Selected reviews


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Jazz Journal offers unrivalled coverage of recorded jazz old and new, with more than 20,000 words of expert comment and discography on recent jazz releases in every issue

Complete list of CDs reviewed in JJ April 2016 (see below for excerpts):
Aarhus Jazz Orchestra: ReWrite Of Spring (Dacapo 8.226117-18)
Aimée, Cyrille: Let's Get Lost (Mack Avenue 1097)
Allen, Harry: Something About Jobim (Stunt 15122)
Benita, Michel/& Ethics: River Silver (ECM 475 9393)
Benitez, Gorka/David Xirgo: Quiero Volver A Marte Otra Vez (Fresh Sound New Talent 493)
Boswell, Eve: Pickin' A Chicken (Retrospective 4277)
Brubeck, Dave/Trio Featuring Cal Tjader: Complete Recordings (American Jazz Classics 99127)
Bruce, Jack: Sunshine Of Your Love: A Life In Music (Universal 4752077)
Bruce, Marian/Jacy Parker: Halfway To Dawn/Spotlight On Jacy Parker (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 888)
Bryant, Ray: Plays The Complete Little Susie (Phoenix 131616)
Cohen, Avishai: Into The Silence (ECM 475 9435)
Cohn, Al/Dexter Gordon: True Blue/Silver Blue (Elemental Music 906080)
Coker, Dolo: California Hard (Elemental Music 906081)
Cooper, Bob: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1180)
Cuber, Ronnie: Cuber Libre (Elemental Music 906079)
Edwards, Teddy: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1179)
Empirical: Connection (Cuneiform 416)
Evans, Bill: Original Album Series (Warner 0081227947712)
Ferguson, Maynard: It's My Time/Hollywood (Beat Goes On 1202)
Freeman, Russ: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1181)
Getz, Stan/Bob Brookmeyer: Recorded Fall 1961 (Poll Winners 27351)
Gonsalves, Paul/Clark Terry/Quintet: Complete Recordings (Phono 870240)
Goodman, Benny: The Benny Goodman Story/Complete Motion Picture Soundtrack (Essential Jazz Classics 55681)
Green, Grant: The 1961 Summer Sessions (American Jazz Classics 99128)
Gurdjieff Ensemble: Komitas (ECM 473 2246)
Gustavsen, Tord: What Was Said (ECM 475 8697)
Hiromi: Spark (Telarc 3824702)
James, Harry: The Music Maker (Retrospective 4281)
Jelly Roll Jazz Band: Whose Solo Is It Anyway? (
Jungr, Barb: Shelter From The Storm (Linn 530)
Lewis, George: The Solo Trombone Record (Sackville 3012)
Lundy, Carmen: Soul To Soul (Pure Pleasure 3812, vinyl)
Mack Avenue Superband: Live From The Detroit Jazz Festival 2015 (Mack Avenue 1106)
Marktl, Klemens: December (Fresh Sound New Talent 489)
McCann, Les/Trio: Live In Hollywood, New York and San Francisco (Groove Hut 66722)
Mezquida, Marco: Cantabile (Fresh Sound New Talent 490)
Minafra, Livio/Louis Moholo: Born Free (Incipit 203)
Montgomery, Wes: One Night In Indy (Resonance 2018)
Mosca, Sal: Too Marvelous For Words (Cadence Jazz 1248-1252)
Mulligan, Gerry: The Emarcy Sextet Recordings (Mosaic 3008, vinyl)
Mullov-Abbado, Misha: New Ansonia (Edition 1062)
Møster!: When You Cut Into The Present (Hubro 2565)
Naked Truth: Avian Thug (Rare Noise 057)
Novoa, Eva/Ditmas Quartet: Butterflies And Zebras (Fresh Sound New Talent 492)
Persiany, André: In New York (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 887)
Ponty, Jean-Luc: Original Album Series, Vol 2 (Warner 0081227955380)
Powell, Baden: Live In Berlin (MPS 0210304MS1)
Robin, Olivier: Jungle Box (Swing Alley 026)
Simons, Jan: Travellers (Rithem Music 2016)
Simons, Jan: Answer (Silence 002)
Smith, Ches: The Bell (ECM 475 2954)
Sperrazza-Sacks-Kamaguchi: Play Tadd Dameron (Fresh Sound New Talent 491)
Stewart, Bill: Space Squid (Pirouet 3089)
Strazzeri, Frank: Strazzatonic (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 886)
Svensson, Hannah/& Ewan: Two Generations/For You (Dragon 426)
The 14 Jazz Orchestra: Nothing Hard Is Ever Easy (
Thompson, Eddie/Trio: The Bosendorfer Concert 1980 Vol 2 (Hep 2103)
Tidholm, Thomas/Jonas Knutsson: Orsa By Night (Country & Eastern 35)
Tilton, Martha: And The Angel Sings (Retrospective 4280)
Truffaz, Erik: Doni Doni (Parlophone 082564 080 199)
Van Huffel, Peter/Alex Maksymiw: Kronix (Fresh Sound New Talent 488)
Various: Theme Music From The James Dean Story (Fresh Sound FSR 1668)
Various: Kouté Jazz: A Collection Of Rare Jazz From The French West Indies Heavenly Sweetness HS134CD)
Various: Jazzing The Classics (Retrospective 4276)
Vila, Albert: The Unquiet Sky (Fresh Sound New Talent 497)
Woods, Phil: Warm Woods (Phono 870239)
Young, Larry: In Paris/The ORTF Recordings (Resonance 2022)

Excerpts from the 67 CD reviews in this issue (see a free sample of full print reviews; subscribe to see 12 months of Jazz Journal
including over 20,000 words of CD review each issue):

On a cold February morning Let’s Get Lost warms things up quicker than central heating and a mug of hot chocolate. On a sunny July afternoon these tunes will be the perfect accompaniment to a romantic picnic-for-two. The young French singer - brought up in Samois-sur-Seine, once home to Django Reinhardt – and her extremely talented band join forces for one of the most refreshingly joyful albums in some time. The instrumentalists excel on Lazy Afternoon, conjuring an atmosphere that captures the relaxed yet sensual mood of the lyric. Aimée toys with the words, extending the syllables of “lazy” and “afternoon” and investing the idea of a tasty pitcher of tea with a whole host of meanings. Aimée’s invitation is one to accept: few places can be as much fun to get lost in as these 43 minutes of jazz. (Bruce Lindsay) *****

Not, as you might expect, Allen playing a selection of old favourites from the Jobim songbook – delightful though that would no doubt have been – but a set made up mainly from his later, 1970s compositions. These are more introspective and less easy to grasp than the catchy tunes of the 60s, but they have an elusive charm of their own. This applies particularly to the harmonies, which obviously appeal to Harry Allen. He creates wonderfully fluid lines from them, full of melodic and rhythmic invention. Every time I hear him nowadays he sounds better, with his soft-edged tone and pinpoint articulation. There’s obviously something in the Brazilian claim to be the most rhythmic nation on earth. And they manage it with so little fuss! (Dave Gelly) *****

It seems as if Benita, the go-to bassist on the Paris jazz scene for visiting top-shelf players, has been laying the foundations for this beautiful music over the last 30 years. The Algiers-born musician came to wider attention relatively recently, touring with Andy Sheppard’s superb improvising group Trio Libero. To give his Ethics band a studio date as leader was surely a no-brainer for ECM. Certainly Benita has delivered on his promise. The quintet’s sixth member, Manfred Eicher, delivers production values that beautifully complement the natural acoustics of the Lugano auditorium. (Garry Booth) *****

This must be one of the most powerful jam sessions to appear on CD for several years. The combination of good material, exceptionally gifted solos and brilliant technical ability all round guarantee the results. I’m reluctant to say that it is faultless, but I really think that it is. The mixture of blues, ballads and bop standards is just right. For whatever reason (the presence of Dexter?) Al Cohn plays with even more vigour than usual for the period and any doubts about Dexter Gordon’s consistency are blown away. The two trumpeters, often similar, often contrasting, are as gifted as any around at the period, and of course Barry Harris and Sam Jones came with their own particular extended guarantees. It’s probably parsimonious to note that if the session had been half a minute shorter it would have fitted on one CD, but I can’t imagine anyone feeling short-changed! (Steve Voce) *****

Edwards is on good form on all four of these albums and none more so than on the link up with old pal and former employer, Howard McGhee. On CD2, Newborn is most often the pianist and he plays very well, accompanying helpfully and playing well thought out solos that are not overfilled with superfluous notes. Edwards is at his best with McGhee and on the Teddy’s Ready set but all discs here are high quality bop of the day, only slightly diminished by the easy flowing, non-aggressive, smooth California style. Edwards though was a strong soloist with his own sound and approach and his playing here is some of his best on records. Sunset Eyes is in mono so presumably the stereo tapes are lost or were damaged. One set here is five star but overall, for all sessions, four seems fair. (Derek Ansell) ****

Empirical’s previous four albums all included various guests, but this time the quartet have abandoned their friends and gone for a studio representation of what their live gigs actually sound like. Connection’s all-original material thus unfolds with its own intuitive, narrative momentum, as if it is being performed live for your own pleasure. This often complex music works best when it tussles against itself, the whip-sharp rhythms set at angles to the driving alto sax while the luminous vibes wash over the lot. Undeniably hip, this is a fine set, uniquely promoted by the group’s pop-up jazz lounge in London’s Old Street Underground Station: anyone else for an 8 am set? (Simon Adams) ****

A recording of “folk music turned into art music”, from Guyumri, Armenia, the hometown of George Gurdjieff, early 20th century mystic, philosopher, spiritual teacher and composer. The significance of reviewing this in JJ is that pianist Keith Jarrett is a follower of the teachings of Gurdjieff; in 1980 Jarrett recorded an album of Gurdjieff’s compositions, Sacred Hymns. The Komitas CD is beautifully recorded and presented, to the usual high standards of ECM. (John Robert Brown) ****

For my 10 Eurocents a new Hiromi recording is always something to look forward to. Although a couple of albums have fallen below her highly impressive best, even these have been enjoyable and worth hearing. No caveats with this one. Hiromi has said she prefers not to be pigeon-holed as jazz, but I’d reassure JJ readers that if this ain’t jazz I dunno what is. She studied with Chick Corea, is a huge fan of Tatum (as most pianists are, even if - blasphemy alert! - many of us find him too much of a clever thing) and can blithely incorporate a range of styles. Since she burst into my consciousness in 2003 other young pianists have been touted (at least by their PR people) as something exceptional, but many get dragged down by the earnestness of being important. Hiromi just gets stuck in and spreads delight. Anthony Jackson, a thoughtful and inventive player, manages to sound nimble even on the large contrabass guitar, and Simon Phillips is an ideal companion for the leader’s exuberant playing. (Barry Witherden) *****

As Alan Luff reminded us (JJ October 2015), jazz purists did not take kindly to the sentimental but highly lucrative schmaltz included in this two-CD compilation. Nor did jazz critics applaud his astonishingly turbo-charged, triple-tonguing virtuosity in Concerto For Trumpet and Flight Of The Bumble Bee. Whilst lamenting Harry’s deplorable willingness to make big money, such critics failed to acknowledge the truly excellent jazz which he also played, as exemplified in most of this very welcome and wide-ranging selection. Moreover, James was capable of beautiful and expressive blues and ballad playing, as in the excellent Just A Mood (aka Blue Mood), Confessin’ and My Inspiration. Benny Goodman is said to have declared that Harry “could do anything on the trumpet”. He could, and he did, but it’s time that his truly outstanding abilities as a jazz musician were more fully recognised. (Hugh Rainey) *****

Never was a musical collection more aptly titled than this bold bonanza of solo piano, documenting in detail five concerts given by a keyboard master during an intensive tour of The Netherlands in the midsummer of 1981. A disciple of Lennie Tristano, Sal always evinced greater warmth and emotional feeling than that influence. He could turn on the technique (showing a great regard for Tatum) when required or be pithy and minimalist if the context demanded. Where he departed most strongly from Tristano was in his devotion to good melody. As he told me, only a few days before his death in 2007, his childhood and teenage years were accompanied by the classic tunes of the American songbook. He believed that the pieces created by the likes of Gershwin, Kern, Porter, Rodgers, Van Heusen and others were lasting triggers for the improvisational process - and spent a musical lifetime proving that fact, as he does so in exquisite fashion throughout these extraordinary concert recitals. Yes, this package is too marvel(l)ous for words, but absolutely right for receptive ears! (Mark Gardner) *****

The Mulligan sextet group of 1955/56 was really only a development of the classic quartet with Chet Baker from two years earlier. The same format applied - a band without piano, playing some very cleverly arranged counterpoint - but this time with two additional horns. Zoot Sims and Brookmeyer fitted in like ducks to water and the duets between the leader and tenorman are pure delight. Not that piano was abandoned altogether - some selections here feature Mulligan or Brookmeyer soloing at the keyboard. Mostly though, it is that light as air, gently swinging, pianoless sound. For this issue, Mosaic abandoned the 24-bit digital CD tapes the Japanese producer Kiyoshi Koyama created in the 1980s and went back to the original analogue master reels to produce superior sound. The set comes with the usual informative booklet with notes by Ira Gitler from the last two LPs and some photographs from the sessions in NYC with Mulligan looking about 18 years old! This set is one of 3,500 boxes worldwide so don’t leave it too long if you’re buying. (Derek Ansell) *****

If Stéphane Grappelli was the doyen of acoustic jazz violin then Jean-Luc Ponty is surely the undisputed master of electric jazz violin and since Grappelli’s passing it’s not unreasonable to assert that Ponty is now the number one jazz violinist. But even the most staunch JLP admirer might occasionally find the similarity of timbre in his jazz-rock mélange starting to pall. Conversely, examples of the less electronically adorned Stay With Me from A Taste For Passion and Good Guys, Bad Guys from Civilized Evil or both the title track and In Spite Of All (with Allan Holdsworth) from Individual Choice, imbued with relatively “straight” violin, work extremely well. The sound quality is universally excellent – another reason why this box set is essential for all Ponty fans, whose vinyl originals will now be popping and scratching. (Roger Farbey) ****

When Frank Strazzeri wrote and arranged this material he was able to call upon some of the finest LA based musicians to interpret his often challenging scores. Taurus has the leader soloing creatively over an attractive ostinato from Gene Cherico, who was Frank Sinatra’s bass player of choice at the time. The voicing on Lazy Moments has a hint of Oliver Nelson’s classic Stolen Moments and Strazzatonic has much of the busy, bustling energy of Eddie Harris’s hit Freedom Jazz Dance. Conte Candoli as always is utterly distinctive and his long-time colleague Frank Rosolino’s fluency allows him to do what most performers would find impossible to articulate on the trombone. Don Menza’s powerful Rollins-influenced tenor is impressive and he also has a fine flute outing on Calcutta. The leader added a Moog synthesizer to the summer 1975 session for what is essentially a jazz-rock date. (Gordon Jack) ****

This is overall a more obviously upbeat album than the quartet’s last outing, 2012’s El Tiempo De La Revolución and certainly not as dark as Being Human Being, Truffaz’s 2014 collaboration with Mexican electronica artist Murcof. The collaborative aesthetic continues though, this time with Malian singer Rokia Traoré who appears on four tracks. Also from Mali, rapper Oxmo Puccino provides a classic hip-hop vibe to the closing track. As for Truffaz, his trademark soft-yet-powerful tone is in evidence from the off, leading us into the call-and-response introductory Comptine, exchanging phrases with Traoré’s warm and evocative voice and signposting the general feel of the disc. It’s a relaxed, late-night groove of an album. (Dave Foxall) ***

This review gives me a welcome opportunity to pay personal tribute to the late Phil Woods, a most extraordinary musician. Only 26 at the time of these sessions he plays here with youthful vigour, yet that vigour remained in his music across seven decades. He sustained the intensity of tone, depth of emotion and rhythmic mastery which seemed to have come to him naturally from the start. The Parker influence is strong here but Phil’s appreciation of pre-bop jazz can be sensed in the last four tracks where Nat Pierce leads a group with a Basie ambience. Their version of Easy Living allows me to make a further point about Phil. Like Sidney Bechet his musical personality was so strong that satisfactory front-line partners were hard to find and he was, in my opinion, often best heard with just a rhythm section. The version of Easy Living with the little-known but excellent Corwin, Dallas and Stabulas is by far superior to the one with Pierce. (Graham Colombé) *****


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