"Lone Wolf" Finds Plenty to Chew On
The "hope" in Italian pianist Roberto Magris' most recent recording is pianist Elmo Hope (1923-67), a hard-bopper whose composition, "Happy Hour," introduces the Magris Trio (Elisa Pruett, bass; Albert "Tootie" Heath, drums). "And more" refers to everything else on the album, comprised of songs by Tadd Dameron, Duke Ellington, Herb Geller, Andrew Hill, Mal Waldron, Rodgers and Hart, and Magris himself ("Elmo's Delight"). As trios go, this one is very good. Magris is a consistently engaging soloist, while Pruett and Heath provide unwavering support. The choice of material is splendid, even Quincy Jones / Billy Byers' theme from the film The Pawnbroker, which may seem an odd choice but works well as a medium-tempo buffer between the Dameron classic "If You Could See Me Now" and Ellington's "I Didn't Know About You."
Magris, who has shown in other contexts that he can swing handily when necessary, reaffirms the judgment on "Happy Hour," "Elmo's Delight" and "My Heart Stood Still," keeping tempos elsewhere at a more moderate pace that is no less agreeable. "If You Could See Me Now" is a melodic delight, as are "I Didn't Know About You" and Waldron's "Fire Waltz." Magris and his mates bring out the best in them, as they do Geller's "Half May" and Hill's "East 9th Street." The album closes with an "audio notebook" by Paul Collins of JMood Records who discusses the concept behind the album and others devoted to "revisiting the works of some of the greatest bebop pianists of the 1950s" including Elmo Hope, which implies (with "Vol. 1") that there may be more to come. That's a happy thought, as the series is surely off to a splendid start with One Night in with Hope.
Johannes Landgren / Hakan Lewin
Ellington and More: Live in Russia
The duo of alto saxophonist Hakan Lewin and organist Johannes Landgren was recorded in concert at the Jazz and Pipe Organ Festival in Chelyabinsk, Russia, in September 2004. Lewin's horn plays the more prominent role in a program that consists of two songs by Duke Ellington, one each by Billy Strayhorn and Thad Jones, four well-known spirituals, and a pair of Lewin's original compositions. Much of the music is tranquil, almost ethereal, exceedingly well-played by Lewin and Landgren, and warmly received by their audience.
Lewin, who employs a mostly vibrato-less style and sound on the order of a Paul Desmond, is an accomplished soloist whose eloquent improvisations are no doubt constrained by the nature of the program. He is nonetheless persuasive, while Landgren is an able partner, doing what is necessary to safeguard Lewin's comfort zone. The felicity of their partnership is evident throughout, as Lewin weaves his melodic lines above Landgren's discerning rhythmic backdrop. As noted, the music is for the most part unhurried and temperate; the lone exception is "Give Me That Old-Time Religion," played at medium tempo. The songs most familiar to American listeners would be Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom," Jones' "A Child Is Born" and the spirituals: "Old-Time Religion," "Go Down Moses," "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."
An agreeable and well-played concert, albeit of most interest to those who appreciate that sort of thing: an alto saxophonist and organist performing a series of ballads that are long on elegance but short on exuberance.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Birdland; Swing Low Sweet Chariot; Please Don't Talk About Me; Sour Sally; Mr. Humble; Captain Crunch; Indian Summer; Maiden USA; I'm Confessin'; Renee; Prunes.
Personnel: Mike Barone: composer, arranger, conductor; Tony Bonsera: trumpet; James Blackwell: trumpet; Jonathan Bradley: trumpet; Mark Lewis: trumpet; Bob Summers: trumpet; Tom Luer, Glenn Garrett, Jon Armstrong, Vince Trombetta, Brian Williams: saxophones; Charlie Loper: trombone; Dick Hamilton: trombone; Bill Booth: trombone; Ben Devitt: trombone; Andy Langham: piano; David Tranchina: bass; Adam Alesi: drums.
Tracks: Another Shuffle; Time to Spare; Components; August Dreams; For Gil; Eleventh Hour; Next Season.
Personnel: Tom Matta: composer, arranger, leader, bass trombone; Chuck Parrish: trumpet, flugelhorn; Marques Carroll: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tim Bales: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bob Lark: trumpet, flugelhorn; Rob Parton: trumpet, flugelhorn; John Wojciechowski: alto, soprano sax; Chris Madsen: alto sax; Mark Colby: tenor sax; Dan Nicholson: tenor sax; Jerry DiMuzio: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Scott Bentall: trombone; Tom Garling: trombone; Steve Horne: trombone; Tim Coffman: trombone; Mike Pinto: guitar; Ron Perillo: piano; Jeremy Kahn: piano; Dennis Carroll: bass; Joe Policastro: bass; Bob Rummage: drums.