Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mark O'Connor - In Full Swing

Mark O'Connor's second CD with his Hot Swing Trio is more than just a salute to the late, legendary jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli; it firmly establishes as him as a bona fide jazz violin virtuoso, thanks to being distributed by a major label this time around. The capable guitarist Frank Vignola plays gypsy swing a` la Django Reinhardt without sounding like a clone; bassist Jon Burr, who spent a decade as a member of Grappelli's rhythm section in his last years, provides a perfect match for his two bandmates. Each member of the trio contributed originals to the session. O'Connor's "In Full Swing" is absolutely breathtaking, while it is fun imagining how Grappelli and Reinhardt might have interpreted his enticing "Stephane and Django." Burr's pulsating "Three for All" and Vignola's lyrical "A Beautiful Friendship" are also worthwhile songs. The remaining selections all come from the repertoire of either Grappelli or the Grappelli-Reinhardt partnership, with occasional guest appearances by Wynton Marsalis and singer Jane Monheit. There are plenty of fireworks in the trio's wild ride through "Limehouse Blues" (which, of course, isn't a blues at all). The high-flying duo introduction to "Tiger Rag" by O'Connor and Marsalis is a meeting of two masters. Monheit's interpretations of "Misty" and "As Time Goes By" are merely average, and she doesn't loosen up enough to appreciate the fun within Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose," though Marsalis makes up for her shortcomings. In any case, Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio provide first-rate swing all by themselves, so adding guests isn't really necessary. - Ken Dryden, AMG

Mark O'Connor, Jon Burr and Frank Vignola paid great tribute to Stephane Grapelli on their first CD ("Hot Swing") with stunning musicianship and great chemistry. On "In Full Swing", they up the ante with guest appearances by the great Wynton Marsalis and rising star Jane Monheit. It's easy to tell how much fun they had while recording this, and that fun translates to a very refreshing, spontaneous ease that permeates the set. Don't think for a second, though, that there's a sloppy or misplaced note to be heard anywhere on this CD. Jon and Frank are spectacular musicians and can really light a fire under Mark - listen to Limehouse Blues, where Mark shreds a handful of hairs from his bow, and then Frank absolutely rips it up with a guitar solo that would put a smile on Django's mug. Throughout the track, Jon's bass lines are churning like a freight train - if this doesn't move you, see your doctor! Wynton's playing is as inspired and perfect as usual, and totally refreshing - the interplay between Mark and Wynton on "Tiger Rag" is like nothing I've heard before. The musicianship on this disc can certainly stand alone, but fans of Jane Monheit will definitely want this for the four standards she renders here - it's an extra treat to hear her lush voice with such wonderful backing. To ice the cake, engineer Richard King's recording really does justice to the music - spacious and honest, it lets you hear the room and the people in it with intimacy and (on a good system) great dimension and dynamics. This is acoustic old-world swing of the highest order, laid down by some of the finest musicians on the planet with a few inspired new twists. It should bring smiles to fiddle fans, swing fans, jazz fans, guitar fans, bass fans, trumpet fans, Stephane fans, Django fans, and Jane Monheit fans the world over. Oh, and if you get a chance to see the Hot Swing Trio live, don't miss the opportunity - you'll remember it fondly for the rest of your life! - by M.R. Aronson,

Artist: Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio
Album: In Full Swing
Year: 2003
Label: Odyssey
Runtime: 57:15

1.  In Full Swing (Mark O'Connor) 3:55
2.  Honeysuckle Rose (Fats Waller/Andy Razaf) 5:13
3.  Tiger Rag (D. James LaRocca/Edwin Edwards/Henry W. Ragas/Larry Shields/Anthony Sbararo/Harry Da Costa) 5:20
4.  Misty (Johnny Burke/Eroll Garner) 6:56
5.  Stephane And Django (Mark O'Connor) 5:49
6.  Fascinating Rhythm (George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin) 3:46
7.  3 For All (Jon Burr) 6:08
8.  As Time Goes By (Herman Hupfeld) 5:55
9.  Limehouse Blues (Philip Braham/Douglas Furber) 7:22
10.  One Beautiful Evening (Frank Vignola) 6:47

Mark O'Connor (Violin)
Frank Vignola (Guitar)
Jon Burr (Double Bass)
Wynton Marsalis (Trumpet) - 2,3,8
Jane Monheit (Vocal) - 4,6,8

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Anouar Brahem - Astrakan Café

The Tunisian oud genius has done it again. Anouar Brahem has issued only five records under his own name over the past decade, each more adventurous than the last, without compromising his original vision: for the music of his region to meet with the other music of Africa and Asia and create a delirious sound that is equal thirds past, present, and future, along the precipice of historical lineage. For Brahem there is no attempt to synthesize the globe, or even the sounds of the East with those of the West. He is content in his knowledge that sound is infinite, and that his tradition, as it evolves and expands into a deeper pan-African/trans-Asian whole, is more than large enough for a master musician to rummage through in one lifetime. Astrakan Café, the follow-up to his brilliant Thimar, is a smaller-sounding recording that reaches farther into the deep crags of the Balkans. With Barbaros Erköse on clarinet and the Indian and Turkish percussion stylings of the professor of somber precision, Lassad Hosni, Brahem's oud enters into a dialogue, musically, that has never before existed (though he has collaborated with both players previously). Erköse is a Turkish clarinetist of gypsy origin. His low, warm, rounded tones are consonant with the oud. Erköse plays equal parts music of the Balkan and Arab worlds with a tinge of the ancient klezmorim whispering their secrets through his horn. Despite the journeying these musicians do here, they never stray far from the takht, a small ensemble capable of improvising to the point of drunken ecstasy. Listening through Astrakan Café, you can hear the gypsy flamenco tied deeply to Indian ragas and even a kind of Eastern jazz. But there is no hyperactivity in it, no need to cram as many traditions as possible into one putridly excessive mix that expresses nothing but the novelty of the moment. Astrakan Café has many highlights: its two title tracks that have their roots in Russian and Azerbaijan music; "Ashkabad," which is an improvisation on a melody from the folk music of Turkmenistan; "Astara," a modal improvisation based on love songs from Azerbaijan; "Halfounie," a segment from a Brahem-composed soundtrack inspired by the medina or marketplace in Tunis; and "Parfum de Gitanie," which takes a fragment from Ethiopian sacred music, slows it to the point of stillness, and waxes lazily and jazzily over the top, with the oud and the clarinet trading syncopated eights. This is deeply personal, profound music. It is also highly iconographic, with timelessness woven through every measure. The only "exotica" on Astrakan Café is its "otherness" out of space and any discernable era. The tempos are languid and full of purpose, the dynamics clean and clearly demarcated, the tones and modes warm, rich, and linear. This would be traditional music if a tradition such as this -- which is original, though adapted from many sources on inspiration -- actually existed. Highly recommended. - by Thom Yurek, AMG

I just saw them play this set in Munich. The interaction of the oud, the clarinet and the drums is wonderful. The rhythms seem to pull at each other and then one instrumental voice rises to lead the others before floating back into tight harmony with the others. The album was recorded in a cathedral in Austria and captures some of the feeling of the live concert. It is emotional, haunting. It manages to be both jazzy and middle eastern at the same time without sacrificing anything for either identity. This is music to play on a late night, on a snowy day, or in a smoky cafe. - Joyce L. Tompsett,

Artist: Anouar Brahem Trio
Album: Astrakan Café
Year: 2000
Label: ECM
Runtime: 73:54

1.  Aube rouge a Grozny (Barbaros Erköse) 4:22
2.  Astrakan Cafe I (Anouar Brahem) 3:18
3.  The Mozdock's Train (Anouar Brahem) 4:46
4.  Blue Jewel (Anouar Brahem) 8:31
5.  Nikawand Lunga (Jamil Bey) 3:32
6.  Ashkabad (Anouar Brahem/Barbaros Erköse/Lassad Hosni) 5:38
7.  Halfaouine (Anouar Brahem) 5:57
8.  Parfum de Gitane (Anouar Brahem) 7:03
9.  Khotan (Anouar Brahem) 3:31
10.  Karahoum (Anouar Brahem) 5:08
11.  Astara (Anouar Brahem) 10:48
12.  Hijaz pechref (Osman Bey) 6:24
13.  Astrakan cafe II (Anouar Brahem) 4:49

Anouar Brahem (Oud)
Barbaros Erköse (Clarinet)
Lassad Hosni (Bendir, Darbouka)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Charlie Byrd - Latin Impressions + Bossa Nova Pelos Passaros

This lovely album, featuring the excellent Charlie Byrd, is an outgrowth of a State Department tour through the vast South American continent, and a tribute its rhythmic yet poignant music. Here you have the mysterious chemistry of many elements-Negroid, Indien, Spanish, Portugese, and now a dash of North American jazz. This sort of Latin incongruity was brought home to me one night while I was walking through the dressing rooms at the Blue Angel looking for a friend. Suddenly I heard two guitars playing the most refined and disciplined Bach. Following the sound, I was astonished to see two beautiful, finely chiseled Indian profiles, attired in native Brazilian costumes. The were the players-demonstrating the strangely contrasting ingredients of Brazilian musical culture. This is also seen in the music of Villa-Lobos, who, altough greatly influenced by European musical cultures, still retained an undertone of the native rhythmic impulse... by Barray Galbraith (from original liner notes)

Having been a major part of Stan Getz's very popular Jazz Samba album, it was only fitting that guitarist Charlie Byrd would start recording his own bossa nova records. This CD reissue brings back the 12 songs originally on the Riverside LP Bossa Nova Pelos Passaros plus six of the 11 tunes from Once More! Bossa Nova. Byrd and his trio (which included bassist Keter Betts and drummer Bill Reichenbach) are augmented on some selections by strings, extra percussion, plus horns. In reality the background musicians are not needed since Byrd was at the top of his form in those days. Unlike some of his earlier sets, these pretty and melodic recordings are very concise (lacking a sense of adventure), clocking in between one-and-a-half and three-and-a-half minutes, and looking toward the guitarist's later Columbia dates. Highlights include "Meditation," "O Barquinho," "Desafinado," "Bim Bom," "O Passaro" and "Limehouse Blues." by Scott Yanow, AMG

Artist: Charlie Byrd
Album: Latin Impressions + Bossa Nova Pelos Passaros
Year: 1962
Label: Universal (2012)
Runtime: 67:32

1.  The Duck (O Pato) (Jayme Silva/Neuza Teixeira) 5:38
2.  Amor Flamengo (Laurindo Almeida) 2:05
3.  Azul Tiple (Charlie Byrd) 3:37
4.  Canción di Argentina (Traditional)  2:06
5.  Manha de Carnaval (Luiz Bonfa/Antonio Maria) 2:36
6.  Homage A Villa-Lobos (Charlie Byrd) 3:18
7.  Bogota (Ricardo Romero) 3:54
8.  Mexican Song No. 2 (Manuel Ponce) 2:50
9.  Mexican Song No. 1 (Manuel Ponce) 0:59
10.  Samba De Uma Nota So (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Newton Mendonca) 2:58
11.  Galopera (Maurizio Cardoza Ocampo) 2:13
12.  Vals (Augustin Barrios) 5:36

13.  Yvone (Charlie Byrd) 2:00
14.  Um Abraco No Bonfa (A Salute to Bonfa) (Joao Gilberto) 2:23
15.  Meditacao (Meditation) (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Newton Mendonca) 3:13
16.  Voce E Eu (You And I) (Carlos Lyra/Vinicious de Moraes) 2:57
17.  Coisa Mais Linda (A Most Beautiful Thing) (Carlos Lyra/Vinicious de Moraes) 2:42
18.  O Barquinho (Little Boat) (Ronaldo Boscoli/Roberto Menescal) 1:57
19.  Desafinado (Slightly Out of Tune) (Antonio Carlos Jobim/Newton Mendonca) 2:33
20.  Samba Triste (Baden Powell/Billy Blanco) 2:03
21.  Bim Bom (Joao Gilberto) 1:52
22.  Ho-Ba-La-La (Joao Gilberto) 2:16
23.  Ela Me Deixou (She Has Gone) (Charlie Byrd) 2:36
24.  Passaro (The Bird) (Charlie Byrd) 3:10

Charlie Byrd (Guitar)
Gene Byrd (Guitar, Bass) - 1,3,5,7,10,16,22,24
Keter Betts (Double Bass) - 1,3,5,7,10,16,22,24
Bill Reichenbach (Drums) - 1,3,5,7,10,16,22,24
Earl Swope (Trombone) - 16,22,24
Charles Hampton (Alto Saxophone, Flute) - 16,22,24
Willie Rodriguez (Bongo) - 16,22,24

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Roosevelt Sykes - The Honeydripper

Roosevelt Sykes expertly fit his classic, down-home piano riffs and style into a fabric that also contained elements of soul, funk, and R&B. The nine-cut date, recently reissued by Original Blues Classics, included such laments as "I Hate to Be Alone," "Lonely Day," and "She Ain't for Nobody," as well as the poignant "Yes Lawd," and less weighty "Satellite Baby" and "Jailbait." Besides Sykes' alternately bemused, ironic, and inviting vocals, there's superb tenor sax support from King Curtis, Robert Banks' tasty organ, and steady, nimble bass and drum assistance by Leonard Gaskin and drummer Belton Evans. - by Ron Wynn, AMG

"The Honeydripper" was Roosevelt Sykes' nickname and a fitting name for this wonderful album. Things open on a high note with 'Miss Ida B.' There are a few heavy tunes like 'I Hate To Be Alone' and 'Mislead Mother' which explores marital infidelity. Things lighten up with 'Jailbait' and 'Satellite Baby.' Ya gotta love an ol' Blues song based around Sputnik. 'Yes, Lawd' is a slow Blues instrumental that invites the guys to open up and improvise. Sykes' handy work is as good as ever. In 'She Ain't For Nobody' and throughout "the Honeydripper," Robert Banks' organ work shines. One of the greatest and perhaps least appreciated aspects of this album is that it features King Curtis on sax. Infused with Soul and R&B, this 1960 Blues release has that great vintage sound. The recording fits in well with similar efforts like "the Return of Roosevelt Sykes" and "Feel Like Blowing My Horn." Listen to "the Honeydripper" and celebrate the power and glory that is the music of Roosevelt Sykes. - by The Delite Rancher,

Artist: Roosevelt Sykes
Album: The Honeydripper
Year: 1961 (Bluesville)
Label: Original Blues Classic (1993)
Runtime: 34:38

1.  Miss Ida B. (Roosevelt Sykes) 4:58
2.  Mislead Mother (Roosevelt Sykes) 3:15
3.  Yes Lawd (Ozzie Cadena) 9:17
4.  I Hate to be Alone (Roosevelt Sykes) 2:02
5.  Jailbait (Roosevelt Sykes) 2:26
6.  Lonely Day (Roosevelt Sykes) 4:27
7.  Satellite Baby (Roosevelt Sykes) 2:48
8.  Pocketful of Money (Roosevelt Sykes) 2:34
9.  She Ain't for Nobody (Roosevelt Sykes) 2:46

Roosevelt Sykes (Vocals and Piano)
King Curtis (Tenor Saxophone)
Robert Banks (Organ)
Leonard Gaskin (Double Bass)
Belton Evans (Drums)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Larry Goldings - Moonbird

Like Barbara Dennerlein, Larry Goldings was among the few organists who, in the 1980s and '90s, refused to stick to a grits-and-gravy approach to the instrument. This isn't to say that Goldings has escaped Jimmy Smith's influence altogether or that he lacks funk, blues, and soul-jazz credentials -- one of his employers, after all, was Maceo Parker, who spent many years in James Brown's band. But Goldings hasn't ignored the post-bop challenges that Larry Young presented, and Young's influence can be felt on Moonbird. Joined by drummer Bill Stewart and the Grant Green-influenced guitarist Peter Bernstein, Goldings delivers a rewarding post-bop date that will hardly be mistaken for Smith-minded soul-jazz. Goldings originals like the congenial "Christine," the intriguing "Empty Oceans," and the cerebal "Xoloft" aren't innovative -- 35 years earlier, Young was playing post-bop on the Hammond B-3. But Goldings nonetheless comes across as his own man, and his refusal to be yet another Jimmy Smith clone is commendable. The Bostonian also deserves applause for successfully transforming Randy Newman's "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" and Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" into improvisatory jazz -- at a time when too many jazzmen were content to play the same old Cole Porter and Irving Berlin songs time and time again, Goldings had enough imagination to find the jazz potential in pop/rock songs that more myopic improvisers were ignoring. Not quite a gem but definitely solid, Moonbird is a CD that post-bop fans will enjoy. - by Alex Henderson, AMG

I definitely agree with the listeners who locate this trio in the "cool" school. They bring to mind some of my all-time favorites: Paul Desmond group with Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery Trio, and, of course, Bill Evans Trio. All three musicians are masters of the 3 "S's": smoothness, soulfulness,& swing, and the 3 "T's": taste, touch, tone. Anyone who thinks that jazz has just gone downhill fast since John Coltrane died, NEEDS to hear this group (& others). As a guitarist, I'd like to point out that Peter Bernstein is as spectacularly musical as anyone playing today. And, thankfully, he doesn't play a million notes-- focuses more on tone, feel, melody. The most amazing thing, however, really is the group interplay. Three fantastic musicians who, together, lift each other to sublime musical heights. They listen, leave space, and react to each other beautifully. If you like extremely musical, melodic jazz in a small group setting, with an "after hours" feel, you should love this. - by stranger2himself,

Artist: Larry Goldings Trio
Album: Moonbird
Year: 1999
Label: Palmetto
Runtime: 54:54

1.  Crawdaddy (Larry Goldings) 5:33
2.  Moonbird (Larry Goldings) 6:51
3.  Woodstock (Joni Mitchell) 10:21
4.  Christine (Larry Goldings) 5:15
5.  Empty Oceans (Larry Goldings) 5:08
6.  Xoloft (Larry Goldings) 7:28
7.  Comfort Zone (Larry Goldings) 5:41
8.  I Think It's Going to Rain Today (Randy Newman) 5:39
9.  Empty Oceans (reprise) (Larry Goldings) 2:54

Larry Goldings (Hammond Organ)
Peter Bernstein (Guitar)
Bill Stewart (Drums, Cymbals, Gongs)


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