Friday, December 20, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs by Bob Devos, Jake Hertzog, Frank Macchia, Bill McBirnie and a vintage Miles Davis boxed set…

Bob DeVos, Shadow Box (American Showplace)
This fifth recording as a leader by East Coast guitarist Bob DeVos celebrates the splendid intersection of Hammond B-3 organ, guitar and tenor sax in a small group setting. It’s not a jazz organ trio recording on all tracks, but it has that soulful feel and flavor throughout. B-3 ace Dan Kostelnik and drummer Steve Johns join DeVos throughout, having been part of DeVos’ working band for eight years. Tenor saxophonist Ralph Bowen joins the fun on five of the tracks. DeVos & Co. swing their way with great melodic interest throughout. Clear favorites: the exceptional title track (one of five DeVos originals on the session), and their takes on Clare Fischer’s “Pensativa,” Shirley Scott’s “Basie in Mind” and Wes Montgomery’s “Twisted Blues.” This is very nice indeed. 

Jake Hertzog, Throwback (Zoho)
Jazz-rock guitarist Jake Hertzog plays with great skill and nuance on this, his fourth recording as a young leader. His regular trio with bassist Harvie S and drummer Victor Jones is joined on six of its nine tracks by fusion pioneer Randy Brecker on trumpet. Brecker is in fine form here and adds much to the session. All of the material was written by Hertzog. Favorite tracks: “Entropy” (featuring an engaging Hertzog-Brecker call-and-response segment), the powerful, energy-building ”Sending Home” and the (Breckerless) shimmering, laid-back trio “First to Rise.”
Frank Macchia, Grease Mechanix (Cacophany)
L.A.based saxophonist, composer and bandleader Frank Macchia is living proof that jazz can have a sense of humor. His latest recording, Grease Mechanix, features a big band with many of L.A.’s finest jazz musicians tearing it up with all of the funk of a rowdy New Orleans unit. Think Bonerama with saxophones rather than trombones – or a New Orleans brass band on steroids. The many featured players include drummer Peter Erskine, saxophonists Eric Marienthal and Bob Sheppard, trumpeters Wayne Bergeron and Walt Fowler, tuba player Bill Reichenbach and guitarist Ken Rosser. The funniest and oddest track for a jazz CD: “Zombies Ate My Grandma.” Other favorites: “Chicken Shack,” “Shhh!,” “Fat Cat” and “Sweet Patootie Waltz.”

Bill McBirnie, Find Your Place (Extreme Flute)The Hammond B-3 trio format traditionally combines the mighty, funk organ with drums and either saxophone or guitar as the lead instrument. Toronto-based Bill McBirnie has given us a new context with his latest project. Find Your Place features Bernie Senensky on B-3, Athony Michelli on drums and McBirnie on flute. And a fine flute player he is. Favorite tracks: their takes on Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie,” Duke Pearson’s “Jeanine” Dexter Gordon’s Latin tune “Soy Califa” and McBirnie’s own bossa nova “Find Your Place.” Check it out, B-3 and flute fans.
Miles Davis, The Original Mono Recordings (Columbia/Legacy)
It seems the jazz world can never get enough Miles Davis. The latest remastered compilation from Columbia/Legacy includes nine albums that he recorded for the label between 1956 and 1961. In this case, ‘Round About Midnight, Miles Ahead, Milestones, Jazz Track, Porgy and Bess, Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain, Someday My Prince Will Come and Miles And Monk At Newport are presented in their original monaural sound. That’s the way virtually all popular music was recorded and intended to be heard at the time. The boxed set puts each album in a mini LP-replica jacket with original art. The excellent sound quality gets rid of any manipulations and tinkering that took place when Davis’s classic material was later released in stereo LP or CD formats. In this context, it all sounds fresh and new.

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