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


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


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


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...]