Monday, June 20, 2011

Trio Takes (Part 2)

First, the don'ts - Don't listen to "A Night at the Village Vanguard" (Pirouet), the new double CD from the Bill Carrothers Trio with the top down in your car.  Don't listen during a motorcycle rally, NASCAR race or when the high school band is practicing for the graduation ceremony.  Do listen when you have the time to savor the 2 sets recorded on July 18, 2009, taped during an extended stay at the historic New York City night spot. Do revel in the reinventions of material by Clifford Brown, Richie Powell, Henry Mancini and other fine composer created by pianist Carrothers, bassist Nicolas Thys and drummer DrĂ© Pallemaerts.  At the time of this appearance, the pianist (with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Bill Stewart) had already recorded "Joy Spring" (Pirouet), a CD dedicated to the music of the late trumpeter Brown, which was released to great critical acclaim in Spring of 2010.  Thys and Pallemaerts is Carrother's "European rhythm section" and they do an excellent job pushing the pianist as well as following his every whim.

Besides the excellent interpretations of the material from the Clifford Brown Quintet (including Duke Jordan's "Jordu"), there are several fine surprises.  Chief among them is the lovely take of Jimmy Dorsey's patriotic "This Is Worth Fighting For", a piece that an arrangement with echoes of Charles Ives.  The "First Set" closes with a sweet version of "Those Were the Days" (the melody stands out handsomely on this version as opposed to the one by Edith and Archie Bunker from "All in the Family.") During the "Second Set", Thys' long and melodic bass solo leads the listener into a New Orleans-soaked of the traditional gospel piece "Jordan Is a Hard Road To Travel." Carrothers goes it alone for a contemplative meditation on "Days of Wine and Roses" that ultimately picks up in pace as the pianist oes into his subconscious and allows himself to move far away from the original melody.

There are a number of Carrothers' original pieces scattered through the program, including "Peg" with its allusions to the music of Beethoven and the happy romp titled "Discombopulated."  The short yet wistful "Our House" closes the program with a sweet melody line, good counterpoint from Thys and  active percussion coloring from Pallemaerts.

In just under 140 minutes, the Bill Carrothers Trio creates a wonderful aural landscape for the listener willing to let go of the need to figure who he sounds like, who are the influences and the need for "speed."  There are several uptempo pieces but nothing resembling the need to just "show off one's chops."  Bill Carrothers lives in the wilds of northern Michigan, near the border of Wisconsin.  He has a fascinating website - - that is worth perusing plus his own record label, Bridge Boy Music, featuring music more of a personal nature.  Back to the "don'ts". Don't ignore this fine CD - get lost in its generosity of music, creativity and spirit.

The past year has been quite a musical ride for pianist/composer Orrin Evans, especially when it comes to his relationship to Posi-Tone Records.   Early in 2010, the Los Angeles-based label released the pianist's tribute to saxophonist Bobby Watson, "Faith in Action" followed in late October by "The End of Fear" from Tarbaby, the "trio collective" with Evans, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Nasheet Waits (plus some fine guests.)  2011 has already seen the release of the Captain Black Big Band, arguably one of the 5 best CDs of this year. 

Now, we have "Freedom", basically a trio date released under Evans' name, featuring bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Byron Landham with Anwar Marshall taking over the drum chair on 3 cuts (1 of which features Landham on persussion) and tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna on 2 tracks.  While not as dramatic and forceful as the Big Band recording, this CD contains a multitude of pleasures.  The project is dedicated to the memories of Trudy Pitts, Sid Simmons and Charles Fambrough, all who passed near the end of 2010 (Fambrough on New Years' Day 2011.)  The first track on the CD is Fambrough's "One for Honor", a delightful romp that gives the musicians plenty of space to let loose - and they do play with fire.  Burno is one of the more melodic contemporary bassists as well as being a strong foundation.  He supplies "Gray's Ferry" ( a neighborhood in South Philadelphia), a medium tempo blues featuring a bluesy solo from McKenna, a veteran of the "Philly" jazz scene who has worked with Clark Terry, Tony Bennett and many others in his long career.

Other highlights include "Shades of Green" from the pen of the late Philadelphia-based pianist, Eddie Green (he passed in 2004) and the classy, poly-rhythmic, "Hodge Podge", composed by Chris Beck, a drummer from Philly and featuring Marshall in the drum chair.  Marshall and Landham lead the way into "Oasis", an atmospheric work from Shirley Scott. The only tune without an overt Philadelphia connection is Herbie Hancock's "Just Enough" that Evans plays sans accompaniment to close the CD. Filled with rich, resonant, chords, the pianist creates a fine musical tour-de-force as he works through the melody line into his excellent solo.

In the shadow of the Big Band recording, "Freedom" may seem a bit low-key but pay attention.  Like much of what Orrin Evans has been giving to the world lately, this CD pays tribute to his city, his influences and his contemporaries.  It's mature music yet never loses its spirit and the joy of playing. It's yet another "winner' in a streak that stretches back to Evans' fine sextet of recordings for Criss Cross.  For more information, go to

I feel compelled to remind you that Jason Crane is still conducting "100 by 300" campaign in hopes to continue the fine work he has done on "The Jazz Session."  With 15 shows to go (by the end of this week), he's got less than 50% of the people he needs to fund his on-going project to talk with and promote the creations of many of the best creative musicians in the world. And, Jason will stop if he does not reach his goal and that, dear reader, is a shame.  Go to, give a listen and, if you don't think it's worth your while to know the "how & why" behind the music, that's fine.  But, if you enjoy how Crane gets to the heart of the creative process, you might want to become a sponsor.  Yes, I know there's lots of interviews shows you might be able to download for free but few as honest and human as "The Jazz Session." 

Finally, I spend a lot of time listening to new releases but always find it important to check older works when reviewing.  Last week, I wrote about "Shut Up and Dance", the CD of original compositions John Hollenbeck  composed for the Orchestre National de Jazz.  I found myself listening to works by Hollenbeck including his "Eternal Interlude" for his Large Ensemble, released in 2010 by Sunnyside. Thanks to the label, you can listen to the CD in its entirety by clicking below. And, you should listen - it's really fine music.

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