Jazz Quanta April

C. Michael Bailey By

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April is no more the cruelest month than the moon is made of cheese. For consideration this month we have nine recordings from far and wide: Antonio Adolfo to Little Feat far and wide.

Antonio Adolfo
Rio, Choro, Jazz
AAM Music

Before there was Bossa Nova, there was Choro, which itself was a eutection of European, American and African musical elements. One of the greatest Choro composers was Brazilian composer Ernesto Nazareth. Nazareth and his music is the focus of Brazilian pianist Antonio Adolfo, whose previous recordings in the vernacular include: Finas Misturas (AAM Music, 2013), Chora Baiao (AAM Music, 2011) and Antonio Aldolfo / Carol Saboya: La E Ca: Here And There (AMM Music, 2010). The rich musical roux is heard immediately on "Nao Caio Noutra" ("Better Next Time") which employs Claudio Spiewak's guitar and Marcelo Martins's soprano saxophone in an infectious ragtime raze from the early side of Nazareth's career. The closing "Odeon" draws deeply from samba, punctuated with Martins' flute in place of his saxophone. Adolfo solos briskly and exactly as elsewhere on the record, proving he is very at home with this music. The disc possesses a decidedly Caribbean mood of humid good times and breezy high life and is delivered in succinct fashion. Adolfo has never recorded a bad album and was not about to start with Rio, Choro, Jazz.

Heinrich Von Kalnein
Katzenberger 03
Katzenberg Music Productions

There are two parallel trajectories occurring here. On is Ulrich Katzenberger's uber-label Katzenberger Music Productions dedicated to the ..."authentic reproduction of the original sound, both technically and musically, avoiding the use of reverb, filters, compression and other artificial processing in order to achieve honest, natural sound quality." To achieve this, Katzenberger has formulated a production paradigm that begins with the choice of repertoire and musicians and ends with a beautifully appointed product representing the high-end of a music-marketed product. Katzenberger created his label in 2008 after having served as a freelance music producer and the sound engineer for the summer seasons of the Salzburg Festival. The inauguration of his label in the United States consists of three releases, titled "01" (Barbara Hofling, mezzosoprano and Grainne Dunne, piano—German Leider), "02" (Anne- Sophie Bertrand, Harp—European Harp Repertoire) and the topic of the current discussion, "03" (Heinrich von Kalnein, et al.—Jazz). Von Kalnein has been a prominent member of forward-thinking jazz musicians from Europe. He performs here with his quartet that includes saxophonist Sebastian Gille, bassist Henning Sieverts and drummer Jonas Burgwinkel. The four perform a recital of 14 loosely-assembled pieces drawing equally from John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman and John Zorn. Where "Resistible" crosses Rollins with Thelonious Monk in a blues romp, "In Blue" is a fractured free-form counterpoint dance between von Kalnein and Gille. This is moody and demanding music captured brilliantly by Katzenberger's sound paradigm.

Keith Felch
Mirrored Response
Three Cat Night

California-native and multi-reedist Keith Felch debuts with his broad-reaching Mirrored Response, and eleven song collection that wraps its arms around funk, R&B, jazz and world music. Joining Felch is Yellowjacket's guitarist Robben Ford who provides his high-achieving talents to the funky "Abundarotunda" as well as five other selections that include a calm, almost brooding take on Sting's "Fragile," the title track, and the gospel standard "Be Thou My Vision." Bill Withers' Lean On Me is given a molten R&B treatment with bassist Norm Stockton spreading out the bottom for the vocalists and Felch. Stevie Wonder's "Have a Talk With God" (sung by Carrie Rinderer is a brilliant throwback in sound to the late 1970s, when Wonder was king and his smart composing was an example of the best American music had to offer. It is soulful, hosting Felch's full-throated tenor saxophone within a proper frame of musical reference. Think Lenny Pickett in his salad days. "Be Thou My Vision" closes the disc in polyglot fashion that incorporates all of Felch's influences in a single place. It is lyrical and necessarily hymn-like, played beautifully. Felch has been hiding his light under a basket, but no more.

Matt Newton
Within Reach
Self Produced

Colleague Dan Bilawsky remarked in his review of Matt Newton's Within Reach states, ..."most piano trios today tend to either work within predictable linear molds or ethereal spaces." That pretty well sums up the jazz piano trio state of affairs and one must look long and hard to find something novel in trio science lying outside of these two circumstances. What Newton does is straddle the center of these two descriptions, producing listenable music that is accessible and understandable. The title piece opens the disc and illustrates Newton's approach by the pianist first stating the harmonic construct of the song, picked up by bassist Dan Fortin and drummer Ethan Ardelli, who bring down the volume without reducing dynamics, providing Newton a soft anxious hum over which to play.

Natasha Paremski, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Fabien Gabel
Natasha Paremski Plays Tchaikovsky—Piano Concerto No. 1/Rachmaninov— Rhapsody on a Theme By Paganini

Here is Russian Late Romanticism is full (and blushing) blossom, played by Russian-American Natasha Paremski, with Russian fire and pathos. Pyotr Tchaikovsky's titanic Piano concerto No. 1 and Sergei Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini is not an unknown pairing on record. The two were previously coupled by pianist Horacio Guiterrez and the Baltimore Symphony under the direction of David Zinman (Teldec, 1989) and have one or two more historical unions. These two works together are an artistic match made in heaven, representing with work of two of Russia's finest composers straddling the 19th-and 20th Centuries. Paremski is a youthful 26-year old as these performances are committed to digital. She is already an accomplished soloist, having studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music followed by instruction by Pavlina Dokovska at the Mannes College of Music in New York. Prizes and awards followed, as well as a recorded debut featuring the music of Brahms, Kahane and Prokofiev. Paremski is warmer than Argerich while more collected that Horowitz. Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto is so much a part of not only Russia's or even Europe's, but the world's collective unconscious. Paremski performs as if she is acutely aware of this and she makes an exacting effort to honor the composers with a conservative, yet bold performance of both pieces. Beecham's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is in top form beneath Fabien Gabel's steady and emotive baton.

Zan Stewart
The Street is Making Music
Mobo Dog Records

Well-known jazz journalist Zan Stewart reveals himself a prodigious tenor saxophonist from the school of Sonny Rollins by way of Ben Webster on his debut recording The Street is Making Music. After 35 years of writing about jazz, Stewart has opted to record some, and his shot over the bow is a considerable one. Stewart's musical pedigree includes studying clarinet while a child with Ola Ebinger, who had instructed Eric Dolphy and most recently with alto saxophonist Jim Snidero, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli and saxophonist Grant Stewart. Stewart's meaty and muscular tone is well-presented among the four originals (one reprised) and six standards, heavy on the bebop. Stewart combines the original with the standard in "Mobe's Symphony" coupled with the standard "Everything Happens to Me" in a solo horn exercise that is as much compelling as it is instructive. Pianist Bud Powell's "Webb City" reveals Stewart's bop roots as well as alto saxophonist Charlie Parker's "Laird Baird." Pianist Keith Saunders keeps things in the middle of the road while soloing in informed fashion. Stewart's "Gals "Round the 'Hood" is presented twice, the second as an alternate take. Stewart summons all of his Sonny Rollins, giving the piece a slight Latin or Island feel. A debut recording at 70-years old? No sweat!

Terry Waldo
The Soul of Ragtime
Tompkins Square

Pianist Terry Waldo is a keeper of the flame. That flame is the transitional period of piano performance evolution taking place when Ragtime, Jazz and Blues were all mixing it up together at the turn of the last century. The American Roots boutique label Tompkins Square releases Waldo's The Soul of Ragtime which proves to be his investigation of Ragtime as it permeated all around it. Waldo opens things with a Sunday afternoon "Just A Closer Walk With Thee, closing things with a beautifully and appropriately sentimental "Memories of You." In between, he shakes things up with Sousa ("Stars and Stripes Forever), Eubie Blake (Waldo's mentor—playing Blake's signature "The Charleston Rag") and even Scott Joplin's ("Paragon Rag"—the master had to show up sometime). Waldo show his true mettle with an intimate arrangement of Richard Wagner's "Pilgrim's Chorus" from that makes a ragtime ballad out of the Late Romantic opera piece: it is a special revelation. Russell Johnson's 1933 standard "Eccentric Rag" is played with frisky verve and Waldo performs his own "Proctology," showing that modern rag composition not only exists, but thrives. This is infectious, made-in-America, music with no vaccine protection available. And who would want any, anyway?

Leon Russell
Life Journey
Universal Music

The Master of Space and Time may be long in the tooth, but he remains long on that fire that sustained an entire musical movement from the 1960s until now. Following his career-invigorating collaboration with Elton John on The Union (Decca, 2010), Russell decides to spend some of his new-found capital on recording songs that he always wanted to record, but that typically required a big band. Elton John solved the problem by serving as executive producer on Life Journey allowing Russell to bring in Tony LiPuma for the road-rubber productions duties who brought in the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and pianist Alan Broadbent to score the strings. From a swampy take on Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen" to a blues-infused "Georgia On My Mind" Russell proves himself again as an enduring voice of rock and pop music's golden age and an elder statesman unlikely to be equaled. Russell still has a golden touch and voice that is unique and identifiable. Russell is in excellent voice (even better than on The Union) and his piano remains as robust and idiosyncratic as ever. Russell is an American original. The Ballad of Mad Dogs and Englishmen indeed!

Little Feat
Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971—1990

Recorded documentation of Little Feat has been approaching this point of critical mass for over thirty years. The first trickle began with the collection of apocryphal live material on Hoy, Hoy! (Warner Bros, 1981) released in the wake of founder Lowell George's death in 1979. This was followed dutifully by Hot Cakes and Outtakes: Thirty Years of Little Feat (Warner Bros., 2000) after the band had returned from self-imposed exile in 1987. Even a curveball Best of Little Feat (Rhino, 2006) was finally released with something called Little Feat: The Original Album Series (Rhino/Warner Bros., 2010), a curious compiling of the band's first five recordings. Rhino has now upped the ante with all previously released Warner Bros. material, in facsimiles of the original album sleeves, making up Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years 1971—1990. Programmers carefully removed all possible duplication leaving Waiting For Columbus, The Delux Edition intact while pruning Hoy Hoy and Hot Cakes of their selections found elsewhere in the collection. What remains is the entire Lowell George Little Feat corpus and the late 1980s comeback material of a band never fully appreciated. It is a monument of American music that deserved more than it got.

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