Jazz

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Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Revisiting favourite old songs, the late great composer’s singer daughter has the luxury of Phil Ramone as producer, as well as some special guest stars. Stevie Wonder does a fabulous harmonica obbligato on ‘Blame It On The Sun’, while Brian Wilson and Take 6 vocalize amazingly behind her on ‘God Only Knows’. One of the best realisations, if not a jazzy one, is the opener ‘These Days’, with the unmistakeable liquid voice and soft guitar of composer Jackson Browne. This isn’t to be confused with the title track, the Billy Joel song, more wistful than ironic in Mancini’s hands.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Tia Fuller has toured and played to huge audiences as a sax soloist in Beyoncé’s all-female band, but she’s her own boss here for her second Mack Avenue album. This time she’s joined by sister Shamie Royston on piano, but as on 2007’s Healing Space it’s Miriam Sullivan on bass and Beyoncé bandmate Kim Thompson on drums, with Sean Jones guesting on trumpet. The only non-original is her Cannonball-influenced ‘Can’t Get Started’, a ballad feature also for her other guests, vibraphonist Warren Wolf and bassist Christian McBride, who injects incomparable swing into two other numbers. A feast, here, of great and often joyous playing.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
For his third ECM project as leader, the celebrated drummer put together a new group, but it’s a group of old friends. Bassist Pino Palladino is a collaborator of many years, while pianist Jason Rebello played with Katché in Sting’s band. Norwegian saxophonist Tore Brunberg, often sounding like a soft-focus Garbarek, is a long-term ECM labelmate. Guests are guitarist Jacob Young and trumpeter Kami Lyle, who adds lyrics to ‘Stay With You’ with her impossibly warbly yet captivating vocal.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Even given the prodigious talents and open-minded approach of the Hessischer Rundfunk orchestra, you’d think it would be impossible to arrange whole tracks from Miles Davis’ 1970s/80s electric music for big band. But that’s really not what heavy-metal guru turned film composer Colin Towns set out to do. Instead, he pulled out suitable themes and fragments and developed them for the band to work with, though you do hear more complete interpretations of ‘In A Silent Way’ and ‘Tutu’. And, against the expected backdrops of heavy rock beat, funky bass and period wah-wah guitar, he really gives the stellar HR soloists something to run with.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Few would claim that Duke’s 1960s Reprise albums contained his finest work, but four of them add up to lot of music. His great soloists wallow in the catchy melodies of Mary Poppins while Ellington ’65 and ’66 cover the hits of the day, sounding fresher now than the new takes of other leaders’ swing classics that make up Will The Big Bands Ever Come Back?. The fifth disc has Ellington’s tunes but not his whole band, on a 1963 small-group album for Atlantic with violinists Stephane Grappelly, Ray Nance and Svend Asmussen. Travelling the world and recording his own music on RCA, Ellington did so much in the 1960s that these recordings seem little more than a sidelight on his genius, but they’re still wonderful.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
A Francophile who loves to sing in French, Stacey Kent had a big following across La Manche even before Breakfast On The Morning Tram helped her popularity explode in 2007. So why shouldn’t she do a whole French album? She chose songs associated with the greats of French pop from Moustaki and Misraki to Biolay and Barbara, most just as catchy as ‘La Venus Du Melo’, now also issued as a single. As before, pianist Graham Harvey on piano and guitarist John Parricelli join Kent’s sax-playing husband Jim Tomlinson to play his uncluttered, mood-enhancing arrangements. Hearing Parricelli and Tomlinson on ‘C’est Le Printemps’, they might as well be Byrd and Getz.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Clearly 2006 was a good year for the great accordionist. He’d just formed his brilliant Tangaria Quartet, and with mandolin player Hamilton De Holanda guesting, they wowed the audience at the Marciac jazz festival in August. September found the group in Sao Paulo and, again with stunning contributions from De Holanda, they recorded Luz Negra. It’s actually the contents of that album that you get here, plus ‘Tango Pour Claude’ and ‘New York Tango’, which opened and closed the Live In Marciac 2006 album.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
After all these decades, the classic quintet lineup endures. Graduating from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama as a classical pianist in 2002, Stapleton based his own group on two luminaries of the same college, bassist Paula Gardiner and drummer Elliott Bennett, adding trumpeter Jonny Bruce, a 2006 graduate. Saxophonist is Ben Waghorn, who’s been heard with Kasabian and Goldfrapp as well as in his own quartet. Stapleton often seems to be taking a back seat, but what holds this complex, disciplined music together is his ability as a composer, creating extended pieces that can move from bombast to lyricism with real structure and purpose.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 10, 2010
Pianist and bassist hadn’t worked together since the end of Jarrett’s American Quartet in 1976, but after meeting in 2007 during the making of a film about Haden, they spent four days recording in Jarrett’s home studio. ‘It has a very dry sound and we didn’t want to have the recording sound like anything but what we were hearing while we played. So it is direct and straightforward,’ writes Jarrett. A far cry from the glossy, groomed perfection of so many ECM issues, it is intimate, immediate and communicative.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Between 1961 and 1971, Britain’s best-loved poet became Britain’s most hated jazz critic, at least by other critics. In his Telegraph reviews, Philip Larkin was to Coltrane, Ornette and Miles what Brian Sewell is to Hirst, Emin and Serota. Filling the first two discs here is a treasury of Armstrong, Bechet, Condon and so on, the 78s Larkin loved, if not necessarily the artists’ best works. The third and fourth CDs collate items he reviewed and actually liked, mainly reissues.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Probably Europe’s most sought-after bassist, Jasper Høiby has an authority and impact that grabs your attention and holds it. Here his trio Phronesis are heard live at The Forge in London, but with a different drummer: regular Anton Eger couldn’t make the dates, so Høiby drafted in American Mark Guiliana, with spectacular results. From the start, in the opening ‘Blue Inspiration’, Guiliana and the very fine pianist Ivo Neame push each other to greater heights around the sonorous pivot of a simple repeated bass figure. Then, typically, Høiby opens out and the piece blossoms into new shapes.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Never content to stand still, Clarke offers another new concept and striking new sonics. His is still the dominant voice, especially leading with his Alembic tenor bass, yet there’s an emphasis on group contributions, the tunes direct and even lyrical. Behind him is regular keyboardist Ruslan Sirota, but the main guest is Hiromi, whose pianism soars effortlessly over the electric soundbed on ‘No Mystery’ and three other tracks. You also hear singer Cheryl Bentine, guitarists Charles Altura and Rob Bacon, and saxist Bob Sheppard.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Growing up in Oklahoma, Cassity got her first alto saxophone for Christmas at age nine. She moved to New York in 1999 and completed her masters’ at Juilliard in 2007. Her 2008 debut Just For You, on DW Records, was standards-based, but this time she brings her great energy and technique to originals which enliven their straightahead genre with dextrous metrical trickery. Guest horns swell the ranks on some tracks, but the core quintet includes long-time musical partner Michael Dease, a virtuoso trombonist still imbued with the melody and whimsy of an earlier era.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Virtuoso trumpeter, bandleader and composer Don Ellis produced wild, noisy and innovative big band sounds and wrote the music for The French Connection. He recorded his seminal Electric Bath for Columbia, but in 1973 turned to the high-quality German jazz label MPS to release Soaring, following up with Haiku. Inspired by a set of ten Haiku poems, the music has a film-score lushness, with a string orchestra added to a core jazz group which included pianist Milcho Leviev and bassist Ray Brown. Lovingly remastered (using 24-bit/88.
Steve Harris  |  Dec 08, 2010
Still possibly best known for his work with the late Max Roach, here the muscular tenor player has assembled his own absolutely stellar octet. While Wynton Marsalis alumnus Walter Blanding brings in a wily, fluid tenor, James Carter adds a stirring and gutsy baritone sax, and the ebullient trumpets are David Weiss and Terell Stafford. Behind pianist George Burton and bassist Lee Smith is the drive of Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts. This line-up produces some wonderfully buoyant ensemble playing, not least on a stomping, pedal-point opener that sounds a bit like the start of Janáček’s Sinfonietta.

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