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...]

CD/DVD: Miles Davis


Miles Davis Quintet Live In Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2 (Columbia/Legacy) This three-CD, one-DVD set finds the trumpeter fomenting even more dramatic change than usual. The first volume in the so-called bootleg series of Davis concert recordings found his primarily acoustic 1967 quintet already tending toward electronic music and rock. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter remains from that band. Here, the transition intensifies. Electric pianist Chick Corea, bassist Dave Holland and drummer … [Read more...]

DVD: Bill Frisell


Bill Frisell, The Disfarmer Project (La Huit) Belgian filmmaker Guillame Dero captures the eclectic guitarist Frisell, violinist Carrie Rodriguez, guitarist Greg Leisz and bassist Viktor Krauss in a live performance set to portraits by the 1950s Arkansas photographer Mike Disfarmer. Some of the music was on a 2009 CD mentioned in this Rifftides post. Hearing it in new versions with Disfarmer’s eccentric and vaguely disturbing photos looming over the band is an adventure. Watching interaction … [Read more...]

Book: Paul de Barros on Marian McPartland

deBarros McP

Paul de Barros, Shall We Play That One Together? The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland (St. Martin’s Press) The nonagenarian pianist presented de Barros with every biographer’s hope, unrestricted access to his subject’s personal papers and nearly unrestricted access to her private thoughts. He made the most of it, turning exhaustive research and hundreds of hours of interviews into a true story with the sweep of a novel. From the early discovery of McPartland’s musical gift … [Read more...]

CD: Gerry Mulligan

Mulligan Santa Monica

Gerry Mulligan and the Concert Jazz Band, Santa Monica 1960 (Fresh Sound) Mulligan’s Concert Jazz Band had three fewer musicians than most big jazz outfits. Its size permitted precision, flexibility and subtlety, yet the band had the power of sprung steel. In this concert from a half century ago, the CJB is as fresh as yesterday. Arrangements by Mulligan, Bob Brookmeyer, Al Cohn and Johnny Mandel set standards to which big band writers still aspire. Bassist Buddy Clark and drummer Mel Lewis … [Read more...]

CD: JD Allen

Allen Matador

JD Allen Trio: The Matador And The Bull (Savant) The tenor saxophonist has changed record labels but not sidemen or his conciseness. While many of his contemporaries’ solos demand endurance by player and listener alike, Allen expresses himself in short bursts of creativity; the longest track here runs 4:45, including pauses that induce reflection. The CD and tune titles suggest the bullring. If such thematic dressing attracts an audience, so much the better, but the drama and passion of the … [Read more...]

CD: Scott Robinson

Robinson Savage

Scott Robinson: Bronze Nemesis (Doc-Tone) Robinson unleashes his imagination and a substantial cross section of his instrumental arsenal to pay homage to the 20th century pulp fiction adventure hero Doc Savage. He uses the colossal contrabass sax to great effect, but his otherworldly theremin wins the weird-atmosphere sweepstakes. Novelty aside, the music is entertaining and high in quality. Pianist Ted Rosenthal, drummer Dennis Mackrel, bassists Pat O’Leary and— on one track—the late Dennis … [Read more...]

DVD: Woody Herman

Herman Blue Flame

Woody Herman, Blue Flame: Portrait Of A Jazz Legend (Jazzed Media) Producer Graham Carter traces Herman’s career from a vaudeville childhood through leadership of a succession of big bands that made him a formative influence in jazz for more than 50 years. Photographs, film and early television trace development of the Herman herds. There are rare scenes of sidemen including Stan Getz, Serge Chaloff and Bill Harris in action, and complete sequences of performances by later editions of the … [Read more...]

CD: Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Cover

Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform) The trumpeter and composer’s four-disc work is a monument to Black Americans’ struggles for freedom. The names of the 19 movements summon up key episodes in the story, among them “Dred Scott,” “Thurgood Marshall and Brown vs. Board of Education” and “The Freedom Riders Ride.” With his free jazz quintet’s unfettered improvisation Smith blends skilled writing, including passages for a nine-piece ensemble of strings and winds. The tempers of the … [Read more...]

CD: Ben Webster, Joe Zawinul

Webster-Zawinul Cover

Ben Webster and Joe Zawinul: Soulmates (Riverside OJC) Long after Ben Webster became famous and when the pre-Weather Report Joe Zawinul was laboring as a sideman, the immigrant Austrian pianist and the seasoned tenor saxophonist became pals. In 1963 they made this album, a product of their friendship and a reminder of what a splendid mixing bowl for jazz New York was in those days. Philly Joe Jones is the drummer, Sam Jones and Richard Davis split the bass duties, Thad Jones plays cornet on … [Read more...]

CD: Diana Krall

Krall Cover

Diana Krall: Glad Rag Doll (Verve) Krall takes a side trip into the 1920s and shows a bit of thigh on the album cover. Evidently, that’s all it takes to get the music business stirred up and the tweets and sales figures flying. How’s the music? Not bad. On some tracks, she has fun. On others—well, how much uplift could anyone get from “Here Lies Love?” The harmonies, if not the lyric, of “Let it Rain” inspire animation in her voice. Glad Rag Doll won’t replace Live In Paris, but the … [Read more...]

DVD: Johnny Griffin

Griffin Cover

Johnny Griffin Live In France 1971 (Jazz Icons) One of the greatest second-generation bebop tenor players, Griffin (1928-2008), was also one of the fastest. He is often remembered for speed and excitement , but here his ballad playing is an equal attraction, notably on his “When We Were One” and “Soft and Furry.” In a concert performance with Dizzy Gillespie sitting in on two pieces, and filming in a studio, the man known as The Little Giant is in superb form. His colleagues are veteran … [Read more...]

Book: Ted Gioia

Gioia Cover

Ted Gioia: The Jazz Standards: A Guide To The Repertoire (Oxford) In nearly 500 pages, Gioia covers 254 songs that he considers the core of the jazz repertoire. They include compositions by jazz musicians as well as standard songs. Duke Ellington, of course, fits both categories. In a typical essay of perhaps 500 words, Gioia discusses a song’s and its writer’s history, its musical form and construction and, often, its social and cultural significance. He also recommends important recordings … [Read more...]

CD: Branford Marsalis

B. Marsalis, Four MFs

Branford Marsalis, Four MFs Playin’ Tunes (Marsalis Music) The Marsalis quartet achieves openness without abandoning harmonic guidelines, hipness without complex chord permutations. A saxophone soloist who manages to meld aggressiveness and wryness, Marsalis is at his peak here. The delight that he, pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and young drummer Justin Faulkner find in supporting and surprising one another is likely to also affect the listener. The tunes are by members of the … [Read more...]

CD: Ryan Truesdell/Gil Evans

Truesdell Evans

Ryan Truesdell, Centennial: Newly Discovered Works Of Gil Evans (artistShare) Truesdell apprenticed with arranger and composer Maria Schneider, who apprenticed with Gil Evans. That makes him, in effect, Evans’ musical and spiritual grandson. He does his heritage proud, taking 10 previously unrecorded Evans arrangements from manuscript—or, in some cases, expanding Evans sketches—to performance by a superb collection of musicians. The scores go back as far as Evans’ Claude Thornhill … [Read more...]

CD: Alan Broadbent

Broadbent Giannelli 2

Alan Broadbent Trio Live At Giannelli Square, Volume 2 (Chilly Bin) Recorded in Los Angeles shortly before Broadbent transplanted himself to New York, Giannelli 2 is the equal of Volume 1. That is high praise. The pianist’s harmonic acuity, melodic invention, touch and rapport with bassist Putter Smith and drummer Kendall Kay made this one of the finest trios in jazz. They find freshness in “Yesterdays,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and a romp based on “Just Friends.” Broadbent’s … [Read more...]

DVD: John Coltrane


John Coltrane, Live In France, 1965 (Jazz Icons) Television cameras captured Coltrane with his classic quartet months before it disbanded and he began the space-bound journey he was on when he died two years later. At the Juan-le Pins Jazz Festival in Antibes, Coltrane, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones accomplished a concentration of passion even greater than that in their studio recordings of “Naima,” “Ascension,” “Impressions” and “A Love Supreme.” Much of … [Read more...]

Book: Derrick Bang/Vince Guaraldi


Derrick Bang, Vince Guaraldi at the Piano (McFarland) There was much more to Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) than “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” and his “Peanuts” television sound tracks. Bang’s substantial biography covers the pianist and composer’s life from his pre-Cal Tjader days through success with the vibraphonist’s jazz and Latin groups, his own trio, his collaborations with Bola Sete and the Charlie Brown connection that made him famous. He captures the balance between Guaraldi’s serious … [Read more...]

CD: Felsted Mainstream


The Complete Stanley Dance Felsted “Mainstream Jazz” Recordings 1958-1959 (Fresh Sound) This nine-CD treasure chest contains dozens of the finest mainstream artists from a golden era. Stanley Dance, who applied the term mainstream to jazz, supervised the sessions for the British Felsted label. Johnny Hodges, Earl Hines, Coleman Hawkins, Rex Stewart, Buster Bailey, Jo Jones, Budd Johnson, Dicky Wells, Billy Strayhorn; they’re all here, along with superb half-forgotten musicians like … [Read more...]

CD: Brad Mehldau Trio

Mehldau Ode

Brad Mehldau Trio, Ode (Nonesuch) Mehldau has recorded lately as solo pianist, in duets with classical mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie Van Otter and with a large orchestra. Bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard join him in a stimulating return to trio playing. They are attuned to the pianist as if by ESP. He describes the title tune as “an ode to odes” and dedicates other pieces to figures in his personal and musical lives. Among those who inspired them are Michael Brecker, Kurt … [Read more...]

CD: Mike Longo


Mike Longo, To My Surprise: Trio + 2 (CAP The trio is pianist Longo, bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Lewis Nash— a formidable New York rhythm section. With the addition on half the tracks of trumpeter Jimmy Owens and tenor saxophonist Lance Bryant, Longo takes the quintet through classic bop territory and beyond into modal country. If there were Oscars for Wilde titles, “A Picture of Dorian Mode,” would win. The adventurous playing on the track awards the listener. With trio or quartet, … [Read more...]

DVD: Thelonious Monk


Thelonious Monk Live in France 1969 (Jazz Icons) The video of Monk alone at the piano in a Paris studio is the jewel of the fifth Jazz Icons box set that many feared would not come. Taped with visual simplicity and excellent sound, he plays 12 pieces, all of them his compositions but “Don’t Blame Me” and a rollicking “Nice Work if You Can Get It.” Except for that exultant conclusion, the concert has an air of reflective, almost Brahmsian, gravity. His harmonies can be breathtaking. The … [Read more...]

Book: Timme Rosenkrantz


Timme Rosenkrantz, Fradley Hamilton Garner, Harlem Jazz Adventures: A European Baron’s Memoir, 1934-1969 Timme Rosenkrantz (1911–1969) had royal Danish blood, but no royal pretensions, and when he came to the US in 1934, his garrulous charm made him fit right in. What attracted him here was jazz. He became a chronicler and friend of musicians from Louis Armstrong to Art Tatum to Lennie Tristano and dozens of others. He was a rounder and a storyteller, and he could write. His memoir, artfully … [Read more...]

CD: Toots Thielemans


Toots Thielemans, Yesterday & Today (Out Of The Blue) Two CDs with thirty-eight tracks, most previously unreleased, follow Thielemans from 1946, when he was a 23-year-old guitarist with a Belgian swing band, to a 2001 harmonica performance of “What A Wonderful World” with pianist Kenny Werner. In the late 1940s and early ‘50s, when many European musicians were struggling with the style, Thielemans had a firm grasp of bebop. Playing through the decades with George Shearing, Hank Jones, J.J. … [Read more...]

CD: Mike Wofford & Holly Hofmann

Wofford Hofmann

Mike Wofford/Holly Hofmann, Turn Signal (Capri) Pianist Wofford’s and flutist Hofmann’s quintet set is notable for variety, rich textures and harmonies, and depth of feeling. In conception and sound, trumpeter Terell Stafford blends beautifully with them. Bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Richard Sellers are strong and flexible in support. Among the highlights are Wofford’s “The Dipper,” a Horace Silver tribute that evokes Silver’s writing and playing; Stafford’s powerful solo on Jimmy … [Read more...]

CD: Matthew Shipp

Shipp Elastic

Mathew Shipp, Elastic Aspects (Thirsty Ear) The first track of the pianist’s album has no piano, just bassist Michael Bisio bowing and drummer Whit Dickey generating sepulchral sounds with mallets on cymbals. The second track is a few seconds of Shipp unaccompanied in what might be heard as late Debussy. With the third track, the trio is off and running with a kind pointillist post-bop, a suggestion of Bud Powell’s “Un Poco Loco,” lots of interaction and mutual improvisation. This being … [Read more...]