Thursday, June 13, 2013

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs from Cécile McLorin Salvant, Giacomo Gates,  Wayne Shorter and Steve Slagle …

Cécile McLorin Salvant, WomanChild  (Mack Avenue)
Cécile McLorin Salvant has been spending a lot of time in my car lately, more specifically in my CD player. This recording shows why the judges were so enamored of McLorin Salvant when she won 2010’s Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition. She has absorbed the full history of jazz and classic blues vocal styles and found a way to turn key elements into something that is her own. Favorites: Bert Williams’ “Nobody” from the 1906 musical Abyssinia, the standards “Jitterbug Waltz” and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” and her own Abbey Lincoln-influenced title track and succinct “Deep Dark Blue.” Label mates Aaron Diehl (piano) and Rodney Whitaker (bass) , as well as James Chirillo (guitar) and Herlin Riley (drums), provide excellent backing. There is much here that draws the listener in – time after time.

Giacomo Gates, Miles Tones (Savant)
The perennially hip singer Giacomo Gates has a keeper here. This latest CD offers lyric versions of 10 tunes from the Miles Davis songbook – material that Davis either wrote or performed on classic recordings. For the most part the lyrics are vocalese – penned by others to emulate the trumpeter’s melody or solos. Most of those lyrics were written by the likes of Eddie Jefferson, Jon Hendricks, Oscar Brown Jr. and Al Jarreau. For this project, Gates wrote new vocalese lyrics to “Milestones.” He also shows his great way with a ballad with his interpretation of “You’re My Everything,” with fine horn work by Freddie Hendrix. Gates’ excellent band here also includes pianist John di Martino, guitarist Dave Stryker (check out his blazing solo on “So What”), bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Vincent Ector. The project is hip, intellectual and swings like a mothertrucker. Dig it.

Wayne Shorter Quartet, Without a Net (Blue Note)
Saxophonist Wayne Shorter operates on a higher creative plane that most jazz musicians. And since 2000, he has brought pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade along for the exhilarating ride. And ride they do. Shorter is not one for prescribed set lists or stock arrangements. He’ll take a fragment of something from his canon – or something familiar – and the band will run with it, always looking for something fresh and deep as it reconstructs or deconstructs material. At times, the band members seem amazed at the musical twists and turns that emerge. Without a Net is the perfect title because it sums up that style of music making. Most of these tracks were recorded live during a 2011 European concert tour. Track 6, “Pegasus,” was recorded at a Los Angeles concert where the band was supplemented by The Imani Winds horns quintet. The finest examples here of Shorter & Co. flying without a net is on “Zero Gravity to the 10th Power.” It’s awesome. 

Steve Slagle, Evensong  (Panorama)
Saxophonist Steve Slagle and guitarist Dave Stryker have had incredible chemistry whenever they make music together. That fact continues on this quartet session (under Slagle’s name rather than their usual Slagle Stryker Band name. Here they’re joined by bassist Ed Howard and drummer McClenty Hunter. Favorite tracks on this latest Slagle CD: Stryker’s quirky blues composition “Shadowboxing” and the leader’s “Equal Nox.”

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