Sunday, July 24, 2011

CDs of Note - Short Takes

The Jimmy Amadie Trio, Something Special (TPR)
Truly committed musicians make music whenever they can. With a literal twist to that mantra, it means Philly-area pianist Jimmy Amadie does so about once every six months. For more than 40 years, Amadie has suffered from a severe form of tendinitis in both hands. He has made eight recordings after a 30-year-plus health-related layoff, and now has his process and physical tolerance to a point where he can literally sit at the piano about once every six months and record his one-take versions of chestnuts and originals. Amadie’s trio teams him with bassist Tony Marino and drummer Bill Goodwin of Phil Woods’ band.

Something Special is just that, considering Amadie’s physical challenges. We know he creates music and performs it in his head in preparation for playing. It is also special for the intensity with which he plays, holding nothing back, and quality of his invention. Everything here is stunning. In particular, I love his take on my favorite Dizzy Gillespie ballad, “Con Alma.” Amadie not only digs into the tune, he goes off on a personal harmonic voyage that stretches it in interesting new ways. You’ll find that tendency in all of his “covers.” And his originals, “Blues for Sweet Lizzy” and “Happy Mama’s Bossa Nova,” are also well done. There’s more good news for Amadie fans. The onetime accompanist of Mel Torme, Colman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Red Rodney and others, will make his first public performance since 1967 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on October 14. With two sets no less. This is an August 16 release.

Tom Harrell, The Time of the Sun (HighNote)
Trumpeter Tom Harrell has had a strong run of consistent excellence in his writing and playing across four decades, and there is no sign that he’s letting up or letting his quality sag. The Time of the Sun is the fourth recording by his five-year-old working quintet, which includes saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, pianist Danny Grissett, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Johnathan Blake. Okegwo has been a Harrell collaborator for 12 years.
With this kind of band consistency, the trust, rapport and musical empathy shine through. All nine Harrell originals are terrific. I particularly like “Estuary,” “Ridin’,” “The Open Door,” the beautiful “Dream Text” and Harrell’s Latin burner “Otra.” The title track is surreal, opening with snippets of three recordings by astronomers of musical harmonies produced by the magnetic field in the sun’s outer atmosphere. Harrell, always the musical adventurer, takes that atmosphere and runs with it.

John Scofield, A Moment's Peace (EmArcy)
Last time out, with 2009’s Piety Street, guitarist John Scofield immersed himself in the funky, gospel-laced sound of New Orleans. Now he has turned balladeer – in his own distinctive way. The dozen tracks on A Moment’s Peace include a range of established ballads plus five originals. The gems include his interpretations of Lennon-McCartney’s “I WiIl,” Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away,” Carla Bley’s delicate “Lawns,” as well as his own “”Johan,” "Simply Put" and "Mood Returns." Larry Goldings shines on both piano and organ in this session, which also features bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade. All of the tunes open in a meditative, ballady sort of way, but by the second chorus Sco has generally added a bit of distinctive heat to his soloing. On the Lincoln classic, note the way Goldings digs deep beneath the surface to mine new possibilities in his solo. And his B-3 work is strong on “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You.” This is a September 27 release.

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