Wednesday, December 14, 2011

CDs of Note - Short Takes

The Bill King Trio, Five Aces (7 Arts/Slaight Music)
Pianist/producer/jazz photographer Bill King has taken a trip back to his musical roots with this trio project. It’s a celebration focusing on the blues’ intersection with classic R&B. There’s a bit of gospel, a bit of soul and a touch of jazz on this session with bassist Collin Barrett and drummer Mark Kelso. American-bred, Toronto-based King digs mightily into four soul classics – Odis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” the Marvin Gaye hit “How Sweet It Is (to be Loved by You),” James Brown’s “There It Is!” and the Eddie Floyd/Steve Cropper classic “634-5789.” Shifting between piano and B-3, he also shares eight originals that pack the same flavor and power. Among the standouts, “Come Walk With Thee” is Southern gospel all the way and “Stax ‘em High,” a tribute to the Memphis soul sound, while “I’ll Chase that Rainbow” affords King a chance to dig into the bluesy side of a gospel-tinged ballad. The title track and “Inception Blues” are other proof points about our timeless love for this classic sound.

Emmet Cohen, In The Element (Bada Beep)
What a terrific debut for this pianist, a Miami native whose musical maturity far
eclipses his tender age. Emmet Cohen was 20 when In The Element was recorded in August 2010. Cohen is backed by bassist Joe Sanders and drummer Rodney Green, with trumpeter Greg Gisbert joining on three tunes: the poignant “Good Morning Heartache,” “3 O’Clock in the Morning” and Cohen’s “Just Deserts.” Four of the 10 tracks are Cohen originals. None of the standard fare included on the CD was drawn from the “tired tunes” category that can be maddening to more than a few listeners.

While Cohen finds new facets in each standard he explores (his version of Frank Foster’s classic “Simone” is a gem), he really cuts loose on his originals, including the high-flying “Resentment (Without Reason),” “The Swarm,” “Just Deserts” and the title track. The touch, the phrasing, the time, the harmonic choices on each tune and the simpatico with the other musicians all reveal what a significant player he is. Imagine the potential for Emmet Cohen (who finished third in this year’s Thelonious Monk Competition) with another 10 or 20 years experience. It will be great fun to see his continued development.

The Curtis Brothers, Completion of Proof (Truth Revolution Records)

If you love hard bop, a la Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, chances are you will very much dig this second recording co-led by bassist Luques and pianist Zaccai Curtis. The Connecticut natives developed musically in the Jackie McLean-led Artists Collective in Hartford. While studying at different music schools in Boston, they got their first significant exposure as sidemen to Donald Harrison and Ralph Peterson. This project features the Curtis brothers with trumpeter Brian Lynch and drummer Peterson on all tracks, with saxophonists Harrison, Jimmy Greene and Joe Ford, and percussionists Pedro Martinez, Rogerio Boccato and Reinaldo De Jesus joining on select tracks embued with an Afro-Latin vibe. Zaccai Curtis wrote all of the music here, much of it inspired by events and trends in the world. You can dig into that as further appreciation, or just dig the hard-driving musicality on this self-produced CD for its emotional excellence. And it swings like crazy.

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