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"Lone Wolf" Finds Plenty to Chew On


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With Betty sidelined by a bad cough, it was up to me to seek out local jazz events in February, and I managed to find a couple of pretty good ones, starting February 7 at the University of New Mexico's Keller Hall where SuperSax New Mexico performed for the third time in Albuquerque. As you may know, SuperSax NM is patterned after the highly popular West Coast group formed in the early '70s by Med Flory and Sonny Clark and devoted to the music of Charlie Parker, specifically his classic solos, rearranged and played by a full sax section. It's a tough assignment, one that would test any reed player's technique and stamina. Those who laid their aptitude on the line this time around were alto saxophonists Sam Reid and Dave Anderson, tenors Lee Taylor and Aaron Lovato, and baritone Glenn Kostur. They were ably supported by pianist Bert Dalton, bassist Colin Deuble and drummer Cal Haines, with Paul Gonzales sitting in for SuperSax NM's trumpet mainstay, Bobby Shew, and acquitting himself quite well. The program, even though familiar, was no less invigorating, opening with Dizzy Gillespie's "Blue 'n Boogie" and continuing without pause through "Yardbird Suite," "Blues for Alice," "If I Should Lose You," "KoKo," "Just Friends," "Salt Peanuts," "Parker's Mood" and "A Night in Tunisia." Gonzales was showcased on "If I Should Lose You" and "Just Friends," and there were splendid solos along the way by Dalton and all the saxophonists who also traded fours on "Parker's Mood." A first-rate concert.

On February 16, guest saxophonist Dick Oatts joined the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra for a concert at Eldorado High School that wrapped up the annual two-day Albuquerque Jazz Festival. Oatts, a long-time member of New York City's Vanguard Jazz Orchestra who excels on a number of reed instruments, employed only an alto on this occasion, dazzling on half a dozen numbers from fast-moving riffs to Bob Brookmeyer's slow-paced arrangement of Hoagy Carmichael's lovely ballad, "Skylark." Preceding Oatts' star turn, the AJO opened the concert with three numbers, Bert Joris' "Song for Bilbao," the standard "They Can't Take That Away from Me" and Don Sebesky's delightful "Fan It, Janet," the last featuring tenor Lee Taylor and trombonist Ben Finberg. Finberg, trumpeter Kent Erickson and alto Sam Reid were the soloists on "Bilbao," Reid and pianist Jim Ehrend on "Away from Me." Oatts then performed two of his own compositions, "Gumbo G" and "Organic Lady," along with "Skylark," "Just Like That" and the standard "Beautiful Love," closing with Nat Adderley's high-energy "Teaneck." His luminous unaccompanied coda on "Skylark" lasted longer than most solos and brought the near-capacity audience to its feet. The AJO kept pace with apt statements by Ehrend, Reid, Erickson, Finberg, trumpeters Brad Dubbs and Henry Estrada, trombonist John Sanks and drummer Paul Palmer III (who was also celebrating his birthday). It was, however, Oatts' show, and he was on his toes throughout, showing why he has been one of the Vanguard Orchestra's bellwethers for more than three decades.

International Jazz Day

Until recently I had no idea there was anything like an International Jazz Day, but I'm happy to learn that there is. In fact, this is the second annual such event, co-sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. The date is April 30, and this year's IJD concert will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, where, apparently, jazz is held in high regard. An early-morning performance by high school students conducted by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and others (you heard right) is to be followed by an evening concert featuring, among others, Hancock, Shorter, Igor Butman, Terri Lyne Carrington, Anat Cohen, George Duke, James Genus, Robert Glasper, Abdullah Ibrahim, Al Jarreau, Hugh Masakela, John McLaughlin, Marcus Miller, Milton Nascimento, Eddie Palmieri, Jean-Luc Ponty, Dianne Reeves, Lee Ritenour, Ben Williams and Liu Wan (with other special guests to be announced). How all those musicians will have time to do more than take a bow is a mystery, but one that would no doubt be worth seeing. Getting back to IJD, to date nearly eighty events have been organized in thirty countries including Argentina, Australia, the Republic of Korea, France, Gabon, Malaysia and Trinidad and Tobago (no mention of the United States). There's even a web site, www.jazzday.com. I'm sure you can find out more about International Jazz Day there.

Brubeck Memorial

A memorial service celebrating the life and music of Dave Brubeck will be held Saturday, May 11, at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City. Everyone is welcome. Information about the church can be found at www.stjohndivine.org or by phoning 212-316-7540. Inquiries about the memorial service may be directed to [email protected]

In Passing . . .

Donald Byrd, a leading jazz trumpeter in the 1950s and '60s who raised eyebrows later on by blending jazz, soul, funk and rhythm and blues into a jazz / pop hybrid that did not sit well with those accustomed to more traditional forms of the music, died February 4. He was eighty years old. Byrd, who was born in Detroit and made his name as a bebopper after arriving in New York City in the mid-'50s, spent much of the next decade teaching before mounting a "comeback" in 1973 with the album Black Byrd, an amalgam that reached the Top 100 on Billboard's list of pop albums. Even with his success as a crossover artist, Byrd's jazz roots were duly recognized in 2000 when he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Paul Tanner, who played trombone with the Glenn Miller Orchestra from 1938-42 and later worked as a studio musician with ABC in Hollywood, died February 5 at age ninety-five. Tanner was credited with starting the Jazz Education program at UCLA in 1958, and taught two seminars using his own book, A Study of Jazz, which has become one of the most widely used texts in jazz history courses. Before his retirement in 1981, Tanner's classes were among the most popular at UCLA, averaging 1,600 students a week (with a waiting list).

Recent Big Band Releases

Mike Barone Big Band
Rhubarb Recordings

The Mike Barone Big Band has visited the recording studio again, and that can mean only one thing: an abundance of big-band jazz whose level of intensity and resourcefulness is consistently on the mark. Whatever the blueprint, Barone can always be counted on to come up with something old ("Please Don't Talk About Me"), something new (any of his half-dozen original compositions), something borrowed (Joe Zawinul's "Birdland"), something blue ("I'm Confessin'"), and to refurbish each tune to please listeners of almost any age and musical persuasion. He has even written an anthem for the geriatric set, humorously (we hope) titled "Prunes."

Before considering the music, a few words about the leader. Mike Barone, born in Detroit, attended college on the West Coast and stayed there to write for and play trombone in bands led by Si Zentner, Louie Bellson, Gerald Wilson and others. He soon became a sought-after composer / arranger, writing not only for jazz groups of various sizes but for film and television as well. From 1968-92, Barone wrote more than 300 compositions and arrangements for Johnny Carson's Tonight Show Band. After stops in Colorado and Washington, he moved back to the Los Angeles area in 1997 and re-formed his big band, an earlier version of which had recorded the superb album, Live at Donte's 1968 ( reissued as a CD in 2000 on the VSOP label). Since 2005, Barone's band has released seven CDs on his own label, Rhubarb Recordings, of which Birdland is the most recent.

Among his many talents, Barone is noted for unearthing neglected songs from long ago (i. e., "Darktown Strutters Ball," "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby," "Has Anybody Seen My Gal," "Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey," "Avalon") and clothing them in a new wardrobe more suitable for a contemporary big band setting. He notches another bull's-eye on Birdland with "Please Don't Talk About Me (When I'm Gone)," an oldie from 1930 that sounds almost brand new thanks to Barone's clever arrangement (and solos to match by trumpeter Bob Summers and pianist Andy Langham). Speaking of old, there are few themes more venerable than the spiritual "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," which has never swung quite so hard as it does in this framework (with a few bars of "Loch Lomond" thrown in for good measure). As for Barone's originals—each of which is excellent—they include "Sour Sally" (a.k.a. "Sweet Georgia Brown"), "Mr. Humble" (written for "the world's greatest drummer," Buddy Rich), "Captain Crunch" (featuring alto Tom Luer), "Maiden USA" (tenor Jon Armstrong), "Prunes" (tenor Vince Trombetta) and "Renee," the last based on the chord changes to Cole Porter's "I Love You."

Zawinul's title selection (a tune that has never earned my esteem) opens the album, and Barone's chart makes it sound as agreeable as anyone could expect. Baritone saxophonist Brian Williams solos on "I'm Confessin'" (whose gossamer voicings enhance its allure), Summers and Luer on another vintage standard, Victor Herbert's "Indian Summer." There's no use recounting highlights, as they are too numerous to mention on an album that pleases from start to finish. As for the band, it's comprised of top-rank session and working musicians in and around L.A., which is disclosing all that need be said. Drummer Adam Alesi, a new name (who is featured with alto Glen Garrett on the electrifying "Mr. Humble"), is first-class, as are his rhythm section mates, Langham and bassist David Tranchina, and split-lead trumpeters Tony Bonsera and James Blackwell. And if Summers isn't the most consistently resourceful trumpet soloist on the Coast, he'd certainly be high on any short list. In sum, another decisive winner from the ever-spectacular Mike Barone Big Band.

Tom Matta Big Band
Self Published

With so many high-caliber big bands, college and professional, on the scene today, one sure way to separate the sheep from the goats, so to speak, lies in the quality of music they perform, and it is here that the Tom Matta Big Band has a decided advantage. Matta's name and reputation are well known among jazz fans in the Chicago area, not so much elsewhere—and that's too bad, as the Minnesota native's knack for writing tasteful and exciting big-band charts is second to none. Matta wrote and arranged every number on Components, his debut as leader after years of playing in and writing for groups of various sizes in his adopted hometown, and the end result is a series of sharp and colorful themes that exemplify the best in contemporary big-band music-making.

Nowadays, almost no big-band album is complete without "Another Shuffle," and Matta places his at the forefront, a sunny refrain that cushions earnest solos by pianist Jeremy Kahn and trumpeter Bob Lark, Matta's teaching colleague at Chicago's DePaul University. The breezy "Time to Spare" embodies forceful statements by trombonist Steve Horne, trumpeter Marques Carroll and tenor saxophonist Mark Colby who is out front again, this time with pianist Ron Perrillo, on the deceptively powerful "Components." Matta slows the pace on "August Dreams," a handsome ballad whose discerning solos are delivered by Kahn and trombonist Tom Garling. As there are no liner notes, one must guess to whom "For Gil" was written; Gil Evans, perhaps? In any case, it's a laid-back tune whose melody brings to mind the standard "Time on My Hands" and on which alto saxophonist Chris Madsen and guitarist Mike Pinto share blowing space. "Eleventh Hour," written for trumpeter Rob Parton's band, is the session's flag-waver, Lark and tenor Dan Nicholson its ardent soloists. Nicholson, Pinto and trombonist Tim Coffman are suitably enlivened on the seductive finale, "Next Season."

Even though Matta's name may not ring a bell, don't let that dissuade you. His c.v. is impeccable, his talents exceptional, and he has gathered around him a number of the finest jazz musicians Chicago has to offer (we've not even mentioned the splendid rhythm section, securely anchored by drummer Bob Rummage and including Pinto, pianists Perrillo or Kahn, and bassists Dennis Carroll or Joe Policastro). These are among the Components that help raise Matta's debut above the ordinary and make it an extra special experience.

Sandviken Big Band
In Concert, Vols. 1 and 2

In Concert,
Vols. 1 and 2, encompassing live performances by Sweden's world-class Sandviken Big Band, is not a two-CD set but separate albums recorded at concerts in 2008, 2011 and 2012. In terms of perspective and content, the albums couldn't be more dissimilar. Vol. 1 is comprised mainly of late-model original compositions with a couple of standards thrown in to water down the heady brew, while Vol. 2 welcomes clarinetist Krister Andersson in a program devoted for the most part to classic songs from the Swing Era, again with a handful of standards and other themes presented as counterweight. In both cases, however, the Sandviken Big Band is the headliner, and that is always a plus.

Vol. 1 opens in a dynamic groove with Don Menza's "Tonawanda Fats," featuring trombonist Per Haglind and soprano saxophonist Patrik Engelbert, then moves on to trumpeter Joachim Tromark's enchanting "Waltz for Bobby," written for American trumpet maestro Bobby Shew who has performed more than once with Sandviken including its thirtieth anniversary concert. The two albums, in fact, have Shew in common, as Tromark, who is front and center with guitarist Goran Berencreutz on "Waltz," solos again on Vol. 2 on Shew's serenade, "Blue." A trio of guest artists enlivens Vol. 1: the superb tenor saxophonist Fredrik Nordstrom, showcased on his ballad, "Falling," as well as on another waltz, "Gammelfarfars Mormorsvals," written by fellow guest Patrik Skogh (who solos adroitly on trumpet), and vocalist Linda Pettersson-Bratt, splendid on Mikael Raberg's brisk arrangement of Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean." Along the way, the band interposes a pair of Pat Metheny's eloquent compositions, "It's Just Talk" and "Every Summer Night," both smartly arranged by Bob Curnow. "Talk" features pianist Arnold Rodriguez and tenor Patric Lundstedt, "Summer Night" Berencreutz and Tromark (on flugel, as he is on Tom Kubis' even-tempered "Hospital Blues"). Completing the program are the standards "Don't Go to Strangers" (Lundstedt, tenor) and "The Way You Look Tonight" (Berencreutz, alto Adam Dahlberg).

The classically trained Andersson, a star in Sweden for more than three decades, is the main man on Vol. 2, soloing on all but one number ("Blue"). He settles comfortably into the swing milieu, awakening fond memories of Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Sweden's other grand master of the clarinet, the late Putte Wickman, on such Swing Era favorites as "Let's Dance," "Stealin' Apples," Lester Young's "Tickle Toe" and Shaw's eerie theme, "Nightmare." Also on the menu are Bengt Hallberg's "Clarinet Swing," Eddie Sauter's "The Maid with the Flaccid Air," Toots Thielemans' lyrical "Bluesette," Gordon Jenkins' mournful "Goodbye" and the standards "Like Someone in Love" and "S'wonderful." Even though Andersson takes most of the solos, there's enough space left for brief but effective statements by Tromark, Lundstedt, Engelbert, Haglind, pianist Thomas Jutterstrom, bassist Rasmus Diamant and drummer Rolf Andersson.

If your taste leans more to contemporary themes, Vol. 1 may suit you to a T. If, on the other hand, swing is your thing, Vol. 2 should set your toes to tapping and put a lasting smile on your face. Either way, you can't go wrong with the Sandviken Big Band, among the best in any clime or on any continent.

Millikin University Jazz Band
Vera Cruz
First Step Records

In spite of gloomy manifestos forecasting its imminent demise, jazz continues to play a vibrant and important role in colleges and universities across the country, even relatively small liberal arts institutions such as Millikin University, ensconced in rural Macon County southwest of Chicago. Not only does Millikin have a music department with more than three hundred students, it has a jazz band, directed by Randall Reyman, that has earned plaudits at a number of festivals and recorded four albums, the most recent of which is Vera Cruz. The school's recording studio and School of Music Center were renovated in 1998-2000 thanks in part to an $8 million grant from C.D. "Perk" Perkinson, for whom it is named and to whom the album is dedicated, and his wife, Pat.

Vera Cruz makes an auspicious start thanks to a charming guitar / bass intro to Miles Davis' "Seven Steps to Heaven," a tasteful chart by Emil Richards that features vibraphonist Simon Nicholson and drummer Sean McDonald. Clarinetist John Gorecki is pleasingly showcased on Mark Taylor's "Love Beams," alto Adam Blakey is impressive on Quincy Jones' seductive "Quintessence," guitarist Jacob Widenhofer likewise on Pat Metheny's "Another Life," arranged for large ensemble by Bob Curnow. Another highlight is Don Schamber's buoyant arrangement of the Gershwin brothers' "Soon," on which Widenhofer, Nicholson and tenor Ethan Hayward score bonus points. Reyman arranged Dave Holland's rhythmic "Prime Directive," whose agile soloists are Blakey and trumpeter Kyle Nicholson. Vocalist Alexandra Manfredo is heard from twice, on the title song and Bill Holman's high-powered arrangement of the standard "Deed I Do." Although she's passable, one has to do more than sing on key to make a lasting impression.

When all is said and done, there's some interesting music on Vera Cruz—but there could have been so much more. In other words, even taking into consideration the financial burden involved in producing a recording these days, it's hard to endorse without proviso a CD whose playing time is a meager thirty-seven minutes. So it's thumbs-up for content, thumbs-down for value.

NYJO and the Vocalists
Sing a Song of Ashton
Stanza Music

The thirty-eight selections on the colorful 2-CD set Sing a Song of Ashton have at least two things in common: first, all (save one) were written, co-written or otherwise inspired by Bill Ashton, director emeritus of Great Britain's superb National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO); second, even though seventeen vocalists (including Ashton) take part in the enterprise, the level of artistry is consistently high throughout, thanks in part to the splendid and unflagging support provided by NYJO.

The numbers have been culled from the orchestra's various albums including several devoted to showcasing the talents of its band singers, male and female (even though the girls outnumber the boys fourteen to four). A few songs were recorded live, most in a studio. There's no point in singling out any of the singers for excessive praise, as each one is quite good. The compositions are another matter. As Ashton presumably wrote the bulk of them (melody, lyrics or both; no credits are given on the album), he shows that he's not only a superb bandleader but a first-class songwriter as well. As a singer, Ashton duets respectably (singing in French) with Atila Huseyin on one of his tasteful compositions, "Paris Is for Lovers." Atila's is the first male voice heard, after a dozen tracks on Disc 1, in another duet, this one with Annabel Williams on "Needs Must."

Sound quality, while variable, is never less than adequate, and the singers are able to get their message across, even with the orchestra blowing up a storm behind them. There is, of course, the matter of an "accent," but in most cases that poses no problem. In other circumstances, several of the songs on this anthology could perhaps be standards. As they were written, however, for singers backed by a jazz orchestra, it must be presumed that relatively few music-lovers have heard them, even in Great Britain. That's their loss, as Sing a Song of Ashton is one of the more pleasurable "vocal albums" to spring forth in some time. As icing on the cake, each of the CDs logs a playing time of more than seventy-five minutes.

Duke Ellington Orchestra
Big Bands Live

With the number of unreleased recordings by renowned big bands growing ever smaller as time takes its inevitable toll, it's always a pleasure to welcome a new one, in this case a charming concert by the Duke Ellington Orchestra taped in September 1967 at the Liederhalle in Stuttgart, Germany. Even though the packaging and presentation by Jazzhaus Records is slapdash at best, fans of Ellington should find the music itself laudable, as it consists largely of lesser-known compositions by Ellington, ably performed by such long-time stalwarts as Cat Anderson, Paul Gonsalves, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Cootie Williams, Russell Procope, Jimmy Hamilton and Lawrence Brown. Joining Duke in the rhythm section are bassist John Lamb and drummer Rufus "Speedy" Jones (standouts with clarinetist Hamilton and baritone Carney on Ellington's "La Plus Belle Africaine").

The orchestra is in fine form throughout, while sound quality for a concert performance is quite acceptable. The music was played under a cloud, however, as Ellington's chief arranger and alter ego, Billy Strayhorn, who contributed "Johnny Come Lately," the pensive "Freakish Lights" and a truncated version of "Take the 'A' Train," was terminally ill and died a few weeks after the concert was presented. Everyone soldiers on, however, and the concert's buoyancy tempers any feeling of sadness or loss. Several of the orchestra's luminaries have star turns: clarinetist Procope on "Swamp Goo," tenor Gonsalves on "Knob Hill," trombonist Brown on Rue Bleue," Carney on "A Chromatic Love Affair," alto Hodges on "Freakish Lights," trumpeter Anderson on Raymond Fol's "Salome," trumpeter Williams on "The Shepherd" and "Tutti for Cootie," Jones on the spirited finale, "Kixx."

The liner notes, which seem to have been cut off almost in mid-sentence, provide little in the way of insight, but happily, Ellington is there at the end of each number to give credit where it is due. A splendid concert performance by one of the big band era's most esteemed ensembles (the audience loved it), one that is well worth seeking out.

In Smaller Packages . . .

The Claire Daly Quartet
Baritone Monk
North Coast Brewing Co.

Thelonious Monk, it has been said, loved the sound of a baritone sax. True or not, one thing is certain: almost anyone would love the sound of a baritone as played by Claire Daly on this earnest salute to Thelonious' music, Baritone Monk. Not only are Daly's rhythmic awareness and phrasing impeccable, her crisp, muscular tone harkens back to such past masters as Cecil Payne, Harry Carney, Serge Chaloff and Nick Brignola. Yes, she nods to Mulligan too, but never more than elliptically; Daly's vocabulary is explicitly her own. And unlike some who treat the baritone like a deep-voiced clarinet, Daly is especially impressive on ballads such as "Light Blue" and "Ruby, My Dear." That's not to imply, however, that Daly is any less persuasive when the heat is turned on high, as she has technique to burn at any tempo.

Daly plays flute on one number, "Pannonica," and sings (briefly) on "A Merrier Christmas." Otherwise, it's baritone all the way, underscored by a compatible threesome (Steve Hudson, piano; Mary Ann McSweeney, bass; Peter Grant, drums) whose solid groundwork enables Daly to improvise naturally within a secure comfort zone. Hudson fashions a number of un-Monkish solos that are nonetheless bright and charming, while McSweeney and Grant unsheathe their eloquent voices on several tracks, most notably "Teo," " Ruby, My Dear," "52nd Street Theme" (McSweeney); "Two Timer," "Bright Mississippi," "A Merrier Christmas" (Grant). McSweeney's arco solo on "Light Blue" is a singular delight. Meanwhile, Daly strikes the mark consistently with perceptive ad-libs that surely would have made Monk smile with pleasure.

Every song on the album was written by Monk including the lesser-known "Teo" (a bow to bandleader / record producer Teo Macero), "Two Timer," "Light Blue," "Brake's Sake," "Let's Cool One," "Green Chimneys" and "Stuffy Turkey," the last a carefree riff "borrowed" by Monk from Sir Charles Thompson and Coleman Hawkins. As performed by Daly's quartet, they are as luminous and enchanting as Monk's more familiar works: "Pannonica," "Bright Mississippi," "Ruby, My Dear" and "52nd Street Theme." In fact, everything on the album is exemplary, not least Daly's remarkable command of the baritone sax, one reason she has regularly been entrenched among the leaders in DownBeat magazine's annual critics and readers polls. Baritone Monk is a thundering pleasure.

John Wasson's Coolbrass Jazztet
The New Cool
Consolidated Artists

John Wasson's Coolbrass Jazztet, inspired, he says, by Miles Davis' classic "Birth of the Cool" sessions from 1949-50 and Wasson's time as a tuba player with the Dallas Brass, is a brass quintet—two trumpets, two trombones, tuba—with a rhythm section comprised solely of drummer Jaelun Washington. If it seems at times as though the group may be larger, that's because Wasson's tuba "doubles" as bass, providing with Washington's drums a tight-knit rhythmic substructure for the horns. To avoid imitation, as if that were an issue, the Jazztet performs only one song from Davis' groundbreaking album, Gerry Mulligan's "Jeru." The rest of The New Cool is comprised of themes by Davis, Ralph Burns, Matthew Nicholl, Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck, Oliver Nelson, Thad Jones, Chick Corea and even Leonard Bernstein / Stephen Sondheim (the dynamic "Mambo" from West Side Story).

To enhance the Jazztet's chances for success, Wasson has chosen its repertoire wisely. Burns' "Early Autumn," Hancock's "Dolphin Dance," Nelson's "Stolen Moments" and Corea's "Spain" are jazz standards, while Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk," Hancock's "Speak Like a Child," Davis' "Solar" and Jones' "Tip Toe" are only a rung below on that ladder. And even though lesser-known, Coltrane's "Mr. Syms" and Nicholls' "Blues Noir" are no less pleasing. Wasson's charts are exemplary, the Jazztet is well-rehearsed, and the musicianship is first-class, individually and collectively. In other words, the solos—by trumpeters Chad Willis and Pete Clagett, trombonists Luke Brimhall and John Allen—are consistently sharp and seductive. Washington solos nimbly when called upon, while Wasson makes only one brief statement, on "Stolen Moments."

For those who appreciate the deep harmonies and close interplay embodied by trumpets and trombones and aren't troubled by the absence of woodwinds, it doesn't get much better than this. Let's hope The New Cool is here to stay.

Roberto Magris Trio
One Night in with Hope and More . . . Vol. 1
JMood Records

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.

In Concert

Tracks: Vol. 1: Tonawanda Fats; Waltz for Bobby; It's Just Talk; Falling; Gammelfarfars Mormorsvals; Every Summer Night; Don't Go to Strangers; How Deep Is the Ocean; Hospital Blues; The Way You Look Tonight. Vol. 2: Clarinet Swing; Let's Dance; The Maid with the Flaccid Air; Nightmare; Like Someone in Love; Blue; S'Wonderful; Bluesette; Stealin' Apples; Blame It on My Youth; Tickle Toe; Goodbye.

Personnel: Vol. 1: Ake Bjorlange: leader, trumpet (10); Mats Siggstedt: trumpet; Niklas Skoglund: trumpet (2-9); Magnus Mellberg: trumpet (1, 4-6, 10); Joachim Tromark: trumpet; Leif Fernqvist: trumpet; Calle Stenman: trumpet (1); Adam Dahlberg: alto, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Patrik Engelbert: alto, soprano sax, clarinet, flute; Patric Lundstedt: tenor sax, clarinet; Janne Larsson: tenor sax; Goran Hedstrom: baritone sax; Tommie Floreus: baritone sax, alto flute (1, 10); Per Haglind: trombone; Bjorn Agren: trombone; Krister Pettersson: trombone; Kurt Carlberg: trombone; Goran Berencreutz: guitar; Eldar Levgran: piano (1, 10); Arnold Rodriguez: piano (2-5, 8); Niklas Bjarnehall: piano (6, 7, 9); LarsErik Jonshult: bass; Rasmus Diamant: bass (1, 10); Rolf Andersson: drums. Guest artists: Patrik Skogh: trumpet (5); Fredrik Nordstrom: tenor sax (4, 5); Linda Pettersson Bratt: vocal (8). Vol. 2: Ake Bjorange: leader; Mats Sigstedt: trumpet; Magnus Mellberg: trumpet; Joachim Tromark: trumpet; Leif Fernqvist: trumpet; Patrik Engelbert: alto, soprano sax, flute; Thore Berglund: alto sax, clarinet, flute; Patric Lundstedt: tenor sax, clarinet; Jan Larsson: tenor sax; Tommie Floreus: baritone sax, flute; Per Haglind: trombone; Bjorn Agren: trombone; Krister Pettersson: trombone; Kurt Carlberg: trombone; Mikael Sjursvens: guitar; Thomas Jutterstrom: piano; Rasmus Diamant: bass; Rolf Andersson: drums. Guest artist: Krister Andersson: clarinet.

Vera Cruz

Tracks: Seven Steps to Heaven; Love Beams; Quintessence; Deed I Do; Prime Directive; Another Life; Soon; Vera Cruz.

Personnel: Randall Reyman: director; Patrick Anderson: trumpet; David Anderson: trumpet; Kyle Nicholson: trumpet; Evan Harris: trumpet; Adam Blakey: alto sax; Joshua Taliaferro: alto sax; John Gorecki: tenor sax, clarinet; Ethan Hayward: tenor sax; Andy Baldwin: baritone sax; Eric Dawson: trombone; Paul Hanko: trombone; Lauren Ferry: trombone; Mike Durnavich: trombone; Jacob Widenhofer: guitar; Simon Nicholson: vibraphone; Adam Cunningham: bass; Sean McDonald: drums; Alexandra Manfredo: vocals (4, 8).

Sing a Song of Ashton

Tracks: Disc 1—Looking Forward; Looking Back; Who's Blue?; If You Should Change Your Mind; Heat of the Moment; I Wasn't Looking for Love; Thought I'd Ask; You'd Think I'd Learn; Over and Over Again; I Thought I Was Through with Love; Times Were; Why Don't They Write Songs . . . ?; Needs Must; That's That; Gasbag Blues; But Me No Buts; Nobody's Perfect; I Have Been Here Before; Paris Is for Lovers. Disc 2—The Deflated Bounce; A Way with Words; Let's Settle Down; Stop Kidding Yourself; Accident Prone; New in London; No Flowers by Request; I Was Hoping; Wait and See; Someone; Another Always; You Were Marvelous Darling; London; Don't Try and Argue with Me; Give Up; It's Over; Rose Room; Much Too Much; Don't Go to Her.

Personnel: Jacqui Hicks: vocals; Sumudu Jayatilaka: vocals; Sheena Davis: vocals; Jenny Howe: vocals; Annabel Williams: vocals; Lorraine Craig: vocals; Litsa Davis: vocals; James Langton: vocals; Sarah Ellen Hughes: vocals; Atila Huseyin: vocals; Lauren Derwent: vocals; Nick Gallant: vocals; Francesca Lewis: vocals; Kim Lesley: vocals; Carol Kenyon: vocals; Sarah Ann Gilbertson: vocals; Bill Ashton: vocals, with various editions of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

Big Bands Live

Tracks: Take the "A" Train; Johnny Come Lately; Swamp Goo; Knob Hill; Eggo; La Plus Belle Africaine; Rue Bleu; A Chromatic Love Affair; Salome; The Shepherd; Tutti for Cootie; Freakish Lights; Kixx.

Personnel: Duke Ellington: piano, arranger; Cat Anderson: trumpet; Cootie Williams: trumpet; Herbie Jones: trumpet; Mercer Ellington: trumpet; Johnny Hodges: alto sax; Russell Procope: alto sax, clarinet; Paul Gonsalves: tenor sax; Jimmy Hamilton: tenor sax, clarinet; Harry Carney: baritone sax, clarinet; Chuck Connors: trombone; Lawrence Brown: trombone; Buster Cooper: trombone; John Lamb: bass; Rufus Jones: drums.

Baritone Monk

Tracks: Teo; Light Blue; Two Timer; Pannonica; Bright Mississippi; Ruby, My Dear; Let's Cool One; Brake's Sake; Green Chimneys; 52nd Street Theme; Holiday Medley—A Merrier Christmas / Stuffy Turkey.

Personnel: Claire Daly: baritone sax, flute, vocal (11); Steve Hudson: piano; Mary Ann McSweeney: bass; Peter Grant: drums.

Tracks: Solar; Early Autumn; Blues Noir; Jeru; Dolphin Dance; Mambo from West Side Story; Mr. Syms; Blue Rondo a la Turk; Stolen Moments; Tip Toe; Speak Like a Child; Spain.

Personnel: John Wasson: leader, tuba; Chad Willis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Pete Clagett: trumpet, flugelhorn; Luke Brimhall: trombone; John Allen: trombone; Jaelon Washington: drums.

One Night in with Hope and More

Tracks: Happy Hour; If You Could See Me Now; Theme from "The Pawnbroker"; I Didn't Know About You; Elmo's Delight; Half May; East 9th Street; My Heart Stood Still; Fire Waltz; Audio Notebook.

Personnel: Roberto Magris: piano; Elisa Pruett: bass; Albert "Tootie" Heath: drums.

Ellington and More

Tracks: It's Freedom; Lotus Blossom; T.g.t.t. (Too good to title); Go Down Moses; Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen; A Child Is Born; Give Me That Old Time Religon; Krk; Blues for M.M.; He's Got the Whole World in His Hands.

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