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Los Angeles Jazz Scene - CD Reviews
                    January 2017
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Richard Sears Sextet
Altadena
(Ropeadope)
      
Pianist Richard Sears, who is in his mid-twenties, has always enjoyed visiting veteran drummer Albert “Tootie”
Heath (who is now 81) at Heath’s home in Altadena, California. The drummer, who has worked with the who’s who of
jazz including J.J. Johnson, Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins and Dexter Gordon, was always enthusiastic to talk
about his musical philosophy along with humorous stories about his life in jazz. In 2013, Simon wrote the five-part
“Altadena” to feature Heath. The work was recorded June 11-12, 2015 and has recently been released.
      
The point of “Altadena,” which was commissioned by the Los Angeles Jazz Society, was to give Heath the opportunity
to perform new and adventurous music. While he is an important part of the ensemble, his solo parts are brief and he
mostly functions as an inspiring force. In addition to Sears and Heath, the sextet features cornetist Kirk Knuffke,
Steven Lugerner on alto and bass clarinet, tenor-saxophonist Patrick Wolff and drummer Garret Long.
      
The five sections each have their own personalities while blending together as a cohesive work. ‘Part One” is a hard-
swinger,” “Part Two” moves much slower, “Part Three” is influenced by the free bop of Ornette Coleman, “Part Four”
is a ballad, and “Part Five” is pretty free and hints at Albert Ayler. Heath excels in each section without dominating
the music. Sears, Wolff and Lugerner in particular take consistently rewarding solos although each of the musicians
has their opportunities to shine.
      
Altadena perfectly balances written-out sections and themes with solo and group improvisations. The music is
rewarding, both as an opportunity to pay tribute to Albert “Tootie” Heath and as a new and enjoyable work. It is
available from www.ropeadoperecords.com and easily recommended.
                                                  

Scott Whitfield
New Jazz Standards Volume 2
(Summit)
     
Carl Saunders is well known locally as one of the great trumpeters in jazz of the past 20 years. However he does not
play a note on New Jazz Standards Volume 2. Instead, his contribution is as a composer for he wrote all 12
compositions. The spotlight is on the masterful trombonist Scott Whitfield, who is featured in a quartet with pianist
Christian Jacob, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Peter Erskine.
       
Saunders’ songs on this and the previous Volume 1 (which featured the late great flutist Sam Most) are not
groundbreaking or avant-garde. Instead they are solid swingers and ballads that fit very well into the mainstream of
jazz. While occasionally hinting at earlier standards, they usually employ original chord changes (other than a
couple of blues and “Another Tune For Bernie”) and have likable melodies that are easy for the all-star quartet to
really dig into. Among the more memorable pieces are “Prudence,” “Big Darlin,” “Lolly’s Folly” and “Last Night’s
Samba” although there are no slow moments on this CD.

Whitfield and Jacob take consistently spirited and inventive solos with Axt and Erskine mostly contributing
stimulating support. Whether any of these excellent Carl Saunders’ songs will someday become standards is not
known yet but certainly this outing from Scott Whitfield (available from www.summitrecords.com) is quite fun.
                                      

Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau,
Nearness
(Nonesuch)
      
Tenor-saxophonist Joshua Redman and pianist Brad Mehldau worked together on a regular basis during 1993-94
when Mehldau was a part of Redman’s quartet. More than two decades have passed since then and both Redman and
Mehldau have grown into major and very individual voices in the music world. They have played together on an
irregular basis since the mid-1990s with Nearness, which was recorded live in 2011 but only recently released,
featuring them as a duo.
      
Recorded live in several European countries, these six performances are split between standards and originals.
“Ornithology” and “In Walked Bud” have Redman and Mehldau swinging hard and creatively while “The Nearness
Of You” (the longest performance at 16:44) is taken as a slow ballad. While Redman sometimes hints at earlier bop-
oriented greats, Mehldau consistently pushes the music ahead, keeping it from ever being too safe or predictable. The
two greats constantly challenge each other and, even when the beat is not being directly stated, it is always felt.
      
The impressionistic “Always August,” the catchy “Mehlsancholy Mode,” and the “Old West” (which gradually builds
up in excitement) each have Redman switching to soprano. The originals alternate with the standards and fit in well.
The extended performances are full of close interplay, gradual melodic development, and subtle surprises. While this
CD, if played quietly, can serve as background music, a close listen reveals a great deal of colorful creativity by the
duo, so play it loud! Redman and Mehldau clearly know each other’s playing well but they are able to regularly
inspire each other, taking their performances in unexpected directions.
      
Nearness, which is available from www.nonesuch.com, is well worth several listens.
                                                     

Clark Terry
Clark After Dark - The Ballad Artistry Of Clark Terry
(MPS)
      
Everyone loved Clark Terry. The flugelhornist and occasional “Mumbles” singer was not only a brilliant musician
with his own joyful sound but an enthusiastic educator and a lovable personality. He was featured on rewarding
recordings and performances for over a half-century.
      
Clark After Dark is a bit unusual in Terry’s discography for it showcases him accompanied by a large string orchestra
conducted by Peter Herbolzheimer, performing a set of ballads in 1977. With Herbolzheimer contributing most of the
arrangements for 28 strings and a 16-piece big band, Terry is in the spotlight throughout. The songs are all taken at
slow-to-medium tempos and these include such ballads as “Misty,” “Georgia On My Mind,’ “Yesterdays,” “Angel Eyes”
and the lesser-known “November Song.” Only “Clark After Dark” (a medium-tempo blues) and “Girl Talk” cook a bit.
While pianist Gordon Beck, tenor-saxophonist Tony Coe, guitarist Martin Kershaw and trombonist Dave Horler are
heard from briefly, otherwise the focus is entirely on Clark Terry’s warm sound and the orchestra.
      
It is to Clark Terry’s credit that the music holds one’s attention throughout despite the lack of uptempo pieces. Terry
plays beautifully throughout this formerly rare set which is now available from www.mps-music.com.
                                                  

Kris Allen
Beloved
(Truth Revolution Recording Collective)
      
Kris Allen is an excellent alto and soprano-saxophonist with his own sound. While Jackie McLean was a mentor, Allen
has a cooler tone and does not sound at all like him. However like McLean, he has an open mind towards more
adventurous approaches in jazz and he is forging his own path. Allen has worked with many top jazz artists and
groups in his career thus far, including Illinois Jacquet, Gerald Wilson, Helen Sung, Winard Harper, Mingus Dynasty
and Gary Smulyan among others.
      
Beloved is Kris Allen’s second CD as a leader. Featured is his regular working quartet with tenor-saxophonist Frank
Kozyra, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Jonathan Barber. The mellow tones of Allen and Kozyra, the tightness
between the saxophonists, and the quiet pianoless rhythm section are at times a little reminiscent of Gerry Mulligan’s
quartet or the combination of Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh in the 1950s. However the ten Allen originals, the post-
bop improvising and the openness to freedom also make the group hint a bit at the Ornette Coleman Quartet.
      
The playing is mellow (even at fast tempos) yet never sleepy or predictable. The inventive ideas, the original
compositions, and the high musicianship of these creative players make Kris Allen’s Beloved a set well worth
exploring. It is available from www.krisallenjazz.com.
                                                  

Nancy Ruth
Sangria Jam
(Self-released)
      
Nancy Ruth is a powerful singer who was born and raised in Canada. Always a lover of both flamenco music and jazz,
she moved to Spain in 2001. On Sangria Jam, she combines together jazz, flamenco and Latin rhythms in a natural
way, creating a fresh genre that fits into all three idioms.
      
Ms. Ruth wrote all 11 selections and her spirited music, while exploring several moods, has a consistently celebratory
feel. Some selections have the singer, who also plays piano on two pieces, in a quartet with guitarist Luis Obisco,
bassist Juan Soto and percussionist Juan Heredia. There are also significant appearances by Manuel Olmo on soprano,
tenor and flute, and Victor Vallejo on piano and trumpet. Guest pianist Jean Louis Van Dam is prominent on “Soar.”
      
Nancy Ruth’s lyrics discuss such topics as the happiness of returning home (“Malaga”), the joy of taking chances
(“Soar”), romance (the haunting ballad “Llorame”), and the difficulties of settling down (“Buleria #1”). “Jasmine
Tree,” after some beautiful solo flamenco guitar by Luis Obisco (who is a major asset throughout the CD), is
rhythmically exciting. “Beauty In The Ruins” features some warm long notes by the singer near its conclusion. “I
Once Said I’d Stay” (about taking a chance on giving up everything for love) precedes the most stirring piece,
“Temporary Home.” The passionate rhythms, Olmo’s heated soprano and the intense singing make this performance
particularly memorable. The exhilarating “Wild Imagination” and the witty “Yellow Veranda” (about food and
potential love) conclude the enjoyable set.
      
All in all, this is an impressive effort by Nancy Ruth that is difficult to categorize as anything but joyful and creative
music. It is available from www.nancyruth.com.
                                                    

Bob Zieff
The Music Of Bob Zieff
(Fresh Sound)

Enrique Heredia Quartet
Plays The Music Of Bob Zieff
(Fresh Sound New Talent)
      
Bob Zieff, who is 89, was a very original writer who made his biggest impact in the 1950s. He matched quirky and
unusual melodies to fresh chord changes. His music, while swinging, was quite unpredictable. Listening to his pieces,
one is sometimes reminded of Herbie Nichols, another original composer whose music, while part of the bebop scene,
also stood apart from it.
      
Jordi Pujol, Fresh Sound’s owner and producer, compiled the two-CD set The Music Of Bob Zieff to reissue all of the
significant recordings of Zieff’s compositions and arrangements from the 1950s. The composer wrote most of the liner
notes, which are full of fascinating stories about the record industry along with his memories and opinions of the
musicians who recorded his songs.
      
In 1953, Bob Zieff put together eight originals to form a suite for a quartet session that featured violinist Dick
Wetmore; that intriguing set opens this release. Zieff was a major mentor and teacher for Chet Baker’s pianist Dick
Twardzik who persuaded the trumpeter to add some of the songs to his repertoire. Seven of the eight pieces from the
Wetmore project were documented in a better-known session by Baker which is included on this reissue along with
seven other Zieff compositions recorded during the era by Baker’s groups. In addition, three Zieff compositions and two
of his arrangements of standards are included from an unusual set by Anthony Ortega’s Chamber Orchestra, an
ensembles consisting of the altoist-leader, Wetmore, trumpeter Art Farmer, French horn, bass clarinet, bassoon and
string bass. And as a real bonus, a previously unreleased set by an orchestra led by baritonist Nimitz is included. The
latter, which has Zieff’s arrangements of nine standards, features Nimitz, trombonist Bill Harris and a string section.
      
Most of this music, other than some of the Baker pieces, had been previously quite rare. While Bob Zieff’s songs do not
have catchy melodies, his music is well worth exploring. And the release of new Bill Harris solos is always a happy
event.
      
Coinciding with the release of the Bob Zieff twofer is a new recording of his music. Drummer Enrique Heredia, who
like his bassist Curro Galvez is from Spain, put together a project also featuring Swedish tenor-saxophonist Frank
Carlquist (who doubles on clarinet) and American pianist Michele Faber who has long lived in Spain. For probably
the first time ever, a quartet with tenor in the lead is featured exploring Zieff’s music. They dig into the same eight
pieces that Dick Wetmore’s group had recorded in 1953 plus “Mid-Forte” which was performed during the mid-1950s
by Chet Baker. Carlquist has a cool “Four Brothers” tone that fits very easily into the music and the quartet’s
treatments are boppish and swinging. They make the potentially difficult intervals sound natural and glide easily
over the tricky chord changes. It is gratifying to know that Zieff was still around to enjoy these new interpretations.
      
Both of the Bob Zieff projects, which fill an important gap in jazz history, are available from www.freshsoundrecords.
com.
                                                  

Various Artists        
The Savory Collection Vol. 1
(The National Jazz Museum in Harlem)

Count Basie
The Savory Collection Vol. 2
(The National Jazz Museum in Harlem)
      
During the swing era, most of the major and many of the minor big bands and combos broadcast regularly on the
radio. While some radio stations kept copies of the music, the great majority of the performances went undocumented
and have been lost to history. Bill Savory (1916-2004), who seems to have had a very colorful and productive life,
worked in a radio transcription studio during 1935-41. He had access to over 50,000 hours of radio programming.
Fortunately Savory saved a few hundred hours of broadcast performances by jazz artists, and kept them safe and well
packaged for many decades. Loren Schoenberg, who in his career has been a bandleader, a tenor-saxophonist, record
producer and jazz journalist, met Savory and had long hoped to release some of the best music. In 2010, six years
after Savory’s death, Schoenberg helped the National Jazz Museum in Harlem to acquire the treasures. So far two sets
of music have been released although at the moment they are only available as downloads from iTunes.
      
Vol. 1 features selections led by Coleman Hawkins, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Waller Lionel Hampton, Carl Kress & Dick
McDonough, and Emilio Caceres. The most memorable performance is the first one. Coleman Hawkins, joined by his
big band from 1940, stretches out on “Body And Soul.” While his famous recording from 1939 had him improvising
on two choruses, this rendition has the masterful tenor-saxophonist playing four. Although a few of the phrases are
carryovers from the studio recording, Hawkins comes up with many new ideas, building up his classic solo to a
memorable climax. He is also one of several soloists on an inventive arrangement of “Basin Street Blues” and leads his
orchestra through his theme song “Lazy Butterfly”; neither chart was ever recorded.
      
Ella Fitzgerald is featured with a studio orchestra and drummer Chick Webb singing a faster than usual “A-Tisket, A-
Tasket” and a fine version (mostly accompanied by an unidentified pianist) of “Saving Myself For You.” The six Fats
Waller performing with his Rhythm (which total eight songs) are fun but uneventful. However Lionel Hampton’s
five numbers, which find him leading an all-star group in a jam session, are quite exciting. With such notables as
trumpeter Charlie Shavers, tenor-saxophonist Herschel Evans and altoist David Matthews making stirring
statements, there are memorable versions of “Rosetta” and “Dinah,” along with “Blues,” some beautiful playing on
“Stardust” and Hamp’s piano feature on “Chinatown, My Chinatown.”
      
In addition, the guitars of Carl Kress and Dick McDonough play a tightly arranged “Heat Wave” and the obscure but
very talented violinist Emilio Caceres (leading a trio with his brother Ernie on baritone and clarinet) swings “China
Boy.” During the second part of the latter, Ernie Caceres is heard playing two clarinets at once, something he never
did on records.
      
Vol. 2 of the Savory Collection is devoted to the Count Basie Orchestra on radio broadcasts from 1938-40. While there
have been other Basie airchecks released from the period, these are particularly well recorded and were previously
unheard. Lester Young takes solos on the great majority of the 22 performances and is in consistently brilliant form.
It is a bit surprising that Young gets to play clarinet on several of the pieces. In addition, there are many prominent
moments from Herschel Evans, trumpeter Buck Clayton and the pianist-leader plus spots for singer Jimmy Rushing,
trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, trombonist Dicky Wells and Buddy Tate on tenor among others. It is a particular
treat hearing Basie and his men performing such unrecorded arrangements as “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” “Rosetta,”
“Limehouse Blues” and “Bugle Call Rag.” And since many of these performances are extended beyond the usual three-
minutes that 78s held, the solos tend to be longer and the riffing more involved even on the more familiar
arrangements.
      
One looks forward to the many future volumes of this timeless music, plus their eventual availability on CD. More
information about the Savory Collection can be found at www.jazzmuseuminharlem.org/savory
                                                      

Franklin Kiermyer
Closer To The Sun
(Mobility Music)

      
Drummer Franklin Kiermyer has always loved the music of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. He featured
Sanders on his 1994 album Solomon’s Daughter, one of the tenor’s most passionate and rewarding recordings of the
past few decades.  On Closer To The Sun, Kiermyer performs 13 originals with tenor-saxophonist Lawrence Clark,
pianist David Whitfield and bassist Otto Gardner.
      
The material came together during extensive recording sessions dating from Oct.-Nov. 2015. Clark’s tenor playing
recalls Pharoah Sanders without directly imitating him, Whitfield’s piano recalls McCoy Tyner, Alice Coltrane and
Lonnie Liston Smith at various times, Kiermyer looks towards Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali for inspiration, and
Gardner serves as a solid anchor throughout. Their music has a spiritual feel, often utilizes simple themes, and builds
up dramatically. There is a consistent intensity felt even during the more peaceful performances, and an urgency
that builds on jazz of the late 1960s, extending the style and adding to its legacy. The communication between these
four fine musicians, who have a common purpose, is consistently impressive and stirring.
      
Fans of late period Coltrane and prime Sanders will certainly enjoy the high-energy explorations of Closer To The Sun
which is available from www.kiermyer.com.
                                           

John Scofield
Country For Old Men
(Impulse!)
      
Somehow, it makes sense for John Scofield to be interpreting songs drawn from country music. The guitarist, who has
his own sound no matter what the context, has long enjoyed country songs from afar and on a few occasions has
recorded one or two numbers. Many of the older country songs have fairly simple chord changes that are similar to
swing tunes and Joe Pass, on his last recording, transformed many of the songs into bebop in collaboration with Roy
Clark.
      
But if one fears that Scofield has decided to “sell out” or switch his main allegiance to Nashville, it is advised that they
start off with the second number on this CD. Scofield turns Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” into a
blazing uptempo exploration in which he takes the song into unexplored areas. His goal with this project was to play a
dozen country songs into jazz and, with the assistance of Larry Goldings on organ and piano, bassist Steve Swallow
and drummer Bill Stewart, he succeeds.
      
Some of the treatments (such as “Mr. Fool” and “Bartender’s Blues”) are melodic and respectful while others are
much more explorative. To name a few examples, “Wayfaring Stranger” is taken as a low-down and bluesy piece,
Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” is turned into a post-bop swinger and this version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” sounds
like something that the John Coltrane Quartet might have recorded. The music is a lot less predictable than that of
Bill Frisell’s overly reverential Nashville-oriented recordings with Scofield pushing at the music’s boundaries while
generally paying respect to the melodies and the original mood of the lyrics.
      
Country purists may want to look elsewhere but John Scofield’s longtime jazz fans have nothing to fear on this
enjoyable and surprising set, available from www.impulse-label.com.