miércoles, 6 de mayo de 2015

Roberta Piket - Emanation (Solo Volume 2) 2015

Emanation: Liner Notes by Richie Beirach

I‘ve known Roberta Piket for over twenty years. It’s been fascinating and very rewarding for me to be first her teacher and now her friend. Over the years, I’ve had the happy opportunity to watch her development and growth, specifically coming together in this new, incredible solo piano CD that you hold in your hands.

Solo piano is very different from any other instrumental recording situation. It is the Mount Everest of challenges for a jazz pianist, because all the burden of interest and variety is placed in the pianist’s hands.

Roberta has a history of many excellent and eclectic CDs, including trio, quintet, trio with strings and winds, and even electric jazz. But this is only her second solo piano CD, and it was truly worth the wait.

One of the things I like so much about this CD is Roberta’s ability to distribute the different functions of the piano, while still maintaining a very smooth motivic and emotional development. The piano has three registers: bass, middle and treble; and we only have two hands. So there has to be a sense of an invisible juggling going on. Like a juggler, there’s always one ball in the air. In solo piano playing, especially from medium tempo to up-tempos, the pianists must create the illusion of the three registers being satisfied, and this is done by a skillful manipulation of the bass notes, the chord and the melody. We must create the illusion of all three being utilized. Roberta has developed this skill over the last few years, and I’m happy to say it’s totally happening.

The program is a wonderful travelogue through many moods and colors, providing a balance of variety and unity which is critically important in a solo CD. Her touch is elegant, expressive and musical. Most important, there is an extraordinary emotional intensity that one rarely finds in today’s overloaded recording industry.

My favorite piece is the Chopin, which concludes the CD. This is something I myself have been very involved with: taking beautiful short classical pieces and opening them up for improvisation. Roberta has picked the second Chopin piano prelude, which is very rarely played, and has never, to my knowledge, been so creatively reharmonized and recomposed. It’s truly an amazing creative and musical accomplishment. This one-page stunning dark gem of a masterpiece has undergone a complete transformation. Roberta has taken this 150-year old miniature and opened up the already very chromatic original left hand accompaniment to support a fantasia of almost atonal improvisations that somehow sound completely right! It’s as though the Polish master had come back and sat down at the piano and said to Roberta, “I will play the left hand accompaniment, dear, and you… you must go ahead and IMPROVISE!

But forget about my words. Just listen to how deep and purely beautiful it sounds.

Another favorite of mine is the free piece, named Emanation. This piece demonstrates Roberta’s ability to achieve compositional unity in a free improvisational setting. It is absolutely mysterious, beautifully ambiguous harmonically, but with the steel wire of motivic development always there to keep it from being just a musically empty collection of pretty sounds, or worse… boring.

Actual Proof is another highlight of the CD. It is a funk composition by Herbie Hancock recorded in the ’70s with an electric band during Herbie’s Headhunters period. What’s amazing about this solo piano version is that, because of the complexity of the arrangement, it shouldn’t be possible. But Roberta manages not just to do it well but spectacularly. Somehow she is able to get across all the parts, convey the rhythmic feel, and play a very interesting improvised solo over this complex form. I’m sure that if Herbie heard it he would love it.

The remainder of Roberta’s program consists primarily of brilliantly reharmonized and recomposed standard jazz warhorses, starting with Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise. I have a long history with this tune, so I have a special appreciation for Roberta’s very different interpretation. It is a burning, twisting and airborne excursion. The smoking intensity of the pedal point harmonic expansions on the ‘A’ sections juxtaposed with the relief of the tension at the bridge make this performance a tour de force.

Haunted Heart wiped me out emotionally. Delicate and beautifully played, it will take your heart.

Other wonderful standards like All the Things You Are and Con Alma (in 7 with a 3 + 4 clave!), plus the lovely original, Saying Goodbye, are included for total balance.

As I said, I’ve known Roberta for a long time. She has truly grown up and matured along with her music. After all, we jazz musicians are what we play, and vice versa.

There are so many solo piano CDs coming out. Happily, this is one of the very best. I hope that you enjoy listening to this recording, and experiencing Roberta’s growth as an artist and a person, as much as I have.

Richie Beirach

December 2014, Leipzig, Germany

Roberta Piket: piano

01. Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise
02. Haunted Heart
03. Con Alma
04. Saying Goodbye
05. Ba Lue Bolivar Ba Lues
06. Emanation
07. All the Things You Are
08. Ambiance
09. Actual Proof
10. Fantasy on a Theme by Chopin

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins


Grant Stewart - Trio (2015)

Source & Label: Cellar Live
Gab's Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 

TRIO is a varied and balanced program of material. Grant, like so many of the better musicians of his generation, has a knack for resurrecting jazz compositions from the ‘50s and ‘60s that are overlooked gems. Freddie Redd’s typically sunny “A Time To Smile” from “The Connection” cover that territory here. “Everything I Love” is medium-up but joyous and swinging with a delightful danceable groove that Phil lays down on the ride cymbal. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s “Is That All There Is” is their 1969 ode to ennui in a bid to be seen as more than R & B songwriters. It was recorded in “grande dame” style by Peggy Lee and became a big hit. Here the trio mercifully leaves the drama on the theatre stage and fashions the great melody in an easy, cool swing much the way Sonny Rollins made cowboy songs sound hip on “Way Out West.” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” the flag waver from the musical “Gypsy” that brought out everything that’s bad about Ethel Merman’s singing. Grant explains, “I always picture the hospital scene in the movie “Airplane” where she comes out of nowhere and sings that song. Then I heard Zaid Nasser, the alto player who is Jamil Nasser’s son, play a wild version of it live and heard it in a whole different way.” Grant deconstructs the theme in true Rollins fashion and the trio cooks. Side 2 begins with “I’ll Never Be The Same,” and this is all about heartbreak, emptiness and regret and Grant’s delivery is letter perfect. Thanks to its melody and changes, Kurt Weill’s “This Is New” has been favored over the years by the likes of Kenny Drew, Chick Corea and Al Cohn among others. On this version, Grant turns out a fluid, brilliant solo that sails over the bass and drums with grace and panache.

"Master your instrument, master the music 
& then forget all that & just play."
 - Charlie Parker -

David Gibson - Boom! (2015)

Source: Allaboutjazz
Label: Posi-tone
Gab's Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Trombonist David Gibson's Boom!—his sixth leader date, and third release on the Posi-Tone imprint—is something of a fresh start. His two previous releases—A Little Somethin' (Posi-Tone, 2009) and End Of The Tunnel (Posi-Tone, 2011)—were cut from the same cloth, as each largely focused on funk, soul jazz, and swing; both albums also featured the same quartet—Gibson on trombone, Julius Tolentino on alto saxophone, labelmate Jared Gold on organ, and Quincy Davis on drums. Now, Gibson returns with a new group—a winning quintet—that's more interested in straight-ahead statements than head-bobbing constructs.

Some of the material presented here, along with the men that present it, brings out the bolder side of Gibson. The trombonist allies himself with intrepid players like trumpeter Josh Evans, who occasionally carries the fire of Freddie Hubbard and the spirit of Woody Shaw in his horn, and pianist Theo Hill, who works his way through this music with firm-handed brilliance. Then there's the steady-as-a-rock bass work of Alex Claffy and the swinging-turned-swatting drums of Kush Abadey to contend with. When all five men fire on all cylinders ("The High Road" and "Eyes Of Argus"), the results are breathtaking. But strength doesn't define this group. This is a quintet that's just as likely to float ("The Dance"), create a vibe tune ("Grass Fed"), or move with a spring in its step ("Persephone") as it is to muscle its way through a piece.

Gibson wrote eight of the ten songs on this record, covering everything from edgy burners to groove music ("Boom!"), but he chose to close the album with a pair of dissimilar covers—"The Cupbearers," a jazz standard that's often associated with pianist Tommy Flanagan, and "Change The World," a pop piece that Eric Clapton and Babyface delivered to the masses. The former cooks and kicks while the latter moves slowly, closing out the album in earthy fashion.

Gibson's organ group always delivered good time sounds with heart and soul, but this quintet is a step above that band. This group brings out the best in his playing and his music, emphasizing the might and musicality in his work. - Dan Bilawsky -

The High Road
Rare Truth
Grass Fed
Eyes Of Argus
The Dance
The Cup Bearers
Change The World

David Gibson: trombone
Josh Evans: trumpet
Theo Hill: piano
Alex Claffy: bass
 Kush Abadey: drums

"Master your instrument, master the music 
& then forget all that & just play."
 - Charlie Parker -

Dave Bass - NYC Sessions (2015)

Life has a funny way of bringing us back to what we love. Need proof? Just look at Dave Bass. After starting on a musical path in Cincinnati, heading to Berklee for a spell, studying with George Russell and Madame Margaret Chaloff, touring with vocalist Brenda Lee, and setting up shop in the Bay Area, where he had an opportunity to perform with stars-to-be like Bobby McFerrin, Bass walked away from music. After fracturing his wrist and hearing that he may not be able to play again, he didn't have much of a choice, so he did the sensible thing: Bass became a lawyer, eventually rising to the position of Deputy Attorney General in California. But the draw of the aural arts pulled him back in decades later. In 2005 he started playing again, in 2008 and 2009 he recorded his debut album, Gone (Self Produced, 2010), and in 2012 he recorded this follow-up. 

NYC Sessions is a trio-plus-guests recording that finds Bass in some very good company. The core trio of Bass, drummer Ignacio Berroa, and bassist Harvie S brings a consistent sound to the project while notable guests—saxophone great Phil Woods, vocalist Karrin Allyson, and Latin jazz trombone heavies Conrad Herwig and Chris Washburne among them—bring variety. Bass' love for Latin jazz, straight-ahead sounds, and late-night balladry merge in his original music. One song might follow a mostly straight-and-swinging course with slight detours ("The Sixties"), another might be bossa-like in its bearing ("Lost Valentine"), and a third may be Afro-Cuban all the way, but they all seem to come across as musical kinfolk in the way that Bass presents them. Or maybe its just the manifestation of that consistent trio sound that gives that impression. 

While listeners can focus on the trio at play ("My Foolish Heart"), Bass prefers more inclusive, guest-friendly settings on this album. There are vocal features for Paulette McWilliams, both swinging ("Since I Found You") and soulful ("Just A Fool") in nature; flute, percussion, and trombone-enhanced Latin music that goes from cool to hot ("Dark Eyes"); smoky and evocative settings that find Woods in fine form ("Silence"); and pieces that put Allyson in the position of storyteller ("Endless Waltz" and "Lost Valentine"). When all of it is added together, a picture of a confident and versatile pianist-composer emerges. Bass can shoulder the weight of a song, deliver a rhapsodic introduction before fading into the fabric of the music, support and assist singers as they cast their spells, run with the baton when the solo spots arrive, and be a team player when the music calls for it. He may have wandered away from the piano during those lost musical years, but the piano clearly never wandered away from him.

Dave Bass: piano
Harvie S: acoustic bass
Ignacio Berroa: drums
Phil Woods: alto saxophone (1, 2, 7, 8, 10, 11)
Conrad Herwig: trombone (1, 4, 7, 10)
Karrin Allyson: vocals (3, 5)
Chris Washburne: trombone (2, 5, 9)
Enrique Fernandez: flute (2, 4, 9)
Carlos Caro: conga, percussion (2, 4, 5, 7, 9)
Paulette McWilliams: vocals (8, 11)

01. The Sixties
02. Lost Mambo
03. Endless Waltz
04. La Comparsa/Mi Montuno
05. Lost Valentine
06. My Foolish Heart
07. Baltic Bolero
08. Since I Found You
09. Dark Eyes
10. Silence
11. Just A Fool

"Hearing is Everything" Peter Watkins