Saturday, September 15, 2012

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs from Michael Pedicin, Ralph Peterson, Iris Ornig and Kurt Elling...

Michael Pedicin, Live at the Loft (The Jazz Hut)
Saxophonist Michael Pedicin, a Philly-area native who is a longtime fixture on the South Jersey jazz scene, is out with a dandy. Mostly, Live @ The Loft is a club date with his quintet that tips the hat to John Coltrane and other significant influences on the leader’s 40-year-plus career. Pedicin and the band put new spins on tunes written by or associated with Trane – “Impressions,” “Say It Over and Over Again,” “Africa”  “Theme for Ernie,” “Like Sonny” and the Billy Eckstine ballad “I Want to Talk About You.” The Stevie Wonder, Dave Brubeck, Maynard Ferguson and Pat Martino band alum also includes an homage to late saxophonist Michael Brecker by including "Midnight Voyage," a Joey Calderazzo composition that was a standout track on Brecker’s Tales from the Hudson CD. Pedicin’s fine band includes pianist Jim Ridl, guitarist Johnny Valentino, bassist Andy Lalasis and drummer Bob Shomo.

Ralph Peterson, Duality Perspective (Onyx)
Welcome to two of drummer Ralph Peterson’s two musical worlds as a bandleader. The CD, with a yin and yang theme, features two of his bands performing five tunes apiece, The CD opens with a quartet (he calls it the Fo’tet) consisting of some of his students from the Berklee College of Music. The lion cubs include vibes player Joseph Doubleday, bassist Alexander l. J. Toth and clarinetist Felix Peikli. Peterson’s sextet, featured on the final five tracks, consists of more mature but still relatively young players including trumpeter Sean Jones, tenor player Walter Smith III, alto player Tia Fuller and brothers Zaccai (piano) and Luques (bass) Curtis. Both groups display considerable talent and cohesiveness. Interesting, former Fo’tet member Bryan Carrott sits in on Thelonious Monk’s “4 in 1” on marimba alongside vibraphonist Doubleday. What a rich groove they mine. Speaking of grooves, the whole CD has them, a given with any Peterson project. The biggest surprise – the extent to which we hear Latin percussion join in the sound of both groups on two tracks apiece compliments of Reinaldo Dejesus. It’s a very nice complement to Art Blakey protégé Peterson’s work at the drum kit. There are many tracks to savor. All of them, in fact.

Iris Ornig, No Restrictions (self-produced)
This is the German-born, Manhattan-based bassist’s second CD as a leader – a recording that shows that the future of jazz in very good hands. Ornig has surrounded herself with four other musicians also on the younger side of the jazz hourglass on a project that displays her rock-solid technique and sense of time as a player, her compositional skills, and her democratic tendencies as a bandleader. Ornig wrote everything on the CD except for two covers: Björk’s “Venus as a Boy” and Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Her bandmates – pianist Helen Sung, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and drummer Marcus Gilmore – get lots of space to shine as soloists amid terrific ensemble playing. Standouts: Rodriguez on “Autumn Kiss,” Sung on “If Anything Goes Wrong” and Rosenwinkel on the Björk cover. There are two very, very different versions of the title tune, which appears first as a spirited samba, then five tracks later as a quiet ballad. This is a gem of a CD in every respect. This is a September 19 release.
Kurt Elling, 1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project (Concord Jazz)
Singer Kurt Elling’s string of gems continues. His 10th CD is 1619 Broadway – The Brill Building Project, on which he pays tribute to the midtown Manhattan office building that was the creative home for more than 160 pop music songwriters from the mid-1930s until the 1970s and beyond. The rock ’n ’roll masterpieces came from talented and prolific songwriting teams (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Gerry Coffin and Carole King to name but a few). The 11 tracks selected cover the spectrum through Elling’s clever jazz sensibility, reharmonizations and humor. Guitarist John McLean and tenor saxophonists Ernie Watts, Joel Frahm and Tom Luer are among the collaborators. The many treats include King’s “So Far Away,” Duke Ellington’s “Tutti for Cootie” (with lyrics added by Elling), and “Shoppin’ For Clothes,” the hip B-side track first recorded by The Coasters. In this outing, Christian McBride contributes the second voice. The best of the best on this artful session is Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” which features just Elling and longtime pianist/arranger Laurence Hobgood. Incidentally, Simon still keeps an office in the Brill Building. This is a September 25 release.

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