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Various Artists: Jazz For Japan (2011)

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Various Artists: Jazz For Japan How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

In the wake of the barrage of natural and man-made disasters that struck Japan in early 2011, a large group of fine musicians got together for Jazz For Japan. One of the strongest compilations of the year, all proceeds are being donated to help the victims of this great tragedy.

The standards featured on this two-disc compilation album come from heyday eras of jazz bigwigs including Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
, who wrote four of the set's fourteen tracks, Stanley Turrentine
Stanley Turrentine
Stanley Turrentine
1934 - 2000
sax, tenor
, Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
, Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
and Irving Mills
Irving Mills
b.1884
, Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
, Nat Adderley
Nat Adderley
Nat Adderley
1931 - 2000
trumpet
, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
and Jimmy Dorsey
Jimmy Dorsey
Jimmy Dorsey
1904 - 1957
composer/conductor
. The A-listers of contemporary musicians who donated their time to this compilation do a great job of respecting the source material—similar enough as to not destroy the classics, but taking some liberties and straying just far enough away to keep things feeling fresh and revitalized.

The opening "Maiden Voyage," with pianist Billy Childs
Billy Childs
Billy Childs
b.1957
piano
assuming Hancock's roll, is one of the few tunes that doesn't deviate far from the original, but that isn't a bad thing. The players feel tight and sound great, but avoid any grand departures. What gives it some new air is its being recorded with newer technology; this isn't 1965 anymore.

The mellow "Sugar" features tenor saxophonist Everette Harp
Everette Harp
Everette Harp
b.1961
saxophone
, doing well in the lead with strong support from guitarist David T. Walker, who hits the tune's sweet spot with a short solo near the song's end. On "So What," Miles Davis' trumpet parts are replaced by alto saxophonist Tom Scott
Tom Scott
Tom Scott
b.1948
saxophone
, while Paul Chambers
Paul Chambers
Paul Chambers
1935 - 1969
bass, acoustic
' double-bass is assumed by electric bassist Nathan East. The solos avoid replicating the originals too closely, helping to keep it fresh.

"Footprints," with Rickey Minor
Rickey Minor
Rickey Minor

bass, electric
and The Tonight Show Band, the current house band from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, is the first of four tracks featuring multi-instrumentalist virtuoso Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller
b.1959
bass, electric
, heard here on bass clarinet while, on the highly revered golden age standard, "Body and Soul," Miller takes the lead beautifully on electric bass, with pianist Herman Jackson's light touch complimenting him nicely.

Surprisingly, there is only one Japanese artist featured in the set, but it's definitely a good one. Keiko Matsui
Keiko Matsui
Keiko Matsui

piano
has been internationally active for the past thirty years, with twenty albums to her credit. Here, the acclaimed pianist performs "Cold Duck Time," which also marks the only appearance of saxophonist Boney James
Boney James
Boney James

saxophone
, who helps spice things up on this hip track with a driving pace.

The rest of the set is more or less on par, with disc one feeling a wee bit stronger than disc two, though that's not to suggest the second disc is weak. The overall scope of Jazz for Japan hits a mark of quality and production which is often hard to find amongst the abundance of mediocre jazz releases these days.

Track Listing: CD1: Maiden Voyage; Sugar; So What; Sophisticated Lady; Footprints; Work Song; What a Wonderful World. CD2: Mr. PC; Body and Soul; Cold Duck Time; Watermelon Man; Invitation; Cantaloupe Island; I'm Glad There is You.

Personnel: Steve Gadd: drums (CD1#1, CD1#3, CD1#6); Tom Scott: sax (CD1#1, CD1#3, CD1#6); Billy Childs: piano (CD1#1, CD1#3-4, CD1#6, CD2#6); Nathan East: bass (CD1#1-3, CD1#6); Everette Harp: sax (CD1#1-3, CD2#5); Clarence McDonald: piano and electric piano (CD1#2, CD2#1, CD2#5, CD2#7); Ndugu Chancler: drums (CD1#2, CD2#1); David T. Walker: guitar (CD1#2, CD2#1); Del Atkins: bass (CD1#2); Christian McBride: bass (CD1#4, CD2#6); Ricky Minor & The Tonight Show Band (CD1#5); Marcus Miller: bass clarinet and bass (CD1#5, CD2#1, CD2#3, CD2#5); Wayne Linsey: piano (CD1#5); Paul Jackson Jr.: guitar (CD1#5); Teddy Campbell: drums (CD1#5); David Delhomme: electric piano (CD1#5); Kevin Ricard: percussion (CD1#5); Raymond Monterio: trumpet (CD1#5); Miguel Gandelman: tenor sax (CD1#5); Garret Smith: trombone (CD1#5); Randy Ellis: alto sax (CD1#5); George Duke: electric piano (CD1#6); Deron Johnson: piano (CD2#2); Larry Goldings: organ (CD2#2); Chuck Berghofer: bass (CD2#2); Peter Erskine: drums (CD2#2, CD2#6); Herman Jackson: piano (CD2#3, CD2#7); Boney James: sax (CD2#4); Keiko Matsui: piano (CD2#4); Ricky Minor: bass (CD2#4); Tom Brechtlein: drums (CD2#4); David Paich: electric piano (CD2#4); Lee Ritenour: guitar (CD2#5); Kenny G.: soprano sax (CD2#5); Alex Acuña: drums, congas (CD2#7); Alphonso Johnson: bass (CD2#7); Herman Jackson: piano (CD2#7); Bob James: piano (CD2#8).

Record Label: Avatar Records


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