Jazz CD Reviews – March 2016

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Messin’ With Mister T

Dave Stryker

Strikezone 8812

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More than 50 years ago when the English publication Jazz Journal was at its peak, it ran a series of articles if my memory serves me correctly called “How Do They Age So Well” referring to veteran musicians who still had so much to offer musically. This thought crossed my mind when listening to the then 88-year-old Jimmy Heath on guitarist Dave Stryker’s tribute to Stryker’s former boss, the tenor player Stanley Turrentine known as Mister T or Sugar, with whom he played from 1986-95. Stryker’s tender opening inspires Heath to the disc’s highlight, a soulful but stately rendition of Duke Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood. Unrushed and elegant it exemplifies to perfection one of the Duke’s many timeless melodies. He shares the spotlight with another octogenarian, Houston Person, whose series of albums for the HighNote label have given me countless hours of listening pleasure. The lively LA Place Street with its shuffle rhythm grooves is an ideal platform for his fat, warm tone anchored in the blues. The title refers to the block Turrentine grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Of the others, the best is probably Chris Potter who combines with Stryker on a burning, uptempo version of John Coltrane’s Impressions. Although the emphasis may have been in the tenors, the album’s success owes much to the rhythm section, the admirable Stryker, Jared Gold at the Hammond organ and drummer McLenty Hunter, who shine as either accompanists or soloists. This a soulful tribute straight from the heart.

 – Kevin Jones

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The Narrow Isthmus CD

This Narrow Isthmus

The Julien Wilson Quartet

Julien Wilson – Tenor Sax/Clarinet

Barney McAll – Grand Piano

Jonathan Zwartz – Acoustic Bass

Allan Browne – Drums & Cymbals

All compositions by Julien Wilson

Lionsharerecords, 2015

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Featuring the same quartet as his bestselling, triple Australian Jazz Bell Award winning This Is Always album, but recorded live at The Sound Lounge for SIMA by Fine Music presenter Peter Nelson, Julien Wilson’s This Narrow Isthmus is one also one of the final recordings of the late great drummer Allan Browne who died in June 2015. Where This Is Always was all ballads and standards this album leans towards the blues with all original compositions written especially for the group by the band’s irrepressible saxophonist leader in 2014. This recording comes from what was the fourth of only five shows that the quartet ever played together and the only performance that was recorded. Sadly there will be no more. Outstanding tracks include Rainman and Bernie, deriving inspiration from the works of Billy Strayhorn and the late iconic Australian saxophonist Bernie McGann. These are exceptionally deep and truly contemplative ballads superbly played by Wilson’s weeping tenor accompanied by the glistening arpeggios on grand piano by Barney McAll. Another stand out is Weeping Willow, opening with the authoritative bass of Jonathan Zwartz and Browne’s cymbals and drums then racily progressing with tenor and grand piano into something more pleasingly bluesy than its inspirational companion Willow Weep For Me. Captured here is a band of Australian musicians at the height of their game on a quality recording that is a must have for all lovers of contemporary improvisation.

 – Barry O’Sullivan

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Eliane Elias CD

Made In Brazil

Eliane Elias

Concord Jazz CJA 36693-02

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A mixture of dreaminess and percussive drive, this captivating and emotionally appealing album is the first recorded in Brazil by Eliane Elias since she left for the United States in 1981 – and what a triumphant homecoming. Recorded in Sao Paulo last year, it covers a wide spectrum of music as the pianist-vocalist pays tribute to three generations of great Brazilian songwriters – Ary Barosso, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Roberto Mescal – and by adding six of her compositions, all melodically memorable, she gives the set a contemporary feel. The string arrangements on seven tracks, dense and lush, were recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra at the city’s famous Abbey Road Studios. Brazilian music is much more diverse than just bossa nova as popularised by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto as Elias admirably demonstrates by blending old and new forms with an all-star cast including her talented daughter Amanda Brecker and Ed Motta. Brisk or brassy, as in Frank Sinatra’s famous recording with Billy May, are the usual treatments for Barosso’s famous 1939 composition but Elias’ dreamy re-harmonisation of Brasil (Aquarela do Brasil) makes it the outstanding track, closely followed by a memorable version of Jobim’s Aguas do Marco (Waters Of March) where she is backed by the vocal textures of New York’s Take 6 whose chief arranger, Mark Kibble, joins her on the passionate Incendiendo and the playful Driving Ambition. Her ability to seamlessly switch from Portuguese to English as she blends American jazz with Brazilian rhythms makes this an enchanting album.

– Kevin Jones

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