicious
ECM

Speaking of his new album "Big Vicious," Israeli trumpeter Avishai Cohen states that the recording reaches far beyond jazz. "We're all coming from jazz, but some of us left it earlier. Everyone's bringing in their backgrounds, and that becomes part of the sound of the band." Textures from electronica, ambient music and psychedelia are part of the musical blend, as are grooves and beats from rock, pop, trip-hop and more.

The album title also reflects the name of the group heard on this. Joining Cohen, who plays trumpet and synthesizer, and provides effects, are guitarist Uzi Ramirez, guitarist/bassist Jonathan Albalak, drummer Aviv Cohen, and drummer Ziv Ravitz. About this group, Ravitz observed that "In the combination of everything, this is a magical group. It's very special because you would expect it to explode, with total drama. But the music is deep, and very melodic."

There is a mix of repeated grooves and Cohen's inquisitive lyrical trumpet. Guitarist Ramirez (who I assume he takes most of the solos) has his own melodic qualities. "Hidden Chamber" is a fascinating number that also includes Ravitz's sampling of some speeches at the close. "King Kutner" has an album rock groove with the mix of searing guitar lines as well as effects, and Cohen's soaring trumpet quite engaging. Then there is a haunting interpretation of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," with Cohen's melancholy trumpet over the trebly guitar backing. "Fractals" has an intriguing mix of a synthesizer with various effects, including the use of echo that lends an ethereal quality to Cohen's trumpet. The textures the ensemble creates adds to the mesmerizing quality here. The variety of moods is further displayed by the alluring guitar interplay on "The Things You Tell Me," with Cohen adding atmospheric trumpet midway.

The sound of this recording is superb, as one expects with ECM. The music on "Big Vicious" has grown on this listener with repeated listening with Cohen's evocative trumpet, and the mesmerizing background provided that results in some stunning music.

I received a download to review from a publicist. Here is "Teardrop" from Big Vicious.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Bob Ferrel's Jazztopian Dream

Bob Ferrel
Bob Ferrel's Jazztopian Dream
BFM Productions

One gets overwhelmed at times with releases, that some get lost. Trombonist Bob Ferrel's album from 2017 is one that I recently discovered rummaging around. Ferrel is a four-decade veteran of the Duke Ellington Orchestra and also spent twenty years touring with Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes. It was about time he recorded as a leader. He has assembled a strong studio band with the likes of trumpeters Vinnie Cutro, and Rob Henke, saxophonists Joe Ford, Frank Elmo, and Roy Nicolosi, pianist Sharp Radway, bassist Daryl Johns, drummer Steve Johns, and percussionist Frank Valdes. Several songs feature vocalist Dwight West

The music on this album ranges from a larger jazz combo to a big little band. It showcases Ferrel as a masterful vigorous trombonist whose sense of dynamics ranges from deep growls to cottony melodic caresses. He solos on all ten selections. With the handsomely provided arrangements, the music is generally in a swinging post-bop idiom. His ability to caress a melody is evident on the opening "My Secret Love." "Yardbird Suite" is one of the four vocals by West, who impresses with the clarity and warmth of his singing. Former McCoy Tyner alto saxophonist Ford places his stamp on this performance with his solo. Most folks associate 'Don't Go To Strangers" with the late Etta Jones, but West's vocal with a brisker tempo leads to a fresh take on this. West also sings on a riveting interpretation of Pharaoh Sanders' "You've Got To Have Freedom." This is another selection with a Joe Ford solo, with other solos from the leader and trumpeter Vinnie Cutro.

Slightly different personnel are present for the Latin Jazz of "We Began With A Kiss," with Hector Davila on piano and Ruben Rodriguez on the Zorko baby bass. Ferrel's only original, "Soul Bop," opens with some growling multi-phonics and some of the most open playing on this. The Jazztopian dream closes with a rollicking "Everyday I Have the Blues." In this performance, they sound like a mini-Basie band. West incorporates a bit of Louis Jordan's lyrics from "Let the Good Times Roll" in a top-flight vocal. Radway is fabulous on this, while Ferrel growls a blues-drenched trombone solo. Hopefully, others besides me, will also no longer overlook this gem of a recording.

I likely received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a promotional video for this recording.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Joe Louis Walker Viva Las Vegas Live

Joe Louis Walker
Viva Las Vegas Live
Cleopatra Blues

"Viva Las Vegas Live" is, I believe, the 26th album from Joe Louis Walker, and the 4th live album, in his Hall of Fame recording career that goes back to 1986. Of the blues artists who emerged from the 1970s on, I would be hard-pressed to find one who has produced such a substantial body of music as well as continues to play such a diverse repertoire. Besides his superb, imaginative guitar playing, he is one of today's blues most powerful, moving singers.

"Viva Las Vegas Live" is available as a CD/DVD package, with the same music on both. It was recorded and filmed at The Railhead at the Boulder Station Hotel and Casino on August 2, 2018. In addition to Walker's guitar and vocals, Bruce Bears is on keyboards, Lenny Bradford on bass, and Dorian Randolph on drums.

The songs here span over two decades of Walker's career opening with the hot rocking "I'm Not Messin' Around" and include the driving blues-rock of "Do You Love Me." One risk of live recordings is that some performances are better experienced live. On disc, the same performance sounds over-extended. "Sugar Mama" has strong vocals and guitar, Bears is first-rate, and Walker even plays some harmonica, but at 16 minutes it goes on a bit too long for these ears. While lengthy, it is not a poor performance.

One can appreciate that Walker maintains such a broad and deep repertoire. "In the Morning" was the title track of his 2002 Telarc album, while "Soldier For Jesus" harkens back to his gospel roots. A rollicking rendition of "Too Drunk To Drive Drunk" has some Chuck Berry styled guitar along with Bears' barrelhouse piano. A rocking "Like It That Way," with some intense guitar has him tell his women to give Walker all her love, that's all he needs. All the band members solo on this selection.

The DVD is pretty straight-forward in presenting these performances with crisp camera work that focuses on Walker and his band. There may be a few flaws here, but that does change the fact that this album is an accomplished live recording.

I purchased this. Here is the official trailer for this release.


Monday, May 25, 2020

The THEK Jazz Quintet Plays the Music of Sam Jones

The THEK Jazz Quintet
Plays the Music of Sam Jones
TNEK Jazz LLC

Bassist Kent Miller leads a quintet drawn primarily from the Mid-Atlantic on a musical exploration of the music bassist-composer Sam Jones. The other members of the quintet are pianist Darius Scott, drummer Greg Holloway, saxophonist Benny Russell, and saxophonist Antonio Parker. Jones wrote six and the great Kenny Barron one, of the compositions on this album.

Several of the numbers will be familiar to many from the great Cannonball Adderly groups that Sam Jones was a member of. The disc opens with a driving rendition of "Unit 7," that producer Ron Kearns observes was Adderly's unofficial theme song. Kent anchors a terrific rhythm section while Parker (on alto sax) and Russell (on tenor and soprano sax) are strong blues-rooted soloists. This and other performances evoke those great Adderly bands. Drummer Holloway kicks off "Bittersuite" trading fours with Scott, before the horns and Miller dive in. There is plenty of swagger in Russell's brawny solo on this. Miller establishes the groove with his energetic bass riff on "Some More of Dat," and Miller' displays his considerable technique as thoughtful playing on his solo. Then there is a lovely ballad, "Lillie," that showcases Parker's ballad style. "i" is another steamy performance that may be familiar from Adderly's recordings and performances.

Kenny Barron's "Tragic Magic" closes this recording with Russell standing out on tenor sax. Kent Miller picked some worthy tunes and led an excellent band on an exceptional hard bop recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a performance by The Kent Miller Quartet with everyone on this CD but Antonio Parker.



 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Take 5 With Smiley Lewis

One of my favorite blue shouters was Smiley Lewis. The New Orleans singer and guitarist had many superb recordings, but alas some of his records became better known when reworked by others. Here are five recordings by him.

First up is "Tee-Nah-Nah," a version of the "Junker's Blues." I think it is Tuts Washington on piano.


As I mentioned, some of his recordings became hits for others. One example was "Blue Monday" which was a smash for Fats Domino.


Smiley Lewis could jump the blues as strongly as anyone as can be heard on this hot "Can't Stop Loving You."



Another gem that many probably know more from Dave Edmunds recording.


We close with another recording that could only have been recorded in New Orleans.


I do believe I will have to do another Smiley Lewis playlist sometime down the road.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Jose Ramirez Here I Come

Jose Ramirez
Here I Come
Self-Produced

Originally from Costa Rica, singer-guitarist-songwriter Jose Ramirez has been making a name for himself in the Blues World. Residing in the Washington, DC area recently, he won the 2019 DC Blues Society's Battle of the Bands. Representing the DC Blues Society, he competed in the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge, where he finished second overall, an impressive achievement. Ramirez was poised to start touring in support of his debut album "Here I Come," when the Covid-19 pandemic put a wrench in his plans. He has relocated to Florida to ride the pandemic out, and eventually resume his performing career.

The pandemic may have suspended his live performances, but thankfully not prevented the release of this new recording. Ramirez teamed up with Anson Funderburgh, who produced this disc that was recorded in Austin, Texas. Funderburgh guests on two of the 11 songs. Others playing on this recording are Jim Pugh on piano and organ, drummer Wes Starr, bassist Nate Rowe, and the legendary Texas Horns.

Ramirez wrote nine of the eleven songs, and he impresses immediately with the opening title track, a relaxed walking tempo shuffle as he sings about some of his influences and inspirations as he pushes on to reach his musical goals and keep the blues alive. It is refreshing to hear such a gifted singer and guitarist rooted in straight-ahead blues. Listening to his vocals, one would not guess that English is not his first language, but even more impressive is his phrasing and vocal dynamics. One might suggest a cross between Floyd Dixon and Fenton Robinson as a rough analogy. His guitar playing is also old-school, with touches of T-Bone Walker as well as B.B. King.

Ramirez can croon in his interpretation of a lesser-known T-Bone Walker recording, "I Miss You Baby," or get down and funky on "Gasoline and Matches," where he shares guitar duties with Funderburgh. There is a burly baritone sax solo on the last number that I presume is from Kaz Kazanoff. This latter number also displays his songwriting craftsmanship. "One Woman Man," where Ramirez sings that he is not looking for love and is not a one-woman man. It features a searing guitar solo and an inspired piano solo by Pugh to close this performance. From straight blue shuffles, Ramirez also delivers a bit of solid soul with "The Way You Make Me Feel," a track that evokes Tyrone Davis. Again Pugh stands out with his comping behind an excellent vocal. Often Robert Johnson covers are forgettable, but Ramirez places his stamp on this number by transforming "Traveling Riverside Blues" with a reggae groove. Pugh's organ and the crack rhythm section lay the foundation for his piercing guitar.

"Here I Come" is not merely an impressive debut of a promising artist. Anson Funderburgh's top-flight production and a fabulous studio band provide the foundation for Jose Ramirez to showcase his gifted songwriting along with his terrific vocals and guitar playing. It is a superb recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Jose Ramirez performing "Here I Come."


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Mary Jo Curry Band Front Porch

Mary Jo Curry Band
Front Porch
Self-Produced

Out of Illinois, the Mary Curry Band makes a strong musical statement with its new album. A classically trained singer, pianist, and actor was struck by this band she heard in a small club. It was there she met the guitarist, and her future husband, Michael Rapier. Five years after playing together, they met Chris Rogers on bass and Rick Snow on drums to form the core of the band. Not only did they become a tight band, but they also became gifted songwriters and produced this new recording. Brett Donovan or Ezra Casey on keyboards, and Brian Moore on saxophone round out the touring and recording band. On this recording, they are joined by special guests Albert Castiglia, Tom Holland, and Andrew Duncanson. Nine of the eleven songs are band-written originals.

With a funky bass riff, the album kicks off with "Nothin' Is Easy," as Curry sings about bad times being here and she standing at the crossroads but life ain't unfair. Castiglia takes a short solo while Brett Donovan on the Hammond and saxophonist Moore stand out. It is followed by a party song where Curry says she wants to turn up, get down and "Turn It Loose." She quickly displays an authority in her singing with nuanced vocal dynamics, clear diction, and the relaxed feel of her phrasing. All this while the band helps build the excitement in her vocals with their backing. Tom Holland adds scintillating guitar on as she lambastes her lover on "All Your Lies." The band is superb with Rogers and Snow putting together a tight shuffle groove.

She impressively handles the complexity of a relationship in "The Man," as well as duets with Duncanson on "Lookin'," which set against an insistent driving groove. The urgency of her vocals on these two songs contrast with the wistful quality on the ballad "House Is Lonely." It says so much about how good a singer she is that she is equally convincing in both settings. Andrew Terrell Thomas wrote "Explaining the Blues," where she pulls out all the emotional and vocal stops singing about while she left one man for another. Casey's organ solo adds to the drama of her outstanding performance.

"Shake and Bake" is an instrumental feature that showcases Tom Holland's fleet Chicago blues fretwork and saxophonist Moore, set against the crisp rhythm section. Castiglia is back for a spirited cover of Edgar Winter's "We Had a Real Good Time," and the brooding title track about waiting and making her plans for her man who has been keeping strange company and doing Mary Jo wrong. There is a second line-gospel-funk feel to "Joyful," that closes this impressive, outstanding recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is Mary Jo Curry in performance.

 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Diane Schuur Running on Faith

Diane Schuur
Running on Faith
Jazzheads

Grammy-Award winning vocalist and Diane Schuur has her first album in six years. She co-produced this recording with saxophonist Ernie Watts. Besides Schurr and Watts, the backing band includes Key Palmer on trumpet and flugelhorn, Thom Rotella on guitar, Bruce Lett on bass and Kendall Kay on drums. In her album notes, Schuur observes that she elected the tunes, which "offered the opportunity to reflect on this place in time, my place in time." And the songs selected include some of her musical heroes from "Miles Davis to Carole King to Paul Simon to Percy Mayfield."

There is a sophisticated, understated approach to two Percy Mayfield songs that open this album, "Walking on a Tightrope" and "The Danger Zone." Guitarist Rotella provides an organ-like accompaniment on the former number while Palmer lays down a middle-range trumpet solo. On the latter song, Rotella lays down a stinging guitar solo, followed by Watts' robust tenor sax. There is charm into Schuur's mix of spoken and sung vocals. However, her performances don't reach the level of those by Mayfield or the late Johnny Adams, arguably the greatest Mayfield interpreter. Schuur's horn-like phrasing provides authority to her rendition of Miles Davis' "All Blues," which includes a stunning trumpet solo by Palmer.

There are deft interpretations of Paul Simon's "Something So Right" and the Beatles' ''Let It Be." Both receive light, sympathetic backing. With Watts' rousing tenor sax opening and some boisterous piano, Schuur sings with spirit on Paul Thorn's "Everybody Looks Good at the Starting Line." Her vocal brings to the fore the lyrics of the Doc Pomus-Kenny Hirsch song "There Is Always One More Time." Then she pays tribute to Jaco Pastorious with her horn-like scatting on Pee Wee Ellis' "Chicken." This tune also showcases Palmer's fiery trumpet, Watts gutbucket tenor sax, and drummer Kay.

The closing performance is the traditional spiritual, 'Swing Low, Swing Chariot," where Schuur is accompanied solely by her piano. "Running on Faith" may not overpower a listener as much as entice one with its intimate, charming performances.

I received my review copy from a publicist. here is a performance of Diane singing "Everyday I Have the Blues."

 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Crystal Shawanda Church House Blues

Crystal Shawanda
Church House Blues
True North Records

Crystal Shawanda is an indigenous musician who grew up on the Wikwemikong reserve on an island in Ontario, Canada. She grew up in a home filled with the blues, her brother's favorite music, while her parents encouraged her to play country songs. She moved to Nashville where she had some commercial success as a country act and had a top 20 hit on the country charts. However, her heart was in the blues. "The whole time I was singing Patsy Cline on stage, I was singing Etta James at home." After she left the major label, she formed her own record label to focus on the blues.

This is her fourth blues-oriented album. Among those backing her include Dave Roe on bass (Johnny Cash, Yola, Ceelo Green), the McCrary Sisters on backing vocals, Dana Robbins (Delbert McClinton's band) on sax, and Peter Keys (Lynyrd Skynyrd) on keyboards. This is not a traditional blues album in the sense that there are plenty of soul and rock flourishes in the music. This is heard when she belts out her vocals in the manner of blues-influenced rock of a Bonnie Bramlett and Tracy Nelson.

As she sings on the title track that opens this album, she went to the church house to get her Sunday morning right where she found them dancing like the roadhouse he played the last night. She immediately strikes one with the power of her gritty, rasping singing as she draws parallels between the church and the roadhouse. Her husband, Dewayne Strobel, plays a searing solo while Robbins adds raunchy sax fills. The band is stellar, and their backing complements her intense, brooding vocal on "Evil Memory," with more hot guitar. The power of this performance sticks with the listener after it is over.

Another choice tune is "When It Comes To Love." Here, she sings with tenderness about needing to hold on for love and doing what one has to do. "Hey Love" sounds like an updated song from the 1950s with nifty playing accompanying her. Then there is "Blame It On the Sugar" as she employs various sweet confections to display her attraction to a lover with its get down on the dance floor groove. Then there is a bluesy power ballad, "Bigger Than the Blues," about one working hard to find a smile. Performances like this one remind me of Allannah Myles of "Black Velvet" fame. The album closes with an intense, riveting cover of the Tragically Hips' song about Hurricane Katrina, "New Orleans Is Sinking."

It does not matter whether this is blues, blues-rock, or hard rock recording. Crystal Shawanda is a commanding singer who can go from a whisper to a shout and back. The excellent studio band helps raise or lower the musical temperature as appropriate. The result is this stunning recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. here is "Church Street Blues" from this recording.

 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Dayna Stephens Trio Liberty

Dayna Stephens Trio
Liberty
Contagious Music

About tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens' previous album "Gratitude," I wrote that, "While not a perfect analogy, … Stephens reminds me of the great Ben Webster in his attention to his tone and every note he plays seems thoughtfully considered … ." That recording was recorded after his recovery from a rare kidney disease. Now free from the illness, he is heard in first trio recording backed by bassist Ben Street and drummer Eric Harland.

In his album notes, Stephens states, "Liberty is a broad term that can refer to many situations, and for this recording, it takes on a few meanings. Playing trio as a saxophonist without any chordal harmonic support can be exposing yet very liberating. … Capturing it at Rudy Van Gelder's studio … just makes this project that much more special." He also observes that "One important common definition of Liberty says: 'The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views.' It's tough not to be aware of current events taking or losing shape within our species."

Concerning the music on this album, there is both freedom and discipline manifested throughout. This starts with the tune "Ran," which was written for a dear friend, Randi Norman. Stephens displays his full tone as well as melodic sensibility with Street and Harland providing support and their own touches. Stephens calls "Faith Leap," a reimagined 'Giant Steps,' taken at a much slower tempo and rhythm. At the same time, "Kwooked Stweet" is a contrafact of another Coltrane tune, "Straight Street." He provides a relaxed attack on this latter number while again exhibiting his robust style and keen musical sense in developing his solo. On "The Lost and Found," Stephens plays baritone with controlled robustness. The trio plays with a spirited playfulness on "Loosy Goosy," There is an African flavor to "Tarifa," which is named after a place on the southern tip of Spain closest to Africa. Street spins a mesmerizing motif with Harland's percussion laying a foundation for Stephens, who plays multiple saxophones here. then there is the graceful beauty of his interpretation of Aaron Parks "Planting Flowers."

Stephens has again displayed those qualities that have had him recognized as one of today's most significant saxophonists. With the complimentary support from Street and Harland, The Dayna Stephens Trio has produced an exceptional saxophone trio album to place with similar records from Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, J.D. Allen, and others.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here the Dayna Stephens Trio performs "Loosy Goosy."

 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Take 5 with John Primer

For this week, we have a short playlist of Chicago bluesman John Primer. A veteran of the bands of blues legends Muddy Waters and Magic Slim, John Primer is one of today's greatest performers of traditional Chicago blues in the manner of Muddy Waters and others. A superb singer and guitarist, we open with John and Billy Branch doing a Muddy Waters number, "Sugar Sweet."


Here he is heard performing another Muddy Waters song, "40 Days and 40 Nights."


John is among the more gifted Elmore James interpreters. Here he performs "I Held My Baby Last Night."


Here he channels Muddy Waters for "They Call Me John Primer."


To close this, we go back to when John was part of Magic Slim's band, singing "Pretty Women" before Slim took over the show.


Friday, May 15, 2020

Naama Gheber Dearly Beloved

Naama Gheber
Dearly Beloved
Cellar Music Records

Israeli-born singer Naama Gheber makes her debut on a program taken from the American Songbook. The trio of Ray Gallon on piano, David Wong on bass, and Adam Kimmel on drums, back her. This trio accompanied her at a year-long residency at New York's Mezzrow Jazz Club. Vibraphonist Steve Nelson guests on five selections. Gheber fell in love with the American Songbook while studying at Tel Aviv's Center For Jazz Studies. "I immediately felt at home with standards and worked on finding my own voice within them." For this recording, she choose songs with deep personal significance. "Recording songs that I feel strongly connected to was a way to bring myself to the album."

With her perfect pitch, musical and swinging phrasing, and delivery of lyrics, Gheber's singing will charm listeners. Her lovely singing is full of warmth and wonderfully backed throughout. Opening with the Kern & Mercer composed title song, she displays a lyricism and romantic tone that is complemented by Nelson's shimmering vibes and the swing of the rhythm section as she easily negotiates the changes meter. The mix of understatement with the longing she expresses makes her rendition of "So In Love" some engrossing. Bassist Wong is an anchor here while Kimmel adeptly adds rhythmic coloring. Wong's bass sets the tempo behind her horn-like phrasing on a brief, brisk "'S Wonderful." Pianist Gallon dazzles while Kimmel takes a drum solo.

This writer is a sucker for interpretations of Buddy Johnson's classic ballad, "Since I Feel For You." Gheber's performance is outstanding as she brings out every nuance of the lyrics. Then there is a bouncy I Can't Give You Anything But Love," with Nelson taking a sparkling solo before trading fours with Kimmel. Nelson's playing adds to the dreaming opening of "You Stepped Out of a Dream." There is also the sober, melancholy of "Get Out of Town," and the coquettish playfulness of "i." On the latter tune, she interpolates, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Gallon, besides helping on Gheber's arrangement, plays a stunning solo.

The album closes with a mix of "Good Night My Love" with an Israeli lullaby, "Layla Tov," with Nelson elegant vibes adding color under her choice vocal. It provides a coda to a splendid debut of a jazz singer we will undoubtedly hear more of in the future.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here Naama performs "Dearly Beloved."




Thursday, May 14, 2020

Victor Wainwright and the Train Memphis Loud

Victor Wainwright and the Train
Memphis Loud
Ruf Records

Victor Wainwright has become one of the most prominent individuals on the blues and American roots music scene. He has been a regular Blues Music Award nominee and winner. This new release certainly will not disappoint his many fans. Joining Wainwright (vocals, piano, Hammond B3, electric piano) in the studio are The Train: Billy Dean (drums, percussion, vocals), Terrence Grayson (bass, vocals), Pat Harrington (guitar, vocals), Mark Earley (baritone sax, tenor sax & clarinet), Doug Woolverton (trumpet & flugelhorn) and Dave Gross (guitar, vocals, percussion). There are special guests present as well, including former train member Greg Gumpel (guitar/vocals), Reba Russell & Gracie Curran (vocals), Monster Mike Welch (guitar). Wainwright and Dave Gross produced this, and Wainwright wrote or co-wrote all 12 songs.

Musically, "Memphis Loud" is blues-based roots as opposed to straight blues. That is a simplistic description as the music here is terrific. Perhaps think of Leon Russell as opposed to Sunnyland Slim. Anyway, his two-fisted piano is wholly on display here while guitarist Pat Harrington and saxophonist Mark Earley wail on "Walk that Walk." Even more impressive than Wainwright's piano is his compelling singing, such as on the train blues that provides the album its title. There is some plenty of spellbinding, blistering boogie-woogie piano as he sings about a train heading to Memphis and coming through one's town. What also shines is the tempo shifts and the arrangement. "Sing" is another stunning track with its dreamy, circus parade tempo, and an arrangement employing the interweaving of Wooverton's muted was way trumpet and Earley's clarinet.

On "Disappear," that Wainwright sounds like he is performing an unrecorded George Harrison song with Dave Gross' guitar solo adding to this feel. Hints of Booker T and the MG's are present in the setting for "Golden Rule." Other selections are equally intriguing and gripping. With Wainwright's marvelous singing, along with a first-rate studio band and production, "Memphis Loud" is a superb recording with plenty of musical magic.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is a recent performance by Victor Wainwright and The Train.

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis Black, Brown & Beige

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
Black, Brown & Beige
Blue Engine records

Blue Engine Records, the label of Jazz at Lincoln Center, has been quite active recently. Among its latest releases is from 2018 performances of the Duke Ellington work that Ellington debuted at his 1943 Carnegie Hall concert. "Black, Brown & Beige" is one of the few performances of a work that initially received mixed reactions. It has become recognized as one of Ellington's most significant works. Wynton Marsalis says this suite "sits alone in the history of jazz," and "covers a mosaic of not just Afro-American but of American styles of music… ."

Joe Alterman writes in the liner booklet for this release, "Black, Brown and Beige" is a great and important piece, one that inspires me as both a musician and a human being. As a musician, I experience an exciting and rich universe, a multi-faceted and superbly crafted voyage through a large and important cross-section of the American vernacular: work songs, spirituals, the blues, early New Orleans-style jazz, the circus, the swing era, ballroom dancing, and even the Caribbean-influenced Habanera."

Chris Crenshaw, who transcribed and conducted this performance, states that "It was my intention as a transcriber and conductor to be true to the spirit of Ellington. We sought to make every performance sing and dance with the spark of invention and play with love, respect, and dedication. That's what Duke's achievements demand and it's what he deserves. Hallelujah!"

The personnel that evening of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (JLCO) were Reeds: Sherman Irby (alto saxophone), Ted Nash (alto saxophone), Victor Goines (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Walter Blanding or Julian Lee (tenor saxophone), and Paul Nedzela (baritone saxophone); Trumpets: Ryan Kisor, Marcus Printup, Kenny Rampton, Wynton Marsalis (music director), and Jonah Moss; Trombones: Vincent Gardner or Kasperi Sarikoski, Chris Crenshaw or Sam Chess, and Elliot Mason; and Rhythm Section: Dan Nimmer (piano, bells), Carlos Henriquez (bass), Marion Felder (drums), and James Chirillo (guitar). Also, there are special guests, Eli Bishop (violin) and Brianna Thomas (vocals).

The three-part "Black, Brown & Beige" is divided into nine segments, 3 for each part: "Work Song," "Come Sunday," "Light," "West Indian Dance," "Emancipation Celebration," "Blues Theme Mauve," "Various Themes," "Sugar Hill Playhouse," and "Finale." JLCO impresses in capturing the flavor of the original Ellington performance yet its members display their distinctive voices. For example, Marion Felder captures the feel of Sonny Greer. On "Work Song," Paul Nedzela has a robust, earthy tone evocative of Harry Carney, while Sam Chess' growling trombone is in the manner of Sam Nanton. Standing out on a gorgeous rendition of "Come Sunday" is trombonist Kasperi Sarikoski who captures the warmth that Juan Tizol's playing possessed while Eli Bishop takes the Ray Nance solo. Marsalis himself is sterling, such as opening the third segment 'Light" including employing half-valve effects in a fashion of Rex Stewart, while bassist Henriquez shines here as well.

Among other highpoint is Briana Thomas' vocal on "Blues Theme Mauve." While selecting a few highpoints, the whole recording is an outstanding marvelous recording that brings this 1943 composition to 21st Century life. Currently available only as a download, it is available at https://store.jazz.org/collections/frontpage/products/black-brown-and-beige.

A publicist provided me with a download of this recording. Here is a brief excerpt from JLCO's performance of "Black, Brown & Beige."


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

John Primer & Bob Corritore The Gypsy Woman Told Me

John Primer & Bob Corritore
The Gypsy Woman Told Me
Vizztone/ SWMAC Records

This is the third recording by the former Muddy Waters-Magic Slim sideman and harmonica player Bob Corritore. Supporting Primer's vocals and guitars and Corritore's harp are a variety of other artists including guitarists Jimi 'Primetime' Smith and Billy Flynn, pianists Bob Welsh and Ben Levin, bassists Kedar Roy, Mike Hightower and Troy Sandow, and drummers June Core and Brian Fahey. Part of this recording of traditional Chicago blues was recorded at Greaseland Studios, and Kid Andersen plays organ on one track.

Primer is in good form with his straight-forward vocals that conjure up Muddy Waters and Magic Slim, while Corritore comes off like little Walter on some tracks and Sonny Boy Williamson elsewhere. The studio bands keep a crisp shuffle groove going and provide tight backing. There are plenty of strong Chicago blues performances, including the title track that Muddy Waters made famous, Jimmy Rogers' "Left Me With a Broken Heart," and the reworking of Little Milton's "Walking the Back Streets and Crying" into a 50s sounding Chicago band blues. Primer plays some driving slim on his original, "Little Bitty Woman," which musically evokes Junior Parker's "Mystery Train." The backing players sit out on an emphatic cover of Lil Son Jackson's "Gambling Blues." At the same time, Primer's "Walked So Long," is performed acoustically with Sandow playing upright bass and Fahey using brushes.

John Primer remains a treasure as he continues to play first-rate down blues in the classic Chicago blues vein with sympathetic backing from Corritore. With an imaginative selection of material and the idiomatic support provided, Primer and Corritore have another gem.

I received my review copy from Vizztone. Here are John Primer & Bob Corritore performing.



Monday, May 11, 2020

Rory Block Prove it On Me

Rory Block
Prove it On Me
Stony Plain

"Prove it On Me" is the second in Rory Block's series, "Power Women of the Blues," dedicated to "celebrating phenomenal founding women of the blues." Through multi-tracking, Block plays all the guitars, drums, and percussion. She also handles all the vocals, including backing and harmony. This writer was not overly impressed by her earlier album in this series, her tribute to Bessie Smith. I can appreciate her effort to not reshape the songs from the source recordings. Her vocals, to these rears, did not sound convincing, and there have been more substantial tributes to Smith over the years.

Unlike the previous album, she interprets recordings from Helen Humes, Madlyn Davis, Rosetta Howard, Ma Rainey, Arizona Dranes, Lottie Kimbrough, Memphis Minnie, Merline Johnson, and Elvie Thomas, as well as sings one original. The performances are generally performed as small band recordings as she layers in guitars over percussion. She evokes a piano in her playing behind her acoustic shuffle version of Humes' "He May Be Your Man." Block adds slide guitar in the accompaniment On Madlyn Davis' "It's Red Hot." One of the most appealing selections is a cover of "If You're a Viper" by Rosetta Howard and the Harlem Hamfats. Her performance sports slide guitar instead of the New Orleans horns meet the Chicago blues of the original. One error in the songwriting credits is that it is Herbert Morand, not Moren among the composers of this song.

There is a credible rendition of the Ma Rainey song that provides the CD its title followed by a spirited take on Arizona Dranes' "I Shall Wear a Crown." Block's original, "Eagles," musically fits in seamlessly with the classic songs heard here, including a lovely Delta blues-infused performance of Lottie Kimbrough's "Wayward Girl Blues." Memphis Minnie's "In My Girlish Days," might have been better served by restraint in her vocal and fingerstyle guitar in the lead as opposed to slide guitar, but that may be a matter of taste.

After singing Merline Johnson's bawdy "Milk Man," Block closes this recording with a beguiling, low-key interpretation of Elvie Thomas' "Motherless Child." As indicated, this writer is not a fan of Block's vocals. I did find her vocals here better than on some other of her recent recordings. One's reaction to her vocals is likely to impact how one views this recording. One cannot question the craftsmanship and imagination she brings to these renditions to the vintage blue songs.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here Rory Block performs "He May Be Your Man."

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Take 5 With Thad Jones & Mel Lewis

What is now known as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra started decades ago as the Thad Jones & Mel Lewis Orchestra. For five decades, until interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, they were featured every Monday Night at the Village Vanguard. Today I salute this great big band with this short playlist.

We start with a performance that was televised in 19668, "Just Blues."


 Next is a selection from their 1970 album "Consummation," "A Child Is Born."


From a 1969 performance in Denmark, we hear "Central Park North."


From the 1976 album "New Life" we hear "Cherry Juice."


Finally from the "Central Parl North" album, they perform "Jive Samba."


As a bonus, we view a mini-documentary that was prepared in conjunction with the Resonance Records release of "All My Yesterdays," documenting the initial performances of this historic band.


Friday, May 08, 2020

Evan Christopher & David Torkanowsky Live at Luthjen's

Evan Christopher & David Torkanowsky
Live at Luthjen's

I have been a fan of clarinet wizard Evan Christopher for many years. This live recording at the New Orleans venue, Luthjen's, pairs him with the highly regarded pianist David Torkanowsky. I had the pleasure to see them some years ago as part of a band backing Germaine Bazzle that included Jason Marsalis on vibes. This set of duets is a thoroughly captivating set of performances of classic jazz songs and originals that showcase their instrumental talents and the empathy they have for each other.

The bluesy, velvety tone pf Christopher's clarinet is matched by Torkanowsky's sleet, fluid piano playing that ranges from traditional jazz to bop-accented. The performances are often imaginative as what starts out as a wistful rendition of "Way Down Yonder In New Orleans" segues into a choro-inspired interpretation. On "Sid's Biz," which I believe is inspired by Sidney Bechet, Christopher's spirited playing is supported by Torkanowsky channeling the spirits of Professor Longhair and James Booker. A wonderfully paced "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor" showcases Christopher's singing playing while "Rollin' the Jent" sounds like a boisterous reworking of "Ballin' the Jack." Then there is the beguiling "Melody For Jaco," with the woody clarinet tone complemented by a delicate piano backing.

Among the other performances is a reflective "Jitterbug Waltz," and a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower is a Lonesome Thing." It was a marvelous evening of music at Luthjen's, the evening this was recorded as can be heard from the audience applause. Its availability is very welcome. It is available as a download from Bandcamp, https://evan-christopher-clarinet-road.bandcamp.com/album/live-at-luthjens, and as a CD from the Louisiana Music Factory (louisianamusicfactory.com). Evan Christopher's website is www.clarinetroad.com.

I purchased this recording as a download. Here the two perform "Jitterbug Waltz."

Thursday, May 07, 2020

The Ebony Hillbillies 5 Miles From Town

The Ebony Hillbillies
5 Miles From Town
EH Music

One of several African-American string bands to emerge over the past few years, The Ebony Hillbillies have gone from Manhattan street corners to the stages of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and TV appearances on the BBC and ABC's Good Morning America. This colorful ensemble is comprised of Henrique Prince - violin and vocals; Norris Washington Bennett - banjo, mountain dulcimer, guitar and vocals, Gloria Thomas Gassaway - Bones (percussion) & vocals; William (Salty Bill) Salter - acoustic bass; Allanah Salter - shaker (percussion) & vocals; Newman Taylor Baker - washboard percussion; and A.R. (Ali Rahman) -(Cowboy) percussion. The best-known member of this group is William Salter who is a co-writer of such legendary pop hits as "Where is the Love" and "Just the Two of Us."

The music on this CD varies from the lively opening fiddle tune "Hog Eyed Man," a lively skittle band cover of "Wang Dang Doodle," an old-timey styled "Darling Corey," and a heartfelt, intimate reworking of "I Can't Make You Love Me." "Carroll County Blues" is an instrumental blues with some outstanding violin from Prince with the percussion enlivening the performance. "Another Man Done Gone/ Hands Up Don't Shoot" updates a traditional blues in light of contemporary police shootings of black men. There is "Fork in the Road," which comes off a string band adaptation of a doo-wop styled ballad, and the old-time gospel of "Where He Leads Me (I Will Follow)."

The album closes with the spirited title track that evokes a square dance performance. It concludes a lively, engaging mix of pop, blues, folk, old-timey country, and jazz that has entertained the streets of Manhattan and concert halls around the world.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the January-February 2019 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 382). I was not regularly posting at the time this review was written and published. I just found out that Norris Bennett has just passed away. Here The Ebony Hillbillies perform "Liza Jane."

 

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

The Seth Weaver Big Band Truth

The Seth Weaver Big Band
Truth
Outside In Music

Seth Weaver, originally from Franklin, Tennessee, has established himself as a trombonist, composer, arranger, vocalist, and education in New York City. He has been leading a 17 piece big band which has shined in a variety of New York venues including Iridium, St. Peter's Church, Birdland, and the Zinc Bar. On this album, he leads his big band on five originals and three standards. In addition to Weaver's trombone and vocals, band members include: Reeds- Lucas Dodd, Alex LoRe, Sam Dillon, Lukas Gabric, and Eitan Gofman; Trombones- Nick Grinder, Corey Wallace, Peter Nelson, and James Borowski; Trumpets- John Lake, Nolan Tsang, Andrew Neesley, and Oskar Stenmark; and Rhythm Section- Aleksi Glick (guitar), Addison Frei (piano), Marty Kenney (bass) and Nolan Byrd (drums).

This is a big band with a modern flair in the vein of Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, and Clark Terry's Big Bad Band, with a touch of Basie. There is plenty to appreciate starting with the opening track, "The Hudson," where Weaver's scoring that employs a deep bottom for the trumpets to riff against stands out. His own robust trombone gets featured with its burly sound. 'Frost," which debuted at Carnegie Hall in 2018, hints at Miles' second quintet with its opening before showcasing Weaver's gruff cotton ball sound. Sam Dillon's down-in-the-alley tenor sax is showcased against the mellifluous horns, and guitarist Glick's single-note runs. Drummer Byrd takes a drum solo set against a crisply played riff. "Red" has an engaging, prancing tempo led off by Kenney's walking bass before Weaver takes flight. Alto saxophonist Lucas Dodd exhibits a bluesy tone before some clean, imaginative single-note lines by Glick. Weaver is a very amiable crooner with his rendition of "On a Clear Day," standing out among his three very alluring vocals.

The rhythm section is first-rate, and the horns are wonderful. Showcasing Weaver's abilities and with a first-rate group of musicians, "Truth", simply stated, is a marvelous, straight-ahead, swinging big band recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here the Seth Weaver Big Band perform "On a Clear Day."


Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Backtrack Blues Band Your Baby Has Left

Backtrack Blues Band
Your Baby Has Left
VizzTone

Backtrack Blues Band has been performing blues around the Tampa Bay region since 1980, and "Your Baby Has Left" is their 7th album. The harmonica and vocals of Sonny Charles, as well as the lead guitar and vocals of Kid Royal, are upfront. The rhythm guitar of Little Johnny Walker, the bass of Stick Davis, and the drums of Joe Bencomo fill out this band. Bruce Katz contributes keyboards, and backing vocalists and horns are heard on several selections.

The music on "Your Baby Has Left" is straight-forward Chicago-styled blues that they perform in a solid, nicely paced manner. The opening "Best Friend's Grave (Joy, Joy, Joy)," has a strange lyric about burying his best friend but everyone dancing and singing 'Joy, Joy, Joy,' around his grave. It does have a robust vocal from Sonny Charles, who also lays out his fat harmonica sound. Kid Royal also impresses with bruce Katz helping with the foundation with greasy organ, and the rhythm is solid. The title track is a rocking boogie with a wailing vocal and harmonica. Then there is "Dixie Grill," a rocking shuffle about a place to get one's fill of some Carolina cooking. Kid Royal ably handles the vocal on Jimmy Reed's "Natural Born Lover," the one cover.

Kid Royal takes a searing solo behind Sonny Charles' vocal on "You'll Come Back Someday," and sings and plays fervently on the closing "Times is Hard." This track is a slow, down in the alley blues with more excellent fretwork (perhaps his best playing here) along with moaning backing horns and Sonny Charles' horn-like harmonica. It caps a very entertaining, straight-ahead album of Chicago-styled blues.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. Here they perform "Best Friend's Grave."


Monday, May 04, 2020

John DiMartino Passion Flower: The Music of Billy Strayhorn

John DiMartino
Passion Flower: The Music of Billy Strayhorn
Gemini Music Co.

As Russ Musto observes in the liner notes to pianist John DiMartino's new recording, the music of Billy Strayhorn "has become recognized as one of the most important bodies of work in 20th Century American music." DiMartino, a pianist some may know from his stints with David 'Fathead' Newman and Houston Person, first got acquainted with Billy Strayhorn's music when, as a 15-year-old, an older cousin requested he learn a tune. Later he heard Grover Washington's recording of "Passion Flower," Bobby Tucker gave him the music for "A Flower Is a Lonesome Thing." In recent years, he has been performing this music with Paquito D'Rivera.

DiMartino leads a quartet of Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone, Boris Koslov on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums. Raul Midón sings on one selection. From the swing of the opening "Johnny Come Lately" to the haunting beauty of "Chelsea Bridge" and "Passion Flower," the quartet develops the inherent melodic qualities and beauty of Strayhorn's music. Alexander is in excellent form as a ballad master and storyteller in the tradition of Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, Houston Person. At the same time, bassist Koslov and drummer Nash add their own contributions.

Whether soloing or adding his flourishes comping behind Alexander, DiMartino displays grace and taste. His solo rendition of "A Flower is a Lonesome Thing" is one of delicate beauty. Then there is his exquisite accompaniment to Midón's vocal on "Lush Life." He also adds a new veneer to such classic tunes as "Star Crossed Lovers," played as a bossa nova, the spirited "Raincheck," and "Take the A Train." With the outstanding backing provided as well as his marvelous piano, John DiMartino's "Passion Flower" is a sublime recording that does justice to Billy Strayhorn's superb music.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here is "Chelsea Bridge" from this recording.



Saturday, May 02, 2020

Take 5 With Rice 'Sonny Boy Williamson' Miller

This installment of Take 5 is devoted to the blues of Sonny Boy Williamson II. The following is taken from Wikipedia,

"Alex or Aleck Miller ( Ford, possibly December 5, 1912[3][a] – May 24, 1965),[4] known later in his career as Sonny Boy Williamson, was an American blues harmonica player, singer, and songwriter.[2] He was an early and influential blues harp stylist who recorded successfully in the 1950s and 1960s. Miller used various names, including Rice Miller and Little Boy Blue, before calling himself Sonny Boy Williamson, which was also the name of a popular Chicago blues singer and harmonica player. To distinguish the two, Miller has been referred to as Sonny Boy Williamson II."

He was a remarkable harmonica player as well as a singer and he seamlessly switching between his vocals and playing the harmonica. He was a popular performer who had a radio program, King Biscuit Time, sponsored by a flour company and he was so popular, that they sold cornmeal named after him. He first recorded for the Jackson, Mississippi Trumpet label backed such musicians as Joe Willie Wilkins, Willie Love, Elmore James. He also played on Elmore's original Trumpet recording of "Dust My Broom." Later he would move north and record for the Chess Brothers' Checker subsidiary. He achieved international notoriety when he traveled to Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival Tours. Later he toured England and played with such up-and-coming bands as The Yardbirds and The Animals. 

He died in May1965 after returning to the United States from Europe. 

We start this brief playlist with one of his first Trumpet recordings, "Nine Below Zero." He would re-record this for Checker.



Among his earliest recordings when he moved to Chicago was "All My Love In Vain." Robert Lockwood, Jr., who played with Sonny Boy before he moved north, was on many of the early Checker sessions.



When I first got into blues, one of my favorite Sonny Boy numbers was "Help Me." When Junior Wells recorded his tribute to Sonny Boy, he sang this song.



Next up is the moody, surreal "Unseen Eye."



Lastly, we have a video of him performing in Europe.



As a special bonus, we have him performing with Rashaan Roland Kirk in Copenhagen.



Certainly hope you enjoyed this week's dose of blues.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Lynne Arriale Trio Chimes of Freedom

Lynne Arriale Trio
Chimes of Freedom
Challenge Records International

For her 15th album, pianist Lynne Arriale has put together her reflections on freedom, cultural diversity, and her hope for refugee families to find a safe haven among the world's democratic nations. Arriale is joined on this recording by bassist and co-producer Jasper Somsen, and drummer, E. J. Strickland. Singer-songwriter K.J. Denhart adds vocals to two of the ten tunes, seven of which are Arriale originals.

A stark rendition of the spiritual, "Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child," opens this recording. Arriale's simple, lyrical playing of this number is matched by the quiet thunder of Strickland to capture the feelings of children separated from parents attempting to come to the U.S. The next seven selections are Arriale's compositions, trying to capture the hopes and angst of refugees. "Journey" is a swinging performance with her arpeggios matched by dramatic chords as she tries to capture the feel of the allure of sanctuary. Somsen's sinewy bass and Strickland's forceful drumming add to the drama.

The somber "Dreamers" represents an effort to depict the angst of the DACA children in current times. At the same time, "3 Million Steps" addresses the refugees trudging from Central America to the southern U.S. with Arriale again displaying her melodic touch in a heartfelt performance. Then there is the openness of "Hope," the blues-tinged "The Whole Truth," and the hymn-like ballad "Lady Liberty," where she further displays her gentle lyricism.

 The celebratory "Reunion" is infused with a Caribbean groove as she imagines the reunification of families torn apart. It is followed by K.J. Denhart's solemn, haunting interpretations of Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom," and Paul Simon's "American Tune." Denhart's singing about "underdogs soldiering in the night," and the many times being forsaken and confused and while all right, being "weary to my bones," reaches deep into the listener's heart with sympathetic simple, restrained backing. Her rendition of "American Tune" joins John Boutté's version as a personal favorite of this song.

Lynne Arriale plays lyrically throughout with clarity, elegance, and grace while Somsen and Strickland complement her with their empathetic playing. The Lynne Arriale Trio's "Chimes of Freedom" is an excellent, stirring recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the March-April 2020 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 389). Here the Lynne Arriale Trio perform "Journey."

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Albert King Live in the 70s

Albert King
Live in the 70s
RockBeat

While there are several excellent live Albert King albums available, this 2014 release is one that should not be overlooked. This is a compilation of four several different shows and venues. There is a lack of detail on personnel and the sources of these recordings.

From the Fillmore East in 1971, we get strong performances of "Blues Power," 'Crosscut Saw," and "Personal Manager." King is certainly in good voice, and his pinched note guitar is in force as well. There are five selections for The Forum in Hollywood from 1972 with sterling performances of "Angel of Mercy," "Oh Pretty Woman," "Breaking Up Somebody's Home," and "Stormy Monday." From St. Charles, Illinois in 1974, King does "Born Under a Bad Sign" and his interpretation of Ray Charles' "I Believe To My Soul." Finally, we go to The Double Door in Chicago, where Albert digs deep in "I'll Play the Blues With You."

Sound is very good at the minimum, and with the riffing Horns and the strong support from his backing bands, King sang and played out some first-rate blues.

I purchased this. Here is Albert King in 1981.

 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis Ow! Live at the Penthouse

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
Ow! Live at the Penthouse
Reel To Real

This is the latest production by Zev Feldman and Corey Weeds from previously unissued radio airchecks from Seattle's Penthouse jazz club. It presents nearly an hour of the two tenor saxophone jazz (recorded over two weekends), Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis with a rhythm section of Horace Parlan on piano, Seattle bassist Buddy Catlett, and Art Taylor on drums.

For those not familiar with the music of Griffin and Davis, there is plenty of hot tenor saxophone backed by a great rhythm section. As James Carter observes in an interview included in the marvelous liner booklet, it is Davis (out of the Hawkins-Webster school of tenor saxophones) generally takes the first solo, with Griffin taking the later solo, often displaying his ability to play at a blistering speed. In any event, this is music for the heart and not the head starting with a torrid rendition of the Gene Ammons-Sonny Stitt classic "Blues Up and Down." It is followed by a rollicking take on Dizzy Gillespie's "Ow!" Of course, the two tenor saxophones are not the only attraction. Parlan was one of the great pianists, as shown on his solo after Davis' opening solo on 'Bahia." Then there is a spirited "Blue Lou," on which both (but especially Griffin) dazzle with the speed they play. Energized renditions of Billy Eckstine's "Second Balcony Jump" and Lester Young's "Tickle Toe" are complemented by the walking groove of "How Am I To Know?" and the exquisite ballad-playing on Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady."

In addition to the superlative music, the accompanying booklet provides considerable background on their partnership and music. Commentary from Michael Weiss, James Carter, and Kenny Washington add special insight into the music. This is terrific steak and potatoes jazz and will be welcome to the fans of Griffin and Davis, whose music stands up nearly a half-century later.

I purchased this. Here Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis are heard in Scandanavia.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Vito Dieterle - Joel Forrester Status Sphere

Vito Dieterle - Joel Forrester
Status Sphere
Ride Symbol Records

I am most familiar with the versatile pianist-composer Forrester from the Microscopic Septet. Tenor saxophonist Dieterle is new to me. Originally from Chicago, he has been part of the New York scene for the past decade and recently been a member of Forrester's quartet. This recording is centered around the music of Thelonious Monk as the two perform 6 Monk compositions (one in two takes). Forrester wrote five originals in a Monk-inspired vein. The inspiration of Monk is also reflected in the album title and this CD's cover, which is a play on the cover of the classic Riverside album, "Monk's Music" with two spheres sitting in a red child's wagon.

Forrester is a marvelous pianist who brings a bit of stride in his playing while Dieterle impresses with his hearty, but lyrical playing. Forrester leaves plenty of space in his playing if not quite as spare or quirky as Monk himself. Dieterle plays with restraint, and the performances breathe with a relaxed lyrical quality as they nourish the roots Monk's compositions provide.

Two poignant takes of "Crepuscule With Nellie" stand out, as does the evocative beauty of the duo's interpretations of "Ruby My Dear" and "Pannonica." Of the originals, "Mock Time," one of Forrester's originals, charms with their bouncy performance. Another original "About Francoise" is a contrafact of "I Can't Get Started. It is a showcase for Dieterle's marvelous ballad playing. While the publicity materials suggest his playing recalls Charlie Rouse, I observe his playing touches the listener similarly to Houston Person or Eric Anderson as well as rouse.

The remainder of "Status Sphere" is as marvelous as the selections I have highlighted. The two are excellent interpreters of Monk's compositions who honor Monk's legacy with the splendid playing on this release.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here are Dieterle and Forrester, as members of Forrester's Quartet performing "About Francoise."