Over the next day or two, maybe more, Rifftides will attempt the impossible—we will “review” a significant number of the albums that fill the music room’s overloaded shelves of incoming albums. “Review” in the previous sentence is in quotation marks because the only practical (practical, not easy) way to tackle this is to write tweet-length acknowledgements, with whatever pithy remarks we can devise that may indicate the albums’ worth. Twitter just doubled to 280 the allowable number of characters in a tweet. Adopting their standard, I will try to observe that maximum length. Here we go.
Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop, Rev (Anzic)
The energetic Canadian drummer brings together four of his countrymen and the formidable American tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm. Cervini’s arrangements include the demanding counterpoint of the title tune. He gives “Pennies From Heaven” a stimulating paraphrase melody and booting big band spirit.
Norma Winstone, Well Kept Secret (Sunnyside)
Sunnyside has simultaneously reissued three classic albums by the incomparable singer. Alone, her transformation of pianist Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks” into “A Timeless Place” would make this a desirable release. Winstone, Rowles, George Mraz and Joe LaBarbera together make it an essential one. See other Winstones here
Bria Skonberg, With a Twist (Okeh)
Her second Okeh album proves Skonberg a superb entertainer whose jazz chops and time feeling underlie every trumpet solo she plays and song she sings. She brings humor to novelties (“Cocktails For Two”!), passion to romantic songs (“Dance Me to the End of Love”) and joy to originals (“Same Kind of Crazy”). Sidemen include pianist Sullivan Fortner and drummer Matt Wilson.
Blue Mitchell & Sonny Red, Baltimore 1966 (Uptown)
A previously unissued concert at the Crystal Ballroom finds Mitchell by turn lyrical and aggressive and, as always,at the summit of post-bebop trumpeters. Alto saxophonist Red solos with drama that compensates for a tendency to repeat ideas. Mitchell all but steals the album with a solo on his classic “Fungi Mama.” John Hicks, Gene Taylor and Joe Chambers are the solid rhythm section.
Anouar Brahem, Blue Maqams (ECM)
Brahem plays the oud. He writes, “I simply began in my usual way. Letting the ideas come in of their own accord…” Bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Django Bates help those ideas to blossom. The extraordinary rhythm section enhances a relaxed exotica. For his soft touch and canny harmonies, Bates was a perfect choice.
Dick Hyman, Solo at the Sacramento Jazz Festivals 1983-1988 (Arbors)
This compilation is a summary of the pianist’s astonishing ability. The 16 pieces encompass what may seem polar opposites, e.g. Victor Young’s “Stella By Starlight” and James P. Johnson’s “Carolina Balmoral.” He plays them all brilliantly. His kaleidoscopic “All The Things You Are” is a hoot. So is Wagner’s (via Donald Lambert) “Pilgrim’s Chorus.”
Mark Whitfield, Live & Uncut (Chesky)
The guitarist went into the studio with bassist Ben Allison, old pal Billy Drummond on drums and an audience. In skittering single-note lines, and in deep, rich chords, Whitfield plays standard songs, Monk’s “Jackie-ing,” and originals by trio members. The opening “Without a Song” sets a high criterion that they observe throughout.
Sine Eeg, Dreams (artistShare)
Dreams is an ideal way to meet this remarkable Danish singer. She includes Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart and Gene DePaul, but her original songs are equally important introductions to her vocal quality, flexibility and musicianship. Fellow Dane Jacob Christoffersen is on piano, with guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Joey Baron. Ms. Eeg amusingly converts “Anything Goes” into commentary on current politics
Okay, I occasionally went beyond 280 words. I’ll try to watch that next time. Stay tuned for more briefs.