The New Gary Burton Quartet, Guided Tour (Mack Avenue)Vibes player Gary Burton’s second CD with his new quartet is a showcase for the band’s formidable chemistry, more so than to spotlight the leader’s chops. Burton, prodigious young guitarist Julian Lage (a 25-year-old who has worked with Burton off and on for 10 years), bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez each contributed one or more originals to the material here. Burton and Lage’s melodic doubling and counterpoint is superb. Favorite tracks: Lage’s exquisite soloing on the Michel Legrand ballad “Once Upon a Summertime,” “Remembering Tano” (Burton’s tribute to tango master Astor Piazzolla), Lage’s Spanish-tinged original “Helena” and Colley’s poignant ballad “Legacy.” Find your own favorites as you savor the players’ simpatico. Four stars.
Bill Mays Inventions Trio, Life’s A Movie (Chiaroscuro)This third CD by Bill Mays’ delightful Inventions Trio is a gem in so many respects. Life’s a Movie teams the veteran pianist with longtime collaborator Marvin Stamm (trumpet, flugelhorn) and young classically trained Alisa Horn (cello) on this exploration of major jazz touchstones and Mays’ title suite. The CD includes Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk tribute medleys, plus a natural combination of Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” (the adagio opened Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain masterpiece) with Chick Corea’s “Spain.”
For the title segment, subtitled “4 Cues in Search of a Film,” Mays drew on his 1973-1984 experience as a Hollywood studio pianist. This 23-minute,four-section work includes a main theme, a bittersweet love song, a frenetic chase and closing credits for the band to explore. Be sure to savor Horn’s talent on the cello. Besides traditional bowing, she also goes pizzicato when traditional jazz bass lines seem more appropriate, particularly on the Monk tunes. This team dispels any notion that a jazz trio needs to include piano, bass and drums. All that’s needed are three instrumentalists who are very much in synch and have fun bringing their collective sound to life. It’s fun - and inventive.
Redmond ♦ Langosch ♦ Cooley, Compared to What (self-produced)This wonderful CD is one of the year’s sleepers. When listeners discover it, they will fall in love with its scope, the talent aboard, and Mary Ann Redmond’s exquisite voice and way with a song. She’s a District of Columbia-area singer whose distinctive voice tinges her jazz with potent amounts of blues, folk and soul. It’s a powerful combination.
There are only to originals here - her own “Storm is Coming” and “Love Me Anyway” - but the way she makes a wide range of jazz, popular and rock standards her own, makes it stand out from the stacks. Clear favorites: her takes on Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End of Love,” Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote,” her own “Storm is Coming” and the Gene McDaniels’ title track, which Eddie Harris and Les McCann turned into a jazz mega-hit.
Redmond’s main partners on this project are bassist Paul Langosch (ex-Tony Bennett and George Shearing sideman) and pianist Jay Cooley. Tenor saxophonist Bruce Swaim, guitarist Dan Hovey and drummer Dave Mattacks each contributes mightily to a variety of tracks. They include Motown (Stevie Wonder’s “Creepin" and Smokey Roboinson's "Ain't That Peculiar"), the Stick Hooper and Will Jennings blues classic “Never Make Your Move Too Soon.” The Beatles (“Fool on the Hill”) Duke Ellington (“I Got It Bad”) and two tracks from the Great American Songbook. Check it out. You’ll keep coming back to it.