The Complete Piano Works Of Scott Joplin
There have been a handful of “complete” Scott Joplin piano projects through the years, including ones undertaken by
Richard Zimmerman, Dick Hyman and Knocky Parker. Richard Dowling has not only recorded Joplin’s 53 rags,
waltzes and marches but he has performed all of them at extensive two-part concerts, probably the first time that
Joplin’s music has been played in full before audiences.
Dowling’s three-CD Complete Piano Works Of Scott Joplin is not programmed in chronological order but by mood,
including the rarely-heard “A Slow Drag” which is taken from Joplin’s ragtime opera Treemonisha. Although I would
have preferred the chronological approach, one certainly cannot fault these performances. Besides being note-perfect
and sticking to the classic formats, Dowling clearly lives the music. His versions are lively, at times emotional, and
seem to always be played at the perfect tempos, often slightly faster than other recordings. He brings Scott Joplin’s
100-120 year old music to life, infusing the beautiful melodies and syncopated rhythms with plenty of spirit.
In addition to photos of the sheet music and a summary of Joplin’s life, the 72-page booklet has Bryan S. Wright (a
fine pianist who runs the Rivermont label) relating the often-colorful stories behind each of the selections.
Ragtime is America’s classical music, Scott Joplin is the king of ragtime and Richard Dowling is clearly the premiere
interpreter of his music. Be sure to pick up this gem, which is available from www.rivermontrecords.com.
92 Years Young: Jammin’ At The Gibbs House
(Whaling City Sound)
Back in 1946 when he was 21, Terry Gibbs made his recording debut with clarinetist Aaron Sachs’ “Manor Re-Bops.”
Even at that early stage, it was obvious that Gibbs ranked at the top among jazz vibraphonists. 70 years later, after
insisting for a year-and-a-half that he was retired, the 91-year old Gibbs was persuaded by Neil Weiss of Whaling City
Sound and his son drummer Gerry Gibbs to make another recording. The vibraphonist relented while insisting that it
be a jam session at his house. With pianist John Campbell and bassist Mike Gurrola completing the group, the quartet
recorded 31 songs in a four-day period. 14 are on this CD.
No prior planning took place, nor was any needed. A musician would suggest a tune, the group played and recorded
it, and then it was time for another song or a break. The party atmosphere can be felt throughout this enjoyable
outing. Gibbs and his group are featured on 11 standards and three of the vibist’s basic originals. The music always
swings (which is certainly not surprising), the solos are colorful, and Terry Gibbs shows throughout that he is far
from finished. Highlights include their treatments of such songs as “Indiana,” “What’s New,” “I’m Getting
Sentimental Over You,” “Between the Devil And The Deep Blue Sea” and “Yardbird Suite.”
Bebop, vibes and Terry Gibbs fans are advised to pick up this set, available from www.whalingcitysound.com.
Hopefully the great vibraphonist will remain open to occasional recordings in the future. One cannot really imagine
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell
Vol. 1 1928-1934
Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell
Vol. 2 1934-1941
Leroy Carr (1905-35), who is best remembered for introducing his “How Long, How Long Blues,” was a major blues
pianist and singer during his short life. He primarily performed medium-tempo blues and blues ballads (with an
occasional swing tune) during a long series of duets with guitarist Scrapper Blackwell. Carr’s singing style sometimes
recalls early Jimmy Rushing while his piano playing was among the most fluent and soulful of the blues-oriented
pianists of the era. Leroy Carr would certainly be better known today were it not for his early death which was partly
due to him being an alcoholic.
All of Leroy Carr’s recordings are on this pair of four-CD sets from the British JSP label (available from MVD
Distribution at www.mvdb2b.com). The first box, which covers 1928-34, has the first 95 of the Carr-Blackwell duets
including seven previously unreleased performances. Scrapper Blackwell, who joins Carr for a vocal duet on seven of
the numbers, was a very sympathetic acoustic guitarist whose supportive playing and occasional solos fit in perfectly
with Carr. While the music is best enjoyed one CD at a time, it contains plenty of highpoints and never gets tired nor
loses its enthusiasm.
Vol. 2 1934-1941, in its first two discs, has the final 49 Leroy Carr recordings (15 were previously unissued),
concluding with the ironic “Six Cold Feet In The Ground.” Josh White guests on some of the numbers on second guitar
and the last four selections feature Carr singing and playing piano unaccompanied. The remaining two CDs are a bit
unusual. One has a sampling of selections by singers Bumble Bee Slim and Little Bill Gaither. They are included
because both Slim and Gaither recorded tributes to Leroy Carr, they cover some of his songs, and the pianists
(including Honey Hill) play in a similar style to Carr. The last disc, called Friends Of Leroy Carr 1926-1940, is a grab-
bag of selections that often either influenced Carr or vice versa. Sippie Wallace (with Louis Armstrong), Roosevelt
Sykes, Tampa Red, Leadbelly, Lucille Bogan, Robert Johnson and Washboard Sam are among the many greats who
make appearances. Scrapper Blackwell concludes the program by singing “My Old Pal Blues” for his late friend.
Both of these superb boxes from the JSP label have the best sound quality possible and together make it possible for
one to hear the complete recordings of the immortal Leroy Carr.
Ted Brown Quartet
Live At Trumpets
Ted Brown (born in 1927), after stints on banjo and violin, began playing tenor when he was 14. A professional by
1945, he loved bebop from the start. After meeting Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz, Brown became a student of pianist
Lennie Tristano during 1948-55. He made his first recording in 1956 with pianist Ronnie Ball, worked and recorded
as a member of the Warne Marsh Quintet. Brown performed on a regular basis for decades despite often having a day
job. He stayed active as a saxophonist at least into 2012 and fortunately is still with us today at the age of 89.
Live At Trumpets has two previously unreleased live performances from 2006 and 2010. Brown is joined by pianist
Jon Easton, bassist Don Messina and drummer Bill Chattin on both occasions, displays the same cool tone as he did
back in the 1950s, and he does not show any decline in his playing or creativity. Brown stretches out on such
numbers as “Somebody Loves Me,’ “Relaxin’ At Camarillo,” “Broadway,” “When You’re Smiling” and
“Anthropology,” coming out with an endless supply of fertile ideas. Pianist Jon Easton, whose chord voicings and
general approach sound a bit like early 1950s Dave Brubeck, both challenges the saxophonist and complements him
while Messina and Chattin swing in support of the lead voices.
The music is consistently excellent, making Live At Trumpets (available from www.cadencejazzrecords.com)
recommended for bop and cool jazz fans.
Heads Of State
Four In One
Heads Of State is an all-star quartet comprised of four great veterans: altoist Gary Bartz, pianist Larry Willis, bassist
David Williams and drummer Al Foster. Those listeners who are into swinging hard bop need to know little more in
order to become interested in this CD.
The group performs inventive versions of such standards as Thelonious Monk’s “Four In One,” John Lewis’
“Milestones,” Miles Davis’ “Sippin’ At Bells” and “Freedom Jazz Dance.” Each of the musicians contributed one
original with Willis’ ballad “The Day You Said Goodbye” being particularly memorable, and they also stretch out at
length on Wayne Shorter’s “Dance Cadaverous.”
Suffice it to say that each of these masterful musicians is heard at their prime and they clearly inspire each other.
Four In One is highly recommended and available from www.smokesessionsrecords.com.
Cameron Graves is a very talented pianist, keyboardist and writer. Best known for his association with the West Coast
Get Down and his recent touring with Stanley Clarke, he utilizes his classical technique to create post bop jazz that is
open to aspects of fusion and rhythms from many sources including hip hop and funk. Planetary Prince is his first CD
as a leader.
The eight lengthy performances on Planetary Prince, which clock in between 7:29 and 13:39, are mostly multi-
sectioned works that keep one guessing. Graves is joined by either Hadrien Faraud or Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner
on electric bass, drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr., and occasionally up to three horns (including Kamasi Washington on
tenor). The bassists and drummer Bruner are tight and intuitive no matter how complex the rhythms, constantly
pushing Graves to play at his most fiery and creative. The sidemen have a few spots including Kamasi Washington
who takes fiery solos on “Adam & Eve” and “Isle Of Love,” but the main focus is on the keyboardist, who never plays
an obvious idea or sounds too much like any of his historic predecessors. He already has his own sound and approach.
This stimulating set, which launches Cameron Graves’ solo career, is a perfect example of creative 21st century jazz.
It is available from www.mackavenue.com.
A Social Call
At the 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Vocals Competition, Jazzmeia Horn was the winner while
Veronica Swift was the runner-up. Both of these young singers are very impressive performers as they show on their
Jazzmeia Horn, who has been part of the New York jazz scene since 2009, is the first artist to release a CD on the
revived Prestige label. A Social Call teams her with pianist Victor Gould, bassist Ben Williams, drummer Jerome
Jennings and, on half of the songs, tenor-saxophonist Stacy Dillard, trumpeter Josh Evans and trombonist Frank
Lacy. Ms. Horn, at 26, has a very attractive and flexible voice along with a wide range. She is already a superior scat-
Lots of time was clearly put into carefully choosing the material, some of which I will mention. Betty Carter’s “Tight”
has the singer emulating the composer, and her phrasing is reminiscent of early Carter on “East Of The Sun,”
certainly not a bad thing. Gigi Gryce’s “Social Call” is taken quite fast with Ben Williams contributing a rapid double-
time walking bass. Horn does not pay attention to those lyrics much but does a fine job on Jimmy Rowles’ haunting
“The Peacocks.” “People Make The World Go Round” is completely reinvented, and a unique medley of “Afro Blue,”
Horn’s “Eye See You” and “Wade In The Water” has storytelling, spacey sounds and plenty of adventure. A brief
version of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” becomes a cooking “Moanin'” (during which Horn really belts it out and scats
up a storm). The program concludes with the celebratory “I’m Going Down.” Jazzmeia Horn is exciting throughout
the CD. This is an early milestone during what will certainly be a significant career. A Social Call is available from
Veronica Swift has impeccable musical genes since she is the daughter of two major talents: singer Stephanie
Nakasian and the late pianist Hod O’Brien. A professional since at least the age of nine when she recorded her first CD
(with Richie Cole), she is now 22 and on the brink of greater success. On Lonely Woman she is joined by Matt Wigler,
Emmett Cohen or her father (two songs recorded shortly before his passing) on piano, bassist Daryl Johns and
drummer Scott Lewis. Two other songs are from 2013 with a different rhythm section including pianist Gene Knific.
This is a bop-oriented set with plenty of heated scatting and warm ballads. Veronica Swift, who really knows the
bebop vocabulary, is joined by her mother and singer Benny Bennack III. on Jon Hendricks’ words and vocalese to
Horace Silver’s “Room 608.” A high-powered Cole Porter medley of “It’s All Right With Me” and “Too Darn Hot,”
teams her again with Bennack who sounds like Mel Torme on the latter song. Even if Ms. Swift is a bit too young to be
singing “Something Cool,” her singing throughout this CD is fearless and stirring. Other highlights include a
melancholy version of Benny Carter’s “Lonely Woman,” the singer’s original ballad “Bisky,” an uptempo “Get Out Of
Town,” and Hod O’Brien’s “Hod House” which has Swift wordlessly singing lines influenced by Lee Konitz. “September
In The Rain,” which teams together father and daughter, includes vocalese penned by the singer based on a Lester
Young solo. Lonely Woman, a delight for bop lovers, is highly recommended and available from veraiconmusic.com.
There is certainly no shortage of talented female jazz singers around today. Veronica Smith and
Jazzmeia Horn are on their way to the top.
Left Right Left
A fixture in Southern California as a drummer and an educator, Tina Raymond makes her recording debut as a
leader on Left Right Left. The title of her CD has to do with the general political leanings of this country, with the two
coasts being generally liberal while the Republicans rule most of the central states.
While this is a purely instrumental trio set with pianist Art Lande and bassist Putter Smith, virtually all of the pieces
(other than Putter Smith’s two originals) originally had political meanings. Included are two songs by Woody Guthrie
and one apiece from Joni Mitchell (“The Fiddle And The Drum”), Joan Baez and Pete Seeger plus “America,” “Battle
Hymn Of The Republic” and “Lift Every Voice And Sing.”
“Battle Hymn” is interpreted with a dissonant treatment; the walking bass and drums give the music a militaristic
feel. “The usually cheerful “America” is dark, serious and utilizes modern harmonies. In contrast, “Lift Every Voice
And Sing” is joyful and “If I Had A Hammer” is relatively light-hearted.
Throughout the always-intriguing Left Right Left, the three musicians always bring out the best in each other. Art
Lande’s relaxed but adventurous piano is never predictable, bordering on the avant-garde at times while being
grounded and controlled. The always underrated Putter Smith (whose “Xxmas In Baghdad” is filled with colorful
development) is heard throughout at his most creative, reacting quickly to the other’s ideas and displaying
versatility in his patterns and musical moods.
As for the leader, Tina Raymond (who arranged six of the ten pieces) consistently creates colorful sounds which,
beyond the timekeeping and accents, add a lively feel to the music no matter what its theme. Her drum breaks and
solos always hold on to one’s attention and she always swings.
Left Right Left is easily recommended and available from www.orendarecords.com.
Fabio Giachino, a top Italian jazz pianist, has been leading his own trio since 2011. At the time that he recorded North
Clouds, the 30-year old Giachino was in Denmark. The set, which features eight of his originals plus Duke Ellington’s
“Azalea,” teams the pianist with up to four Danish musicians: bassist Matthias Flemming Petri, drummer Espen
LaubVon Lillienskjold, Paolo Russo on bandoneon for three songs and saxophonist Benjamin Koppel guesting on four.
North Clouds begins with tenderness as Giachino states the thoughtful melody of “My Journey.” The piece develops
and, as with the other selections, the trio’s close communication makes it sound like this unit has been together for
years. “Poetto’s Wind” has Giachino and altoist Koppel (who has a large and attractive tone) whipping through the
tricky melody effortlessly and making passionate statements. The uptempo piece is filled with fire and really cooks,
climaxing with Von Lillienskjold’s drum breaks over the closing theme. “The Plane Is Late” begins quite free with
percussive sounds made by the rhythm section and Paolo Russo on bandoneon. It soon becomes a sophisticated and
attractive Spanish jazz waltz that is worthy of Chick Corea.
“Dancing Swan,” which has a quirky cat-and-mouse theme, puts the spotlight on Giachino’s trio, displaying the
pianist’s original style and chord voicings in a modern post-bop context. “Charlottelund Beach,” the only
performance with both Koppel (who is on soprano) and Russo, is a dramatic piece that is quite haunting. “North
Clouds,” a jazz waltz that uses repetition creatively in its melody, has one of the strongest piano solos of the project
along with statements from the other members of the trio. “Dreaming Waltz,” which lives up to its title, is an
excellent feature for Russo with the trio while “Lover Stay Away” (based on “Lover Come Back To Me”) has altoist
Koppel and Giachino excelling at the rapid tempo. North Clouds concludes with a tasteful rendition of Duke Ellington’
s rarely-played “Azalea.”
North Clouds (available from www.toskyrecords.com) is an excellent introduction to both the playing and writing of
Steve Carr & Alan Oldfield
The Day The Funk Man Turned Green
Reed master Steve Carr and pianist Alan Oldfield are longtime musical friends. Both are studio musicians who have
appeared on a countless number of sessions with Carr heard frequently in Southern California jazz venues.
On The Day the Funk Man Turned Green, Carr (doubling on alto and tenor) and Oldfield perform 11 originals (six by
the pianist and five from Carr) with a group that also includes either Justin Morrell, Steve Cornelli, John Kurnick or
Rick Fleishman on guitar, Bruce Lett, Kevin Axt or Eric Stiller on bass, and M.B. Gordy or Henry Newmark on drums.
Since these musicians can play literally anything in any style, it is fun to hear what they came up with. The
program begins with the title cut, a funky melody that introduces Carr’s high-powered tenor over the assertive
rhythm section. “Uncle Jim” and “Sultry” are both blues-based compositions that feature the rockish guitar of Steve
Cornelli who plays quite passionately. “Uncle Jim” is a minor-toned piece that also includes a spirited solo from Carr
on alto while “Sultry” has an inventive piano improvisation by Oldfield that takes the music a bit outside.
“Impressions Of Red” is an uptempo piece with complex chord changes that are a little reminiscent of John Coltrane.
The bluish ballad “When Da Blues Get Da Blues” has some preaching alto from Carr while “No Thanks,” a blues that
includes a two-bar extension, features excellent solos from Carr, Morrell and Oldfield along with a brief spot for bassist
Bruce Lett. The other performances include the brooding ballad “Descent,” the funky “Stayin’ Right,” the calypso feel
of “Kona Coral,” the harmonically advanced strut “Bright Side,” and the jazz waltz “Winter Dreams.”
The Day The Funk Man Turned Green is filled with lively and unpredictable solos, colorful ensembles and plenty of
variety. This fine CD (available from www.stevecarrmusic.com) is easily recommended.
Guitarist Shea Welsh has had extensive careers as a sideman, a studio musician, and an educator at USC. Welsh
displays a lot of variety on Arrival, his recording debut as a leader. The music ranges from jazz to r&b and World
Music. Most of the songs utilize a core group with pianist-keyboardist Cameron Graves, bassist Edwin Livingston and
drummer Abe Lagrimas, Jr. While Welsh varies his sound to fit the music, his own musical personality consistently
Arrival leads off with “Sancho T. Panza,” a Spanish piece that evolves into a Spanish fusion piece that is reminiscent
of the first part of Chick Corea’s “La Fiesta.” Welsh’s rockish playing on this selection is worthy of Al DiMeola. “Slowly
Falling” is the first of two vocal pieces that put the focus on Michelle Coltrane’s soulful singing. Welsh is in the
spotlight on Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” playing all of the instruments (acoustic guitar, electric guitar and a
background keyboard) during his melodic and respectful treatment. Michelle Coltrane’s other feature, “Out Of The
Shadows,” develops a catchy r&bish groove. Changing moods and styles, “Baltimore’s Lament” is a medium-slow
blues with a sextet that includes a fine trumpet solo from Dontae Winslow and grooving organ from Ron Jerome
The last four numbers cover many idioms. The childlike folk melody of “Kuna Vala Song – Panama’s Triumph”
celebrates Panama’s rain forests. Yulineth Castillo has the vocal, Graves plays a particularly powerful piano solo, and
Welsh in his improvisation displays an airy sound a little reminiscent of Pat Metheny. “Moonlight In Vermont” is an
unaccompanied solo guitar showcase that is melodic and pretty yet inventive. “Sweet Pea” has the quartet on a
medium-tempo piece that is straight ahead and a little Monkish. Welsh hints at John Scofield as he creates a
fascinating solo full of unexpected twists and turns. The final selection, “Time,” features a haunting and emotional
vocal by Tomi Townsend.
Arrival, which is available from www.blujazz.com, is a high-quality set from beginning to end, and an excellent
introduction to the colorful playing of Shea Welsh.
And His Friends
In Sept. 1967, altoist Lee Konitz recorded Duets, a set of encounters with a variety of jazz musicians from different
styles. Trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, a remarkable player who mastered multiphonics (playing chords) on his
instrument, started his career in straight ahead jazz before becoming an innovator in avant-garde jazz. On six
selections recorded between Dec. 1967 and May 1969, he followed Konitz’s example (without knowing of the other
project) and coincidentally recorded duets of his own, including one with the altoist.
On this reissue CD, Mangelsdorff matches wits and creativity on one song apiece with trumpeter Don Cherry (the
playful “I Dig It – You Dig It’), drummer Elvin Jones, vibraphonist Karl Berger, guitarist Attila Zoller, pianist
Wolfgang Dauner, and Lee Konitz himself (the cool bop piece “Al-Lee”). While the music is sometimes free, it is also
tied to the tradition and makes use of both space and melodic ideas.
The results are tasteful, subtle and full of surprises. Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends is available from www.mps-