CD of the Month
“The Blues and the Abstract Truth Take 2”
“The Blues and The Abstract Truth”, a 1961 album by Oliver Nelson is one of only a handful of true classics of the jazz canon. The recently released tribute album by Bill Cunliffe may not reach the legendary status of the original but it will stand out on its own merit as an excellent recording that also reinforces the legacy of the first without being an imitation.
Pianist Cunliffe, like so many other jazzers of his generation, was highly influenced by Oliver Nelson’s musical masterpiece. He opted to render a heartfelt homage by re-recording the same 6 songs in the same order as Oliver and then adding 2 self-penned “Nelson-esque” compositions to round out this exciting session. Accompanying Bill are his long-time Vail Jazz Festival mates, alto saxist Jeff Clayton and trumpeter Terell Stafford as well as bassist Tom Warrington, drummer Mark Ferber, veterans Andy Martin and Bob Sheppard on trombone and tenor sax respectively, among others.
The last 15 to 20 years has seen a multitude of jazz artists & composers tributes alongside numerous concept albums, most falling short of their intended goals or becoming simply a mirror image of their inspired subjects, Bill Cumliffe’s “The Blues and The Abstract Truth, Take 2” for the upstart Resonance Records label not only achieves its objective of paying respect to an all-time great recording, it maintains an artistic merit worthy of its own accolades.
“Once Upon A Melody”
Mentored by the late Nat Yarbrough and Billy Tolles, Denver raised saxophonist Javon Jackson made his bones playing alongside home grown and visiting giants of jazz at LoDo’s famous El Chapultepec lounge while attending the University of Denver. After his studies at Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music Javon embarked on his successful career as a member of the “university of” Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. After his stint with Blakey, Jackson has led his own group for over 15 years, often collaborating with stand out veterans like Lonnie Smith and Les McCann while touring around the world and recording in a variety of styles and formats skillfully displaying his versatility.
For his latest effort, Javon Jackson has returned to the classic quartet setting with an exquisite trio accompanying his sax, Eric Reed, Corcoran Holt and Billy Drummond is the polished rhythm section. Javon carefully chose songs with special personal meaning for “Once Upon A Melody” on the Palmetto Records, the label for his last four albums. Here’s what Jackson says about the CD’s selections, “ Wayne Shorter’s “One by One” takes me back to my time with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messenger’s, the period that shaped my manhood. Sonny Rollin’s “Paradox”, in tribute to a man who has meant so much to me, musically and personally. Ramsey Lewis’ “The In Crowd” is a piece of music I have always wanted to play as I heard it regularly in my home during childhood. McCoy Tyner’s “Inner Glimpse” represents my first opportunity to play with McCoy.”
With so much accumulated experience and talent while still a young man, there’s no doubt that generations of jazzers in the future would revere Javon Jackson as he does those masters that came before him. Denver beams with pride with the brilliance of one of our leading ambassadors.
“Live at the Village Vanguard”
Calle 54 Records
Cuba’s living legend and most important musician alive, Ramón “Bebo” Valdés’ life can be divided into 3 phases. Beginning with his arrival to Havana from the Cuban countryside, studying piano with the great Ernesto Lecouna then embarking on an illustrious career as composer, arranger and band leader for the house orchestra of the famed Tropicana Cabaret that accompanied all the famous figures of jazz and Latin American music performing there, Bebo recorded the first Cuban jam session and accompanied all the best singers of the “Golden Age of Cuban Music”. After he fled Cuba in 1959 and traveled to Mexico, New York and Madrid he fell in love with a young Swedish maiden, married her and lived in virtual obscurity in Stockholm raising a Swedish family. Bebo became so entrenched in his second marriage and family in Sweden that a Cuban music columnist in New York wrote his obituary.
In 1994 Paquito D’Rivera who was a lifelong admirer of Bebo and who played with Bebo’s pianist son, Chucho Valdés in the landmark Cuban group-Irakere had defected from Cuba in 1980 and was on tour in Sweden looked up Bebo and convinced him to make a comeback and record with him, “Bebo Rides Again”, a highly acclaimed album that proved Bebo had not lost his touch. Since then Bebo has enjoyed a renaissance and has toured the world, recording in a variety of music styles and band configurations and has had his bio film released, “Old Man Bebo” currently on the international film festival circuit. At the spry age of 87, Bebo played his first ever engagement at the renowned Village Vanguard of NYC with his bassist accompanist Javier Colina much to the delight of an enthusiastic audience in 2005. The duo plays jazz and Cuban standards as well as remakes of many Bebo Valdés compositions, not only with mastery of their instruments but also injecting fresh vitality to the music resulting in a majestic collection of music. Valdés proves the adage that it keeps getting better with time. In this month that señor Valdés turns 90 years young it pleasures us to make “Live At The Village Vanguard” for Calle 54 Records our October CD of the Month”.
Dr. Michael White
Basin Street Records
Sadly, like too many others, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the home of New Orleans native son and master clarinetist Dr. Michael White. The raging floodwaters that engulfed New Orleans took more than 4,000 books on jazz; thousands of recordings; original and historic sheet music; more than 50 vintage clarinets, footage of every filmed performance by Louis Armstrong; an original mouthpiece belonging to clarinetist Sidney Bechet and interviews with more than three dozen musicians born between 1890 and 1910. He speaks of them, and dozens of pieces of memorabilia, one by one, as if taking inventory in the only place they still exist -- his memory.
The loss of his home and much of his life's work and passion was devastating. So he escaped on a writing retreat, eventually releasing his latest CD, "Blue Crescent," and went on to win a 2008 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship. It would be hard to overstate the significance of "Blue Crescent" in the history of New Orleans music. At the moment when it appears that the last remaining treasures of the musical legacy left to this city by the inventors of jazz may have been lost forever, Dr. White has produced what is one of the greatest examples of New Orleans traditional jazz ever recorded. Its genius lies in the fact that it is conceptually married to the form and style of the great early 20th Century New Orleans jazz musicians, yet it is a freshly imagined contemporary expression. Though White and his counterparts are playing traditional jazz, they are in the present moment.
The virtuoso Texas trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s latest recording lives up to both its title and the intent of the gifted horn player. For the liner notes of Roy Hargrove Quintet’s “Earfood” on the resurrected Emarcy Records label, Roy explains he wanted to bring pleasure to the listener and indeed he does with a varied menu of swinging tunes and fine sidemen. Hargrove’s “Earfood” is like a 13 course meal at a gourmet restaurant that satisfies all of your taste buds. Roy Hargrove blazes through some bop songs as his moniker “Mr. Hardgroove” suggests, displays his versatility on 2 ballads including a slowed down rendition of “Speak Low”-usually performed in upbeat tempos- and shines on the bluesy tracks as well. One of the most pleasant listening delights of this recording is the maturation of So Cal pianist Gerald Clayton, son of the noted bassist John Clayton, who proves his musical genes have not gone by the wayside. Long time Hargrove collaborator, saxophonist/flautist Justin Robinson excels in his accompaniment and solos while bassist Danton Boller and drummer Montez Coleman continuously lock into a steady groove.
One of the tastiest offerings on “Earfood” is the closer, a sizzling rendition of the classic 1960s soul hit by Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls “Bring It On Home To Me”, the quintet’s take is so magnificent and steeped in gospel that it’ll surely move you to sing along, snap your fingers and tap your toes to the music. Here is some insight from Roy Hargrove about his mission: "The cohesive sound of the group is a result of our constant touring, and getting to know one another, on and off of the bandstand. These are key elements in developing a tight sound and in less time wasted in the studio. My goal in this project is to have a recording that is steeped in tradition and sophistication, while maintaining a sense of melodic simplicity” Mission accomplished!!
Blue Note Records
Listening to Cassandra Wilson’s molasses toned voice on “Loverly” reminded me of the tagline of a current TV ad for a national fried chicken chain; “Smoky flavor with just the right kick!!” For her first recording in way too long, Ms. Wilson returned to her hometown in Mississippi to record an exquisite blend of jazz and blues standards that blur the line between the two creative genres creating a superb album that will surely stand the test of time.
Cassandra Wilson is one of the most innovative vocalists of jazz, past or present. Her repertory goes beyond the standards and the “Great American Songbook” most other singers take refuge in. Wilson is not afraid to take chances and push the envelope. She finds her inspiration in the compositions of Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, Elmore James and other non-jazz songwriters as well as her own originals. Cassandra lives in Duke Ellington’s former brownstone in Sugar Hill-Harlem, but for “Loverly” she rented a house in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi and self produced this recording without overproduction giving the listener the feel of attending an old-fashioned rent party jam session!
Caribbean Jazz Project
A Heads Up Records Release
When NEA Jazz Master Paquito D'Rivera and steel pan player Andy Narell left the Caribbean Jazz Project, many thought the remaining members would call it quits. But according to vibraphonist and marimba virtuoso Dave Samuels, who co-founded the group in 1993, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Samuels believes the Caribbean Jazz Project is bigger and better than ever as evidenced by the latest recording of the CJP: “Afro-Bop Alliance”. Longtime fans will recognize the album's nine tunes, previously recorded but updated with a swinging big band accompanying them.
The GRAMMY® Award winning ensemble has recorded 8 previous albums and a few of the faces in the group’s roster have changed. Nevertheless, Dave Samuels and company continue to explore and test the commonly accepted boundaries of Latin jazz via innovative compositions and exciting arrangements of standards. The formula on this CJP CD - with big band - is a unique hybrid of Afro-Latin bop that has the potential of inspiring other musicians to mimic it as well. The music is evenly balanced between the rhythm section and the horns so that the album makes for exciting listening. After 15 years of leading the ensemble, Samuels shows that the Caribbean Jazz Project is still an evolving group that embraces Latin jazz in a new light without losing its magnetic appeal among listeners and dancers.
"From the Heart"
Bobby Watson is a talented saxophonist and educator. Mr. Watson has a well-earned reputation for being a versatile team player, just as willing to be a sideman as he is a leader. Bobby is a graduate of the “University of Blakey” having spent 4 years in legendary drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1977-1981), an aggregation renowned for its long list of members who have gone on to successful solo careers. After his stint as saxist and music director for Blakey, Bobby founded his group Horizon - considered one of the preeminent small groups of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. Bobby Watson consistently tops the critics’ music polls. He commands every style of music from free jazz to hard bop to swing. Watson is one of the finest players of his generation, sporting an individual sound and a GRAMMY® nomination.
After living in New York City for most of his career, Bobby recently relocated to Kansas City - where he was born and raised - to continue his career as an educator and performing artist. Teaming up once again with his long time collaborator, bassist Curtis Lundy, Watson organized his “Live and Learn Band” that features talented young musicians establishing their reputations. According to Bobby Watson: “The interactions between the old and the young jazz musicians have been vital to the development of jazz and have produced both innovative and profound music over the past century. Today, we stand on the shoulders of that system of mentoring and apprenticeship." On “From The Heart” Bobby Watson and Live & Learn continue the tradition of apprenticeship started by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. The collaboration between these young lions and veteran musicians serves as an example of the mentoring process that has become the backbone of jazz.
"Live at the Monterary Jazz Festival: Highlights Volume 1"
April is Jazz Appreciation Month; in keeping with the theme of our favorite month of the year our April CD of the Month is a CD that showcases the greatness of jazz spanning the past 50 years!
One of the most prestigious jazz festivals in the world takes place every year in the picturesque central California coastal town of Monterey. Last September the Monterey Jazz Festival celebrated their Golden 50th Anniversary, to commemorate the historic occasion festival organizers launched their own Monterey Jazz Festival Records label and began releasing previously unavailable recordings representing their 50 years of triumphant music played to sell out audiences. The Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary CD is a collection of 10 great performances by jazz legends like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughn, Dave Brubeck and Thelonious Monk alongside new stand outs like Diana Krall and Pat Metheny, among others. All never before released performances! Be forewarned, listening to this magnificent album may create a desire to enjoy some vintage California wine and cheese, one thing is for sure, the jazz you’ll hear will be the musical equivalent of Monterey’s nearby world famous 17 Mile Drive.
The album includes “Jive Samba” and “Work Song,” both written by the saxophonist's brother, cornetist Nat Adderley. The disc also has a tasty version of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” written by the late pianist Joe Zawinul. There have been other homages to “Cannonball,” but this special tribute reflects the very essence of what the Cannonball legacy is all about.
Matt Savage Trio
“Live in Boston: Hot Ticket"
Matt Savage keeps good company with the music of the jazz greats, past and present. His enormous respect for their legendary bodies of work inspires and fuels his own unique jazz compositions and interpretations. As People Magazine astutely wrote in 2002, “...jazz phenom Matt Savage unlocks a door to genius using 88 keys.” With the release of each album, Matt has challenged “genius” by exploring and expanding his creative boundaries. At the age of just 16, Matt continues to have vision and technique beyond his years as a composer and musician.
Marc Sabatella Quartet
We begin the 2008 season of CDs of the Month with a provocative home grown album by the group that plays every Friday night at the renowned El Chaputulpec in Denver’s bustling Lo Do neighborhood, The Marc Sabatella Quartet’s “Determination”
On “Determination” the Marc Sabatella Quartet displays its sophisticated sound with 10 originals that have been crafted to perfection by their live shows for approving audiences at the ‘Pec. Accompanying Marc Sabatella on piano-the primary composer and music director, is tenor saxist Keith Oxman who also contributes 3 songs for “Determination”, Geoff Cooke plays bass and Thomas Van Schoick is the drummer
Whether it is “Monk Got Rhythm”, “Trane’s Pals” or the other tunes on “Determination”, the Marc Sabatella Quartet is sure to please the most discerning jazz ears.