Monday, April 30, 2012

Kuhn/Swallow/Baron Together Again; New Stallings CD - Bob Stewart

The wise and wistful title track of pianist Steve Kuhn's new CD -- "Wisteria" -- written by Art Farmer, takes us back to the early '60s, when both Kuhn and bassist Steve Swallow sang softly of the blues in the trumpeter's band. Swallow was also a member of the trio Kuhn formed shortly thereafter. They've shared a lot of history since then, performing on each others' discs. The resourceful Joey Baron, one of jazz's finest drummers, is also thoroughly at home in Kuhn's oeuvre, having worked with the pianist in diverse settings for more than 20 years. It's surprising, then, that the new CD marks the first occasion that Kuhn, Swallow and Baron have ever played together as a trio.

Recorded fresh from a series of performances at New York's prestigious venue Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, Mary Stallings' latest CD -- "Don't Look Back" -- places her firmly in the pantheon of great female jazz singers. So respected is her art and musicianship, Mary was chosen to be the first jazz performer to ever appear at the venerable and heretofore classical-only National Theatre in Prague...a singular honor, to be sure, and the latest in a recent series of awards and distinctions that she has been gathering. Mary was the honoree at the 2011 SF Jazz Gala groundbreaking ceremony, performed at the Tanglewood Festival in Massachusetts as well as countless jazz clubs and rooms on both coasts. The new disc finds her together with her musical director and pianist, Eric Reed, lending her voice to a dozen selections showing she is no longer jazz's best-kept secret.

Wednesday Night Special - Gordon

DePaul University Jazz Ensemble (2011 Iowa City Jazz Festival) Directed by Bob Lark, the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble is considered one of the finest collegiate jazz bands in the country. They have appeared at the International Association for Jazz Education Conference, the Duke Ellington International Conference, the National Association of Music Merchants Conference, the Jazz Party at Sea aboard the S.S. Norwegian Sun, twice aboard the Queen Elizabeth II ocean liner for their Annual Floating Jazz Festival, and a concert tour of Italy.

An annual recording project by the Jazz Ensemble featuring student, faculty, and commissioned works occurs each spring. These recordings have produced a number of awards from the Jazz Educator's Journal, DownBeat and JazzTimes magazines. The Jazz Ensemble has recorded a number of CD's with legendary jazz artists, including Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely, Tom Harrell, Louie Bellson, Frank Wess, and Bobby Shew.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monaco Celebrates; Stigers Gets Personal - Bob Stewart

Jazz Times called it right when the magazine declared Hammond B-3 master Tony Monaco "smokes," wielding his instrument with "exuberance, skillful dynamics and galvanic solo construction...Monaco has plenty of soul." Downbeat magazine agreed, saying that Monaco's music "burns with intensity and passion." Now, the Columbus, Ohio-based organ virtuoso releases his most personal collection of grooves yet with the double-disc set, "Celebration." One of the CDs is a 'best of' compilation from previous releases. The other features an hour-plus set of Monaco originals. Monaco's tunes are steeped in the classic B-3 verities that he learned first- hand from mentor Jimmy Smith, even as he pushes forward with his own technical flair and musical fire. Singer/saxophonist Curtis Stigers' new CD -- "Let's Go Out Tonight" -- is a departure from his previous projects, sidestepping the Great American Songbook completely. Rather, it includes a vibrant cross-section of pop, folk, country and soul tunes from songwriters ranging from Bob Dylan, Eddie Floyd and Richard Thompson to Jeff Tweedy, Steve Earle and Clyde Otis. Stigers describes the new project as, "probably the most autobiographical album I've ever made. It hits so many places I've been and things I've gone through and am currently going through. They're songs I've had in my back pocket for years and have always wanted to record."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mayfield Impressions; Locke/Keezer Collaboration - Bob Stewart

Curtis Mayfield ranks among the most important and influential artists of the past century, the definition of soul both as the leader of the Impressions and as a solo artist. Jazz musicians have long found much in his words and melodies to inspire new interpretations. "Impressions of Curtis Mayfield" is a new collection of a dozen re-imaginings of some of the late soul man's most potent compositions, recorded by a collective of jazz aces calling themselves the Jazz Soul Seven: Terry Lyne Carrington on drums, Russ Ferrante on piano, Phil Upchurch on guitar, Wallace Roney on trumpet, Ernie Watts on sax, Robert Hurst on bass and the late Master Henry Gibson on percussion. Even without vocals, these new takes on the Mayfield canon express vividly the beauty and honesty inherent in his work.

The past decade has represented particularly extraordinary artistic growth for vibraphonist Joe Locke. Beginning in 2001 and his collaboration with pianist Geoffrey Keezer, and moving forward with projects under his own leadership, his deep understanding of the jazz tradition, married with a profound modernism, has established him as one of the most imaginative, lyrical and emotionally arresting leader/composer in today's jazz scene. "Signing" is his newest project with Keezer and finds the group, with bassist Mike Pope and drummer Terreon Gully, more mature, both individually and collectively, without losing any of the incendiary chemistry that defined its debut.

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Billy Hart Project; Second Disc from Yosvany Terry - Bob Stewart

Drummer Billy Hart's rich history includes stints with Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner and many others. The quartet heard on his new CD -- "All Our Reasons" -- was formed in 2003, and was originally billed as the Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner Quartet. When Hart asked if it could be his band for a gig in his hometown of Monclair, New Jersey, the other members unanimously voted to give it to him permanently. As the Billy Hart Quartet, the four musicians, including bassist Ben Street, have continued to play a number of dates each year, often at New York's Village Vanguard. In 2005, the group recorded a well-received debut album. Since then, as Iverson notes, the music has become more free and spacious.

Saxophonist Yosvany Terry burst onto the jazz and contemporary music scene in New York in 1999, where he "helped to redefine Latin jazz as a complex new idiom," according to the New York Times. Born in Cuba, the musician/composer/educator incorporates American jazz traditions with his own Afro-Cuban roots to produce performances and compositions that flow from the rhythmic and hard-driving avant-garde to sweet-sounding lyricism. His resume includes work with Eddie Palmieri, Roy Hargrove, Chucho Valdes, Paquito D'Rivera" -- Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano. On his second disc as a leader -- "Today's Opinion, he makes a persuasive case for what jazz should be. With his stellar longtime musical partners and special guest pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Terry proposes a sonic world of Afro-Cuban polyrhythms and sophisticated contemporary angles.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mehldau's Odes, Escoffery's Journey - Bob Stewart

"The pianist Brad Mehldau has led this iteration of his pace-setting trio-with the bassist Larry Grenadier and the drummer Jeff Ballard-- since 2005, and it has evolved into a graceful powerhouse, equally savvy about groove and harmony." - New York Times. "Ode" -- the trio's first studio release in seven years -- "is a collection of originals I wrote specifically for my trio with Larry and Jeff," explains Mehldau. Most of the songs, he continues, "are tributes to someone else, and I began to think of them as odes, or poems that might be sung; in our case here it's the singing only without all those pesky words." Subjects include the late saxophonist Michael Brecker, a character from the film "Easy Rider," and the guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Charlie Parker proclaimed: "If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn." Saxophonist Wayne Escoffery -- a veteran of New York's brightest bands, including the Mingus Big Band and Tom Harrell's, and a protégé of Jackie McLean -- has lived it. His new disc -- "The Only Son of One" -- is an inspired and impassioned recording that chronicles a turbulent but ultimately triumphant tale of his life which began in North London, where he was born to a loving mother and her abusive Jamaican husband, who forced her to emigrate to the United States when Escoffery was eight years old. It was here in the U.S. where Escoffery navigated America's murky waters of fatherlessness, race and identity. He enrolled and excelled at McLean's prestigious Hartt School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music and the Thelonius Monk Institute. He created a new name for himself while wrestling with the emotional minefields left by his absent father. This new disc reflects his emotional journey.