CD roundup, Diane Schuur
January 1, 1970This newsletter is coming to you from downtown Los Angeles, where I'm attending the first-ever National Critics Conference — an interdisciplinary gathering of organizations from the worlds of dance, theater, classical music, the visual arts, and the Jazz Journalists Association.
I'm out here to take part this afternoon on a panel discussion titled "The Art of the Interview," with fellow panelists Devra Hall (guitarist Jim Hall's daughter), Ted Panken (a writer for Down Beat and a disc jockey in New York), and David Ritz (biographer of Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, and others).
I'll also be attending the JJA's left coast jazz party tomorrow night, along with my buddy Tony Llorens, a blues pianist whom I'd lost touch with since each of us moved away from Chicago. We were put back in touch by Jason Moran, whose father is Tony's first cousin. Turns out he's now living in North Hollywood.
This week's Jazz Notes column was a roundup of CDs rather than the usual profile, largely because my hoped-for profile subject, Madeleine Peyroux, was en route back to the States from Australia and unavilable to be interviewed. But I'm also hoping the half-dozen capsule reviews will lead to my reviewing jazz CDs more regularly in the Globe, perhaps in the paper's weekly CD Report, which until now has reviewed only pop discs.
I don't have access to my Calendar blurb on Diane Schuur from Thursday's Globe, so will add that info to the archived newsletter when I get home. But the CD roundup as it ran in Friday's paper is below.
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A bounty of significant releases hits the streets
By Bill Beuttler, Globe Correspondent | May 27, 2005
Jazz albums typically dribble out from record labels one or two at a time most weeks. Which makes these days feel unusually bountiful by comparison. At least a half-dozen significant jazz discs were officially released on Tuesday, and that's not even counting a pricey new import from the Bad Plus, titled "Blunt Object: Live in Tokyo."
Start with the Dave Brubeck Quartet's "London Flat, London Sharp" (Telarc), an album built largely around the 84-year-old leader's compositional strengths and the blowing of alto saxophonist Bobby Militello. That's especially evident on the opening (and title) cut, a formidably difficult up-tempo romp written by Brubeck in response to a lengthy recent tour of Great Britain by bus. Brubeck plays the title tune with his left hand moving down the keyboard in flats while his right one moves up it in sharps, and Militello's fierce, fleet-fingered solo shows him more in the Charlie Parker mold than predecessor Paul Desmond ever was. Other highlights include Militello's flute work on "Steps to Peace," the one tune on the disc not composed by Brubeck; Michael Moore's bowed bass solo on "Mr. Fats," a boogeying tribute to Fats Waller; and Brubeck's uncharacteristically gentle, unaccompanied piano on "Ballad of the Rhine."
Hank Jones is roughly Brubeck's age (he'll turn 87 in July), but stylistically he's Brubeck's opposite: an always subtle soloist whose genius lies in his ability to interpret the compositions of others. His newest offering, "For My Father" (Justin Time), is a trio date with bassist George Mraz and drummer Dennis Mackrel on which the pianist swings his way through tasteful takes of standards by the usual suspects: Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein. But Jones strays from the beaten path for material as well. He plucks one tune apiece from the drummers Al Foster ("Pauletta") and James Black (the jaunty 5/ 4 gem "Queen of Hearts"), has a pleasant walk through Milt Jackson's slow blues "SKJ," and revels in the harmonic riches of Tom Harrell's "Because I Love You." The high point, however, may be Harold Mabern's "Grace of God." Fittingly, too: Jones's father was a deeply religious man.
The SFJAZZ Collective put out its first single-CD release this week ("SFJAZZ Collective," Nonesuch), on which an all-star octet pays tribute to Ornette Coleman via three pieces by Coleman himself and one apiece by group members Miguel Zenón, Renee Rosnes, artistic director Joshua Redman, and Bobby Hutcherson. All seven cuts were culled from a series of performances in California in early 2004, and from them it's tough to choose which to admire most about the collective: its ambitious composing and arranging (the latter handled by the collective's unseen ninth member, Gil Goldstein) or the musicians' soloing and ensemble work. Nicholas Payton and Brian Blade shine especially brightly on trumpet and drums, respectively, on Coleman's "When Will the Blues Leave." But there is an extraordinarily high level of musicianship throughout.
Redman's Elastic Band has a CD out this week, too, the group's third. "Momentum" (Nonesuch) still has Redman on tenor sax and organ whiz Sam Yahel on keyboards, but this time the drum duties are divided six tunes apiece between Blade and Jeff Ballard, with hip-hopper ?uestlove taking over on another. There's a Coleman cover ("Lonely Woman"), but others by Led Zeppelin ("The Crunge") and Sheryl Crow ("Riverwide") as well. The group's elasticity is further tested by a parade of guest musicians, including trumpeter Payton; guitarists Jeff Parker, Eric Krasno, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Peter Bernstein; vibraphonist Stefon Harris; and bassists Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame) and Meshell Ndegeocello. All told it adds up to an exuberant, forward-looking, groove-infected disc by a musician respectful of jazz tradition but unwilling to be locked in by it.
Zenón's second disc for Cambridge-based Marsalis Music, "Jíbaro," and his third as a leader overall, has the alto saxophonist bringing jazz instrumentation, rhythms, and harmonies to the music of the Puerto Rican countryside. It's very much a jazz set, but one with a Latin accent that we haven't heard before, more Spanish in its origin than African. It's also more thoroughly composed than a lot of jazz albums, with Zenón having worked hard to retain the integrity of the island's rural music. Joining him on the CD are his usual quartet mates: Luis Perdomo, piano; Hans Glawischnig, bass; Antonio Sánchez, drums. The disc's title cut is particularly infectious, but the whole CD is soulful, swinging, charming, and accessible.
Luciana Souza, like Zenón, was a top-ranked "talent deserving wider recognition" in the latest Down Beat critics poll, in the female vocalist category. Her new CD, "Duos II" (Sunnyside), follows last year's widely praised "Neruda" and her previous disc of duets with guitarists, 2002's "Brazilian Duos." Her guitar partners this time out are Romero Lubambo, Swami Jr., Marco Pereira, Guilherme Monteiro, and they join her on a dozen tunes from Brazilian composers ranging from Jobim ("Modinha") to Souza's godfather, Hermeto Pascoal ("Chorinho Pra Ele"), to Souza herself ("Muita Bobeira," which the singer closes with a delightful bit of scatting). The lyrics are all in Portuguese, but the clarity and beauty of Souza's voice has no trouble conveying their mood.
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