Friday, May 27, 2016

Luis Perdomo - Spirits And Warriors (2016)

Source & Label:
Genre: Post-Bop
GAB's Rating: ★★★★★

 For his fourth Criss Cross recording, pianist Luis Perdomo offers a swinging affair, on which a crackling quintet of New York first-callers interprets 7 originals by the leader (the centerpiece is the well-wrought six-piece "Spirits and Warriors Suite" that gives the CD its title), Clifford Jordan's iconic jazz standard "Glass Bead Games," and the classic ballad "Portrait of Jenny".

Propelled by drum grandmaster Billy Hart and bassist Ugonna Okegwo, who lock in like life-long partners, tenor saxophonist Mark Shim and trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, a Criss Cross regular, uncork cogent solos, some inflamed, some nuanced.

Perdomo, 44, plays throughout with the old soul clarity, grit, maturity and freshness that have earned him deep respect from the best and brightest representatives of the hardcore jazz and Afro-Caribbean practitioners on the international playing field.  

1. Face Up (Luis Perdomo)  5:11
2. Sensei (Luis Perdomo)  7:39
3. Aura (Luis Perdomo)  6:40
4. Ralph (Luis Perdomo)  6:22
5. Her Eyes (Luis Perdomo)  7:09
6. Year One (Luis Perdomo)  7:45
7. Glass Bead Games (Clifford Jordan)  6:56
8. Little Church (Hermeto Pascoal)  4:50
9. Portrait Of Jenny (J. Russell Robinson)  8:21

Luis Perdomo (P)
Alex Sipiagin (Tp / Flh)
Mark Shim (Ts / EWI [5])
Ugonna Okegwo (B)
Billy Hart (D)


Boris Kozlov - Conversations At The Well (2016)

Source & Label:
Genre: Post-Bop
GAB's Rating: ★★★★★

After 13 Criss Cross sideman appearances, including four with the all-star collective Opus 5, Boris Kozlov, one of New York's busiest and most respected bassists in a multiplicity of genres, makes his leader debut for the label with Conversations At The Well.

Joined by the distinguished guitarist David Gilmore of Steve Coleman and Five Elements fame, and the increasingly prominent drummer Rudy Royston, Kozlov guides and grounds their creative navigation of repertoire by Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington,Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett, Ornette Coleman and Thelonious Monk, concluding the proceedings with a vivid, spontaneously generated blues.  

1. Five (Bill Evans)  6:28
2. Conversation (Charles Mingus)  5:49
3. Orbits (Wayne Shorter)  6:14
4. Semblance (Keith Jarrett)  7:20
5. Prelude To A Kiss (Duke Ellington)  9:09
6. Eye Of The Hurricane (Herbie Hancock)  6:12
7. Latin Genetics (Ornette Coleman)  5:46
8. Headless Blues (Boris Kozlov / David Gilmore / Rudy Royston)  4:51
9. Pannonica (Thelonious Monk)  5:26

Boris Kozlov (B)
David Gilmore (G)
Rudy Royston (D)



One For All - The Third Decade (2016)

Genre: Hard-Bop 
GAB's Rating: ★★★★★

Hard to believe it will be twenty years ago next year that the hard bop ensemble One For All debuted with Too Soon To Tell on the fledgling Sharp Nine label. Formed as a group that regularly played together at an uptown Broadway club called Augie's, each member was just at the start of their own budding careers. Even today, it continues to be a surprise that these gentlemen still find the time to assemble for the occasional record date or live appearance.

Much has transpired since 1997. Augie's was transformed into Smoke, the club that continues to thrive and provides the imprimatur for the record label documenting the set at hand. Fifteen albums are to be found in the band's oeuvre, including four on Sharp Nine, five for Criss Cross Jazz, four for the Japanese Venus label, and two live concert recordings. Indeed on the cusp of starting their third decade together as a band, this fittingly titled set brings into focus all of the best qualities of these gentlemen, including their composing talents and singular musical voices. It also happens to be their first new release in five years.

The proceedings open with the Steve Davis original "Easy." Those crisp snare hits from drummer Joe Farnsworth announce that we are indeed in for a pleasurable ride. The warm timbre of the three-piece horn section is a trademark of this unit and it's all here to enjoy from the very first note. The tempo picks up with David Hazeltine's "Buddy," a tribute to his mentor and fellow pianist Buddy Montgomery. The sprightly bossa tempo brings some joyous shouting from trumpet ace Jim Rotondi.

Hazeltine is also responsible for the cheery arrangement of "It's Easy to Remember" and another tribute in the guise of "K-Ray." Dedicated to recently deceased drummer Killer Ray Appelton, this one is a brisk and swinging ditty that finds Farnsworth in all his glory. Particular attention should be paid to the sound the drummer achieves. His toms are tuned high and his ride cymbal has a nice, dry ping, all of which are individualistic and very pleasing. His solo statements are articulate and engaging and never wear out their welcome.

Both Davis' "Daylight" and Eric Alexander's "Frenzy" are ebullient numbers that bristle with excitement. The former speaks with a jaunty Latin-esque voice while the latter is straight ahead swing buoyed by John Webber's rock solid bass lines. For Rotondi's contributions, there's the 16th note groove of "For Curtis" and the long-lined "Ruth," both of which settle into a pleasurable platform for soloing. Although it goes without saying, both Davis and Rotondi are chock full of great ideas and say much over the course of their many solos.

Alexander, Davis, Hazeltine, and Rotondi have largely served as the band's main arrangers/writers over the course of the band's history. It is then a pleasure to find that this date marks the first time all six members contribute to the program. Webber's "Babataya" recalls some of the funky gems from the Blue Note era, such as Lee Morgan's "Party Time." Farnsworth's "Hey,Stevie-D" makes for a fine shuffle that puts Alexander in the mood to strut his stuff. And speaking of Alexander, his gorgeous ballad "Ghost Ride" serves as moment of calm in an otherwise pretty upbeat session.

Over the course of The Third Decade's eleven generous tracks, we get to hear a well-honed machine operating at peak power. Even though distances often keep these six gentlemen apart, one can only hope their new home at Smoke Sessions will provide for further releases and the we won't have to wait another five years before the next one.  

It's Easy to Remember
Ghost Ride
For Curtis
Hey, Stevie-D

 Jim Rotondi: trumpet & flugelhorn
Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone
 Steve Davis: trombone
David Hazeltine: piano
 John Webber: bass
Joe Farnsworth: drums 



Scott Jeppesen - El Guapo (2016)

Genre: Contemporary Jazz
GAB's Rating: ★★★★★

"Guapo" is Spanish for "sharp-dressed man" (or woman), and the title—and launch—track of Scott Jeppesen's exceptional solo debut sure conjures such an image. El Guapo is stylish, diverse and expert; released on Oct. 1, 2013, it is one of the best albums of that year.

Jeppesen is a protean saxophonist who also plays bass clarinet. A restless, inventive player, he delivers eight memorable originals, a resonant, intimate version of Richie Beirach's "Elm" and an effervescent take of Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In" that draws this fine album to a close.

The subtext here seems to be communication. Tracks four through seven bear titles referring to conversations, attitudes, and psychological deals. Take "Maybe Later," featuring Jeppesen on bass clarinet. The longest track on this worked, thoughtful disk, it starts ruminative and pretty, much like "Prayer for Sandy Hook" toward the end. But it evolves into something arch and witty as Jeppesen, the bass of Dave Robaire his underpinning, tosses the melody to John Daversa, a brassman—he's on flugelhorn here —of restraint and dramatically reluctant drive. Every solo purpose. Every solo, like Jeppesen's tone, is dry, too, even the ringing one by guitarist Larry Koonse.

Jeppesen switches to soprano sax for "No Drama," a tricky cut of slink and sass, a chamber-jazz bolero which showcases the rhumba talents of pianist Josh Nelson and sexy bass goading. Every tune has surprises; that's largely due to the startlingly crisp and detailed production of Jeppesen and Daversa.

The metrically demanding, funky "Overlapping Conversations," sparked by Dan Schnelle's elastic drumming, keeps the narrative going, building momentum and tension until Jeppesen and Koonse, whose doublings are one of the album's signature voicings, ties the bow.

And while each of the four tracks in this mini-suite within the album's broader framework stands by itself, they all seem to "talk" to each other. At the same time, while the album is sophisticated and Jeppesen's compositions refreshingly unpredictable, this cool dude of a disk never sacrifices accessibility on the altar of the abstract.

Jeppesen is a multi-instrumentalist at home in a variety of styles and settings. He's played with everyone from jazz artists Dave Koz to Maria Schneider, as well as the pop-rock guitarist Steve Millerand soul icon Stevie Wonder. While the pop and soul influences aren't prominent on "Guapo," the album always swings, and the musicianship is effortless no matter how mutable and challenging the track.

While "El Guapo" may not be the shape of jazz to come, it's jazz at its most shapely. Let's hope Jeppesen, his tone penetrating and spare, his improvisations compact and purposeful, his approach generous and intelligent, continues to deliver jazz of such exceptional quality.  

1. El Guapo 05:40
2. Elm 06:13
3. Great Odin's Raven 05:38
4. I Tend To Agree 07:04
5. Maybe Later 07:39
6. No Drama 03:49
7. Overlapping Conversations 05:46
8. Hidden 07:07
9. Prayer For Sandy Hook 06:14
10.Don't Fence Me In 04:59

Scott Jeppesen - Saxophones and Bass Clarinet
John Daversa - Trumpet and Flugelhorn (Tracks 3 and 5)
Larry Koonse - Guitar
Josh Nelson - Piano and Keyboard
Dave Robaire - Bass
Dan Schnelle - Drums 


Faden Piano Trio - Dissemination (2016)

More Information

Pier Marco Turchetti, piano
Adriano Rujio Rugiadi, fretless bass
Stefano Calvano, drums

01. Discontinuity, Alea, Bolero
02. Una riga di sole sotto la porta
03. Dissemination
04. Black Instant Composition
05. Chora
06. Ghenos
07. Hinzeigen
08. Bisca


Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom - Otis Was a Polar Bear (2016)

The most poignant music is often inspired by watershed events in an artist’s life, and few occasions are more transformative than the arrival of one’s first child. For Allison Miller, the extraordinary drummer, composer, and leader of her band Boom Tic Boom, that life-affirming experience provided the seed that led to the creation of her latest full-length studio album, Otis Was a Polar Bear.

The album, with violinist Jenny Scheinman, cornet player Kirk Knuffke, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, upright bassist Todd Sickafoose, pianist Myra Melford, and Miller on drums, is Miller s latest collection of 10 original compositions following her critically acclaimed No Morphine, No Lilies, which Downbeat Magazine said reveals her exemplary chops and stylistic breadth. The birth of Miller’s (and partner Rachel’s) daughter Josie found the NYC-based drummer reordering her priorities and the very way in which she approached her art.

Drummer and composer Allison Miller plays with joy and fire. She powers bands with a sense of life and momentum that leaps from the bandstand right into your ears and feet. Under her hands, the trap kit dances and talks—sometimes in a whisper but usually with a blend of shout and laughter. To my ears, she plays in the same line as Art Blakey and Ralph Peterson, Jr. She is a natural bandleader because she is such a superb collaborator.

Her latest recording, Otis Was a Polar Bear, features her Boom Tic Boom jazz group with the killer line-up of clarinetist Ben Goldberg, Kirk Knuffke on cornet, violinist Jenny Scheinman, and rhythm section-mates Todd Sickafoose on bass and Myra Melford on piano. It’s an unusual sextet, but Miller has arranged the ten songs on this collection so that her band seems more like an orchestra… or maybe a circus… of different sounds and combinations. Each song is written as a tiny, coherent suite in which the voices jump forward, come together, fall away and leap back into conversation. As a result, there is a furious fun to Otis that runs directly counter to the classic jazz stereotype of MELODY-SOLOS-MELODY.

Listen to “Hoarding the Pod” and you’ll hear: (1) a unison written melody for cornet and clarinet, accompanied by thrashing-free piano trio, (2) a dancing syncopated figure for piano/bass unison, eventually in counterpoint with another melody for cornet and violin, (3) a violin improvisation over the rhythm (a bit funkier though) and harmonies from section two, (4) a new melody for cornet and clarinet that creeps in beneath the violin solo, (5) which blends into a free-wheeling “free” solo for cornet accompanied by an increasingly frenzied Miller on drums, with atonal interjections by piano and then a two-note figure for clarinet and violin, (6) a return to the melody of section one over even more frenzied work by the trio with violin glissandi around the edges, and (7) a return to the piano figure from section two, this time with clarinet improvising at the same time, soon joined by the cornet/violin melody from before.

Whew! But wow! The music is intricate but logical, fun and free but also structured. Read more...

01. Fuster
02. High T
03. Slow Jam
04. Staten Island
05. Shimmer
06. The Listener (For Josh Cantor)
07. Hoarding the Pod
08. Otis Was a Polar Bear
09. Pig in a Sidecar
10. Lullaby for Cookie

Boom Tic Boom is:
Allison Miller, drums and composition
Myra Melford, piano
Jenny Scheinman, violin
Kirk Knuffke, cornet
Ben Goldberg, clarinet and contra alto
Todd Sickafoose, bass