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May 2006


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Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Blue Note

The brilliant young Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba has followed his muse in many directions, and played in a variety of formats, during his career, and he's always especially successful in a context grounded in simplicity. Little surprise then that his new solo album ranks with his acoustic quartet work as the most articulate and deeply felt music he's yet recorded. Switching between pre-composed material and free improvisation doesn't stop him giving free rein to his impulses, and the dynamic shows his instincts are on a level with his technical ability - a combination of powers all musicians aspire to, but only the greatest achieve.

Jaco Pastorius Big Band
The Word Is Out
Heads Up

Even a roster of musicians as impressive as the one that comprises tribute orchestra the Jaco Pastorius Big Band doesn't necessarily guarantee justice to the subject of the homage. But this particular labor of love contains all the qualities that branded the idiosyncratic bassist a genius (or near to it): a playful tenderness, an almost reckless sense of adventure, and an ear for intricate arrangements that challenge musicians to play at their highest level. Not intimidated by even the most familiar Pastorius material, the band offers an accessible, open door to new listeners turning their ears to the pleasures of his music. It's a testament to Pastorius' personality, musical and otherwise, that he inspired such a project so soon after his untimely passing, and one with such an obvious commitment to integrity.

Monty Alexander
Concrete Jungle

Given the fact that he too is a native of Jamaica, like Bob Marley, it's hardly surprising that pianist Monty Alexander's tribute to the music of the late mystic/prophet retains so much of the dusky atmosphere of authentic reggae. Of prime importance of course are the rhythms, which Alexander keeps deep and true throughout, and then there's the confidence he exudes too. He's brave and skilful enough to use horns and vocals, as well as his own considerable creativity at the piano, to play with textures in a way that's characteristic of roots reggae. It's no criticism of Alexander that this album will send you back to the Wailers' discs, because you're bound to come back to Alexander's in return, too.

Michel Camilo
Rhapsody In Blue

Cuban pianist Michel Camilo has proved himself a remarkable musician in both studio and live performance contexts over the last few years, and Rhapsody In Blue, a program of Gershwin recorded with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, is a logical step in Camilo's ambitious career path. Sadly, on this occasion, his touch and melodic ingenuity are more often than not submerged by the orchestra, and the unfortunate end result is music that, because it strains for effect, doesn't do justice to either the composer or the players, especially Camilo himself.

Joey DeFrancesco
Organic Vibes
Concord Jazz

It's telling that vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson gets the first solo on this disc, as well as at least half of the title allusion. Although Hutcherson isn't given co-billing with Joey DeFrancesco on the session, he is equally key to the success of it. But while each musician puts his respective stamp on the music—as does veteran saxophonist George Coleman too when he steps in—it's DeFrancesco who's spotlighted demonstrating the versatility of the Hammond organ. Functioning equally well as leader or accompanist, he sounds like he's smiling through his instrument, setting a tone that permeates the twelve tracks and renders Organic Vibes a surprisingly satisfying listen.

Pat Martino
Remember: A Tribute To Wes Montgomery
Blue Note

Genius, it would seem, begets genius, which is why it may have been predestined that Pat Martino would one day conceive an homage to Wes Montgomery. Yet this is no mere tribute album, or cautious collection of covers of familiar material associated with the jazz guitar icon. Rather it is Martino's reminiscence, part emotional and part intellectual, of the inspiration he took from Montgomery. That the contemporary guitarist drenches his own playing with the liquid soul of his hero is stunning enough - that he is also able to spread that creative impulse throughout his band, as they revisit a diverse selection of tunes by Carl Perkins, Milt Jackson and Montgomery himself, makes the album a personal statement on more than one level.

Red Garland Trio
Live At The Prelude
Concord Jazz

As earthy as it is eloquent, this performance by the Red Garland trio, impeccably recorded in 1959, demonstrates why Miles Davis wanted the pianist in his band. But more than that, it illustrates why Garland is worth listening to beyond his work with the man with the horn. During the course of these two CDs, beautifully mastered sound by Joe Tarantino reveals a musician who can be both rollicking and reflective. Garland's take on familiar material is anything but predictable, and his unique personality infuses songs like "Bye Bye Blackbird and "Satin Doll with a freshness that will remind listeners why they have become enduring standards.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Rezo (Praise Be!); Quasar; Silencio (Silence); Paseo Iluminado; Canción Para Dormir En El Sillón (Lullaby); Paseo En Media Luz; Canción De Cuna Del Niño Negro (Lullaby For A Black Child); Faro (Beacon); Paseo azul; Sueño De Muñecas (Dream Of The Dolls); Paseo morado Prólogo (Prologue To A Fantasy); Here's That Rainy Day; Nightfall; Besame Mucho (Instrumental).

Personnel: Gonzalo Rubalcaba: piano.

The Word Is Out

Tracks: Dania; Las Olas; Sirabhorn; Beaver Patrol; Cannonball; Kuru/Speak Like A Child; Three Views of a Secret; Blackbird/Word of Mouth; Good Morning Anya; River People Reza.

Personnel: Jaco Pastorius, Gerald Veasley, Victor Wooten, Richard Bona, Jimmy Haslip, Jeff Carswell, Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Jr., Mark Egan, Oteil Burbridge, Will Lee: bass; Randy Brecker, Arturo Sandoval: trumpet; Hiram Bullock, Mike Stern: guitar; Ed Calle, Bob Mintzer: tenor sax; Peter Erskine, Robert Thomas, Jr.: drums; Othello Molineaux: steel drums; Toots Thielmans: harmonica. Jaco Pastorius Big Band: Peter Graves: conductor; Billy Ross: alto sax, soprano sax, flute, piccolo; Ed Calle: tenor sax, soprano sax, flute, clarinet; Gary Keller: alto sax, tenor sax, flute, clarinet; Mike Brignola: baritone sax, bass clarinet, flute; Jim Hacker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jason Carder: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ken Faulk: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dana Teboe: tenor trombone; John Kricker: bass trombone; Mike Levine: piano, synthesizers; Randy Bernsen: guitar; Mark Griffith: drums.

Concrete Jungle: The Tuff Gong Sessions

Tracks: Africa Unite; Concrete Jungle; No More Trouble; War; Babylon System; Forever Lovin'; Crazy Baldheads; Chant Down Babylon; Simmer Down; Trench Town; Three Little Birds; Selam.

Personnel: Monty Alexander: piano, melodica; Hassan Shakur: bass; Herlin Riley: drums; Othniel Lewis: keyboard; Wendel Ferraro (aka Junior Jazz): lead guitar, vocals; Wayne Armond: rhythm guitar, vocals; Glenroy Browne: electric bass; Courtney Panton: electric bass; Rolando Alphonso Wilson: reggae drums; Loris (Billy) Lawrence: percussion; Delfeayo Marsalis: trombone; Dean Fraser: saxophone; Dwight Richards: trumpet; Luciano: vocals. The Rod Dennis Mento Band—Panchago Christian: guitar, vocals; Ural Gordon: rumba box, vocals; Vincent Hines: banjo, vocals.

Rhapsody In Blue

Tracks: Rhapsody In Blue; Concerto In F; Allegro; Adagio—Andante Con Moto Allegro Agitato; Prelude No. 2.

Personnel: Michel Camilo: piano; Ernest Martinez Izquierdo: conductor; Barcelona Symphony Orchestra.

Organic Vibes

Tracks: The Tackle; Little B's Poem; I Thought About You; Somewhere In The Night; Down The Hatch; Speak Low; Jeneane's Dream; My Foolish Heart; Colleen.

Personnel: Joey DeFrancesco: keyboards; Bobby Hutcherson: vibraphone; George Coleman: tenor saxophone; Ron Blake: tenor saxophone; Jake Langley: guitar; Byron Landham: drums.

Remember: A Tribute to Wes Montgomery

Tracks: Four on Six; Groove Yard; Full House; Heart Strings; Twisted Blues; Road Song; West Coast Blues; S. K. J.; If I Should Lose You; Unit Seven.

Personnel: Pat Martino: guitars; David Kikoski: piano; John Patitucci: bass; Scott Allan Robinson: drums; Daniel Sadownick: percussion.

Live At The Prelude

Tracks: CD1: M Squad Theme; There Will Never Be Another You; Let Me See; We Kiss In A Shadow; Blues In The Closet; Li'l Darlin'; One O'Clock Jump; Perdido (instrumental); Bye Bye Blackbird; Like Someone In Love. CD2: It's A Blue World; Marie; Bohemian Blues; One O'Clock Jump; A Foggy Day; Satin Doll (instrumental); Mr. Wonderful; Just Squeeze Me (But Don't Tease); Prelude Blues.

Personnel: Red Garland: piano; Jimmy Rowser: bass; Charles "Specs" Wright: drums.

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