Friday, June 26, 2009

CDs of Note...

Here’s a dose of CDs of interest, as I head out for a week of travels to Freihofer’s Jazz Festival in Saratoga NY and the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Yes, the sun is out today and my summer festival season is getting under way. Hope to see you here and/or there.

Burgstaller Martignon 4, Mozart's Blue Dreams and Other Crossover Fantasies (Summit Records)
Joe Burgstaller, a member of the Canadian Brass since 2001, teamed up with pianist Hector Martignon on this stunning crossover project that does far more than put a jazz spin on the classics. In some cases, the spin goes in the other direction.

It opens with the title tune, is a five-part jazzy take on Mozart's "Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major" that is filled with energy, Burgstaller’s sparkling, pinpoint trumpet work and great support from bassist Hans Glawischnig. Notes stretch here and bend there in ways the composer surely would consider hip if he revisited the planet to jam with them.

They also marry Frederic Chopin’s "Prelude No. 4 in E Minor" with Jobim's "Insensatez," (How Insensitive). a tune that the Brazilian bossa king based on Chopin's composition. They also revisit Duke Ellington’s “Echoes of Harlem” in an arrangement that enables Burgstaller to take on a Cootie Williams vibe – complete with growls and groans from his plunger mute.

The simple and succinct melodies of Chick Corea's "Three Children's Songs" give percussionist percussionist Joe Ferrari a chance to shift to vibes. The project pays tribute in a way to mid-1970s crossover king Claude Bolling with a fresh take on his five-part "Toot Suite." It winds down with versions of two tunes by Argentinean new tango master Astor Piazzolla: “Ave Maria” and “Oblivion.”

One For All, Return Of The Lineup (Sharp Nine)
As composers, arrangers and particularly players, the members of One For All have combined their talents into a longstanding sextet that have matured as one helluva supergroup. The group, which tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander considers his musical laboratory, includes trumpeter Jim Rotondi, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist David Hazeltine, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth.

They’ve been playing together since at least 1998, producing about a dozen domestic and import-label recordings. This is a dandy. While there is much to savor here, my clear favorites are their take on the gorgeous Cedar Walton ballad “Dear Ruth,” arranged for this group by Rotondi, and Hazeltine’s original “Treatise for Reedus,” which he wrote in remembrance of drummer Tony Reedus, who died four days before the session and had been a friend to every member of the collective. If you love hard-swinging ensemble jazz, it doesn’t get much better than this.

LeBoeuf Brothers, House Without a Door (LeBoeuf Brothers Music)
Identical twins Pascal (piano and keyboards) and Remy (alto sax) LeBoeuf (the name is pronounced "le buff") have produced a gem with their latest recording project. It is fresh and forward-thinking, blending strong jazz roots with inescapable rock influences (particularly Radiohead) into an emotional and energetic sound that grabs the ears and won’t let go.

These young natives of Santa Cruz, Calif., still in their early 20s, are now making their mark in the Big Apple jazz scene. My favorites on this sometimes fiery quintet session include “Code Word,” the introspective and sometimes delicate “Wetaskiwin,” the title track and the uptempo “Chocolate Frenzy.”

The LeBoeufs are composers and players of great merit, as evidenced by the consistent quality of all 12 tracks. The quintet on most tracks includes tenor player Marcus Strickland or trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Clarence Penn. Tenor player Janelle Richman, drummer Greg Ritchie and bassist Billy Norris work into the shifting ensemble elsewhere. The appearance of two classical-influenced tracks, “Coffee Suite I: No Drink, No Think” and “Coffee Suite III: Exhaustion” begs the questions “Where’s ‘Coffee Suite II’ hiding and what’s it all about? Caffeine Jitters, perhaps?”

Mimi Jones, A New Day (Hot Tone Music)
A New Day encompasses a new name/alter ego and a debut CD all rolled into one for bassist Miriam Sullivan. This new project is built around the concepts of personal change and evolution – and Jones/Sullivan brought aboard some terrific talent to make it work quite well. Miki Hayama is superb throughout on piano, organ and keyboard. Marvin Sewell displays the same level of deep, empathetic support on acoustic and electric guitar that so nicely colored several of Cassandra Wilson’s Delta blues-tinged projects. He is particularly strong on “Watch Your Step,” “Silva” and “Sista.”

Sullivan sings her own heartfelt lyrics on eight of the CD’s 12 tracks, and finishes it with a version of the traditional “We Shall Overcome” that changes “overcome some day” to “overcome today.” Sullivan’s lyrics are somewhat simple and very brief, but certainly not simplistic. She gets right to the point. Her instrumental “Suite Mary” is a very nice nod to Mary Lou Williams. This is a September 15, 2009 release.

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