Tuesday, November 2, 2010

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Lew Soloff, Steve Richman, Sketches of Spain (Sheffield Lab)
Sketches of Spain has always been my favorite among the dozens and dozens of Miles Davis recordings. Its exotic Spanish tinge and plaintive feel, so brilliantly crafted by Davis and orchestrator Gil Evans are at the heart of its impact. Fifty years after the classic project was recorded, Steve Richman took his fine Harmonie Ensemble New York into the studio with guest soloist (and longtime Gil Evans collaborator) Lew Soloff. (The genesis was a May 21, 2008 concert at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in midtown Manhattan.)

The recorded result is fascinating – and no less riveting than the original. This is the only recording of Sketches since its Davis-Evans recording by Columbia in 1959 and 1960. You’ll discover some new depth here and some distinctive, beautiful soloing, particularly from trumpeter Soloff. My favorites: their versions of Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” and Evans’s “Solea.” Bravo.

Benito González, Circles (Furthermore)
Pianist Benito González is out with a hard-driving beauty, with some help from some of his regular collaborators. The self-taught player, a native of Venezuela, brought, has been a member of Kenny Garrett’s band since 2006. On this, his second CD as a leader, he teamed with saxophonists Ron Blake, Azar Lawrence and Myron Walden, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jeff Watts. Ever y track is strong in its own way. Standouts include “Circles,” González’s Elvin Jones tribute “Elvin’s Sight” (featuring Azar Lawrence on tenor after a riveting Christian McBride scene-setter) and their take on McCoy Tyner’s “Blues on the Corner” (featuring Ron Blake), which is the session’s only cover. The leader’s reflective “Let’s Talk About You and Me” is also a gem.

Pete Levin, Jump! (self-produced)
Clean and precise B-3 organ work can swing mightily in the right hands – and with the right band to inspire it. No chicken shack required. Pete Levin proves it on this fine self-produced session that teams him with the searing artistry of guitarist Dave Stryker and drummer Lenny White. Percussionist Manolo Badrena joins on half of the 10 tracks. The closer, covering Fat’s Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” is dedicated to friend Joe Beck, who died two years ago.

Levin and Beck recorded the track as a duet but it was never released on any prior album. Levin added Danny Gottlieb on drums to make this an aural reunion, which was fitting since the trio had played may gigs together in the past. Other favorites: “The Big Dog is Always Right,” “Nostalgia in Times Square,” “Little Sunflower” and the lively title track. This is a welcome addition to the B-3 discography. It bubbles to the top among contemporary projects.

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