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Los Angeles Jazz Scene - CD Reviews
                   April 2016
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Yaniv Taubenhouse
Moments In Trio
(Fresh Sound New Talent0

Norbert Stein Pata Messengers
Play Rainer Maria Rilke
(Pata Music)

Amanda Tovalin
Punto De Partida
(Terraza)
     
t has been several decades since one could accurately say that nearly every significant jazz artist is from the United States. In
truth, jazz has been an international music ever since recordings became widely available in the early 1920s. Proof that high-
quality jazz is being created by those not from the U.S. can be found everywhere, including on these three releases.
     
Pianist Yaniv Taubenhouse was born and raised in Israel. He moved to the United States in 2009 to further his studies and in
2013 he relocated to New York. Taubenhouse has worked with such notables as Anat Cohen, tenor-saxophonist David Schnitter,
trombonist Roswell Rudd and guitarist Rory Stuart among others. Moments In Trio (available from www.freshsoundrecords.com)
is his second CD as a leader. Taubenhouse is teamed with bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Jerad Lippi, performing eight of the
pianist’s originals, one by Rosato, and the standard “How About You.” The interplay between the musicians is a bit reminiscent of
the Bill Evans Trio (bassist Rosato has a very active role throughout) although the pianist’s chord voicings are individual. The
music, which includes one song (“All The Figs”) based on “All The Things You Are,” is filled with fresh melodies, interesting chord
changes and spontaneous improvising within the structures of each song. While Taubenhouse is generally the lead voice, Rosato
has plenty of concise solos and Lippi offers stimulating support. The three musicians listen closely to each other and often create
with a single voice, displaying an attractive group sound. Moments In Trio is easily recommended to those who enjoy swinging
and modern jazz piano trios.
     
Norbert Stein is an adventurous tenor-saxophonist from Germany. In 1986 he founded the Pata Music label, recording and
releasing 22 CDs thus far. Play Rainer Maria Rilke is an unusual set that features his quartet (with guitarist Nicola Hein, bassist
Joscha Oetz and drummer Etienne Nillesen) alternating explorative instrumentals with brief readings of the poetry of Rainer
Maria Rilke by Ingrid Noemi Stein. While the narrative is in German, the liner notes give an English translation of the poems.
Only about seven minutes of the 47-minute playing time is taken up the poems, so the main focus is on the quartet’s playing.
Stein has a warm and often melodic style that is open to free explorations worthy of Albert Ayler. His playing is unpredictable
yet consistently rewarding. The originals sometimes sound like folk melodies, in a couple of cases the music is a bit funky, and
there are also lyrical ballads. The result is an inventive set of music that is available from www.patamusic.de and well worth
checking out.
     
Amanda Tovalin is a talented young jazz vocalist from Mexico City who sings in Spanish. She performs nine songs on Punto De
Partida (available from www.amandatovalin.com) and, although those of us who do not know the language will not know what
she is singing about, her talents are obvious. Ms. Tovalin has a lovely voice, builds her improvisations from the melody and
structure of the pieces, and shows versatility  Her voice is particularly attractive on the opening “Quiero Regressar,” (one of her
four originals) which has her interacting with an a cappella quartet. The other selections are with a rhythm section and
sometimes mix jazz with aspects of pop and Latin music, but the jazz content is always present in the vocals and communicates
well. Hopefully Amanda Tovalin will have the opportunity to perform in the U.S. in the future.


Darek Oleszkiewicz
Blues For Charlie
(Self-Released)
     
Darek Oleszkiewicz (also known as Darek Oles) pays tribute to the late great Charlie Haden on this set of unaccompanied bass
solos. Oles learned directly from Haden and later joined him in teaching at Cal Arts. Haden, who came to fame as a very
important member of the Ornette Coleman Quartet (what other bassist had the ability to give Coleman the freedom and
inspiration he needed in 1959?), stretched beyond the avant-garde to play nostalgic 1950s jazz in his later years. He was very
influential both as a bassist and as an educator.
     
Oles performs three Haden originals, two songs by Coleman, a pair of his own songs and “Body And Soul” on this CD. His playing
is thoughtful, relaxed, filled with inner passion, and melodic. He lets the music breathe yet occasionally throws in a virtuosic run
when it fits the piece. Highlights include Coleman’s “Lonely Woman,” Haden’s most famous composition “First Song,” the heated
“Pocket Full Of Cherry” and Oles’ “Blues For Charlie.”
     
One should play Blues For Charlie loud so as to catch the subtleties of Darek Oles’ heartfelt playing. This set is available by
writing the bassist at oleszkie@usc.edu.


Bob McChesney
Chez Sez
(MoCo)
     
A fixture in the Los Angeles jazz and studio scenes since the 1980s, Bob McChesney is a brilliant trombonist who can effortlessly
play rapid lines on his horn. A forward-looking bop-based soloist, McChesney is in prime form on his recent Chez Sez CD.
     
The trombonist is joined by Larry Goldings on piano and organ, bassist Darek Oles, drummer Bill Stewart and, on five of the 11
selections, tenor-saxophonist Bob Mintzer. The opener, “You May Have It Wrong,” is a romp through the chord changes of “I Love
You” by the full quintet. Nat Adderley’s “Naturally,” one of his more memorable melodies, is an excellent showcase for
McChesney and pianist Goldings. “The Preakness” is a bit of funky jazz with Goldings excelling on organ. The trombonist is in the
spotlight during a slow and warm ballad rendition of “Yesterdays.”
     
“Chez Sez” gives McChesney and Mintzer a chance to stretch out over augmented rhythm changes. The somber Goldings ballad
“Awareness” precedes a version of “In Your Own Sweet Way” that alternates between 5/4 and 4/4 time. “This Thing” (which is a
disguised “What Is This Thing Called Love”) is taken fast with Goldings on organ and McChesney playing some heated double
time ideas. The remainder of the program consists of McChesney’s moody original “Going Back,” a straightforward rendition of “I
Should Care,” and a fast “Love For Sale.”
     
Throughout this swinging set, Bob McChesney is heard at the top of his game, Bob Mintzer makes valuable contributions, Larry
Goldings displays plenty of versatility, and the rhythm section is tight. Chez Sez is easily recommended and available from www.
bobmcchesney.com.


Champian Fulton
After Dark
(Gut String Records)
     
Dinah Washington was an early inspiration and heroine to Champian Fulton. Washington always sounded like she not only loved
singing but fully enjoyed her life, and her ability to sing nearly anything was very impressive.
     
Champian Fulton, a rather impressive pianist and singer herself, pays tribute to Dinah Washington throughout After Dark. She
performs ten songs from Washington’s repertoire plus her own instrumental blues “Midnight Stroll.” To her credit, she avoids
sounding like anyone but herself. She sings in her own distinctive voice while creating swinging piano solos. Fulton is given
excellent support from bassist David Williams and drummer Lewis Nash. In addition, there are four excellent guest appearances
by her father trumpeter/flugelhornist Stephen Fulton who sometimes sounds a bit like Clark Terry. He should get the
opportunity to lead his own record date.
Like Washington, Champian Fulton sounds as if she loves both singing and her current life. Highpoints include “That Old
Feeling,” a cooking “Blue Skies,” the lowdown “A Bad Case Of The Blues,” a surprising medium-up version of “Travelin’ Light,”
and fresh renditions of “All Of Me” and a sensuous “Baby Won’t You Please Cöme Home.”  
     
Champian Fulton’s recordings are always well worth acquiring. This excellent set is available from www.champian.net.


Albert Ayler
Bells/Prophecy – Expanded Edition
(ESP)
     
One of the giants of the 1960s avant-garde/free jazz movement, tenor-saxophonist Albert Ayler (who had a huge tone and a large
vibrato) helped break down the sound barrier. Ayler’s originals were often simple themes that launched his passionate sound
explorations. When he teamed up with his brother trumpeter Donald Ayler during 1965-66, their music sometimes sounded like
an ancient and slightly out-of-control New Orleans marching band. One could say that Ayler’s music was so advanced that it
reached full circle, coming in at the beginnings of jazz.
     
Ayler did his finest recordings for the ESP label This double-CD (available from www.espdisk.com) combines together two former
Lps plus a full CD of music that was only released decades later. “Bells,” which clocks in just under 20 minutes, was issued as an
Lp with the second side being blank. From May 1, 1965, this episodic performance features Ayler with a colorful sextet also
featuring his brother Donald, altoist Charles Tyler, bassist Lewis Worrell and drummer Sunny Murray. Prophecy was originally
a five-song Lp that showcased Ayler playing a live concert on June 14, 1964 with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny
Murray. The music on this reissue’s second CD has six additional performances from the same date as Prophecy. Overall the
music is less accessible than Bells with Ayler very much in the spotlight, playing some ferocious solos while also infusing the
slower pieces with sentiment and occasionally an over-the-top feeling. The themes, particularly the three versions of “Ghosts,”
are often playful, a contrast to the improvisations of the trio. Gary Peacock takes some very free solos while Sunny Murray shows
how to push an ensemble on drums without ever keeping time.
     
Although I would recommend Albert Ayler’s slightly more accessible recordings with his brother first, the music on
Bells/Prophecy is powerful and innovative.


Barbara Fasano
Busy Being Free
(Human Child)

Marsha Bartenetti
It’s Time
(Disk Eyes)
     
The line between jazz and cabaret singing has always been a bit blurry. While jazz singing includes improvising (whether in one’
s choice of notes, words, sounds and/or phrasing), cabaret singing puts the emphasis on serving the song and the composer’s
original intentions. Some vocalists perform both jazz and cabaret interpretations, depending on the song.
     
Although best known as a cabaret singer who often works with her husband pianist Eric Comstock, Barbara Fasano shows on
Busy Being Free that she has a jazz sensibility too. While her improvising is subtle, she makes such songs as “How Little We
Know,” “Remind Me” (taken as a touching ballad), “Dancing In The Dark” and “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top” sound fresh
and lightly swinging. The singer is assisted on a few songs apiece by the great cornetist Warren Vache and Aaron Heick (soprano
and flute) and she is accompanied throughout by pianist-arranger John Di Martino, guitarist Paul Meyers, bassist Boris Kozlov
and drummer-percussionist Vince Cherico. Whether it is Joni Mitchell’s “Cactus Tree,” Alec Wilder’s “Photographs” or Nellie
Lutcher’s good-time “Hurray On Down,” Barbara Fasano displays a powerful and pleasing voice that suits the vintage material
well. Busy Being Free is available from www.humanchild.com.
     
Marsha Bartenetti also falls between cabaret and jazz. On It’s Time, she mostly sticks to warm renditions of ballads with a few
medium-tempo renditions included for variety. The personnel differs from song to song, ranging from a string orchestra on “Good
Morning Heartache” and “As Time Goes By” to combos that feature pianist Nick Manson and a duet with pianist Kevin Madill.
While the backup is tasteful throughout, the focus is on the singer. Marsha Bartenetti succeeds at uplifting such veteran
standards as “Someone To Watch Over Me,” the Beatles’ “Here, There & Everywhere” and “Lover Man” while putting a bit of her
own appealing personality into each tune. While I would love to hear her stretch out and improvise more, It’s Time, which is
available from www.marshabartenetti.com, is easily recommended to listeners who enjoy hearing first-class singers.

     
Sheila Jordan
Better Than Anything: Live
(There)

Stacey Kent
Tenderly
(Okeh)

Deborah Shulman
My Heart’s In The Wind
(Summit)

Sweet Baby J’ai
Straight To That Place
(SMG Records)
     
Four world class singers are covered in this review. Two are internationally famous while the other two are local favorites.
     
Sheila Jordan recorded her classic Blue Note album Portrait Of Sheila back in 1962. However she earned a living outside of music
until the late 1970s when she began to be recognized for her creative improvising abilities, her inviting voice, and her ability to
make up very coherent lyrics spontaneously on stage. Like the late Mark Murphy and Betty Carter, she constantly pays tribute
to the legacy of bebop while often stretching far beyond it. Better Than Anything Live (available from www.amazon.com)
features Ms. Jordan in 1991 on a previously unreleased live set with bassist Harvie S. and pianist Alan Broadbent. She performs
her repertoire of the era with delight in her voice, coming up with inventive ideas while always swinging and creating. On such
songs as “Better Than Anything,” “Confirmation,” “Falling In Love With Love” and “The Caterpillar Song,” The singer
consistently takes the music into surprising directions, assisted by Broadbent and Harvie S. (both of whom also have excellent
solos). The music is quite fun and will be welcomed and enjoyed by Sheila Jordan’s many admirers.
     
Born in the United States, Stacey Kent has lived in England for the past 30 years. For her 11th CD as a leader since 1997, she
mostly performs ballads on Tenderly. The intimate setting has her joined by guitarist Roberto Menescal, bassist Jeremy Brown
and, on some songs, her husband Jim Tomlinson on tenor and alto flute. Most of the performances are taken at slow and relaxed
tempos which give the vocalist a chance to really get into the lyrics, to use space, and to make each sound count. Some selections
(particularly “Only Trust Your Heart”) have the feel of bossa nova and are a little reminiscent of Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz.
Highlights include “Tangerine,” “Embraceable You,’ “No Moon At All” and “If I Had You.” Stacey Kent has a warm voice, a subtle
style and strong expressive qualities that combine to make her ballad set quite rewarding. It is available from www.staceykent.
com.
     
Deborah Shulman’s My Heart’s In The Wind, which was recorded in 2007, is being officially released for the first time. Ms.
Shulman has a high voice that is quite effective throughout this program of ballads. Through the placement of her notes and the
way that she interprets (and sometimes caresses) the lyrics, the singer makes each song her own. Pianist Terry Trotter and
guitarist Larry Koonse are on most of the 11 songs while four of the performances also add bassist Ken Wild and drummer Joe
LaBarbera. Each of the musicians is quite sympathetic to the singer with Koonse’s harmonically advanced ideas working quite
well. Among the highpoints of this often-touching set are “My Foolish Heart,” a medium-tempo “My One And Only Love,” “Never
Never Land” (taken as a duet with Koonse”) and “Where Do I Go From Here.” My Heart’s In The Wind is available from www.
summitrecords.com.
     
Sweet Baby J’ai is a long-time fixture in the Los Angeles area, singing soulful blues and extroverted renditions of jazz standards.
Her performances are often exuberant and always full of spirit. Straight To That Place (available from www.sweetbabyjai.com)
is her strongest recording so far. She is joined on various selections by such notables as guitarist Mimi Fox, keyboardists Jane Getz
and Karen Hammack, trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, and tenor-saxophonist Carol Chaikin. In a set sandwiched by two very different
versions of “Feeling Good,” Sweet Baby J’ai is heard at her best on “Straight No Chaser” (renamed “Straight To That Place”),
“Black Magic Woman,” “That’s All” and “Scofield’s Blues” She displays versatility throughout the set, alternating sass with
subtlety and ranging from jazz and blues to a little bit of r&b. Carol Chaikin takes a couple of excellent tenor solos, Mimi Fox is
well featured on a few numbers, Nolan Shaheed’s colorful trumpet (which often interacts with the singer) is a major plus and
Jane Getz plays up to her usual high standards. Sweet Baby J’ai’s Straight To That Place is full of joy.


Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra
All My Yesterdays
(Resonance)
     
Talk about being in the right place at the right time! In 1966 George Klabin was 19, a student at Manhattan’s Columbia
University, and head of the jazz department at the school’s radio station WKCR-FM.  He sometimes recorded club performances,
having permission to air the music for one time on his radio show. On Feb. 7, 1966 he recorded the very first performance of the
Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra.

Exactly 50 years later, All My Yesterdays has been released. The two-CD set has a full disc from the big band’s debut at the
Village Vanguard plus a disc of additional material from March 21. While some of the music from the first date was released
illegally on a bootleg in 2000, this is its first official release, complete and with excellent sound.
The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra was started at a time when big bands were becoming rare. The original band was quite an
all-star unit, comprised of some of New York’s finest jazz musicians of the periods who happened to be free on Monday nights to
play at the Village Vanguard. The lineup for opening night had 18 musicians who were all very skilled as both soloists and
section players. Among the greats are trumpeters Thad Jones, Snooky Young and Bill Berry, trombonists Bob Brookmeyer and
Garnett Brown, saxophonists Jerome Richardson, Jerry Dodgion, Joe Farrell and Eddie Daniels, and a rhythm section comprised
of pianist Hank Jones (who was with the band for a relatively brief period), bassist Richard Davis and drummer Mel Lewis. For
the March 21 session, Brookmeyer was temporarily gone but baritonist Pepper Adams and trumpeter Danny Stiles had joined the
big band.
     
While one can hear a connection to the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band of a few years earlier which had included Lewis and
Brookmeyer, the Jones/Lewis Orchestra was on its way to establishing its own identity from the start. Thad Jones’ arrangements
often swung hard and sometimes utilized blues or “I Got Rhythm” chord changes for extended jams, but they also looked beyond
bop. In fact there are moments along the way when the more extended performances are reminiscent of some of Charles Mingus’
recordings of the late 1950s. The riffing behind the soloists is full of spirit and joy, one can hear Thad Jones and occasionally
others yelling out encouragement, and the excitement is infectious. 12 different soloists are heard from during each night with
the two lengthy versions of “Back Bone” plus “The Little Pixie” and “Once Around” being among the highpoints.
     
In addition to the music and the attractive packaging, the 90-page booklet is remarkably comprehensive. Producer Zev Feldman,
who has worked with George Klabin on a series of rewarding projects for Resonance, organized the very comprehensive liner
notes. Included are extensive interviews with the seven surviving band members, two later members of the orchestra (Jim
McNeely and John Mosca), and essays by Feldman, Klabin and writer Chris Smith. Also included are many photos and a few
reviews from 1966 of the Vanguard performances.
     
All in all, this is certainly a classy production, one that is highly recommended and available from www.resonancerecords.org.


Joe Rosenberg Ensemble
Rituals and Legends
(Quark)
     
A top soprano-saxophonist who has often been associated with avant-garde jazz, Joe Rosenberg alternates between living in Paris
and Indonesia. His playing and writing are open to the influences of music from many countries. Rituals And Legends is a
particularly intriguing release. Rosenberg is joined by French musicians including a rhythm section led by pianist Bruno
Angelini, Daniel Erdmann on tenor and soprano, and three guest saxophonists.
     
The four pieces plus an alternate take are inspired by an Indian raga, a Burundian greeting, a tabla duet, and a Balinese chant.
However each of those inspirations are turned into adventurous jazz and, while having their free moments, they utilize melodies
and rhythms in creative ways. “Rankali” opens the program with a brooding melody and the emphasis on slow long tones before
the first solo emerges after 6 ½ minutes. Angelini’s piano solo fits the mood and both Rosenberg and Erdmann take individual
improvisations on sopranos. “Akazehe” is a rhythmic excursion in which Rosenberg, Erdmann and altoist Stephane Payen
stretch out and play off of the rhythms.
     
“Teen Taal,” although based on Indian classical music, sometimes sounds like a piece that Lennie Tristano could have written or
Ornette Coleman might have played. The four saxophonists (which also include baritonist Olivier Py) blend together very well,
have an unaccompanied section, and improvise over the driving rhythm section. “Kecak” has a drone theme and some eerie long
tones by all of the saxophonists with tenor-saxophonist Robin Fincker making the group a nonet. Rituals and Legends concludes
with the alternate version of “Rankali” which is more concise than the opening performance.
     
This is fascinating and thought-provoking music, available from www.quarkrecords.fr, that is well worth a close listen.