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Seven Women (Plus Three) 2018 – Part XI


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Kris Adams
We Should Have Danced
Self Produced

There is a special significance to Kris Adams's release We Should Have Danced. The recording features Adam's original lyrics with arrangements by pianist Tim Ray, of compositions of the late Steve Prosser, Adams' former husband and Berklee College of Music professor. Shortly after Prosser's passing away in 2012, Adams came across a folder titled "Songs for CD" among the items he had left behind for her. Inside was a trove of Steve's original music with many of the tunes having been written during their marriage. Some of the gems included on this frankly confessional and autobiographical album are the opening selection "Prophecy," highlighting the pair's first meeting, the emotional "Summer Moon Above," featuring lyrics derived from Prosser's original poem "Less Than Nothing" and the hauntingly beautiful album closer "Without You," which the composer had originally titled "For Kris." Adams sings all songs this that special engagement that accompanies the very familiar. Her creative part to the project makes Adams and Prosser equals on the recording with pianist Ray carefully tying up the package with his precise and sensitive arrangements. Adams show great courage, love, and dedication to the music, not allowing it to lay dormant, but breathing a vital life into the music, making it her and Prosser's own.

Maaike den Dunnen
QFTF 112

What kind of singer has Dena DeRose support her on piano? Maaike den Dunnen, that's who. The two have been friends since DeRose relocated to Austria where she serves as Professor of Jazz Voice at the Jazz Institute of The University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz (just down the road From den Dunnen's Rotterdam. den Dunnen follows up her 2013 release Arrival (Self Produced) with an ethereal offering, Inner Space. The singer is also a composer who provides all but three selections of the present release. den Dunnen prefers open phrasing and internal rhymes propelled through spacious accompaniment and thoughtful arrangements. The singer leads drummerless trio consisting of pianist DeRose, bassist Milan Nikolic and saxophonist Thomas Kugi. The trio's sound is close and intimate, providing den Dunnen's sturdy alto voice a pliant springboard for everything from playful whimsy to dead-serious singing. Outstanding instrumentally is Nikolic's undulating electric bass, the rhythmic catalyst to all of the performances here. den Dunnen scats capably on "The Gambler" and elsewhere, displaying a precise yet elastic ability. She transforms the Elvis Presley hit "Can't Help Falling in Love with You," dissecting the song to its core while then reconstructing it as an airy ballad teeming with drama and pathos. The centerpiece may be the duet with saxophonist Kugi "On the Sunny Side of the Street." No timekeeper here, with no time lost. den Dunnen scats counterpoint to Kugi's improvisational flourishes. A fine recording.

Bob Levy with LaTanya Hall, Nicolas King, Laurie Krauz & Dane Vannatter
Only A Matter of Time
Self Produced

Bob Levy is a noted ASCAP lyricist and songwriter whose career has had him writing for film (You Again? (Disney, 2010) and television Lethal Weapon, Quantico, Girlfriends' Guide, Saving Grace, and The Glades. Provides us presently with the 19-song collection It's Only a Matter of Time, featuring vocalists LaTanya Hall, Nicolas King, Laurie Krauz, and Dane Vannatter. Levy's talent enjoys a great depth and breathe, straddling a host of genres and moods. Levy's palette is so expansive to include straight jazz ("Crazy Dog"), blues ballad ("Please Set My Heart Free, "In the Groove Today"), breezy island fare ("Because I Love You"), and adult contemporary ("Best As I Can"). All of Levy's tunes here were charted by Tom LeMark and arranged by Daniel May. The instrumental accompaniment provided vocalists with LaTanya Hall, Nicolas King, Laurie Krauz and Dane Vannatter, are all qualitatively guitar with a standard jazz trio. The singers are of a refined androgynous sound, quaffed and poised for the music presented. These are mostly head arrangements and sound brilliantly like the chart performances of the Tin Pan Alley and show songs. This collection of songs could represent the evolution of the Sinatra singing style as it developed. This music is at once very familiar and brand new.

Florian Ross Quintet with Kristin Berardi
Swallows & Swans
Toy Piano Records

Pianist/composer Florian Ross has certainly come a long way since Seasons and Places (Naxos Jazz, 1998). The intervening 20 years have brought everything from solo performance to big band. On Swallows & Swans, Ross and vocalist Kristin Berardi offer up a collection of original compositions created around the 19th Century words of Orlando Gibbons ("The Silver Swan"); Sir Samuel Ferguson ("The Lark in the Clear Sky"); Robert Louis Stevenson ("Swallows"); Henry Wadsworth Long ("Horologe of Eternity"). Singer Berardi provided two of her own in the introspective and impressionistic "Looking Inward," well accented by saxophonist Matthew Halpin and the opaque and ethereally-conceived program "Cold Smoke." Of interest is the setting provided an old Irish song, "The Lark in the Clear Sky." The two take these ancient words, transforming them into a modern ballad that retains a hint of its Celtic origins. This music is carefully constructed and considered, giving the overall impression of organic preparation. It is light and filling, requiring no effort to fully enjoy.

Nancy Erickson and the 200 Trio with Alex Dugdale
Here and Now -Live
Vital Flames Productions

Think of a humid cabaret. Cigarette smoke and sound of a martini being shaken season the scene. Chanteuse-like, Nancy Erickson heads up a jazz guitar trio (sans piano) with a breezy disposition, never allowing the performances to get beyond a low simmer. But simmer it does. This is exactly how "Night in Tunisia" sounds...well, like a night in Tunisia. Save for the Gillespie composition, this is an exposition of ballads of the fast type (Fred Rogers' "It's You I Like") and the slow type (Erickson's "Let Love Begin"). The quartet, featuring saxophonist Alex Dugdale is quietly organic, sanded down to a smooth finish, provides Erickson an enviable environment in which to sing. As for the humidity, Erickson does treat us to some potent and seductive Bossa Nova in "Gentle Rain," "What Lola Wants," and a splendid interpretation of Sting's "Fragile," on which bassist Greg Overhultz-Feingold gets to show off with guitarist Cole Schuster. Erickson, whose voice is well-balanced throughout, closes her performance with a tryptic of Tadd Dameron's "Hot House" (which she sings in fabulous scat), Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose," where Erickson and Feingold duet with good natured gusto in the introduction. Here the band heats up with precise trajectory. Exceptional. The disc closes with Erickson channeling Edith Piaf in an English "La Vie Enrose." A nice way to end this year in music.

Rebecca Angel
What We had
Timeless Groove Records

Lushly seductive, Rebecca Angel's EP What We had brims with opulent production cushioning her whispering, almost breathless delivery. She continues in the fruitful vein provided by the music of South American climes, her rhythms softly undulating, her band sharply defined and directed. In her early twenties, Angel draws from all of the music made up until now. She employs many contemporary techniques, such as voice compression, on "What We Had" to a great effect. Her sound and delivery are thoroughly modern, melding well with much of what passes as "adult contemporary" today save for she sports that ever- sharp edge of youth that enables a certain fearlessness in her creativity. She transforms the ancient "Stand By Me" into a timeless look forward and backward. An "Electro" mix of the same is also provided showing the singer's breathe. Her depth emerges on the two performances of "Jet Samba." On performance is the radio mix, rhythmically complex with an emphasis on rhythm. The "Ipanema" mix places Angel's voice out front. She is not al the way here yet, but Rebecca Angel is well on her way.

Big Brother & the Holding Company
Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills
Columbia Legacy

The year 1968 was the beginning of a watershed of popular music. Recordings released in that storied year include: Aretha Franklin's Lady Soul (Atlantic); Otis Redding's Dock of the Bay (Volt/Atco); Miles Davis' Nefertiti, Miles in the Sky, and Filles de Kilimanjaro (all Columbia); Simon and Garfunkle's Bookends (Columbia); Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison (Columbia); The Band's Music From Big Pink (Capitol); Creedence Clearwater Revivals eponymous debut recording (Fantasy); The Grateful Dead's Anthem of the Sun (Warner Brothers); and that is just the first six months. Released on August 12, 1968 was the second album by Big Brother and the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills (Columbia), a band featuring the Texas-bred vocalist Janis Joplin. Needless to say, "Piece of My Heart" (and the later "Mercedes Benz" and "Me and Bobby McGee) still haunts every canned "Classic Rock" radio assaulting me daily. The original Cheap Thrills replete with a cover designed by Robert Crumb, contained seven selections. The 50th Anniversary release of the present Sex, Dope & Cheap Thrills assembles 30 additional performances, 29 of which are studio outtakes from the original sessions (25 of which are previously unissued). This recording coupled with the original release stands as the monument to Joplin during her incendiary early evolution (a recording career compressed into three brief years). This artistry has not existed since.

Laura Dickinson 17
Auld Lang Syne
Music and Mirror Records

Arriving just in time for holiday consideration (albeit at the expense of the original column intent) is Laura Dickinson's Auld Lang Syne. Southern California native, Dickinson is a woman who wears a variety of creative hats, a veritable embarrassment of riches. She is a popular vocal contractor and voice actress in Hollywood, her vocals being heard in the movies Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and War For The Planet Of The Apes. Add to this her recording career, live performances, leading her own big band, and her responsibilities as a vocal director and vocal contractor for Disney TV Animation, Dickinson prefers vocal contracting of all. She recently was awarded three Grammy Awards for her production and her vocal contracting work. Her holiday offering is a varied bag of styles, all taking full advantage of her 17-piece big band that features Brian Scanlon and Bob Sheppard. The opening "Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season," as well as, "Christmas is Starting Now," and "Marshmallow World" have the distinctive sound of war-time swing music, right down to the Andrews Sisters harmonies. A more modern splash is applied to "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" and "Let It Snow," the latter given a jaunty NOLA beat. Dickinson's singing and arranging are top drawer, making this the surprise holiday offering of the year.

Ray Greene
Tell Me the Story of Christmas
Under Ground Productions

Yes. I am a complete cad. I am trying to finish out my writing year by both including holiday releases that did not make it into my Christmas articles and add a couple of male vocalists to the mix. Forgive me. Vocalist and trombonist Ray Greene is a Boston-based music Svengali doing it all: recording, producing, composing and arranging, a human tsunami of music. Most recently Greene has been touring as the lead singer with Carlos Santana. Now, the singer/multi-instrumentalist surprises this writer with what may be the closest fusion of adult contemporary music and jazz presently available. This was no small feat. Perhaps I am just a conservative fussbudget, but much of what has been classified as "Contemporary Jazz" I find maudlin and boring. Plenty of chops with no pathos. Greene's recording is not so. Pianist Dow Brain arranges and produces this baker's dozen of old and new; surprising and blue. Outstanding are the contributions guitarist Jeff Lockhart provides an organic and bluesy "Silent Night" and slightly psychedelic "No One Should be Lonely." Greene reconstructs "What Child is This" and "Go Tell it On the Mountain." Greene is most inspired with this widening of the holiday canon with Cat Stevens' "Morning has Broken." A fully-realized holiday release.

Bob Dorough Trio featuring Michael Hornstein
But For Now

But For Now is the final studio recording of an American Original, Bob Dorough. This collection was recorded in the Fall of 2014 when Dorough was 91-years old. While his age is evident in his singing, this is not a valedictory recording like those of Billie Holiday or Johnny Cash's final recording. Instead, this Enja date was a brisk, hip meeting between friends, specifically, Dorough and saxophonist Michael Hornstein. The two had been friends for many years, a fact empathically demonstrated in the music they made here. Breezy and relaxed, Dorough and Hornstein are joined by bassist Tony Marino, making up a refined variation to the classic jazz trio. The repertoire is equally breezy and relaxed. Dorough's piano and vocals mirror on another. On a delightfully rollicking and irreverently hip "The Girl from Ipamema" Dorough sounds like anything other than Sinatra, or Jobim, for that matter, Hornstein's saxophone is tart and sharp, teasing Dorough to turn the drama up a notch. A lengthy "Stars Fell on Alabama" serves as a post-Richard Strauss-jazz tone poem played by a guy who knew Charlie Parker personally. "But for Now" is a Dorough-penned piece full of throw-back hipness with a touch of old-time stride and 1920's sentiment. "Harlem Nocturne" is a straighter and more lyrical performance. The closing tryptic "Georgia on my Mind," "Body and Soul," and "Take Five" might be the perfect summation of Dorough's 70-plus years performing. Sleep well, sweet prince of hipness.


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