Monday, January 29, 2018

Visions, Dreams, and Realities

What a treat to immerse oneself in a big band recording!  To hear how the different sections work together and independently, how the solos are built upon such elegant and intelligent foundations, how melody leads to counterpoint, how rhythm leads to interaction, how the composer and arranger utilizes all these voices to tell his or her story, all this and more is exciting to these ears.  The sound of the big band in jazz has grown from the primitive yet really sophisticated work of Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington and Fletcher Henderson in the 1920s and 30s, from the "territory" dance bands of Benny Moten and Count Basie, the high-powered swing of Benny Goodman and Chick Webb, the smoother sounds of the Dorsey Brothers (together and separately) and Glen Miller and beyond.  The work of Gil Evans with and without Miles Davis in the 1950s and 60s as well Gerry Mulligan and Bob Brookmeyer paved the way to the work of Maria Schneider, John Hollenbeck, Alan Ferber, Ryan Truesdell (in his case, Gil Evans) and a number of younger voices such as Darcy James Argue, Ayn Inserto, and more.

 Jim McNeely (born 1949) grew up (musically) in the 1970s, working with the likes of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Phil Woods, and Stan Getz.  After Thad Jones moved to Europe, he began working with the Mel Lewis Orchestra and soon discovered how much he loved arranging and writing for big bands.  Mentored and employed as a pianist by Bob Brookmeyer, McNeely learned much and soon began working with big bands such as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the Danish Radio Big Band, and, since 2008, has been the chief conductor of the Frankfurt Radio (HR) Big Band. That group is featured on his new album "Barefoot Dances and Other Visions" (Planet Arts), a stunning and highly enjoyable seven-song suite that speaks to the composer's relationship with these musicians and their myriad abilities.

What composer McNeely envisioned was a song cycle that pulled together a number of story-lines, from the celebration of Mr. Brookmeyer that opens the album, the playful and ebullient "Bob's Here", to the somber, wistful yet a bit bouncy ballad "A Glimmer of Hope" to the wondrous swing of "Redman Rides Again" (a tribute to the arranging style and adventurous nature of Don Redman (1900-1964) - the stunning interaction on the last track mentioned between the clarinets of Heinz-Deiter Sauerborn, Stefan Weber, and Rainier Heute with the electronically manipulated clarinet of Oliver Leicht is flat-out brilliant.

When you listen to program, notice the brilliant foundations laid down by bassist Thomas Heidepriem, how the electric guitar work of Martin Scales is so important to both the power and direction of certain pieces, the amazing work of the brass and reeds, and how drummer Jean Paul Höchstäder is the linch-pin for so much of the music - his power, his push, his fills - just the way he dances underneath trombonist Günter Bollman and the rest of the band on the title track is life-affirming. As you work your way back through the music, you'll hear soloists such as trombonist Peter Fell, tenor saxophonist Tony Lakatos, and trumpeter Axel Schlosser maneuver through the arrangements to create memorable solos.

With exception of his work with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (also released on Planet Arts as well as New World Records), "Barefoot Dances and Other Visions" is only other large ensemble work by Jim McNeely to be issued on an American label. This is music that should be heard - like the best work of the afore-mentioned composers and arrangers (Ellington, Brookmeyer, Schneider), the music builds off the past but is clearly of its day. This is also music that speaks of the creativity of the American musical experience, when freedom, creativity, talent, and the curiosity to see how one can continue to move forward collide to create art.  Plus, it's great fun from the opening minute right to the end!

For more information, go to and to The latter site has several concert videos (not of the music on the new CD but of collaborations with bassist Dave Holland and vocalist Gretchen Parlato).  

Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn--Alto Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Clarinet
Oliver Leicht--Alto Sax, Clarinet, Flute, Alto Clarinet, Alto Flute
Tony Lakatos--Tenor Sax, Flute, Alto Flute
Steffen Weber--Tenor Sax, Flute, Clatinet, Bass Flute
Rainer Heute--Baritone Sax, Bass Clarinet, Alto Flute
Frank Wellert--Trumpet, Flügelhorn
Thomas Vogel--Trumpet, Flügelhorn
Martin Auer--Trumpet, Flügelhorn
Axel Schlosser--Trumpet, Flügelhorn
Günter Bollman--Trombone
Peter Feil--Trombone
Christian Jaksjø--Trombone, Valve Trombone
Manfred Honetschläger--Bass Trombone
Martin Scales--Guitar
Peter Reiter--Piano
Thomas Heidepriem--Bass
Jean-Paul Höchstädter—Drums

The Diva Jazz Orchestra, founded in 1992 by Stanley Kay after he conducted a band with Sherry Maricle as its drummer, is celebrating its birthday and continued existence with the "25th Anniversary Project", a smashing new recording produced and released through ArtistShare.  Instead of focusing on earlier works or standards, music director Ms. Maricle asked members of the all-women group to submit new works.  She brought two pieces to the project and eight other members have one each.  A number of these musicians and composers have busy careers outside the band but they have brought their best to this effort.

By this time, most people have gotten over the novelty of the "all female big band" and can concentrate on how good this music (besides, when one is listening to a recording, can you tell if it's a woman or a man playing - and does it matter at all?)  The program opens with the rollicking "East Coast Andy" composed and arranged by baritone saxophonist Leigh Pilzer (also a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra) - the song is a spunky romp a la the Basie Orchestra with fine solos from the composer and trumpeter Jami Dauber. Clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Janelle Reichman blends Eastern European sounds and chords with a lively Latin rhythm on "Middleground" (co-arranged with bassist Noriko Ueda) - it's a delight to hear how the sections add to the melody section before pianist Tomoko Ohno dances over the rhythm section. Then, Ms. Reichman takes off with the reeds and brass playing counterpoint.  All the while, the bass and drums keep the piece percolating.

Every track as its standout moments. There is the delightful double trumpets solo (Leisl Whitaker and Barbara Laronga) on "Jami's Tune" and the powerful tenor saxophone statement by Erica von Kleist on "Darkness of the Matter" (composer Sara Jacovino adds a hardy trombone solo as well).  Ms. Maricle's lovely ballad "Forever in My Heart" features a handsome melody by Rachel Therrien on flugelhorn plus intelligent fills from the reeds and brass (excellent baritone sax work from Ms. Pilzer underneath).  The drummer also contributed the final track, aptly titled "The Rhythm Changes", which has a dazzling opening theme that breaks into exciting solos from trumpeter Laronga and alto saxophonist Mercedes Beckman.  Both bassist Ueda and drummer Maricle take short solos with the reeds and brass adding occasional "shout" phrases or bluesy riffs - the scramble at the end of the piece that leads back into the opening melody takes the album on a triumphant note.

Diva Jazz Orchestra may be 25 years old but this album sounds fresh and on target.  There's neither a weak tune nor boring solo in the 65-minute program. Yes, you can hear echoes of Count Basie, touches of Duke Ellington, a bit of Woody Herman but they are just that - echoes.  What truly stands out is how strong this music, how much fun the musicians are having as an ensemble, and how positive the listening experience is.  Happy "25th Anniversary Project"!  Here's to many more.

For more information, go to

Alexa Tarentino: alto and soprano saxophones
Mercedes Beckman: alto saxophone, flute, clarinet
Janelle Reichman: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Erica von Kleist: tenor saxophone
Leigh Pilzer: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet
Leisl Whitaker: trumpet, flugelhorn
Jami Dauber: trumpet, flugelhorn
Rachel Therrien: trumpet, flugelhorn
Barbara Laronga: trumpet, flugelhorn
Jennifer Krupa: trombone
Sara Jacavino: trombone
Leslie Havens: bass trombone
Tomoko Ohno: piano
Noriko Ueda: acoustic bass
Sherry Maricle: drums, music director
with guest soloist Marcia Gallas on one track

Saturday, January 27, 2018

All You Need......

These days, it seems the world is louder than it's ever been. Many people blame the acidic political climate, the acerbic comments from on high and in the various forms of media that crowd our pockets and desktops.

Creative music reflects our times.  "Protest" songs comes from rap artists, from modern country artists;  jazz musicians respond today as Max Roach and Charles Mingus did in the late 1950s and1960s and the song/stories created by Gil Scott-Heron in the 1970s.  Musicians and composers feel the need to live in the present and to connect with as many people as possible. The airwaves are cluttered, the choices are many, yet the messages are often drowned by the collective apathy.

Pledge Music
What to make of "The Subject Tonight is Love"?  It's the new album from the trio of Kate McGarry (vocals), Keith Ganz (guitar, acoustic bass guitar), and Gary Versace (piano, electric piano, organ, accordion). The project, crowd-funded through Pledge Music and self-released on the artists' Binxtown Records, is an intimate project conceived by three friends who have worked together closely over the past decade or so (certainly on the past three albums Ms. McGarry released on Palmetto).  It's my belief that this music is a response to the harsh noises of the past several years, to the rancor one sees in many social interactions, not in the manner of the psychedelic 60s "Peace & Love" but as adult artists finding that true "repair" starts at home and moves outward.

The program is an enchanting, challenging, rewarding, and, in the long run, soul-satisfying experience.  The "Prologue", really the title track, is an original melody by Ganz with lyrics from the 14th Century Persian poet Hafiz (1319-1390?) sets the stage: "The subject tonight is LoveAnd for tomorrow night as well,/ As a matter of fact/ I know of no better topic For us to discuss/ Until we all Die!"  All the songs deal with the various forms in which people love and live, from courageous to fleeting to fractured to new love to maternal love and more.  Seven of the 12 tracks are standards. Most of them should be familiar but what the trio does with the music is quite magical.  There's the beauty of "Secret Love", opening with the the whispery vocal over the nylon string guitar and then Versace entering with counterpoint.  The jazzy take of "Gone With The Wind" (from the pen of Allie Wrubel and Herb Magidson) opens nicely into a delightful piano solo with excellent support from Ganz's acoustic bass guitar.  Ms McGarry's playful vocal is a real treat as she moves in and out of melody and "scat" syllables.  "My Funny Valentine" is amazing (listen below), from the arrangement of the guitar, bass, and keyboards to the honesty and vulnerability in the vocal.  Is the singer wistful, hopeful, fretful, pleading, or all of that and more.  All this can be heard as well in the instrumental work. Pay attention to the heartfelt "Fair Weather", composed by Benny Golson and Kenny Dorham, known as well for a brilliant recording by Chet Baker. It's such a handsome melody with lyrics that speak of equality composed at a time - 1958 - when the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to be noticed in the United States. Of course, 60 years later and the message is still poignant and still on point.  There is also is a sweet take of Egberto Gismonti's "Palhaço" - Geraldo Carneiro wrote the original Portuguese lyrics while this version, retitled "Playing Palhaço", has English lyrics by Jo Lawry.  

There are three pieces with original lyrics from Ms McGarry, one of which, "Climb Down", addresses her Irish ancestors and the issues they had on both sides of the Atlantic. The music may remind some of the work of Robbie Robertson and Dick Connette (Last Forever) but with a hefty blues edge.  The vocalist's "Losing Strategy #4" is about lost love and turning the blame away from one's self and how that always fails.  The lovely piano, bass guitar, and accordion accompaniment sets a lonely tone that resonates long after the song fades.  The third original "She Always Will" looks at life, our many decisions that lead us to roads we may never expected to take; yet, this could also be a dream or a reflection the composer had standing by a pond or sitting on the porch by herself.

There are playful moments, songs where Ms. McGarry's voice soars over the organ, piano, and guitar (such as "What a Difference a Day Made") - everyone sound like they are having such fun.  Perhaps it's the freedom that "doing it yourself" brings, that you're making the music you have always wanted to make, taking chances you always wanted to take, and that there is an audience who appreciates what you, will support you and embrace your stories.  Kate McGarry, Keith Ganz, and Gary Versace actually recorded 30 songs as they were preparing "The Subject Tonight is Love", such an exciting prospect that the sessions certainly yielded more delightful musical stories, more aural support, smiles, and, even tears.  

This is music to climb inside of and take to your heart. Really, just give in. It's good to smile!

For more information, go to

Enjoy this piece!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Let's Dance, say the Drummers

Drummer, composer, and arranger Rob Garcia is a very busy artist. Besides working with his own quartet, he is also the founder and artistic director of a non-profit organization called Connection Works, works and records with groups such as Svetlana and The Delancey Five and Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra, and is an active member of the Brooklyn Jazz Underground.

His new project is a delightful aural treat. Aptly titled "Drum Solos for Dancers Only" (Connection Works Records), Garcia has created a program that will help people who love to dance realize that it's the drummer who gets them up and onto their feet and provides the impetus to keep going (not to slight the wailing horns, the athletic bass lines, the propulsive left hand of the pianist, and others).  The 13 pieces emphasize different dances ("Savoy Steps", "Honey Soft Shoe", "Elastic Boogie", etc) and it is impossible for the listener (or, the writer at the keyboard) to sit still.  It's fascinating to hear the different melody lines - yes, melody - that Garcia creates here. Listen to "Americana Thrill" -  do you hear the theme from Ferde Grofé's "Grand Canyon Suite"?

The album is not Rob Garcia showing off but illustrating how he can direct an orchestra and how to keep folks on the dance floor.  Technically, it's brilliant but this is neither a thesis project nor an exact history lesson.  Throughout the recording, you hear the influences of people like Chick Webb, Sonny Greer, Gene Krupa, and the countless drummers of the "swing era" and beyond.  In the long run, this is music for and about movement. The music brings people together, gives them a reason to have fun, to express themselves physically, to work out frustrations - it's why we sing in the car or the shower, why we go to concerts, why we sit up late at night listening to albums that turned our heads 40, 50 years ago.  Dancing can free us of certain inhibitions and I recommend you listen to this album really loud - Come on, "everybody dance now!"

For more information, go to

Frank Perowsky is a clarinetist and saxophonist from Des Moines, Iowa, who's been involved in the New York City music scene since graduating from the Juilliard School in the late 1950s. He's worked with bands led byWoody Herman, Jimmy Dorsey, in Broadway pit bands, backing singers such as Billy Eckstine, Peggy Lee, and Mel Torme, plus a three decade-plus working relationship with Liza Minnelli. One thing Frank Perowsky has yet to become is a prolific recording artist in his own right.

His new album, "An Afternoon in Gowanus" (JazzKey Music), features his 16-piece Jazz Orchestra (plus vocalist Ira Hawkins) and is his first album since he recorded "Bop on Pop" with  his son, drummer Ben Perowsky and organist Sam Yahel, in 2001.  The latest disc hearkens back to the days of the Count Basie Band, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, with hints of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra.

Look at the lineup and you'll see many familiar names. The saxophone section includes Jerry Dodgion, Loren Stillman, John Ellis, Bob Franceschini, and Roger Rosenberg while the trumpets include Seneca Black, Chris Rogers, Antoine Drye, and Waldren Ricks. The trombone section boasts the big sounds of Sam Burtis, Jacob Garchik, Brian Drye, and Joe Randazzo.  Besides Ben Perowksy at the drums, the rhythm section includes pianist David Berkman and bassist Aidan O'Donnell. The program, recorded in front of a live audience, features a bright selection of originals and intelligent arrangements of works by John Lewis, Tom McIntosh, Duke Ellington,  Bud Powell and Larry Young.  The Young piece, "Talkin' About J.C.", is a smart re-working of the organist's 1962 work recorded by Grant Green.  First of all, it swings like mad and opens up to a number of fine solos.  It's the blues that underpins this music, whether it's the happy-go-lucky original "Big Apple Circus" that opens the album or the quiet ballad "Paris Dreams", a vehicle for trombonist Burtis. Even on the latter track, there is a bounce in the rhythm section. I dare you to sit still on John Lewis's "Two Bass Hit" as it roars right out of the gates powered by the powerful drums.

When you listen all the way through "An Afternoon in Gowanus" a few times, you realize just how much fun this band is having.  Frank Perowksy's arrangements leave plenty of room for solos and the sectional work is exciting and active, quite complementary throughout.  This is "live" music, alive in many ways.  Perhaps no new ground is covered but never does it sound stale, re-hashed, or a pale copy of bands past.  This is the kind of music for a crowded nightclub or concert hall, sounds that fill the air and have the power to block out negativity.  Play it loud and enjoy!

For more information, go to

Here's a taste:

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Ms. Fujii Writes, Plays, and Speaks Her Mind (Large Ensemble & Solo)

2018 is the year pianist, composer, and arranger Satoko Fujii turns 60 years old and will release an album every month (one may remember Wynton Marsalis doing something similar in 1999, albeit not for his 60th).  This month will see the release of a solo piano recital.  Before we talk about anything brand new, I should look at two of her more exciting 2017 albums.  Early November saw the latest release (and 10th since 1997) by her 13-member Orchestra New York. Titled "Fukushima" (Libra Records), the music is a reaction to the nuclear disaster triggered by an earthquake in 2011.  There were several deaths as well as tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes (in some instances, for more than nine months). The after-effects of the disaster were felt throughout Japan and the Far East.

The impressive ensemble - saxophonists Oscar Noriega, Ellery Eskelin, Tony Malaby, and Andy Laster, trumpeters Dave Ballou, Herb Robertson, and Natsuki Tamura, trombonists Joey Sellers, Joe Fielder, and Curtis Hasselbring, plus guitarist Nels Cline, electric bassist Stomu Takeishi, and drummer Ches Smith - do an amazing job bringing this musical five-section story to life.  There are moments when the music is mournful, confrontational, angry, quiet, loud, and emotionally powerful. Section "1" opens with breath, as if the wind was passing through trees or over the landscapes of the city. Slowly, one hears various voices rise out of the ensemble, trumpet, sax, percussion - Cline's "tolling" guitar lines ushers in a new section where various voices move in and around his sound.  The group hits its stride at the beginning of "2" when the rhythm section pushes forward a powerful sure of sound and different soloists rise and fall around  them.  The whole group then plays a powerful counterpoint to Laster's squalling baritone solo - yet, pay attention to Cline, Smith, and especially Takeishi (the bassist really roars underneath).

One is tempted to write about every section of this 57-minute adventure but the best advice is to start at the beginning and listen all the way through.  Then, repeat.  What stands out for you?  Is the power of the "sound"? Is it how the electronics of the guitar and bass push the music into different territories for a large ensemble?  Is it the gorgeous coda that is section "5"?  Chances are that it is all of the above and more.  Ms. Fujii gives voice to the victims, making the power of her music and musicians speak for those who suffered (the majority of section "4" is filled with short solo or duo statements, making the point that all voices should be heard - the full band "blues" that closes the section is extremely powerful as well, giving even more gravitas to "5".

"Fukushima", a tragedy translated into music by Satoko Fujii, is quite a stunning work. The musicians of Orchestra New York left their egos at the door for the sake of the narrative.  Yes, the title of the album adds the weight of expectations to the music but serves as a reminder that composers and musicians live in the "real" world as much as they do in the world of creativity.  Here, those worlds collide and, I believe, we are better for it.

Earlier in 2017, the Japanese label Cortez Sound (named for the Cortez Jazz Cafe in Mito, Japan, approximately 80 miles to the northeast of Tokyo) issued its first album.  "Invisible Hand" is a two-CD recording of the solo piano music of Satoko Fujii.  There are 10 tracks, 87 minutes of music, much of which is improvised. As with "Fukushima", the listener is advised to sit and listen, leaving (if possible) one's expectations aside.  The music covers a great deal of territory, from flowing Keith Jarrett-like melodies to the title track that starts inside of the piano and does not have a true "melody" until 2/3rds of the way through its 13+ minutes. "Floating" is an amazing piece with prepared piano; the power of the pianist's single note phrases and occasional chords plus the marimba-like "prepared" sounds have a meditative feel - watch how the mood and direction changes midway through. This is such a fascinating exploration of possibilities.

In the brief liner notes included in the package, Ms. Fujii writes that she "played total improvisation in the first set, mixed with some written pieces in the second set." The joy of this music is that the listener cannot really hear the difference.  The power of pieces such as "Spring Storm" and "Green Cab" is in the pictures that the pianist paints on (and in) her keyboard (the latter track has a delightful "stride piano" section that may remind some of the work of Myra Melford, who as recorded with Ms. Fujii).

Yes, Satoko Fujii is "flooding" the market with her music and yes, it can be overwhelming. For this listener (who has heard several dozen of her albums with various groups), "Invisible Hand" is one of my favorites. It's true that I like the occasional "clutter" of her different large ensembles and her fascinating accordion work with the Gato Libre quartet: however, this two-disk set is quite entertaining and emotionally satisfying.

For more information, go to

Here's the opening track:

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Catching Up January 18 (Pt. 1)

Over the past several decades, guitarist and composer Rez Abbasi has been "fusing" sounds from India and his native Pakistan with the varied influences of Western Music, specifically jazz and blues. His 12th album as a leader, "Unfiltered Universe" (Whirlwind Recordings), features his long-time companions Vijay Iyer (piano), Rudresh Mahanthappa (alto saxophone), Johannes Weidenmueller (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums) and adds the cello of Elizabeth Mikael.  Iyer, Weiss, Mahanthappa, and Weidenmueller appeared on 2011's "Suno Suno" and 2009's "Things to Come" and the leader sees this record as a third in a trilogy of recording that use South Asian music as touchstone for his compositions and the improvisations.  The blend of alto sax, acoustic piano, and guitar with this highly active rhythm section makes for a winning combination.

John Rogers photo
"Propensity" opens the program and, right from the start, the listener should pay attention to the different components. The extended melody, the powerful combination of bass and drums, the vocal characteristic of Mahanthappa's alto sax, the way the arrangement includes the cello as counterpoint. and the excellent solos.  The title track follows.  This melody, played by the alto and guitar, has a lovely almost melancholy flavor especially when the cello enters shadowing the lines played by the piano.  Notice the "freedom" yet structure in the rhythm section during the solos as well as Iyer's heavy chordal work.  The rhythms slow down at the onset of the piano solo and one can really hear the articulated notes and how, slowly, surely, Iyer works in tandem with Weidenmueller and Weiss.

With exception of "Thoughts", a short (1:41) but rambunctious guitar solo, the songs stretch out but no piece is overdone.  It's fun to hear how the tempos change within songs, how the different voices interact, how the power of the alto sax is matched by the guitar and piano but is not a "war" of virtuosi.  The leader plays with great fire throughout yet there are moments of simple beauty as well.  The longest track (11:54), "Turn of Events", take its time to get going but once the song hits a rhythmic stride, the musicians still don't hurry.  The mysterious melody finally arrives, played by the guitar, sax, and cello and it's as if everything as fallen into the right places. Soon, Mahanthappa and Abbasi are soloing together as the pianist pulls the rhythm section forward.  But, they drop for a piano solo framed by only the bass and drums yet you can hear how Iyer builds his powerful spot from the main melody and rhythm of the composition. Ms. Mikael steps out for a quick solo with Weidenmueller's bass as a counterpoint before the bass is by himself.  Guitar and piano create a percussive dialogue before the sextet returns for the reprise of the opening theme.

"Unfiltered Universe" is structured yet has such a "free" feel at times it seems as if the musicians are spinning a magic story.  While Rez Abbasi talks about the importance of carnatic music to this album, all the influences seems to have merged into an original sound.  Give a listen and then another - this music all seduce you.

For more information, go to

Here's the title track:

It was Peter Margasak in the Chicago Reader who hipped his readers to the "Flow", the new Delmark album from the Paul Gialorrenzo Trio.  I went out and purchased the album on the power of his suggestion.  Yes, it's a piano trio album, released at a time when one get lost easily in the plethora of piano trio recordings. But, I understand his enthusiasm.  Pianist and composer Gialorrenzo, a native of Long Island, NY who now resides and works in Chicago, has crafted an album that may remind some of work of Herbie Nichols or Bud Powell or Thelonious Monk. He's not afraid of changing tempos in mid-phrase and is blessed to have the rhythm section of Joshua Abrams (bass) and Mikel Patrick Avery (drums) who not only follow his creative paths he creates but push, poke, prod, and "swing like mad" along the way.

Listen to how "Rolling" does just that, how it rolls along on the walking bass lines and ride cymbal and how the melody and solo dances atop it.  Throughout the nine-song program, the emphasis is on melody, interplay, and  the narrative Giallorenzo weaves into every track.  Feet have to tap on "Flipd Scrip" and heads will lean in on the opening melody of "Interstice": with the entrance of bassist Abrams on the latter track, the piece moves in a "freer" direction but never goes all the way out. In fact, there's a section that is "deep" blues.

The two pieces that bookend the album, "A-Frolicking" and "A Way We Go", point to the playfulness of this music, the type of repertoire that make audiences sit up and smile.  The Paul Giallorenzo Trio swings with glee, the music never feels forced, and you can see the musicians are paying close attention to each other.  "Flow" is a delight from start to finish.

For more information about this fascinating musician, go to

Saxophonist Nick Hempton (alto and tenor) has issued four fine albums on Posi-Tone Records, mostly with his fine Quartet.  With the release of "Trio Stonk: Live at Smalls" (SmallsLIVE), the Australian native has downsized but not to the detriment of his music. With his rhythm section - George DeLancey (bass) and long-time associate Dan Aran (drums) - Hempton moves his way through seven pieces, five of which are originals.  Not hard to compare some of the pieces to the 1950s Trio work of Sonny Rollins - listen to the opening of "Dropping A Franklin" or the playful take of "When I Grow Too Old to Dream" and you can hear it in the way Hempton phrases and the gentle swing of the rhythm section.  There are even a few Rollins quotes on the opening of "Not That Sort of Jazz That Stewart Likes", a delightful romp that has an easy groove.

The lovely take of the standard "Poor Butterfly" is a highlight, the alto sax dancing around the structural work of the bass and drums. The singing tone of the sax, the gentle brush work, and intelligent counterpoint from the bass, all combine for a sweet ballad.  "A Whistling Blues" opens with just sax and bass playing a "down home" tune with the feel of David "Fathead" Newman supporting Ray Charles.  The blues gets deeper when the drums enters to slowly push the tune forward.

Trio Stonk plays with verve, a sweet sense of humor, and the desire to entertain people who like jazz. Neither confrontational nor challenging, Nick Hempton and company make music that's filled with joy, soaked in the blues, not afraid to swing, and possessing a sense of humor.  Relax and dig into these tasty sounds.

For more information, go to

Give a listen:

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year & More New Music

In a delightful surprise move, Pi Recordings pre-released the new album from Henry Threadgill on New Year's Eve (yes, last night). The recording features yet another new ensemble for the Pulitzer Prize winning composer and reed master, the 15-member 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg. Not sure what the name means but you can be sure that Mr. Threadgill has created music that blurs the lines between composition and improvisation, underpinning it all with the amazing flow from an expanded rhythm section. His Zooid group - cellist Chris Hoffman, drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee, acoustic guitarist Liberty Ellman, and the stunning tuba master Jose Davila - are all here augmented by members of his Ensemble Double Up - pianists David Virelles (also harmonium) and David Bryant, alto saxophonists Curtis Macdonald and Roman Filiu (who also plays alto flute), and drummer Craig WeinribFilling out the group are trombonists Jacob Garchik and Ben Gersteintrumpeters Stephanie Richards and Jonathan Finlayson, plus bassist Thomas Morgan. The 15th musician is Mr. Threadgiill who appears on alto saxophone, flute, and alto flute.

The album won't be officially released until Spring so you have to go to to purchase it now as a download.  If you are a fan of Henry Threadgill, you'll go there and you will be more than pleased.  It's a treat and a challenge, just like the New Year itself. Go and give a listen. It just might ward off the chill that has covered the United States over the past week or so.  Worth a try!

I've been driving around the past few months with the new CD by Carn Davidson 9 in my player. "Murphy" (self-released) is the nonet's second recording and continues the concept of the group's 2012 debut album; three reeds, four brass plus bass and drums, no chordal instruments.  Led by William Carn (trombone, compositions) and Tara Davidson (alto sax, soprano sax, flute, clarinet, compositions), this band is a real community with arrangements by members.  Most of the band from the debut album is back including Kelly Jefferson (tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet), Perry White (baritone sax, bass clarinet), Jason Logue and Kevin Turcotte (trumpet, flugelhorn), and bassist Andrew Downing - joining the band are Alex Duncan (bass trombone) and Ernesto Cervini (drums).

The eight pieces (four each for the co-leaders) make intelligent use of the various voices.  Many of the melodies are carried by the sections, with counterpoint from the others, all driven by the delightful rhythm section. On Carn's "Glassman", vocalist Emilie-Claire Barlow because part of the band with her wordless vocals alongside the brass and clarinets.  The beginning is rubato so the flow comes from the melody. When the rhythm section enters, Ms. Barlow's voice moves in and out of the arrangement during the solos.  "Murphy's Law" has a delightful melody section that leads to a lovely and lengthy solo from White (on baritone sax): only near the close do the sections come in to dance around underneath him.

Lloyd Smith - Ottawa Citizen
There's a lovely classical feel in the reeds and brass melody that opens "Second Act (for Ron)". When the rhythm section enters, the melody is moved forward by the soprano sax, clarinet and flute. Listen to how the voices intertwine, interact, and work below the fine soprano saxophone solo.  There is a symphonic feel to the arrangement (by Carn for his composition). Make sure to check out the excellent work by bassist Downing especially in the final third of the piece.  "Reason, Season, Lifetime" dances in on a short riff from the saxophones, a riff that is repeated several tines throughout the piece. Check out how Jefferson's tenor solo picks up on the "dancing" motif now carried on by the rhythm section.  The other "voices" do a sweet job framing the solo, moving in and out behind the tenor (trumpeter Logue's arrangement).  Ms. Davidson has the other solo, her soprano sax lines slipping and sliding atop the rhythms while the sections match her energy as the intensity level matches up.

The title track closes the album. Named for the for the co-leaders's cat, "Murphy!" (the exclamation point is added as a descriptor) is, at times, playful, slower, jumping around, feisty, but never know, cat-like.  There is even a touch of electronics on the tenor sax solo (could also represent the many personalities of a cat) and it's Cervini's exciting solo that brings the song and album back to its playful opening melody.  Not quite a cat chasing its tail mor like one dashing through the house for reasons unknown to humans.

"Murphy" is a delight from start to finish. Even if you are allergic to cats, this music will make you smile, dance, relax, and, honestly, feel better.  Carn Davidson 9 is a true "family" ensemble (listen to "Family Portrait" to hear how all the voices come together to move the narrative forward), one that creates music you'll want to listen to over and over.

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