Thursday, March 23, 2017

CDs of Note - Short Takes


Taking a look at new CDs by Joe Bourne, Andrea Claburn, Ingrid and Christine Jensen, Jeff Rupert & Richard Drexler, and Jimmy Scott…

Joe Bourne, Upbeat and Sweet (Summit)
After 25 years of performing in Europe, singer Joe Bourne settled in southern Arizona, which has been his home base since 2000. This project features him with some of the Tucson area’s finest jazz talents, including drummer Lewis Nash, saxophonist Brice Winston, pianist Doug Martin, guitarist Ed DeLucia, and bassist and arranger Mike Levy. Together they put a jazz spin on classic 20th century rock hits. These jazz versions explore The Beatles, Steppenwolf, The Eagles, Carole King, Bob Dylan, among others. Favorite treats: their takes on the playful Captain and Tennille hit “Muskrat Love,” The Eagles’ “Heartache Tonight,” Carole King’ “Jazzman,” Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” (with Levy on organ), and an beautiful cover of  Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” This is a very fine reminder that jazz is a process, not a repertoire of specific songs.

Andrea Claburn, Nightshade (Lot 49 Labs)
San Francisco-based singer Andrea Claburn is a quadruple threat. She’s a confident and formidable singer, arranger, composer and lyricist. Claburn wrote five of the CD’s dozen tunes – and penned her own lyrics to three others. The latter included quite a range: “from Infinite Wisdom” (her take on Duke Ellington’s “Echoes of Harlem” to “Bird on a Wire,” her vocalese version of Pat Metheny’s challenging “Timeline.” Other favorites: the New Orleans second-line mood of her funky and clever “My Favorite Flavor,” with the band giving it a dance party feel, and a hard-swinging romp through Betty Carter’s “I Can’t Help It.” Fine originals include the sobering tune “The Fall of Man,” her bossa nova “Colors of Light” and the pensive closer “Steal Away,” featuring mood-setting solos by Mads Tolling on violin and viola, and trumpeter Eric Jekabson. What a fine debut for Claburn. Nightshade features six of her fellow faculty members at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley.

Ingrid and Christine Jensen, Infinitude (Whirlwind) 
Sisters Christine and Ingrid Jensen each have been pursuing separate, but sometimes intertwining careers in jazz for more than 20 years but this is their first small-group recording as co-leaders. It features five original compositions by saxophonist Christine, three from trumpeter Ingrid and one from guitarist Ben Monder, plus a tribute to late trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. The Jensens and featured guest Monder are joined here by Ingrid’s husband, Jon Wikan, on drums and Fraser Hollins on bass. They cover a wide range of moods and stylistic ground in a fresh way, and their sibling simpatico creates a sound that is musically seamless. Gems include Ingrid’s ethereal and soaring duet with Monder on “Duo Space,” the band’s frisky take on fellow Canadian Wheeler’s “Old Time,” Ingrid’s wrenchingly beautiful “Hopes Trail” and Christine’s CD-opening “Blue Yonder” (which sounds grounded in the vast beauty of their native Northwest Canada), and “Trio: Garden Hour,” a stunner that features the soaring and swooping Jensens and Monder without their rhythm-mates.

Jeff Rupert & Richard Drexler, Imagination (Rupe Media) 
Stan Getz and Kenny Barron’s People Time is a classic of the highest order among jazz duo recordings. This project was inspired by that collaboration – and is embued with the same level of musicality and cohesiveness. That almost single-minded sound comes from working together frequently. Tenor saxophonist Jeff Rupert and pianist Richard Drexler have been performing together for early 30 years in a wide variety of situations. Rupert has a beautiful Getz-like tenor tone, and also has a Barron connection. He studied with the pianist at Rutgers University.

On Imagination, Rupert and Drexler explore a wide variety of material with thoughtful, interesting solos and beautiful comping behind each other in this fine musical conversation. It includes Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It” (from Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album), “Strange Meadowlark” (the only tune in standard 4/4 time on Dave Brubeck’s Time Out recording), Claude Thornhill’s classic “Snowfall,” Rupert’s original “My Mistress’ Eyes,” Jobim’s “A Felicidade” and Mal Waldron’s jazz staple “Soul Eyes,” as well as the title track and another Great American Songbook standard, “Without a Song.” “Soul Eyes” is the only repeat from People Time. Imagination was recorded live at Orlando’s Timucua Arts White House over two nights in June 2015. A second volume of that material is due for release this fall.

Jimmy Scott, I Go Back Home (Eden River)
Not since Billie Holiday has there been a pained voice quite like Jimmy Scott’s. He sang his classic lyrics as if they were his alone, drenched with heartache, stretching one-word syllables into three, four or even five for pained, dramatic effect. This fine 2009 project was Scott's last before he passed away three years ago, German producer Ralf Kemper teamed Scott with a wide variety of collaborators for the project, which is also included the documentary film “I Go Back Home – a Story About Hoping and Dreaming.” The musicians who recorded with Scott here included B-3 player Joey DeFrancesco, pianist Kenny Barron, trumpeters Till Brönner and Arturo Sandoval, harmonica player Gregoire Maret, tenor saxophonist James Moody and singer-guitarist Oscar Castro Neves, and singers Dee Dee Bridgewater, Monica Mancini, Renee Olstead and Joe Pesci.

DeFrancesco’s organ and Maret’s harmonica are ideal complements for Scott’s emotional sound. Other gems include Kenny Barron’s feature on “How Deep Is the Ocean, Bridgewater’s duet with Scott on “For Once in My Life,” and Scott’s reprise of his first hit “Everybody is Somebody’s Fool” with Moody a year before the saxophonist’s death. Actor Pesci, whose voice is closest in comparison to Scott’s, sings a duet with Scott on “The Nearness of You” and is featured in a Scot-less tribute on “The Folks Who Live on the Hill.”

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