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Six Recent Releases from Zoho Records

C. Michael Bailey By

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With the recent demise of Khaeon Records, the premiere independent exponent of Latin Jazz, a vacuum was created in the jazz record market. That vacuum is now being filled with the presence of Zoho Records, which bills itself on its website as "Latin/Jazz with a New York Vibe.". That sounds pretty familiar. Zoho label entrepreneur Jochen Becker picked up the rights to the Khaeon catalog, a portion of which he has released on his new Zoho label. Some of the Khaeon releases that made it into the Zoho catalog are Bobby Sanabria?s Quarteto, Ach (formerly Khaeon's Quarteto, Ach to be re-released June 2004), Carlos Barbosa-Lima?s Frenesi (formerly Khaeon?s Natalia to be re-released July 2004), and Greg Skaff?s Highway 54 (formerly Khaeon?s Blues for Mr. T to be re-released August 2004). Not content with merely re-releasing the jazz sides from Khaeon, Mr. Becker put together an impressive roster represented in these six new releases.

Harvie S
Texas Rumba
(Zoho 200401)

Recorded live (as are all great jazz albums), Texas Rumba thunders with adore y la alegr. It is Latin jazz fresh and crisp as spring tomatoes and cilantro. Harvie S (AKA Harvie Swartz) is an exceptional bassist, composer, and bandleader who has immersed himself in the Latin music pabulum, transforming the style into a innovative and critical entity. Integral to this evolution is his working quintet, who, together, is sharp as razors. Harvie S founded the group Eye Contact to achieve his vision in Latin jazz. The opening piece (also the title cut) acts as a collision point between New York hard bop and Dizzy?s Afro-Cubano bebop. The piece is anchored by Daniel Kelly?s piquant pianism, which dances over the complexities of the rhythm section, founded on Swartz?s bass playing. Harvie S' compositions are very much in the orchestral vein of Chico O?Farrell, while at the same time retaining an important dance element. The single standard is "Monk?s Mood," which is played on the bass, solo. Harvie S' facility is palpable, readily recognized and appreciated. "Underneath It All" finds the bassist on an arco tear that would not respond to medication if it had to. The arco turns into echoed pizzicato with Scott Robert Avidon?s saxophone. Harvie S' is showing his avant-garde stripes here and they are very effective. The remainder of the recording is of this high quality. This is very fine music that will make very fine listening.

Pablo Aslan
(Zoho 200402)

The key operative in the title of this disk is Avantango. But, this is no mere homage to Piazzolla, though the great bandoneonist and composer is well represented. No, Argentinean-bassist Pablo Aslan mixes his Buenos Aires sensibilities with New York City Panache to produce a big city tango that is both complex and accessible. Long associated with Pablo Ziegler, Aslan has enjoyed wide exposure in the Latin / Tango community. Avantango is an intoxicating mix of Aslan?s original compositions and those of the master, Piazzolla. Joining Aslan on this recording is his long time bandoneonist Hector Del Curto, whose playing infuses this sensual music with its humidity. Tenor saxophonist Oscar Feldman exerts his powerful tone in Piazzolla?s "Deus Xango" a composition made of a recording date with baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan from the 1970s. Feldman is forceful and muscular in his soloing and cooperative in his accompaniment. Trumpeter Diego Urcola plays brightly on Piazzolla?s "Vuelvo Al Sur" and Aslan?s "Amadeo". Vocalist Roxana Fontan lends her voice to four pieces, the most provocative being the tango remake of the Argentinean rock song "Muchacha (ojos de papel)". Bassist Alsan?s arco soloing on this recording is superb. He is an exciting bandleader who melds perfectly with the company he keeps. For more information see Pablo Alsan .

Keith Javors
Mo? City Jungle
(Zoho 200403)

Pianist, composer, educator Keith Javors was born in Carbondale, Illinois and was subsequently educated at the University of North Texas where he also taught. He pursued a doctorate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He performed locally for several years before accepting a position on the faculty of the University of North Florida. With all of this education and teaching, it is nice to see that the old adage ?Those who can do?and those who can?t teach?? does not apply here. On his new Zoho recording, Mo? City Jungle Javors composed all of the pieces and performs them with his current working sextet. The title cut, with which Javons opens and closes the disc, is orchestrated to have a big band feel, with a complex Latinate head and fierce soloing by the pianist and drummer John Davis. Javons has an intuitive arrangement and performance style that in effect propels his band. But, in no way does the pianist crowd is other soloists, affording them tremendous freedom. This philosophy largely pays off. "Sierra Nicole?s Bossa" is a fine example of Javors? composition opening up for impressive soloing from his saxophonists Dane Bays and Juan Carlos Rollan. Bassist Ricky Ravelo also takes a great solo turn on this light Latin ballad. "In Essence" features Ray Callender on brass, weaving in and out among the tenor and alto presences. This recording has a great sensibility and listenability. For more information see Keith Javors .

Sunny Jain Collective
Mango Festival
(Zoho 200404)

Mango Festival owes much more to the African element of Jazz than its Latin brother. Sunny Jain?s Afro-beat coupled with Steve Welsh?s Eastern-influenced saxophones set up a completely different dynamic. Jain uses ace guitarist Rez Abbasi as his rhythm foil to fine effect. The over all results are excellent?a swinging collection of other-than-North-American sounds that proves that jazz is no longer only an American commodity. It is changed by all who touch it, and Jain is forging in an all-new direction, mining the Eastern influence in music. The title tune, composed by drummer Jain is a manifold piece, revealing multiple aspects of the music through shifting rhythms, times, and tempos. It represents a polyglot of moods, thoughts, intentions and influences. Steve Welsh?s ballad "As Is" provides the saxophonist a quiet sanctuary in which to investigate looping of his horn. Sunny Jain is a member of the far-flung South Asian Diaspora. His music is pregnant with this heritage. This is a superb disc that I highly recommend.

Joan Stiles
Love Call
(Zoho 200405)

Okay, so much of the talk of "Latin / Jazz with a New York Vibe.". Pianist, arranger Joan Stiles presents a little big band recital that beautifully interfaces 21st Century harmony approaches with 20th Century Swing Era orchestration. In short, there is something very old and very new about this collection of jazz standards. For this project, Miss Stiles assembled the best jazz musicians New York city had to offer. She began with Frank Wess and Clark Terry?not bad. Added to them are Jerry Dodgion on alto saxophone, Joe Temperley on the baritone saxophone, Warren Vache on Trumpet, Wayne Goodman and Benny Powell on trombone, John Webber on bass and Gregory Hutchinson on drums. Miss Stiles uses this collection of talent in a variety of settings including solo piano, jazz piano trio, quartet, septet, octet, and the magic nonet. Love Call has an immediacy that owes much to the way Miss Stiles envisioned its recording. She chose to record live, with all musicians together without headphones. What this accomplished was a very relaxed recording that sounds live. The band is obviously well rehearsed and no performance deteriorates into simple mindless blowing. Miss Stiles? arrangements see to that. Miss Stiles saves two of the best for herself, taking solo two superb compositions by another arranger who happened to be a composer?Billy Strayhorn. "Blood Count" and "Take the A Train" are simply lovely. For more information see Joan Stiles .

Dave Liebman Group
In A Mellow Tone
(Zoho 200406)

Dave Liebman has an improviser?s heart. When playing a standard, he would just as soon reharmonize it as leave it alone. This is a good thing. It is savage curiosity like this that keeps the standards fresh. Liebman is not the first to do this. Guitarist Dom Minasi recast Ellington?s songbook on his recording Takin? the Duke Out . Besides the title cut, Liebman also reharmonizes James Horner?s "My Heart Will Go On" from the movie Titanic. Of Liebman?s own compositions, "Chant" is straight hard bop, "The Sun King" avant-guard and Lennie Tristano?s "Wow" be bop. Guitarist Vic Juris adds and angular composition of his own, "Romulan Ale". For this recording, Liebman elected to have the guitar perform in place of the piano and also as a horn. The effect is wide open jazz in the spirit of the Mulligan Quartet. For more information see Dave Liebman .

Visit Zoho Records on the web.


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