Keeping up with the ceaseless flow of jazz albums is impossible, but it’s a pleasure to try.
Here are short reviews of a few relatively recent releases.
Hank Jones In Copenhagen: Live At Jazzhus Slukefter 1983 (Storyville)
From nearly the moment he moved from Detroit to New York in 1944, pianist Hank Jones was a central figure in jazz as the music evolved from swing to bebop. In this album recorded at a leading Danish jazz club, Jones reunites with drummer Shelly Manne, another key musician who thrived in New York in the mid-1940s. Manne moved west and became a leader in the community of musicians who coalesced into the movement eventually labeled West Coast Jazz. Danish bassist Mads Vinding completed the Jones trio for the Jazzhus engagement. Half the age of Jones and Manne, Vinding was a professional at 16. By 1983 he was in demand by American stars who visited Copenhagen, among them Art Farmer, Kenny Drew, Dexter Gordon, Roland Hanna and Johnny Griffin. Of a generation that produced several, he is one of Scandinavia’s true jazz stars.
It’s a pleasure to hear Vinding in such company. His solos on Bud Powell’s “Budo” and Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” are highlights of the date. Unfortunately, a listing error on the back of the album misidentifies “Oleo” as Charlie Parker’s “Scrapple From The Apple.” If there are playing errors, better ears than mine will have to find them. This is a rewarding live date by three master musicians. They blend flawlessly through five standard songs and four classic jazz pieces by Parker, Benny Golson and Bud Powell. Sound quality and instrumental balance are excellent. Jones, as always, is superb.
Don Braden, Earth Wind And Wonder (Creative Perspectve Music)
For a time, a cyst on his jaw threatened to end Don Braden’s playing days, but following his recovery the tenor saxophonist and flutist sounds as confident and inventive as ever. Braden’s generation was immersed in the music of Stevie Wonder and the pop/jazz ensemble Earth Wind And Fire. He adapted some of their best-known pieces for this tribute collection. He is particularly moving on flute as he expresses the melody of Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It.” The album gets underway with Braden on tenor sax in EW&F’s “Fantasy.” His fluid solo underlines this relatively young musician’s familiarity with saxophone masters going back as far as Lester Young and Don Byas. Braden’s two combos on the album include pianists Brandon McCune and Art Hirahara, bassists Kenny Davis and Joris Teepe, and drummers Cecil Brooks III and Jeremy Warren. The music may be inspired by preferences of the 1970s, but Braden and company find its timeless qualities.
Jim Snidero & Jeremy Pelt, Jubilation! (Savant)
The exclamation point on the album title emphasizes the spirit of Cannonball Adderley’s music and
life. Jim Snidero’s expansive alto saxophone style observes Adderley’s way of playing without his being a literal-minded imitator. By pointing out the age he would be in 2018, Braden’s composition “Ball’s 90th” reminds us that Cannonball has been gone since 1975. Trumpeter Pelt’s original “Party Time” captures something of Nat Adderley’s puckishness. Among the album’s delights are Pelt’s Harmon mute solo on Cannonball’s “Wabash” and the fun of he and Snidero exchanging eight-bar phrases with drummer Billy Drummond in that track. Nat’s “Work Song” puts the cap on an album that indeed lauds the irrepressible natures of the Adderley brothers and pays tribute to their perennially fresh legacies. Snidero and Pelt play beautifully throughout, as do the members of their rhythm section—pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Nat Reeves and Drummond on drums. Bound to have a long shelf life in any collection, this album will be forever fresh.
Brubeck Brothers Quartet, Timeline 1958-2018 (Blue Forest Records)
Chris Brubeck points out in his informative album notes that it has been 60 years since the Dave
Brubeck Quartet served as Jazz Ambassadors of their counry in US State Department tours that helped spread American culture across the world. Now Brubeck’s sons Chris and Danny pay homage to their father’s contribution in a collection with seven of his compositions and four by members of the BBQ. The album includes famous Dave Brubeck pieces—”Blue Rondo A La Turk” and “Thank You (Dziekuje)” among them—and it’s good to hear them by his sons, pianist Chuck Lamb and guitarist Mike DiMicco. Apart from the commemorative aspect, it is a pleasure to hear the quartet playing so well. After several years together in this format, they have become one of the most consistently satisfying small bands in jazz. Lamb’s “Prime Directive” and “Boundward Home,” with its enticing use of repetition; DeMicco’s “North Coast,” and Chris Brubeck’s atmospheric “3 Wise Men” do not merely hold up well side by side with father Dave’s pieces; they sound as if he might have written them.
Roger Kellaway Trio, New Jazz Standards Vol. 3 (Summit)
It may be one of the better-kept secrets in contemporary jazz—the fact that with the appearance
of this album there are now three CDs of compositions by the versatile and respected trumpeter Carl Saunders, but all credited to other musicians. We learn by way of Vol. 3’s liner notes that the first two were released under the names of the late flutist Sam Most and trombonist Mark Whitfield, who is very much with us. In the case at hand, Saunders recruited pianist Roger Kellaway to be the leader, and added bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Peter Erskine. He also produced the album. It is a welcome addition to the discography of Kellaway, one of the most technically and imaginatively gifted pianists alive. His collaborators are bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Peter Erskine. Leonhart also sings Saunders’ “Is That Asking Too Much?” which is as wry as the title indicates. On some of these pieces Kellaway plays like the wind (or Art Tatum), on others with fetching tenderness—for instance on Saunders’ “Short & Sweet.” Saunders the composer deserves wider recognition.
If you’re interested in hearing Carl Saunders as trumpeter, leader and composer, investigate the albums listed on this Amazon page.
We will have further brief reviews anon.