Tuesday, October 23, 2012

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Today we take a look at three new CDs from four musicians with Rhode Island roots, Greg Abate, Daryl Sherman,  Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton....

Greg Abate, The Greg Abate Quintet Featuring Phil Woods (Rhombus)
Fellow alto saxophonist Phil Woods was one of Greg Abate’s early influences (along with Charlie Parker and Richie Cole), so their simpatico is no surprise. But it is a strong point as they mix it up on half the tracks on Abate’s latest CD. Abate is a fine writer of hard bop tunes. The head-to-head alto playing occurs on “Roger Over and Out,” “Rocco’s Place,” the burner “Carmel By The Sea,” and Woods’ (previously unrecorded) poignant Art Pepper tribute “Goodbye Mr. Pepper.” (Abate’s sound is a bit brighter, while Woods is a bit more burnished.) Abate shifts to flute for their collaboration on the Latin-tinged “J.A.G.,” which the saxophonist named after his three children, Jessica, Anthony and Gregory. Abate forged his reputation on alto sax but displays his fine baritone sax playing on the ballad “Marny,” which was written by British pianist John Patrick. He also plays soprano sax on a couple of tracks. Pianist Jesse Green, bassist Evan Gregor and Woods’ longtime drummer Bill Goodwin are the rhythm section on this fine date.
Daryl Sherman, Mississippi Belle - Cole Porter In The Quarter (Audiophile)
New York-based singer-pianist Daryl Sherman has a sweet voice, an encyclopedic knowledge of and love for the American Songbook, and the chops to keep even the oldest of tunes fresh, lively and interesting. That’s the case here in her second consecutive recording in New Orleans. On this 2011 trip, she recorded a baker’s dozen gems that Cole Porter wrote between 1928 and 1956. She chose a blend of some of his best-known tunes, as well as some that are very obscure This CD marks the first known recording of Mississippi Belle, which he wrote for the unreleased 1943 film of the same name. Sherman’s band is lean but most excellent, with Jesse Boyd on bass and Tom Fischer on clarinet and tenor sax. Both are perfect foils for her intimate sound. New Orleans singer Banu Gibson joins the fun on “By The Mississinewah,” a playful tune named for a river bordering Porter's hometown of Peru, Indiana. Sherman’s interest in Porter’s music is not surprising. For years, she had a regular solo piano gig at the Waldorf Astoria – on Porter’s piano.

Harry Allen and Scott Hamilton, Round Midnight (Challenge)
What a delight this is. Two tenor saxophonists who are carrying on the swing tradition at the highest level mix it up on record for the third time in their careers. Providence-born Hamilton helped revive small group swing when he moved to the Big Apple in 1976. Allen, 12 years Hamilton’s junior, spent his teen years in Rhode Island, learning the tenor and learning it well. Though both soaked up many influences over the years, Allen considered Hamilton his initial inspiration and later, unofficial mentor. Allen was just 16 when Hamilton brought him onstage to sit in with George Wein’s Newport All Stars at the 1983 Newport Jazz Festival. They are backed here by Allen’s superb regular rhythm mates: pianist Rossano Sportiello, bassist Joel Forbes and drummer Chuck Riggs (who also worked with Hamilton in their early days). They explore nine tunes here in fine form, mostly from jazz and American Songbook staples, each taking extensive solos and trading phrases. The clear highlight: the high energy and musical fireworks of Allen’s original tribute “Great Scott,” which is based on a riff he once heard Hamilton play. This was recorded last winter when Europe-based Hamilton was in New York. there is much for swing fans to savor from these kindred spirits.

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