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Jazz Journal

Summer 2018


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Jazz Journal is a regular column consisting of pithy takes on recent jazz releases of note as well as spotlights on those titles in the genre that might otherwise go unnoticed under the cultural radar.

Fred Hersch Trio
Sunnyside Records

The longer Fred Hersch plays, the more resplendent his piano sounds. And that is with all due respect to his accompanists, on this remastered edition of the near twenty year old Heartsongs, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Jeff Hirshfield. But the pianist is patient even as he is probing into his selections of challenging material including Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You," Ornette Coleman's "The Sphinx" and two tunes from the incomparable saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter ("Fall" and "Infant Eyes"). Chosen no doubt to stretch his own abilities and that of the trio as well, the reverence all three musicians bring to the covers is no less than to Hersch's own songs, that attitude also on par with their vigorous engagement on the originals. The simpatico approach the group shares, to which its perspicacious leader refers in the liner notes, extends throughout the eleven tracks and thus renders even more welcome the reissue of this title by the very same label on which it was originally released.

Michael Leonhart Orchestra
The Painted Lady Suite
Sunnyside Records

If the strains of woodwinds, saxophones et. al. that waft through The Painted Lady Suite sound familiar, it's well to keep in mind Michael Leonhart has worked with latter-day configurations of Steely Dan, his eligibility no doubt based on his familiarity with arrangements that adorn such classics as Pretzel Logic (ABC Records, 1974) and Aja (ABC Records, 1977). That said, Leonhart's magnum opus here is no derivative indulgence by which he recycles others' ideas, but rather a rigorous exercise in musicianship on an ambitious original piece in seven parts, The three additional tracks apart from the suite simply certify the soul within all these compositions and while the presence of Nels Cline on guitar might at first seem minimal, the inclusion of such an idiosyncratic player is metaphor for the author's approach: Leonhart wants to not only stretch himself as a multi-instrumentalist, but his accompanists as well. And that's not to mention the equally laudable ambition of bringing to full(est) flower what is ultimately a cohesive single statement.

Woody Shaw
Tokyo '81
Elemental Music

Recorded just after a resurgence of interest in traditional acoustic jazz in the wake of the jazz-rock fusion movement, the performance here proceeds if the band's in mid-set. Shaw's trumpet only adds to that readily-discernible momentum, an ebb and flow over ten-plus minutes on this number, slightly more than sixteen on "Song of Songs" and almost fifteen on the bonus track "Sweet Love Of Mine." And. like the leader's spotlights, it's precise soloing, buoyed by the lithe interactions of the other players, all of it as articulate as the studious but nonetheless passionate essays included in the booklet. Such eloquence certainly belies the familiarity of a tune like "'Round Midnight," so, like its companion piece, Tokyo 1975, this truly deluxe package inaugurates in high style what hopefully will be an extended series of such archival delights.

Dexter Gordon Quartet
Tokyo 1975
Elemental Music

Recorded just prior to the venerable saxophonist's return to the United States, a homecoming that saw him, like his peer, signed with Columbia Records, the man's stately, dignified persona permeates the music he plays in a recording that captures the ambiance of the room as much as the performance within it. That said, Gordon doesn't wait til the extended takes on the bonus tracks here, "Rhythm-a-Ning" and "Old Folks," to play with the rousing high spirits captured in the photo of him that adorns this album cover. Everybody in the band, but especially pianist Kenny Drew, romps on "Fried Bananas" while, preceding the gentle melancholy of "Misty," gusto abounds throughout "Days of Wine and Roses." It's an atmosphere not dissimilar to the excited tone of Maxine Gordon's liner note essay: combined with the assortment of black and white photos juxtaposed with her prose, Tokyo 1975 is that complete package the true jazz aficionado adores.

Daan Kleijn
Self Produced
2018 While Daan Kleijn doesn't display a true voice of his own on Passages, it's well to note this is only his sophomore recording. The extent to which he's stylishly mastered the rudiments of jazz guitar is impressive enough to strongly suggest he's almost finished the foundation he needs to proceed in formulating a style all his own: his fluid interactions with a trio here bespeak a confidence in his technical skill and an authority as a bandleader, both of which attributes are as highly-evolved as his intuitive skills as a composer. And the fact his "Bird Song" and "Humble Bee" reside so comfortably next to covers by the varied likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Rodgers & Hart, Bobby Hutcherson and Lee Konitz affirms he may well be at the very threshold of transcending his influences in more ways than one.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: The Man I Love; Fall ; Lullabye; Free For Three; Heartsong; Infant Eyes; Beam Me Up; I Mean You; Evanessence; Rain Waltz; The Sphinx.

Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano; Michael Formanek: bass; Jeff Hirshfield: drums

The Painted Lady Suite

Tracks: The Painted Lady Suite (Transformation in the Deserts of Mexico; The Silent Swarm Over El Paso; The Experimental Forest, North Dakota; Countdown to Saskatchewan; The Arctic Circle; 1500 Feet Above the Sahara -Night; 1500 Feet Above the Sahara -Day; In the Kingdom of M.Q.; Music Your Grandparents Would Like; The Girl From Udaipur.

Personnel:Michael Leonhart: composer, arranger, conductor, organ, Mellotron, accordion, bass harmonica, bass melodica, pump organ, trumpet, french horn, mellophonium, bass trumpet & electric bass; Dave Guy: trumpet; Taylor Haskins: trumpet & valve trombone; Andy Bush: trumpet; Carter Yasutake: trumpet; Andy Gathercole: trumpet; Ray Mason: trombone & bass trombone; Mark Patterson: trombone & bass trombone; John Altieri: tuba; Donny McCaslin: tenor sax; Sam Sadigursky: tenor sax, piccolo flute, flute, alto flute & bass clarinet; Matt Bauder: alto & tenor sax; Jason Marshall: alto & baritone sax; Cochemea Gastelum: tenor & baritone sax, flute; Charles Pillow: bass clarinet & alto flute; Ian Hendrickson-Smith: baritone sax; Jon Natchez: clarinet; Aaron Heick: tenor sax, english horn & bass flute; Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon; Nels Cline: guitar; Pauline Kim: violin & viola; Erik Friedlander: cello; Jay Leonhart: acoustic bass (1, 8, 10); Joe Martin: acoustic bass (6, 9); Nick Movshon: electric bass (5, 7); Daniel Freedman -drums (1, 8, 9, 10) & percussion; Nick Movshon: drums (2); Homer Steinweiss: drums (5, 7); Mauro Refosco: percussion; Leon Michels: percussion; Mauro Durante: percussion & violin; Carolyn Leonhart, Jamie Leonhart, Michael Leonhart & Milo Leonhart: choir.

Live in Tokyo 1975

Tracks: Fried Bananas; Days of Wine and Roses; Misty; Jelly, Jelly, Jelly; Rhythm-a-Ning; Old Folks.

Personnel: Dexter Gordon: tenor saxophone; Kenny Drew: piano; Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen; Albert "Tootie" Heath: drums; Espen Rudd: drums (5); Ronnie Matthews: piano (6); Stafford James: bass (6); Louis Hayes: drums (6).

Tokyo '81

Tracks: Rosewood, 'Round Midnight, Apex, From Moment to Moment, Song of Songs, Theme for Maxine, Sweet Love of Mine.

Personnel: Woody Shaw: trumpet and flugelhorn; Steve Turre: trombones and percussion; Mulgrew Miller: piano; Stafford James: bass; Tony Reedus: drums. Woody Shaw with The Paris Reunion Band on Track #7: Dizzy Reece: trumpet; Slide Hampton: trombone; Johnny Griffin and Nathan Davis: saxophones; Kenny Drew: piano; Jimmy Woode: bass; Billy Brooks: drums.


Tracks: Bird Song; Estrada Branca; Isn't This My Sound Around Me; Moonlight in Vermont; Humble Bee; Gaslight; Kary's Trance; Where or When.

Personnel: Daan Kleijn (Guitar & Compositions), Joost van Schaik (Drums), Tobias Nijboer (Double Bass)

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