JAZZ IN SPACE: December 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010


1.  Christian Scott, “Yesterday You Said Tomorrow” (Concord)
2.  Gail Pettis, “Here In The Moment” (OA2)
3.  John Escreet, “Don’t Fight The Inevitable” (Mythology)
4.  Fred Hersch Trio, “Whirl” (Palmetto)
5.  Charles Lloyd Quartet, “Mirror” (ECM)
6.  Dave Holland, Pepe Habichuela, “Hands” (Dare2)        
7.  Aldo Romano, “Origine” (Dreyfus)
8.  Houston Person, “Moment To Moment” (HighNote)
9.  Larry Goldings, Harry Allen, “When Larry Met Harry” (Café Society)
10.Matt Slocum, “Portraits” (Chandra Records)

California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium" (CTI/ Sony)
Stan Getz, Kenny Barron, “People Time: The Complete Recordings” (Sunnyside)
The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions (Mosaic)

+ 10 (in random order; it’s all good!)
Esperanza Spalding, “Chamber Music Society” (Heads Up)
Bad Plus, “Never Stop” (E1)
The Pizzarelli Boys, “Desert Island Dreamers” (Arbors)
Harris Simon, “The Mastery Of Passion” (Resonance)
Isaac Delgado, “L-O-V-E” (Sony)
Mose Allison, “The Way Of The World” (Anti)
Theo Bleckmann, "I Dwell In Possibility" (Winter & Winter)
Ryan Cohan, “Another Look” (Motema Music)
Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, “Jasmine” (ECM)
Tamir Hendelman, “Destinations” (Resonance)

I'll flesh some of these out in a later update. Check out some other lists at the Jazz Journalists Association's annual roundup right here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Russell Malone is a thrilling guitarist, essentially self-taught, who’s closely identified with Diana Krall with whom he played throughout the 90s. The hour of music on “Triple Play” (MaxJazz) is mostly how jazz should sound – the electrifying playlist feels like an after hours house party jam and though it’s a trio setting, Russell’s nimble fretwork often pushes drummer Montez Coleman and bassist David Wong to breathless highs. Everything is amped to satisfying levels, putting you squarely in the mix. Tunes like the swinging “Butch and Butch” and the funky “Sweet Georgia Peach” are highlighted by punchy interplay, but Malone never short sells a ballad – his “Pecan Pie” and Quincy Jones’ “The Witching Hour” resonate with a beguiling charm and exposes Malone as a true romantic. (11 tracks; 60:52 minutes)

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Among the many chart-topping recordings that Nat King Cole made, his three Spanish language albums recorded between 1958 and 1962 – sung phonetically by Cole who didn’t speak the language – are bizarrely novel yet strangely hypnotic.

Cuban pop star Isaac Delgado, often tagged as “the Frank Sinatra of salsa,” revives the best of these tunes on his blissfully dreamy tribute album, “L-O-V-E.” He hooks up with an all-star band including pianist John diMartino, drummer Dafnis Prieto, and guitarist Romero Lubambo with a killer horn section (Ken Peplowski, Conrad Herwig and trumpeter Brian Lynch) that gives the polished production an exquisite authenticity. Nat’s brother Freddy Cole, an esteemed singer and pianist on his own, adds his smooth, scintillating voice to “Quizas, quizas, quizas” and “Green Eyes.” Delgado is a masterful vocalist and the lush melodies flutter and float; the intended result is both catchy and wonderfully evocative.  (12 tracks; 45:34 minutes) 

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For hard-core devotees of experimental jazz, guitarist Mary Halvorson is an exhilarating experience. Her sophomore recording, “Saturn Sings,” may be informed by connections – her diverse inspirations include Clifford Brown and Monk together with Sam Cooke and Dmitri Shostakovich – but Halvorson and her empathetic trio mates, bassist John Hebert and drummer Ches Smith, resolve to go places you never knew existed. To bring these ten original tunes to life fully, Halvorson adds horns supplied here by saxophonist Jon Irabagon and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson. Halvorson hooks you with the familiar – themes are stated and her riffs indeed swing – but soon you’re in foreign territory and listening closely to understand a new language. Original in the extreme, Halvorson takes jazz guitar into new directions with a poetic shove, freely using distortion and electronic effects for maximum emotional impact.  (10 tracks; 66:20 minutes)  Her recording studio is Firehouse 12 in Connecticut, which has its own interesting story and history. Visit 'em: http://firehouse12.com

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Armed with a cache of top-notch original tunes and an equally strong supporting cast of musicians like vibes player Joe Locke, saxophonist Geof Bradford and drummer Kobie Watkins, there’s much to savor on pianist Ryan Cohan’s sophomore release, “Another Look” (Motema Music). On the scene since 1993, Cohan has a sure touch on the keys and balances superior original material (“Monk’n Around,” “Song For My Grandfather”) with energetic arrangements of Victor Feldman’s “Joshua” and Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,” both of which showcase Cohan’s dazzling chops, while go-to percussionist Steve Kroon adds hints of mystery and exoticism. Flawlessly self-produced, “Another Look” is a model for modern jazz piano albums, full of tangible moments of undiluted pleasure throughout. (11 tracks; 66:13 minutes)

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Venezuelan pianist Benito Gonzalez’ tunes have an intentional 1960’s jazz feel – he simply likes the music from that time – but his inspiration sounds all his own. An intense musician with a keen ear for composition and flow, Gonzalez employs a tested jazz crew – Jeff “Tain’ Watts on drums, bassist Christian McBride and saxophone players Myron Walden, Ron Blake and Azar Lawrence – on eight righteous neo-bop numbers and a sole cover of McCoy Tyner’s percussive “Blue On The Corner.” Tunes like “Circles” and “Taurus” play like a series a fastball pitches where every player connects and shares the leader’s unbridled passion. An affecting tribute to drummer Elvin Jones (“Elvin’s Sight”) generates a serious groove and cleverly reconciles the past/present thing that Gonzalez is after. Hard driving but still tuneful, “Circles” is fueled by Gonzalez’ abundant talent and solid faith in the expansive power of his awesomely talented band. (12 tracks; 72:37 minutes)

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Trumpeter Henderson’s sonic connection to Miles Davis sounds obvious on first listen to “For All We Know,” but there’s a greater depth to this collection of standards and snazzy Henderson originals. The thoroughly modern guitarist John Scofield peppers these tunes with wiry, ethereal solos, while bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Billy Drummond keep the rhythm loosey goosey. Henderson plays with a refined air on ballads and mid-tempo tunes like “Jitterbug Waltz” and the title track. Elsewhere, most notably on the cooker, “Sandstorm,” Henderson and guitarist John Scofield trade solos with dazzling efficiency. Hang on for “Popo,” a Henderson original shaped by a funky little melody that recalls a relaxed Miles and lets Henderson unfurl line after line of delicious notes over Scofield’s equally tasty comps. (8 tracks; 52:42 minutes) 

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Fresh off his 18-year gig as the bandleader on the “Tonight Show,” guitarist Kevin Eubanks presses the record button again. “Zen Food” (Mack Avenue Records) may surprise listeners who aren’t familiar with his earlier recordings from the 80’s for Elektra, GRP and Blue Note labels. Apart from the straight-ahead “6/8,” played at a deft tempo, Eubanks style of contemporary jazz is oddly comforting. The all-original tunes are gently melodic (“Spider Monkey Café”), slightly funky (“The Dirty Monk”) and underscored by subtle keyboard shadings by Gerry Etkins. Eubanks’ shares frontline duties with saxophonist Bill Pierce and his compositions are served with a steady beat by veteran drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. If the late night jazz-club vibe can’t be helped, that’s okay only because Eubanks is an affable player and tunesmith. Remarkably intimate, “Zen Food” tastes pretty good. (10 tracks; 59:21 minutes) 

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It’s always a pleasure to revisit the music of pianist Dave Brubeck, one of a handful of jazz musicians who successfully made jazz “cool” by frequently crossing over to impress non-jazz listeners. Under their Masterworks Jazz imprint, Sony has restored to print several vintage titles that effortlessly illustrate the dynamism of Brubeck and his legendary quartet (alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, drummer Joe Morello and bassist Eugene Wright) as well as its enduring popularity – his “Time Out” album is as influential and popular a statement as Miles Davis’ “Kind Of Blue” and as much of a catalyst for sending jazz in new directions.
Two boxed sets compile five completes albums, each made up as mini-facsimiles of the original LPs. The QUARTET box packages “Time Out,” “Time Further Out,” “Time Changes,” “Time In” and “Countdown: Time In Outer Space.” The BRUBECK box covers “Jazz Goes To College,” “Brubeck Plays Brubeck,” “Gone With The Wind,” “Brandenburg Gate: Revisited” and “Jazz Impressions Of New York.” With a MSRP price of $29.95 qualifies as a bargain, especially for music you’ll never tire of.  

A nice article written by Marc Meyers about Brubeck appears in the Wall Street Journal, and you can read it here.  Nate Chinen of the New York Times is dazzled (as we all would be) by a recent appearance at the Blue Note by Brubeck. Read his take here

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