CD: Art Pepper

Art Pepper, The Art History Project (Widow's Taste). This is the latest segment in Laurie Pepper's guided tour of her husband's musical life. It begins in 1950 with the alto saxophonist on Stan Kenton's band and ends a year before his death in 1982. About a third of the music is previously unreleased. All of it is fascinating. Whether Pepper is full of youth and optimism in the '50s, obsessing over Coltrane in the '60s or declaring his persona in a blistering blues in the '80s, we hear in this … [Read more...]

CD: Eddie Higgins

Eddie Higgins, Standards by Request, 1st Day and 2nd Day(Venus). Among those mourning Higgins' death are virtually all other jazz pianists and the Japanese. He was a celebrity among the large and enthusiastic coterie of listeners in Japan who are devoted to piano jazz. Higgins recorded nearly two dozen albums for Japan's Venus label. These solo CDs from 2008 present him in all of his sleek melodicism, harmonic resourcefulness, subtle swing and quiet wit. Most of these interpretations of … [Read more...]

CD: Barney McAll

Barney McAll, Flashbacks (Extra Celestial Arts). Since he arrived in New York from Australia more than a decade ago, McAll has been a pianist in bands and a composer for motion pictures. He has been nominated for a Grammy for his film work and played with Gary Bartz, Billy Harper and Kurt Rosenwinkel, among other jazz adventurers. His best composing in this engrossing CD incorporates influences from a profusion of sources. It has the drama and variety of a good film score. McAll, guitarist … [Read more...]

DVD: Bill Mays

Bill Mays, Solo! (Mays). The pianist performs compositions by some of his forerunners, among them Monk, Rowles, Evans, Shearing, Hancock and Sonny Clark. There are no studio or production gimmicks here. It's just Mays, a Steinway, an attentive audience, good sound and lighting, smooth camera work and alert direction. From the opening "Cool Struttin'" by Clark to "Monk's Mood" at the end, Mays does more than pay tribute. He upholds quality and tradition while confirming his place in a … [Read more...]

Book: Hank O’Neal

Hank O'Neal, Ghosts of Harlem (Vanderbilt). At last, those who read only English can do more than look at the pictures in this magnificent volume first published in French twelve years ago. O'Neal's subjects are key jazz figures including Cab Calloway, Benny Carter, Maxine Sullivan, Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry. He also covers more than a score of less famous important musicians like Tommy Benford, Doc Cheatham and Lawrence Lucie. As skilled an interviewer as he is a photographer, O'Neal … [Read more...]