Thursday, June 23, 2016

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CD projects by Jim Clayton, Bill Evans, June Garber, Lisa Lindsley, Mike Moreno and Ernie Watts…

Jim Clayton, Lenny Jumps In (Clay-Tone)
Toronto-based Jim Clayton finds great musical inspiration in the delights and interests of his young daughter. The germination of those efforts came with his delightful 2014 release, Songs My Daughter Knows. Now he’s back with another gem, Lenny Jumps In. The gems here include the funky “Louisiana Cat Club,” The DeRozan Effect” (written for young Lenny’s favorite Toronto Raptor, guard DeMar DeRozan) and Clayton’s take on Kenny Loggins’ “Return to Pooh Corner.” Also, be sure to check out “Miss Kelly’s House,” a waltz that was inspired by his daughter’s visits to the home of Kelly Peterson, the widow of the great Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. Clayton’s band includes guitarist Andrew Scott, bassist Steve Lucas, drummer David Peters and percussionist Paul Ormandy

Bill Evans, Some Other Time (Resonance)
If you’re like me, the piano jazz of Bill Evans never gets tired. Every listen brings out crafty nuances within his deep, careful melodic invention. So imagine the delight in hearing Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest, a recording that sat in a safe in Germany for nearly 50 years. Resonance Records acquired it, and released this two-CD set this spring. It features Evans, performing in solo, duo and trio contexts in June 1968 at the MPS Studios in Villingen, Germany, while on tour in Europe.

Evans’ trio at the time included drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Eddie Gomez. DeJohnette was in this trio for just six months – and this was his only studio session with Evans. It includes Evans’ only recording of “These Foolish Things.” His solo explorations are “Lover Man” and “It’s All Right With Me.” The trio's take on the standard “How About You?” reveals the pianist’s stylistic evolution toward a more percussive attack to the piano, as CD annotator Marc Myers describes, “egged on by Mr. DeJohnette’s peppery cymbal work.” This is a great addition to the Evans discography.

June Garber, This I Know (self-produced)
Happiness, joy, grief, melancholy and sadness are all part of the adult experience. June Garber has experienced them all – and on this CD, the Toronto-based singer shares them in a cathartic way. It no doubt helped her move beyond the sudden loss of her husband, Bob Doherty, nearly three years ago. Some of the joy comes out on tunes from or inspired by her childhood in South Africa – “Underneath the Jacaranda Tree” and “Meadowlands.” Other treats include her poignant take on Hoagy Carmichael’s classic “Baltimore Oriole” and a clever medley pairing Adele’s “Rumour Has It” with the Peggy Lee-associated torch anthem “Fever.”

Her core band – pianist Mark Kieswetter, bassist George Koller and drummer Ben Wittman – is joined by a variety of special guests on various tracks. This project also finds Garber in a slightly different musical role. She co-wrote two of the tunes – “Underneath the Jacaranda Tree” and “Unbroken” – and she took a subtler approach to vocals, meshing herself into the band rather than riding roughshod over the instrumentals as too many vocalists do. This fresh approach serves her well.

Lisa Lindsley, Long After Midnight (Take One)
Five years after her stunning debut CD, Everytime We Say Goodbye, Lisa Lindsley is back with a very different gem. The Californian’s newest CD was recorded while she spent a year living in Paris (2013-14), finding gigs and musicians she enjoyed working with. She was joined by pianist Laurent Marode, drummer Mourad Benhammou and reed player Esaie Cid, and brought in Bay Area bassist Jeff Chambers for this session. Lindsley put her own varied emotional stamp on a variety of American standards, plus two tunes written by guitarist James Wilson, a native Californian who now teaches music at the American School of Paris. They are the title track, co-written by Tricia Lee Sampson, and “Skylark Song.” Her selections also included Donovan’s 1966 pop hit “Mellow Yellow.” She twists each tune to emphasize her own various moods. Dig the spare, wistful, what-might-have-been treatment of “The House is Haunted (By The Echo of Your Last Goodbye)” – and her playful take on the Jule Styne-Leo Robin classic “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

Mike Moreno, Lotus (World Culture)
Houston native Mike Moreno brings chops and a world-music feel to the table on Lotus, a quartet CD that teams the guitarist with pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Eric Harland. Favorites include the title track, “The Empress” and “Can We Stay Forever?” – thoughtful soundscapes that shimmer with invention. New York-based Moreno wrote all nine tracks on this, his fifth CD as a leader.

Ernie Watts, Wheel of Time (Flying Dolphin)
Ernie Watts’ bittersweet tenor sax sound was a hallmark of Charlie Haden’s longtime small band, Quartet West – and it continues to serve Watts well on his own outpouring of CDs. The latest, Wheel of Time, teams Watts with his first-call European rhythm section of nearly 20 years: pianist Christof Saenger, bassist Rudi Engel and drummer Heinrich Koebberling. All four players contributed compositions to the project, which also includes covers of Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” and Toronto pianist Adrean Farrugia’s whimsical “Goose Dance.” The highlight is the title track, “Wheel of Time” (subtitled “Anthem for Charlie”) – a pensive homage to the late Charlie Haden that Watts co-wrote with Seattle-based pianist Marc Seales. It’s a thing of beauty.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A most-unexpected tip of many jazz hats....

Each June, the Jazz Journalists Association holds a matinee program in Manhattan to honor journalists, broadcasters and photographers who have done distinguished work in the past year.

Wednesday afternoon's festivities at the Blue Note jazz club included an unexpected surprise. JJA's voting members selected yours truly as the 2016 winner of the Lona Foote-Bob Parent Award for Jazz Photography.

When my name surfaced with five other very talented nominees (John Abbott, Jimmy Katz, Richard Conde, Lauren Deutsch and Michael Jackson) several months ago on the JJA Awards ballot, I figured it was a mistake, since I won the award back in 2003.

More than a few JJA member photographers had been under the impression this was sort of a lifetime achievement award, one and done. Apparently not - or maybe the JJA Awards committee forgot that caveat.

New Jersey-based photographer and writer Mitchell Seidel, with whom I've shared concert photo pits dating back to 1985, shared an interesting perspective: something along the lines that winning a lifetime achievement award twice in one lifetime is quite a feat.

I am humbled by the honor, knowing full well that each of the five other nominees was just as deserving.

As best I can surmise, my book, "Jazz in the Key of Light," must have developed some degree of awareness within the JJA community over the past year and a half. Maybe the voters took note of a 30+ year commitment to writing about and photographing the jazz world. We'll never know with any certainty.

Here is the full list this year's winners in the various categories:
  • Lifetime achievement in jazz journalism: Ted Panken
  • Jazz periodical: DownBeat
  • Jazz blog: Ethan Iverson‘s “Do the Math”
  • Jazz book: “Billie Holiday: The Musician and the Myth,” by John Szwed
  • Robert Palmer-Helen Oakley Dance Award for Excellence in Writing in 2015: Nate Chinen
  • Willis Conover-Marian McPartland Award for Broadcasting in 2015: Linda Yohn, WEMU, Ypsilanti, MI
  • Lona Foote-Bob Parent Award for Photography in 2015: Ken Franckling
  • Jazz Photo of the Year: Patrick Marek
  • Jazz Album Art of the Year: Mike Park, for Kamasi Washington, The Epic
For more details, including all of the musician winners announced earlier this spring, visit the JJA online. Composer/orchestra leader Maria Schneider took home a whopping five trophies this time around: for Musician, Composer, Arranger, Large Ensemble and Record of the Year, the latter for her exquisite CD The Thompson Fields (artistShare).