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


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...]

CD: Christian McBride

C. McBride Out Here

Christian McBride Trio, Out Here (Mack Avenue) Bassist McBride was so accomplished so young, it’s natural that at 41 he is an elder statesman grooming emerging players. Pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., are the impressive young members of McBride’s new trio, working beautifully with him in all of the areas in which he excels; rhythmic power, melodic inventiveness and unity of purpose. Highlights: the bone-deep swing in Oscar Peterson’s “Easy Walker” and McBride’s “Ham … [Read more...]

CD: Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp

Perelman Enigma

Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, Whit Dickey, Gerald Cleaver, Enigma (Leo Records) Perelman, a Brazilian living in New York, is a tenor saxophone virtuoso who does not allow standard jazz operating procedure to dictate his approach. In other words, he plays free jazz. His frequent partner is pianist Matthew Shipp, whom the critic Neil Tesser has identified as Perelman’s “blood brother.” The two record together so often —I count 12 albums in the past two years—that keeping up with them … [Read more...]

CD/DVD: Thelonious Monk

CD cover, "Paris 1969" by Thelonius Monk. Credit: Blue Note Records

Thelonious Monk, Paris 1969 (Blue Note) Dismiss claims that Monk was a burnt-out case after about 1965. There was already evidence to the contrary in the Black Lion recordings, his work with the Giants Of Jazz and the brilliance of his unexpected 1974 Carnegie Hall concert. Now, there is also this DVD assembled from film of a concert at the elegant Salle Pleyel. Monk still had his stalwart tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. His new young sidemen on bass and drums had broken in nicely. … [Read more...]

Book: Terry Teachout On Ellington

Teachout Duke Book

Terry Teachout, Duke: A Life Of Duke Ellington (Gotham) Teachout takes readers as close as it may be possible to come to Ellington’s thought processes about his music, about himself and about other people. A charming deflector of inquiry into his compositional techniques, his opinions and his motivations, Ellington was his own most closely guarded secret. Teachout applies his formidable research and narrative skills to parallel stories: Ellington’s relationships with family, friends, sidemen, … [Read more...]

CD: Warren Wolf

Warren Wolf Wolfgang

Warren Wolf, Wolfgang (Mack Avenue) In a succession of vibraphonists that began with Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo, Wolf has come into his own. His new album finds him with one rhythm section of veterans—pianist Benny Green, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash—and another of young musicians from his own quartet. He and the increasingly impressive pianist Aaron Diehl play duets on two pieces. With Wolf on marimba, the two defy categories in variations on the 19th century … [Read more...]

CD: David Friesen

Dave Friesen Brilliant Heart

David Friesen, Brilliant Heart (ITM Archives) In this collection of chamber music improvised on original themes, bassist Friesen commemorates an adult son who died in 2009. His “Scotty” is an unaccompanied bass solo incisively intoned and infused with a deep sense of loss. In much of the rest of the album, the pleasure of discovery dominates as Friesen interacts with pianist Greg Goebel and drummer Charlie Doggett and, on some tracks, guitarist Larry Koonse. The piano trio piece “Purple … [Read more...]

CD: Lester Young

Lester Young 1950

Lester Young, Boston 1950 (Uptown) If it has been too long since you've listened to Lester Young, say a couple of weeks, this collection of club performances could be just what you need. The tracks are from radio broadcasts when Young’s quintet was appearing at Boston’s Hi-Hat in the spring of 1950. He may not have been the Lester of the late 1930s Count Basie band, but the exuberance and ingenuity of his playing counter claims that after WWII he was a burnt-out case. Young was always capable … [Read more...]

DVD: Anita O’Day

Anita O'Day, Tokyo '63

Anita O’Day Live In Tokyo ’63 (Kayo Stereophonic) The singer equals the heights she reached in her 1958 triumph at the Newport Jazz Festival. In this television broadcast there is no audience cheering her on, as at Newport, but O’Day shows that she needs no crowd to generate energy and enthusiasm. She has the backing of her pianist and musical director Bob Corwin and a superb big band of Japanese musicians led by Takao Ishizuka playing Buddy Bregman arrangments. Among the 15 songs, she … [Read more...]

Book: Gary Burton

Gary Burton LearningToListen

Gary Burton, Learning To Listen (Berklee Press) At the outset of his autobiography, as he turns 70 Burton makes it official again (the first time was in 1994): he’s gay. The vibraphonist then delivers an entertaining, informative and well-written account of his career, returning occasionally but not obsessively to his gayness. He is even-handed about the difficulties and rewards of working with Stan Getz, full of admiration for Duke Ellington, generous but clear-eyed in discussing colleagues … [Read more...]

CD: Keith Jarrett

Jarrett Somewhere

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette, Somewhere (ECM) The first release in four years by Jarrett’s Standards Trio captures interaction among the pianist, bassist Peacock and drummer DeJohnette that is like the activity of one mind. Their exploration of Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” melds into “Everywhere,” a mantra that builds hypnotic fascination. In the quirkiness of his fragmented first bars of “Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” and his unaccompanied ruminations leading … [Read more...]

CD: Bill Potts

Potts Porgy & Bess

Bill Potts, The Jazz Soul of Porgy & Bess (Fresh Sound) In jazz, 1959 was a watershed, milestone, landmark (choose your cliché). Clichés embody truths; that’s how they become clichés. The truth is that this all-star recording of Porgy & Bess was one of the most important of the final year in a golden decade of jazz in New York. Potts’s arrangements are his most celebrated, for good reason. There is passion and commitment in the playing of the 19-piece ensemble and in solos by Art Farmer, Bill … [Read more...]

CD: Cécile McLorin Salvant

Savant Woman Child

Cécile McLorin Salvant, Woman Child (Mack Avenue) In this November post, I observed that it was going to take a while to catch up with Cécile McLorin Salvant. It will take a while longer because she is moving fast, but her first CD portrays a singer who has emerged in her early twenties full of talent, versatility, taste and rare artistic judgment. With pianist Aaron Diehl’s trio, Salvant is unfailingly on target interpreting a collection of 12 dissimilar songs. She is equally affecting in … [Read more...]

DVD: Erroll Garner

Garner DVD

Erroll Garner, No One Can Hear You Read (First Run Features) This compact, well-made documentary leaves the viewer a puzzle: only 36 years after his death, how can memories of a stunningly original, universally admired pianist have grown so dim? Many, perhaps most, young listeners don’t know about Garner. The film’s abundant performance clips provide reasons that he should be an icon —his spontaneity, his irresistible swing, the witty deceptiveness of his introductions; the joy he took … [Read more...]

Book: Marc Myers


Marc Myers, Why Jazz Happened (University of California Press) A respected jazz critic and blogger with a masters degree in US history, Myers assesses the effects of social, political and business forces on the development of the music. He provides context in chapters on the influences of recording technology, radio, race relations, the G.I. Bill, the musicians union and rock culture, among other phenomena. Myers confines discussion of jazz’s first two decades to the introduction, but he is … [Read more...]

CD: Ron Miles

Ron Miles Quiver

Ron Miles: Quiver (enja yellow bird) Miles’s playing on “There Ain’t No Sweet Man Worth the Salt of My Tears” draws 21st century Denver and 1928 Chicago close. Some of his flurries of wildness on this album are as daring as the work of any modern trumpeter, but the Bix Beiderbecke lyricism in Miles’s soul extends into everything he plays. With just Bill Frisell’s guitar and Brian Blade's drums, Miles may seem to be operating lean. No, there is richness in their harmonic inventiveness and … [Read more...]

CD: Heather Masse And Dick Hyman

Masse and Hyman

Heather Masse And Dick Hyman: Lock My Heart (Red House) With The Wailin’ Jennys and the Wayfaring Strangers and appearances on radio’s Prairie Home Companion, Heather Masse has attracted a following among folk and bluegrass fans. This album of duets with master pianist Dick Hyman discloses the jazz foundation that has long been evident in her singing. Their treatments of Strayhorn’s “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing” and Buddy Johnson’s “Since I Fell For You” are ballad perfection. In their … [Read more...]