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 Wednesday, 01 April 2015
New and Notable
"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)


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

Image
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?)

Read more...
 
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.

Read more...
 
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