Monday, February 27, 2023

These Sounds & Those Words


Argentinean-born pianist and composer Emilio Teubal creates music that shines with lyrical beauty, sparkling solos and interplay plus rhythms that make you dance and sway. His 2013 BJU release, "Musica Para un Dragon Dormido", is one of my all-time favorite albums. Teubal has been busy since moving to the United States over two decades. He writes constantly and has worked with artists such as bassist Pedro Giraudo, cellist Erik Friedlander, and various tango organizations and groups in the New York City area.  Currently, he leads a trio with bassist Pedro Lanouguere and drummer Chris Michael.

Those two musicians are the foundation of his new recording "Futuro" (Not Yet Records).  Recorded in several sessions in December 2021 and May 2022 (drummer Michael has been dealing with long COVID so Brian Shankar Adler appears on five of the 10 tracks, all recorded at the later sessions).  Joining the trio on three tracks is Sam Sadigursky (clarinet) and Fede Diaz (guitar) while vibraphonist Chris Dingman adds his sound to three other cuts.  From the opening measure of the opening cut (the title track), the listener is transported to sunnier climes.  The dancing clarinet and percussive guitar wrap around the warming piano figures. Bassist Lanouguere, who leads a quintet that Teubal is part of, is a rich melodic player with a full tone on both acoustic and electric; he also contributes fine bow work (he and the pianist play the opening melody of "Children of MMXX"––he then solos sans bow and is quite impressive there as well.

Photo: Sergio R. Reyes
Of the three tracks Dingman appears on, "Remolinos" stands out for its hypnotic piano figures and circular melody. There is a Steve Reich in the piano lines that is repeated by the vibes and the electric bass throughout. It certainly feels like all four musicians are percussionists and melody makers at the same time.  The vibraphonist also appears on the handsome take of Sir Paul McCartney's "Blackbird".  While the piece is the shortest track in the program (2:35), the arrangement allows everyone to shine and the melody to stand out.  

Photo: Sergio R. Reyes
The blend of the acoustic guitar and clarinet on "Los que Fluyen" hints at tango as well as Brazilian folk forms––Teubal's solo rises out of the main theme, dancing atop the guitar and electric bass then steps aside for Sadigursky to create a masterful, emotional, solo.  The quintet imbues "Tokyo Trenque" with such a gentle quality, caressing the melody while Adler's hand percussion clicks underneath.  The music picks up with intensity during Lanouguere's acoustic bass solo from which Teubal moves farther away without going "free" but much more impressionistic. The clarinet solo seems to move the rest of the band back to melody; after a quick climax, the music gently sighs to a close.

The album closes with "Los Ultimos Seran Los Primeros"  ("The last will be the first"), a wistful Trio piece dedicated to the pianist's father who passed in 2021.  The insistent quality in the piano solo allows the listener to hear touches of Keith Jarrett in the delightful two-hand work of Teubal.  As you listen to this track (and others), one can really tell that these musicians are in tune with each and with the material.  "Futuro" stands out as a work that celebrates life and melodic adventure without sacrificing the rhythms that have sparked the curiosity of Emilio Teubal since he was a boy.  Listen to "Rio" below––it's indicative of how the music incorporates its many influences to create sounds that please, hug, and brings joy!

For more information, go to  To hear more and to purchase the album, go to

Join the group on its journey to "Rio"

Photo: Jimmy Katz
What do you get when mix drummer Matt Wilson, bassist Mimi Jones, and saxophonist Jeff Lederer, give them two nights at the end of February 2020 in the newly reopened Cafe Bohemia in New York City, and let them loose.  It's the Leap Day Trio and now you can hear the results on "Leap Day Trio: Live at The Cafe Bohemia" (Giant Steps Arts). The music on the recording is spirited, lively, at times thoughtful, and very human. Messrs. Wilson and Lederer have been friends and musical partners on and off for three decades; adding Ms. Jones to their special mix neither tempers nor hinders their musical fun. Instead, she's a solid foundational player and a melodic soloist (check her out on "The Dream Weaver" and "Leap of Faith").

The nine song, 68 minute program, opens with Wilson's "Dewey Spirit", (listen below) a tune the drummer dedicates to one of his earliest mentors and employers, tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman. Commencing with percussion and Lederer's spiky tenor sax sounds, the piece opens in rubato with Ms. Jones dancing underneath the melody line.  When the main theme kicks in, one hears a running bass line, swinging drums, and the saxophonist flying all around his horn.  Everyone solos, the energy is contagious, and the crowd enjoys it all.

Two of the next three tracks are ballads ("Leap of Faith" and "Ghost Town") but the track in between ("The Dream Weaver") rumbles along atop the pulsing bass and percussion.  "Ghost Town" is a fascinating journey through the musical terrains of blues, post-bop, and during the bass solo, the feel of Native American music. Lederer lets loose on the opening of "Strival For Survival"––that sets the tempo for the rhythm section and they rocket forward. When the tempo slows down for Ms. Jones fine solo, listen for Wilson's delightful work on the cymbals.

Photo: Jimmy Katz
The program closes with the spirited "For Friends"––again, Lederer leads off the piece with a solo introduction but one can hear from his exciting forward lean, the music is going to be fiery.  Even when the gentlemen step aside for Ms. Jones spirited solo, the music has great drive.  

One hopes that the Leap Day Trio doesn't only convene every four years. In the meantime, celebrate the group's music on "Live at The Cafe Bohemia".  

Hear Matt Wilson's musical tribute to Dewey Redman:

Trumpter, composer, mentor, and author Jeremy Pelt has just issued Volume III of "Griot: Celebrating the Lives of Jazz's Great Storytellers".  15 more interviews with artists whose ages range from 89 (Wayne Shorter) to 28 (Elena Pinderhughes) sharing insights into their musical and spiritual upbringing, how they each developed a singular voice, and the changes they have seen in this art form created by black musicians at the start of the 20th Century.  These are stories of resilience in the face of the racism that has never truly been eradicated in this country and in places around the world. Many of the artists speak of how the changes that other musical forms (styles) have brought to the music keeps it alive in the face of listeners and label owners apathy.  But you also read of how musicians have been mentored by their musical elders, about the rigors of the road, and the cost, mental and physical, of a musician's calling.  Still, there are joys galore in their retelling stories of their formative days and nights on and off the bandstand.  

Photo: Ra-Re Valverde
I have written before how "Griot" will remind older Black Music fans of "Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews", the 1977 classic interviews drummer Art Taylor compiled that featured 29 of the greats who helped push the music forward in the middle decades of the 20th Century.  Jeremy Pelt has given us the 21st equivalent of Mr. Taylor's book and, hopefully, he will continue to converse with his elders, contemporaries, and young people for years to come!

For more information and to order any one or all three volumes of "Griot", go to

Monday, February 20, 2023

Musical Treats for February

 What a joy to be surrounded with such great music––here are two of the more delightful releases of 2023! 

Photo: Erika Kapin
Australian-born vocalist Jo Lawry may be best known for working with Sting, Paul Simon, Fred Hersch, and Peter Gabriel but she's been recording her own albums for the past 15 years.  She spent nearly two decades living, working, and teaching in New York City (her teaching appointments were at the Manhattan School of Music and at the Boston-based New England Conservatory).  Ms. Lawry, who is married to saxophonist Will Vinson, moved back to Australia  in 2021 to lead the Equity in Jazz program at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, a program designed to encourage and support women and gender diverse musicians into a career in jazz through dedicated leadership, music development and mentorship.   She's released three albums as a leader with the most recent being 2018's "The Bathtub and The Sea." 

For her latest venture, "Acrobats" (Whirlwind Recordings), Ms. Lawry joins forces with bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Allison Miller to create a fascinating program that ranges from standards to two special pieces either written by an Australian composer (the title track comes from the pen of Gian Slater) or made a big hit on the Aussie scene (John Farnham's anthemic "You're the Voice").  Don't be put off by the spare instrumentation as the music is so intimate, delightful, emotional and adventurous that the 43-minute goes by way too quickly.  When you listen to this music, you'll hear how melodic all three artists.  Both Ms. Han Oh and Ms. Miller certainly know how to swing; right from the voice/bass opening moments of the opening track, Frank Loesser's "Traveling Light" (from "Guys and Dolls", one hears the delightful give-and-take of Ms. Lawry with the rhythm section.

Photo: Erika Kapin
The title track (listen below) illustrates Ms. Miller's splendid hand drumming as well as why Ms. Han Oh is a first-call bassist as she supplies both counterpoint and rhythmic support.  Dig the delightful the voice/drums duo on Cole Porter's "You're The Top"; taken at a breakneck pace, the vocalist dances atop the rapid-fire brush work.  Later in the program, Ms. Han Oh and Ms. Lawry take a delightful stroll through Al Hoffman and Dick Manning's "Takes Two to Tango" (first made famous in 1952 in separate versions by Pearl Bailey and Louis Armstrong).  This version is slower and slinkier than the two versions from seven decades ago yet retains the humor and sassiness that the lyrics embody.

There is nary a weak track on "Acrobats".  While her previous album tilted towards folk and pop, it's really great to hear Jo Lawry as a jazz singer (her scat feature on Lennie Tristano's "317 East 32nd Street" is a treat as is the sparkling bass solo).  Adding Linda May Han Oh and Allison Miller to this project is a stroke of genius––you'll not hear a better trio album this year!!

Let's hear the album's title track:

For his third album on Edition Records, tenor saxophonist Chris Potter recorded several nights of his February 2022 gig at the legendary Village Vanguard.  Six songs from the multi-night engagement make up the program for "Got The Keys to the Kingdom: Live at The Village Vanguard." For the gig, Potter put together an ensemble featuring Craig Taborn (piano), Scott Colley (bass), and Marcus Gilmore (drums).  The set is bookended by two long blues/gospel tunes with the first being Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Gotta Move."  The leader goes it along for the first 30 seconds then introduces the blues groove that the rest of the ensemble picks up on.  They run the first three verses with Potter adding more energy each time until they break into a short bridge and the saxophone solo commences.  It's a tour-de-force, filled with ideas and turns-of-phrases, reminiscent of a Sonny Rollins-like playfulness. Taborn is next and he digs into the song's blues groove.  After a quick return to the theme, Gilmore gets the spotlight and, with the help of Colley's short background figure, kicks the heck out of his drums.

Besides the blues, there are two tracks with Brazilian roots, the handsome folk tune "Nazani Na" (transcribed by Heitor Villa-Lobos and Edgar Roquette-Pinto from an Amazonian Indian folk tune) and "Olha Maria", composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chico Buarque, and Vinicius De Moraes).  The latter piece opens as a nearly-three minute conversation for Potter and Colley before the pianist and drummer enter.  There is also a lovely take on Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count", a piece he composed in the hospital awaiting treatment for esophageal cancer that would claim his life several months later. When recorded by the Ellington Orchestra, the solo on the piece was poignantly played by Johnny Hodges. Here, the quartet not only interprets the distress of the composer's condition but his fight as well.  It's quite a beautiful piece.  That's followed by Charlie Parker's "Klactoveedsestene", a jaunty dance for all involved.  

The album closes with the title track, a gospel tune first recorded by Washington Phillips in 1929.  Again, I hear the influence of Sonny Rollins in the rollicking rhythms, the playful interactions of the group, and Potter's powerful solo.  Gilmore and Colley push him hard while Taborn feeds him aggressive chords.  The pianist gets the next solo, dancing, strutting, bouncing, feeding off the lively bass and drums. A return to the opening theme then Gilmore begins his magnificent 3:30 solo that reaches its climax with the audience roaring its approval. The entire quartet takes the piece out on that high-energy level.  

"Got The Keys to the Kingdom" is a delight from start to finish. If you love high-energy creative, the album has numerous examples. If you need a heartfelt ballad that explores many emotions, that's here as well. Rhythmic adventures? Yes! Great solos? Yes!  Chris Potter and his excellent ensemble shine throughout–don't miss this splendid live album! 

Here's Chris and the band on Charlie Parker's "Klactoveedsedstene":

Monday, February 13, 2023

Burt Bacharach (1928-2023)

Photo: Getty Images
Composer and arranger Burt Bacharach passed away last Wednesday at the age of 94.  Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Bacharach was entranced by the sounds of jazz in his hometown (County Basie!) despite the fact his mother made him study classical music. He did his undergraduate work (in music) at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, then went to the Mannes School of Music in New York City, and the Music Academy of the West in California. After a stint in the US Armed Forces, Bacharach worked as a pianist and arranger with singers such as Vic Damone, Polly Bergen, Steve Lawrence, and even several stints playing the Catskills in New York State. In 1956, Bacharach began working with actress and singer Marlene Dietrich, touring Europe and the Middle East on numerous occasions. Their musical relationship lasted into the the early years of the next decade.

At the same time, the pianist was also working as a songwriter in the mid-century "Tin Pan Alley" that was the famous Brill Building.  There, he collaborated with lyricists Bob Hilliard ("Any Day Now", "Tower of Strength") and Mack David ("Baby, It's You") but when he teamed up with David's younger brother Hal in 1963, they created a body over the next decade with artists such as Gene Pitney, Jerry Butler, Lou Johnson, the Fifth Dimension, the Carpenters, Tom Jones, Herb Alpert, and, of course, Dionne Warwick. Their work with Ms. Warwick, a brilliant vocalist with a wonderful range, has stood the test of time.  Their musical relationship slowed to a halt by 1973 – all three went on to do impressive work yet never hit the heights of the mid-to-late 60s.

My introduction to the music of Burt Bacharach started in the early 1960s as I would use my allowance to scour the bargain bins of 45 rpm "singles" at the local Woolworth's 5 & Dime store. Prices ranged from 10 to 25 cents and I would try my chances.  I had already heard Gene McDaniel's "Tower of Strength" (listen below) and had bought a few records on the Wand label, seeing Bacharach's name on some as composer and arranger.  Whether the songs were hits or not, the music was always interesting. Bacharach had an affinity for Black vocalists, working with Tommy Hunt, Lou Johnson, and Brook Benton. Looking back and listening to this music, it sounds so "grown-up" for its time, not really (in many cases) rhythm 'n' blues or rock or even "pop" but incredibly well-crafted works of art sung by singers who had previously been "pigeon-holed" by producers into settings that did not show the range of their voices or emotions. Yes, some of Burt Bacharach pieces could be saccharine (luscious swelling strings, dramatic pauses) but the best of them transcended any genre.  

Burt Bacharach would go on to write scores for films and writing hit songs with his third wife, Carole Bayer Sager, but when he teamed up with Elvis Costello in 1998 to create "Painted From Memory", their work together stands alongside the composer's best work.  He never stopped writing and collaborating, even was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2020 for his work with lyricist and instrumentalist Daniel Tashian (pictured above).  

Yes, some of the songs can be sappy ("Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head") or sexist ("Wives and Lovers" being the worst offender) but never offensive.  His best work stands the test of the time and had been interpreted by singers all around the world.  

Listen to these Bacharach classics:

"Trains and Boats and Planes":

and, of course, Ms. Warwick:

And two from Elvis Costello and Mr. Bacharach: