Friday, March 30, 2012

Noah B Solo at The Library + CD Pick (Looking at Toots T.)

Sunday is a busy day in Hartford for jazz fans (actually, it's a pretty busy weekend.)  From 12noon - 4 p.m., trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis brings his Quintet (including Hartford native Dezron Douglas on bass) to town for the "Jazz Brunch at the Hartford Club", an event whose profits support the Gifts of Music program and other local charities. For ticket information, call Hap Leabman at 860-409-6883.

That evening, drummer/percussionist/former West Hartford resident Richie Barshay (Herbie Hancock, The Klezmatics) brings a group to the Emanuel Synagogue, 160 Mohegan Drive in West Hartford.  Barshay will present an evening of "Brazilian Bluegrass" (sounds very interesting) with Clay Ross (guitar, vocals) and Rob Curto (accordion).  For more information, go to or call 860-236-1275.

 Sunday afternoon, pianist Noah Baerman (a Middletown resident) performs a "Solo Concert" at 3 p.m. as part of the Hartford Public Library's very successful "Baby Grand" series.  The Library, located at 500 Main Street in the Capitol City, presents these weekly concerts in the winter and spring in its lovely atrium;  the concerts are free and open to the public.

As for Mr. B, the concert can be viewed as a "CD Release" event for his latest recording, "Turtle Steps" (Lemel Productions).  It's a fine and varied program of solo works, ranging from originals to gospel pieces to standards to an elongated version of Chopin's "Minute Waltz."  Recorded in the studios of the Hartt School of Music in June of 2011, the music is joyous, playful, inventive and...well, jazzy.  Baerman, as a student at Rutger's University, studied with pianists Kenny Barron and JoAnne Brackeen (both of whom have tunes on the CD dedicated to them) and one can hear their influence in his writing and the manner in which he solos.  Yet, Baerman is much more his own person than a parrot of his mentors.  To find out more about Noah, go to - to get directions to the Hartford Public Library, call 860-695-6293.  

Chances are good, if you are under 50 and a music fan, you've been touched by the music of Jean-Baptiste "Toots" Thielemans at some time in your listening life.  That's him at the beginning of "Sesame Street", playing solos on Lps by Billy Joel and Paul Simon, and jazz with Quincy Jones and Jaco Pastorious.  Nowadays, he confines his playing to the chromatic harmonica but, in his prime, his guitar playing and whistling was pretty impressive.  

"Yesterday & Today" (T2 - Out of the Blue) is a fascinating 2-CD compilation of tracks ranging from 1946 - 2001.  Thielemans, who turns 90 (!) on April 29 of this year, shows his versatility on a amazing range of styles.  The early tracks (on guitar) illustrate a player who's absorbed the playing of both Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian and you can hear the inimitable harmonica sound as far back as 1950's "Nalen Boogie", recorded in Stockholm, Sweden. On one of his first trips to the US (1952), he recorded with organist Dick Hyman and banjo player Harry Reser on an original track called "Dynamite." There are pair of tracks from his collaboration with the George Shearing Quintet, including a sultry "Caravan" featuring Toots on harmonica and Candido on bongos.  12 years later (1965), he showed more Latin chops on "Soul Bird (Tin Tin Deo)", arranged by Gary McFarland and featuring the likes of Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Grady Tate and Mel Lewis (on percussion).  The previous year, Thielemans recorded "Lullaby of Jazzland" with a group that featured J.J. Johnson (trombone) and the rhythm section of McCoy Tyner (piano), Richard Davis (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums).  2 tracks from 1968, "O Susannah" and "Please Send Me Someone to Love", feature guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, bassist Ron Carter and pianist Herbie Hancock with Toots on guitar.

CD 2 opens with 2 tracks from a 1973 Quincy Jones production including the ultra-funky "Chump Change", composed by Jones and Bill Cosby, with Toots whistling the theme and improvisation as well as some "moaning" harmonica. There are a pair of fine solo tracks, Ellington's "Black Beauty" and an original "The Slickest Man In Town" (a touch of Robert Johnson can be heard in both the vocal and guitar work on the latter.) There are 3 duo tracks, a bluesy "Bye Bye Blackbird" (with pianist Louis van Dijk), the ruminative "Spartacus - Love Theme" (with bassist Marc Johnson) and the lovely "What a Wonderful World" (with Kenny Werner on piano and synthesizer).  The most beguiling track is his collaboration with the Shirley Horn Trio on "Someone to Watch Over Me."  The way he intertwines his chromatic harmonica with Ms. Horn's breathy vocal is magical.  

There's many more highlights on this program, compiled by friend and producer Cees Schrama. His wonderful harmonica work, sprightly guitar, fancy whistling, and intuitive work as both soloist and accompanist make this a fine overview of a musician who continues to please audiences around the world - he's celebrating his 90th birthday with a 8-city concert tour of Belgium in late April and early May.  For more information about the CD, go to - to learn more about this fine person, go to

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Now For Something Completely Different...No, Really

When I am not listening to music for fun or review purposes (it's usually fun), there is usually a book or 2 by my bedside.  Walking through our local public library the other week, I came across "Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis."  Published in September of 2011 by Beacon Press, it's the culmination of several years of study, many thousands of miles of travel and immeasurable hours of rumination on water usage, the wasting of this precious resource and what communities and countries are doing to make sure  that we and future generations will be have enough water to live.

Not surprisingly, the author Cynthia Barnett is a veteran journalist and historian (with a specialization in environmental history.)  A resident of Florida, her previous book, 2007's "Mirage", used the ongoing water issues in that state as a springboard to discuss developers, city planners and others moved communities away from water (damming rivers, cutting off access to rivers and lakes, siphoning water from rivers and watersheds to supply new communities).  The new book goes even farther (for instance, Australia and Singapore) and finds that, though problems are many, solutions are in place and in development.

Ms. Barnett writes well, passionately (without bitter polemics) and does not take political sides.  She realizes, as do many people around the world, we are all in this together and must work together to right the decades of wrongs.  And, she's optimistic that people will make sacrifices for the general good.

I had the opportunity to interview Cynthia Barnett as a segment of Suzanne Thompson's "CT Outdoors", heard weekly from 12:30 - 1 p.m. on WLIS-AM and WMRD-AM (in Old Saybrook and Middletown, CT).  You can listen to the 2-part interview by clicking on the links below.  To find out more about Ms. Barnett and her books, go to

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Late Notice About Live Music

The Uncertainty Music Series continues thisWednesday evening (3/28) at 9 p.m. at the Elm Bar, 372 Elm Street in New Haven. Scheduled to perform are Keith Restaurant (electronics), Brian Parks (pictured left, performing on the virginal, a keyboard related to the harpsichord) and the duo known as Meat Foam (guitarist Chris Cretella and drummer Brian Parmalee). Each person or duo will perform separately.  For more information and directions, go to - while perusing the site, check out the April Music Festival that Carl Testa has organized.   

Also on Wednesday evening, bassist-composer Alexis Cuadrado, whose 2011 CD "Noneto Iberico" (BJU Records) remains one of my favorite recordings of the past 16 months, performs his latest work "A Lorca Landscape" as part of the "The Checkout: Live From the 92Y Tribeca."  Joining him will be a stellar group of musicians including Dan Tepfer (piano), Miguel Zenon (alto saxophone), Mark Ferber (drums) and vocalist Claudia Acuña.  Thanks to a commission from Chamber Music America, Cuadrado created musical settings for poems written by Federico García Lorca. The great Spanish poet/playwright (1898-1936) spent several months living in New York City and the poetic result, "Poeta en Nueva York", looks at the socio-political climate of the city at the beginning of the Great Depression.  

Also part of the concert, which takes place at 8 p.m. in the performance space of the 92nd Street YMCa in New York City, also features Cuban-born pianist/composer Manuel Valera and his Sextet.  Valera is a fine pianist and his band - Eric Doob (drums), Yosvanny Terry (saxophones), John Benitez (bass), Tom Guarna (guitar) and Mauricio Herrera (percussion) - is very impressive.  To find out more about the show, go to

Alexis Cuadrado brought the band to WNYC-FM studios and John Schaeffer's "Soundcheck".  Click on the link below and you'll learn about the poet, the music and the origins of the project. Thanks to WNYC-FM for sharing the link.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Playing For a Cause + Clark Terry Benefit

One supposes a name like Rick Drumm is a "stage name";  after all, he is a musician who plays the drums.  Mr. Drumm's day job is President of D'Addario & Company, manufacturer of D’Addario guitar, bass and violin strings, Evans Drumheads, Pro-Mark Drumsticks, Rico Reeds, Puresound percussion products and Planet Waves accessories.  He had been a member of a fusion band in the mid-70s (along with guitarist Fred Hamilton and trombonist Mike Brumbaugh - more on them later) and continued to play, even as he worked.  In 2009, Drumm was diagnosed with cancer and, thankfully, after undergoing chemotherapy, the disease is in remission.  In August of 2010, Drumm went into the studio and the results can be heard on "Rick Drumm and Fatty Necrosis: Return from the Unknown" (self-released.)  Besides Hamilton and Brumbaugh, the ensemble features Corey Christianson (electric guitar), John Benitez (electric bass), Axel Tosca Laugart (keyboards), Frank Catalano (tenor saxophone) and Pete Grimaldi (trumpet). Right from the opening notes of "Fatty Necrosis Sings the Blues" (great title, although the term "fatty necrosis" refers to dead tissue left behind in the body after cancer treatment), one can hear that the ensemble is still playing "fusion", but there is as music jazz as funk;  the music as sections that really swing and others that burn.  Drumm's kit is "up in the mix" but he's a sensitive player, not heavy on the bass drum.  Benitez's bass is the real bottom in this music with his rumbling, full-toned, notes supporting the ensemble.  The program moves easily from the impressionistic, softer, tones of "Gentle Spirit" (fine trombone from Brumbaugh) to the rollicking attack of "Indi Funk" (love the way the group spreads the solo interjections around.) The interplay of the guitar and keys on the opening of "Just A Drop" is a sly lead-in to a hard-edged tune that features a sparkling acoustic piano and an impressive, melodic, turn from Benitez.  "Detours" is the longest track (10:09), a rambling ride that opens slowly but soon drops into a rhythmic pace not unlike the early Allman Brothers Band.  Everyone but Grimaldi, Benitez and Drumm gets to solo as the piece rumbles with the guitarists really wailing. The CD closes on "Return", a ballad that opens quietly with guitar and saxophone sharing the melodic work; soon, the intensity builds up in the percussion while Catalano responds with an emotional solo.  The piece "returns" to its more serene beginnings to fade out.

With the release of "Detours", Rick Drumm celebrates creativity, music and life.  25% of all the proceeds from the sale of this CD goes to Strike A Chord, "a registered charity in Australia and the USA that supports seriously ill and disadvantaged children who need inspiration and a distraction from their illness."  To find out more, go to  To find out more about how to purchase this CD, go to

As many of know, the great trumpeter and educator Clark Terry has had several surgeries to deal with complications from diabetes, the latest the amputation of his left leg on February 23 of this year.  His wife Gwen has kept the Clark in touch with the world via her blog on and it's good to read he is home and in good spirits.

On April 23, there will be a "Fundraising Concert for Clark Terry" at 7 p.m. in Saint Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue in New York City. Suggested donation is $25 at the door or, if you cannot be there, you can send a donation. Checks should be written to Jazz Foundation of America with “Clark Terry account” in the memo line and mailed to the JFA at 322 W. 48th Street, New York, NY.  Mr. Terry, who turned 91 in December, has been a great ambassador for the music, appeared on over 900 Lps or CDs, and mentored numerous young musicians.  Let's do something for this great human being who has given so many music lovers so much good music to enjoy.  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mighty Musillami Music + Joel Harrison's New Music

That's guitarist Michael Musillami and bassist Joe Fonda on the left in concert at The Hotchkiss School earlier this year.  The guitarist-composer teaches there and chose the school's auditorium to debut "Mettle" (Playscape Recordings), his new collaboration with the Michael Musillami Trio + 4

The Trio - guitar, bass and drummer George Schuller - and the + 4 - Matt Moran (vibraphone), Russ Johnson (trumpet), Ned Rothenberg (alto sax, clarinet) and the irrepressible Jeff Lederer (tenor sax, clarinet) - perform Friday March 30 in the performance space of Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street, in New Haven.  The new CD, arguably Musillami's finest, features the 8-part "Summer Suite" is extremely personal (each piece or section of a composition has a story connected.  The arrangements are tailor-made for these musicians, the interplay and communication is quite evident even on a studio date, and the vast majority have good melodies, harmonies and room for improvisation. Messrs. Musillami, Fonda and Schuller have played as a unit for over a decade and their "sonic identity" has grown nicely since their early days.  And the 4 additions really fill out the sound as well as bring their own strong identities to the music - honestly, this music should soar even higher in person. 

They'll play 2 sets, 8:30 and 10 p.m.  For ticket information, go to or call 203-785-0468.

The music on guitarist/composer Joel Harrison's new CD, "Joel Harrison 7: Search" (Sunnyside) was road-tested at Firehouse 12 in December of 2010.  The band (same as on the live gig) is magnificent and includes Donny McCaslin (tenor saxophone), Gary Versace (piano, Hammond B-3), Christian Howes (violin), Dana Leong (cello), Stephan Crump (acoustic bass) and Clarence Penn (drums). Harrison does a fine job of creating a program, especially the original material, that plays to the strengths of the ensemble. Kudos to the rhythm section who maneuver their way through these challenging arrangements. Crump, who is the anchor in the Vijay Iyer Trio, really allows Penn to punctuate the melody lines and solos with his exciting, poly-rhythmic, approach.  The blend of the strings, guitar and McCaslin's active tenor saxophone on the 2 long pieces that open the program will capture your imagination.  "Grass Valley and Beyond" sounds like a combination of Aaron Copland and Bruce Springsteen in the wide-open chords and Versace's piano lines.  His long solo goes through a number of twists-and-turns before McCaslin takes the spotlight.  His solo is fiery, brusque, playful and soulful, with Penn leading the charge below.  The longest track, the 15-minute "A Magnificent Death", opens with dazzling string work from Leong (with accents added by Howes); the melody enters next from the guitar and tenor sax, with a catchy latin-esque at the end of the verse that helps to raise the intensity level for McCaslin's dazzling solo.  He enjoys the interaction with Penn (you will, as well) and, at the climax, the piece suddenly takes a turn towards a dirge with a barely audible poem making the music all the more mysterious.  Versace's piano solo, sans accompaniment, moves through the keyboard's upper registers before the band returns.  Harrison and Howes play the melody while the band pushes the intensity, which hardly lets up until the close of the tune. 

There are 2 cover pieces, "Whipping Post" (yes, the Allman Brothers classic) and Olivier Messiaen's "O Sacrum Convivium." In person, the former rattled the speakers in the room with Leong's incendiary cello solo and the leader's wailing guitar,  Here, you have to turn up the volume a bit to get a similar feel but the music really soars, especially after the drum solo.  As for the Messiaen work, Harrison's arrangement transforms the French composer's religious motet into a work with expressive guitar and tenor saxophone solos (also listen for the good work of Versace and Howes.) The title track closes the CD - it's a 2+ minute tour-de-force for Versace on acoustic piano with a melody line at the end that sounds like a variation of "Whipping Post."

"Search" is an excellent title for this program. Over his career, Joel Harrison has created music that bends boundaries (2003's "Free Country", "Harrison on Harrison", the music of the late Beatle, and string quartet + guitars arrangements of the music of  Paul Motian) - this new CD continues his explorations and experimentation with fusing diverse forms of music.  Give it a good listen, then try to find the Septet playing live. For more information, go to  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dears, I Surrender

We are barely 3 full months into 2012 and I continue to be amazed by the number of excellent new recordings, especially those by female vocalists.  And, as has been exclaimed and written many times before "The hits just keep on coming." 

Kate McGarry does not rush through projects.  "Girl Talk" (Palmetto Records) comes nearly 4 years after her previous CD, "If Less Is More...Nothing Is Everything" but it's not like she's been lazing on a beach somewhere. She and her husband, guitarist-producer Keith Ganz, have moved to North Carolina, dealt with personal issues, toured a lot and been teaching.  She's also worked with John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble, toured and recorded with the vocal ensemble MOSS, and done much more.

For her 6th CD, Ms. McGarry and her husband decided to perform a group of standards, work with a fine band (Gary Versace on piano and organ, Reuben Rogers on bass and Clarence Penn on drums and percussion) and see what would happen.  There's a sweet sense of playfulness on tracks such as as the Neal Hefti/Bobby Troup song that gives the program its title.  Ganz's chunky and chirpy guitar riffs move the piece forward while Versace's organ purrs below; the lyrics are definitely pre-"feminism" but the groove is delectable and Ms. McGarry is having such fun.  The short scat section and the antic pace points to the Art Tatum version.  Henry Mancini's "Charade" comes on like a "bolero", Ganz's crackling guitar rising above the subtly swing rhythm section.

The ensemble really shines on the opening cut, Rodgers & Hammerstein's "We Kiss In the Shadow" (from "The King & I").  Versace's expressive piano work above the splashing cymbals and propulsive bass line is a highlight.  The emotional lift of the vocal (and the over-dubbed harmony lines) bring to mind Ms. McGarry's work with Fred Hersch and MOSS.  Dori Caymmi and Nelson Motta's lovely "O Cantador" features Kurt Elling - his excellent harmony work and his handsome baritone vocal blends well with Ms. McGarry's emotionally rich lines.  Ganz's fine acoustic solo (with Elling's wordless vocal providing lovely background) leads into the final verse, a finish that is intense and free-flowing (their Portuguese enunciation is also really impressive.)

Other highlights include Harry Warren & Arthur Freed's swinging "This Heart of Mine", originally recorded in 1946 by Fred Astaire.  Ms. McGarry displays excellent jazz "chops", playfully dancing over the flowing rhythms (a bit of Sarah Vaughan creeps into her voice near the end).  She rips right through "I Know That You Know" with Penn's dancing drums driving the music. It certainly sounds like everyone is having fun. "Looking Back", written and recorded by Jimmy Rowles, is quite a lovely piece, the melody line supported by the folk-like electric guitar and subtle bass patterns. Ganz switches to acoustic guitar for his fine solo and it's a fine counterpoint to the vocal, which sounds influenced by Old English ballads.

"Girl Talk" is smart, sassy, classy and, emotionally strong.  Adult music that is not afraid to swing and take chances or slow down and caress the melody, this is, arguably, Kate McGarry's finest recording.  Release date is April 10 but go to for more information and to listen to this music.

For her 4th CD, Melissa Stylianou has assembled a fascinating collection of songs from various sources, ranging from originals to contemporary singer-songwriters (such as Joanna Newsom, Paul Simon and James Taylor) as well as "classic" songs from Henry Mancini, Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein and Johnny Cash. "Silent Movie" (Anzic Records) is best described by its creator as "a collection of small stories, everyday life caught in a series of moving frames."  And what a fine storyteller Ms. Stylianou is.

The opening track, Charlie Chaplin's classic melody "Smile", is flat-out gorgeous.  No frills, no vocal acrobatics or fancy solos, just the wisdom of the lyrics (composed by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons).  The quartet that supports the vocalist - pianist Jamie Reynolds, guitarist Pete McCann, bassist Gary Wang, and drummer Rodney Green - makes all the right moves, whether it's the pianist beneath the vocals or the whisper-soft percussion.  Ms. Stylianou does not "sell" the song, she sings it.  The joy she exudes on Taylor's "Something In the Way She Moves" is honest; it makes me smile. Her take on Paul Simon's "Hearts and Bones" (aided by Anat Cohen's emotionally rich soprano saxophone) is gentle yet with an intensity that helps to illuminate the composer's story of a failed marriage. Ms. Cohen's bluesy clarinet winds around the vocal lines on "Folks Who Live on the Hill", the Kern-Hammerstein tune from the 1937 film "High, Wide, and Lonesome" and popularized in the 1950s by Peggy Lee.  The subtle humor of the piece is transmitted by Ms. Stylianou's happy not sappy vocal.  The combination of Green's propulsive drumming and James Shipp's percussion is also quite splendid.  Green's work on "I Still Miss Someone" (credit for the arrangement goes to Paul Mathew) helps to reinvent the Johnny Cash song, underscoring the plaintive vocal.   McCann's guitar work is exquisite, understated and elegant.  He channels Robert Johnson and Chet Atkins on "Today I Sing The Blues", first recorded in 1948 by Helen Humes and in 1960 by Aretha Franklin (during her Columbia Records days.) There's a blues and country-folk feel to Joanna Newsom's "Swansea", the acoustic piano and Ms. Cohen's bass clarinet creating a quiet shower of notes behind the vocal.

Ms. Stylianou adds lyrics to compositions by pianist Reynolds (the title track), Vince Mendoza (the haunting "Hearing Your Voice"), and bassist Edgar Meyers (the tender, touching, ballad "First Impressions" which features lovely cello from Yoed Nir and a fine bass solo from Wang.) Like the other pieces on the disk, these lyrics tell stories of relationships that most, if not all, listeners can relate to. 

"Moon River" closes the program. A piece as oft-recorded as the opening "Smile", here it's just Ms. Stylianou and Reynold's Erik Satie-like piano accompaniment moving simply through Johnny Mercer's simple but timeless lyrics. After they complete their 2 verses and choruses, a music box playing the same melody takes the CD out.

Quiet music does not always make for good listening but "Silent Movie" glows with intelligence and love of melody.  Melissa Stylianou is not a "decorative" singer; she does have a lovely voice with a good range, fine enunciation and a refreshing lack of artifice.  The band is super, the arrangements appealing and the sound excellent. For more information, go to

Here's a track from the CD, courtesy of Anzic Records and the Anzic Store:


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring At The Firehouse! + Descendants of the Art Blakey "Sound"

A sure sign of spring in these parts, besides the temperatures rising, the trees blossoming and the forsythia blooming, is the return of the Spring Concert Series at Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven.  For 13 Fridays, the Elm City recording studio becomes a performance space featuring a panorama of creative artists second-to-none in Connecticut (click here for a look at the entire series. There is one significant change since I posted that column - the Tyler Blanton Quartet, scheduled to appear on 5/25 has been replaced by the ensemble of Pilc/Moutin/Hoenig.)

The series gets off on an experimental foot with Kihnoua.  The quartet, founded by ROVA Sax member Larry Ochs (tenor and sopranino saxophones), creates a fascinating sonic stew with influences from Korean folk music and the "free-jazz" movement of the 1960s and 70s.  In concert, the ensemble features Dohee Lee (voice), Scott Amendola (drums, electronics) and bassist Trevor Dunn (who replaces Wilbert DeJoode, the bassist on the group's new CD, "The Sybil's Whisper", just released on Metalangauge.) The music is episodic, moving in many directions through the course of each song (sometimes from the "whisper" to a scream) -  Ms. Lee's voice is utilized as another instrument and her interaction with Ochs as well as the rhythm section is an important component of the quartet's program.

New Haven is Kihnoua's first stop on a short tour that will take them to Baltimore, Brooklyn, St. Louis, Champaign, IL and Detroit.  They'll play 2 sets -8:30 and 10 p.m. - Tickets are available by calling 203-785-0468 or going to

Art Blakey was a dynamic drummer, visionary bandleader and carried the "hard-bop" torch for nearly 4 decades. In 1955, he and pianist Horace Silver formed the Jazz Messengers; a year later, Silver left to go solo and the band plus name belonged to Blakey.  Scores of great musicians passed through the University of Blakey, from Clifford Brown to Jackie McLean to Wayne Shorter to Keith Jarrett to Wynton Marsalis and on. Blakey drove the band, many of the songs featured smart melodies, strong solos and a relentless forward motion. 

Australian-born drummer Andrew Swift moved to New York City in 1988 and has worked steadily ever since.  Amazingly, "Swift Kick" (DClef Records) is his debut as a bandleader and shows a wide-ranging set of influences but always with the "beat" and the melody at the center.  He's organized a fine rhythm section, with George Cables (piano) and Dwayne Burno (bass) featured throughout.   Sharel Cassity, whose band Swift anchors, adds an arsenal of reed instruments while producer Michael Dease is heard on trombones, flugelhorn and tenor saxophone on the majority of the tracks. Guests include trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, trumpeter Ryan Kisor, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, guitarist Yotam Silberstein and others.

Despite the rotating front lines, Swift's vision for the program never wavers.  The CD opens with the rip-roaring "Kisor the Despiser", with the song's namesake leading the way in tandem with Ms. Cassity on alto saxophone.  At high volumes, one can really enjoy the rhythm section's driving sound, the way the soloists maneuver through the changes and the excellent work of Cables (he's wonderful throughout.)  The next track, "The Rio Dawn", is from the pen of Jimmy Heath (from 2009's "Endurance" recording) and features the fine voice of Vanessa Perea as well as the expressive guitar work of Yotam.  There's a Horace Silver feel on "Soldier", with Kisor, Dease (alto trombone) and crackling guitar leading the way.  Again, pay attention to how the rhythm section pays attention - Cables, Burno and Swift are masterful in their support and knowing when to push. 

Wycliffe Gordon's expressive trombone shadows Ms. Perea on "Alfie" while it's his voice that gets the spotlight on the humorous, if a bit bizarre, "Brandy" (not the Looking Glass "Brandy" from 1972 but a tune from pop songwriters John Vastano and Peter Andreoli.)  

There are 2 interesting "curve balls" in the program, the first being the short (40 seconds) "Slit Drum Interlude"; here the name says it all.  The final track is the other "change".  Not only is "Understanding" the longest cut (9:02) but, with the exception of Ms. Cassity and Dease, features a different bassist (John Lee) and pianist (Jeb Patton).  Violinist Curtis Stewart is front-and-center while Swift also adds electric guitar. The results may remind some of the "fusion" jazz-funk of the 1970s.

"Swift Kick" may not always have the "boom" of hard-bop but the music does have plenty of heart and soul. The solos are, mostly, short but the musicians make the best of the spotlight.  Underneath it, the rhythm section is truly fine.  For more information, go to

The musicians who make up Opus 5 - Seamus Blake (tenor sax), Alex Sipiagin (trumpet, flugelhorn), David Kikoski (piano, Fender Rhodes), Boris Kozlov (bass) and Donald Edwards (drums) - are no strangers to Gerry Teekens' Criss Cross Jazz label.  Blake and Kikoski have appeared 22 and 20 releases respectively while Sipiagin and Kozlov are represented on 10 and 8. Edwards has been on 2.  Not sure whose idea it was for them to join forces but "Introducing Opus 5" (released in October 2011) is no "superstar jam session" but a well thought-out hour+ of music that ranges from funky, hard-bop. swingers to a Brazilian bossa-nova ballad (Toninho Horto's "Ton To Tom") to a lovely ballad from the drummer ("Asami's Playland").  No need to go over the pedigree of these musicians, each stands out on his respective instrument.  Seamus Blake's tenor is quite expressive throughout, whether relating a story on Edward's ballad and flying over the changes on George Cables' "Think of Me." He can play quickly but it makes sense in the flow of the music.  Sipiagin's tone is crisp and clean; his solos on the faster songs are filled with quick phrases interspersed with longer tones.  He switches to flugelhorn for the Horta tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim and his mellower tone has the right balance of sadness and grit.  Kikoski can be both understated and decorative, often within the same chorus.  He plays Fender Rhodes on the Cables's tune as well as Kozlov's soulful yet smoldering "Nostalgia In Time" ( a nod to his work with the Mingus Big Band.) Kikoski's Rhodes work has always been impressive; he really understands how to blend the lighter sound into a jazz setting.  "Sokol" is a Russian folk tune that the quintet really opens up on. After a subdued opening featuring a handsome bass solo, the group interprets the theme and takes it a bit "out' before Kikoski (on acoustic piano) takes off on a powerful solo aided by Edward's expressive cymbal work and pounding drums.  After the drum solo, the song returns to the main theme and then a hypnotic electric piano figure brings the piece to a quiet close.

I believe Art Blakey would approve of how these musicians are carrying on his legacy, how they are allowing world music to influence the melodic side while the rhythm section still stokes the fires.  "Introducing Opus 5" may be a new group yet these are 5 musicians who need no introductions - just let them play.  For more information, go to

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Singers of Stories (Part 1)

Over the past decade, vocalist Theo Bleckmann has recorded and performed music by such diverse composers as Charles Ives, Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, jazz and Broadway standards and his own highly original pieces.  

His latest project is "Hello Earth: The Music of Kate Bush" (Winter & Winter) - Ms. Bush first came to critical notice in her native Great Britain in 1978 and has had a long, varied, career.  By the release of "The Red Shoes" in 1993, Ms. Bush was already moving out of the public eye.  Her next CD, "Aerial", did not come out until 2005.

Bleckmann (electronics, toy piano, percussion) takes 14 of her compositions, most from her earlier recordings, and manages to make them his own.  With a splendid band that features John Hollenbeck (drums, percussion, voice), Skulli Sverrisson (bass, voice), Henry Hey (keyboards, voice) and the versatile Caleb Burnhans (electric violin, voice), he finds the heart in Ms. Bush's poetry.  Three are moments of near-silence, when the words cause a chill - "The Man With the Child In His Eyes" and "All the Love" cut right to one's soul, the former with its soul music feel and latter with the plaintive repetition of the title at the end of the chorus. "This Woman's Work", a touching song about the pain of child-birth and how that changes everything about a relationship  - yet there is also a sorrowful section that makes it seem someone is quite ill.  What a sonic other-worldliness inhabits "Hello Earth", the quiet yet intensely dark violin and the whispered vocals pulling one close to the speakers. 

The anti-war "Army Dreamers" tells the story of dead young soldier, the irony of the piece being the jaunty whistling, bouncy bass lines and hand percussion. The pinkish reading of "Violin" is the hardest rocker in the program (sounding not unlike early Elvis Costello) and is a feature for Burhan's fiery electric violin. Hollenbeck's martial drums lead the way on "Cloudbusting", buoyed by Sverrisson's thick bass tones.

Theo Bleckmann is a pure singer with few affectations. He will, at times, manipulate his voice with electronics but he never buries the lyrics under excess.  After 2 or 3 listens, one can really appreciate the interactions of the vocalist with the musicians;  they, too, avoid excess.  Hey, in particular, is sharp in the way he frames Bleckmann's voice on many of the tracks. "Hello Earth" is heartfelt and real, a tribute to the songs of Kate Bush in how, even in their most fanciful flights, these songs are emotionally strong.  For more information, go to

Composer-arranger-pianist-vocalist Kyoko Kitamura has created a fanciful and original solo recording, calling it "Armadillo In Sunset Park" and releasing it as a digital download through various outlets (if you're in the New York City area, a physical CD can be purchased at Downtown Music Gallery, 13 Monroe Street.)  Her voice and compositions can be heard on works by Jamie Baum, Taylor Ho Bynum and in the cooperative ensemble ok|ok with reed player Michael McGinnis. 

According to her liner notes, the program is "a musical audio book of strange (but mostly true) stories."  "Strange?" Yes, and, at times, humorous as well.  "Zombie Song" follows a story line in which the narrator cuts her finger with a sharp knife and sees no blood, leading her to surmise that she's gone over to the other side.  "Charlie Brown's Wandering Eye" pairs 2 cartoon character, the schlemiel in the title and Garfield the Cat. The latter scratches the former, causing one of his eyes to go on its own journey (which includes a race.)  Ms. Kitamura includes a fine variation of Vince Guaraldi's music for the underpinning.  The story is goofy and fun

Many of the pieces were composed for Mark Lamb Dance, a New York City-based troupe. One can hear how the rhythms in the songs and melodies could work with movement.  There is the graceful "Densha Song", with Japanese lyrics and flowing rhythm.  A whirling piano line powers "Parasite", slowly turning and moving like a kite in a windy sky.  Ms. Kitomura works for Professor Anthony Braxton's Tri-Centric Foundation and is one of the vocalists on his 4-CD "Trillium E" project.  She has a wonderful range, making her voice rise to high notes effortlessly.  Noises can give way to shrieks which lead to softly delivered vocals to wordless wails - all that (and more) happens on "Crossing", the unsettling work that closes the program.

In a little under 31 minutes, Kyoko Kitamura creates a wondrous, if somewhat altered, world with just her voice and piano (with occasional electronics and vocal overdubs.) Playful and serious, this music insinuates itself into your mind and leaves one wanting more.  For more information, go to

Friday, March 16, 2012

Listen Closely, This Music Speaks!

There are some times in one's day when music is the only panacea, a day when the events in your life take a sad turn.  You want to be alone, perhaps to be miserable or you don't feel sociable. Words can convey the emotions one needs to express.

Into that day comes the opening 2 cuts of "Where The Time Stands Still" (Charleston Square), the new CD from Triosence with Sara Gazarek.  "I Can't Explain" (not The Who song) and "Summer Song" are so bright and breezy that the gray mood lifts long enough for you to realize life goes on and we have much to celebrate.  The first track rides in on a semi-reggae beat, Ms. Gazarek's vocal reminding this listener of Sara Bareilles. "Summer Song" has the lilt of a Vince Guaraldi composition, rising on the fine electric guitar work of Vitaliy Zolotov.   Triosence - Bernhard Schüler (piano), Ingo Senst (bass) and Stephan Emig (drums) - has been a entity since 1999, releasing 3 CDs.  Guitarist and educator Frank Haunschild (who appears throughout this CD) introduced Schüler to the music of Ms. Gazarek (a resident of Los Angeles, CA);  the pianist wrote to her and they began a collaboration that resulted in this recording.

Besides the breezy feel of the opening pieces, these songs have real emotional pull.  Ms. Garzarek has a fine voice, she articulates the words without resorting to any sort of filigree (melismatic swoops and dives, scat choruses); these songs are short stories, not short verbal fragments leading to long solos.  On pieces such as "Maybe There's a Princess Waiting", Schüler's accompaniment perfectly frames the vocal while bassist Senst adds counterpoint and Emig percussive color. "Let It In" has echoes of Carole King (circa "Tapestry"), with the voice framed here by soft guitars and hand percussion - Haunschild's solo builds off the chordal structure without seeming out of place. Senst's expressive bass work on "Only One Evening" creates both a cushion and counterpoint to the vocal and sparkling piano solo.  The program closes with the title track, a lullaby/prayer for voice, piano and the haunting violin work of Andria Chang.  It's then one realizes the program has moved intelligently away from the lightness of the opening tracks to more mature, fully realized, observations on life and relationships.

"Where Time Stands Still", for this listener, offered respite from harsher realities (which art/music can and should do).  Informed by jazz and popular music, Sara Gazarek and Triosence fuse their influences into a program that has echoes of many artists but displays the real emotions of the participants. To learn more about them, go to and

"Home" (HighNote Records) is new music from trumpeter Wallace Roney and continues in the vein he has mined for over 3 decades. The opening track, "Utopia", (a previously unrecorded Wayne Shorter composition), brings to mind the sound of the Miles Davis Quintet of the mid-to-late 1960s.  The piece has an "open-ended" feel, building off the energetic and smart drumming of Kush Abadey and expansive bass lines of Rahsaan Carter. Aruan Ortiz's understated piano meshes well with brother Antoine Roney's expressive soprano saxophone and the leader's shimmering brass lines. 

As one settles into the program, the Davis comparisons begin to fade (yes, he plays "muted" on the title track and others but in his own way) and the listener can "get lost" in the strength of the interactions as well as the fine solos.  Abadey cedes the drum chair to Boston, Massachusetts, legend Bobby Ward on 3 tracks (his percussive "conversations" with the other musicians may remind some of Tony Williams) and Darryl Green on 2 tracks, including the other Wayne Shorter piece, "Plaza Real" on which he really pushes the band.  Wallace Roney's lovely ballad "Dawn" features the fine organ work of Doug Carn as well as brother Antoine's excellent tenor solo.  Both brothers step out on "Evolution of the Blues", egged on by Ortiz's pulsating chords and Abadey's declarative drumming.  "Ghost of Yesterday" is quite lovely, with the muted trumpet rising softly over Ortiz's lyrical piano and Burton's thick bass tones.  When Antoine enters, the intensity rises a bit yet he never overplays not succumbs to cliches.  The CD closes with "Revive", a short but intense drum solo for Bobby Ward - it honors his many years of dedication to the music and is a classy reminder that Wallace Roney is part of the jazz continuum, not apart from it.  He certainly is a mentor to the younger members of his band but also respects his elders.

Put "Home" on the stereo or whatever you use to play music and enjoy the ride.  This music satisfies.  For more information, go to

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Elastic" Music Live + Impressive Canadian Trumpeter + E.I. Rants for a Good Reason

The Matthew Ship Trio - Shipp (piano), Whit Dickey (drums) and Michael Bisio (bass) - has a really fine new CD, "Elastic Aspects" (Thirsty Ear - my review is here.) Even better is that the Trio has been touring and will appear Saturday March 17 at 8 p.m. in Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street in Hartford.  One of the many joys of Shipp's Trio music is the interaction between the pianist and his rhythm section;  their "elasticity" gives the music its breadth and excitement. It's palpable on CD but all the more vibrant in person.  For ticket information, go to or call 860-232-1006.

Hartford Courant jazz master Owen McNally conducted an excellent interview with Mr. Shipp that was published on Sunday March 11 - read it by clicking here.  If there is one shortcoming in the interview, there is no mention of the Trio.  I tried to remedy that in my conversation with Matthew today but we soon moved on to other topics - listen to our chat by clicking below:

If you look up at "The Jazz Session" on the top right of this post (providing you're reading during the week of March 12-18), you'll see that episode #354 features Craig Pedersen.  Despite thinking that I have my finger on the pulse of the creative music scene, Mr. Pedersen was unknown to me.  Thanks to Jason Crane's interview and my subsequent visit to, I know that this is a person whose music is worth paying attention to.  If you follow the links to his site at (click here), you can listen to his new CD, "Days Like Today", and then, like me, purchase it (in either digital, CD or Deluxe CD format.)  His fine Quartet - Linsey Wellman (saxophone), Joel Kerr (acoustic bass) and Mike Essoudry (drums) - plays Pedersen's music with great gusto, creating sounds that remind this listener of the halcyon days of the 1970s when the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Julius Hemphill and Henry Threadgill first entered my consciousness.  In fact, the sonic feel of the opening track, "The Baron" (posted below as a free download), is very much like that of the late Mr. Hemphill's "Dogon A.D."  This is music that looks backward as it continually moves forward, the stuff that great creative music is made of.  Give a listen to the interview and the music.

There is a new Billy Hart CD on ECM Records. "All Our Reasons" features the master drummer with his Quartet composed of Mark Turner (tenor saxophone), Ben Street (bass) and Ethan Iverson (piano).  There are many people who believe that Manfred Eicher's label is too "cool" and "Nordic" (whatever that may mean) but the producer gives Mr. Hart and company free rein and, from what I have heard, this is no "tame" recording.  In his latest posting on, pianist Iverson rightly complains about the number of illegal "file shares" he has seen of the CD; "file shares" mean that fans get to download the music for free and neither the label nor the musicians see any money for their hard work.  Lord knows, this is rampant in many forms of entertainment (the movie industry also suffers greatly from piracy.) There have been many instances when doing research for a review, my "Google" search reveals multiple sites for free downloads right before or immediately after listing the artist's website or myspace page.  Read Mr. Iverson's comments at and spread the word that music piracy has got to be stopped before the musicians lose all incentive to create this music many of us love so much.

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Releases on Parade (Part 1)

Bassist Steve Horowitz is a busy musician and composer, working on television shows for Nickelodeon, movies ("Super Size Me") and performs in numerous groups.  For "New Monsters" (Posi-Tone Records), he's assembled a quintet from the San Francisco Bay Area to play music composed by tenor saxophonist Dan Plonsey.  The other lead voice is Steve Adams (alto and soprano saxophones, flute) from ROVA Saxophone Quartet. Rounding out the group is Jim Bove (drums) and Scott Looney (piano).  The latter is a veteran of the "New Music" scene in San Francisco, having worked with saxophonist Jon Raskin (also from ROVA), Oliver Lake, and guitarist Henry Kaiser. 

This is certainly one of the more sonically challenging Posi-Tone releases.  There's the sweet blend of the reeds on just about every track while Looney plucks inside his piano to create a percussive change-of-pace on thbe bouncy "Vision Pyramid Collapse".  He goes right back inside on the next track, "Miracle Melancholy", a fascinating work that's shows the influence of Japanese folk music.  Horowitz's expressive electric bass work meshes well with Bove's creative percussion.  The one non-Plonsey composition is a clever mash-up of John Coltrane's "India" with Eric Dolphy's "The Red Planet"  - both Adams and Plonsey take exciting solos, egged on by the active rhythm section, while Looney stays outside the piano for his solo.

There are plenty of creative twists-and-turns in this program.  The circular melody line of "New Boots For Bigfoot" opens up for strong solo statements from Looney and Horowitz (a very thoughtful meditation) and the interwoven lines of Plonsey and Adams (on flute). The sprightly played piano and drum dialogue, "Brains for Breakfast", leads right into the crazy-bop of "Herald of Zombies", with quasi-march opening that gives way to a hellacious alto saxophone solo followed by an equally crazy tenor solo over Looney's "Charles Ives meets Barrelhouse" piano spotlight.  The playfulness continues on the final track, "Cylinder", with its '60s "pop" music beat and dueling saxophones.

"New Monsters" is playful yet edgy music that ought to bring a smile to listeners who like to be challenged. The proceedings often has the feeling of the Willem Breuker Kollektief sparring with The Mothers of Invention while Fred Ho throws in his 2 cents worth; this is music that pokes one in the eye while making his feet tap. What a treat!  For more information, go to  

Here's the opening track, courtesy of Posi-Tone Records and IODA Promonet:

Imperfect Life (mp3)

Saxophonist Doug Webb calls his new CD "Swing Shift" - it's his 3rd for Posi-Tone Records, all recorded with the same rhythm section (bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Gerry Gibbs) and 3 separate pianists (Larry Goldings, Joe Bagg or Mahesh Balasooriya.) Chances are quite good that these songs were recorded in the same marathon session that produced his previous Posi-Tone releases. 

Webb plays soprano sax on 2 tracks, alto sax on 1 and tenor on the remaining 3.  The 22-minute + "Patagonia Suite" is a fiery work, with Webb's soprano soaring over Clarke's muscular acoustic bass lines, Gibbs' hearty drumming, and Balasooriya's pounding and hypnotic piano chords.  After a furious exchange with the rhythm section, Webb switches to tenor for a long, hard-edged, solo. Balasooriya; who's in his early 20s, also offers strong support on the lovely version of Frank Foster's "Simone", the track that features Webb's best work on soprano (it's the best realized piece on the disk). The leader switches to alto sax for "Where Or When", a duet with Joe Bagg, who shows an inventive touch on the piano with a touch of stride in his approach. "Rizone" is also a duo piece, this time a blazing tenor solo over Gibbs' driving drums. Goldings appears on the fairly straight-ahead reading of Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes", his fleet fingers producing a fine solo. 

"Swing Shift" has its good moments but suffers from uneven sound.  Several tracks feature too much echo on the saxophone or the bass is too prominent in the mix.  There are also times when Webb, who is a solid musician, overplays or runs out of ideas. He'd be better served taking a quartet into a club for a week and recording live.  For more information, go to  

It feels as if 2012 will be a vintage year for CDs created by piano trios and female vocalists.  For her 4th recording as a leader, Kathy Kosins, a native of Detroit, Michigan, turns to the music of Chris Connor, Julie London, Anita O'Day and June Christy, mining their respective repertoires to assemble a 10-song program that she titles "To The Ladies of Cool" (Resonance Records). Ms. Kosins does not attempt to mimic any of the singers she is celebrating. With the help of pianist/arranger Tmir Hendelman, this music has a pleasing shine and swing.  The rhythm section, consisting of veteran Los Angeles session drummer Bob Leatherbarrow and bassists Kevin Axt or Paul Keller (they appear on 5 tracks each), offer able support while Graham Dechter adds his expressive guitar work to several selections.   Gilbert Castellanos' trumpet is a welcome addition to "Kissing Bug" and "Don't Wait Up For Me" (this track puts the spotlight on his pleasing muted sounds).  He pairs with tenor saxophonist on the rollicking version of Johnny Mandel's "Hershey's Kisses" (Ms. Kozins' original lyrics replaces Ms. O'Day's wordless work on the original version of "Hershey Bar.")

The moody ballad "November Twilight" (originally recorded by Ms. London in 1956) is quite pretty with fine bass work from Axt (who works with Tierney Sutton) and handsome piano work from Hendelman.  Dechter's bluesy licks enliven Henry Mancini's aptly-titled "Free and Easy" while his gentle chording adds a bossa-nova lilt to "Where Are You".

"To The Ladies of Cool" simmers and shimmers, swings and soothes - like the 4 women she celebrates, Kathy Kosins is not a demonstrative vocalist. Her delivery is even-keeled, her voice emotional but not overly so, nor she exhibit the desire to fill out the songs with unnecessary vocal sounds.  Instead, she's the singer in front of an impressive ensemble performing a fine program of good songs.  Give this a serious listen - to find out more, go to

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

This. That and the Other (Part 1)

More jazz in Middletown (CT, that is, my home base) is on the way. Titanium Lounge & Restaurant, 412 Main Street, began life as a dance club (complete with a disco ball and bouncers - on Friday March 16, the owners are inaugurating a jazz series and, for fans of mainstream sounds, the band is perfect.  One For All, the collective Quintet that is celebrating 15 years of swinging, will play from 8 - 11 p.m. OFA features Hartt School of Music Professor Steve Davis (trombone), fellow instructor Nat Reeves (bass), David Hazeltine (piano), Joe Farnsworth (drums) and Mike DiRubbo (alto saxophone).  Over the years, the group (which usually includes tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander) has recorded CDs for Sharp 9 Records, Criss Cross and the Japanese Venus label. For more information, call 860-788-2419.

But, before OFA comes to town, the John Funkhouser Trio returns to The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main Street, on Saturday, March 10, for an evening of high-energy creative explorations (many with "wicked" rhythms.) Funkhouser, a member of the faculty at The Berklee School of Music in Boston (as is pianist Laszlo Gardony, whose Trio excited a full house on March 3), brings his usual cohorts - bassist Greg Loughman and drummer Mike Connors - to The Buttonwood where they have attracted a number of new fans.  For more information, call 860-347-4957.

The Uncertainty Music Series, curated by bassist/composer Carl Testa, has 3 concerts scheduled for March.  On Saturday March 10 at 8 p.m. in Never-Ending Books, 810 State Street in New Haven, the Series presents "The Music of Dean Rosenthal."  Composer-guitarist Rosenthal, a native of Concord, Massachusetts, has studied with Morton Subotnick, Wadada Leo Smith and Tom Johnson, also utilizes electronics and voice in his pieces, many of which use silence to create fascinating sonic sculptures.  There's also a "pop" sensibility and humor to certain pieces - that levity makes Rosenthal's music all the more interesting.
For the 3/10 concert, Rosenthal has assembled a group that features Anne Rhodes (vocals), Jeremy Starpoli (trombone), Karin Rosenthal (glockenspiel) and K.C.M. Walker (harmonium). For more information, go to

Future concerts in the series include "Unearthish" on Wednesday March 14 at 9 p.m. in the Elm Bar, 372 Elm Street in the Elm City. "Unearthish" is the name of the new CD by the duo of Sarah Bernstein (songs, violin, voice) and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion), a strong collection of sound and word experiments.  Give a listen by going to

Finally, on Wednesday March 28 at 9 p.m. in the Elm Bar, it's the triple bill of Keith Restaurant + Meat Foam (Cretella and Parmelee) + Brian Parks.  Again, go to for more information.

CD Pick of the Week:
Amidst the flurry of piano trio CDs that have issued since the first of the year, it might be easy to overlook "Sparkle" (Capri Records), the latest offering from the Jeff Hamilton Trio. Don't pass over this little gem.  Drummer/composer Hamilton has worked with bassist Christoph Luty and pianist Tamir Hendelman for over a decade - they know each other so well that this program does not sound like work but play.  There are a zillion covers of Thelonious Monk material but the Trio's reading of "Bye-Ya" sounds fresh thanks to the leader's New Orleans-style drumming (and brushes, no less!) Yes, there have probably been as many recordings of the beautiful David Raskin/Johnny Mercer ballad "Laura" - here, Hendelman caresses the melody, utilizing a chordal approach that continually moves the piece forward. Luty's "singing" bass lines move easily in counterpoint while Hamilton's percussion whispers below. 

Each member of the Trio contributes, at least, one original piece to the program.  Luty's "In An Ellingtone" is a slyly constructed blues with a slinky melody line and more than just "Kinda Dukish." Hendelman's "Hat Dance" is a breezy and bluesy melody that bops right along with a playful piano solo and plenty of fine interplay.  Hamilton, being the leader, has 2 contributions, the swinging "Ain't That A Peach" that opens the show and the title track (named for Hamilton's first drum set) jumps right out of the gate with a spunky melody over the driving hard-bop rhythm. 

"Red Sparkle" should make the listener feel good (there's even a creative take on Stephen Bishop's pop smash "On and On") and, when one really pays attention to how the Trio interacts, you'll enjoy it even more.  As the esteemed Mr. Ellington said (probably more than once), "There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind" - The Jeff Hamilton Trio makes good music!  For more information and sound samples, go to