Lyte Records: Dancing To Different Beats

Ian Patterson By

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"Donna Lee" is played out between Varady and Janisch who trade licks back and forth with great fluidity. "Festival 48"—Varady's tribute to Reinhardt—sees Varady execute stunningly rapid lines on acoustic guitar that guitarist and Reinhardt acolyte Bireli Lagrene would be proud of. Jazz standards "Giant Steps" and "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" are taken at a leisurely pace that allows Varady's emotional nuance to shine through. Varady's sparkling solo interpretation of "The Shadow of Your Smile" shows just why guitar legend Martin Taylor has invited the young phenomenon to tour as a duo.

Lyttle and Varady's main achievement lies in refashioning overly familiar material so that it shines anew. Varady may steal most of the thunder but at the end of the day this is assuredly a rousing quartet production.

Gay McIntyre
The Music Within Me

Veteran alto saxophonist/clarinetist Gay McIntyre brings all his years of experience to this charming straight ahead session, and at 79 years of age at the time of recording, that's a lot of laps around the track. In a six-decade career, McIntyre has played with the British trad jazz giants Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball and Irish jazz guitar legend Louis Stewart. Surrounded by some of Ireland's finest jazz musicians—trumpeter Linley Hamilton, pianist Johnny Taylor, bassist David Redmond and drummer Dominic Mullan—this set represents the reeds player's debut recording as leader.

McIntyre doesn't set out to reinvent the wheel on these seven timeless standards but there's much to admire in the passionate, nuanced soloing and collective brio. The quintet lays out its store on "Days of Wine and Rose," with the leader, Hamilton and Taylor all impressing. McIntyre switches to clarinet on a sunny version of "Darn That Dream," dovetailing beautifully with Hamilton. A fine balladeer, McIntyre's soulful playing on "My Foolish Heart," "Body and Soul" and "My Romance" provide album highlights.

There's a touch of samba about the Johnny Mandel/Paul Francis Webster tune "The Shadow of Your Smile whereas the interpretation of "Some Day My Prince Will Come" is reminiscent of trumpeter Miles Davis 1961 version. A large part of the success of this session is due to the chemistry of Hamilton's quartet, but that's taking nothing away from McIntyre, who leaves an indelible stamp on the Irish jazz scene with his wonderful playing on some of his favorite tunes.

John Leighton
Dramatic Life

Pianist/composer John Leighton's debut above all showcases his notable talents as a composer and one of the many strengths of Dramatic Life is the variety in the music, which draws from jazz, soul, the singer-songwriter tradition and the poetry of 19th century English poet John Keats. Leighton's pianistic skills take a back seat for most of the session, instead allowing vocalist Anna Stott to bask in the spotlight. Stott is the focal point of the music and impresses with her subtly dynamic range and soulful delivery.

On gently folkloric songs like "Married the Messenger" and the lilting, Celtic-tinged "The Dress," Stott's delivery evokes latter-day Joni Mitchell. She takes a soulful, Sade-like approach on "Ameltie" and brings lyrical, spoken-word gravitas to Leighton's arrangement of the Keats poem "A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever." Drummer David Lyttle bassist Michael Janisch and Leighton's elastic rhythms drive up-beat tracks like "Precious Life" and "Whin Bush." The latter features a fine solo from guitarist Mark McKnight, though for the most part his presence is subdued. Multi-reeds player Michael Buckley enjoys greater protagonism, and whether on tenor or alto saxophone or flute he makes a lasting impression.

At around 35 minutes this is a rather short offering by today's standards. A few more solos by Leighton and McKnight wouldn't have gone amiss but this is a minor quibble, especially considering that Leighton's focus is clearly on the compositions rather than the individuals. An impressive debut nonetheless.

Lloyd Ryan Big Band
Drivin' Force

A well-known British session musician since the 1960s, drummer and big band leader Lloyd Ryan can count former Genesis drummer Phil Collins among his pupils. Surprisingly, Drivin' Force marks his big band recording debut—and the collection of up-tempo jazz standards and pop tunes brings together some of the UK's finest session players on what was conceived as a one-off project.

Most of the tracks were recorded in one take—after minimal rehearsal—and there was no overdubbing on these 12 selections. Pop classics like Belfast singer Van Morrison's "Moondance" and Lennon and McCartney's "Norwegian Wood" rub shoulders with standards such as Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel To Be Free," a thumping version of keyboardist Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" and popular tunes such as Neil Hefti's "Cute."

Highlights include Sammy Nestico's "Funtime," Hefti's "Cute," which stands up well to the Count Basie Orchestra version from 1956, Sammy Nestico's short and punchy "Ya Gotta Try" and Bill Potts "Big Swing Face." The arrangements are tight and the playing is uniformly strong. Unfortunately, the soloists are not named for each track, which seems like an oversight. Recommended for fans of old-style, big band swing.

David Lyttle

Drummer David Lyttle's second album as leader on his own label is a thoroughly urbane affair, mixing elements of jazz, neo-soul, hip-hop and rap in an upbeat concoction whose easy grooves have the feel of a soundtrack for a carefree summer. It's something of a family affair, with Lyttle's mother Anne providing vocals on the miniature "Seek" and sister Rhea on the delightful neo-soul of "I Don't Mind" and "Questions," the latter of which features saxophonist Michael Buckley and trumpeter Linley Hamilton in a lovely horn arrangement.

There's heavyweight support from legendary session-bassist Pino Palladino and rapper/saxophonist Soweto Kinch on the catchy soul-rap number "Uncertain Steps." Pianist Jason Rebello guests on "Optimistic," another radio-friendly slice of new soul/rap featuring Homecut. In addition to writing all the music and drumming, Lyttle doubles on keyboards and backing vocals on the sultry soul number "Angel" and handles piano, organ and cello—on which he's classically trained—on "Seek," not to mention bass guitar on the funky title track.

There's little in the way of soloing on this groove-centric recording, which stands as easily the most commercially viable release on Lyttle's Lyte records label and a highly enjoyable one at that.

Nigel Mooney
The Bohemian Mooney

There may have been times in the eight years between jazz and blues singer/guitarist Nigel Mooney's debut recording All My Love's In Vain (Rubyworks, 2005) and The Bohemian Mooney when fans wondered if he'd ever record again. This album has been something of a slow burner, taking three years to craft, but the wait has been worth it. With a first rate group backing him, Mooney is in great form on these dozen tracks, blending jazz, blues and R&B in his inimitable, soulful style.

As both vocalist and guitarist, Mooney draws inspiration chiefly from the 1950s Chicago blues and there' more than a hint of guitarist/singer B.B. King's influence on originals "I Ain't Ready" and the ska-inflected "Unlucky in Love." Mooney's hybrid jazz-blues guitar style shines on the instrumentals "The Bohemian Mooney" and "Bohemian Moondance"—fluid, soulful and satisfying. There's a touch of the Memphis Horns throughout, with saxophonist Michael Buckley's arrangements for trumpeter Ronan Dooney and trombonist Paul Frost lending real pizzazz.

Two Ray Charles covers, the rocking, gospel-tinged "Ain't That Love" and the simmering blues "Hard Times" showcase Mooney's vocal range, though his peppery solo on the latter provides a mini-album highlight. Mooney's quartet of versatile pianist Johnny Taylor, bassist Dan Bodwell and drummer Dominic Mullan is excellent throughout, though saxophonist Michael Buckley on "April in Paris" and trumpeter Linley Hamilton on Count Basie guitarist Freddie Green's swinging "Down for Double" take the main solo plaudits. On the latter, R&B legend Georgie Fame doubles on vocals. Another veteran, guitarist Louis Stewart adds rhythm guitar on several tracks, including a breezy take on the eternally popular "C'est Si Bon."

Though Mooney mixes it up stylistically, he's at his most compelling the bluesier he gets, and on the traditional blues "Hellhound on My Trail" —with a nod to pianist Ahmad Jamal's "Ahmad's Blues"—and "How Blue Can You Get?," with Fame contributing wonderful vocal harmonies, the Dublin bluesman is in top form. Hopefully, it won't be another eight years before Mooney hits the studio again. More of the same would do just fine.

John Moriarty

Guitarist John Moriarty's debut album was recorded in a single day in New York with renowned local musicians. It's often the case that such in-and-out sessions produce music of a spontaneous, fluid nature and that's certainly the feeling that these eight selections conjure. Moriarty has one foot firmly in the tradition, interpreting timeless jazz standards like Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays," Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower is a Lonesome Thing" and the much covered John Blackburn/Karl Suessdorf tune "Moonlight in Vermont." The guitarist's lyrical, melodic improvisations are a joy—nuanced and non-flashy. Bassist Matt Clohesy, pianist Randy Ingram and drummer Adam Pache are empathetic partners.

The quartet treads lightly on saxophonist Wayne Shorter's striking composition "Fall" and in general the vibe of Echoes is reminiscent of classic-era Blue Note. Moriarty's original compositions blend in well but have a slightly more contemporary edge than the older standards. There's plenty of collective energy on the boppish "Echoes of the Future," whereas "Ninety Six" is a delightfully intimate trio statement, with Ingram sitting out. The standout original number, however, is the infectious "Delerium," with the guitarist in more expansive mood. Moriarty's acoustic rendition of "Midnight in Vermont" is heartfelt, and closes the album on a beautifully hushed note.

Jason Rebello
Anything But Look

1999 seems like a long time ago but believe it or not that was when pianist/keyboard player Jason Rebello last recorded a session as leader, that is if you discount Jazz Rainbow (Jumby Records, 2007)—children's songs/themes reworked and jazzed up. Jazz-fusion/crossover sums up the vibe of Rebello's upbeat comeback album, and in this sense it's not unlike his early career recordings. Rebello surrounds himself with singers Omar, Joy Rose, Sumudu Jayatilaka, Wil Downing, Alicia Carroll and Xantoné Blacq, creating a groove cocktail that is soulful, funky and sexy.

Melodic wordless song, Latin tinges, driving percussion and neo-soul are all in the exotic mix. There are significant contributions from bassist Pino Palladino and saxophonist Tim Garland though bar a few dazzling though brief improvisations from Rebello soloing takes a back seat to groove and melodic hooks. If you can get beyond the "Is it jazz?" labyrinth and go straight to "Is it any good?" then the rewards are there in abundance. Hugely enjoyable and undeniably soulful tunes.

Andreas Varady/David Lyttle—Questions

Tracks: A Day In New York; Donna Lee; Blues For Edward; Festival 48; True Story; Giant Steps; Swing Thing; Softly As in A Morning Sunrise; The Shadow Of Your Smile.

Personnel: Andreas Varady: electric & acoustic guitar; David Lyttle: drums; Bandi Varady: guitar; Michael Janisch: bass.

Gay McIntyre—The Music Within Me

Tracks: Days of Wine and Roses; Darn That Dream; My Foolish Heart; Shadow of Your Smile; Body and Soul; Some Day My Prince Will Come; My Romance.
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