Short Takes Part 3, Plus Three from MCG!
Herbie Mann / Phil Woods
Herbie Mann passed away July 1, 2003. Beyond Brooklyn was recorded earlier that year and serves as Mann's final recording. He finds himself in the empathetic company of Phil Woods, a musician he has been associated with for 40 years. They reprise their relationship with an eclectic menu ranging from bebop to Brazil (could it have been any other way?). Both Mann and Woods are superb ballad players as they demonstrate, together and separately on "We Will Meet Again," "Caminhos Cruzados," and a heartbreaking "Time After Time," recorded just weeks before the flautist's death. Ellington's "Azure" and Oscar Pettiford's "Bohemia After Dark" are lively lead-ups to Charlie Parker's "Au Privave," which is dispatched easily by the two masters. With the market cluttered with all manners of music, some good, some better, it is nice to know that age and experience can always be counted on.
R.S.V.P. finds Miss Nancy Wilson cast in a variety of settings, singing some of her favorite and most personal songs. To the delight of Wilson fans, the songs Miss Wilson chose for the recording have never been recorded by her during her 50 years in the music business. The recording further distinguishes itself with Miss Wilson being joined by a special guest and a singular arrangement for the songs. Where this works the best is in her vocal duet with Kenny Lattimore on "Why Did I Choose You," An Old Man is Like an elegant Wine," which she shares with Toots Thielemans and Phil Woods, and "How About Me," accented by Paquito D'Rivera. Two of the pieces are not associated with guests (other than the arrangers) and perhaps represent the recording best. Miss Wilson infuses Gordon Jenkin's "Goodbye" with such an exquisite longing and pain that it is like inhaling freezing air. "Little Green Apples" is simply cast as a wonderful ballad (in honor of Wilson's friend, O.C. Smith). Nancy Wilson remains the First Lady of Jazz Vocals.
Bob Mintzer Big Band
Live at MCG with Special Guest Kurt Elling
Bob Mintzer leads the smartest American Big Band. That band is captured in a live setting at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on this new recording. In Addition, Mintzer has Kurt Elling on board as vocalist. This one was looking pretty good before it was placed under the laser. The band is tight as a drum right out of the chute with the Latin original "El Caborojeno." Mintzer solos full-throated on the tune, filling out the lower register of his horn very well. Elling sings a beautifully straight "My Foolish Heart." Well known as a vocalese-scat master, Elling's voice is sweet and virile. Basie's "One O'Clock Jump" is given a facelift by Mintzer and is hurled with great velocity by the band into the 21st Century. But without a doubt the over-the-top core of this recording is Mintzer and Ellings take on Herbie Hancock's "Eye of the Hurricane" where Elling sings as if apoplectic, driven by the band's speed and intensity. This is 12-plus minutes of music on a high plain, with the remainder of the recording on its heels.
Mike Longo and the New York State of the Art Jazz
Mike Longo's claim to jazz fame is having supported Dizzy Gillespie from 1966 to 1973. He has made a number of notable recordings since then, including The Awakening. Longo is well versed in the language of bebop and proves the same in big band swing. His writing and arranging are expansive and his grasp on the blues impressive as evidenced by the opener, "Bag of Bones." His solo on the piece is downright weird, using harmonies more futuristic than Monk in his salad days. "Love Walked In" features Hilary Gardner, singing full-bodied. "Alone Together" is given a shifting Latin treatment, featuring the low brass and Jobim's "No More Blues" provocative. Longo gives us a better-than-average Big Band Outing that will please more than it will displease.
George Gee Big Band
The Music of Frank Foster: Settin' The Pace
George Gee, in his first studio recording, humbly passes the baton to legend Frank Foster for a Big Band stroll through some of the saxophonist's better known compositions and standards associated with him. The band is big and LOUD, right from the start, jettisoning "Out of Nowhere" in the disc opener. Foster's "Settin' the Pace" notches the swing heat up, featuring the trombone section and Howard Johnson on baritone saxophone. Carla Cook sings "Lover Come Back to Me" over Foster's inventive arrangement of the Gershwin chestnut. "The Very Thought of You" is likewise treated. "When Your Lover Has Gone and "Autumn Leaves" are lush, yet bright. Mr. Foster proves quite the conductor, benefiting from his years of experience leading the Basie Big Band.
Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts
Wake Up! (To What's Happening)