Monday, November 28, 2016

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Alyssa Allgood, Dave Anderson, Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, Frank Kimbrough, Oleg Kireyev & Keith Javors, and the U.S. Army Blues Swamp Romp ….

Alyssa Allgood, Out of the Blue (JeruJazz)
Chicago-based singer Alyssa Allgood has done the iconic Blue Note label proud in a most unexpected way on this self-produced project. She and her team of Windy City jazz instrumentalists dug into some of the finest material recorded by Blue Note musicians during the label’s 1950s and ‘60s heyday. Allgood also penned lyrics for four of the 10 instrumentals: “Watch Me Walk Away” (originally Hank Mobley’s “Dig Dis”), Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil,” Lee Morgan’s “Ceora,” which she retitled as “Only a Memory,” and drummer Joe Chambers’ “Mirrors.” She also interpreted existing vocals on Horace Silver’s anthemic ballad “Peace” Bobby Timmons’ “Moanin’” (with lyrics by vocalese master Jon Hendricks), and “Moment’s Notice,” to which New York Voices members Peter Eldridge and Kim Nazarian penned “Noticing the Moment” lyrics. There’s much to savor here from Allgood, B-3 organ player Dan Chase, guitarist Tim Fitzgerald, saxophonist Chris Madsen and drummer Matt Plaskota. It’s all good. Great in fact.

Dave Anderson, Blue Innuendo (Label1)
The best-known organ-based jazz bands have featured either guitar or saxophone as the primary solo instrument. Dave Anderson has found the best of both worlds with his quartet, which features both. Blue Innuendo teams Midwesterner-turned-New Yorker Anderson (on tenor and soprano saxes) with guitarist Tom Guarna, B-3 player Pat Bianchi and drummer Mat Wilson. This is a solid team romp through nine Anderson originals and another (“22 Doors) composed by a friend, bassist Devin Lowe. Guarna brings a searing energy to his guitar work; Bianchi swings with tremendous power and energy at the organ, and Wilson shows once again why he’s considered one of the most inventive drummers in jazz. Anderson’s sax work is masterful here, as is his writing. The gems include “Urban Dilemma,” and two tributes: “The Phantom” (written for Joe Henderson) and "Blue Innuendo" (written for B-3 master Joey DeFrancesco). The closing track, “Redeye,” is a marvel.

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque, Oddara (Linus)
For more than 30 years, Toronto-based flutist-soprano saxophonist Jane Bunnett has been an enabler and talent scout for the jazz musicians of Cuba. She’s put together bands (including Spirits of Havana) with whom she has recorded and made North American and European tours, and even shipped donated instruments to student musicians. In the process, she has introduced many fine Cuban musicians to global jazz audiences. Her most recent project involves an all-woman ensemble called Maqueque, which translates to “the energy of a young girl’s spirit.” Oddara is her second recording with this sextet – and to my ears – it has bubbled to the top of 2016’s Latin Jazz recordings.

Bunnett is joined by pianist Danae Olano, bassist Celia Jimenez, percussionist Magdelys Savigne, violinist Elizabeth Rodriguez and drummer Yissy Garcia. All but Garcia also double on vocals. They are joined on select tracks by two other singers who work with the band on occasion, Melvis Santa and Dayme Arocena. Oddada’s material was composed by the band members, except for one stunning gem – a cover of Leon Russell’s “”Song For You” featuring Savigne and Arocena on vocals. Other favorites: “Little Feet,” “Dream,” “25 New Moves,” “Changui del Guaso” and the ultra-energetic closer, “CafĂ© Pilon.” Bunnett says the music this band makes “bubbles with power, beauty and joy.” That’s evident from start to finish.

Frank Kimbrough, Solstice (Pirouet)
Pianist Frank Kimbrough is an impressionistic master at the keyboard. His newest CD is a trio session with two long-time collaborators, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirshfield. Throughout the CD,  Kimbrough reveals his musical essence while honoring his mentors and muses by performing favorite material. Those mentors include Andrew Hill, Shirley Horn, Paul Motian. One muse, who wrote the title track, is his wife, the singer and composer Maryanne de Prophetis. 

While every tune here is a standout, my absolute favorites are the bookends, Kimbrough’s takes on Carla Bley’s “Seven” and Maria Schneider’s evocative “Walking By Flashlight.” Kimbrough has been a mainstay in the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra since 1993, adding much and absorbing much at the same time. He included one original on this CD, the subtly bluesy “Question’s the Answer.” He revels in space and delicacy on Solstice. His rhythm-mates are right with him, adding subtle accents to these musical moments.
Oleg Kireyev & Keith Javors, The Meeting (Inarhyme)
Here’s a stunning collaboration led by Russian tenor saxophonist Oleg Kireyev and Philadelphia-based pianist Keith Javors. The Meeting, a title and track that captures the musical summit reached here, includes the genius trumpeter Tom Harrell, bassist Ben Williams and drummer E.J. Stickland. 

The many gems here include Kireyev’s “April,” and the ballad “Inwardly” and harder-driving title track, both of which Javors wrote for Harrell. There’s a piano trio take on the samba “Estate,” on which Javors digs deep. The band’s take on the uptempo jazz standard “Caravan” is clever. It include some Tuvan throat-singing by Kireyev that enhances its exotic moo

U.S. Army Blues Swamp Romp, Voodoo Boogaloo (U.S.Army)
Chances are very good that you’ll never hear a funkier military musical unit than the U.S. Army Band’s U.S. Army Blues Swamp Romp. They’ve been together for nearly two decades, focusing on traditional jazz and folk music from Louisiana. Voodoo Boogaloo blends complementary original compositions with material from Duke Ellington, Nick La Rocca, Jelly Roll Morton, Sonny Terry, Hank Williams and Stevie Wonder, among others.

Favorites: trumpeter Graham Breedlove’s “Voodoo Boogaloo” and Wonder’s “I Wish,” which is layered over the street beat heard on "Treme Song," the catchy heme to HBO’s “Treme” series, as well as saxophonist John DeSalme’s funky “Raoul’s Cool Above Ground Pool.” But there’s far more here to dig – and dance to. It is hard to find a more grooving version of Jelly Roll’s “Milenburg Joys.” There’s one poignant ballad here. Swamp Romp co-founder Harry Watters wrote the closer,  “Musicians Village,” after the group worked at the Habitat for Humanity project to build new housing for local musicians after the flooding from Hurricane Katrina.

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