Saturday, August 14, 2010

Boston Based 'Bones

Big City Circus - Joel Yennior Trio (Brass Wheel Music) - For his first CD as a leader, trombonist Yennior, who's been a mainstay in The Either/ Orchestra since the late 1990s, decided to step out front with a fascinating sonic line-up.  Guitarist Eric Hofbauer (leader of the InfraRed Band and co-owner of the Creative Nation Music label) and drummer Gary Fieldman (principal percussionist with the Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra and leader of his own quartet) are Yennior's co-conspirators and the results go in myriad directions. The opening track,  "Dancing Dave",  has a boppish feel, with light guitar chords and "swinging" drums. Moving on to "A House in Not a Home", one hears the trombonist caress the sweet Burt Bacharach melody while the guitarist offers bluesy chords and Fieldman swirls around the drum kit with deft brush work.  One of Thelonious Monk's lesser-known works, "Gallop's Gallop", gives the trio another opportunity to "swing" and play off each other.
It's not all "fun-and-games" - a stint on jury duty for a murder case led Yennior to create "Justice Lost: A Suite in Three Parts."  Moved by the responsibility to find justice for the victim's family, the trombonist creates a work based in the blues and filled with fire, anger and emotion. Part 1, "Blood on the Street" has a harrowing feel, a flexible and shifting percussion beneath the declarative trombone and rumbling guitar.  There's growling gutbucket trombone on part 2, "Blues For Justice Lost", built off a 6-note guitar riff. A martial beat underpins the melody on Part 3,  the track that bears the name of the CD. The melody and execution may remind some of Kurt Weill's style, especially on his writing for "The Three-Penny Orchestra."  
The CD ends on a joyous note, with a sweet romp through "Estrellita", a  tune from the early 20th Century by Mexican composer Manuel Ponce.  Fieldman's snappy brush works well beneath the bouncy melody line, Hofbauer's catchy solo and as a spotlight for the drummer.
Joel Yennior has produced a fine debut CD, with an intelligent blend of serious and swinging music.  The music is not very loud nor does it feel empty - the interplay of the 3 musicians and the fine melodies holds one attention throughout.  For more information, go to  

Live!! at the Berklee Performance Center - Phil Wilson & Makoto Ozone (Capri Records) - This fun CD is a reissue of a 1983 Lp recorded in November of 1982 in Boston, Massachusetts.  Veteran trombonist and educator Wilson got together with then 21-year old piano phenom Ozone and just let it fly from the opening note.  The pianist's stylings range from Art Tatum to Bill Evans with a bit of Oscar Peterson thrown in and is the perfect complement to the highly swinging trombonist.  Even today, most people would hear "Stella By Starlight" and "Here's That Rainy Day" as straight ballads but, here, both men kick it up several notches. In the middle of "Stella...", Ozone's left hand falls into a heavy stride groove and Wilson follows suit. It takes them a few minutes to push the tempo on "...Rainy Day" and this time it's Wilson who prompts the pianist. "Gravy Waltz", from the team of Steve Allen and Ray Brown, hearkens back to "Fats" Waller with Ozone displaying that flashy left hand and some impressive 2-hand work. Wilson contributes the ballad "These Are The Days" and the duo give the fine melody a loving treatment.  "Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me" is a tune from 1919 - one can tell its pedigree from rolling piano lines and the spunky, hummable, melody. Both men take fine solos. Wilson goes unaccompanied and his blowsy, strutting, phrases set the pace for Ozone's frolic.  They have as much fun on the final track, "Giant Steps", playing the tune very fast, with a 2-way conversation in the middle that is as playful as it is musical.
If you missed this recording first time around, Capri Records gives you the opportunity to atone.  Even though the concert took place almost 3 decades ago, the duo's interactions and sense of experimentation sounds quite modern. That's the spirit of jazz. For more information, go to

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