JAZZ CD REVIEWS – June 2016

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Talk To Me

Freddy Cole

HighNote HCD7225

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This 2011 release only reinforces my view that Freddy Cole has long been the natural successor to the baritone balladeering icons Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, Joe Williams and Johnny Hartman. Although the octogenarian’s voice is darker and slightly rougher than the above four, he is stylishly sophisticated with a deeply personalised view of jazz singing. He may have some resemblance to his late brother but Cole is very much his own man. Few vocalists have such a broad repertoire described by Cole as “from Broadway to the blues”. As usual the accompanying musicians are of the highest calibre including pianist John Di Martino, trumpeter Randy Napoleon and his usual group, guitarist Randy Napoleon, bassist Elias Bailey and drummer Curtis Boyd. Harry Allen, filling in for Houston Person who is usually Cole’s first-choice tenor saxophonist on these HighNote recordings, is in superb form especially on the opening and best track, the little heard but lovely and bittersweet Mam’selle from the 1946 20th Century Fox movie classic The Razor’s Edge; Cole’s hushed vocal complements the ballad’s lyrics to perfection. Cole continually finds new gems for his material, less familiar but no less satisfying. Grammy Award winning songwriter Bill Withers, a long time Cole favourite, is represented by three tracks including a mellow You Just Can’t Smile It Away and a tender Can’t We Pretend? He pays tribute to Williams, his idol, by caressing I Was Telling Her About You. Here’s Cole at his best: the epitome of taste and bluesy romanticism. Even Tony Bennett cannot match his durability.

– Kevin Jones


 

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Hi(gh) Curious

Eugene Ball Quartet: Eugene Ball -Trumpet, James Macaulay -Trombone, James McLean – Drums, Mick Meagher – Electric bass

Independent release as a CD or
https://eugeneball4tet.bandcamp.com/releases

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Multi-award winning Australian trumpeter, Eugene Ball, has received widespread national and international recognition throughout a professional career that has featured performances with some of the biggest names in improvised music. His recording career with numerous ensembles including the Andrea Keller Quartet, the Allan Browne Quintet, the Australian Art Orchestra and The Bennett’s Lans Big Band are noteworthy and in addition to being a sought after live performer, Ball is also an accomplished composer and arranger having received a Jazz Bell Award in 2008 for Best Australian Jazz Composition of the Year. Hi(gh) Curious, interestingly, is his first recording as a band leader. Dedicated ‘to the mentor without peer’ the late drummer Allan Browne, this debut album features the drumming of James McLean and James Macaulay’s superb trombone with Ball on trumpet and composition on the four originals and the electric bass of Mike Meagher. Personally I wouldn’t have minded an added piano to the ensemble to inject a little more colour and interplay but that tried format would have probably been too easy for the likes of this quartet. The band is successfully engaging without putting such a premium on rhythmic dialogue. The other three tracks are their improvisations of You’re My Thrill, Never Let Me Go and Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You. Be warned – you won’t find yourself humming along with those familiar tunes but rather discernibly curious at the originality of their interpretations.

– Barry O’Sullivan


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Karrin Allyson 

Motema Music CD-183

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When Ella Fitzgerald recorded her Richard Rodgers Songbook album with Buddy Bregman’s Orchestra in 1956, she concentrated on the great composer’s music with lyricist Lorenz Hart rather than with his later and very successful partnership with Oscar Hammerstein II. Some critics, and I agreed with them at the time, claimed Hart’s  lyrics were wittier and more sophisticated than Hammerstein’s despite the sentiment and romanticism of such gems as It Might As Well Be Spring and Bali Ha’i. However, Karrin Allyson takes Hammerstein’s lyrics, which she describes as brilliant and universal, to another level as she pays tributes to him and the genius of Rodger’s music with melodies from four Broadway shows – Oklahoma (five), The King And I (four), South Pacific (three) and The Sound of Music (two). As a jazz interpreter of the Great AmericanSongbook this remarkably flexible stylist has few equals today; her voice is creatively unique with a sound that has been described as slightly parched. It is in superb control as she emphasises the beauty of Out Of My Dreams, tenderly embraces We Kiss In A Shadow, joyfully swings through the title track and is mischievously saucy on I Cain’t Say No. The backing by pianist Kenny Barron (epitome of elegance on Many A New Day) and bassist John Patitucci (solos beautifully on Something Good) only adds to the magic. This is up there with her most important album, Round Midnight (2011), described by many as the finest ballad album since Frank Sinatra’s classic Only The Lonely (1958). Don’t miss it.

– KJ


 

These reviews appeared in the June edition of Fine Music Magazine – you can subscribe to our monthly magazine and have it posted to your home or business or click the link here to read online.

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