a closer look at CDs by Wayne Alpern, Lynne Arriale, Clairdee, Tim Ray and Dana
Standard Deviation (Henri Elkan Music)
this fine project, composer and arranger Wayne Alpern underscores the notion
that jazz is a process, not a specific repertoire of songs. Wearing his
arranger’s hat here, the New York-based Alpern has taken nine pop songs (some
vintage, some contemporary) and given them robust, new instrumental treatments.
In each case he has stretched and recast them to celebrate their catchy
melodies and rhythms. The band pulling this off with Alpern’s charts includes
trumpeter John Challoner, saxophonists Owen Broder and Adam Larson, trombonist
Nick Grinder, violinist Benjamin Sutin, pianist Matt Podd, bassist Dave Baron
and drummer Nathan Ellman-Bell.
material includes Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” Bob Dylan’s “Dear Landlord” and
“As I Went Out One Morning,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” Bobbbie Gentry’s
“Ode to Billie Joe,” Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and The Four Seasons’ “Who
Loves You Pretty Baby.” Favorite tracks: the band’s takes on “Gotye’s “Somebody
That I Used to Know,” the Zombies’ “She’s Not There” and the Temptations’ hit
“My Girl.” This is Alperin’s second project recasting well-known pop songs,
following up on last year’s Skeleton.
Lynne Arriale, Chimes of Freedom (Challenge)
Lynne Arriale’s 15th recording as a leader blends her crystalline
lyricism at the keyboard with works inspired by our pre-pandemic troubled
times. Specifically, the plight of refugees and dreamers who find obstacles in
their path to a better life. As she explains: the material reflects her wish
for an America “that offers hope, not scorn, for immigrants who seek a better
life. It also acknowledges the sacrifices of refugees who have risked and even
lost their lives trying to reach our borders.”
project teams her with bassist Jasper Somsen and drummer E.J. Strickland.
Singer K.J. Denhert joins on the final two tracks: the Bob Dylan-penned “Chimes
of Freedom” and Paul Simon’s “American Tune.” Favorite tracks: “3 Million
Steps,” which musically captures the image of refugees determined to go the
distance between Guatemala to the southern U.S. border, and the more optimistic
“Reunion.” The latter tune’s calypso feel celebrates a joyous reuniting of
families split by war, famine, poverty and family separation. “The Whole Truth”
is a bluesy, swinging salute to the news media who endure daily attacks on
their credibility. There is much here to savor for its hope and musical
Clairdee, A Love Letter to Lena (Declare)
Francisco-based singer Clairdee’s latest recording is an homage to the late
Lena Horne. Not wishing to make it a greatest hits cover, she instead selected
music from the Horne repertoire that peaks deeply to her commitments to civil
rights and equality. Six of the eight songs are preceded by spoken-word
interludes narrated by actress Margo Hall. They are drawn from Horne’s own
words gleaned from interviews and biographies.
Violinist Regina Carter is a
special guest on “Something to Live For.” The most powerful tracks include “I
Got a Name,” Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” (a poignant duet with
pianist and co-producer John Herbst), and “Believe In Yourself.” They set the
table for the finale: Clairdee’s powerful take, with a chorus of guest singers,
on bassist Marcus McLaurine’s activism anthem “Stand Up” with lyrics by Keva
Singletary Youngblood. This is a powerful call to action from the singer and
her wide-ranging band.
Tim Ray, Excursions and Adventures (Whaling City Sound)
piano trio gem teams Tim Ray with all-star players (and fellow Berklee
College of Music faculty colleagues) Terri Lyne Carrington on drums and John
Patitucci on bass. The recording title could well sum up Ray’s diverse career.
This mighty inventive Boston jazz stalwart has toured with Lyle Lovett and Jane
Siberry, and is now Tony Bennett’s pianist and musical director.
material they dig into is wide ranging. Each contributes originals (Ray’s
“Gone, Not Forgotten” and “Yo 11,” Carrington’s Wayne Shorter tribute “Samsara”
and Patitucci’s high-flying, New Orleans-flavored “Messiaen’s Gumbo”). Everything here is superb in its own way. The
players keep pushing each other to find new facets in the originals, standard
fare and some unusual choices. Their jazz transformations of Billy Preston’s
pop hit “Nothing From Nothing” and the Rolling Stones’ classic “Paint It Black”
Dana Sandler, I Never
Saw Another Butterfly (Fractamodi)
singer Dana Sandler’s debut recording is a singularly focused project. Her
compositions set to music some of the poetry penned by children of the
Holocaust. Most of the source material come from “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,”
a collection of poetry and art created by Jewish children in the Terezin
concentration camp. Fewer than 100 of 15,000 children survived Terezin.
delicate voice is backed here by pianist Carmen Staaf, bassist Jorge Roeder,
drummer Austin McMahon (her husband), trumpeter Peter Kenagy, saxophonist Rick
Stone and clarinetist Michael WInograd. Sandler dedicated the project to the
memory of Friedil Dicker-Brandeis, who organized secret art classes for the
children of Terezin, then hid the material in suitcases that were discovered after the camp's liberation.
Sandler released the CD on April 21, Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is both powerful