|Paul Ryan Photography|
The original pieces range from the intense yet tender "Monk and His Five Point Ring at The Five Spot Café" to the gentle ballad "Adagio: Monkishness - A Cinematic Vision of Monk Playing Solo Piano." That latter track is quiet, with notes that ring out, gently fade, and create a heartfelt melody. "Adagio: Monk, the Composer in Sepia - A Second Vision" is not only influenced by the blues of a Monk ballad but also by the "muted" tones of old photographs of the pianist. The muted trumpet sounds fragile but sympathetic, with strength in the higher notes. Following that is a piece inspired by a dream: "Monk and Bud Powell at Shea Stadium - A Mystery" unites the two pianists, great friends, both who dealt with ailments, who were stalked by the police as well as demons, yet who created such vital music. The playful quality that Smith interjects into this piece reflects the creative adventure of the pianists. Still, as the piece comes to its close (it sounds as if the music ends in the middle of a phrase), one can hear both musicians lives were often interrupted.
"Solo" Reflections and Meditations on Monk" is music to savor, to sit and breathe in, to inhabit. Once you surrender to the sounds, you grow to not only appreciate the immense contributions that Thelonious Monk made to contemporary music but also how Wadada Leo Smith made his explorations of this man and his music personal and universal at the same time.
For more information about this other TUM recordings, go to tumrecords.com/053-solo-reflections-and-meditations-on-monk.
Listening to the nine songs on "The Late Set", the new Anzic Records album from vocalist Hilary Gardner and pianist Ehud Asherie, one is transported to a late-night joint: the tables are close together, almost all of them near the bandstand, with candles burning down to their final moments, and several nearly-empty glasses that the listeners are caressing gently. The songs were not chosen to spotlight the many talents of the duo but to tell stories that an audience can connect to. Perhaps it's the loneliness of Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers's "A Ship Without a Sail" or the sweet reverie of "I Never Has Seen Snow" (from the musical "House of Flowers", music by Harold Arlen and words by Truman Capote) but Ms. Gardner and Mr. Asherie caress each tune, making sure the melody is given its due and you can hear every word.
"The Late Set" is a delight from start to finish. Hilary Gardner has such a mature, honest, and, yes, playful voice while Ehud Asherie is such an intelligent accompanist, partner, and soloist. If younger listeners want to understand the power of the Great American Songbook and how songs not only captured the hearts of many listeners but also their imaginations, this album is one of the best contemporary showcases of that power.
For more information, go to www.hilarygardner.com/the-late-set/
Here's a splendid tune from the album:
There's plenty of melody, rhythms, interactions, humor, and sadness spread throughout "The Great Enthusiasms"; much of that surprises the listener first time through but, once you return for several more journeys through this daring program, you begin to understand that this music displays the leader's myriad influences without being beholden to any of them. Kris Davis and Michael Sarin are perfect partners for the"dancing on the edge" approach of this music. The music of Sam Bardfeld dazzles, delights, and definitely deserves to be heard.
For more information, go to www.sambardfeld.com.
Check out the title track: