New Recommendation: Tom Harrell

Harrell Trip

Tom Harrell, Trip (HighNote) A dozen compositions by trumpeter Harrell provide a framework for variety and surprise in this recording by the pianoless quartet he calls Trip. The centerpiece, “The Adventures of a Quixotic Character,” is a six-part suite inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 15th century novel Don Quixote. Harrell’s solo on “The Ingenious Gentleman” is a highlight among highlights. If some of the tracks summon thoughts of Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, it may be more than a … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Mehmet Ali Sanlikol

Sanlikol, WhatsNext

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, What’sNext? (Dünya) Using orchestral techniques that stem in part from his early training as a classical pianist, Sanlikol blends aspects of music of his native Turkey and of Arabic countries into contemporary jazz. A graduate of the Berklee School of Music and the New England Conservatory, he studied arranging with Bob Brookmeyer, whose influence is one ingredient in Sanlikol’s eclecticism; the audacious “On the Edge of the Extreme Impossible” is a dramatic instance. … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Ahmed Abdul-Malik

Spellbound cover

Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Spellbound (Status) Of Sudanese heritage, the bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1927-1993) was born Jonathan Timms in Brooklyn. After working with Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk, among others, Abdul-Malik studied music of other cultures. He was among the first to incorporate Middle Eastern and Indian influences into jazz. Except for a straight-ahead blues, this 1965 album consists of themes from movies: “Spellbound,” “Never on Sunday,” “Body and Soul” and “Delilah.” Sudanese oud … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Duke Ellington

Ellington Jazz Haus

Duke Ellington, BigBands Live (Jazz Haus) Watching the Ellington band perform in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the listener was likely to be struck by the contrast between the sidemens’ laconic demeanor and—on a good night—the joy of their performances. March 6, 1967 was a good night at the Liederhalle in Stuttgart, Germany. Beautifully recorded, the concert combines famous and barely known pieces. Good humor reigns in the ensemble performances, passion in the solos. Trumpet star … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Jarrett And Haden

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Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, Last Dance (ECM) Following Haden’s death last Friday, this duet recording of the bassist with his former boss takes on poignancy even beyond the empathy that he and the pianist develop in nine standard songs. The exceptions to ballad tempos are a brisk bop excursion through Bud Powell’s “Dance of the Infidels,” and “Everything Happens to Me” at the pace of a leisurely walk. The session also produced Jasmine, released in 2010. It took place shortly before Haden’s … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Denny Zeitlin Trio

Denny Zeitlin Stairway to the Stars

Denny Zeitlin, Stairway To The Stars (Sunnyside) Stairway To The Stars comes from the same engagement as Zeitlin’s Trio In Concert, released in 2009. If anything, the sequel finds the pianist even more intimately engaged with the veteran bassist Buster Williams and the young drummer Matt Wilson. When this was recorded in 2001 at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, Wilson’s drive, rhythmic inventiveness and humor were just becoming widely known. He and Williams give Zeitlin sensitive support on … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Theo Croker

Theo Croker cover

Theo Croker, Afro Physicist (Okeh) Much of the verbiage about the elimination of borders between musical categories is the work of publicists. It is marketable to be, or claim to be, cross-genre. However, in the case of Croker, an impressive 28-year-old trumpeter, his new album substantiates the claim. It touches on hip-hop, R&B, bebop and 1970s soul, but at its core his playing extends the mainstream jazz tradition of which his grandfather, the great trumpeter Doc Cheatham, was a vital part. … [Read more...]

Recommendation: Sonny Rollins

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Sonny Rollins, Road Shows Volume 3 (Okeh) Thriving on the energy he gets back from his listeners, Rollins can electrify them. In the third volume of his Road Show series the formidable tenor saxophonist sends currents through audiences in Japan, the United States and four places in France. The solitary listener to the recording may find himself joining in the ovations for Rollins’s audacity, humor and explosions of creativity. From 2001 to 2012, his accompanists vary, although the stalwart … [Read more...]

Monday CD Recommendation: Orrin Evans

O. Evans Mother's Touch

Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, Mother’s Touch (Posi-Tone) Regulars at the uptown New York club Smoke relish not only the musicianship but also the slap-dash camaraderie that pianist Orrin Evans’ big band exhibits during performances. Without the fun and games, the band is just as compelling in this studio recording. Evans’ “In My Soul,” slow and slinky with gospel overtones, sets the high standard that his contingent of bright youngsters and experienced veterans maintains throughout. … [Read more...]

Recommendation: Artt Frank On Chet Baker

Artt Frank Book Cover

Artt Frank, Chet Baker: The Missing Years, A Memoir Frank’s personalized story is a valuable adjunct to James Gavin’s dark biography of Baker, Matthew Ruddick's balanced bio and Jeroen de Valk’s exploration of the trumpeter’s music making. In an unpolished, conversational narrative, the drummer tells of his long friendship with the trumpeter and of sharing exhilarating high points and depressing low points in Baker’s life. In more than one sense, Frank was instrumental in Baker’s late-1960s … [Read more...]

Recommendation: Three 21st Century Trumpets

Titterington 3 trumpets

Dick Titterington & The Three Trumpet Band, Three Trumpets, No Waiting (Heavywood) Trumpet stars of the Portland jazz scene, Dick Titterington, Paul Mazzio and Thomas Barber blend and challenge one another. From the outset, the leader sets a high standard with the range, technical skill and crafty ideas of his extended improvisation on Michael Brecker’s “African Skies.” Mazzio’s reflective solo and Barber’s brief exercise in wit on John Scofield’s “Gil B643” are highlights. The harmonic … [Read more...]

This Week’s Pick: Jessica Williams

Jessica W With Love

Jessica Williams, With Love (Origin) This masterpiece of quiet reflection is the pianist’s first recording since surgery repaired spinal deterioration that kept her out of action for more than two years. With exquisite slowness, she explores eight standard ballads and her composition “Paradise of Love.” In her notes, Williams writes, “I wanted to make an album that while still rooted in jazz, relied less on technique and improvisation and more on emotive depth, melodic purity and space.” Her … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Armen Donelian

DonelianSayat-Nova

Armen Donelian, Sayat-Nova: Songs Of My Ancestors (Sunnyside) Alone and with a trio, Donelian plays works that inform his sense of who he is and confirm that great music is timeless and universal. The music of the Armenian composer Sayat-Nova (1712-1795) is redolent of Middle Eastern values, but as we become accustomed to musical idioms of the world melding, it would sound astonishingly modern even without the jazz and classical sensibilities that Donelian applies to it. Some of the solo … [Read more...]

The Monday Recommendation: CD, Alan Broadbent

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Alan Broadbent And NDR Big Band, America The Beautiful (Jan Matthies Records) Broadbent, a New Zealander who migrated to The United States, writes a tribute to his adopted land and records it with a German band. The shimmering complexity of his arrangement of Samuel A. Ward’s 1892 title tune portrays his affection for the country. That track and his eight other pieces reconfirm Broadbent’s stature among jazz composers and arrangers. His original works include what he calls a “study” on the … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: George Cables

Cables I&I

George Cables, Icons and Influences (High Note) After nearly 50 years during which he himself has become a piano icon and influence, Cables offers a dozen pieces that have affected his approach. They are by, about, or reflect the inspiration of an eclectic assortment of musicians including Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, Nat Cole, Dexter Gordon and Tony Bennett. He begins with new compositions in memory of the recently departed pianists Cedar Walton and Mulgrew … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: The Girls In The Band

Girls In The Band

The slow acceptance of women as jazz artists is a microcosm of the larger struggle for equality of females in society. For decades, women jazz performers were largely relegated to ghettos known as all-girl bands. Today, increasing numbers of gifted women jazz artists are accepted on an equal footing with men. The Girls In The Band, created with skill, sensitivity and documentary professionalism, is the story of the women who opened the way. There were, and are, many more of them than the handful … [Read more...]

CD Recommendation: The Keynote Box

Keynote set

The Keynote Jazz Collection 1941-1947 (Fresh Sound) The Keynote records produced by Harry Lim trace jazz as it evolved from traditional through swing and bebop. The 11 CDs in the set begin in New Orleans with George Hartman’s trad band. By the time they end, the listener has spent time with a wide cross section of the decade’s best musicians, including Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Lennie Tristano, Red Rodney, Dinah Washington, Shorty Rogers, Sid Catlett, Dodo Marmarosa and dozens of others. … [Read more...]

CD Recommendation: Cava Menzies/Nick Phillips

MenziesPhillips CD

Cava Menzies/Nick Phillips, Moment To Moment (NPM) Although Pianist Menzies and trumpeter Phillips make judicious embellishments in the ballads of this enchanting collection, their operating principle seems to be adoration of the melody. The tempos are slow, the harmonies rich, bassist Jeff Chambers and drummer Jaz Sawyer finely tuned to the leaders’ wave length. The quartet illuminates standards including “The Peacocks,” For All We Know,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is,” “Speak Low” and Kenny … [Read more...]

CD Recommendation: Bill Kirchner

Kirchner Lifeline

Bill Kirchner, Lifeline (Jazzheads) In 2008, I initiated an occasional series called Medium But Well Done. It highlights the accomplishments of groups bigger than combos but smaller than big bands. Introducing it, I wrote, “Six to eleven pieces allow arrangers freedom that the conventions and sheer size of sixteen-piece bands tend to limit.” There is no better recent illustration of that proposition than this release by Bill Kirchner’s Nonet. His arrangements of pieces by composers including … [Read more...]

CD Recommendation: Anton Schwartz

Schwartz Flash Mob

Anton Schwartz, Flash Mob (AntonJazz) The front-line blend of the leader’s tenor saxophone and Dominic Farinacci’s trumpet may recall Hank Mobley and Kenny Dorham, but if this is hard bop, its 21st century attitude is Schwartz’s own. His compositions have a distinctive quality that incorporates disparate harmonies and rhythms. “Pangur Ban” could be a down home Irish reel, if there is such a thing. “Swamp Thang” has overtones suggesting that the swamp in question is on Georgia or southern … [Read more...]

CD: Bob Dorough

Dorough Eulalia

Bob Dorough, Eulalia (Merry Lane Records) In addition to endearing vocal performances of several of his best songs, Dorough gives listeners what may come as a surprise to many; his ingenuity as an arranger. The deceptive simplicity of “Eulalia,” the album’s sole instrumental, is one of several instances of his melody lines and the tang of his voicings giving energy and richness to a mid-sized ensemble. Dorough plays piano. Other soloists include alto saxophonist Phil Woods, bassist Steve … [Read more...]

CD: Rudy Royston

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Rudy Royston, 303 (Greenleaf Music) In his debut as a leader the young drummer from Denver (area code 303) fronts a septet of his generation’s more adventurous players. The eclecticism of the music encompasses Radiohead’s “High and Dry,” the Mozart motet “Ave Verum Corpus,” a drum feature inspired by Elvin Jones, and homage to Denver trumpeter Ron Miles. Even in “Bownze,” the Jones tribute, Royston refrains from drum exhibitionism. Throughout, he melds his work with the septet, which … [Read more...]

CD: Alan Broadbent

Broadbent Heart to Heart

Alan Broadbent, Heart to Heart (Chilly Bin) Broadbent’s first solo piano album, recorded in 1991, was a highlight of Concord’s Maybeck series. He has continued to perform with a trio and with Charlie Haden’s Quartet West, but to many he is known primarily as the arranger-conductor for Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Michael Feinstein and Paul McCartney. Producer George Fendel thought it was time for Broadbent to again record alone on a superb piano before an appreciative audience, so he presented … [Read more...]

CD: Frank Wess

Magic 201

Frank Wess, Magic 201 (IPO) The final track of the great tenor saxophonist and flutist’s final album is a lovely performance of Sammy Cahn’s 1937 standard “If it’s the Last Thing I Do,” giving the CD added poignancy. Wess died in October, 2013, after decades as one of the most respected members of the jazz generation that came to prominence after World War Two. No tempo in the album is above a medium walk, but you don’t go to Frank Wess expecting speed. You expect profundity, and that’s what … [Read more...]

Book: Derrick Bang

Guaraldi Book

Derrick Bang, Vince Guaraldi at the Piano (McFarland) Bang’s 2012 book is less a full-fledged biography than a comprehensive survey of Guaraldi’s career loaded with anecdotes. The pianist was a committed jazz artist who became famous through indelible identification with a major phenomenon of popular culture. Millions know him through his music for the Peanuts television specials. Yet, dedication to his work as an improvising musician lasted until the end of his life in 1976. Bang traces … [Read more...]

CD: Jeremy Steig, Featuring Denny Zeitlin

Flute Fever cover

Jeremy Steig, Flute Fever (International Phonograph) The Rifftides campaign for a reissue of the 1963 debut recording of flutist Jeremy Steig and pianist Denny Zeitlin got underway with this observation in a 2005 post: On Sonny Rollins’s “Oleo,” each of them solos with ferocious thrust, chutzpah, swing and—one of the most challenging accomplishments in jazz—a feeling of delirious freedom within the discipline of a harmonic structure. Fifty years after it appeared, Flute Fever … [Read more...]