Warne Marsh & Kenny Drew In Copenhagen (Storyville). Recorded in 1980, Marsh–a tenor sax master of subtlety and liquid imagination–plays in a quartet with Drew, one of the brightest graduates of Bud Powell’s college of bebop piano knowledge. Marsh has a few “oops” moments in note choices, but hearing him think his way out of them is part of the fun. This CD has one of Marsh’s most stimulating explorations of “Star Eyes,” a song that inspired him for decades.
The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Monday Night Live At The Village
Vanguard (Planet Arts). In a continuum that started with Thad Jones-Mel Lewis and ran through the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, the VJO carries on a solid tradition of elevated musicianship, unfettered swinging and good, clean fun. Imperishable arrangements by Jones, Bob Brookmeyer and Jim McNeely provide extended opportunities for the band’s galaxy of soloists. Among the players are Dick Oatts, Terell Stafford, Scott Wendholt, John Mosca, Rich Perry, Ralph Lalama, Gary Smulyan and McNeely.
Reptet, Chicken Or Beef? (Monktail). The method in their madness is sometimes concealed in over-the-top shenanigans, but there’s plenty of artistry, discipline and technique in this second CD by the Seattle sextet. They meld a wild combination of musical ingredients into tight arrangements that in some of their more structured moments recall the combo writing of Rod Levitt, in others jump bands of the early forties and, in many, nothing but Reptet.
Gloria Cheng, Piano Music of Salonen, Stucky, and Lutoslawski (Telarc). Cheng specializes in music of twentieth and twenty-first
century composers. Her brilliant playing of Witold Lutoslawski’s 1934 sonata discloses his early inspiration in the impressionistic lyricism of Ravel and Debussy, a revelation to me. Steven Stucky’s and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s pieces–written in recent years–in turn show their debts to Lutoslawski. Cheng soars through these demanding compositions with touch, articulation and dynamics that may overcome any resistance you have to contemporary “classical” music. The deftness and feeling she brings to the “Chorale” section of Salonen’s Three Preludes reminded me of something. I dug out The Gary McFarland Orchestra with Special Guest Bill Evans from 1963 and listened to “Night Images.” Sure enought, the moods, if not the styles, of Salonen’s and McFarland’s pieces complement one another perfectly. It’s all music, folks.