Friday, October 14, 2011

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Tierney Sutton Band,
American Road (BFM Jazz)

Singer Tierney Sutton’s latest project with her band of 18 years finds them on a cultural, geographic and stylistic road trip across America. They hit a fascinating early groove with beautiful renditions of “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Amazing Grace,” as well as “Oh Shenandoah” and The Water is Wide.” “America the Beautiful” was
another natural. There’s a wonderful jazz meets Americana feel with a true Sutton spin. Then the road trip, to my ears, spends a bit too much time on Broadway, mining six tunes by Sondheim, Bernstein Harburg/Arlen and Gershwin. Those sound like they could have been more effective on - or the germ for - a separate project. Musical choices aside, this is also a celebration of one of the most cohesive groups around, particularly the uncanny simpatico between Sutton and pianist Christian Jacob. With two bassists aboard (Trey Henry and Kevin Axt), it sounds droning and bass heavy in a couple of spots, but that’s a minor quibble.

Vince Mendoza, Nights on Earth (Horizontal Jazz)
Keyboardist Vince Mendoza has been one of the finest arrangers in the jazz and pop scenes over the past decade, garnering two Grammys and 25 nominations as he put his stamp on work for the likes of Joni Mitchell, Björk, Sting and Melody Gardot. This project finds Mendoza sharing his own compositions, directing all-star collaborators (including Luciana Souza, Romero Lubambo, Peter Erskine, Larry Goldings, John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Alan Pasqua and Christian McBride) along with members of the Netherlands’ Metropol Orkest, which Mendoza has conducted for six years. The compositions shimmer with beauty and subtlety. Favorites include “Otoño,” “Poem of the Moon,” “Beauty and Sadness” and “The Night We Met.” Bravo.

George Benson, Guitar Man (Concord Jazz)
George Benson’s smooth voice and adult pop star status for these many decades has tended to overshadow his wonderful skills as a guitarist in Brother Jack McDuff’s early 1960s organ quartet, his initial job on the jazz circuit. The aptly named Guitar Man brings Benson back to his musical roots. There are vocals on just four of the 12 tracks. On two of the instrumentals, the opener “Tenderly and “Danny Boy,” Benson flies solo. The improvisational liberties he takes with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Paper Moon” are a treat to hear. His touch is sure, his distinctive sound is warm and good friends, including Joe Sample, Harvey Mason, Lenny Castro and his musical director, David Garfield, surround him.
Ted Rosenthal Trio, Out of This World (Playscape)
Pianist Ted Rosenthal has great skills, a super imagination and keen sense of humor. He is a master of digging deep into standard fare to reimagine and rearrange tunes with fresh harmonies and/or rhythms. He calls the process (here’s the humor) “deranging” them. This CD teams Rosenthal with bassist Noriko Ueda and drummer Quincy Davis. Together they rework 10 tunes from the American Songbook. The gems include “So In Love,” People Will Say We’re in Love” and “Lotus Blossom.” This is a joy to hear – and keep on “repeat.”

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