MAXJAZZ: Erin Bode, Mulgrew Miller, Denny Zeitlin and Jessica Williams
MAXJAZZ has shouldered its way to the forefront of independent jazz labels by intelligently grouping the label's releases into thematic series. Represented in these four recent releases are the first two series: The Vocal Series and The Piano Series. Typical of all MAXJAZZ releases, the sonics are close and clear. The engineering and production are impeccable, lending either in the studio of live, the intimate experience that is listening to jazz performed well. An additional characteristic of the label is to use top-notch accompaniment, a fact in abundant evidence here.
Don't Take Your Time
The Mid-Western Miss Bode takes her cue from two other prominent Mid-Western singers Karrin Allyson and Norah Jones. On Miss Allyson's recent Wild For You , the singer tends to a collection for her favorite pop songs from the '70s, '80s, and '90s, giving the songs an easy jazz bouquet. Erin Bode does the same with somewhat less well known but equally provocative songs, adding to them that genre bending sound that has placed Norah Jones at the top of the charts, This is illustrated very well on the title track which employs a folksy guitar and piano (played capably by Adam Rogers and Adam Maness, respectively), both moved by the velocity of soft brushes and a lithesome bass She extrapolates this method deftly to pieces like the Beatles "Here, There and Everywhere," Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," and " Bob Dylan's "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You." She takes on Bill Monroe's "In The Pines," where Bode melds the country flavor of Norah Jones with the ragged blues of Cassandra Wilson (note Meg Okura's frightening fiddle playing). Miss Bode is not afraid of the standard either, walking with Larry Grenadier's bass through "But Not for Me," deliciously augmented by Steve Nelson's vibes. Erin Bode has irresistibility impossible to deny.
Live at Yoshi's Volume One
The irrepressible Mulgrew Miller follows his MAXJAZZ debut, reuniting his noted group Wingspan ( The Sequel ) with a live trio recording from Yoshi's in Oakland, California. Employing bassist Derrick Hodge and Drummer Karriem Riggins, Miller turns in a spirited, even relentless survey of the American Hard Bop/Post Bop landscape. Right out of the chute the trio swings into a corrosive reading of Frank Loesser's "If I Were a Bell." Miller attacks the song double-fisted intelligently soloing and comping behind Hodge and Riggins. The disc divides itself evenly between ballads and cookers, the former populated by the beautiful "Waltz for Monk" and Jobim's "O Grand Amor." The cookers on the disc include the opening "If I Were a Bell" and Woody Shaw's "The Organ Grinder," where the trio stretches out under the direction of Miller's orchestral piano, full-bodied and confident. Horace Silver's "Peace," bears the gospel-blues connection played as a Chopin nocturne by Miller, who's voicings are plush and perfectly consonant on this beautiful ballad. Miller's touch on "What a difference a Day Makes" is thoughtful and expansive Riggins uses some clever brush work to perfectly augment both Miller's and Hodge's soft touches. Miller ends on the high note of his composition of "Pressing the Issue" a fast-paced romp that perfectly ends Volume One. Seeing "Volume One" on a disc like this makes this writer grateful there will be more.