In Tune or Not in Tune... That Is the Question
Dizzy resurfaces with "A Night in Tunisia" (solos by Turcotte and trombonist Promane), preceding Thad Jones' "To You," nicely arranged by Young who solos with Williamson and baritone Perry White, and Wilkins' rhythmically intense "Soundings" (Dorge, Promane, Clarke). In Promane's capable hands, the Benny Goodman / Chick Webb / Edgar Sampson jazz standard is transformed into "Waltzin' at the Savoy," with incisive statements by Promane and tenor Mike Murley. Promane's glossy originals, "Still Waters" and "East Of Pho Hung," sandwiched around Mingus' "Better Get Hit in Your Soul," are as tasty as anything on the menu, and that's saying a mouthful. Williamson and Murley share blowing space on "Waters," Young and Murley on "Pho Hung," White and Turcotte on "Soul." The closer, Mobley's fast-paced "Infra-Rae," is icing on an appetizing cake. White, Promane, Williamson and Clarke (who anchors the octet's exemplary rhythm section) are the intrepid soloists.
Octet Volume 1 is one of those remarkable sessions that don't turn up often but can be recommended without pause to anyone who appreciates jazz as it should be played. Bravo to Dave Young and Terry Promane for producing it. Let us hope that a Volume 2 is already in the works.
Coming Up for Air
Maybe This Time Music
Coming Up for Air is an agreeable pastiche by singer / songwriter Kathleen Lee, one that doubles as a tribute to her hometown, New Orleans, which even now continues its recovery from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Lee, a radio host who lost her possessions and had to evacuate the city in the wake of the storm, was soon back on the air on WWOZ-FM, broadcasting her jazz program from a remote location in Baton Rouge. She'd already begun work on a CD, and was convinced by Katrina to complete it as a way of showing the world that New Orleans may have been dealt a crippling blow by the hurricane but was far from lifeless.
Lee mixes things up, blending standards and originals (two of her own, two others by Nick Faust Jr.), ballads, blues, gospel and gasconade. She is accompanied for the most part by groups ranging from five to seven, the exceptions being "You Better Go Now" (with pianist Fred Sanders) and the finale, "Bye Bye Blackbird," on which Lee is supported by bassists David Pulphus and Kerry Lewis. She boasts a strong mid-range voice that is put to best use on "Blackbird," "Fever" and the standard "All of Me" (one of at least two tracks recorded live). Lee sounds almost like a different singer on her own composition, "Dans la Magie de la Lumiere," sung in French in a husky voice reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich or perhaps Jeri Southern. Speaking of Southern, Lee has a go at one of Jeri's signature songs, "You Better Go Now," but sings it more forcefully than Jeri, as she does Peggy Lee's mega-hit, "Fever."
Were it up to me, I'd have opened the album with a stronger track than "Lady Be Good," on which Lee sounds a tad indecisive and scats to no great effect. On the other hand, "Lady" does swing nicely, a brisk counterpoint to "La Lumiere" and the songs that follow: Faust's bluesy "Meet My Baby on the Night Train," Eugene McDaniels' gospel-flavored "Somethin' Real" and Faust's rather indifferent ballad "The Thrill of Love Just Never Fades." Lee wraps things up with another of her compositions, the sensuous "In the Magic of the Light." In sum, a charming potpourri of verse, nicely sung by Lee who raises high the banner of New Orleans for everyone to see and appreciate.
Tracks and Personnel
Double Feature, Volume 4