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 Wednesday, 01 July 2015
New and Notable
Maria Schneider: The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare, 2015) PDF Print
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

ImageWith her latest recording, The Thompson Fields, Minnesota-reared composer Maria Schneider has pulled off the unfathomable. She’s painted what we can assume is an apt soundscape of the pastoral surroundings of her youth. She’s assembled a top-notch ensemble to carry out this vision including guitarist Lage Lund, pianist Frank Kimbrough and multi-reed player Steve Wilson. That’s nothing new since  her career has been defined by excellent collaborative choices.

 

Here’s the rub: With the help of the Artist Share collaborative, she’s put together an actual keepsake rarely seen these days. A CD!   Ornithologists, nature enthusiasts and graphics buffs will delight in the booklet that comes with this impressively packaged recording.  Listen to the musical pastiche as you peruse.  The title selection is an especially poignant family memory, looking back 40 years from the top of a silo. Kimbrough and Lund carry the solos nicely.  Other pieces, like “Walking By Flashlight,” and “A Potter’s Song,” had me pining for the rural childhood I never had.  

 
Frank Lacy and Mingus Big Band, “Mingus Sings” (Sunnyside, 2015) PDF Print
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

ImageUnlike many other “posthumous” ensembles, the Mingus Orchestra has little interest in resurrecting note-for-note arrangements of its namesake. Mingus Sings is in keeping with the spirit of the ever progressive Charles Mingus. But it is also a reflection of the mission of his equally progressive widow, Sue Mingus, a tireless miner of new ways of expression in all things Mingus.

She has been the driving force of the group for years.  A memorable earlier take on vocal arrangements of the visionary bassist included Elvis Costello, who added his own lyrics to existing melodies. This one’s better.  It is helmed by trombonist, jazz/pop/blues singer and former physicist Frank Lacy.  Lacy referred to Costello’s lyrics as “Shakespeare on Crack.”  Costello was reportedly flattered.  Lacy offers two pieces, “Dizzy Profile,” and “Noonlight,” for inaugural recordings.  The rest is like a drive through a whole new neighborhood where you’ll want to step out of the car more than once.


Ed. Note: Jazz Police is pleased to welcome Kevin O'Connor (KBEM) as a contributor of CD Reviews. Kevin will provide brief reviews of notable new releases.

 
Michael LeVan Trio, A Different Shade of Blue (Shade of Blue Records, 2015) PDF Print
Written by Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene   
ImagePianist Michael Le Van has produced a new CD, A Different Shade of Blue, which is an expression of his life experiences and challenges. Le Van is both classically and jazz oriented. His unique pieces show connections to both. His choosing of musical partners is excellent: David Enos (bass) and John Ferraro (drums). They provide impressive balance of sound, fulfilling all of Le Van’s music skillfully.

 

LeVan includes ten originals on the recording. There are two numbers reflecting well-designed blues: “Fantasia in G Minor” and “Remember That.” Le Van uses some well-thought out chordal arrangements that drive these tunes in good fashion. Both Enos and Ferraro display their virtuosity in making all their solos quite meaningful.

After listening to the CD, I find that Mike Le Van’s work is a lot like telling a story with each number his trio plays. There are two nice ballads: “A Different Shade of Blue,” and “A Beautiful Moment.” “A Time to Remember” starts slowly, but picks up into a moderate Latin tempo. “Blue Nocturne” is probably my favorite. It is done in 6/8 time and has an unforgettable melody as well.

James Linahon at LMP Studios, who recorded, mixed and mastered this CD, gave a very high compliment to the LeVan’s music as being truly unique and one of the best he had heard in his many years doing CD engineering. For some relaxed and accessible listening, this CD will be a good investment of time. See Michael Le Van’s website for information re purchasing the CD:

http://www.michaellevan.com

Reprinted with permission from L.A. Jazz Scene, April 2015 issue

 
"Slant Signature": Benny Sharoni Featuring Jim Rotondi PDF Print
Written by Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene   

ImageWith his second CD, Slant Signature (2015, Papaya Records), saxophonist Benny Sharoni has moved the bar up a notch from his previously released Eternal Elixir (2010, Papaya), which garnered rave reviews.  Sharoni’s longtime quartet appears on the new release, with pianist Joe Barbato, bassist Todd Baker, and drummer Steve Langone, plus special guests, trumpeter Jim Rotondi and guitarist Mike Mele.  Mele also played on Sharoni’s Eternal Elixir.  Although this was Rotondi’s first time performing with the Sharoni ensemble, he sounded as if he'd been with the band for a long time.  Sharoni mentions that the bottom line is that the music moves and inspires people.  He says, “This record is 99% heart.  The band is full of heart and joy and intensity and everybody’s mission was to make the most beautiful music they could.”  

Sharoni’s home for many years has been Boston, MA, where he has spent time not only performing but also composing. Five of his original tunes are on his new CD, along with three famous classy jazz tunes -- Freddie Hubbard’s “Down Under,” Lee Morgan’s “Ceora,” and Ray Bryant’s “Tonk.”  They are all done with lots of favorable flavor. The musicians support each other to the max and everyone plays an important part in every tune. The front line, Sharoni, Rotondi, and Mele, are perfect and backed 1000% by the rhythm team of Barbato, Baker, and Langone.  


One of several jazz influences for Sharoni has always been Sonny Rollins.  His powerful tone is reminiscent of Rollins on his original "Minor City Blues." You can hear just how tight this band is by listening to Sharoni’s compositions “Subterranean Samba” and “The Bodega."  Another Sharoni original, “Bitter Drops,” has relaxed blues lines and gives way to outstanding solos from Sharoni, Mele, and Barbato.  On the title track, Sharoni's “Slant Signature,” the group performs immaculately.  It is an up-tempo and hard-driving piece.  


Slant Signature will be released on March 17, 2015. This CD will be wonderful to play and play many more times.  See Benny Sharoni’s website: http://www.bennysharoni.com

                                                                       

Reprinted with permission from L.A. Jazz Scene, March 2015       

 
George Cables, "Icons and Influences" (High Note, 2014) PDF Print
Written by Glenn A. Mitchell, LA Jazz Scene   
ImagePianist George Cables has long been regarded as one of the best pianists in the Jazz world.  He has his own sound and, for me, it is easy to identify him with any of his playing.  I first heard Cables’ stellar piano playing with the late, great Dexter Gordon after Gordon’s return to USA from Europe in the 1980s.  His newest CD, Icons and Influences,  is another superb work.  Cables has picked out nine favorite jazz and standard tunes and put his own spin on them for this recording with Dezron Douglas (bass) and longtime associate, Victor Lewis (drums). Cables includes three original compositions at the beginning of this CD.  Two of the three are dedicated to the late pianists, Cedar Walton ("Cedar Walton") and Mulgrew Miller ("Farewell Mulgrew").  

The Cables’ trio makes all numbers sound very full and riveting.  There are twelve gems for excellent listening.  Some tunes include  “Little B’s Poem,” “The Very Thought of You,” “Very Early,” “The Duke,” “Isotope,” “Come Sunday,” and a Latinized number, “Mo’ Pan.”


Be sure to visit George Cables' excellent website at www.georgecables.com to see all of his amazing musical accomplishments, including this CD at www.jazzdepot.com.  I recommended this work for enjoyable listening.



Reprinted with permission from L.A. Jazz Scene, February 2015

 

 
Tri-Fi's "Staring Into the Sun": Contemporary and Personal PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   

ImageOriginally coming together as the rhythm section for vocalist Curtis Stigers, pianist Matthew Fries, bassist Phil Palombi and drummer Keith Hall branched out on their own ten years ago as "Tri-Fi," and are now celebrating a fifth recording,  Staring Into the Sun (2014). "We knew we had a special musical connection and wanted another outlet to develop our own music as a trio: music that is contemporary and personal, while still deeply rooted in the tradition of the classic piano trios," they explain in the album's liner note. They have met their goal on each outing, but perhaps never more elegantly than on Staring Into the Sun, which they funded through Kickstarter.

The album includes ten tracks of all original compositions, six from Fries and two each from Palombi and Hall. They start of with Fries' "Open Water," a lightly swinging, upbeat tune that introduces the telepathic communication among the trio. Palombi's solo brings a bit of apprehension, yet still hopeful. The bassist contributes a more joyful solo to Fries' festive "Circle Dance." The pianist's "Clockwork" is reminiscent of compositions for Lynne Arriale, as he engages himself in two and even three-way conversations like a mini-travelogue, while Hall's continual punctuations keep your ears wondering, what's next? Fries describes his "Airstream" as optimistic, and it is indeed upbeat, laid-back, playful and bluesy, like Keith Jarrett on a bright day; Palombi adds a bouncy solo. One of the album's most exquisite tracks, Fries'  swaying "The Night Watch"  has an old fashioned ballad feel, while Hall kicks up some fine sonic dust.


Phil Palombi contributes the beautiful "Cielo," featuring bass and piano in counterpoint, generating a pastoral ambience. Palombi's title track starts with a distant drum rumble and sparse piano lines, then builds momentum like an adventure tale, while the bassist's solo adds fine details to the storyline.  With "Song for Butterfly," Drummer Hall provides delicate patterns in a slow meandering ballad, with Palombi setting a steady pulse from the deep end of the bass. Hall's "Josie Bebop" --dedicated to his daughter--is as loose and playful as his previous composition was delicate.


The album closes with Fries' "Compassion," starting with Hall's regal percussion as if a funereal ballad, as if written to honor a friend or mentor's recent passing. Palombi's mournful solo is one of the album's instrumental highlights. This track--indeed the entire album-- is as good an example of trio communication as one can find in the modern piano trio canon, with each instrument contributing significantly to the impact of the whole. The pieces just fit together perfectly.


Staring Into the Sun is available from CD Baby or the Tri Fi website (tri-fi.com)


 
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