For the Record
Long Story Short
City Light Entertainment
Personnel: James Isaac, woodwinds; Bob Harvey, trumpet and flugelhorn; Chris Lewis, piano, keyboards, percussion; David Luvin, bass; Todd Crookston, drums; David Basse, vocal on “Duke Ellington's Sound of Love.”
Tracks: Black Narcissus, Stolen Moments, Hear My Plea: Morning/Noon/Night, 9th Parallel, Booker's Blues, Duke Ellington's Sound of Love, Long Story Short, Mine/or, Half Mast, Lucha del Martillo.
Recorded and Mixed at Markosa Studios, Roeland Park, Kansas, October 2007 by Mark Thies. Mastered at Soundtrek, Kansas City, Missouri, by Jeff Schiller.
Killer Strayhorn is a “classic” modern mainstream bop quintet, reeds and trumpet and rhythm… with a repertoire to match. Long Story Short mixes four jazz mainstream classics with six originals, two apiece from James Isaac, Chris Lewis, and David Luvin.
Joe Henderson's “Black Narcissus” and Oliver Nelson's “Stolen Moments” open the program, and are successful in developing some trust with the listener. Notable is the tempo in the former, a waltz, where the “one” seems to keep you waiting just a little, giving it a dramatic tinge. This is another tune that has gotten faster over the years. The Nelson classic opens with Lewis unaccompanied before trumpeter Harvey states the theme. The rhythm really builds nicely (and subtly) throughout, drummer Todd Crookston really has it cooking during the closing Harvey solo.
Enough trust was built so that there was no problem introducing “Hear My Plea”, the longest and most ambitious piece of the set and one that reminded me of an extended Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band composition. After a long opening featuring a repeated two note piano pattern over bass, and a short piano and trumpet melody layered on top, flute and synth state the main theme. Luvin's bass is like a rolling thunder underneath. Solos from Harvey and Luvin follow, with some Isaac flute and Harvey trumpet bringing it to close.
“9th Parallel” is again in 3, with some effective harmonies and interplay between the horns. Booker Little's “Booker's Blues” is from the hard bop book; Harvey stars on this, and Lewis' spare comping is perfect underneath. David Basse's vocal is featured on Charles Mingus' “Duke Ellington's Sound of Love, taken a little faster than you've heard it before. Luvin has his best solo outing after the vocal, and the Isaac clarinet on top of Harvey's muted trumpet is an effective combination.
The last four tracks are all originals. The title track is a burner. “Mine/or” opens with Harvey and Luvin, and Isaac again features his flute. “Half Mast” has an opening that makes you think it'll be a Latin romp, but then they seem to stop, regroup, and bring us more of a bossa nova. Rhythmic tension built by Luvin and Crookston is a highlight of “Lucha del Martillo.”
Here we are, fifty years later, and the modern mainstream still sounds fresh. There's nothing tired about this set – the playing or the originals – and I think fans of the genre will find it an interesting listen.
Kevin Cerovich Quartet
The Last Spring
Personnel: Kevin Cerovich, trombone; John Brewer, piano and Fender Rhodes; Ben Leifer, bass; Sam Wisman, drums.
Tracks: The Last Spring, I Remember Carl, Autumn Nights, Bricks and Blue Sky, Quagmire, Bob Jacobs, Once Again, Paul's Chile, 24-40, Tales from Rockaway Beach.
Recorded at UMKC studios, February 9 and 10, 2008. Engineer/Mix: Cody Hill.
The mainstream trombone lineage is fairly simple: Bill Harris, J.J. Johnson, Bob Brookmeyer and Curtis Fuller lead the way, then a newer generation including Carl Fontana, Ed Neumeister, John Fedchock, and key to Kevin Cerovich, former UMKC instructor Paul McKee, and more recent torchbearers like David Gibson. Possibly we should prepare to add award-winning UMKC and Shawnee Mission East alum Kevin Cerovich to this lineage.
Kevin's The Last Spring contains ten varied originals: The title track is somewhat Impressionistic, “Carl” (for Carl Fontana?) classic bop, “Autumn Nights” a pretty bossa nova, the attention-grabbing ballad “Once Again”, a denser ballad in “Bricks”, modern hard bop in the fast “Quagmire”, “24-40”, with a tension/release not unlike Donald Byrd's “Tanya”, or the funky “Bob Jacoby,” for example.
Cerovich's tone is right in the lineage; there is hardly anything as gorgeous as a soft ballad sound like the one on “Once Again”, or as impressive as the fluency and ability to show the range of the horn or handle intervals the way Kevin does on “I Remember Carl.” Or produce the muted tone as on “Tales from Rockaway Beach.” Or to not get stuck in the pace of his “Quagmire.”
The quartet is obviously a “working band”, and have developed a rapport with each and with the material. John Brewer's style is often reminiscent of Hal Galper's – the momentum in his phrasing and long lines in “I Remember Carl” are a great example. Listen here how he used the left hand to create a contrasting line and a loose sound. He uses repetition well throughout, you'll catch it early on his solo on “The Last Spring”, and how it builds density. There are his right hand runs on “Bob Jacobs” as well. Oh, the man comps, too, he sounds like a 1950's jazz “label pianist” on “Carl”. Ben Leifer is “there” throughout, and is allotted ample solo space as well; a highlight is has solo on “Bricks and Blue Sky”, where he builds to a climax over increasing density from Brewer and Wisman. Sam proves his versatility, with the variety of rhythms and tempos, but his strength are the accents and addition to the tension and release throughout, especially on “24-40.”
So, there are plenty of stars to throw around here: fresh material, a “together” band, and a new young player who promises to continue the grand lineage of the mainstream jazz trombone. It all adds up to a memorable recording debut from the talented Kevin Cerovich.
I'm Old Fashioned
Personnel: Toni Gates, vocals; Tom Ransom, guitar; Sam Beckett, piano; Chris Burnett, flute and alto sax; Monique Danielle and Teri Wilder, vocals on “Sway”; Steve Rigazzi, bass; Clarence Smith, drums and percussion.
Tracks: I'm Old Fashioned, Accentchuate the Positive, Boy From Ipanema, Another Walkin' Blues, Nature Boy, The Shadow of Your Smile, Lush Life, Speak Low, Falling in Love with Love, Sway.
Recorded and Mastered at Ransomed Productions, Engineer Tom Ransom, Mixed by Tom Ransom and Toni Gates
The bio on Toni Gates Web site (www.tonigates.com, where this disc can be obtained) tells us that she has been singing since she could talk, and has been surrounded by music and a variety of musical influences her whole life. She has taken in these influences, trained and studied, and emerged as a personal artist.
On I'm Old Fashioned Gates and crew present a less-than-LP-length CD of ten tracks, all of which are fairly standard fare except for the original “Another Walkin' Blues”. The approach to the standards is to keep it fresh and personal, a near-impossible task given the recorded history of the material. The result is enjoyable, even if these particular interpretations may never be the version you'll tend to slap into the machine. As I said, the competition out there is pretty well established.
Toni has a strong voice, with a tight and not-too-fast vibrato. It is apparent that the voice would work in a wide variety of settings, from church to stage to cabaret to larger band, and you can imagine it singing just as wide a variety of material.
The title tune starts it out, with the rhythm section providing the relaxing rhythmic bed for Toni to glide over. Recall how some older vocal records allow the voice to really sit out on top? This was mixed with that sound in mind. Guitarist Tom Ransom plays rhythm here and has an effective solo chorus. “Accentchuate the Positive” is just Toni, Tom's guitar and bass line , and includes the haunting opening before getting to the more familiar part of the tune. “Ipanema” is taken more as swinger than bossa, and Toni has a nice scat half-chorus. Nice bass lines from Steve Rigazzi here. The original “Blues” is in three, and is again Toni and Tom.
Chris Burnett adds to “Nature Boy” with his flute lines around Toni's voice, all on top of Rigazzi's bass. The sparse setting again works nicely. “Shadow” brings back Beckett and Clarence Smith, and has that waltz lope. Rigazzi and Smith's accents are highlights in this arrangement. Strayhorn's classic “Lush Life”, with just Beckett's piano in support, is appropriately dramatic. This is my favorite performance on the record. On “Speak Low” Smith adds a conga, and along with Ransom's guitar turns this into a bossa nova. “Falling” opens with Toni and Steve, leading to a wonderful Burnett alto over walking Rigazzi bass. The finale “Sway” adds Monique Danielle and Teri Wilder to make it a harmonized vocal trio.
The spare arrangements throughout work well with Toni Gates strong voice, and the contributions from Burnett and the rhythm all add up to an enjoyable, albeit short, listen.
Personnel: David Gibson: trombone; Freddie Hendrix: trumpet, flugelhorn; Wayne Escoffery: tenor saxophone; Rick Germanson: piano; Dwayne Burno: bass; Quincy Davis: drums.
Tracks: Judy (Johnson); To Wisdom, The Prize (Willis); This Guy's in Love with You (Bacharach, David); Reflection (Gibson); Lo Time (Gibson); Roots (Hampton); Sweet Love of Mine (Shaw); G-Rays (Gibson).
Produced by Frank Nagel-Heyer and David Gibson, Recorded on May 18, 2006 at Park West Studios, New York. Engineered by Jim Clouse. Mixed at Park West Studios by Jim Clouse. Mastered at Fable Studios by Don Mikkelson. All arrangements by David Gibson. Released Feb. 2008.
Talented trombone front men are unique. However, David Gibson is one of those unique individuals who places the trombone up front, who leads a group, and who composes beautifully. All of the arrangements on Gibson's new CD, G-Rays , are his, and so are three of the tunes. Gibson is no newcomer to recording. In the past, Gibson has recorded with Randy Brecker, Slide Hampton, Nancy Wilson, the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Big Band, and others. His albums as a leader include Maya (2002) and The Path to Delphi (2005). Gibson lists among his influences Curtis Fuller, J. J. Johnson, and Slide Hampton, but, of course, Gibson has his own distinct style. As Ben Ratliff, of the New York Times , puts it, Gibson has “good chops and a glowing sound… (and is) one of the better new trombone players in jazz.” Slide Hampton compliments Gibson, as well, on his improvisatory skill, saying, “When playing the trombone, you may have to forsake the more technical approach in order to ascent to the highest level of improvised music. This is where you'll find David Gibson.” So, Gibson's music comes with high recommendations, and on this CD, I believe you will not be disappointed.
Gibson's glowing sound, mentioned above, is highlighted on his tune “Reflection,” placed at the middle of the CD's line up. It is an energetic, fiery tune, and showcases all of the band. Nearly everyone solos on it. I especially enjoyed Quincy Davis' extended drum solo, which is intricate and melodic. However, Freddie Hendrix's spirited trumpet solo, which rises into the higher registers, and kicks off the round of solo choruses, is also a highlight on this tune. Gibson's own solo, filled with quick bebop runs and that warm tone, is also remarkable. Gibson's interaction with the rhythm section during his solo also is revealing. He is generous, and his quality ears reveal a sensitivity to what is going on around him. He plays off of the drum/bass/piano foundation well. Overall, “Reflection” was one of my favorite tunes of the album. It demonstrates Gibson's skill as a composer. It has a lot of spirit. And it showcases the whole band.
“Lo Time” might be a good tune to hear Gibson stretch out on a solo. A quasi-Latin tune that begins with a nice, catchy melodic echo between the brass and piano, “Lo Time” also helps slow things down after the pace set by “Reflection.” Gibson's solo on the tune is both conversational and compelling, and his tone is pure and round. That tonal warmth, mentioned earlier, can also be felt assuredly on this tune.
In the end, G-Rays is a joy to listen to. It is modern and energetic. Its players have both soul and chops. And the album makes a great introduction to the sound of David Gibson.
Also, as one local connection, Gibson's father lives in Olathe, Kansas. You can hear and learn more about David Gibson at www.jazzbone.org.
From the Heart
Personnel: Bobby Watson, alto sax; Leron Thomas, trumpet; Harold O'Neal, piano; Warren Wolf, vibes, piano (track 4); Curtis Lundy, bass; Quincy Davis, drums.
Tracks: Wilkes BBQ,; Purple Flowers; Deep Pockets; Climbing the Stairs; Aye Carumba; For Milt; Peace, Love, and Carrots; Del Corazon; Timeless; From the Heart; Marcus Vein.
Recorded January 14 & 15, 2007 at Maggie's Farm. Produced by Matt Balitsaris, Mastered by A. T. Michael MacDonald at AlgoRhythms. Palmetto Records, 2007.
If the tunes on Bobby Watson's newest release, From the Heart , remind you of classic Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers don't be too surprised. Watson's career blasted off when he was hired as music director for Blakey's band in the late 1970s. After leaving in the early 80s, Watson played with other jazz legends like Max Roach and rising stars like Wynton Marsalis. Now firmly entrenched with a solidified reputation, Watson is continuing the tradition of apprenticeship started by Blakey. Here, Watson collaborates with his Live & Learn band.
Recorded at Maggie's Farm early in 2007, From the Heart features original compositions by Bobby Watson, as well as compositions by band mates Harold O'Neal and Warren Wolf. The Live & Learn band also includes Curtis Lundy, Leron Thomas, and Quincy Davis. Watson has contributed six originals, including the hip, tasty riff tune “Wilkes BBQ”, the perky “Deep Pockets” and the humorous Latin-flavored post-bop “Aye Carumba”. Pianist Harold O'Neal contributed with the richly textured ballad “Purple Flowers” and the intricate “Timeless”, while vibraphonist Warren Wolf penned the lush “For Milt” obviously a tribute for the late vibraphonist Milt Jackson. Trumpeter Leron Thomas' “Marcus Vein” provides an intense cooker to wrap up an outstanding session.
From the Heart has ruled the roost for nearly two months at the time of this writing on the Jazz Week radio charts. It's the collaboration between Live & Learn's style and prowess and Watson's leadership, knowledge and ability that serves as the perfect example of the mentoring process that has become the backbone of jazz. If From the Heart is any indication of where jazz is headed with a new generation of artists, I say thank you to Bobby Watson.
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