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Ten Artists: January 2019


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I am adopting my "Bailey's Bundle" format as sole vehicle for my music reportage. Moreover, I am sharpening my focus to three segments of the jazz universe, in this order: (1) Jazz Vocals, (2) Archival Releases, and (3) Everything Else. I have changed the title to the more inclusive "Ten Artists," better reflecting how I have been programing my articles all along. The inaugural edition of this column is representative of what the reader can expect. Let's celebrate music together. Happy New Year!

Lyn Stanley
London Calling: A Toast to Julie London
A.T. Music

The release of Lyn Stanley's London Calling: A Toast to Julie London opens Schrödinger's music box to reveal the present creative stage in Stanley's evolution as an artist, interpreter, producer, and audiophile advocate. Her sixth release, London Calling reveals a carefully crafted, finely considered process. Her focus has been refined to addressing the recorded oeuvre of a single artist, Nancy Gayle Peck, AKA, Julie London (1926—2000). London's singing and acting career lasted 40 years, making songs like "Cry Me a River" her very own. London's choice as the object of a tribute recording is a refined one, reflecting Stanley's continual logistic for producing high-quality work. Also refined is her arrangement approach where her supporting musicians began with simple head arrangements, developing their final product while recording live in the studio. Organic and honest, this method makes for a genuine and tangible recorded product.

On London Calling, Stanley provides two valuable listening commodities: authentic performances of the Great American Songbook, demonstrating how the composers may have originally intended their compositions (sans any scat or vocalese elaborations) to sound, and snap arrangements decided on the spot during recording. These arrangements range from Stanley's crack duet with bassist Chuck Berghofer on "Bye Bye Blackbird" to her lithe trio with Berghofer and guitarist John Chiodini on London's signature piece, "Cry Me A River" to her breezy and humid full-band stroll through "Summertime" (Stanley reprises the piece with Mike Garson on piano, offering an effective juxtaposition in formats). Where Stanley really shakes things up is with her atmospheric "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" and morphine-languid "Light My fire." London Calling is another strong release by Stanley, showing evermore, her developing command over all aspects of recording.

Kurt Elling
The Questions LIve

In 2018, Kurt Elling released The Questions (Sony Masterworks). The Questions was a masterful collection of songs by Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. The songs are anthemic and perfectly cast for live performance. At the other end of the year, as if on queue, Elling releases The Questions: Live, opening the show with a 12-minute tour-de-force "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall." He is ably supported by guitarist John McLean, bassist Clark Sommers, drummer Adonis Rose, and pianist and organist Jimmy Watson. The release is comprised of performances from Elling's most recent European tour. Elling's instrument, his voice, is strong, clear, and determined. He marches through Bob Dylan's spear-in-the-dirt, raging in the wilderness. Elling's anger is driven by the insistent and mad drumming of Rose, hyper-focused and razor sharp. "I Have Dreamed" features guitarist McLean, who also arranged the piece. The solo interlude is informed and bright. Elling then swings things to the more personal with the walking blues "Every Day You're Away" reminding all that there is someone always at home to be touched while the touring musician is on the road. Upbeat and striding along, this is the breeziest piece in the performance. Bassist Sommers dispatches a sweet solo on the lengthy coda, "Endless Lawns," concluding an anxiously expressed show, reflecting a glimmer of hope that music can make all one. Live is definitely the way to experience Kurt Elling best.

Mike Thornton
Self Produced

Vocalist Mike Thornton is a musical "man-for-all-seasons." While being involved in making jazz music since his late teens, Thornton has performed and acted as creative director in a variety of settings over the past three decades. Early on, Thornton devoted a great deal of energy to acting (Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center; Homicide, Life On The Street on NBC; Off-Broadway and in national tours). Most recently, Thornton has been performing as a full-time singer/actor with the nationally-known political satire group, The Capitol Steps. As a singer, Thornton absolutely had a recording in him wanting out and it presents in the form of the present release Homeward.

Assembled from four different recording sessions between 2016 and 2018, Homeward demonstrates Thornton's hip delivery in a variety of formats and jazz stylings. Thornton's singing does reveal a beacon with a slight Mark Murphy influence demonstrated through his inclusion of the vocalese treatments of Miles Davis' "All Blues," Horace Silver's "Senor Blues," and Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight." But the real treats on this recording are the live selections: Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and, on the other end of the spectrum, Bobby Troup's "Route 66." Thornton stretches out and shows what he is made of on these pieces. Overall, Homeward is a satisfying listen to some great standards.

Lauren Henderson
Brontosaurus Records

It was not so long ago that Lauren Henderson was releasing Ármame (Brontosaurus Records, 2018). That recording was as well received as it was produced. Henderson returns with Riptide, a brief EP that builds on the Island personality of Ármame but veering into a soundly popular music realm. The disc opens with a jaunty, polyglot romp "Ámane," bilingually exploring first love. The music is infectious. Henderson shows no fear in combining multiple, manifold genres and allowing the outcome to develop naturally. The title piece features a bass line directly out of 1970s Funk Brothers Motown. Her vocals border on hip hop rhymechant, with vocal compression giving the song a thoroughly modern feel. Henderson's crack trio produces expansive support for the singer's well-crafted songs. This is a recording that benefits fully from its superb production as did the previous Ármame. There is much to endorse Lauren Henderson and every recording she makes.

Ada Bird Wolfe
Self Produced

Where to start with Ada BIrd Wolfe? This present Birdie is a "debut" recording? They should all be like this, emerging fully formed and presented as a final product. No seeking one's "own" voice or bumbling through inferior material. Wolfe has had a love for music her whole life, even when when she was in school and after, working in business, and the ndevoting herself fulltime to writing. Life took Wolfe from the East to the West Coast where she landed and in 2010 began devoting herself to singing and music. It was there she began to work with pianist and arranger Jamieson Trotter and the magic began to happen. Trotter has a musical Midas Touch that can be heard on recordings like Mark Winkler 's Sweet Spot (Cafe Pacific, 2011) and The Laura Nyro Project (Cafe Pacific, 2013) and Mark Christian Miller's title (Sliding Jazz Door, 2015). Trotter and Wolfe opt for a simple, earthy touch on Birdie.

Wolfe has that warm, familiar voice and delivery like that favorite, intimate nightspot where one is always welcome, anonymously, where, "I live my day as if it was the last / Live my day as if there was no past / Doin' it all nite, all summer / Doin' it the way I wanna." Wolf is conversational in three languages. She and Trotter reconstruct "Lover Man" with a harder edge than most other performances of the classic. Her Portuguese is most deliciously casual on "Doralice" and her French salaciously inviting on ""Mon Fantôme." This singer shows that precision is not all it is cracked up to be and a little human experience goes a long way. Wolfe's true mettle is demonstrated on the vocalese "All Blues," "Monk's Dream," "'Round Midnight," "Four," and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." These may be the best interpretations of these "jazz standards." These tunes define Wolfe's essence as an interpreter of song. Great voice, great repertoire, great arrangement, great programming.

Dexter Gordon Quartet
Espace Cardin 1977
Elemental Music

Elemental Music already scored kudos with the release of Dexter Gordon Quartet Tokyo 1975 (2018), which the label has subsequently followed up with the present Espace Cardin 1977. This was a fruitful transition period for Gordon, who was in the process of moving back to the United States after a 14-year expatriation in Europe. The Tokyo show took place before the saxophonist had left Europe and the Espace Cardin show took place shortly after. The marketing of the performance as "the only performance of Dexter playing with [pianist] Al Haig is probably making a virtue out of necessity, but no matter, any live Gordon from this fertile period is welcome. Drummer Kenny Clarke is on hand, reminding us how he transformed drumming during the rise of be bop 25 years earlier. The recording sound is passable and the stage banter refreshing. Gordon is in good form, more restrained than on his Homecoming recording at the Village Vanguard a year earlier. Highlights of this recording are Gordon's lengthy consideration of this original "Sticky Wicket" and his closing "Oleo" and "'Round Midnight." Elemental Music is onto something and I hope they continue it.

Woody Shaw Quartet
Live in Bremen 1983
Elemental Music

Like the Dexter Gordon release above, Elemental Music had earlier released Woody Shaw: Tokyo 1981 (2018) and now, also paired with Gordon, the present Live in Bremen 1983. The Tokyo release is notable for the inclusion of Shaw's composition "Rosewood" and a smoldering "'Round Midnight." Live in Bremen 1983 doubles the amount of music of Tokyo and features pianist Mulgrew Miller, who is a large presence on the recording. Shaw was a relatively fleeting presence in the jazz world, deserving of more that the casual listening glance. That he is emerging in archival material nearly 30 years after his early death is telling. Bremen is a two-disc set containing nine lengthy considerations of both original compositions and standards. Fiery describes Shaw's playing during this performance, his ideas fertile and his execution at maximum velocity. Shaw is a good trumpeter to compare with Miles Davis. Shaw is intensely extroverted and capable in the higher register where Davis is more introspective and masterful in the middle register. Shaw opens with an up-tempo "You and the Night and the Music" allowing his quartet (pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Stafford James and drummer Tony Reedus) ample solo time throughout the recording. Shaw includes a brisk "Rahsaan's Run" from his signature release Rosewood (Columbia, 1978) as well as "The Organ Grinder" from 1979's Woody III (Columbia), the latter providing bassist James time for an exceptionally-conceived solo. Live in Bremen 1983 is arguably superior to Woody Shaw: Tokyo 1981. But, ain't it grand to have both!

Cannonball Adderley
Swingin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1967
Reel Real

First things first. Reel Real Recordings is the fortunate collaboration between Zev Feldman (Resonance Records) and Cory Weeds (Cellar Live). The two got together last year and decided to create a label dedicated to previously unreleased, archival material. Cannonball Adderley's Swingin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1967 along with Etta Jones' A Soulful Sunday: Live at the Left Bank. are the inaugural releases on the label. A second significance is Feldman's association with Jim Wilke, impresario at The Penthouse in Seattle, Washington, which have previously yielded: Three Sounds: Groovin' Hard -Live At The Penthouse 1964 -1968 (Resonance Records, 2017) and Wes Montgomery With The Wynton Kelly Trio: Smokin' In Seattle: Live At The Penthouse (1966) (Resonance Records, 2017).

These Adderley performances from four shows in 1966 -1967 employed the same band that produced the famous presentation of pianist Joe Zawinul's composition "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" earlier in 1966 and originally released on Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at "The Club" (Capitol, 1966). The music is arguably the hardest hard-bop/soul jazz one is likely to hear this year. These performances are culled from a series of 30-minute radio concerts broadcast on Seattle KING-FM. This brief (for jazz) time allotment caused a necessary compression in the performances, stimulating a more intense creativity. "Big P" and "The Girl Next Door" reflect this in exuberant playing on the parts of all band members. This music is hot as a Roman Candle, performed with a hard bop -soul abandon that is refreshingly loose and organic. Adderley's stage presence is evident in his interactions with the crowd. Swingin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1967 is a welcome addition to the Adderley oeuvre.

Etta Jones, featuring the Cedar Walton Trio
A Soulful Sunday: Live at the Left Bank
Reel Real

It's Etta Jones, not Etta James. Jones (1928 -2001) recorded widely from the 1960s through the 2000s, save for a ten-year period between 1965 and 1975. She was a noted collaborator with saxophonist Houston Person throughout her career. The co-inaugural release on the Zev Feldman -Cory Weeds curated label Reel Real (with Cannonball Adderley's Swingin' in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1967 above) A Soulful Sunday: Live at the Left Bank, exists as one of the few recorded documents by Jones during this fallow period. A devotee of Billie Holiday, Jones incorporated the phrasing and gusto of Dinah Washington and that other Etta. The present recording was made at Baltimore's Left Bank Society in February 1972. She is supported in great style by the Cedar Walton Trio (with bassist Sam Jones and drummer Billy Higgins. After a lengthy trio-only performance of "The Theme from Love Story, Jones sings her best Billie on "Sunday" before she and Walton transform "This Girl's in Love with You" into a gospel-blues romp. Jones rips the guts from Tadd Dameron's "If You could See Me Now," owning it as if Dameron had stolen it from her. This is a performance allegro con brio by all involved.

Carlos Henriquez
Dizzy Con Clave: Live From Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
RodBro Music

Bassist mainstay of Wynton Marsalis' Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Carlos Henriquez follows up his 2018 release The Bronx Pyramid (Blue Engine Records) with Dizzy Con Calve recorded live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at the Lincoln Center, presenting a recital of Dizzy Gillespie tunes heavy on the Afro-Cubano vibe. Even the straight be bop of "Night in Tunisia," "Groovin' High," and "Be Bop" are infused with, no, immersed deeply into, the clave The arrangements and performances are razor sharp. Leading an octet containing most of his co-workers from The Bronx Pyramid, Henriquez makes the most of his little big band, bearing down on these tried-and-true selections. The band hits its stride and creative apex with the most famous of Gillespie's Latin compositions, "Con Alma," "Manteca," "Kush," and "Tin Tin Deo." These four presentations are a masterclass in Latin music, the latter being performed so brilliantly over the top, it is hard to fathom. This is jazz at its best.

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