Sunday, February 22, 2009

CDs of note

Terrence Brewer, Groovin Wes, (Strong Brew Music)
The northern California (Bay area) guitarist pays tribute to modern jazz guitar icon Wes Montgomery on this fine project. It includes eight tunes that Montgomery wrote or covered. “Bumpin’ on Sunset” and “Yesterdays” are highlights, as are John Coltrane’s “Dearly Beloved” and a fresh take on Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way.” In addition to Brewer’s clean, warm-toned sound, this classic guitar-organ-drums trio session is a superb showcase for Wil Blades on B3. Twenty-something Blades’ past affiliations have included the bands of John Lee Hooker, Stanton Moore and Idris Muhammed. He has also participated in organ summits with his B-3 mentor, Dr. Lonnie Smith. Micah McClain’s drumming is supportive and on the mark without being overbearing on this, his third CD session with Brewer.

Marc Copland, New York Trio Recordings, Vol. 3: Night Whispers, (Pirouet)
With the right combination of musicians, there can be extraordinary chemistry within the traditional piano-bass-drums trio. When they’re truly on, the magic is something to behold. Marc Copland’s trio with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Bill Stewart is climbing toward that rarified air. On this third volume of his trio recording series, Copland starts off with and then intersperses the trio work with three very different solo piano versions of “Emily” – one pensive and rather straight-forward, one busy and frenetic, one shimmering with bell-like tones. The bell-like theme to the first trio piece, “The Bell Tolls,” rather chant-like in its intensity. Copland’s title track, “Night Whispers” is more groove-like with interactive soloing. Exploration of the depths of possibilities within their interesting hornless version of “So What.” The Copeland-Gress-Stewart interplay is very fine throughout the trio pieces. Each of the players brought original music to this summit. Their collaborations on Copland’s “Scattered Leaves” and Stewart’s “Space Acres” (from his own 1995 release, Snide Remarks, stand out.

John Monllos, Shadow's Dance, (self-produced)
When you think Newport, it is natural to think jazz because of the granddaddy of all jazz festivals. But is also good to do so because of the Newport-based talent – players who work in and around the coastal resort city year-in, year-out. One such player is guitarist John Monllos, who built his chops in a Newport-based Navy Band, and decided to stick around these parts after his military days were done. Monllos is a versatile, high-energy guitarist whose sound has absorbed quality portions of rock, funk, Latin and contemporary jazz (a la Pat Metheny and Mike Stern, not the jazz smoothies or instrumental popsters). The title track is gorgeous, with very sensual samba-rhythm that blends his acoustic guitar sound with some very nice flute work by reed player Art Manchester, another local deserving wider recognition. There’s a wonderful and uncanny Carlos Santana sound on the Monllos original “CSW,” the best I’ve heard by someone other than Santana himself. Not surprising, CSW stands for Carlos Santana Wannabe.” Trumpeter Doug Woolverton turns in fine support on “Shadow’s Dance” and the funky ballad “Red Wine Girl.” Non-originals here include bassist Joe Potenza’s “Where the Buses Don’t Run,” a hot version of Miles Davis’s “Nardis” and a tribute to Michael Brecker – on Brecker’s composition “African Skies.”

John Scofield, Piety Street, (EmArcy)
This latest project from the versatile modern guitar master is a gem. It’s a project in which the bluesy side of gospel intersects with the funky, authentic sound of New Orleans. Scofield’s biting, stinging, singing guitar fits right in with his principally New Orleans-based bandmates – with Jon Cleary on keyboards and vocals, George Porter Jr. on bass and Ricky Fataar on drums. With this project recorded at New Orleans’ Piety Steet Studios, the unit became the Piety Street Band for a tour now supporting the CD. Crescent City local treasure John Boutté splits and shares vocal duties with Cleary. “Motherless Child,” “It’s a Big Army,” “The Angel of Death” and “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” are among the highlights. The singers blend nicely on “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” while Boutté shines on “Never Turn Back” and “The Old Ship of Zion,” which becomes a very strong guitar-vocal duet of sorts. This is due for release on March 31.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another golden celebration

Was there something in the water back in 1959 that made it such a very good year for jazz recordings? We’ve already seen tribute events celebrating the 50-year legacy of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. The folks in his hometown of Stockton, California, aren’t about to let us forget Dave Brubeck’s classic (time-signature-stretching) Time Out.

At the 2009 Brubeck Festival (running March 28 to April 4) Brubeck will perform the album in its entirety. Organizers say it'll be the first time he's peformed all of the album's seven pieces in one concert. That April 3 concert is at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

In addition to the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s performance of Time Out, the concert will include a performance of Dave and Iola Brubeck’s choral and orchestral work, “Earth Is Our Mother.” Also that week, the festival will premiere an orchestral composition, “Ansel Adams: America,” that was co-written by Dave Brubeck and his son Chris. The work, being performed by the Stockton Symphony, is based on photographs by another California treasure, the late Ansel Adams.

Dave and Iola Brubeck, 2004... > >>

Mark this one down as a festival that appeals greatly to my twin interests in jazz and photography.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Coryell Auger Sample Trio - in concert

(Narrows Center for the Arts, Fall River MA)
Musical chops – and genes – were quite evident during the first East Coast tour of the southern California-based Coryell Auger Sample Trio, which consists of guitarist Julian Coryell, drummer Karma Auger and bassist Nicklas Sample.

In a February 11 southern New England performance in support of its self-produced debut CD, Coolidge Returns, and preview of tunes written and recorded for the trio’s sophomore project, CAST (as they abbreviate their grouping) was impressive.

Coryell Auger Sample Trio, Feb. 11, 2008 ... >

They have an affinity for improvisation and strong interaction. They say that was evident when the first sat down as a group in August 2007 – and developed the music for the project in four hours. They haven’t slowed a bit, describing their collaboration as prolific ever since.

It was only fitting that midway through the trio’s long set, they performed “Song For Our Fathers,” a tune from that not-yet-mixed, not-yet-named second CD. With very much the same intent and a bit of the feel of Horace Silver’s classic ”Song for My Father,” this piece is a tribute to guitarist Larry Coryell and keyboard players Brian Auger and Joe Sample.

In the hands of his son’s exquisite soloing, the latter track and a tune called “Purple Panther” displayed a very strong Larry Coryell melodic influence. “Purple Panther” additionally underscored the strong interaction that gives this band a jazz-based jam band sort of propulsion.

Auger’s solid drumming, alternating between delicacy and a firestorm, was an interesting contrast with his rather low-key demeanor. He and Sample provided interesting colors as they shared and shifted rhythms and melodies. The high energy of two vamp-based originals, “Walk of the Dragon” and “Rice Krispy Socrates,” also provided great improvising moments for all three players.

Coryell Auger Sample Trio is well on the way to becoming one of the more interesting new fusion bands – able to draw both from its highly credentialed jazz roots, as well as modern rock.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A month of Marco, sort of

Keyboard player Marco Benevento is on the cutting edge of blending modern and classic rock with the art of jazz improvisation, often in an other-worldly sonic atmosphere. The intensity, gorgeous musical palette and his vivid imagination make it something to check out.

Bay Area fans are getting a month (sort of) to do so in a live context, with Benevento performing at Yoshi’s in Oakland, Calif., every Tuesday in February with a different set of special guests each week.

Those of us not on the Left Coast don't need to feel slighted. Benevento’s newest CD Me Not Me is out on his own new label, The Royal Potato Family. In addition to three originals, it includes covers of material ranging from Deerhoof, My Morning Jacket and Leonard Cohen to Beck, George Harrison and Led Zeppelin. His band includes ex-Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey bassist Reed Mathis, and Andrew Barr and Matt Chamberlain splitting the drum work. Benevento’s sonic arsenal includes piano, Optigan, Mellotron, tack piano and clavinet.

Benevento played a packed side stage at last August’s JVC Newport Jazz Festival, where saxophonist Chris Potter joined the trio for its rousing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Friends” and it is good to see that tune is superbly included here, albeit without sax.
Chris Potter sits in with the Marco Benevento Trio, JVC Newport, August 2008 ... >

Me Not Me opens with Jim James’ My Morning Jacket hit “Golden.” As the CD features Leonard Cohen’s “Seems So Long Ago Nancy,” it isn’t surprising to hear Benevento dropping a few most-memorable bars of Cohen’s anthemic “Hallelujah” into his take on “Golden.”

The leader’s own material includes “Now They’re Writing Music,” a rather straight-ahead version of his catchy tune “Mephisto,” and his Beatles-reminiscent “Call Home.”

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Celebrating two seminal recordings with golden updates

The music will be golden, no matter how its sounds, this month when Jazz at Lincoln Center presents the latest installment in its Hall of Fame concert series. The February 12 to 14 event will mark this year’s 50th anniversaries of the recording of two seminal albums: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and John Coltrane’s Giant Steps.

In part one of the evening, saxophonist Ted Nash will debut newly arranged solos from Giant Steps, in which he will be joined on stage by tenor saxophonist George Garzone and fellow Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra saxophonists Walter Blanding and Sherman Irby. In the second half, pianist Mulgrew Miller’s trio will be joined by the a capella group Take 6 for a new interpretation of Kind of Blue.

Drummer Jimmy Cobb, the only surviving player from the recording sessions, is scheduled to perform in each set of the concerts at the Rose Theater at Frederick P. Rose Hall. Giant Steps was recorded between April 1 and December 2, 1959. Kind of Blue was recorded between March 2 and April 22, 1959. Cobb was on both albums.
< < < Jimmy Cobb, Newport, August 2008