The Bobby Shew Story (Skyhigh Films). The great trumpeter talks about his career — stumbling into a jam session at age fifteen and discovering that he had the gift of improvisation –– deciding to give up studio work: “I realized I was on a chain like a pet monkey” — the joy of losing his fear of playing incorrectly: “I’m not afraid of sticking my neck out any more.” Interspersed with the interview segments are sequences of Shew performing at the Jazz Bakery with the Chris Walden big band. They include his scintillating exchanges with fellow trumpeter Kye Palmer on Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring.” The DVD production is rudimentary, but the video quality and sound are excellent, and Shew’s insights are often profound.
Archives for 2008
In his Jazz Profiles blog, Steven M. Cerra’s stock-in-trade is thorough examinations of the careers of important jazz musicians. His current project is Victor Feldman, the late, astonishingly talented drummer, pianist and vibraharpist. Steve just posted the third of three parts about Feldman. In the first installment, he tells of going to The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, California, in the late 1950s when Feldman was playing piano and vibes with the all-star group led by Howard Rumsey.Â
As an aspiring Jazz drummer, it was late on one of the sparsely attended week nights that I summoned the courage to go up to Stan Levey, always an imposing figure, to ask him a question about some aspect of the mechanics of playing the instrument.
The band members usually congregated along the back wall of the club between sets. When I approached Stan and asked my question he replied: ” you don’t wanna talk to me about that sh**; I’m self-taught. The guy you want to talk to is sitting over there [nodding toward Victor sitting alone at an adjoining table]. He even knows the names of all the drum rudiments!”
At the time, I had no idea that Victor played drums. I soon found out as he thoroughly answered my question as well as demonstrating the answer. Shortly thereafter, Victor Feldman agreed to offer me lessons.
Victor Feldman, ca 1957
Cerra details Feldman’s career up to and beyond his celebrated and regrettably brief time as Miles Davis’s pianist. To read all three segments, click here. I suggest scrolling down to part one and working back up. Along the way, you’ll find a Cerra appreciation of pianist Dado Moroni, also worth your time.
In the center column, the Rifftides staff presents the latest batch of Doug’s Picks. I think it’s fair to describe this as an eclectic selection.
Ted Gioia, Delta Blues (W.W. Norton). Those who think that their musical sophistication places basic blues beneath consideration are likely to benefit from Gioia’s exhaustive, deeply informative study. He concentrates on Mississippi Delta blues and its heroes including Robert Johnson, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt and B.B. King. Gioia traces the evolution of the blues from the plantation work songs that were also one of the roots of jazz. He is persuasive on the role of economics in driving the early bluesmen. He avoids the political and cultural posturing that has flawed some previous books on the subject. This is a welcome, helpful and rly written volume.
The research into Ralph Rainger that has kept me more or less hors de combat from Rifftides lately included the not entirely disagreeable task of watching The Big Broadcast of 1938. Film musicals still recycled vaudeville in those days, so what we get is a series of blackouts draped over a flimsy structure called a plot. It’s an excuse to see, among other things, a few vintage W.C. Fields bits and hear Martha Raye, a drastically underrated singer. Part of the plot involves Bob Hope’s character dodging three ex-wives while he pursues Dorothy Lamour.
Hope and one of the exes, played by Shirley Ross, have a drink in the lounge of a transatlantic liner. Beautifully underplayed (in contrast to the rest of the movie), the scene introduced one of Rainger’s best songs and – according to Hollywood lore – reduced the crew to tears while it was being filmed. Here’s why.
In the Boston Globe, Matt Negrin reports on yesterday’s memorial service for pianist Dave McKenna. He includes what one of McKenna’s favorite singers said about working with him.
It was like partially singing with an orchestra and floating on air at the same time, because he was buoyant,” said Daryl Sherman, who had sung with the pianist since the 1980s, including at his final performance in the Oak Room in New York City’s Algonquin Hotel. She called McKenna the “Woonsocket hero.
To read all of Negrin’s article, click here.
Rifftides readers in Rhode Island and nearby parts of New England who were friends or admirers of Dave McKenna may wish to attend a memorial service for him today, Sunday, December 7. The pianist, a mainstream jazz powerhouse for decades, died on October 18. He was seventy-eight.
The 2 p.m service will be at The St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center, 84 Cumberland Street in Woonsocket, RI, McKenna’s home town. His sister, Jean O’Donnell, will sing at the service. Other singers will be Carol Sloane, Daryl Sherman and Donna Byrne. Instrumental colleagues who also worked closely with McKenna will perform to celebrate his life. Among those expected to pay tribute are Dick Johnson, George Masso, Lou Colombo, Gray Sargent, Mike Renzi, Marshall Wood, Gary Johnson and Red Lennox.
In response to last month’s post Herb Geller At 80, Rifftides reader Mike Baughan sent the following account of hearing Geller under fortuitous circumstances.
On a ‘post-divorce find-myself-solo vacation’ to Norway in 2002, I was fortunate enough to attend some events of the Oslo Jazz Festival. Saw the Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius perform a lively set. At the show’s conclusion they invited those interested to meet at The Oslo Grand Hotel for a jam session. Traveling alone, I had no tight schedule, so I went not knowing what it would be like.
The opening band was Herb Geller’s Quartet. Many musicians finishing up their sets
Â around town sauntered in, with an almost devout attention to Herb’s playing. Among them was Joe Lovano who stood right next to me (!) After a few minutes, I got my nerve up and asked Mr. Lovano if I could buy him a drink. In a long 5 seconds I felt like a fool for asking him, followed by his: “Well of course you can!” In return for the snifter of Courvoisier, I told him, it’d cost him a photo, which hangs prominently on this jazz fan’s wall!
For the next hour, Mr. Lovano was my best friend on this earth. What a kind human being!
Most of our talk was about the state of jazz in Europe in contrast to the USA, but with an emphasis on what a strong role Herb Geller plays in that scene.Â
As I talked to him, Joe was approached by many other musicians urging him to go up & jam w/ Herb, but he politely declined while introducing me (“Mike from North Carolina”) as his new friend. He pointed out techniques, intricacies, & nuances of Herb’s playing that even I, a non-musician, could understand. Most importantly, his respect for Herb in the pantheon of jazz history was incredible.
I was enthralled! Needless to say, it’s my favorite jazz fan story. Joe & Herb are both class acts in my book. Words can’t express. Pardon the rant, but I’m still fascinated by that evening. Happy Birthday to Mr. Geller. Love your Desmond book. Happy Holidays.
Mike Baughan, Joe Lozano, Oslo, 2002
Thanks to Dr. Baughan for a good story well told.
Wayne Shorter turned seventy-five in August and played a delayed celebratory concert this week in Carnegie Hall. He was with his working rhythm section of pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. The remarkable Imani Winds also played a set with Shorter. I wasn’t there, worse luck, but fellow artsjournal.com blogger Larry Blumenfeld was. He filed a moving report on his Listen Good. Excerpts:
It’s as if Shorter has simply liberated each song from its beginning and end, allowing each to extend and even blur into one another, free of given duration. The clichÃ© when describing a band as strongly in sync as Shorter’s is that it moves as one: But these musicians don’t. And they don’t follow the leader, either, beyond taking his song cues –“Zero Gravity,” “Sanctuary,” “Joy Rider,” among a few others–and adjusting to his rhythmic and dynamic shifts.
The arrangements were like gardens that had grown over to an absurd yet startlingly beautiful point, yet somehow retained the logic of their original plantings. And even in such elaborate context, seated the whole time, Shorter was prominent without being dominant, playing upward-pointed lines, high-register squeals, well-placed single notes, and, at one point, soft blues phrases with obvious glee and no signs of slowing down.
To read all of Blumenfeld’s review, click here. Now, I’m back to work on a Ralph Rainger project appearing soon in a newspaper near you.
The Rifftides staff is knee-deep, at least, in an article about Ralph Rainger. It will appear soon in a national publication. Ralph Rainger? Here are two clues:
People say you rule me with one wave of your hand. Darling, its grand. They just don’t understand
You might have been a headache, but you never were a bore…
I’ll get back to blogging soon. In the meantime, please explore the Rifftides archives, which now have more than three-and-a-half years of material. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Michael Ricci, the proprietor of the All About Jazz web site, asked me to contribute (in the true sense of the word) something about “Take Ten,” the piece Paul Desmond hoped would become as big a hit as its predecessor, “Take Five.” Michael and I worked together to adapt a substantial portion of the chapter of my Desmond biography that deals with “Take Ten.” AAJ put it up today, with a bonus in the form of illustrated audio of Desmond, Jim Hall, Gene Cherico and Connie Kay playing “Samba de Orpheu” from the Take Ten CD. By clicking here, you will find all of that, complete with a link to the publisher of Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, who would be happy to sell you a copy and throw in free shipping. Christmas is coming. The book wraps beautifully.
The Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania in the northeast United States are home to musiciansÂ who like peace and quiet but must be near New York City and Philadelphia, where
Â the work is. The Delaware Water Gap area of the Poconos has become famous in jazz circles for residents including Phil Woods, Urbie Green, Bob Dorough, David Liebman, John Coates, Jr., Bill Goodwin, Steve Gilmore and Hal Galper, and for the Deer Head Inn, the region’s jazz headquarters. It was at the Deer Head in 1978 that Woods, Rick Chamberlain and the late Ed Joubert cooked up the notion that grew into the Delaware Water Gap Celebration of the Arts (COTA) and its renowned jazz camp.
The Poconos also boast East Stroudsburg University, the site of the Al Cohn Memorial Jazz Collection. Named for the great tenor saxophonist, composer, arranger and catalyst, the Cohn collection is a historian’s, researcher’s and enthusiast’s paradise. It is packed with recordings, oral histories, books, video tapes, DVDs, sheet music and memorabilia. The collection survives and expands with the support of those who understand the importance of its efforts to preserve the history of the music and educate people about it. Its three-times-a-year newsletter The Note would be worth reading if only for Woods’ lead column, Phil In The Gap. In the Fall 2008 issue he gives an account of a recent globe-hopping tour in which he and his luggage became strangers. Phil and the bags kept playing different cities. Here’s an excerpt about a night in Italy.
The Verona gig with was with Jesse Davis’ band. Good rhythm section, but the hotel was sadder than McKinley’s funeral — even the horses cried. No clean drawers and I don’t mean the dresser! The bathroom was the personification of Italian showers – no water, no curtain, no washcloth, and postage-sized towels. But the restaurant was great, of course.
Later in his column, Woods writes about COTA’s educational activities and his new CD project, The Children’s Suite, his composition based on A.A. Milne’s Now We Are Six. The issue also has the final part of Dave Liebman’s series, “Reflections on the Artistic Process” and a long verbatim oral history conversation with the late composer Manny Albam about his life and music. Each issue of The Note has several such substantive articles. When Bob Bush, the coordinator of the collection and editor of The Note, asked me to contribute something, I was delighted to write about my encounters through the years with the collection’s namesake.
One morning in 1973 in Washington, DC, I was waiting to be seated for breakfast at the Airline Inn, a motel south of the Capitol near the UPI Television News bureau. Someone behind me greeted me by name. I looked back and, to my surprise, saw Al Cohn. Al and I met through Zoot Sims shortly after my family and I moved to New York in 1970. We became cordial acquaintances during my frequent visits to the Half Note, home base for him and Zoot.
It turned out that Al was in town orchestrating the score of the musical Raisin during the show’s pre-Broadway shape-up. I was UPITN’s chief (meaning all-purpose) correspondent, covering the White House, the Watergate hearings in Federal court and the US Senate, and traveling with President Richard M. Nixon on those increasingly rare occasions when he emerged from the bunker. For a time, I traveled to DC and spent most of every week there. I was delighted to find a kindred soul among the lobbyists, lawyers, Teamsters Union representatives and occasional–uh–professional women who populated the Airline Inn when Congress was in session.
After that initial encounter, Al and I met for breakfast every morning while he was working on Raisin. Our talks touched on his work, my work, Watergate, international affairs and whatever we had heard or read in the news that morning. His curiosity about the world ranged as wide as his humor. He had me chuckling much of the time. I’d give anything to have recordings of those conversations.
I wish that I could give you a link to the rest of the article, but The Note has no online version. The good news is that The Al Cohn Collection has a web site, where you can find out how to contribute to a valuable nonprofit organization doing good work. If you ask nicely when you send your check, there’s a good chance that Bob Bush will put you on the mailing list for The Note. Click here and scroll down to “How To Donate.” Tell him Rifftides sent you.
Al Cohn, ca 1973, with Al Porcino’s Band of the Century
in the Rough Rider Room of the Roosevelt Hotel, NYC
Â© Doug Ramsey
Six to eleven pieces allow arrangers freedom that the conventions and sheer size of sixteen-piece bands tend to limit. Medium-sized groups have been important since the beginnings of jazz.
They continue to be important. Here are three recent examples, quite different from one another.
Felipe Salles, South American Suite (Curare Records). Salles performs on several reed instruments. He is exceptional in his tenor saxophone solos, but his writing for an octet of spirited young players is what makes this some of the most intriguing mid-sized-band music of the year. Among other elements, Salles melds Brazilian forms and bebop spirit for exhilarating blends of simplicity, complexity and sophistication. His resourceful harmonic voicings for horns and violin often make the band sound half again larger. This is music of insistency and depth. It demands and rewards attentive listening.
New Jazz Composers Octet, The Turning Gate (MotÃ©ma). The NJCO’s arrangers and Â composers craft challenging settings for the soloists, who include themselves. The group’sÂ sparkplug, trumpeter David Weiss, has long since established himself as a forward-looking writer. Pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Dwayne Burno and saxophonist Myron Walden also contribute substantial works to this collection. Trombonist Steve Davis and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene grace the group, along with drummer Nasheet Waits and baritone saxophonist Norbert Stachel. All are key players in today’s New York modern jazz community. Weiss’s “The Turning Gate” and Xavier Davis’s four-part “The Faith Suite” are rewarding new contributions to the repertoire.
David Berger Octet, I Had The Craziest Dream: The Music of Harry Warren (Such Sweet Thunder). Many of the songs Harry Warren wrote for motion pictures were among the biggest hits of the 1930s and ’40s. The dozen that Berger chose for this CD are standards that have endured for decades. His arrangements of “September in the Rain,” “I’m an Old Cowhand,” “Jeepers Creepers,” “I Had the Craziest Dream” and the rest do Warren justice he has too often been denied. Berger’s charts are idiomatic in surprising ways; “Boulevards of Broken Dreams” as a slinky tango, for instance, and “The Gold Diggers’ Song” outfitted with a flying bebop soli for the ensemble. Eight fine musicians abet Berger. Saxophone soloists Harry Allen and Joe Temperley stand out, with stirring work from relative newcomers Isaac Ben Ayala on piano, trumpeter Brian “Fletch” Pareschi, alto saxophonist Matt Hong and trombonist Marshall Gilkes. Veteran drummer Jimmy Madison and the young bassist Yasushi Nakamura generate serious swing throughout.
We may as well keep the Desmond string running through the weekend. After the Dave Brubeck Quartet disbanded at the end of 1967, Desmond did not play for more than a year. It wasn’t a matter of simply not performing in public or not recording. He did not take his saxophone out of the case, allegedly concentrating on writing How Many Of You Are There In The Quartet? the book that never happened. He also lolled around in the Caribbean. Toward the end of 1968, he relented to the extent of recording for the A&M label’s Horizon subsidiary. He was existing comfortably on his invested quartet earnings and the royalties from “Take Five,” but in the early seventies something within told him that he needed the gratification of regular playing. He began appearing as a guest with Brubeck’s reconstituted quartet or with Dave and his sons in the Two Generations Of Brubeck group. The Desmond interregnum period is covered in (here comes the shameless book plug) Chapter 29 of Take Five: The Public And Private Lives Of Paul Desmond.
Brubeck had taken less time to succumb again to the compulsion to play jazz. He continued to write his long-form concert works, but he assembled a band with Jack Six on bass and Alan Dawson playing drums. Gerry Mulligan, whom his friend Desmond once described as “the consummate prima donna bandleader,” put aside his own leadership and a fraction of his ego to tour with Brubeck. When Desmond joined them, they often played one of his favorite Mulligan pieces, “Line For Lyons,” as they did in a performance at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1972. This clip, new to me, materialized on You Tube in the past few days.
Desmond was costumed in the glen plaid garment known as The Suit, nearly inseparable from him in his later years. We get closeups of both in another performance from the Berlin Festival. Paul is featured on a ballad he cherished, “For All We Know.”
Have a good weekend.
Ted O’Reilly, the Toronto broadcaster, sent a recording of an interview he did with Paul Desmond in 1975. O’Reilly asked if there was a moment when Desmond realized the astounding degree of popularity the Dave Brubeck Quartet had achieved. Not really, Paul said, but that reminded him of a favorite question.
We were on a State Department tour in ’59, and we landed in Ismir, Turkey, and there was this huge hoop-de-do at the airport. They had a band playing one of our tunes, and a whole bunch of people; jazz fans and critics and whatnot. We were schlepping all of the equipment and baggage and everything to the hotel. Press conferences and interviews and pictures and all of that went on for an hour or so. Then, ultimately, it all subsided and I was sitting in the bar. There was nobody much left except this one guy who came up and said, “How long have you been famous?”
I said, “Well! That’s sort of hard to pin down. I suppose it would depend on whether you
start with the Columbia records or the concerts and Fantasy. Oh, I don’t know, I guess maybe 1954 or somewhere around there.”
And then he said, “What’s your name?”
Yesterday was Paul Desmond’s eighty-fourth birthday. Years after Paul’s death, his guitar companion Jim Hall said, “He would have been a great old man,”Â The last birthday Desmond celebrated, his fifty-second, fell on Thanksgiving, 1976. He spent it with Jim andÂ his wife JaneÂ at their daughter’s tiny apartment in New York City. He had taken a hiatus from his lung cancer therapy to play the Monterey Jazz Festival and an engagement at Barnaby Conrad’s El Matador in San Francisco. From Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond, this is an account of that Thanksgiving day. The photographs, never before published, are courtesy of Devra Hall.
Back in New York, Desmond resumed his chemotherapy treatments and spent time with friends. Jim and Jane Hall’s daughter, Devra, had been graduated from ClarkÂ University in Worcester, Massachusets and was living on 89th Street between West End and Riverside Drive. Her mother announced to her that now that she had her own place, Devra would be hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving and Desmond’s 52nd birthday came on the same day, November 25, 1976.
“I told her, ‘Okay, but you have to bring Paul,'” Devra said. “I knew what Mom would do, so I went to the market on Broadway and got this turkey and, mind you, my kitchen was
Â the size of a small bathroom. To open the oven, you had to stand outside the kitchen door. This is New York, my first apartment and my first turkey, I’m growing up and very pleased with myself. I followed all the instructions, turned on the oven and put it in.Â We all knew Paul was sick. I think he had just finished a chemo treatment, but he said he felt up to it, and he and my folks came to this tiny one-room apartment. There was no bed, just a pullout couch; it was all folded up. Paul was sitting in the little brown canvas
sling chair. There was an upright piano that my dad had bought me for my birthday, a chest of drawers and a drop leaf table at which we had dinner. That was it for furniture. Well, they’re sitting there. My mother says, ‘So, how’s the bird? I say, ‘Well, go check it out.’ She opens the oven–I couldn’t go in there with her; there was no room–and she closes the door and she’s laughing. You know, I’m mortified. I can’t imagine what’s wrong.
“Paul’s saying, ‘What’s wrong, didn’t she turn on the oven?’ Jim can’t decide whether I’m going to cry or what. It turns out that I had put the turkey in the oven upside down. Don’t the legs go on the bottom? I mean, isn’t that how the bird stands? We later determined that I was ahead of my time. Today, that’s the chef’s secret to keeping the meat moist. It turned out fine. It was a very quiet dinner. Paul was not feeling well, but he was clearly happy not to be home alone. He didn’t have to say a word around my folks. They talked a blue streak, usually, but he was just very comfortable. My fondest recollection is that I made him dinner on his last birthday.”
The senior Halls and Desmond went back to Jim and Jane’s apartment when they left Devra’s, and on the way stopped at the Village Vanguard. Thelonious Monk was performing there. Between sets, they all gathered in the Vanguard’s kitchen, the closest thing the club has to a Green Room.
“It was the most coherent conversation I ever had with Thelonious,” Hall said, “in the kitchen with Paul and me and Thelonious. I had a sort of nodding acquaintance with Monk, but he and Paul really connected. I’m not even sure what they talked about, just standing around in that kitchen, going through old memories and things. It was nice.”
To listen to The Sound Of A Dry Martini,Â producer Paul Conley’s classicÂ National Public Radio documentary about Desmond,Â click here. Â
In New York in ’57, his front-line partner was Bill Harris, the eccentric and endlessly inventive trombone hero of several editions of the Woody Herman band. Among the players in the pianoless rhythm sections were bassist Oscar Pettiford, drummerÂ Don Lamond and, in separate sessions, guitarists Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Raney and Chuck Wayne. Bob Zieff wrote arrangements for the two horns and a five-man string section that included Harry Lookofsky and other leading studio players of the day. It is puzzling that Zieff, noted for an advanced compositional style and the unusual pieces he created in the fifties forÂ Chet Baker, gave the string writing here little of the harmonic astringency and complexity of line for which he was known. It was a missed opportunity. No matter; with superlative rhythm section support, Nimitz and Harris are unhampered, even gleeful, in their solos on “Somebody Loves Me,” “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise” and seven other standards. Their hand-in-glove exchanges and intertwining on several pieces are a joy.
Nimitz’s foil In the 2007 session is Adam Schroeder, a young baritone player based in Los Angeles, as Nimitz has been for decades. Schroeder’s tonal quality is close to Nimitz’s latterday sound, but his conception seems to reflect that of Pepper Adams, and the contrast makes it fairly easy to tell them apart. If anything, Nimitz has gained pzazz in his later years. He frequently reaches into the baritone’s sub-basement for deep tones that challenge your woofer, and is likely toÂ leap into tenor saxophone range for bursts of lyricism. As in the earlier session, most of the material is standard songs or originals based on them. Mike Barone’s sprightly “Waltz This” is an exception.
Toward the end of “More Friends” (“Just Friends”), the two baritones indulge themselves in a chorus of unaccompanied counterpoint that is as much fun to hear as it must have been to play. There is more of it on “It’s You or No One.” Nimitz’s stately ballad playing on “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” with a couple of Serge Chaloff references, is a highlight.The only strings on this occasion were those of the superb bassist Dave Carpenter in one of the last recordings before his death in June at the age of forty-eight. John Campbell is the pianist, Joe La Barbera the drummer, rounding out a first-rate rhythm section. This is a rare and welcome release, a recording led by Jack Nimitz in the middle of one century and the beginning of the next.
Bill Evans had precise intellectual understanding of everything he did in his playing. However, like most superior improvisers, he developed his skill and knowledge to the point where he could set aside concentration on keyboard technique and the elements of musical language in order to achieve an unfettered flow of creativity in the spontaneous act of playing jazz. On occasions when he talked about the nature of improvisation, Evans spoke with exactitude and coherence to match his expressiveness at the piano. The most widely known example of his verbal eloquence is in conversation with his brother Harry, a music educator, in a 1966 television program called The Universal Mind of Bill Evans, which is available on DVD.
Now, three revealing video clips have surfaced. They were taped nearly thirty years ago at a private house concert in Finland. The Evans trio played and he talked with his hosts about his music-making. Asked how far the intellect goes in playing jazz, he replied:
Only as far as being a student. You couldn’t manipulate yourself fast enough intellectually, to play. I mean jazz is a certain process that is not an intellectual process. You use your intellect to take apart the materials and learn to understand them and learn to work with them. But, actually, it takes years and years of playing to develop the facility so that you can forget all of that and just relax, and just play.
At the end of the third sequence, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morrell, also speak. These You Tube clips are apparently from a television program that aired in Helsinki. As far as I’ve been able to discover, they have never been commercially available. This was about a decade before Evans’ death in 1980. Relaxed in comfortable surroundings and congenial company, he even smiles, a rarity in video recordings of Evans. The first clip has Evans speaking.
The Rifftides staff is still catching up with recent CDs, some more recent than others.
Sheila Jordan, Winter Sunshine (Justin Time). The first word in the CD’s title may refer to
Jordan’s age, the second to the quality of her singing. She is seventy-nine and sounds thirty. Part of her schtick in this live recording at Montreal’s Upstairs club is to tell the audience how tired she is, but she doesn’t sound tired. She sounds like a young bebop and ballad singer with sunshine in her voice.Â If there must be scatting, let it be the kind of canny scatting Jordan does in “I Remember You” and her montage of “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” and “Little Willie Leaps.” She praises pianist Steve Amirault, bassist Kieran Overs and drummer AndrÃ© White…for good reason. The chatter between songs wears thin after two or three hearings, but it is on separate tracks, and most CD players are programmable.
Mike Longo, Float Like a Butterfly (CAP). I hope that before Oscar Peterson died last December he had a chance to hear Longo’s treatment of “Tenderly” in this 2007 CD. Longo emulates the first chorus of the master’s famous 1952 recording, then pursues his own muse with forthrightness, imagination and relaxed swing. Peterson would no doubt have been pleased with his prize student on both counts. Longo’s longtime confreres Paul West and Jimmy Wormworth are the bassist and drummer. The trio plays a couple of the leader’s own tunes and explores several by Monk, Gillespie, Shorter, Hubbard, Raksin, Van Heusen, Schwartz and others. This is an unpretentious and deeply satisfying recording, nowhere more so than in Longo’s clever blues “Diminished Returns.”
Kenny Garrett, Sketches of MD: Live At The Iridium (Mack Avenue). The alto saxophonist eases off his customary Coltrane modal intensity for a club date incorporating soul, neo-Africanisms and synthesizer funk. The MD of the title refers to Garrett’s stint with Miles Davis
in the trumpeter’s late electronic period. The veteran tenor saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders brings to the proceedings an earthiness that rubs off on Garrett. Or is it vice versa? The rhythm section of bassist Nat Reeves, drummer Jamire Williams and keyboard player Benito Gonzalez provides the hypnotic backgrounds in this album of good-natured party music.