Tuesday, November 5, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs by Gerry Gibbs, The Miami Saxophone Quartet and Bill O'Connell...

Gerry Gibbs, Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio (Whaling City Sound)
Drummer Gerry Gibbs, son of veteran vibes player Terry Gibbs, couldn’t ask for a finer trio than the one here. It’s a “dream trio” indeed -- featuring pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Ron Carter. Each contributed some original music, plus they brought new interpretations from a wide range of material by Monk, Trane, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Burt Bacharach/Hal David. Favorites: Gibbs’ ballad “The Woman on the TV Screen,” and their takes on Hancock’s “Tell Me a Bedtime Story,” Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry About a Thing” and Barron’s classic tune “Sunshower.” Be sure to enjoy the romp through “The Thrasher,” a tune that Gibbs wrote for the late pianist Don Pullen. “Thrasher” was a nickname that Gibbs coined for Pullen, most likely because of his edgy style. It bounced back and friends use it for Gibbs. Enjoy the adventure and the players’ simpatico.

 Miami Saxophone Quartet, Four of a Kind (Fourtitude)
Saxophonists Mike Brignola (baritone), Ed Calle (tenor), Gary Keller (soprano) and Gary Lindsay (tenor) comprise the MSQ, a formidable band that was recorded live in concert at the University of Miami, where MSQ founder Keller and Lindsay are on the music faculty. The quartet is backed by pianist Jim Gasior, bassist Chuuck Bergeron and drummer John Yarling on most tracks. Special guests include trumpeter Brian Lynch and mallets player Svet Stoyanov.

The session opens with a Calle and Lindsay-arranged saxes-only exploration of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” that showcases their collective and individual chops as they blend harmonies, rhythm and counterpoint. The result is playful but far from childish. Other favorites, their takes on Lindsay’s “Lost (and Found),” and Lindaay’s arrangement of Dave Brubeck’s lesser known “It’s a Raggy Waltz,” to feature all four saxophonists. Lynch excels on the band’s take on the standard “Early Autumn.” The highlight is “Prelude-Invention-Suspension” – a beauty that Lindsay wrote to feature Stoyanov on marimba; it also features Brignola and Lindsay. As evidenced on this fifth CD, this powerhouse band is still going strong after 15 years as an ensemble.

Bill O’Connell + The Latin Jazz All-Stars, Zocalo (Savant)

Pianist Bill O’Connell knows latin jazz inside and out, working for years as the keyboard ace for Gato Barbieri, the Fort Apache Band, Mongo Santamartia and Dave Valentin, among others. For this session, he recruited Latin trombone regular Conrad Herwig, saxophonist Steve Slagle and percussionist Richie Flores to join his regular trio mates, Luques Curtis on bass and Adam Cruz on drums. Highlights: the funky, folk-tinged title track and their excellent Latinized take on “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top.” You haven’t truly heard the scope of this Rodgers and Hammerstein show tune until you’ve enjoyed it in clave. O’Connell developed this masterful rice-and-beans arrangement.  

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