miércoles, 19 de noviembre de 2014

Jeremy Monteiro & Alberto Marsico - Jazz-Blues Brothers (2014)

There can't be many bands with a piano and an organ in the front line. There are few better exponents of Hammond organ—actually a KeyB—than Alberto Marsico ("I've never heard anybody do it better than Alberto"—Joey DeFrancesco) while Jeremy Monteiro—widely considered as the best jazz pianist in Asia—has cut it with James Moody, Michael Brecker, Jimmy Cobb, Toots Thielemans and, for twenty seven years with Ernie Watts. This is a summit meeting indeed. Guitarist Eugene Pao, drummer Shawn Kelley and tenor saxophonist Shawn Letts also bring plenty of bite—and no little finesse—to a set of hard-swinging, blues-drenched originals.

The celebratory "Mount Olive," Monteiro's homage to his former band-mates Eldee Young and Redd Holt, gets the set off to a flyer, with sunny melody, cracking solos, an unshakeable beat and a Gospel-blues wind-down setting the template for much that follows. Jazz and blues aside, there's bags of soul in these tunes; Marsico's organ takes us to the church of Ray Charles on the up-beat "Opening Act," with Monteiro chipping in with some tumbling boogie woogie. There's a hint of Miles Davis' "All Blues" on the intro to "Olympia," a powerful R&B number with Pao, Marsico, Letts and Monteiro all working up some steam.

The quintet takes its foot off the gas for Marsico's epic ballad "Lou," though there's smoldering passion in Letts' tenor. Monteiro's solo is laced with the vocabulary of early blues piano styles, Pao goes for the jugular with a soaring solo whereas Marsico lays down shimmering swathes of sustain; though all are singing from the same jazz-blues-soul hymn sheet the musician's individual personalities shine through. Kelley—an exciting, versatile drummer—plays the anchor role for the most part though on the melodious Monteiro/Pao tune "Monk in the Mountain," the Bangkok-based sticksman muscles in over organ and piano vamps.

Marsico's swinging "Jack-Pot" pays homage to Hammond organ legend Jack McDuff, who returned the compliment by recording the tune. Pao's fluid, Kenny Burrell-tinged blues is a highlight, contrasting with Monteiro and Marsico's more rhythmically pronounced interventions. Pao—first-call guitarist in Hong Kong—delivers the sort of chops throughout the set that convinced Michael Brecker, John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette to play on By the Company You Keep (Somethin' Else, 1996), the guitarist's debut as leader.

An absolute album highlight is the wonderful reworking of Lennon and McCartney's ode to love "Here, There and Everywhere." This classic pop ballad starts out as a hushed blues with Kelley on brushes as Monteiro, Marsico and Pao tread softly in turn. The rousing finale, with Kelley switching to sticks is as surprising as it is energizing. All guns blaze on "Catastrophy." Marsico penned this tune in 2002 during the war on Iraq, dedicating it to the three Bs -Bush, Blair and Berlusconi. This tearing bebop set-closer owes more, thankfully, to Bird, Bud and Burrell.

Jazz-Blues Brothers is a stand-out record in both Monteiro and Marsico's respective discographies. Tuneful and exhilarating, soulful and swinging, Monteiro and Marsico might just have cornered the market in organ-cum-piano jazz.

Alberto Marsico: organ
Jeremy Monteiro: piano
Eugene Pao: electric guitar
Shawn Kelley: drums
Shawn Letts: tenor saxophone

1. Mount Olive
2. Opening Act
3. Olympia
4. Lou
5. Monk in The Mountain
6. Jack-Pot
7. Here, There And Everywhere
8. Catastrophy


Vic Juris Quartet - Moonscape (1997)

Recorded in Denmark in 1996, this album showcases the guitarist's working quartet: woodwind player Dick Oatts, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Jeff Hirshfield. And while Juris persists in using a dated-sounding, processed tone, it becomes a minor annoyance in light of his seamless playing, the intelligent arrangements and compositions (mostly originals) and the cohesiveness of the ensemble.

The group's tightness is evidenced by "Critters," a bit quirky uptempo original that grooves solidly, providing a nice vehicle for Juris' eminently fluid lines and refined melodicism. On "You Stepped Out," guitar and sax double the head with breathless precision; later, each gets in a fine, swinging contribution. The title track reflects an additive approach that commences with solo acoustic guitar, transforms into a duet with flute, and is finally augmented by bass and drums-a particularly effective device in the context of the tune's soft and sensitive mood. And Juris' unpredictable lyricism and the effortless way he punctuates his line with chords during Keith Jarrett's "So Tender," a restrained bossa, raises the inevitable question of why he's so underrated and unacknowledged. Beautiful playing throughout.

Vic Juris, guitar
Dick Oatts, alto & tenor sax, flute
Jay Anderson, bass
Jeff Hirshfield, drums

01. Vampicide
02. Critters
03. A Song for Kate
04. You Stepped Out
05. Moonscape
06. Wrong Is Right
07. Blood Count
08. Folk Blues
09. Midnight at the Waterfront
10. So Tender


Vic Juris - Music of Alec Wilder (1996)

Alec Wilder is in the running for a dubious honor: most overlooked figure in 20th century music. There's a noble aspect, therefore, to this collection of Wilder's songs, all of which work quite well as vehicles for cutting-edge jazz improvisation. Guitarist and leader Vic Juris enlists Dave Liebman on tenor and soprano sax, Tim Hagans on trumpet, Steve LaSpina on bass, and Jeff Hirshfield on drums. The group faithfully renders Wilder's melodies before the blowing begins -- a musical consideration of utmost importance to Wilder himself, as Bill Dobbins explains in his informative liner notes. Liebman and Hagans are beautifully recorded, and Juris varies the ensemble configurations to feature them, and himself, in ever-changing contexts. Highlights include Hagans and Juris delicately interpreting "Moon and Sand," Liebman soaring through "Blackberry Winter" on soprano, and both hornmen sinking their teeth into "Winter of My Discontent" and "Where Is the One." Nowhere is Wilder's compositional breadth more apparent than in the contrast between the heady angularity of "That's My Girl" and the deep melancholy of "The Lady Sings the Blues."

Vic Juris (guitar)
Dave Liebman (soprano & tenor saxophones)
Tim Hagans (trumpet, flugelhorn)
Steve LaSpina (bass)
Jeff Hirshfield (drums)

01. Where Is The One 6:11
02. Goodbye John 5:44
03. Winter Of My Discontent 6:26
04. Moon And Sand 5:42
05. Blackberry Winter 5:05
06. A Long Night 5:05
07. Lady Sings The Blues 7:22
08. That's My Girl 5:36
09. While We're Young 6:53
10. Homework 5:51
11. Such A Lonely Girl Am I 3:49
12. Little Circles 4:05