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Los Angeles Jazz Scene - CD Reviews
                 January 2016
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Carl Sonny Leyland/Kim Cusack
Stompin’ Upstairs
(Rivermont)

Carl Sonny Leyland
King Of The Barrelhouse
(Piano/Mania Music)
     
Carl Sonny Leyland is one of the most talented classic blues/boogie-woogie pianists around today. He can perform a full set of
blues (singing half of them) and easily hold one’s interest. But as these two CDs show, he can do much more than just play the
blues.
     
Stompin’ Upstairs is a change of pace for Leyland. He heads a quartet that also features the great veteran clarinetist Kim Cusack
(who was a member of the Salty Dogs Jazz Band for 35 years), bassist Beau Sample and drummer Alex Hall. Only four of the 13
songs are blues with joyful renditions of “At A Georgia Camp Meeting,” “If I Had You,” “The Blue Room” and “Whispering” being
among the many other highlights. Leyland, who has vocals on four numbers, shows that he is an excellent swing pianist. The
fluent Cusack is inspiring throughout, taking many heated yet relaxed solos. The back of this CD duplicates the style of a
Columbia Lp from the 1950s produced by George Avakian, looking like a reissue of early jazz from the 1920s. All in all, this is a
classy and delightful set, available from www.rivermontrecords.com.
     
On King Of The Barrelhouse, Carl Sonny Leyland is showcased as a solo pianist. Once again he displays his versatility. In addition
to a few blues and an occasional vocal, he turns “Cherokee” into a boogie-woogie, finds the blues in “When You And I Were Young
Maggie” and is lowdown on “St. James Infirmary” and “Melancholy Blues.” A particular joy are the heated songs that feature his
hot stride piano including “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” “Bag Of Rags,” “Do You Ever Think Of Me” and “I Want A Girl Just
Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad.” Carl Sonny Leyland is in a class by himself and King Of The Barrelhouse is a definitive
example of his brilliant solo playing. It is available from www.pianomania.com.


Various Artists
The Complete Bee Hive Sessions
(Mosaic)
     
For a time in the early 1970s, many veteran bop and hard bop jazz artists were disappearing from records, overshadowed by
fusion, funk, r&b, avant-garde and even disco. By the mid-point of the decade, the Pablo, Concord, Chiaroscuro and Xanadu
labels were among the new companies that were documenting the veterans, but there was still a gap. In 1977, Jim and Susan
Neumann (owners of a successful lighting fixture business) formed the Bee Hive label to record some of their favorite musicians.
16 Lps were recorded during 1977-84 that feature many of the who’s who of the Chicago and New York straight ahead jazz
scenes. The Neumanns reluctantly ended the label in the mid-1980s and eventually all of the Bee Hive albums went out of print.
Few of the sessions showed up on CD, until now.
     
Recently Mosaic (www.mosaicrecords.com) did what they do best, reissuing the entire Bee Hive catalog as a limited-edition 12-
CD box set. The original 16 programs are joined by three previously unreleased alternate takes plus music only previously out on
the sampler The Bee Hive Sessions - Unissued Tunes Volume One. The music is consistently rewarding and exciting without a dud
to be found among the 110 selections.
     
All 16 records received favorable and well-deserved reviews at the time and the music is timeless. Mosaic has reissued all of the
performances from baritonist Nick Brignola’s Baritone Madness and Burn Brigade (a three baritone project with Ronnie Cuber
and Cecil Payne) albums, tenor-saxophonist Sal Nistico’s Neo Nistico, trombonist Curtis Fuller’s Fire and Filigree, trumpeter
Dizzy Reece Manhattan Project, a pair of stimulating Clifford Jordan albums (Hyde Park After Dark and Dr. Chicago), singer
Johnny Hartman’s Once In Every Life, guitarist Sal Salvador’s Starfingers and Juicy Lucy, tenor-saxophonist Arnett Cobb’s Keep
On Pushin’ and pianists Ronnie Mathews’ Roots, Branches & Dances, and Legacy, Roland Hanna’s The New York Jazz Quartet In
Chicago, Dick Katz’s In High Profile, and Junior Mance’s Truckin’ And Trakin.’ In addition to the leaders, many of whom are also
heard as sidemen on other sessions, the lineup features such greats as trumpeters Ted Curson, Red Rodney, Joe Wilder, Bill
Hardman and Joe Newman, bass trumpeter Cy Touff, trombonists Eddie Bert, Jimmy Knepper and Al Grey, tenor-saxophonists
Charles Davis, Von Freeman, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, Ricky Ford, Frank Wess and David “Fathead” Newman, baritonist
Pepper Adams, guitarist Al Gafa, pianists Derek Smith, Walter Davis Jr, Walter Bishop, Jr, Albert Daily, Norman Simmons, Jaki
Byard, and Billy Taylor, bassists Dave Holland, Walter Booker, Sam Jones, Art Davis, Victor Sproles Ed Howard, Victor Gaskin,
Ray Drummond, George Mraz, Marc Johnson, Martin Rivera and George Duvivier, and drummers Roy Haynes, Jimmy Cobb,
Freddie Waits, Wilbur Campbell, Vernel Fournier, Keith Copeland, Mel Lewis, Joe Morello, Al Foster, Jimmy Cobb, Ben Riley, Al
Harewood, Walter Bolden and Panama Francisj.
     
Need I say more? If you love hard bop, get The Complete Bee Hive Sessions as soon as possible.


Eva Cassidy
Nightbird
(Blix Street)
     
Eva Cassidy, who died in 1996 at the age of 33, had a tragically brief life while her music has had a very surprising after-life. A
very versatile singer equally at home with jazz, blues, pop, folk music and r&b, only two Eva Cassidy albums were released
during her lifetime. Record labels did not know what to do with her because she refused to sing only one style of music. During
her lifetime, only two albums were released including Live At Blues Alley; a third set came out shortly after her death. In 1998 a
compilation of selections from the three albums called Songbird was put together. In 1990 it received a great deal of exposure and
sold more than 100,000 copies. Ever since then, nearly all of her unissued and obscure recordings have been released to great
acclaim.
     
The two-CD set Nightbird is a greatly expanded reissue of Live At Blues Alley, with the original 12 songs joined by 7 numbers
that came out on later samplers and another dozen that had never been released before. As the liner notes accurately state, this
concert from Jan. 3, 1996 was the highpoint of her performing career. A few months later she was stricken with melanoma and
ten months after this concert, she passed away, never knowing how famous she would become.
     
Playing acoustic and electric guitar and joined by a fine four-piece rhythm section that includes pianist Lenny Williams and
guitarist Keith Grimes, Eva Cassidy is outstanding throughout this program. She displays a powerful voice and a remarkable
range, both vocally and in her material. She was one of the few singers who could do justice to a program that includes “Blue
Skies,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Route 66,” “Chain Of Fools,” “Fever,” a hard-
swinging “Cheek To Cheek,” “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” “Son Of A Preacher Man,” “Caravan,” “Something’s Got A Hold On Me”
and “Over The Rainbow.” Her renditions of “Fine And Mellow,” “Stormy Monday” and “What A Wonderful World” are fresh and
different than any earlier version. Closing the package is the only studio cut, the passionate “Oh, Had I A Golden Thread.”
     
Although not all of the music is jazz, this is the Eva Cassidy record to get. She is outstanding throughout. Nightbird is available
from www.blixstreet.com and is essential for anyone with a curiosity as to why she is considered one of the greatest singers of her
brief lifetime.


Roberta Gambarini
Connecting Spirits
(Grooving High)

Karrin Allyson
Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein
(Motema)

Sarah Partridge
I Never Thought I’d Be Here
(Origin)

Sally Night
Night Time
(Venus)
    
There is certainly no shortage of female jazz vocalists on the scene today, and this review covers new releases by four of the very
best.
     
Roberta Gambarini has been one of the top jazz singers of the past decade. She has a beautiful and distinctive voice, a range
comparable to Sarah Vaughan’s, the ability to scat on Ella’s level and a very appealing stage presence. The only thing keeping
her from being universally ranked at the top of  her field is a scarcity of her recordings; she needs to record at least a new CD each
year. Fortunately that situation is being rectified with some new projects including Connecting Spirits. This unusual set finds
Ms. Gambarini performing the songs of Jimmy Heath. Now 89, Heath can look back on a career in which he developed original
voices on tenor, soprano and flute and wrote over 125 songs (including “Gingerbread Boy,” “The Thumper” and “C.T.A.”) along
with a countless number of arrangements. Heath is the co-star of Connecting Spirits, sounding very much in his musical prime
on tenor and soprano, playing with the Heath Brothers (pianist Jeb Patton, bassist David Wong and his brother drummer Albert
“Tootie” Heath) along with several guests including trumpeter Freddie Hendrix and Heath’s son percussionist Mtume. Heath
wrote the music for all 13 songs and the lyrics for six while Gambarini contributed four sets of lyrics. Alternating medium-tempo
pieces and ballads, Roberta Gambarini is particularly memorable on the touching “Without Song,” “The Thumper,” “A Sassy
Samba” and “Ellington’s Stray Horn.” She essays the often-difficult interval jumps of these former instrumentals effortlessly,
scats brilliantly on a couple of pieces, and puts plenty of feeling into the lyrics. Connecting Spirits (available from www.
groovinhighrecords.com) is excellent and will hopefully be followed by many more Roberta Gambarini recordings.
     
The songs of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart have been recorded frequently through the decades by jazz artists while the work
of Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein III. have been performed less often. The great Karrin Allyson has always loved the music of
Rodgers & Hammerstein. On her new CD (available from www.motema.com), she performs some of her favorite songs from
Oklahoma, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound Of Music Joined by pianist Kenny Barron and bassist John Patitucci, she
mixes together obscurities with such standards as “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’,” “Happy Talk,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “We
Kiss In A Shadow” and “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top.” Allyson swings and scats on “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top”
and does a fine job with “Happy Talk” but many of the ballads are sung fairly straight. I wish that she had varied the tempo
more and taken more chances in her improvisations. Still, Karrin Allyson’s voice is very much in top form and this respectful set
is enjoyable, particularly for those who love these melodies.
     
After making a stir as an actress in Los Angeles, Sarah Partridge became a successful jazz singer and moved to the East Coast
where in the 1990s she often performed with Doc Cheatham. I Never Thought I’d Be Here finds her performing ten of her songs,
composing all of the words and music except for the music of “Around The Corner” which was penned by pianist Allen Farnham.
While her lyrics tell picturesque and sometimes dramatic stories, this is very much a jazz album. Her band (Farnham, Scott
Robinson on tenor and flutes, trombonist Ben Williams, guitarist Paul Meyers, bassist Bill Moring and drummer Tim Horner) is
comprised of strong improvisers who get their share of solo space. Ms. Partridge consistently stretches both herself and the music.
It would not be surprising if a few of her songs. particularly the passionate jazz waltz “Light Of Day,” the wistful “I Just Won’t Let
You Go” (which has a fine trombone solo), “Heart’s Desire,” and the superior ballad “Eager Is The Night” (which has some
perfectly supportive flute playing from Robinson) became standards in the future. I particularly enjoyed Partridge’s blues
singing and scatting on the infectious “Runaway Train” which has a hot guitar solo from her son Ben Stein. I Never Thought I’d
Be Here (available from www.origin-records.com) is easily recommended.
     
A superior singer who was born and raised in England but has performed often in New York during the past few years, Sally
Night is on the brink of fame in the jazz world. Night Time, her third CD for the Japanese Venus label, teams her in an intimate
setting with pianist Kirk Lightsey, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Hart with guest appearances by trumpeter
Antoine Drye. While she creates quietly emotional interpretations of the ballads (including “So In Love,” “Born To Be Blue” and “I
Got It Bad), Night shows her versatility on the boppish “No Soap No Hope Blues,” the hard-swinging medium-tempo pieces and
the lowdown and saucy “24 Hour Lovin,’” one of her two originals. Whether it a passionate “I Wanna Be Loved,” “Fooling Myself”
or “Star Eyes,” Sally Night shows a complete understanding of the lyrics she interprets, comes up with fresh variations of her
own, and displays a memorable voice and phrasing. So far all of her recordings are well worth searching out including Night
Time (available from www.venusrecords.com). Sally Night is well worth discovering.


Billy Butterfield
What’s New
(Retrospective)

George Chisholm
The Gentleman Of Jazz
(Retrospective)
     T
The Retrospective label (www.retrospective-records.co.uk) from England is in the process of reissuing definitive sets featuring
American and British jazz greats from the 1930s and ‘40s. Billy Butterfield was a superb trumpeter who spent time playing with
the orchestras of Bob Crosby and Artie Shaw, led his own short-lived big band in the mid-1940s, appeared on a countless number
of studio dates, and in his later years performed high-powered Dixieland with The World’s Greatest Jazz Band. What’s New has 24
examples of his playing from 1938-59 including with free-wheeling Dixieland groups, on warm ballads with orchestras, and
jamming with swing bands. His powerful opening statement on Artie Shaw’s recording of “Stardust” (arguably the finest
instrumental version of that classic) is here along with two numbers with Crosby (including the original version of “What’s
New”). Butterfield is also featured with Mel Powell, valve trombonist Brad Gowans’ New York Nine, Frank Sinatra
(“Nevertheless”), Lou Stein, Ray Coniff and on several sessions of his own. Among the other highlights are “Moonlight In
Vermont” (featuring Margaret Whiting’s singing), “Carolina In The Morning,” “Moten Stomp,” a heated “I’m An Old Cowhand”
and “I’ll Be A Friend With Pleasure” from a Bix Beiderbecke tribute set.
     
George Chisholm was not only England’s top jazz trombonist for decades but one of its top musicians. When Benny Carter or
Coleman Hawkins toured Europe in 1937 (when Chisholm was 22), they asked for the trombonist. He was equally comfortable in
swing and Dixieland settings, with big bands and combos. Chisholm also hinted at bop in the 40s, sounded at home in
mainstream settings in the 1950s and was a household name due to his work on television in the 1960s. Inspired by Jack
Teagarden, he developed his own sound on the trombone and deserves Retrospective’s tribute. His two-CD set, which dates from
1937-62, has Chisholm playing with Carter, Hawkins, clarinetist Danny Polo, guitarist Vic Lewis, Fats Waller (“The Flat Foot
Floogie”), the Squadronaires, the great trumpeter Kenny Baker, various combos and his own groups. Listeners not familiar with
George Chisholm should go out of their way to pick up this highly recommended two-fer, which shows Americans that there was
more to European jazz in the 1930s than Django Reinhardt.


Michele Faber
Journey Back
(Mar Vista Jazz)
     
A fine modern jazz pianist, Michele Faber has spent long periods of time living in the Los Angeles area and Barcelona, Spain.
Journey Back, which was recorded in Barcelona, features her in top form.
     
Faber is joined by bassist Pete Loewe and drummer Joe Smith with three appearances by guitarist Doug McDonald and four from
tenor-saxophonist Fredrik Carlquist. The pianist contributed six of the nine songs in addition to performing “Jeannine,” “Estate”
and MacDonald’s “Madison At Midnight.” Carlquist, who also engineered the CD, is an excellent Stan Getz-inspired player whose
cool tone and lightly swinging playing are particularly prominent on “Journey Back” and “Letter To J.L.” MacDonald’s cooking
solos uplift the music during “Algo Que Paso” and “Jeannine.” Loewe and Smith are excellent in support of the lead voices.
     
Michele Faber displays her own chord voicings and melodic style within jazz’s modern mainstream, swinging in her own
sophisticated way and playing with particular sensitivity on “Dream Love.” She is both an excellent soloist and a fine
accompanist, making Journey Back (available from www.michelefaber.com) one of her most satisfying recordings so far.


Mundell Lowe/Lloyd Wells/Jim Ferguson
Poor Butterfly
(Two Helpins’ O’ Collards)
     
Guitarist Mundell Lowe, who is now 93, is one of a handful of active jazz musicians who has been prominent since the 1950s. His
style has always been adaptable and open to both swing and bop. In 2000 he recorded a duo album with fellow guitarist Lloyd
Wells (who has a similar style) and in 2005 he co-led the Haunted Heart CD with bassist-singer Jim Ferguson. Poor Butterfly
gives the three musicians an opportunity to perform together.
     
Actually the musicians only appear as a trio on three numbers. There are also three guitar duets and three solo guitar features
apiece for Lowe and Wells. Ferguson, who is just on the trio pieces, sings on Wells’ “Uncle John.” Otherwise this is a set of relaxed
standards that put the focus on the laidback guitar playing of Lowe and/or Wells.
     
Highlights include the interplay between the guitarists on Gerry Mulligan’s “Line For Lyons,” their beautiful playing on “Poor
Butterfly,” Wells’ version of “Alice In Wonderland” and Lowe’s heartfelt interpretation of “Last Night When We Were Young.”
While I wish that the full trio had played together more, Poor Butterfly is an enjoyable, melodic and tasteful set by these
excellent musicians, available from www.mundelllowe.com.


Matthew Shipp Trio
The Conduct Of Jazz
(Thirsty Ear)
     
Matthew Shipp has certainly had a prolific career. He has led over 55 albums of his since the late 1980s, appeared on as many
sets as a sideman, and long ago forged his own style. While generally associated with the avant-garde, he actually has an
approach somewhere between McCoy Tyner and Cecil Taylor while always sounding like himself.
     
The Conduct Of Jazz consists of seven originals fully explored by Shipp, bassist Michael Bisio and drummer Newman Taylor
Baker. The themes set the moods which are built upon by the three musicians with Shipp generally in the lead. His playing is
thoughtful, spontaneous, and open to both free improvising and the development of new melodies. His adventurous flights leave
space, evolve logically if unpredictably, and he comes up with a steady flow of fresh ideas.
     
The Conduct Of Jazz rewards repeated listenings for there are many layers to Matthew Shipp’s playing that are waiting to be
discovered. This intriguing set is available from www.thirstyear.com.