Monday, August 16, 2010

CDs of Note...

Dave Bass Quartet, Gone (Dave Bass Music)
One listen to this dynamic disc and you’ll be asking yourself: “Where has Dave Bass been all these years?” More than 20 years ago, the pianist was busy on the San Francisco jazz and Latin scene. But his musical feature was in doubt after fractured a wrist in the mid-1980s. So he went to college, then law school. Now, he’s a California deputy attorney general specializing in civil rights enforcement. These days, he is practicing law by day, immersing himself in jazz nights and weekends, and we listeners are the better for it.

Ten of 11 tracks are originals, with two including lyrics performed by Mary Stallings (“Surrender” and the catchy and clever “I Bet You Wonder”). The one non-original is Astor Piazzola’s “Libertango.” Bass is a terrific writer and player, and he has masterful support here from Ernie Watts on tenor, drummer-percussionist Babatunde Lea, bassist Gary Brown and conguero Harold Muniz. Bass’s tune “Gone” is a stunning tango showcase for Watts and Bass. Given his history, Gone makes great sense as a CD title. “Back” could have been a worthy substitute.

Kelley Suttenfield, Where is Love? (Rhombus)
This debut CD by Virginia native Kelley Suttenfield, now based in the Big Apple, is a fine illumination for her charming voice – and of her eclectic musical tastes and influences. Straight-ahead jazz, The Beatles, classic country and country-pop tunes, a touch of Brazilia, with some Great American Songbook and movie soundtrack items thrown in for good measure. All get a strong jazz treatment from Suttenfield and quartet. Favorites: Her takes on Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar,” “Twilight Time,” an uptempo revision of Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe,” a breezy take on Betty Carter’s classic “Open the Door” and Wes Montgomery’s “West Coast Blues.” Another treat: the dazzling electric guitar work of Jesse Lewis on five tracks, most notably “Sugar” and the very hip “West Coast Blues.”

Frank Glover, Abacus (Owl Studios)
Indianapolis clarinetist-composer Frank Glover shifts primarily to soprano sax for Abacus, a formidable project that can best be described as a chamber jazz hybrid featuring his quartet and a 24-member orchestra featuring strings, brass, woodwinds and mallets. The recording’s nine tracks are segmented into three movements. The last segment is the most uptempo movement. Standout tracks include “Modern Times” and the flamenco-tinged “Salamanca” (the riveting latter piece features Glover on both soprano sax and clarinet). From start to finish, Abacus shimmers with great beauty – and a jazzman’s bite. Classically trained and influenced Glover has said that he feels there is a giant gap between improvisation and contemporary classical composition. He’s building his own bridge with the help of his working quartet mates: pianist Zach Lapidus, bassist Jack Helsley and drummer Dave Scalia.

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