James Carter, Caribbean Rhapsody (Emarcy)
Carter tailors his saxophone virtuosity to “Caribbean Rhapsody” and “Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra,” by the American composer Roberto Sierra. Sierra studied with György Ligeti, the Hungarian master of tone clusters and chromaticism, but there is no Ligeti atonality here. Sierra bases the pieces in lyricism and accessible melody. In the concerto with the Sinfonia Varsonia of Poland, and the rhapsody with a string quintet led by cellist Akua Dixon, Carter moderates the tendency toward excess that has marred some of his work. His playing on tenor and soprano saxophones is in a range between gruff expansiveness and tip-toe delicacy, always within the mood established by Sierra’s scores. The last of the concerto’s three movements, titled “PlayfulFast (with Swing)” evolves into a blues with hip changes. Carter declaims on tenor, incorporating a boogie woogie figure leading to an orchestral ending with the power of a supercharger.
Sierra opens spots in the title piece for Carter to roam without accompaniment. He does so observing the spirit and harmonic tendencies of the composition, which may remind listeners that the composer is from Puerto Rico. Carter has a series of brilliant exchanges and mutual improvisation with a guest soloist, his violinist cousin Regina Carter, another virtuoso from Detroit. He employs to sensible effect the pops and honks that in some of his previous performances have been irritants. The two Carters achieve dance-like joy, even abandon, in tune (in every sense) with Sierra’s Latin intentions. The piece is a delight.
In two unaccompanied interludes, Carter on tenor alludes to the character of the concerto and on soprano to that of the rhapsody. Untethered to prescribed outlines, he nonetheless displays discipline and order that have not always been apparent when he was on his own.
Sue Raney with Alan Broadbent, Listen Here (Sinatra Society of Japan)
Raney is an interpreter of classic popular song whose creative gift and technical skill are matched by few singers in any category. Her empathy with Alan Broadbent was on display in their last collaboration four years ago. In that instance, her accompaniment was an orchestra that Broadbent arranged and conducted. This time, the orchestra is Broadbent at the piano, providing support and full partnership. After years of mutual admiration and occasional gigs, they have come forth with the duo album their admirers yearned for. It is a collection of ballads, but that by no means indicates that it lacks rhythmic interest. These two can swing at any tempo. That gift is striking in the medium bounce of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” “Aren’t You Glad You’re You?” and “It Might As Well Be Spring” with Broadbent’s “Joy Spring” introduction. In slow tunes, Raney can break hearts and moisten eyes. She finds the pathos in “He Was Too Good To Me;” uncloying sentiment in “My Melancholy Baby;” the poetry of longing in “Skylark,” “The Bad and the Beautiful” and “Listen Here,” the inspired title song with words and music by Dave Frishberg.
When Raney enters a note, it is never by a side door. When she bends one, it is to enhance mood or feeling. Broadbent comps and solos with chord voicings that enrich not just a song’s harmonies but its meaning. Their version of “There Used to be a Ballpark” could almost make you forget Sinatra’s. This collection of 14 songs is bound to become a classic, if it reaches an audience. That could be a problem for an expensive album on the label of the Sinatra Society of Japan, which has limited distribution.
Chuck Deardorf, Transparence (Origin)
Deardorf’s prowess is hardly unknown outside Seattle, even though he rarely leaves the Pacific Northwest. For a quarter-century or more he has been a mainstay of the Seattle scene and a primary on-call bassist for dozens of visiting musicians including Chet Baker, Zoot Sims, George Cables, Art Farmer, Jimmy Rowles and Kenny Burrell. In Transparence, he is out front in a collection that underlines his musicianship, versatility and leadership. The settings encompass a variety of moods and genresmainstream bop, Brazilian impressionism, standard ballads, a flirtation with freebop, a bow toward Deardorf’s rock beginnings. But it is far from a hodgepodge. Despite changing combinations of players from track to track, the strength of Deardorf’s overarching musical personality provides consistency.
The wholeness is enhanced by his choice of sidemen, not only Seattle and Portland stalwarts like saxophonists Hans Teuber and Richard Cole, drummers Mark Ivester and Gary Hobbs, and pianist Jovino Santos Neto, but also visiting firemen, pianist Bill Mays and guitarist Bruce Forman. Among the highlights: Deardorf’s “Collage” with Teuber, Mays and Hobbs; duets with Mays on Alec Wilder’s “Moon and Sand” and Forman on “Sweet Lorraine;” the atmospherics Deardorf generates on electric bass in Lennon and McCartney’s “Dear Prudence” and on acoustic bass guitar with Santos Neto on “De Mansinho.” Deardorf is the melody voice in a memorable colloquy with Mays’ piano and Teuber’s tenor sax on Rowles’ “The Peacocks.” This is an album of substance.