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CD Reviews - July 2010
by George Fendel, and Kyle O'Brien

Reviews by George Fendel

A Sentimental Journey, Tim Warfield, tenor and soprano saxophone.        
For starters, the title tune, ”Sentimental Journey,” is a far cry from the old Doris Day version, as Warfield and friends give it aNew Orleans, funeral march feeling. “I’ll Be Seeing You” brings trumpet-flugelhorn wiz errell Stafford into focus, and Warfieldpicks up the soprano on a nearly forgotten old warhorse, “My Man.” Next is a rollicking “Crazy Rhythm,” which gives both horn players a chance to work out with gusto. “Speak Low” is taken at a jaunty clip, with both Warfield and Staford playing it straight from the hip. Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” is played with great respect and reverence, and “Golden Earrings” gets a loose, slightly funky treatment. The CD concludes with a slightly faster-than-usual but still effective “Here’s That Rainy Day.” All great tunes, to be sure, and Warfield and Staford play with all the superlatives frmly in place. The quartet is completed by Pat Bianchi, Hammond B-3 organ, and Byron Landham, drums. Bianchi keeps it subtle and tasty, but you know me: I always prefer a piano to an organ player. So, in my little jazz world, that’s what separates a very good recording from what might have been a great one.       
Criss Cross, 2010; 59:53.

Modern Romance, Dave Peck, piano.       
I look forward with pleasure to every new recording from Seattle’s premier pianist, Peck. He combines the harmonic richness of Bill Evans with the informed frugality of Ahmad Jamal, but always with the effervescent swing of, well, Dave Peck. On this stunning set recorded live at Seattle’s Jazz Alley, Peck is in high gear, taking full advantage of a dreamy Steinway and perfecto playing mates in bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer Joe LaBarbera. Not to be too dramatic, let it simply be said that Peck explores six standards here with a tantalizing balance of tension, beauty, and elegance. You know all the tunes: “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “East of the Sun,” “Lover Man,” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “If I Should Lose You” and “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good.” What really pulls you in is the freshness, the uniqueness, and sometimes even the fragile nature of Peck’s beautifully lyrical interpretations. He strikes me as a top-of-the-mountain pianist, dedicated to the real art of jazz. Peck is one of its most refined contributors. If you admire a peerless piano performance, purchase this one.       
Let’s Play Stella Records, 2010; 60:43.

I Will Tell Her, Curtis Fuller, trombone.       
Some two dozen years ago, Milt Jackson and Oscar Peterson paired up on an album called “Ain’t But a Few of Us Left.” Today, that’s more true than ever, but one of the icons of the post bop era, Curtis Fuller, is still doing his thing, and doing it with the flae and passion we know so well. On this scintillating two-CD set (one in the studio and one live at Dazzle, a local jazz club), Fuller is joined by the Denver’s best bop brigade: Keith Oxman, tenor sax, Al Hood, trumpet; and a rhythm section of Chip Stephens, Ken Walker and Todd Reid. They have all earned highest honors in and around the Mile High City. And what a distinct delight to jam with Curtis Fuller! Among the familiar tunes, you’ll find“Tenor Madness,” “Minor’s Holiday,” “I Want to Talk About You” and one of my personal faves from those glory years of post bop, “Alamode.” The remaining compositions are Curtis Fuller originals, and, for the most part, are bristling examples of solid Blue Note style writing for a group that, to a man, has great chops.  A dedicated musician who has nothing to prove, Fuller continues telling the story of American jazz from the perspective of one of the few who indeed has been there.       
Capri Records, 2010; 52:22 and 64:32.

Moody 4B, James Moody, tenor saxophone.       
Okay, okay. Having said all of the above about ‘ain’t but a few,’ what should arrive on the heels of Curtis Fuller but another guy who was part of the scene way back when — James Moody. A veteran of bop’s infancy, Moody is blowing tenor the same as always. And it certainly doesn’t hurt when your pianist is one of the two or three best in the world, Kenny Barron. Jazz stars in their own right, Todd Coolman and Lewis Nash complete this made in heaven quartet. The title, “4B,” may be explained thusly:  this is a quartet, hence the ‘4’; and the CD is a following up their first, “4A.” Thee’s not a single clam in the selection of real deal tunes, either. Just for starters, how about “’A’ Train,” “Hot House,” “Speak Low,” “I Love You,” “Along Came Betty” and “But Not for Me,” among others. But be clear, Moody’s thick, rich tenor would sound cool and boppy if he were playing the Woodburn Yellow Pages. Barron is simply top drawer; probing, creating, surprising, and always brilliant. This record is what jazz history sounds like. And it sounds great!       
IPO Records, 2010; 61:13.

Live At The Jazz Showcase, Ted Hogarth and The Mulligan Mosaics Big Band.       
Gerry Mulligan’s fascinating Concert Jazz Band came along (early ‘60s) just as big bands were, for the most part, fading fast. And it’s a shame that the CJB didn’t enjoy sustained success, be-cause it was innovative and exciting. Mulligan applied his small combo concept to a big band setting and worked miracles. Hogarth, himself a baritone sax player, has embraced the CJB feel with open arms, and his band takes on both Mulligan tunes as well as the works of other composers which were also important vehicles for the CJB (such as “Black Nightgown,” “All of You,” and “ Waltz for Ruth”). From his earliest days through Birth of the Cool, the piano-less quartet, the Concert Jazz Band and countless other classy musical assignments, Gerry Mulligan was an innovator who never leaned on his laurels. Everything he did was worthy musically, and it’s very nice to see that an ensemble such as the Mulligan Mosaics recognize Mulligan’s lofty place in jazz history. They honor him with this wonderfully crafted work.       
Self-produced, 2010; 55:28.

In Stockholm & Hollywood, 1959, Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax; Art Farmer, trumpet.       
I would think that collectors are going to welcome these rare sessions featuring the groundbreaking Mulligan-Farmer Quartet. Half of the fifteen selections were recorded live in concert in Stockholm, and the remainder was originally a radio broadcast for “The Navy Swings.” Unlike some recordings never intended for eventual release, both of these sessions are very well recorded. The main difference between the two appearances is in the length of the tunes. As one might expect, the live recording gives the musicians more time to stretch out solo-wise, where the radio gig goes the conventional route of three minutes per tune. If you’re a Mulligan freak, you know titles like “As Catch Can,” “Spring Is Sprung,” “Utter Chaos,” “Walkin’ Shoes” and “Festive Minor.” A few standards round out more than 75 minutes of total material. The Stockholm set is introduced by Gene Krupa, after which Mulligan takes over as spokesman, briefly intoducing each tune. The CD’s highlight is “Blueport,” an original of Farmer’s that gets a 12-minute treatment featuring lots of interplay and obvious fun for all comers. The quartet is completed by Bill Crow, bass, and Dave Bailey, drums, and with the co-leaders, it’s a document of an important and influential goup in jazz history.       
Solar Recordings, 2010; 75:31.

For All We Know, Jose James, vocals, Jeff Neve, piano.       
Recordings like this renew my faith in the idea that quality will always prevail. Here are two artists giving their all on a voice and piano duet of alarming sensitivity and intimacy. James is all heart interpreting these American Songbook classics. And Neve provides a solo piano accompaniment which is silky, subtle and virtually perfect for the singer. In sports parlance, one might say that James and Neve leave it all on the feld. This sort of performance is so rare these days that when one happens by, it’s reason to celebrate. Nine sterling examples of Songbook Americana include “Autumn in New York,” “Body and Soul,” “Tenderly,” “When I Fall in Love,” “Lush Life” and more. James and Neve are relatively young cats, but they certainly caught the feeling necessary to communicate intimately on songs they obviously did not grow up with. James sometimes sounds more than a little like one of jazzcom’s great singers, Bill Henderson. In an era of fash, glitz, costumes and decibels, this is a disc that tells us there’s still a place for simple beauty in American music.       
Verve Music Group, 2010; 50:47.

Do Not Disturb, John Bunch, piano.       
This was the last hurrah, the final studio ecording from late 2009 by Gentleman John Bunch, as he was always introduced at The Otter Crest Jazz Weekend. Bunch passed away earlier this year, but I can still picture him seated at the piano, the epitome of elegance in freshly pressed slacks and herringbone sport coat. And elegance was always the essence of his piano craftsmanship as well. It holds sway again here with Frank Vignola, guitar, and John Webber, bass, as Bunch’s trio mesmerizes us on thirteen tunes. It’s all here — from Sonny Rollins’ bop vehicle, “Doxy,” to Kern and Hammerstein’s “Bill” from Showboat; from “Anthropology” to Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way”; from Duke’s familiar “Come Sunday” to his obscure “Do Not Disturb”; and even his own composition, “John’s Bunch,” covered so energetically years ago by Al Cohn. These and more find Bunch in familiar territor, giving his utmost in bringing pure pleasure to his audience.       
Arbors, 2010; 71:53.

Resonance, Yotam, guitar.       
Seems to me that in the last half dozen or so years, the tiny country of Israel has begun to churn out some major jazz talent. Well, mark up one more in one of those one name only types known as Yotam. James Moody called him “the kid who’s playing guitar like an old man.”  And I’m sure that Moody meant that as highest praise. Just pick up on the opening moments of John Lewis’s bristling version of “Two Bass Hit,” the out of the gate choice on this CD. Yotam’s quartet includes Aaron Goldberg, piano, Christian McBride, bass, Gregory Hutchinson, drums, and Roy Hargrove guests on a couple tunes. You’d better be able to keep up if you’re playing in that league. The staples on the CD include Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud.” Monk’s “Bye Ya” and Joe Henderson’s “Mamacita.” The remainder of the recording is given over to various original tunes by Yotam and other contributors. It pleases me to hear such a young guitarist playing in the center of the jazz tradition. No electronic excess here. Just straight ahead honesty. You gotta like that!       
Jazz Legacy Productions, 2010; 60:58.

Spiral, Dave Wilson, tenor and soprano saxophones.       
If might be said that Dave Wilson represents a new segment of jazz musicians who test the ears of the listener nearly exclusively through their own compositions. Wilson has roots in Coltrane, but I found his actual tenor sound to have earlier inflences as well. While his compositions would never be described as avante garde, they at times test your ability to determine a melody line. Some of his compositions were more reigned in than others, but overall, there’s a very urban, brawny sound that he seems to favor. For this recording, Wilson enlisted some top echelon talent in Phil Markewitz, piano, Tony Martino, bass, and Adam Nussbaum, drums. If you’re looking for Zoot, Ben or Getz, this won’t be you entree, but if you like being inside the outside, these guys dig pretty deep.       
Summit Records, 2010; 55:31.

Inversions, Davie Hazeltine, piano.
There’s a certain little core of musicians who have found a nice home on Gerry Teekens’ Holland-based jazz label, the prestigious Criss Cross Records. David Hazeltine is one of them, and his colleagues on this CD are equally well represented on Criss Cross. As on past efforts, they succeed in bringing a center of the highway jazz sound, yet never resort to cliches and always sound fresh and invigorating. And they always sound like they’re having a great time playing their music of choice. This time, the remainder of the club includes, Eric Alexander, tenor sax, Steve Nelson, vibes, John Webber, bass, and Joe Farnsworth, drums. The tunes include a Buddy Montgomery blues; four originals by various band members; and three deliciously done standards in “Lover Man,” “Everything I Love” and “Tin Tin Deo.” No longer just the young lions, these guys have established themselves as frontrunners in the present day race. Listen to Nelson’s swinging subtlety; Alexander’s sense of history; and Hazeltine’s versatility and bravado. This may be another day at the office for this cew, but I’ll tell you what, it was an exceptional day.       
Criss Cross, 2010; 64:11.

Live At Sweet Rhythm, Richard Sussman, piano.      
According to the information accompanying this CD, the quintet heard herein was responsible for a classic dating back to 1976. I’ll take their word for it, but I have no memory of such a release. The same fve players, including trumpet innovator Tom Harrell and the boundary stretching tenor of Jerry Bergonzi, play here as the Free Fall Reunion Band. The opening tune, “Waiting,” gives notice that this is a free flowing, take-no-prisoners goup. “Mary’s Song” puts Bergonzi in the spotlight, and once the rather attractive melody is stated, Bergonzi spirals into a ripping solo. “Soultrane,” a staple in the jazz pantheon, follows with Bergonzi sounding appropriately Coltrane-ish. Both Bergonzi and Harrell solo with fie in their eyes on the next tune, the oddly titled “Tiahuanaco.” The old stand by, “What’s New” follows, and it’s a skosh faster than usual. A nice workout for Harrell. “Lady of the Lake” is something of a brief suite in one tune, with several distinct lines divided among the players. Finally, there’s the 15-minute “Free Fall.” I have little to no expertise in the area of free playing, and while it usually doesn’t sustain my interest, I can recognize chops when I hear them. This CD was a bit off my personal diving board, but perhaps you’ll find yourself in safe wate.       
Origin Records, 2010; 57:08.

If You Could See Me Now, Audrey Shakir, vocals.       
Through a series of unlikely events, Atlanta-based singer Audrey Shakir recently entered my consciousness, and wow, am I glad! Audrey happens to be the mother of Walter Blanding, tenor sax giant with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. But this CD is all about Audrey the singer. She puts you on immediate notice that hip things are about to unfold from the opening notes of “It’s You or No One.” She scats like a champ — easy, natural, nothing forced — and she conveys the message of a ballad because, somehow, she’s been there. If she reminded me of anyone, I’d suggest hints of Michelle Hendricks and perhaps Betty Carter. And how can one argue the inclusion of titles like “Blue In Green,” “Where or When,” “Birk’s Works,” “Little Willie Leaps,” “Never Never Land” and many more. The final cowning touch here is the presence of Kenny Barron’s trio accompanying Shakir. Barron has earned his place among the top jazz pianists. He is joined here by Reginald Veal, bass, and Justin Varnes, drums. Shakir has been an Atlanta jazz diva since her arrival there twenty years ago. Unbelievably, this is her first ecording, but why not start at the top?!       
Hot Shoe Records; 2009; 50:56.


Back Home, Jamie Ousley, bass.       
This rather intriguing album covers the gamut from Ousley’s fresh originals to a prim and proper reading of a familiar Chopin Noctune. Notable as a guest soloist is the versatile Ira Sullivan, who, amazingly, plays saxophone, flute and flugelhorn, all witgreat skill. The recording also features a few well-placed vocals, the best of which was by LeNard Ethridge on Ousley’s stirring ballad, “So Long.” Most of the tunes are originals by the leader, and it should be said that he writes real melodies with, alternatively, charm and pizazz.       
Tie Records, probably 2010; 51:23.

Midtown At Midnight, Richard Blake, guitar, bass.       
Don’t be thrown off guard by the fact that Blake plays both guitar and bass on this trio recording. He obviously has dubbed in the bass, and it all works out quite nicely on a program of standards and pop tunes and more. Blake sometimes reminds me somewhat of Howard Roberts, especially from that period when Roberts did pop tunes for Capitol.       
Self-produced, 2010; 40:40.

A Fine Romance, Stacey Kent, vocals.       
I rarely review compilation recordings, but this is one is worth the effort. Kent is a singer with a contemporary edge to her voice. Trouble is, she sings great songs and works with top flight jazz cats, so go fige. These tunes, all drawn from previous albums, include “Fools Rush In,” “I Won’t Dance,” “Dreamer,” “More Than You Know” and more. Kent’s hubby, Jim Tomlinson, drops by now and then for some lush Getz-like tenor. Compilation it might be, but it all adds up to some delicious straight ahead singing.       
Candid, 2010; 45:58.

Retta Christie with David Evans and Dave Frishberg, Volume 2.       
Once again Christie has enlisted the formidable talents of tenor saxist Evans and pianist Frishberg for Volume 2 of great standards with a hint of Western Swing. You’ll say yahoo! when you hear them on “Foolin’ Myself,” “Old Folks,” “For All We Know,” “The Lonesome Road” and lots more. A couple duos with Evans and Frishberg on “Sweet and Slow” and “Only a Rose” elicit memories of Zoot Sims. As for Retta — well, a tip of the ten gallon hat and a gentle poke with the spurs!       
Self-produced; 2010.

Impromptu, Bob Mamet; piano.      
A Chicagoan turned Southern Californian, Mamet writes and plays swinging, attractive melody lines on a recording of ten original tunes. Sometimes his very airy and fresh style reminded more than a little bit of another LA swinging piano cat, the late Pete Jolly. Like Pete, Mamet likes melody lines in the piano’s higher register. For this outing, Mamet employs two of Smogland’s best in Darek Oles, bass, and Joe LaBarbera, drums. If the timeless sound of a stylish piano trio is your bread and butter, then here’s your appetizer.       
Counterpoint Records, 2010; 39:11.

When The Love Bug Bites, Dave Costa, guitar, vocals.      
Anybody remember a guitarist named Johnny Smith? He was a standout guitarist and a melody lover and musician who never failed to find very petty chords. Well, Costa reminded me of Smith on a trio recording which includes evergreens such as “What Is There to Say,” “Perdido,” “Serenade in Blue,” “Autumn Leaves,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” and many more. Costa also sings pleasantly enough on a few cuts. But, as it should be, the guitar’s the star here, and Costa plays it with aplomb.       
Self-Produced, 2009; 41:35.

Six, Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson Trio.       
This polished piano trio recently celebrated twenty years together, quite an achievement for any working jazz group. Michael Jefry Stevens, the pianist, plays in a swinging, unpretentious style sometimes a bit reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal. On this release, the trio balances standards inclusdng “It Never Entered My Mind,” “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “Straight No Chaser” and even “Tennessee Waltz” (!) with well-crafted originals by various trio members.       
Konnex, 2010; 66:24.

Speechless, Jackson Garrett, composer.       
I think smooth jazz grew out of this kind of music, but to dub it smooth jazz would be most unfair. It’s kind of pop jazz, sometimes with a heavy back beat, and of course, lots of electric bass. Actually, the players are pretty hip, and there are some nice blues-drenched solos, notably by saxman Pat Rizzo. The melodies are not always distinctive, and the mood of the CD is rather seamless and predictable. I’ve reviewed scores of bad CDs, and this is clearly not one of them. But the pop qualities didn’t resonate with me.       
Self-Produced, 2010.

Brotherhood, Jeff Antoniuk, tenor and soprano saxes.      
Antoniuk and the Jazz Update are frequent and admired contributors to the Washington, DC jazz scene. This is a quartet steeped in a 21st century hard bop that still values solid melody lines, probing improvisation, and, when called for, sheer beauty. Their original work is presented on five selections and  thee are freshly minted renditions of Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan”; Cole Porter’s “All of You”; and a nifty Dameron-Monk medley of “Hot House” and “Evidence.” They are drawing from the timeless well of jazz tradition.       
Jaju Records, 2010, 61:04.

Into Somethin’, Beegie Adair, piano.       
If you like your jazz light and polite, Beebie Adiar’s piano stylings will provide nifty background music at dinner time. Her selections range from Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty” and “Stablemates” to music associated with Hank Williams, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Wonder. Now that’s a wide range. A few guests show up on some vocals, the best of whom is Jim Ferguson, who sings Adair’s lovely tune, “Miss Ferguson I Presume.” It was written years ago for Lili, Ferguson’s daughter. Adair won’t bop you into submission, but she plays pretty piano.       
Adair Music Group, 2010, 53:12.

License To Swing, Jim Altamore, vocals.       
It’s obvious that Jim Altamore is joined at the hip with Frank Sinatra. But what you’ve got to like about Altamore is that, while he communicates some of the legendary Sinatra hip-chic, he doesn’t try to lay Sinatra on you. Nobody can do that, so Altamore delivers a dozen tunes from the FS book and does it on his own terms. With a tasty and swinging small group backing him, Altamore’s on target with “All of You,” “Nice ‘N’ Easy,” “Call Me Impossible,” “Learnin’ the Blues,” “Just One of Those Things” and more. Frank was king, but Altamore is one of his loyal subjects.        
Lucky Us Productions, 2007, 53:50.

Reviews by Kyle O'Brien

I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon, Ben Darwish.        
Portland pianist, composer and vocalist Darwish is a diverse talent, and this short EP disc is clearly a right hand turn from his last recording, “Ode to Consumerism.” It is more focused on melody, though the intense and sometimes dense nature of his compositions comes out, as during the alternate time signature solo section of “In Case I Find You, Here’s My Song.” One might not know how to categorize Darwish’s music, and that’s OK. It’s jazz-influenced for sue, but there are elements of pop, rock, fusion and classical throughout these five songs. The melodies are accessible, even with layers of complexity. The head to “High and Mighty,” for instance, is entirely hum-able, and as played by saxophonist Tim Willcox and the bowed bass of Bill Athens, it is joyful in a chamber jazz fashion. Darwish holds down bass lines and piano solo with ease, and his rhythmic style gets you into a groove. Darwish is no great singer, though. His voice doesn’t have great depth, but there is an earnestness in his lyrics and delivery, and over his pounding piano, as on “No More Lies,” it sounds a bit like pop-rock pianist Ben Folds. There is youthful intensity to this music, and the rhythmic keyboard is often at the forefront of his tunes, as on the lighthearted “Under the Bright Red Sky,” which is accented by drummer Randy Rollofson’s polyrhythms. The title track is the only one not written by Darwish, and its childlike quality is a pleasant closer, though the shortness of the disc makes one want more.       
2010 Ben Darwish, 26:50.

Live at Sweet Rhythm, Richard Sussman Quintet.       
Pianist and composer Sussman has gotten the band back together. The band here is called the Free Fall Reunion Band. “Free Fall” was the 1978 album that the group recorded together, which reviewed well in Down Beat. The members of the group went their separate ways, including Sussman, who became both a synth and piano sideman and also an educator at the Manhattan School of Music. In 2003, the group reunited for a gig in New York, and the resulting recording, just released now, remains potent, especially with trumpeter Tom Harrell, saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, bassist Mike Richmond and drummer Jeff Williams. Sussman’s com-positions are rich with chords, and the melodies, as played by the two horns, are powerful and relatively timeless. They are modern hard bop with a twist, featuring pressing rhythms, as on the burning “Tiahuanaco” and the wide-open title track. The musician-ship is stellar all around, but Sussman’s solos can seem a bit uneasy, not always locking in with the rhythm. Still, it’s a heck of a reunion.       
2010 Origin Records, 60 minutes.

New Strides, Jeb Patton.       
Pianist and composer Patton is an accomplished player who an be heard with many fine goups, including the Heath Brothers and vocalist Sachal Vasandani. And the Heath Brothers do make an appearance here, though this remains a tight trio recording for the most part. Patton’s sharp lines and crisp playing are highlighted throughout, backed deftly by bassist David Wong and drummer Pete Van Nostrand. It’s a tight group — some might say almost too tight, to the point of perfection. One almost wishes for a slipped note, but there’s nothing wrong with this kind of precision. Albert “Tootie” Heath plays drums on three tracks, including Patton’s “Sir Roland,” which gets the group a bit looser, thanks to Heath’s laid back feel. Jimmy Heath plays a lovely soprano sax on “Last Night When We Were Young,” bringing a lyrical quality. Patton is a fine leader and playe, and his technical ability makes for a fine listen.
2009, MaxJazz, 63:46.

Live at Charlie O’s, The Trio.
With the accumulated years of experience of these three musicians, there was no need for rehearsal before recording this gig live in California in 2009. Bassist Chuck Berghofer, pianist Terry Trotter and drummer Peter Erskine have earned the right not to rehearse — they may be one of the best piano trios on the west coast. Erskine is the consummate versatile drummer, and here he lets Trotter do the melodic talking, using brushes while piano and bass solo, as on the ultra-smooth “Afternoon in Paris.” When Erskine gets a chance to solo, he is subdued and plays with taste. Trotter is a wonderfully restrained pianist, able to swing hard while keeping the trio polished. His sense of melody and his chordal structures make this straight-ahead recording a laid-back pleasure. Perfect for a dinner party or a casual listen.       
2009, Fuzzy Music, 60 minutes.

Pretend It’s the End of the World, Bryan and the Haggards.       
Merle Haggard is a country legend, but the tongue-in-cheek liner notes claim he was infuenced by avant-garde jazzmen, including Charlie Haden. That kind of humor also leads this group to call itself “New York’s most decorated avant-country instrumental Merle Haggard cover band.” Bryan is tenor saxophonist Bryan Murray. His squawking, bending tenor takes over for the twangy vocals that highlight Haggard’s unique Americana. But Murray takes Haggard’s tunes a step or five furthe. Accented by Jon Lundbom’s distorted guitar, bassist Moppa Elliott and Jon Irabagon’s alto sax, and drummer Danny Fischer, this is country like it’s never been played before. “Working Man Blues” gets launched into the free jazz stratosphere, with a blistering alto solo before finishing in twobeat country. But not all is totally askew. “Miss the Mississippi and You” is done as a lovely instrumental slow waltz. Still, it’s the ones that go further afeld, as on the cacophony of “Trouble in Mind,” that capture the spirit of the recording. Not sure how Merle feels about his music going Ornette Coleman, but I’m guessing the country renegade would love it.       
2010 Hot Cup Records, 38:55.

82% Chance of Rain, Andrew Oliver Sextet.       
Rain is an Oregon theme that was started on Oliver’s 2007 release, “Otis Stomp” which was named for the tiny, rainy town near Lincoln City, and continues here in his latest sextet recording’s title. The Portland pianist/composer and his group have recorded a lengthy disc of original compositions that are at times dense and intricate. The opener, “Inattentive Attendent,” has a busy undercurrent, but it’s floating hythm makes for a pleasing musical journey. Saxophonists Mary Sue Tobin and Willie Matheis share the melodies, and their woodwinds bring texture to the pieces, especially when Tobin picks up the clarinet. The compositions were written by Oliver and other band members, including guitarist Dan Duval, Matheis, and drummer Kevin Van Geem. This is not straight-ahead jazz by any means. It is compositional and often quite complex. Van Geem’s “Bolivar” is brash and angular, while Duval’s “Only a Quality Lime for Eric Gruber #1” (in reference to bassist Gruber) is a chamber piece that sounds like a movie score condensed to less than three minutes. The contrapuntal lines of Oliver’s “800 Turtles” makes it a playful piece, while Matheis’s languid “I Am Yours” utilizes space and melody to slow down the pace. While there are four composers here, all the tunes fit nicely togethe. This is a side of Portland jazz we don’t get to hear often but a welcome addition to the area’s rich musical landscape.       
2010 OA2 Records, 64 minutes.

Outlaw Tractor, Corey Christiansen Quartet.       
Soul jazz has been updated again by Christiansen. His second recording on Origin finds the hythmic guitarist mining the funky, organ-based music made famous in the ‘60s and making it his own. With Pat Bianchi on organ, David Halliday on sax and Matt Jorgensen on drums, Christiansen — a teacher at Utah State University — is in good company. The bluesy “Carefree” is a light romp that gives both he and Halliday a chance to show off their chops. Christiansen’s buoyant playing flows out of his fetboard with ease. Soul Jazz can get repetitive, but Christiansen and his group manage to make it interesting, adding chord alterations, like on the bopping, minor-keyed “Starstepper,” or doubling up on the melody with sax and guitar, as on the title track. Not ground-breaking, but played with feel and polish.       
2010 Origin Records, 50:20.

Solitude, Phil Woods with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble.       
There aren’t many working big bands left these days, so if you have a hankering for composing big band music, a great place to try it out is at America’s universities. That’s what esteemed veteran saxophonist Woods has done here, and the result is a lively big band disc played with youthful enthusiasm, even by Woods. His bouncy alto highlights the 10 tracks, but it’s the compositions that make this interesting. Woods knows how to write a tune, and here, with the help of several arrangers, is charts get the royal treatment from one of the better college bands in the nation. From the easygoing waltz of “A Child’s Blues” to the Latin-inspired “Brazilian Affair,” Woods is at his best. The power of the big band pushes him to play in inspired fashion, as on the bopping “Before I Left,” and the voicings for the instruments is spot-on, as on the woodwind-flled “Nothing But Soul,” which really swings. The band is more than able to keep up with Woods, and there are a few standout players as well. Woods even knows how to kid about his age, with the high-powered swinger, “Old Man,” which features great ensemble work.      
2010 JazzedMedia, 62 minutes.

Abacus, Frank Glover.       
Soprano saxophonist and composer Glover plays com-positional jazz of texture and soundscape with a small orchestra that at times sounds more like contemporary classical music than jazz. The title track buzzes with strings as a marimba sets the rhythm before the soprano comes in with a melody that recalls the Orient. This may be better suited to the concert hall than the jazz stage, but it is often quite interesting. At times it is sparse and open, at others dense and brooding, as on “Modern Times.” It’s highly original music; if you like film scoes, this is up your alley.       
2010 OwlStudios, 45 minutes.

Out of the Shadows, Ran Blake & Christine Correa.       
This is heady duo music. Mix one part cabaret with intense compositional piano jazz and a dose of avant-garde interpretation, and you have this disc, a collaboration between vocalist Correa and pianist Blake. It’s more interesting than pleasurable. Blake’s often dense, Monk-times-two chordal interpretations are impenetrable to the average listener. He jabs at the keyboard with fervor, and Correa’s colorful voice leaps around the melody. It’s a winning combination for the style being played, but it’s defnitely not for everyone. The two listen well to each other, so when Correa wants to interpret “Goodbye Little Yellow Bird” in a soft and tender moment, Blake pulls back his heavy hand. But when they want, the volume increases and so does the intensity, as on the politically charged “Mendacity.”     
2009 Red Piano Records, 57 minutes.

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