Chuck Owen & the Jazz Surge / Swiss Jazz Orchestra / The Aggregation
As for "Le Creation," which features the orchestra's tasteful drummer, Grisha Alexiev, Milhaud arguably never sounded as melodic or accessible as he does here. The same could be said of Poulenc, whose unnamed theme is expertly transcribed by Warfield and the NYJRO and enhanced by Liebman's virile tenor and Sessions' agile trombone. Liebman also plays tenor on the shuffling "Creataloop" (reminiscent of Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder"), on which he shares blowing space with trumpeter Dave Ballou. Bassist Mike Richmond introduces "Blues to Bechet," whose earnest solos are fashioned by Liebman, Alexiev and guitarist Vic Juris who in turn has the first word on "Pablo's Story." Liebman follows on soprano, underscoring his bond to Coltrane.
While Bechet's musicnot to mention Poulenc and Milhaud'smay be an acquired taste, there is no doubt that Warfield, Liebman and the Jazz Repertory Orchestra have accomplished what they set out to do. Whether that earns the listener's approval remains to be seenand heard. Even though skillfully performed, the music swings only randomly, a trait that some may find off-putting. On the other hand, Warfield's approach to atypical compositions by Bechet and the others is admirable and refreshing. What tips the scales in either direction will no doubt be personal preference.
Ed Palermo Big Band
Eddy Loves Frank
The title of Ed Palermo's latest album is hardly an overstatement; this is the Palermo big band's third anthology of music by the late Frank Zappa, who was best known as a rocker but dabbled in various musical forms from jazz to classical. There is one meaningful departure here: "America the Beautiful," dedicated to the heroes and heroines who stepped forward in the wake of 9/11and to Palermo's father who earned the Silver Star as a soldier in World War II.
Otherwise, this is pure Zappa (with all arrangements by Palermo). Having heard Palermo's previous salutes to Zappa, the assessment here is that this one is decidedly more congenial and swinging, which may be token either the choice of material or a conscious effort to unscramble Zappa's music. Whatever the impetus, the result is an album that is appreciably more plain-spoken and persuasive than its predecessors.
This is clear from the outset, as Palermo's doughty alto sax darts through a driving arrangement of "Night School." Pianist Bob Quaranta is showcased on the gritty "Dupree's Paradise," Quaranta and tenor Ben Kono on "What's New in Baltimore," organist Ted Kooshian and lead trumpeter Ronnie Buttacavoli on "Let's Move to Cleveland," soprano Phil Chester and trombonist Joe Fiedler on "Egyptian Strut." Alto Cliff Lyons, tenor Bill Straub, trombonist Charles Gordon and trumpeter John Hines are given a chance to stretch on "Echidna's Arf (Of You)," Kono, Palermo, Kooshian, drummer Ray Marchica and guitarist Bruce McDaniel on "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?" McDaniel is the lead vocalist on "America the Beautiful," with support from Veronica Martell.
Palermo's charts, as noted, are exemplary, and his 17-piece ensemble plays each of them with intelligence and gusto. The third time around, it seems, is a charm for Palermo, Zappa and the band, and Eddy Loves Frank is warmly recommended even to those who've not been seduced by Zappa's music.
Mike Irwin Johnson
8 Legged Monster, Vol. 2
While the liner notes mention Mike Irwin Johnson's affinity for Duke Ellington, his San Francisco-based nonet sounds on 8 Legged Monster, Vol. 2 more like a contemporary renovation of Miles Davis' classic Birth of the Cool sessions than anything else that comes readily to mind. True, there's no French horn or tuba, but Johnson's debonair compositions and arrangements unerringly redeem the spirit of those unforgettably "cool" charts by Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Denzil Best, John Lewis and John Carisi. That's entirely appropriate, as Johnson says it was Davis' album In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969) that led him away from classical music and awakened his interest in jazz.
The closest Johnson comes to Ellington on this studio date (with invited audience) is the Duke's "Mood Indigo," ably performed by the ensemble (as is everything else) with apposite solos by guitarist Johnson and three of the ensemble's six hornstrumpeter Mike Olmos, clarinetist Rob Barics(who doubles on tenor sax) and trombonist Danny Grewen. Others on the front line are alto Joe Cohen, tenor / elder statesman Noel Jewkes and baritone Fil Lorenz. Bassist Eric Markowitz and drummers Jaz Sawyer or Vince Lateano round out the efficient rhythm section. Karina Denike adds a charming vocal on "Goodbye" (a Johnson original, not the familiar Gordon Jenkins composition).