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 June 2017 (see below for excerpts):
1982: Chromola (Hubro 2558)
Armstrong, Louis: The Great 1956 Chicago Concert. Complete Edition (Essential Jazz Classics 55714)
Armstrong, Louis: The Complete 1951 Pasadena Concerts (Essential Jazz Classics 55717)
Basie, Count: The Complete Basie Rides Again! (Essential Jazz Classics 55716)
Bechet, Sidney: Bechet Souvenirs (Vogue Legacy 88985407942)
Beirach, Richie/Gregor Huebner: Live At Birdland New York (ACT 9839)
Biscoe, Chris/Allison Neale: Then And Now (Trio 597)
Black Market Trust: Just One Of Those Things (
Bleckmann, Theo: Elegy (ECM 479 9717)
Brookmeyer, Bob: Bob Brookmeyer & Friends (Columbia Legacy 88985406902)
Brovold, Bill/Jamie Saft: Serenity Knolls (RareNoise 076)
Churnchetz, Marko: Ruthenia (Fresh Sound FSNT 524)
Cid, Esaie: Maybe Next Year (Swing Alley 030)
Claudia Quintet: Super Petite (Cuneiform 427)
Cohen, Emmet: Masters Legacy Series Volume 1 (Cellar Live 031616)
Davies, Josephine: Satori (Whirlwind 4700)
De Lucia, Jon: As The River Sings (Fresh Sound FSNT 521)
Dime Notes, The: The Dime Notes (Lejazzetal 16)
Eldridge, Roy: Little Jazz (Inner City 7002)
Eldridge, Roy: I Remember Harlem (Inner City 7012)
Eldridge, Roy: Roy Eldridge And His Little Jazz (Vogue Legacy 88985407952)
Elgart, Larry: Easy Goin' Swing (Blue Moon 887)
Ferguson, Maynard: Birdland Dream Band (RCA Victor Legacy 88985407092)
Four Brothers, The: …Together Again! (RCA Victor Legacy 88985407222)
Gaillard, Slim: Searching For You (Sunset Blvd 7905)
Gillespie, Dizzy: The Champ (Inner City 7023)
Gillespie, Dizzy: The Greatest Of Dizzy Gillespie (RCA Victor Legacy 88985407242)
Graas, John: Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1242)
Green, Barry: Almost There (MoleTone 005)
Gunnarson, Fanny: Mirrors (Havtorn 041)
Hall, Jim/& Red Mitchell: Valse Hot - Sweet Basil 1978 (Artist Share 0148)
Hanlon, Bob/Mark Minchello: Camaraderie (SteepleChase 33131)
Harrell, Tom: Something Gold, Something Blue (HighNote 7289)
Haynes, Roy: Roy Haynes Modern Group (Vogue Legacy 88985408152)
Hirt, Al: Trumpet And Strings (Blue Moon 885)
Hülsmann, Julia: Sooner And Later (ECM 572 3858)
Hunter, Alberta: The Alberta Hunter Collection 1921-40 (Acrobat 7112)
Jaspar, Bobby: Three Classic Albums Plus (Avid Jazz 1237)
Jaspar, Bobby: Bobby Jaspar's New Jazz (Vogue Legacy 88985408172)
Konitz, Lee: Lee Konitz Plays (Vogue Legacy 88985408602)
Konitz, Lee: In Europe '56, Paris And Köln (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 925)
Krokofant: Krokofant III (Rune Grammofon 2189)
Kummert, Nicolas: La Diversité (Edition 1083)
L.A. Express: L.A. Express/Shadow Play (Beat Goes On 1271)
Lewis, Ramsey: An Hour With The Ramsey Lewis Trio (Groove Hut 66723)
Libman, Jeff: Strange Beauty (Cellar Live 040916)
Magnarelli, Joe/Perico Sambeat: Pórtico (Swing Alley 031)
Mateo, Natalia: De Profundis (ACT 9734)
Meidell, Stephan: Metrics (Hubro 2574)
Midón, Raul: Bad Ass And Blind (Artistry Music 7050)
Mostly Other People Do The Killing: Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup 161)
Nah, Youn Sun: She Moves On (ACT 9839)
Newman, Joe/The Happy Cats: Complete Sessions With Johnny Acea (Phono 870274)
O'Connell, Bill: Monk's Cha Cha (Savant 2161)
Peterson, Oscar/Billy Taylor/Shelly Manne: My Fair Lady In Jazz (Essential Jazz Classics 55710)
Rawls, Lou: Black And Blue (American Jazz Classics 99129)
Rawls, Lou/Les McCann: Stormy Monday (American Jazz Classics 99130)
Reed, Lucy: Complete Recordings 1950-1957 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 928)
Richmond, Mike: The Pendulum (SteepleChase 31826)
Ritz, Lyle: Plays Jazz Ukelele (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 810)
Sands, Christian: Reach (Mack Avenue 1117)
Sepúlveda, Charlie/The Turnaround: Mr. EP (HighNote 7302)
Shaw, Gene: Quintet & Sextet (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 926)
Shorter, Wayne: Native Dancer (Columbia/Legacy 88985407332)
Steele, Colin: Even In The Darkest Places (Gadgemo 002)
Stitt, Sonny: The Latin Sides (Phono 870275)
Terry, Dan: The Swinginest Dance Band (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 929)
Thile, Chris/Brad Mehldau: Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch 558771)
Towner, Ralph: My Foolish Heart (ECM 571 4582)
V.I.P. Trio: The Standards, Volume 2 (Fresh Sound FSR-CD 927)
Vaughn, Julian: Hey Lester! (Swing Alley 032)
Vu, Cuong/4tet: Ballet (RareNoise 079)
Waldron, Mal: Volume 2 (Cam Jazz BXS 1043)
Warren, Kenny: Thank You For Coming To Life (Whirlwind 4702)
Westerlies, The: The Westerlies (Songlines 1617)
Wright, Leo: Blues Shout (Atlantic SD 1358)
Zeniths, The: Makin' The Scene (Blue Moon 1636)
Zimmerli, Patrick: Shores Against Silence (Songlines 1619)

Excerpts from the 78 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):

COUNT BASIE: RIDES AGAIN (Essential Jazz Classics)
These tracks were done for Clef, where Norman Granz scorned hi-fi. Most of them appeared in the mid-50s on the LPs Basie Rides Again and The Swinging Count!. More interestingly these, the alternatives and other tracks appeared on the first three CDs of Mosaic’s Complete Clef/Verve Basie with wonderfully cleaned up sound by Malcolm Addey. That crisp sound or a similar one is maintained here. This was a wonderful band. The trumpet section is quite outstanding, with the benefit of Mr Shavers both in solo and really firing up the section on the first five tracks. But even when he’s gone, the section still burns it up. The music is totally inspired throughout and remains amongst Basie’s best second period recordings (it was the beginning of them). If you haven’t got these, you need them. (Steve Voce) *****

Theo Bleckmann’s style of vocalese isn’t entirely to my taste, but there’s no doubting his unique sensibility and elusively subtle artistry. This is one of his finest recordings. It’s the German-born, New York-based vocalist’s first album as leader on ECM. He’s collaborated for many years with guitarist Ben Monder; pianist Shai Maestro and bassist Chris Tordini complete a totally simpatico line-up. The pianist is a revelation – his playing suits his name. The album’s ethos is generally dark as well as slow-moving, as the titles suggest. Even when the title doesn’t suggest this, the music is still dark. Thus the only non-original, Sondheim’s Comedy Tonight, undergoes one of the most radical transformations in jazz, into a dirge-like fantasy. With Monder’s delay-freighted electric guitar, Bleckmann vocalises the theme of the title track, in a portentous ad-lib tempo. If Bleckmann’s work is this good, maybe it should be to my taste. Need to work on that. (Andy Hamilton) ****

The opening track’s orchestral nature partly belies what follows, which is a somewhat Mehldau and Metheneyesque contemporary jazz sound with a touch of Camilo-like drama. It is a suite of excellent compositions by the leader with an attachment to the themes and composing techniques of the great Russian classical composers of the early 20th century. Churnchetz’s compositions are beautifully played by the ensemble as a whole, and he’s an exquisite-sounding pianist whom I suspect would be quite something to hear live. The quality of the music here doesn’t wane at any point, in either performance or compositional terms, and I’d strongly recommend this album to anyone, but particularly to those intrigued by high-level fusions of jazz and western classical music. (Dave Jones) *****

This recently formed London-based quartet specialises in recreating the authentic sound of vintage jazz and small-group swing from the 20s and 30s. Employing the necessary musical skill and understanding of the idiom, the group effectively captures the supple rhythmic variations, collective dynamics and relaxed swing of the best classic recordings. Jelly Roll Morton is a dominant influence, both in the spirited and accomplished playing of Oregon-born pianist/leader Andrew Oliver, and in the arrangements. Ex-Barber clarinettist David Horniblow’s playing is nimble, incisive and assured, with hints of Fazola and Noone. Tom Wheatley and Dave Kelbie provide an attentive and supple platform for the animated interplay of clarinet and piano. Kelbie’s guitar could surely have been used to advantage here, but is confined entirely to quiet integrated backing and support. This is a fine album from a very promising group, and attractively packaged – as CD or vinyl. (Hugh Rainey) ****

For her sixth ECM set, pianist Julia Hülsmann returns to the trio with which she made her label debut in 2008. Theirs is an eclectic set, with a cover of Radiohead’s All I Need nestling next to Biz Joloktuk, a folk tune the trio first heard played by a 12-year-old violinist in Kyrgyzstan. More central to the jazz tradition is Thatpujai, its theme comprised of phrases from solos by the late German pianist Jutta Hipp, whose name this title is an anagram of. Elsewhere, Hülsmann’s own compositions deliver their own momentum admirably. Hülsmann has something of Jarrett’s effortless simplicity in her playing, notably on You & You, with an unforced delivery that delights in its melodic content. Muellbauer is adventurous in his lines and is the equally adventurous composer of The Poet, while drummer Köbberling is subtlety personified. For all its quiet, well-mannered delivery, this set punches well above its weight. (Simon Adams) ****

West Coast 70s super-group L.A. Express are best remembered for the funky LPs they made with saxophonist Tom Scott, or the string of discs they recorded with Joni Mitchell, but this double pack, pulling together their last two albums as a band, also packs a punch. Cruising through Crusaders-style soul, polished cop-show funk and marketable FM rock influences, the self-titled debut ultimately stresses their formidable finesse and virtuosity as first-call session players. Shadow Play plays the same but throws R&B, Headhunters-infected fusion and silky disco into the mix, all before Joni gets to sing over six minutes of rock-slapped samba during the standout Nordic Winds. (Mark Youll) ***

Given the classic instrumentation of Charlie Parker’s quintet, and trumpeter Joe Magnarelli’s adherence to the tenets of hard bop, the viability of continuing to espouse proven tradition is confirmed in this satisfying collaboration with alto saxophonist Perico Sambeat. Magnarelli is an elegant trumpeter with a bountiful supply of good ideas and Sambeat matches his inspiration. The entire set is a celebration and reaffirmation of the musical ideals that have captivated listeners since the 1950s. It’s stylish and reflects the years of application put in by all five players. No weird excursions into mere noise-making, no rock rhythms or descents into gimmickry, no overblown marathons, but rather honest, joyous, swinging jazz beautifully expressed. Swing Alley is a division of Fresh Sound, and executive producer Jordi Pujol merits praise for making this fine music available. (Mark Gardner) ****

Poor old Joe’s been out of fashion for years, but thankfully Fresh Sound (reviewed JJ 0217, p31) and now Phono have eased the drought. Both issues include the Happy Cats album and both, despite Phono’s claim that it is the first time on CD, Joe’s Blues. But Phono chose the double-CD format, which means that they can include all the magnificent tracks that were recorded for Vanguard. These include some of Joe’s best work on record on Blues For Slim, which, like Careless Love and Sidewalks Of New York on yet another of his Fresh Sound albums, contains a longer solo by the trumpeter. But Joe is by no means the only star. The pungent tenors of Foster and Wess cut through in these good recordings and it’s good to see Joe’s pal Johnny Acea getting deserved exposure. Johnny, an extraordinary musician, purveys a working mixture of Basie and Bud Powell and had played trumpet with Sam Price and tenor with Don Bagley. And then there’s Zoot. Joe and Zoot were each wailers in their own constituencies. Joe gets in declamatory and longer solos (try Wolfafunt). Both wail at high speed on Pie. The pair have well-written arrangements (everyone gets a go with the pen) and fine backing from Oscar Pettiford and Osie Johnson. (Steve Voce) ****

This album took me by surprise initially, as I’d been used to hearing Sands tearing it up in a trio context with Christian McBride (who features here with some arco bass on Use Me). Reach isn’t just about that. It showcases his compositional skill. Sands is that relative rarity in jazz these days, a complete jazz pianist. He appears to be able to do it all. He swings harder than any “new” pianist I’ve heard for decades, has a great keyboard touch which can range from the delicate to the rousing, can do contrapuntal lines with ease, is harmonically sophisticated, and sounds extremely comfortable across a wide variety of grooves. The opening Armando’s Song turns into a hard-swinging burnout followed by a later outburst from the excellent Marcus Baylor. Song Of The Rainbow People is tastefully funky, with ominous solo beginnings from Sands, building to a rousing climax, and Pointing West features the edgy Marcus Strickland on tenor, followed by a raging solo from Sands. Freefall brings a more reflective contrast and then emotive solo lines from Strickland. Jóyeme! demonstrates just what a precise player Sands is, with such a great sense of time. (Dave Jones) ****

The two LPs fitted onto this CD show Shaw to have been a unique trumpet stylist with his own sound and method of playing. Using short, melodic phrases and never cranking up the volume above a medium level, he had his own personal take on the hard-bop style of the day. The rhythm section on Breakthrough is relatively quiet but effective and supportive for all that. Debut In Blues is even better, almost all blues or blues-flavoured and he has just the right measure of support from Herb Wise and Jay Peters. There is more variety and more of a swagger on these later tracks. Shaw went missing for five years after a vitriolic bust up with Mingus in 1957 but when the bassist praised his trumpet work on the very late release of Tijuana Moods the trumpeter came back and recorded these discs. Soon afterwards he disappeared again. (Derek Ansell) *****

This is the Wayne Shorter album that divides listeners and critics alike, the Penguin Guide famously criticising its “bland samba setting which does more to highlight Milton Nascimento’s vague and uncommitted vocal delivery than the leader’s saxophone playing”. My view, however, is that this album is a triumph, an atmospheric invocation of Brazil that matches Nascimento’s ethereal voice with Shorter’s equally airy soprano. With excellent support from the likes of Herbie Hancock and Airto Moreira, this is Shorter’s most accessible, and most pleasurable, album by far. (Simon Adams) ****

Stitt was the archetypal, peripatetic jazz soloist equal to any and every recording assignment. No matter the context, Sonny blew through it with the minimum of rehearsal and no fuss or bother. For these two sets from late 1963 (Primitivo Soul here making its first appearance on CD) he was charged with easing into a Latin kick. Most of the tunes are Stitt’s own sketches with the blues never too far away. Sonny coasts along impeccably, sounding in total control and never flummoxed. Interestingly, he assays a brace of pieces performed more than a decade earlier by Charlie Parker in his South Of The Border album, putting his own mark on Estrellita and Bird’s My Little Suede Shoes. Some selections offer Stitt more of a challenge with the presence of trumpeter Thad Jones and pianist Chick Corea. Stitt’s fluency on both tenor and alto is remarkable, and he stands out as one of the few musicians to double consistently. This may not be prime Stitt, but it is very, very good and well worth a listen. (Mark Gardner) ****

There has always been an autobiographical aspect to Towner’s solo work, most evident here in his choice of title track. As he writes in the sleeve notes: “The seminal version of this song, played by Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, set me on a course to try to attain the magic of this trio in my own attempts to play [...] the classical guitar. I needed to know how it felt to inhabit such a referent musical space”. And inhabit it he does, in a most achingly beautiful way. But that could also be said for the other, self-composed, tracks, all of which are almost classical in their stately poise and precision while each develops in a naturally organic way. The two pieces on 12-string guitar have quite a distinct sound, ethereal and mysterious in their resonantly echoing strings. Other than the title track, Dolomiti Dance stands out for its frothy buoyancy while Blue As In Bley is a soulful invocation of a great musician. This is Towner’s first solo outing in a decade. He’s still on great form. (Simon Adams) ****

The Lester remembered here is Bowie, not Young, and there are elements throughout that the trumpeter would have appreciated. Vaughn’s a no-fuss drummer rooted in the blues and with star appearances to his credit, including with Kenny Garrett and James Moody. Also interesting is the substitution of the rhythm section’s bass by the cello, played pizzicato in a way that unsurprisingly gives the proceedings a lighter bounce. It works alongside Vaughn’s style, which flowers at the right moments, as with the tom-tom atmospherics on Coltrane’s Equinox. The album’s variety is subtle: Vaughn’s Three Strikes, written three to the bar but played in common time, is mirrored by Night And Day, normally four-to-the-bar but here waltzed. With four tracks to his name, Vaughn joins the current crop of drummer-composers in this muscular set based in swing and hard bop. (Nigel Jarrett) ***

Michael Gibbs has been a doyen of British jazz since his first eponymously titled album was released in 1970. All the tracks appearing on this album are early Gibbs compositions. Sweet Rain was recorded by Stan Getz on his 1967 album of that name. Such was its impact that Gibbs later dedicated the track to Getz. Wistfully teasing out the melodies, this set starts to take off during And On The Third Day, where both Bill Frisell’s guitar and Vu’s trumpet explode with unfettered dynamics. Unlike so many albums recorded nowadays - often drearily, almost wilfully, expanded to the 79-minute mark - this is, exceptionally, one album where the listener wishes fervently that it had continued for longer than the 40 minutes allotted. (Roger Farbey) ****


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