Briefly, More CD Reviews

We’re still catching up with CDs that appeared while I was writing Paul Desmond’s biography. If you don’t have your copy of the book yet, hurry.
Columbia/Legacy is systematically reissuing (again) everything it has by Duke Ellington. In the case of Blues In Orbit, it has done so with class and thoroughness, from the inclusion of previously unissued pieces and alternate takes, to digital remastering that brings out nuances, to Patricia Willard’s informative new notes. The back-cover blurb calling Blues In Orbit an undervalued gem is accurate. In the late fifties, Ellington and Billy Strayhorn were writing intriguing things into new compositions and old ones alike, and the album radiates the feeling of discovery even on “C Jam Blues” and “In A Mellow Tone,” which the band had played hundreds of times. Johnny Hodges was back after a layoff and sounds happy to be home.
Emil Viklicky, a Czech born in Moravia in 1948, is one of the finest jazz pianists in the world. His standing in his own country may be inferred from that fact that last year when President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic initiated a series of jazz concerts at Prague Castle, the counterpart of the White House, Viklicky and his trio were the first performers. That concert, with the Swiss trumpeter Franco Ambrosetti as guest artist, was recorded and is available as Franco Ambrosetti & Emil Viklicky Trio (Multisonic 31 0644-2). Ambrosetti at first lessens the impact of his inventiveness by using excessive volume, but his ideas ultimately carry the day. Viklicky, bassist Frantisek Uhlir and drummer Laco Tropp are wonderful throughout, and sublime on the final three pieces, with Ambrosetti sitting out. Trying to negotiate the complex Multisonic website is frustrating. It would be easier to send the company an e-mail message to find out how to order. The CD is worth the trouble. (Can you imagine George W. Bush honoring jazz with a series of recitals at the White House?)
Here is a short list of other recent CDs that have given me pleasure or stimulation or at least kept my attention:
Ken Peplowski, Easy To Remember. Peplowski plays a varied program that includes a lovely unaccompanied clarinet solo on Ellington’s “Single Petal of a Rose” and a tenor sax romp on Al Cohn’s “High on You.” There is fine work by Al’s guitarist son Joe and pianist Ted Rosenthal.
Branford Marsalis, Eternal. Quartet music by the saxophonist balancing originals with standards, among them the old Nat Cole ballad “The Ruby and the Pearl.” The title piece is well named; it runs eighteen minutes and holds up thanks to Marsalis’s continuity of ideas and cohesive accompaniment by pianist Joey Calderazzo and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. You want liner notes? The booklet tells you to download them from Marsalis’s web site. Puzzling consumer relations, putting the information burden on the customer.
Metz’n Around. Pianist Ed Metz, Sr. with drummer Ed, Jr., other family members and friends in oldies like “’Deed I Do,” “Little Rock Getaway” and “Goody Goody.” Infectious fun, and worth a few hearings for the solos of John Allred, a great trombonist.
Jane Monheit, Taking A Chance On Love. Imitative and overhyped at the beginning, she is now a grownup singer with her own personality and a touch too much vibrato in the middle register.
The Mildred Bailey Radio Shows.Three programs from 1945 with Bailey singing perfectly, of course, and exchanging scripted banter with guests Earl Hines, Tommy Dorsey and Cozy Cole. The big band backing her has Teddy Wilson, Roy Eldridge, Red Norvo and Jimmy Maxwell, among others. What a singer.
Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow, Billy Drummond, The Lost Chords. This is really Bley’s record, and it’s laced with her angular humor as well as her profundity. Its opening suite is based on “Three Blind Mice.” One of the movements has a subsection titled “Leonard Feather.” Her notes are not about the music but about the group’s travails on a tour of Europe, complete with a map and amusing photographs. The music is excellent.
Enrico Pieranunzi, Paul Motian, Doorways. The Italian pianist and the former Bill Evans drummer in a series of pieces that are free and sound composed or are composed and sound free. When saxophonist Chris Potter joins them on three tracks, the result is nothing like Lester Young, Nat Cole and Buddy Rich. Abstract, luxuriant music.
Tomorrow: A few thoughts about Benny Carter and Phil Woods, among others.

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