??
Los Angeles Jazz Scene - CD Reviews
                February 2016
??
??
??
Steven Hancoff
The Six Suites For Cello Solo For Acoustic Guitar
(Out Of Time Music Co.)

Jacob Szekely Trio
(JSIII)
    
These unusual releases are of strong interest. A masterful guitarist who had previously recorded ragtime, Tin Pan Alley songs,
New Orleans jazz and Duke Ellington pieces, Steven Hancoff has documented what he considers the most important work of his
career so far. In 1720 Johann Sebastian Bach composed six three-part suites that feature the solo cello. The music was lost until
1889 when it was discovered by Pablo Casals in a bookstore when he was 13 on the very day that he was given his first cello.
Casals recorded all of the pieces 50 years later in 1939. Working for quite some time on the music, Hancoff not only learned the
cello suites on his acoustic guitar but harmonized the music in the style of Bach. His brilliant performances, available as a three-
CD set from www.stevenhancoff.com, do full justice to Bach’s virtuosic, emotional and generally upbeat music. One cannot
imagine the number of hours that it took to transcribe and expand the music. And in addition to releasing the three-fer, Hancoff
created the E-book Bach, Casals and the Six Suites For ‘Cello Solo, a multimedia work that includes 25 videos, many stories and
illustrations along with the timeless music.
    
In the early 1950s, bassists Harry Babasin and Oscar Pettiford became the first to solo on the cello in jazz groups. Fred Katz with
the Chico Hamilton Quintet of the mid-to-late 1950s, Fred Katz became the first fulltime jazz cellist and the first to master the
bow. But even more than a half-century later, jazz cellists are fairly rare.
    
Jacob Szekely’s debut CD (available from www.jacobszekely.com) shows that the cello can fit in very well in modern jazz.
Szekely, who has led the fusion group Eartha Austria Trio, performed in the World music combo Quarteto Nuevo and founded the
Los Angeles Creative String Festival, displays his outstanding classical technique and creative imagination in a fusion-oriented
trio. Teamed with pianist-keyboardist Josh Nelson and drummer Christopher Allis, Szekely performs a set of colorful originals
that look as much towards rock as it does to jazz, and that grooves as much as swings. Szekely’s virtuosic playing sometimes
recalls Jean Luc Ponty a bit although obviously in a lower register and he occasionally plays with the passion of an Al DiMeola.
He shows the ability to create extended solos while holding on to the listener’s interest, displaying plenty of fire passion along
with self-restraint and subtlety. Jacob Szekely, who caresses many of the themes before taking adventurous flights, has started
out his recording career on a high level.
                                           

Louis Armstrong, Blanche Calloway and Clarence Williams 1929-1938
Unissued On 78s
(Retrieval)

Vocals & Instrumentals 1927-1934
Unissued on 78s
(Retrieval)
    
The Retrieval label (available from allegro-music.com) recently released two CDs in their intriguing “Unissued On 78s” series.
Dating from the mid-1920s through the mid-30s, the discs in this program are comprised of performances that were not released
at the time of their recording on 78s. A fair number of these recordings did come out decades later on Lps and some even on CDs
but most have remained rare and a few have been unreleased until now.
    
The first CD starts out with six instrumental alternate takes of Louis Armstrong in 1929. His playing on such songs as two
versions of “St. Louis Blues,” “I Ain’t Got Nobody” and particularly the first of two renditions of “After You’ve Gone” is
magnificent and exciting. Singer Blanche Calloway, Cab’s older sister, led a great if often-overlooked big band in 1931 that
included the young Ben Webster on tenor. Their 11 alternate takes mostly equal the quality of the originally issued versions,
featuring the colorful Ms. Calloway at her prime. Clarence Williams, a decent pianist-singer who was one of the great talent
scouts and bandleaders, recorded scores of enjoyable hot sides in the 1920s and ‘30s. His seven numbers on this CD often feature
cornetist Ed Allen and clarinetist Cecil Scott, dating from 1934-35 with one number apiece from 1930 and 1938.
    
Vocals & Instrumentals 1927-1934 covers a wide range of music. Edna Winston, Mamie Smith (an unissued number from
1928), Genevieve Davis, Ann Cook and Eva Taylor sing good-time blues that cross over into jazz. Classic jazz is represented by
violinist Joe Venuti & guitarist Eddie Lang (an alternate version of “Doin’ Things”) and Jean Goldkette’s Orchestra, and there is
dance music from Arthur Schutt and Leon Rene. Adelaide Hall is featured singing with Duke Ellington and the Mills Blue
Rhythm Band, Lee Wiley is heard early in her career, and there is some hot jazz from Frank Trumbauer and Wingy Manone. The
two songs that Mae West sang in the movie Belle Of The Nineties with Duke Ellington are also here, including the original version
of “My Old Flame.” This valuable CD concludes with four infectious swing numbers by the hot quartet Candy & Coco.
    
Early jazz collectors will want to acquire all of the releases in the Unissued on 78s series.
                                                            

Clark Gibson
Bird With Strings: The Lost Arrangements
(Blu Jazz)
   
In 1949, Charlie Parker made history with his popular “Bird With Strings” recordings which teamed his innovative alto playing
with a small string section. While some of the performances were fairly straight, his solo on “Just Friends” is considered a classic.
    
Around that time, producer Norman Granz commissioned other string arrangements for Parker that were never recordd. Altoist
Clark Gibson’s new CD (available from www.blujazz.com) features him in the lead performing 14 songs with a group often
comprised of three violins, a viola, cello, harp and a rhythm section. Parker did record Neal Hefti’s “Repetition” before and three
of these numbers exist in live versions but the other ten arrangements on this CD have been unheard since the early 1950s, and
it is gratifying to hear these long lost arrangements. Gibson, who is influenced a bit by Parker’s playing, purposely hints strongly
at him in spots but has his own boppish style. “Yardbird Suite” has short solos from other horn players and a live version of “They
Didn’t Believe Me” uses a slightly larger group. Among the other highlights are “Stardust,” “Gone With The Wind,” Gerry
Mulligan’s “Gold Rush,” George Russell’s “Ezz-thetic” and John Lewis’ “Scootin.’”

This important set, which gives us some brand new and still fresh “old” music, is quite enjoyable.


Eddie Thompson & Dave Lee
London Piano
(Acrobat)

British Modern Jazz
Singles EP Tracks & Rarities 1960-62
(Acrobat
)
    
In addition to releasing rare recordings by American jazz artists, the British Acrobat label (whose CDs are available from the
MVD Entertainment Group at www.mvdb2b.com) has compiled a series of very worthy programs by performers from England.
While the British modern jazz scene of the 1950s and early 1960s was relatively small, there were at least a dozen major players
who are well worth discovering by American jazz fans.
   
London Piano reissues in full two albums from 1960 that were originally made for the American market. Eddie Thompson’s
London After Dark features the swing-oriented pianist performing nine songs that in their titles refer to some aspect of England.
Five of the songs are trio features while the other four add Tubby Hayes on vibes and flutist Johnny Scott which give a “cool jazz”
feel to the music. The performances are melodic, swinging and easy to enjoy. While Thompson would spend much of the 1960s
living and playing in the U.S., Dave Lee developed a busy career in British television. Best-known in the 1950s for his work with
the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra, Lee’s A Big New Band From Britain albums finds him leading a Count Basie-inspired orchestra
that has arrangements by Manny Albam. While a few of his sidemen (including Tubby Hayes on tenor) have occasional solos, the
main focus is on the pianist-leader, who mixes together a few originals with likable versions of standards. The music is both
danceable and swinging.
    
Singles EP Tracks & Rarities 1960-62 is quite a grab-bag of music. Recorded during an era when nearly all of the jazz recordings
that made the British charts were by trad bands (including those of Kenny Ball, Chris Barker and Acker Bilk), these 23 songs
represent the modern jazz scene’s attempts at generating some hits of their own. Only Johnny Dankworth’s “African Waltz”
made the charts but there are fine performances by much of the who’s who of the British bop scene. Included are obscure
recordings by Joe Harriott, Stan Tracey, Cleo Laine, Dudley Moore, Tony Coe, Tony Crombie, Tony Kinsey, Victor Feldman and
Dankworth. The music ranges from bop and soul jazz to movie themes.

Collectors and those just beginning to explore the British jazz scene will find these two excellent CDs quite intriguing.
                                                            

Nat King Cole
Stardust – The Rare Television Performances
(Real Gone Music)

King Curtis
The Complete Atco Singles
(Real Gone Music)

   
Real Gone Music (www.realgonemusic.com) has released two very interesting if quite different sets. During 1956-57, Nat King
Cole led his own musical television series (originally 15-minute shows and later expanded to a half-hour), resulting in 57
programs and perhaps 20 hours of music. A complete reissue of those shows is long overdue on DVD although some of the
programs have become available at various times. Cole’s two-CD set Stardust has 26 of the songs that Cole performed in his series
plus nine tunes taken from a 1963 guest appearance on an Australian television show. Of the earlier material, Cole performs
swinging numbers with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, warm ballads, a couple of novelties and a surprising Dixieland version of
“Careless Love.” As always, he is charming and very musical in every situation, even on “Beer Barrel Polka.” A few of the
numbers have him also playing piano while “Sweet Lorraine” features guests Coleman Hawkins and Oscar Peterson. The show
from Australia, although six years later, is in a similar vein with Cole taking a fine piano solo on “Where Or When.” While a few
of the pieces on this twofer are throwaways (including a version of “I Love A Piano” where he dismisses his own piano playing),
this is a worthy release.
   
A major instrumental star in the r&b world, King Curtis (who on his occasional jazz dates showed that he could be a significant
improviser), spent much of his career playing soul music. The Complete Atco Singles is a three-CD set that has ten numbers from
1958-59 and 56 from 1966-71. Curtis takes consistently passionate solos on tenor and alto, whether it is on uptempo rockers,
soulful ballads or funk. His hits are here (including “Spanish Harlem,” “Something On Your Mind,” “Memphis Soul Stew,” “I Was
Made To Love Her” and “Whole Lotta Love”) along with lesser-known material including some selections that were never released
on albums. While many of these brief, catchy and generally infectious performances are outside of jazz, this well-planned
package should be of strong interest to jazz listeners.
                                                       

Sal Mosca
The Talk Of The Town
(Sunnyside)

Joe Albany
An Evening With
(Steeplechase)

Stanley Cowell
Reminiscent Plus A Xmas Suite
(Steeplechase)
    
Throughout jazz history, there have been literally hundreds of superb pianists who have developed their own voices on their
instrument. Many have been overshadowed by the most influential innovators who changed the direction of the music. One can
certainly say that Sal Mosca, Joe Albany and Stanley Cowell have been in the shadow (at least in the earlier parts of their
careers) of, respectively, Lennie Tristano, Bud Powell and McCoy Tyner, but each has created their own legacy on records.
    
Sal Mosca, who is featured playing solo on the two-CD set The Talk Of The Town (available from www.sunnysiderecords.com),
was heavily under Tristano’s influence when he started out but became more original the longer he was part of the jazz scene. By
the time he performed at the previously unreleased concert in the Netherlands from which this two-CD set is taken, Mosca
sounded very much like himself. He sticks to standards on a wide-ranging set that includes several medleys (including one that
has bits of eight songs), sometimes strides a bit, and displays his own conception to exploring swing and bop tunes, really digging
into the material while keeping the melody nearby.
    
Joe Albany’s problems with drugs kept him scuffling for decades and he only rarely appeared on record before 1970. Fortunately
the better-documented 1970s were a relatively good period for the pianist and his playing was at its peak. The previously
unissued music on his Steeplechase release was recorded on May 1, 1973 at the Café Montmartre in Copenhagen. Listeners who
think of Albany as primarily a bebopper will be surprised by his renditions (all unaccompanied solos) of 17 mostly vintage
standards; only Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now” dates from the bop era. Albany clearly loved these swing songs and,
while his improvisations are sometimes boppish, he enthusiastically embraces the melodies, drawing out a great deal of inner
beauty. He had played for years as a solo pianist in many different venues and was very comfortable in this setting. He groups
some of the tunes together as medleys and shows throughout An Evening With Joe Albany that he was a very talented two
-handed pianist. Albany’s rewarding program is available, along with hundreds of other recommended recordings on the
Steeplechase label, from Stateside Distributors (www.statesidemusic.com).
    
Also from Steeplechase is Stanley Cowell’s most recent recording. Cowell, who is now 74, has performed with the who’s who of
modern jazz since the 1960s and has been leading superior recordings of his own for 45 years. While his consistency has made it
easy to take him for granted, Cowell has been an important musical force for decades. Reminiscent, a trio set from 2015 with
bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Billy Drummond, features Cowell performing four originals, pieces by his daughter Sunny
Cowell, Thad Jones, Horace Silver and Richie Powell, an adaptation of a Bach melody and a six-song ten-minute “Xmas Suite”
that includes two of his own melodies next to “Winter Wonderland” and “Jingle Bells.” The overall mood of Reminiscent is
celebratory with happy feelings generated by the close interplay between the musicians and the mostly upbeat melodies.
Reminiscent serves as an excellent introduction to Stanley Cowell’s artistry.
                                                  

Rebecca Hardiman
Easy Living
(Self-released)

From the first notes of this CD’s opener, “Thou Swell,” it is obvious that Rebecca Hardiman is a superior jazz singer. She has a
clear and very appealing tone, it is very easy to understand every word that she interprets, and her singing is full of joy. In
addition, she swings at all tempos and is a very good scat-singer (sometimes a little reminiscent of Anita O’Day). There are times
when her phrasing sounds a little like early Nancy Wilson but she is a more adventurous and a harder swinging vocalist.

On Easy Living, Rebecca Hardiman is joined by some of the top straight ahead jazz musicians from the Pacific Northwest. Her
husband pianist Ray Hardiman is a perfect accompanist and a strong soloist, bassist Dan Presley and drummer Ron Steen provide
tasteful support, and there are plenty of colorful bop-oriented solos taken along the way by trumpeter/flugelhornist Bryant
Allard and saxophonist/clarinetist Laird Halling. Each of the 14 songs that they perform other than “Harold’s House Of Jazz”
(based on “Cherokee”) are veteran standards given fresh treatments.  Among the highlights are a scat-filled version of Gil Evans’
“Boplicity,” an uptempo “Mountain Greenery,” an exuberant “Give Me The Simple Life,” the singer’s phrasing on “Easy Living,”
a swinging “Put On A Happy Face” and a jubilant “They All Laughed.”  Everything works on this colorful and spirited set.
Rebecca Hardiman’s Easy Living is one of the most delightful jazz vocal albums of the past year and is highly recommended.
                                                

Rose Colella
Cocktail
(Lola Bard Productions)

Bonnie Lowdermilk
Borderless Crossings
(Self-released)
    
This article has the newest releases from two jazz vocalists who are worthy of your attention.

A very good jazz singer from Chicago, Rose Colella is in top form throughout Cocktail. Joined by a top-notch quintet that includes
pianist Don Murphy, guitarist Don Effland and tenor-saxophonist Chris Madsen (all of whom have solo space), the vocalist
performs a wide variety of material. Her voice is beautiful and inviting, she sometimes recalls Helen Humes in her high notes
and the general happiness of her delivery, and she contributed many arrangements that add new life to these songs. Among the
highlights on “That’s Love” (based on a famous Bizet melody), a rollicking “Flying Home” (when was the last time someone sang
that song?), “Baby Doll,” (which has a 1940s  blues/trad feel that perfectly fits her voice and style), “One Mint Julep,” a
successful and joyful revival of the Ella Fitzgerald favorite “Mr. Paganini,” and “Let’s Misbehave.” A delightful medley of “Would
You Like To Take A Walk” and “I’ll Get Ideas” teams Rose Colella with the warm singer Paul Marinaro. She contributes her wistful
original “Lonely View” and pays tribute to her grandmother Lola Bard (who recorded with Bobby Hackett in the late 1930s) by
singing the ballad “You, You And Especially You.” Everything works well on her highly recommended CD which is available
from www.rosecolella.com.
    
One of the top jazz vocalists based in Colorado, Bonnie Lowdermilk is also a top-notch jazz pianist. On Borderless Crossings, she
alternates four of her originals and a complex Kenny Wheeler/Norma Winstone song with five standards. Art Lande is featured
on piano on half of the program, alert accompaniment is provided by bassist Gonzolo Teppa and drummer Paul Romaine, and
cornetist Ron Miles adds a Miles Davis/Chet Baker atmosphere to a few numbers. The originals and Wheeler/Winstone’s “Winter
Sweet,” really challenge the singer with their wide intervals and (other than “Peter’s Portrait”) melancholy moods. Somehow
she always sound relaxed. The standards, four of which also feature Ms. Lowdermilk on piano, are accessible and swinging. “I’ve
Grown Accustomed To His Face” and a spirited “Get Out Of Town” (on which the singer really plays with the rhythm and melody
while sticking to the lyrics) are highpoints. Her piano playing on ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face,” makes one hope that in
the future she will also include some instrumentals on her CDs. Borderless Crossings (available from www.bonnielowdermilk.
com) is well worth acquiring.
                                                 

James P. Johnson
Classic Sessions (1921-1943)
(Mosaic)

    
James P. Johnson, the father of stride piano, defined jazz piano in the 1920s. While his left hand strided between low bass notes
and chords in a higher register, his right played virtuosic melodic variations of the song he was interpreting. He and Jelly Roll
Morton were among the first to move the piano from ragtime to jazz. While Johnson would be overshadowed by his protégé Fats
Waller by the 1930s, he continued creating great music up until 1949 and is still arguably the greatest of all stride pianists.
    
Mosaic’s six-CD limited-edition box set, available from www.mosaicrecords.com, has all of the sessions from 1921-43 that the
pianist led for labels now owned by Sony plus his most significant recordings as a sideman. While this set is not quite complete
since it is missing his work for labels owned by Universal (most notably his four piano solos including “Jingles” and “You’ve Got
To Be Modernistic” from Jan. 21, 1930), it is a must for lovers of vintage jazz piano. Johnson is not only heard on his other piano
solo recordings and his occasional dates as a leader of a combo but working behind singers Lavinia Turner, Sadie Jackson, Rosa
Henderson, Martha Copeland, Roy Evans, Ethel Waters, Clara Smith, Eva Taylor, Ida Cox and, most notably, Bessie Smith. He
uplifts the music of the Original Jazz Hounds, the Louisiana Sugar Babies (a quartet with Fats Waller on organ), Lonnie Johnson,
Teddy Bunn, Frankie Newton, the Great Day New Orleans Singers and many titles by Clarence Williams.
    
The 158 selections include ten previously unreleased alternate takes (eight with Ida Cox in 1939, one by Newton and Johnson’s
solo piano piece “Weeping Blues”). Among the many classics are “Carolina Shout,” ”Backwater Blues,” “Do What You Did Last
Night,’ “Riffs,” “How Could I Be Blue,” “Rosetta,” ”If Dreams Come True,” and “The Mule Walk,” although not Johnson’s most
famous composition (“The Charleston”) which he ironically never recorded.
    
The Lp-size box which has an excellent 28-page booklet, is an essential acquisition for all jazz fans and collectors.
review.