Sunday, August 30, 2009

CDs of Note...

Randy Brecker, Nostalgic Journey: Tykocin Jazz Suite (Summit Records)
Three words come to mind after a listen to trumpeter Randy Brecker’s latest project: stunning, poignant, breathtaking. This is a homecoming project of great importance. Last summer, Brecker made an emotional journey to Tykocin, the area in Poland where his grandfather lived before emigrating to the United States. It was pinpointed when Randy and other family members were looking for eastern European bone marrow donors who might be a match for his brother Michael, two years before the saxophonist lost his battle with a very rare form of leukemia.

Polish composer and pianist Wlodek Pawlik wrote this homecoming suite, and performed it with Brecker and the Symphony Orchestra of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Bialystok, Poland. The blend of classical orchestra and jazz quartet is seamless and feels natural. Highlights: Brecker’s intense soloing on “Nostalgic Journey,” “Let’s All Go to Heaven,” “Magic Seven “and “Blue Rain” - and his strong musical empathy with Pawlik’s excellent trio. This one may go down as one of the finest and most important works in Brecker’s extensive discography.

Edward Simon Trio, Poesia (CAM Jazz)
This is the second recording by the Venezuelan pianist, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade (the latter pair being members of the Wayne Shorter quartet since 2000). Like the 2006 predecessor Unicity, this is very strong. The trio’s energy and improvisation is at full throttle on Simon’s “One for J.P.,” written for Patitucci and a canvas for his electric bass, the title track “Poesia” and their artful exploration of Trane’s “Giant Steps,” which merely implies the original melody as the tune becomes a launching point for further means of transportation. Simon, an artful pianist who uses space creatively, shines on solo versions of his “My Love for You” as the disc opens with the ballad and closes with an alternate take.

Gerald Clayton, Two-Shade (ArtistShare)
The musical fruit didn’t fall far from the tree for this pianist, the son of bassist John Clayton and nephew of saxophonist Jeff Clayton. He is one of the more interesting pianists on the newest generation to emerge on the New York scene. This wide-ranging session teams Clayton with bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Justin Brown. Highlights: the funky energy and interplay on “Boogablues,” the solo ballad segue into trio and back on the blended elements of “Peace for the Moment,” the vibrant “Love All Around,” the classical underpinning of the adventuresome “Sunny Day Go,” and his beautiful solo reinvestigation of Dizzy Gillespie’s classic ballad “Con Alma.”

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