Sunday, November 7, 2010

John Burnett Orchestra - Down For Dou...

John Burnett Orchestra - Down For Double-Delmark


     Most astute radio listeners of jazz know the distinguish on air voice of John Burnett. His daily show heard throughout the Midwest features ample doses of all manner of jazz from the earliest of eras to the present. And then there is the big band leader, John Burnett. And what a big and leader he is!
    Down for Double, his tribute to the "best bandleaders of swing" is a great primer for those wanting to hear the band sounds of yesteryear. The sounds that put big band music front and center of American music listening.
    The Disc's first 9 numbers from Glenn Miller, Ellington, Basie and Buddy Rich all swing like a big band should. All were recorded 'live' over a 5 year period at the Drury Lane and Fitzgerald's. High octane doses of In The Mood, In a Mellow Tone, One O'clock Jump, West Side Story, Sing, Sing, Sing, Out of Nowhere, and others are given a fresh redress. This is a big band that has to been seen 'live' to really feel its dancing pull. They are having a great swinging time!

Bill O'Connell

Bill O'Connell -Rhapsody in Blue-Challenge
    The wonderous thing about pianist Bill O'Connell is that dispite his latin baptismal he is an all purpose mainstream jazz cat. This latest offering proves the point. O'Connell sets the record straight with some straigh ahead grooves from start to finish. From the boisterous opener Monk's Cha-Cha to the bare knuckled 'Pocket Change', these tunes set the stage for an exciting disc through and trhough.
    O'Connell has enlisted a bunch of his running buddies in Dave Samuels; Richie Flores; Conrad Herwig, who only guests on the cut J-Man; Steve Berrios; a new name to these ears in bassist Luques Curtis sharing bass duties along with David Finck (who name was mysteriously omitted from the back CD cover); and the firey Steve Slagle, saxes. It is Slagle who gives a poingnant soprano offering on the lovely ballad, 'It Never Entered My Mind'. Don't think I've heard one done on soprano before. The cut J-Man is perhaps the disc's hippest groove swinger. This is a tight discs from beginning to end. This has got to be Bill O'Connell's working band. If no it outta be.
O'Connell, piano; Luques Curtis & Dave Finck, bass; Steve Berrios,perc; Steve Slagle, saxes; Richie Flores, perc; Dave Samuels,vibes, Conrad Herwig,tb.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Miles Davis/Gil Evans

Miles Davis/Gil Evans -Sketches of Spain- by Lew Soloff/Steve Richman & the Harmonie Ensemble
    The illustrious George Avakian posed the question, "why record a new version of a landmark LP album?"
    Kudos to Mr. Avakian but the retort is a resounding, Why Not?
    Indeed Sketches of Spain is a masterwork that blurred categories of both jazz and European classical music. And to this date no one has dared ventured its pithy harmonies and sanguine peaks and valleys. Just as many works of the European classical masters are redone, replayed and re-hashed yearly why not the masterpiece Sketches of Spain be accorded the same long overdue honor.
    One can think of a litany of trumpeters who might have filled the Miles delegate bill. Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Jon Faddis....Yet it is Lou Soloff, hands down one of the finest trumpeters living today. Soloff is in fine form doing an admirable job over and above board, transforming the solo improvs as his own. Soloff does not in any way ape the Miles Davis sound vacuum, while a well meaning acolyte might have done so. Which is no slight to Davis. In fact, one could imagine a wild card such as Wadada Leo Smith performing an even pithier enactment. Couldn't one? 
    After the initial listening one is left panting for more. In fact, if Master Evans were alive today who knows if he would not have re-investigated even newer music out of which Sketches sprang forth? This is music that begs for more. A hallmark recording.