Really brief, indeed, because during and since the Rifftides staff’s return from the Ystad Sweden Jazz Festival, albums hoping to be reviewed have arrived by the dozens (not an exaggeration). Here, we begin to consider a few of them.
Rondi Marsh The Pink Room
The Pacific Northwest singer addresses eleven songs mostly from the 1950s. Among her eclectic choices are Lieber-Stoller’s “Black Denim Trousers (And Motorcycle Boots),” Erroll Garner’s “Misty” and Henry Mancini’s “Slow Hot Wind.” She has an exuberant few minutes with the 1954 Rosemary Clooney hit “Mambo Italiano,” mastering the Italian-American New York accent that Clooney made obligatory for this song.
Of The Pink Room’s more restrained pieces, Ms. Marsh does thorough justice to “Summer Wind” and the 1953 Earl Brent-Matt Dennis classic “Angel Eyes.”
Bill O’Connell And The Afro-Caribbean Ensemble, Wind Off The Hudson (Savant)
The title might lead a listener to expect a New York winter chill in the air. Rather, what we hear is O’Connell at the helm of a band that sometimes sounds big and heated, sometimes smallish and intimate and–throughout–as if the musicians are having great fun. O’Connell’s early immersion in New York’s Latin music and salsa community helped imbue him with the spirit that courses through the collection. His superb writing and piano playing are at the heart of the album’s success. Lively performances by major players including saxophonists Gary Smulyan and Ralph Bowen, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, flutist Andrea Brachfeld and trombonist Conrad Herwig, draw us in and elevate the sense that the players thoroughly enjoyed their studio time together. Nothing in the album captures that feeling more effectively than O’Connell’s personalization of Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues,” unless it is his adventurous closing track, “Discombobulation,” about which Russ Musto’s liner notes quote O’Connell as saying that he hoped it would “perhaps expand the horizons of Latin Jazz.” The arrangement may be outré enough to do just that.
Further brief reviews coming soon on Rifftides.
(If you missed our Ystad coverage, you’ll find a wrapup report here.)