This series of brief reviews calls your attention to recordings that captured the Rifftides staff’s interest and may capture yours.
Chris Brubeck’s Triple Play: Live At Arthur Zankel Music Center (Blue Forest)
As Triple Play, Chris Brubeck, harmonicist Peter Madcat Ruth and guitarist Joel Brown have had fun for more than 20 years. Brubeck plays piano, bass and trombone. They all sing. It’s a jazz band, or a blues band, or a folk group. It’s all of those. In this alternately raucous and tender July, 2011, concert, the repertoire includes pieces by Fats Waller, Robert Johnson, W.C. Handy, Paul Desmond and Chris’s 90-year-old father Dave, who makes a surprise appearance in the middle of “Blue Rondo a la Turk” (the crowd goes wild). The elder Brubeck stays to play, among other things, a gorgeous unaccompanied “Dziekuje (Thank You),” back his son’s blowsy trombone on “Black and Blue” and get off some sparkling single-note lines on “St. Louis Blues.” Brown’s clarinetist father, a stripling of 85, sits in convincingly on several pieces. Ruth plays what is likely the first jaw harp solo ever on “Take Five,” and caps it with a wild harmonica coda. It’s all great fun, which is yet to be declared illegal in jazz.
Allen Lowe, Blues and the Empirical Truth (Music & Arts)
In a comprehensive sense, Lowe’s is a blues band. Three CDs with 52 tracks make the case for the tireless composer, saxophonist, guitarist and author’s Truth—that the blues in all its variety and malleability is the core of jazz. Lowe demonstrates using musicianship that employs intimacy, bombast, comedy, suggestiveness, wryness, profundity and a healthy dose of concepts that have developed in jazz since the advent of Ornette Coleman. Characters as diverse as Buddy Bolden, Pete Brown, Dave Brubeck, Davey Schildkraut, Lennie Tristano, Bud Powell, Elvis Presley and the Carter Family inspire some of the pieces. Lowe has the stimulating help of trombonist Roswell Rudd, guitarist Marc Ribot, pianists Matthew Shipp and Lewis Porter, and a few of Lowe’s fellow adventurers in the Portland, Maine, jazz community. This is a provocative and valuable collection.
Daryl Sherman, Mississippi Belle: Cole Porter in the Quarter (Audiophile)
The pianist and singer deepens her relationship with Cole Porter, forged in years of playing his piano at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Porter wrote the title tune for a movie in 1943, but it was rejected and has never before been recorded. The Quarter is the French Quarter in New Orleans, which is where Sherman recorded this collection of 13 Porter songs. Some are among his best known (“Get Out of Town,” “Let’s Do It”), some less often performed (“Ours,” “Tale of the Oyster”). Sherman gives all of them her beguiling phrasing, interpretation and vocal sunshine. When she accompanies herself or solos, she finds substantial harmonies. When her only accompaniment is Jesse Boyd’s bass, her intonation never falters. In this drummerless trio, Tom Fischer solos on tenor sax or clarinet.
Marianne Solivan, Prisoner Of Love (Hipnotic)
Solivan has attracted an impressive coterie of fans among New York’s musicians. They include Christian McBride, who plays bass on her first album and Jeremy Pelt, who produced the CD and has a trumpet solo on “Moon Ray.” In his liner notes, McBride emphasizes Solivan’s musicianship, which is apparent in this collection of standards. She applies it with reserve and taste, concentrating on melody and the meaning of lyrics. She refrains from scatting, the downfall of young vocalists who want to be hip. Her skill with “Prisoner of Love,”"Day Dream” and “I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry” establish her hipness credential. Betty Carter’s “I Can’t Help It,” and “Social Call,”—forever associated with Ernestine Anderson—endorse it. Pianists Xavier Davis and Michael Kanan appear with Solivan, as well as guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Jonathan Blake. It’s a fine debut.
Please return to Rifftides soon for more reviews as we attempt to catch up with the never-ending flow of jazz releases.