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 Thursday, 30 July 2015
New and Notable
George and Chico Freeman/Michael Gibbs and the NDR Big Band PDF Print
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

 July is rapidly becoming a month for the books. Having cleansed myself with a trip to the Rockies, I returned to the usual piles of material on my desk. Here are just a couple I couldn’t wait to devour:

 

George and Chico Freeman:  All in the Family (Southport)

ImageOnce in a while, the toils of a Music Director in a jazz station present a challenge. That is, every so often a recording comes along that simply blows me away but isn’t quite, in the parlance of the industry, a “radio friendly record.” Such is the case with an intimate new tribute album from the venerated first family of jazz in Chicago, the Freemans. The focus of this gem is on revered saxophonist Von “Vonski’  Freeman, who left us in 2012. Von was a true denizen of the City of Big Shoulders, having inspired countless players from Chicago.

 

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Robert Glasper: “Covered” (2015, Blue Note) PDF Print
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

ImagePianist Robert Glasper is that all-too rare jazz musician who manages to reel in a respectable and growing crowd of jazz fans. More significantly perhaps, he also resonates with the hip hop and electronica crowd, particularly the ones who like a little substance and grit in their pop. There’s barely anything in the way of new composition on Covered, hence the title. The glaring exception is “Got Over.” Glasper  shares writing credits with no less than Harry Belafonte, who also appears on the track. The other original clocks in at thirteen minutes: “In Case You Forgot.”  It’s an opus unlike any he’s recorded to date. He also joins the ranks of pianists like Brad Mehldau in showing reverence for Radiohead, Joni Mitchell and other pop noteworthies.  

 
Kenny Werner: “The Melody” (2015, Pirouet Records) PDF Print
Written by Kevin O'Connor   

Image“Lyrical.” “Evan-esque.” “Impressionistic.” These are the terms that get bandied about quite a bit in music circles when people get a yen to brand a certain type of player. While it’s true that pianist Kenny Werner is a disciple of Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck and a short list of other like-minded stylists, he follows his own muse, both as a composer and interpreter. The Melody is his latest recording and it seems to fall in line with his more recent material. He’s enlisted long-time associates, bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and flexible drummer Ari Hoenig, to fulfill his vision. The title is a bit of an obfuscation, though. You may find yourself buried in standards like Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way,” or Coltrane’s “26-2” before you give any thought to melody. As for his own contributions? Cerebral but approachable, calling cards of his long career.

 
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

 
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