In a posting a few months ago, I outlined the problem that all who write about music must face: keeping up. Nothing has changed, except that more CDs than ever are stacked throughout the office and music room. A colleague says he told a caller demanding to know when his album would be reviewed that his desktop looked like the Manhattan skyline, “and your CD is on the 44th floor.” Following are recommendations for three CDs retrieved from the jewel box skyscrapers.
Tamir Hendelman, Playground (SwingBros). Hendelman has been the pianist in the Jeff Hamilton Trio and the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra since the turn of the century, to general acclaim. A native Israeli in the US since 1984, he has lightness, firmness and wit. Currents of blues wisdom and a related Middle Eastern feeling for the uses of minor chords move through whatever he plays. He is likely to tackle standard tunes in non-standard keys, and his harmonic chops are fully developed. His originals are truly original. This is Hendelman’s first album as leader. His bosses, drummer Jeff Hamilton and bassist John Clayton, are his sidemen. It is an impressive debut CD on all counts – content, balance and performance.
Jaleel Shaw, Optimism (Changu). After I heard this young alto saxophonist in New York a couple of years ago, I wrote about my admiration for his originality in a situation that might tempt a player into imitation. This CD increased the admiration level. Intimations of other musicians and other eras sound as suggestive echoes in Shaw’s work, but the dominant
voice is his own. In his improvisations there is a confident glide through the notes, whether in a waltz like “In 3” or the urgencies and time changes of “The Struggle;” no forced tempos or frantic grabs for handsful of notes, although Shaw is capable of blazing speed and as many notes as he can conceive. Among his own compositions he nestles two standards, “Love For Sale” and “If I’m Lucky,” the latter done reflectively with only Lage Lund’s guitar and Joe Martin’s bass for accompaniment. Other companions on the CD, all of his generation, are trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, pianist Robert Glasper and drummer Johnathan Blake. Shaw will be 31 on February 11.
Garry Dial & Terry Roche, US An’ Them (Dialroche). Dial, the jazz pianist, and Roche, the folk singer, collaborate on imaginative treatments of sixteen national anthems. With them are other musicians including Romero Lubambo, Anne Drummond, Dick Oatts, Joey Baron and Jay Anderson among the jazz players, and an array of instrumentalists and singers from around the world. In the accompanying DVD about the making of the CD, Dial makes the point that people everywhere know the US Anthem, but it is unlikely that the man on the street in Milwaukee knows the Tibetan anthem. He and Roche wanted to do something about that. They give each song a treatment that is unique to its sentiment and its origin.
Eleven of the arrangements are by Dial, a masterly writer and pianist. The settings run from a voice-piano duo to a string orchestra. Jamaica’s anthem becomes a calypso with gospel touches, Czechoslovakia’s (apparently from before the Czeck-Slovak separation) a call for national awakening, Israel’s a yearning for fulfillment of real freedom. Samir Chatterjee’s arrangement of India’s anthem is an Eastern ode to joy. The CD booklet has English translations of the songs sung in other languages. You may have known that there is an Esperanto anthem. I did not. By the time the collection ends with Roche’s simple voice and guitar delivery of “The Star Spangled Banner,” listeners, wherever they may be, are likely to feel a bit closer to the world at large.
Next posting: A few more CDs from the stacks.
Brian Barker says
Don’t worry about not knowing that there is an Esperanto anthem. Most people do not even know that it is now a living language!
If you have time you might like to look at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670
John Birchard says
For what it’s worth, based on your comments, I listened to samples of Tamir Hendelman’s CD and am now awaiting shipment. The guy’s good!