Saturday, May 31, 2008
Rave Tesar-You Decide
How many piano trio disc are issued during any given year? Who knows. Just like the abundance of unqualified singers who get plenty of face time piano trios are a dime a dozen with nothing distinguishing them other than piano, bass and drums.
I've pointed out in past writings that with any session its not the musicians but the music - how is it arranged? How are the compositions complimented by the arrangements of the musicians?
The latest pianist to throw his hat in the Ring is a guy by the name of Rave. Rave Tesar. Having never heard of the guy I was mildly interested in what he could do pianisticly. His new trio disc, "You Decide" (Tesar Music,LLC) begs the question.
According to his web page Rave, "established himself in the New York jazz scene. He became noted for both his adept keyboard technique and the spirited musicality of his improvisations. Over the years he was a member of several successful groups. Most recently he has invested much composition and performance time in the group, Avenues, which he founded with bassist, Mark Bernstein, over a decade ago. For Rave, jazz is fundamental. It is the soul of his artistry."
That's interesting. Never heard of the group 'Avenues' either. No big deal though. Maybe I'm just not in the loop! Also curious is the statement that, jazz "is the soul of his artistry". Obviously, meaning that jazz is just not the only component of his musical identity. And that's cool too.
With accompanists in bassist Kermit Discoll and drummer Bill Tesar (perhaps a relation?), we are entreated to a mild and ambiguous play list of originals much sounding akin to Elaine Elias (whom I love!) and a light hearted Chick Corea. Yet they don't seem to break a sweat in this overall mediocre session. Rave has given us the question of whether to decide or not. Right now its a hung jury.
Jimmy McGriff Dies
We are saddened at the passing of the great organist Jimmy McGriff. It was this past January when I spoke with fellow organ giantess Trudy Pitts that we learned that McGriff's health had taken a turn for the worse. He'd been interned in a nursing home for some five years it was said.
I met "Griff" in the mid 80s on one of his yearly Chicago visits. Always congenial and with a ready smile Griff would mail out each Christmas a seasonal card. As he did with many of his friends. He will be missed as one of the organ's imminent innovators.
Thanks for the music, Griff!!!
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Houston Person w. Ron Carter- Just Between Friends
When two masters of their art meet it is always a cause for reveled acclimation. 'Just Between Friends (High Note)' is just one of those occasions where friends are more than just friends, but mutual minds that meet and greet each other, their worlds combine. They sit and pow-wow! They sip from a shared sacred chalice of smooth vermouth.
Carter and Person met, on record back in 1989, "for the first of four duo" recordings and the rest they say, 'is history'. Within this very intimate setting both men are quite relaxed and ready. They converse over a slate of tunes such as the wonderful treatment of 'How Deep is The Ocean' to a wild card in 'Blueberry Hill', tenderly touching is 'Always' and the unforgettable version of 'Alone Together' is a standout.
And while this recording may hide neath the radar for many of the average listener be fore warned, 'this is a valued recording not to miss'.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
CD Review/Mr. B & Bob Seeley- Back To Back
Boogie Woogie piano, called it barrelhouse, slide piano. Call it whatcha wanna is one of the dying art forms of African American music. All the great Willie 'The Lion' Smith, Little Brother Montgomery, Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, Pete Johnson and many, many others all purveyors of the form set the path.
In 1982 I had a chance to meet the legendary Little Brother Montgomery. We struck up a nice friendship under his death in 1985. I'd go out to the blues clubs to hear him play. Even visited him in his Hyde park apartment on occasion. He was always very gracious and would impart bit of his wide knowledge - about life. I will forever be indebted to him. And while I didn't get to know another great pianist in Blind John Davis I did see him play many time and attended his funeral. He and Little brother died the same year. What a one two punch!
At the same time I did get to know and hear one of their students in Erwin Helfer. what a pianist he is. And in that tradition comes Mr. B and Bob Seeley. Their co-lab, "Back to Back" (Megawave), is a delight from beginning to end. Well schooled are these two so we get an ample treat in the tried and true classics, 'St.Louis Blues', C.C. Rider, 'After Hours' plus more and more. I won't get into their individual style, blah blah blah. This just stomp down blues and boogie with a vengeance. Thanks guys.
Up for note are a trio of new releases from some female singers. Admittedly, I'm hard on singers. basically cause the standard is so high and the valley so wide. A friend who owns a record shop in Chicago once told me that his store is the last stop for obscure singers of all stripe. He's got a glut of them. What kind of exposure do they receive and how? That's the question he asks. There is on the air waves of WHPK-FM radio a show featuring singers. So we know there is a place, a vaunted place for jazz singers. But in these days with so many to choose from some of them just might get glossed over.
About a decade ago I can remember listening to several new discs of some new faces one of which was particularly woeful. The girl just didn't have it. She was trying lord knows. But she needed more seasoning. Silly me, I wrote that she sounded no more than just a "bathroom warbler". This singer was from California mind you. As fate would have it one night I'm sitting at the bar at the New Apartment lounge, home of Von Freeman's legendary Tuesday night jam session talking with a friend about the disc I'd previously had heard. I was telling him about the glut of singers who weren't ready but trudged on out there anyway. Little did I know that seated right next to me was the same singer I had trashed in the review!
She over heard our conversation and introduced herself to me. My jaw dropped! Flabbergasted.
She went on to tell me that she ha in fact read my review and asked what was it I didn't like about it. I went on to say, rather awkwardly I might add and rather nervously that I thought she could use some more tenure, more experience. After all this was her first time out.
She took it well. And then went on to tell me that she was improving and would go to even greater heights that I would expect.
Only time would tell. And needles to say, she didn't. Only releasing a meager handful of recordings. Sadly, she would a decade later succumb to lung and breast cancer.
Our singers here are Robert Duchak, Karen Johns and Leanne Weatherly. All of whom we've heretofore have no knowledge. Duchak's 'Intersections (robertaduchak.net)' and Watherly 'Go and Find.. (leanneweatherly.com) are self produced efforts and Johns' 'Star and Season' is on the Ptarmigan Music label.
Ms. Duchak has a lithe coquettish tilt to her voice. Her sidemen are top notch with pianist Pat Coil being the only recognizable name. The date features a stable of standards.
Ms. Johns does the 'over dubbing' thing giving her a New York Voice kinda bent, especially on the discs' opener 'Carry Me Away'. Her 'Night and Day' wavers in between Mellisa Manchester and Maria Mulduar. With a great band behind her it readily apparent she's not really a jazz singer. But might find an audience in pop. And I can see her putting in time at a piano bar in some hotel somewhere. The bridge between Ms. Duchak and Ms. John is reedist Jim Hoke, who guest on both discs.
Ms. Weatherly on the other hand has more top side than the above ladies. She too has top flight accompanists. With Wayne Wallace and Melecio Magdaluyo. And speaking of Maria Mulduar earlier Ms. Weatherly does a nice version of 'Midnight at the Oasis'. Most of the material is geared toward FM urban soft jazz. But its good stuff with solid arrangements. Her voice is natural and unforced and she writes five of the discs 12 tunes.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
What a fun group this is! Merriment abounds.
Sabertooth is a died-in-the-wool Chicago institution. Having been rooted in the hallowed halls of the Green Mill for over a decade
Sabertooth is comprised of joint saxists Pat Mallinger and Cameron Pfiffner; along with a wailing rhythm team of organist Pete Benson
and swing meister drummer Ted Sirota.
From the opening bell to the ending refrain the guys exude that refreshing buoyancy, washing every soul within earshot. Their repertoire is huge, whipping out a mixed bag of traditional ditties like, 'Mary Jane' where Mallinger Coltranes his way around to standard covers, "it's Surely Gonna Flop if it Ain't Got that Bop' based on the changes of Duke's 'It Don't Mean a Thing If it Ain't Got that Swing'. Beginning
with soul drenched 'Blues for C Piff' get things rip roaring. But the absolute 'killer' is their rendition of Cahn & Hefti's 'Odd Couple'. It a classic. Whenever in Chicago on a Saturday nite be sure to go by the Green Mill and catch these men in action. You won't be disappointed. Sabertooth is not your A-typical jazz organ combo and it is a danm mystery for all envolved that this is their first recording. And won't be their last!
That's the unassuming calm that permeates this new recording by bassist Jason Ajemian. 'The Art of Dying (Delmark)' features Ajemian's group 'Smokeless Heat', a trio of Tim Haldeman, tenor sax and drummer Noritaka Tanaka (how cool is that name, especially for a drummer?!). And it is augmented by some more good buddies in Jaime Branch, trumpet; guitarist Matt Schneider and vibist Jason Adasiewicz (who incidentally is making quite a name for himself as well).
The disc begins with the somber 'With or Without the Universalator', where Branch's poignant but sour puss tone inflects a solid depth of feeling. The hippest thing about her playing is that she's not afraid of making mistakes or fracturing a note here and there. And that doesn't mean she plays 'wrong' notes. For it has been said by many that there are no "wrong" notes. She's the quite opposite of Haldeman who can be a whirlwind. He's no slouch and serves up a Dewey Redmanish workmanship through out. His waves of melodic candor make one wipe his brow-whew!
As a composer Ajemian pokes little vignettes of the title for us to nibble on. He does it thus....The...is 0:13; Art...is 0:17; Of is...0:13 and Dying is..0:22. He rounds out the entire title in one tune entitled '2,4,7,9' all titles that are numbered as 'The Art of Dying'. Clever eh? The title piece has an Ornette Coleman feel. His 'Peace' in particular. And the CD ends out with a 'live' session piece recorded on WMSE in Milwaukee, Wisc. It is here that the trio gets into the brass tacks of what they really can do once in full throttle. They carefully listen to one another. God! They've recalled the days of Henry Threadgill's AIR! This is thoughtful engaging music and Ajemian is a well rounded young master in the making.
Allen has for the past decade or so been making a distinguishable name for himself. This writer became aware of Allen's musical universe through the recordings of drum master Winard Harper. Then came his debut disc "In Search Of..." on the Italian Red Records label. He also held down the sax chair on several Cindy Blackman's dates, acquitting himself valuably. The came Russell Gunn's 'Blue On The DL' and pianist Orrin Evans, 'The Band- Live at Widener University.' In the meantime he released, 'Pharoah's Children' his second date. This newest, 'I AM I AM' (Sunnyside), comes not a moment too soon. In fact I'd be willing to ask, 'where has JD Allen been all this time'?
In the trenches no doubt.
Allen is certainly equal to anyone of his generation. If not more than talented. For IAM IAM the saxist is joined by the protean bassist Gregg August, whose gut busting big chords strum and thunder. As for drummer Rudy Royston, he tips and trills, shuffling rhythms like a joyful kid on the street thumping a plastic paint pale. He floats and fills.
The over lay of each of the discs 10 tunes is actually an undercurrent of unmitigated melodic force. While his first disc, "In Search Of..."paid symbolic homage to Wayne Shorter in weight and measure, on IAM IAM Allen drinks from the fountain of Coltrane. And why not?!! We are not wont of thirst any more.
Each cut, such as 'The North Star' to 'Id' to 'Othello' imprint Allen's stark soulfulness. He is 'cutting up' as they say in the hood. And its high time we are entreated to more of his flair for urban interpretation of what's happening NOW! JD Allen is a baddd mother......! Now run and tell that!!!
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
"What is This Thing Called Jazz, Adventures in Modern Music", continues with its time tested series of interviews and music. Coming Sunday, May 25th Tenor saxophone star JD. Allen talks about his new disc, 'I AM, I AM' (Sunnyside); Jazz Chicago web site owner Brad Walseth, and ending out the program will be legendary instrumentalist/composer great Brother Yusef Lateef. All with your host Lofton A. Emenari, III. Broadcasting 10 AM til Noon Central on WHPK-FM, 88.5 University of Chicago. We are streaming http://www.whpk.org/stream
Monday, May 5, 2008
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