CD Reviews - May 2005
by George Fendel

The Jaywalker, Duke Ellington Orchestra; Duke Ellington, leader, piano.
It's a fact that Duke Ellington, at his own expense, made many recordings never issued commercially, and hence, became known as the "stockpile." This is one of them, and much of it is music written for a 1967 English play, The Jaywalker. Many of the Duke's stalwarts were still in the band at this time, so we are treated to never before released gems from such greats as Cat Anderson, Buster Cooper, Lawrence Brown, Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney and more. A few highlights include the well named Chromatic Love Affair featuring Carney's big baritone; a riveting Hodges alto on Billy Strayhorn's moody Blood Count; and a beautiful composition called Mac. It served as the main theme for The Jaywalker, and at a later date, Ellington used this delicacy in his Second Sacred Concert. For that work he changed the name to T.G.T.T., (Too Good To Title). To this day, it remains one of Duke's most exquisite compositions. A true rarity brings the disc to a close. It's a rehearsal take, complete with little comments from band members, and the only known recording of a bouncy tune entitled Tin Soldier. This well recorded disc will make a heady addition to any Ellington collection.Storyville, 2004; Playing Time: 76:32, ****.

Back In New York, Scott Hamilton, tenor sax.
This is a quartet that was just waiting to happen. If they never play together again, (and that would be a shame) the meeting of Scott Hamilton with Bill Charlap and the trio is truly a match made in jazz heaven. Hamilton and Charlap are both melody lovers; both appreciate and draw from the wide spectrum of the American songbook; and both, without ever wasting a note, swing with clarity and purpose. Charlap's regular playing mates these days are two of the highest profile players on today's jazz roadmap, Peter Washington, bass, and Kenny Washington, drums. Considering the skills of these four players, one can pretty much surmise that this album came together with a tune list, a recording studio, and a bare bones notion of arrangements. And if you want proof that Scott Hamilton still reigns as one of the most serene tenor men ever heard anywhere, check out his dreamy version of I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face, an album highlight. Other ballads which score high marks are Wonder Why, This Is Always and a slower than usual Lullaby Of The Leaves. The tempo picks up on What Is This Thing Called Love, Blue ‘N Boogie, Fine And Dandy, Bouncing With Bud, Love Letters and I've Just Seen Her. Suffice to say, that Hamilton remains a joy to hear, and that each of Charlap's solos is a finely crafted gem. Concord Jazz, 2005; Playing Time: 62:09, *****.

Live At Blues Alley - First Set, Hod O'Brien, piano.

Reservoir, in the words of Clark Terry, just keeps on keepin' on with yet another in their New York Piano series. This time it's the very swinging Hod O'Brien in a live performance at the Washington DC nitery, Blues Alley. O'Brien gets the set off to a rousing start with Nothing Like You Has Ever Been Seen Before, a Bob Dorough tune which more musicians need to discover. Another quick-paced rarity follows in Frog's Legs, a Joe Zawinul blues written for Ben Webster. From the rare to the very obscure, the trio (Ray Drummond, bass and Kenny Washington, drums) plays Thespian, a stately ballad by bop pianist Freddie Redd. It's Love is a bop romp based loosely on Bird's classic, Confirmation. Drummond steps into the spotlight with a riveting solo on Lullaby Of The Leaves. The CD is concluded with three timeless standards in Tangerine, Bye Bye Blackbird and Just In Time. Throughout this impeccably recorded CD, O'Brien and friends show us the very essence of the bebop piano trio with chorus after chorus of sizzling improvisation. Or, said another way, CHOPS!
Reservoir, 2004; Playing Time: 61:26, *****.

Eric Felten Meets The Dek-Tette, Eric Felten, trombone, vocals.
Well, it's about time someone honored the too-little-appreciated Marty Paich Dektette. It was a sophisticated 1950's "little band" comprised of LA cats who could "read up a storm!" And that's just what they did with Paich's gifted arrangements. Some of those guys, joined by other cats sympathetic to Paich's magic, are gathered here specifically to pay tribute to Paich's recordings with Mel Torme. The singer in this case, is Eric Felten, who also plays trombone in the Dek-Tette. Felten never tries for a "Torme sound." Instead, he just steps up to the mike and, with a hint of Jack Jones, sings "forever tunes" like Pick Yourself Up, I Could Write A Book, Broadway, I'll Be Around, Where Or When, This Can't Be Love and a half dozen more. The arrangements herein were actually provided in the Marty Paich style most effectively by Brent Wallarab and Scott Silbert. The former Dek-Tette players gathered here include Bob Enevoldsen, valve trombone; Jack Sheldon, trumpet; Med Flory, tenor sax; Herb Geller, alto sax and Chuck Berghofer, bass. VSOP, 2004; Pllay Time: 50:18; ***1/2.

‘Round Midnight, Alan Broadbent, piano.
For me, and I know for many of you, it's a great day when I get my hands on a new CD from Alan Broadbent. He is my living, breathing piano hero and, I say with both humility and pride, my friend. ‘Round Midnight is Alan's second recording for the Japanese King Record Company and a reunion with Brian Bromberg on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums. Alan Broadbent brings beautiful voicings, impeccable phrasing, relentless swing, classical elegance, and rich and resonant harmony to everything he plays. Having said that, I still find it insufficient to describe how much his music has meant to me, especially over the last couple of years. On this CD, Allen tackles another set of etched-in-marble jazz standards including a spirited Groovin' High; a definitive Serenata; J. J. Johnson's heartfelt Lament; Monk's classic title tune, ‘Round Midnight; and two standards, impeccably delivered, I'm Old Fashioned and The Man I Love. The CD is completed by two Broadbent originals. Journey Home boasts a jaunty and attractive melody line and Die Vareinbarung is a title which, for now, is unexplained due to liner notes in Japanese. Alan Broadbent has brilliantly absorbed the best from Bill Evans, Bud Powell and Lennie Tristano, ultimately arriving at a point of piano perfection unparalled in jazz today. King Records, 2005; Playing Time: 55:52, *****.

No One Knows, Eric Comstock, vocals, piano.
Think about it. How many male singers are out there still singing quality tunes in superb musical settings? Not many, that's how many. So, let's welcome the hip and hardy voice and the swinging piano of Eric Comstock. Apparently some other jazz luminaries agree that Eric's the real deal. How else could he attract Frank Wess, reeds; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone; Eric Reed, piano (on four tunes); Peter Bernstein, guitar, Peter Washington, bass and Matt Wilson, drums as playing mates on this well thought out album? I used the word "hip" above because just how many other singers have discovered Charlie Haden's Easy On The Heart; two rare Billy Strayhorn delicacies, No One Knows and Grievin', Oscar Brown Jr's witty Hazel's Hips or Johnny Mercer's If I Had My Druthers? In addition to these half dozen treats, Comstock scores on Duke's Jump For Joy and Don't Get Around Much Anymore, as well as Small World, Imagination, Old Devil Moon, I Hear Music and more. Apparently Eric Comstock has two earlier CDs out there, and if they are as good as this one, I, for one, need to check ‘em out! Harbinger Records, 2004; times not indicated, ****.

Next Generation, Gary Burton, vibes.
I guess maybe Gary Burton is doing a Blakey and The Jazz Messengers thing in hiring gifted youngsters, all of whom play way beyond their years. Indeed the name "Burton" will likely be the only one you'll recognize in this quintet of vibes, guitar, piano, bass and drums, but don't let that stop you from listening to explosive new talent and intriguing new compositions. To be sure, Rodgers and Hart's My Romance is the only familiar vehicle on the tune list and it's played a couple ticks faster than usual. From the other choices, I'd draw your attention to pianist Vadim Neselovdkyi's classical roots as heard in Prelude For Vibes and Get Up And Go. Another member of the band, guitarist Julian Lage, is responsible for the well named Walkin' In Music and Clarity, an intricate musical conversation in waltz time between himself and Burton. Among the remaining tunes, I liked the minor key feel of A Dance For Most Of You and yet another return to a classical orientation in Samuel Barber's Fuga. It utilizes a voice chasing voice canvas between vibes, guitar and piano. It's a demanding piece of music, and these youngsters pull it off without a blink of the eye. Concord Jazz, 2005; Playing Time: 63:44, ****1/2.

I Was There, Roger Kellaway, piano.
For many years now, Roger Kellaway has been respected by fans and musicians alike for being one of the most versatile and creative piano cats on the scene. That versatility led him to a job as Bobby Darin's Musical Director in the late 60's. Indeed Kellaway "was there" as an important cog in the Darin wheel of live appearances and recordings. On this very welcome CD, released right around the same time as the Darin film, Beyond The Sea, Roger Kellaway chooses a list of the best quality tunes Darin gave us, and, as one might expect, stays away from the singer's fluffy pop material. As a result, we are treated to stirring solo performances of Charade, My Buddy, Just In Time, The Shadow Of Your Smile, That's All, A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square and more. A couple of superb surprises find their way onto this disc. Darin sang them on an album devoted to the songs from Dr. Doolittle. The album was not heavily hyped by Atlantic Records, but it remains one of Darin's best and one that Kellaway arranged. From Dr. Doolittle, Kellaway plays When I Look In Your Eyes and Something In Your Smile, both of which are lovely creations. Finally, there's Kellaway's original, I Was There. It's a catchy melody line just waiting for a lyric. What a nice tribute this is to a great entertainer who left us much too soon. IPO, 2004; PT: 71:45, ****.

Bedlam, BED; featuring Rebecca Kilgore, vocals and guitar.
In case you may have missed it, BED stands for Becky, Eddie (guitar, banjo, vocals), and Dan (trombone and cornet) and for this album, anyway, Joel Forbes, bass. Rebecca, who is finally receiving long deserved national attention, offers up another set of the familiar and the obscure in her sunny, understated, straight to the heart manner. There are 16 splendid tunes in all here, so let's take a look at several standouts. Let's Get Away From It All, a Matt Dennis-Tom Adair charmer, features a vocal duet with Becky and Eddie (who himself possesses a very nice singing style. Dear Bix, a Dave Frishberg ode to Bix Beiderbecke, is sung with feeling by Eddie. A Woman's Intuition is a beautiful melody originally associated with the great Lee Wiley. Becky has a penchant for unearthing rarely heard verses to songs, and she does so again here, particularly nicely on the nearly forgotten Bye Bye Baby. Other winners here, some sung by Becky, some by Eddie, include It's A Good Day, Blue Moon, The Lady's In Love With You, My Canary Has Circles Under His Eyes (where did they find that one?!) and I've Got A Lot Of Livin' To Do. Dan Barrett's rich trombone floats in and out with such subtlety and grace that you hardly know he's there. This is an album to put a smile on your face. That's for sure! Blue Swing, 2004; Play Time: 65:32, ****1/2

Philly Gumbo Vol. 2, John Swana, trumpet.
Ace trumpeter John Swana once again brings to the bandstand a cadre of cats from his native Philadelphia, making this a follow-up to Philly Gumbo, their initial release from a few years back. This time, he includes two tenors, Larry McKenna on the left channel and Bootsie Barnes on the right. The rhythm section, solid all the way, includes Sid Simmons, piano; Mike Boone, bass and Byron Landham, drums. With the exception of Matt Dennis' Everything Happens To Me, the material is all originals by various band members in the bop idiom. Swana's trumpet style tends toward the lyrical rather than the hysterical, and heÕs completely at ease and consistent at even the fastest tempos. A few highlights: Sid's Dilemma, a burner based on Bernie's Tune; Three Of A Kind, a jazz waltz with a few changes in meter; Ortlieb's, a medium tempo swinger featuring the saxophone players; and It's Over Your Head, a bop vehicle based on How Deep Is The Ocean. This well balanced CD points out once again the enormous amount of talent there is outside of New York. These players, as the Sinatra tune says, could "make it anywhere." Philadelphia seems to work out just fine, thank you. Especially when they can get together for a standout performance with their Philly homeboy, John Swana. Criss Cross, 2005; Playiing Time: 72:16, ****.

Girl Talk, Mel Brown Quartet, Mel Brown, drums.
If you haven't been present in Jimmy Mak's audience on a Wednesday night, you'd be well advised to get down to NW 10th and Everett to check out the sizzling Mel Brown Quartet. I was there on a recent Wednesday for the release party for this very CD and, well, let's put it this way, a PARTY it was! But then you know it's always going to be that way with drummer extraordinaire Mel Brown at the helm. This CD contains many of the tunes performed at the party, and Mel's colleagues, Tony Pacini, piano; Dan Balmer, guitar and Ed Bennett, bass, have created a surefire bop, ballads and blues winner! The CD brings us some energetic up tempo originals such as Pacini's Brown Baggin' and Silverplated Song and Bennett's Now's Not The Time and Good Friday. Balmer's composition, Venus and Bennett's Waltz For Theo join standards Girl Talk and Just Squeeze Me in beautifully realized, more moderate tempos. A quick word about Milestones, the tune which closes out this outstanding disc. Tony Pacini arranged it and uses an ingenious lightning quick device to introduce each segment of the tune. Miles himself would have loved it! And if you love high energy bop played with unbridled enthusiasm, this is your CD! And get down to Jimmy Mak's this coming Wednesday night! Saphu, 2005; Playing Time: 60:47, *****.

Eldar, Eldar, piano.
When you hear this kid, you'll take another look at the CD notes to make sure you got it right. Yeah, the kid's only 18 years old and at that age, some young fellas aren't even shaving yet. Born in 1987 in what was then the Soviet Union, Eldar began to demonstrate at age 3 an uncanny flair at the piano. So here he is, not yet out of his teens, being promoted only by his first name and already on a major label. With John Patittucci, bass and Todd Strait, drums, he starts the CD by spinning you around in your easy chair with a rip-snortinâ version of Sweet Georgia Brown. But then comes Nature Boy, gentle and lyrical, and we understand that Eldar isn't all flash and velocity. However, Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage, notwithstanding Eldar's virtuosity, is taken way too fast. But Eldar balances the scales with a feathery ‘Round Midnight, a solo excursion on Monk's Ask Me Now and a bossa touch on Fly Me To The Moon. The CD is completed by four Eldar originals, the best of which were Raindrops and Lady Wicks, both finely crafted examples of some lovely writing on Eldar's part. If this youngster doesn't "burn out" like other prodigies sometimes do, you're going to be hearing a lot more from him. Sony Classical, 2005; Playing Time: 57:36, ****.

Simply . . . With Spirit, Hanna Richardson, vocals; Phil Flanigan, bass.
A singer who shuns the temptation to display show biz "shtick" is a singer that usually gets high marks from me. And such a singer is Hanna Richardson, probably a new name to you, but one with whom you should get acquainted. Hanna sings right on key and always honors the song rather than over-decorating it. One might say that her style is somewhat reminiscent of Maxine Sullivan or Portland's own Rebecca Kilgore. On this CD, her first for Arbors, Hanna shares the billing with hubby, bassist Phil Flanigan. With guitarists Chris Flory and Bob Sneider, along with Mike Melito, drums and veteran violinist John Frigo on some select cuts, Hanna is a delight on no less than 16 wonderful tunes. Some of my faves included rarities like Don't Let It Bother You, Are You Havin' Any Fun, A Brown Bird Singing, We Three and an altogether scrumptious duet with Phil on George and Ira Gershwin's Slap That Bass. Equally delicious are better known tunes like The Tender Trap, Detour Ahead, Love You Madly, It's A Lovely Day Today. They All Laughed and Oh Look At Me Now. So, get to know Hanna Richardson, a singer who does honor to Songbook Americana. Arbors Recordings, 2005; Playing Time: 64:40, ****1/2.

Porgy And Bess . . . Redefined, Mark Masters Ensemble.
Porgy And Bess continues to cast its spell over jazz musicians and arrangers. Since the definitive Miles Davis-Gil Evans classic, Gershwin's greatest triumph has been presented by Bill Potts' Washington DC orchestra; by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald; by Ray Charles and Cleo Laine; by Mundell Lowe's All-Stars, by Joe Henderson, Oscar Peterson and more recently by Clark Terry fronting a large orchestra. I, for one, welcome every one of them, including this stunning new version by Mark Masters, the same individual who was responsible a couple years back, for a Clifford Brown retrospective which was also outstanding. This recording features twelve of the great melodies from P&G, some familiar (Summertime, It Ain't Necessarily So, I Loves You Porgy) and some less so (Gone Gone Gone, A Red Headed Woman, Clara Clara, Here Come De Honey Man). Masters' arrangements are absolutely invigorating, still leaving generous solo space for high energy players like Billy Harper, Tim Hagans, Gary Smulyan and Cecilia Coleman, among others. I first saw Porgy And Bess at Portland's Hollywood Theater. The year was 1959. It has held me in its clutches ever since. Capri, 2005; Play Time: 60:58, *****.

You Brought A New Kind Of Love, Ruby Braff, cornet.
Most of this lyrical outing is a trio date with Braff joined by Bill Charlap, piano and Jake Hanna, drums. The pairing of two melody guys in Braff and Charlap is especially effective on such fare as Lullaby Of The Leaves, I Know That You Know, Blue And Sentimental and the title tune, New Kind Of Love. The trio becomes a quintet with the addition of Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar and the second piano of one of Charlap's mentors, Dick Hyman. They stretch out with ease on You're Driving Me Crazy, Devil And The Deep Blue Sea and When I Fall In Love. Arbors Recordings, 2004; Playing Time: 49:11, ***1/2.

Luther Hughes And The Cannonball-Coltrane Project, Luther Hughes, leader, bass.
This is, first and foremost, a straight-ahead swinging bop CD which happens to honor Cannonball and Coltrane by playing a few of the tunes they wrote as well as originals in the style of the two icons at their peak. Luther Hughes has assembled a cooking quintet featuring the tenor of Glenn Cashman and the alto of Bruce Babad. Certainly this album captures the fire, excitement and, if you will, the "flavor" of these great innovators without ever trying to copy their sound. The real heart of swinging, artful jazz is what this CD is all about. Primrose Lane, 2004; Playing Time: 60:24, ****1/2. For more info: lutherhughes.com

Come Escape With Me, Amina Figarova, piano.
Here is some original music which covers the gamut of tempos and emotions. The pianist, Amina Figarova, is also responsible for the arrangements for this group of European musicians whose instrumentation includes three reeds, trumpet, bass and drums. I especially liked the energy and enthusiasm of Hot On The Trail and Buckshot Blues; the pace and intricacy of Blues For Wiro; and the dreamy tenor of Kurt van Herck on the ballad Reaching Out To You.To get a clearer idea of Figarova, the pianist, I'd like to hear her in, say, a trio setting some time. Munich Records, 2005; Playing Time: 63:21, ***.

This Is Always: The Ballad Session, Eden Atwood, vocals.
Eden Atwood established her reputation as a fine singer in a series of albums for Concord Jazz. Now on the Groove Note label, she brings us a tune list from Songbook Americana and deliciously subtle and musical accompanists in Bill Cunliffe, piano; Darek Oleszkiewicz, bass; Larance Marable, drums; and the rich, enveloping Tom Harrell on trumpet and flugelhorn. With this inspiring quartet, Eden delivers heartfelt renditions of Blame It On My Youth, You're Nearer, Serenata, For All We Know, Without A Song, Day By Day and lots more. Groove Note, 2004; ****.

Homage To Jobim, Charlie Byrd, acoustic guitar.
Along with Laurindo Almeida and practically nobody else, Charlie Byrd made his way in jazz playing the acoustic guitar. Before the bossa nova become fashionable, it was Byrd who also made big waves in that style. For this previously unreleased live performance, the guitarist is joined by Ken Peplowski, clarinet; Hendrik Meurkens, harmonica and Allen Farnham, piano, among others, on a set devoted primarily to the compositions of Antonio Carlos Jobim. YouÕll hear beauties like Favela, If You Never Come To Me, Desafinado, Once I Loved. Concord Jazz, 2005; PT: 39:59, ***.

Sentiments, Sahib Shihab, conductor, soprano and baritone sax; flute, alto flute.
Sahib Shihab rarely got a chance to be the headliner. He spent years in near anonymity as a valued and versatile section cat in bands led by Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones and Ernie Wilkins, among others. This CD puts him in the spotlight with a quartet and as conductor and player with the Danish Radio Jazz Group. The tunes, all originals, date from the 1960s and early ‘70s, but in listening to Shihab the leader and soloist, you'll wonder why there wasn't more frequent opportunity for him to display his formidable talent. Storyville, 2005; Playing Time; 64:15, ***.

The Historic California Concerts, 1954: The Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet.

This reissue brings us more of this material than ever before, filling in your "Clifford collection" with this well recorded material. Co-leaders Roach and Brown bring us two groups: the first completed by Teddy Edwards, tenor, Carl Perkins, piano and George Bledsoe, bass. The second includes Harold Land, tenor; Richie Powell, piano and George Morrow, drums. The tunes are all standout classic bebop of the period, but the big bonus here, as always, is the trumpet of Clifford Brown, the nonpariel genius of the trumpet. Fresh Sound, 2004; Playing Time: 63:32, *****.

Something To Live For, Mia Nicholson, vocals.
The debut CD for Mia Nicholson seems to coincide with increased live gigs around the city for her. Some of Portland's premier musicians appear with her, including David Evans, Steve Christofferson, Ed Bennett, and Ron Steen, to name a few. Mia has wisely chosen a number of quality tunes that are not often heard. In addition to the title tune, how about The Best Thing For You, Vanity, Laughing At Life, Baltimore Oriole and the charming Brazilian tune, O Barquinho. Eight standards complete a very welcome first outing for Mia Nicholson. Mia Culpa Music, 2005; PT: 44:08, ***1/2.

Tommy Newsom And His Octo-Pussycats, Tommy Newsom, leader, tenor saxophone. Tommy's third CD for Arbors finds the former Tonight Show second fiddle in fine fettle as leader, arranger and tenor player in an octet that swings with sophistication and style. The best known of his confreres include Warren Vache, cornet; Wayne Andre, trombone and Derek Smith, piano. Newsom's arrangements are bright and buoyant on such standout tunes as Cinnamon And Clove, In A Mellow Tone, Speak Low, Detour Ahead and Upper Manhattan Medical Group. The CD is also notable for the presence of four members of the Diva Big Band, a formidable, all female aggregation. Arbors, 2005; Playing Time: 56:05, ****.

Uncurling, Belinda Underwood, vocals.
The sultry voiced bassist/singer/composer Belinda Underwood mixes in some standards and several of her own tunes with the help of Portland pals John Gross, David Friesen and Dan Balmer, among others. She is most effective on evergreens such as Born To Be Blue, How Deep Is The Ocean, You Don't Know What Love Is, Born To Be Blue and Invitation. Her own compositions provided a contemporary touch and in some cases, a nice balance to the more familiar fare. Self-Produced, 2004; Playing Time: 55:35, ***.

Yellow Dance, Dick Titterington, trumpet.
The Portland trumpet player calls upon the skills of some riveting Rose City raconteurs in Scott Steed, Todd Strait, Tim Jensen, Rob Davis and Randy Porter (not every guy on every tune) on some material which may be close to the edge of the cliff for some listeners. But Dick and pals never lose their balance on these or on more familiar fare such as Seven Steps To Heaven, How Are Things In Glocca Morra, You're A Lucky Guy and even Alice In Wonderland. Heavywood, 2005; Playing Time: 58:21, ****.

Stop-Start, Trio East.
This trumpet-bass-drums trio pays homage to heroes like John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Dizzy Gillespie, Mal Waldron and Ornette Coleman by playing their compositions. The CD also includes three originals by trumpet man Clay Jenkins. While there's ample energy and creativity here, the presence of a pianist would have brought more depth to this recording. Sons Of Sound, 2005; Playing Time: 42:04, **1/2.

New Wings, Margaret Slovak, guitar.
Those of us who enjoy Margaret Slovak's music are thrilled that she has come almost all the way back from an auto accident so serious that she couldn't play for a long period of time. While this album of mostly original music may not be strictly defined as jazz, it is easily beautiful, serene, acoustic, solo guitar music well worth your attention. My special thanks to Margaret for In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning. Slovak Music, 2005; Playing Time: 65:52, ****.

Sweets, Harry "Sweets" Edison, trumpet.
This long out of print gem pairs two of the royal ambassadors of jazz, Sweets Edison and tenor great Ben Webster. Also along for the ride on a scintillating menu of small group swing are Jimmy Rowles, piano; Barney Kessel, guitar, Joe Mondragon, bass and Alvin Stoller, drums. Edison and Webster are at the top of their respective games, and everyone else on this 1956 session makes it all sound so effortless. Verve, 2005; Playing Time: 45:15, *****.

Live At The Desert Inn, Bobby Darin, vocals.
Not even Mack The Knife, Beyond The Sea and Cannonball Adderley's Work Song can save this pop-rock effort. It's a big megillah, complete with background voices and a huge orchestra, but it means nothing because the rest of the material is, to be kind, trite. Perhaps Darin was trying to reach a younger audience, but there's not much to lean on here with bland entries like Save The Country, Fire And Rain, a Beatles medley, Hi De Ho, etc. Get the point? Concord Jazz, 2005; Playing Time: 68:38, *1/2.

Fit As A Fiddle, Svend Asmussen, violin.
I am not the most ardent fan of jazz violin, but I have to admit, Svend Asmussen swings hard on a varied menu of tunes ranging from Gershwin's I Love You Porgy to Gillespie's A Night In Tunisia. At both brisk tempos and ballads, his quartet, especially Jacob Fischer on guitar, is right in the center of the groove. You'll also enjoy Bye Bye Blackbird, Groove Merchant and a couple of Ellington bright lights, The Mooche and Prelude To A Kiss. Storyville, 2005; PlayingTime: 62:52, ***1/2.

Once Upon A Reed, Ray Reed, alto sax.
Here's a straight-ahead quintet featuring the alto sax of big band veteran Ray Reed along with trumpet wiz Carl Saunders and an invigorating rhythm section comprised of Tom Garvin, Tom Warrington and Joe La Barbera. With the exception of Darn That Dream and You Make Me Feel So Young, the tunes are originals. All are presented in a joyous framework, with fresh ensemble playing and ample solo work for all comers. Sea Breeze, 2004; PT: 50;02, ****.

Resonance, John Stowell, guitar.
Portland's John Stowell plays solo this time around on a thoughtful selection of tunes as he brings out the beauty of both acoustic and electric guitars. Some Stowell originals are joined on the menu here by the likes of Prelude To A Kiss, Some Other Time, Yesterdays, I Should Care and Equinox. Pretty music like this has a way of just wrapping its arms around you. Origin, 2005; PlayingTime: 63:33, ***1/2.

Remembering Mr. Cole With Joe Bourne, Joe Bourne, vocals.
Joe Bourne is a fine singer who understandably would do an album honoring the great Nat Cole. Why? Because he sounds like a close cousin of Nat's. With a piano-guitar-bass accompaniment (a la Nat Cole), Bourne reprises such Cole goodies as You're Looking At Me, Frim Fram Sauce, Little Girl, Sweet Lorraine, Orange Colored Sky and a dozen or so more. JONAJA Records, 2004; Playing Time: 50:44, ***. http://www.joebourne.com

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