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 Sunday, 31 August 2014
New and Notable
New and Notable: Chip Stephens Trio, "Relevancy" (2013, Capri Records) PDF Print
Written by Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene   

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Relevancy
I first heard Chip Stephens and his amazing piano playing on a deliciously groovy two-disc CD of famed trombonist Curtis Fuller, titled I Will Tell Her (2010), which I reviewed for L.A. Jazz Scene and Jazz Police website as well.  What stood out about Stephens' playing on several selections from this CD were his amazing, incredible piano runs and his beautifully full chordal voicings.

That work is continued on his latest CD, Relevancy, one of the best, in my opinion, from 2013.  His trio is made up of bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer Joel Spencer, all sturdy and excellent performers who have been working together a number of years.  There are eight tracks on this CD -- three original by Stephens and five other very well picked selections.  One of my favorites is Stephens' “C Hips Blues,” ten minutes of some great chords, piano lines and groovy solos from all of the trio members.    Two more originals (and excellent) are “A Day in May,” and “Somewhere Before the End.”  Two better known tunes are “34 Skidoo” (by Bill Evans) and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Like Someone in Love.”  The CD begins with a perky number by Carla Bley, “Syndrome,” that gives the trio a real workout and defines each musician’s strength, especially in their solos.    This CD is one that affords the listener lots of exceptional jazz from Chip Stephens Trio from Capri Records: www.caprirecords.com

Reprinted from L.A. Jazz Scene, July 2014 issue

 
Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette, Somewhere (2013, ECM) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   

ImageI didn't get a chance to listen to Somewhere until well after its release. Now I can't stop listening. It's telling that the latest album from what has been commonly dubbed the Keith Jarrett Standards Trio was released under the three names, highlighting the nature of the thirty years' collaboration among three of the most singular talents in jazz. Somewhere marks the trio's first release since recording material in 2001 that found its way onto three albums released between 2004-2009. And at that, the "new" release was recorded in 2009, live at the KKL Luzern Concert Hall in Switzerland. But it was definitely worth the wait as Somewhere proves the trio's lack of recent discography reflects no loss of empathy or ingenuity as they cover familiar standards from Miles Davis and Harold Arlen and a pair from West Side Story, as well as two from Jarrett himself.

An intertwining of Jarrett's "Deep Space" with Miles' "Solar" starts with Jarrett's solo explorations, hollow-toned sonic crystals a la Marilyn Crispell, the trio sliding delicately into "Solar" as if the intro belonged there all along. Jarrett's right hand and left hand seem to come from different minds before the trio adds a measure of swing, Peacock adding a large helping of propulsive basslines, DeJohnette taking rhythm for a ride. Jarrett has never been more dazzling. "Stars Fell on Alabama" is simply luxurious, Jarrett elegant, Peacock complimenting every note. There's traces of Monk (especially "I Mean You") throughout the trio's playful arrangement of Arlen's "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," as each musician inserts his own quirky rhythmic alterations. (And was that really a snippet of the Andy Griffith Show theme song?)

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Dave Douglas Quintet Moves Back and Forth in "Time Travel" (2013, Greenleaf Music) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   

ImageIn 2013, Dave Douglas went 50/40/20: The prolific composer and bandleader turned 50 and released his fortieth album as a leader over the past 20 years. And with his current quintet (saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Rudy Royston), Douglas seems to have found a way to pull together his full multi-band, multi-sonic musical resumé. Sort of a follow-up to 2012's Be Still (same band sans vocalist, more hardcore modern jazz sounds), Douglas wanted "to find something that's in-between soloing and trading and playing together." Over the seven new Douglas compositions, he found something that, rather than "in-between" the group and individual, is a collaborative family where the individual serves the whole, the whole serves the individual. And it all serves the listener extremely well, with echoes of Mingus, Monk, Ellington and even Maria Schneider.

As she does throughout, Linda Oh sets a dramatic pulse on the opening "Bridge to Nowhere," the harmonic dialogue among sax and trumpet playfully dissonant as the music takes off in quirky directions. Oh and Royston make a formidable team, keeping it together while also willing to push it to the edge. Mitchell and Irabagon bring a Monk factor into sharp focus in their solos. The horns darkly introduce the more delicate title track -- perhaps this is a Sci Fi time machine? Bass and drums keep the band lurching forward on a trip that crosses alternately rugged and neatly terraced terrain as well as time. The topography--shallow pools and deep crevices--is particularly cultivated by Royston's daring imagination. "The Law of Historic Memory" is a more regal ensemble trip, Oh and Mitchell seeming to direct from darkness toward a slowly revealing light, the horns more controlled, seeking a companionship in melody and harmony that is ultimately uplifting.

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Leslie Lewis and Gerard Hagen "In New York" (2013, Surf Cove Jazz) PDF Print
Written by Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene   

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In New York
"... distills Lewis' talent to the intimate duet level, concentrating the music to a point where much is revealed." --C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz

This is Leslie Lewis and Gerard Hagen’s latest release, recorded in New York shortly before their move to Paris in 2011.  It's a collection of several standard tunes that Lewis had always wanted to sing from when she was a girl growing up.  What also caught her interest were jazz songs recorded by Nancy Wilson and Cleo Laine, as examples.

For each song--all from the Great American Songbook,  her husband and pianist Gerard Hagen sets some nice backing through his piano voicings and chordal arrangements.  Their duo is interesting and worth a good listen.  Lewis’ voice has a good amount of vibrato that seems to fit well into her style.  She enunciates all lyrics very well in all tunes performed.  There are nine selections total.  My favorites were: “Gentle Is My Love,” “Like Someone in Love,” “Body and Soul” and “Solitude.”

Now living in Paris, France, Lewis and Hagen are quite busy working with a wide variety of musicians there.  They manage to come back home to the U.S. once, maybe twice a year to visit and also perform.  We are always excited to see and hear how they are doing.

Reprinted with permission fron  L.A. Jazz Scene, December 2013 issue                                     
 
Jackie Ryan, "Listen Here" (Open Art, 2012) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   

ImageBritish critic John Fordham declared American vocalist Jackie Ryan "a theatrical, spontaneous and technically immaculate American with a Betty Carter flavour..." and her late 2012 release, Listen Here, will not discourage agreement. From her opening "Come On Home" with its nightclub dance floor kiss of R&B to the ultra-swing of "Gypsy in My Soul," Ryan is utterly charming and often musically surprising, taking full advantage of the ṻber-support of "John Clayton and Friends" --including the bassist's son, Grammy-nominated pianist Gerald Clayton, trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, saxophonist Ricky Woodard, guitarist Graham Dechter, and drummer Obed Calvaire. Among the surprises and treasures-- a magical turn on Abbey Lincoln's "Throw It Away," the dramatic opening verse of "Accentuate the Positive," the sweet duet with John Clayton on "Anytime, Any Day, Anywhere," a virtuosic "I Loves You Porgy," the majestic swing of "How Little We Know," a sultry, aching "A Time for Love," the hymn-like beauty of John Clayton's original "Before We Fall in Love," and the ultimate vocal trio (father and son Claytons) rendition of Dave Frishberg's gorgeous title track. If her previous outings failed to put Jackie Ryan in her rightful place among top jazz vocalists of the 21st century, Listen Here should... and make critics and audiences alike "listen here."

 
Jacqui Naylor, Dead Divas Society (Ruby Star Records, 2013) PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   

ImageEclecticly rooted vocalist Jacqui Naylor has long had broad appeal, with a voice that can as easily define jazz as country or pop, but has been tethered loosely in the jazz realm. Dead Divas Society, recorded before a live studio audience, thus perfectly reflects Naylor's influences, from Ella and Peggy Lee to Amy Winehouse and Freddie Mercury, from Shirley Horn and Billie Holiday to Dusty Springfield and Cass Elliott. But the interpretations all belong to Jacqui, from the bluesy "Skylark" (for Ella), swanky "It's a Good Day" (for Peggy Lee), regal "Where Do You Start?" (for Shirley Horn), swinging glee of "It's a Most Unusual Day"(for June Christy), "greazy" sway of "Gravy Waltz" (for Sarah Vaughan), and "light as a feather" skip through "They Say It's Spring" (for Blossom Dearie), to the funky and confident "Feelin' Good" (for Nina Simone), pleading "Love of My Life" (for Freddie Mercury), strong but wistful "The Windmills of Your Mind" (for Dusty Springfield), darkly savvy "When the World Was Young" (another for Peggy Lee), stunning Billie-inspired "Crazy He Calls Me" (for Billie Holiday), R&B flavored "Never Too Much" (for Luther Vandross), ambivalent "Fool That I Am" (for Etta James), and the stretchy gloom of  "Back to Black" (for Amy Winehouse, with a backdrop echoing Jacqui's often-smashed up "My Funny Valentine"). And then there's the glorious, stately finale, "Dream a Little Dream of Me" (for "Mama" Cass Elliot).

 

Naylor's rhythmic interpretations and distinctive phrasing make the difference between a merely pleasant set and a truly individual, "smashing" one-- surely enhanced by her long-time instrumental cohorts (pianist and arranger Art Khu, bassist Jon Evans, and drummer/co-arranger Josh Jones), who have helped support Jacqui's trademark "acoustic smashing."  These divas might be dead, but as long as Jacqui Naylor is around, their music has refreshingly invigorated eternal life.

 
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