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Los Angeles Jazz Scene - CD Reviews
                   
June 2016
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Various Artists
Nederlands Fabrikaat – Hot Jazz & Swing 1926-1947
(Doctor Jazz)
       
Many jazz history books overlook pre-1950 European jazz other than Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.
However there was a great deal of rewarding jazz to be found overseas once recordings became widely available in the
early 1920s. While few European jazz artists other than Reinhardt and Grappelli would be considered innovators at
that early stage, a lot of enjoyable and swinging music was recorded in Europe even if much of it is quite obscure
today.
       
Hot Jazz & Swing, which has been compiled by the label run by the Doctor Jazz magazine (www.doctorjazz.nl) from
the Netherlands, has performances by Dutch bands that are well worth hearing. Despite the liner notes being in
Dutch and most of the bands and musicians being unknown to American listeners, these performances are
consistently rewarding. Other than a primitive but lively performance of “Stomp Off, Let’s Go” from 1926, a heated
piano solo by Joop De Leur of a Zez Confrey novelty ragtime number recorded in 1927, and two recordings from 1945-
47, the performances date from 1934-43. One can hear the evolution of the music from dance bands to Benny
Goodman, from Glenn Miller to forward-looking swing. The only Americans who appear are the great tenor-
saxophonist Coleman Hawkins (featured on an alternate take of “Dear Old Southland”) and pianist Freddy Johnson.
But such bands as the Ramblers, trumpeter Louis De Vries’ Rhythm Boys, and the Miller Sextet are among those who
hold their own with their American counterparts of the era. In addition, accordionist Mat Mathews (who led an
American group with the young Herbie Mann in the 1950s) is featured on one of his first recordings.
       
Even listeners who are serious collectors of European Swing will be aware of very few of these performances. Out of
the 25 numbers, 19 were previously unreleased and one is taken from a radio aircheck. Nederlands Fabrikaat is filled
with two dozen little-known jazz treasures that will delight swing fans.


Bill Evans
Some Other Time
(Resonance)

       
Zev Feldman and the Resonance label have done it again. The music on this two-CD set was not only previously
unreleased but was known to very few. In 1968, pianist Bill Evans, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack
DeJohnette recorded an album for the MPS label that was unaccountably forgotten, sitting in the vaults unheard for
more than 45 years. There was nothing wrong with its musical and technical qualities, so why this music was
discarded remains a mystery. Through the diligence of Feldman and a few others, it is being heard at last.
       
Jack DeJohnette was only a member of the Evans Trio for around six months and just recorded a single live album
with the group. His role with the trio was similar to that of other drummers such as Paul Motian, Elliot Zigmund and
Marty Morell, adding color and quiet creativity to the group while being very much in the background. The main
action is the constant interaction between Evans and Gomez, with the bassist being heard early during his decade-
long association with Evans The pianist emphasizes chords a bit more than usual during some of his solos but his style
is as recognizable as always as he both caresses the melodies and creates sophisticated variations.
       
In addition to the originally planned album (which takes up the first disc), there is a second CD of equally rewarding
material, only some of which are alternate takes. Among the many highlights of the 21 performances are exploration
of “What Kind Of Fool Am I,” “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” “Turn Out The Stars,” You’re Gonna Hear From Me” and
“On Green Dolphin Street.”
       
And typically for a Resonance release, the 40-page booklet, which tells the full story of this major discovery and
includes interviews with Gomez and DeJohnette, is definitive. Some Other Time, available from www.
resonancerecords.org, is highly recommended, one of several historically and musically significant Resonance
packages that have been released during the past year.


Ken Peplowski
Enrapture
(Capri)

       
A brilliant clarinetist and a talented tenor-saxophonist, Ken Peplowski has been a major force in the small-group
swing movement since first coming to prominence in the 1980s. He has his own sound on his instruments and, rather
than recreating earlier styles and approaches, most of his recordings have been creative within the context of
straight ahead jazz.
       
Enrapture features Peplowski in a quartet with pianist Ehud Asherie, bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt
Wilson. The repertoire is quite wide-ranging with the ten pieces including Duke Ellington’s obscure “The Flaming
Sword,” numbers by John Lennon, Noel Coward, Herbie Nichols (the complex title cut) and Peter Erskine, Fats Waller’
s “Willow Tree” and a couple of movie themes. Peplowski’s playing throughout is melodic, swinging and consistently
inventive with the rhythm section being quite supportive.
       
All of Ken Peplowski’s recordings have their moments of interest and Enrapture is an excellent example of his ability
to create musical from explore an unlikely repertoire. It is recommended and available from www.caprirecords.com.


Noah Preminger
Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground
(Self-Released)

       
Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground is one of the more unusual jazz recordings of the past year. Tenor and
soprano-saxophonist Noah Preminger teams up with trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass and drummer Ian
Froman to perform jazz versions of vintage country blues classics by the likes of Willie Johnson, Skip James, Richard
M. Jones (“Trouble In Mind”), Booker T. White, Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson.
       
The quartet’s treatments range from reverent versions of some of the themes to free bop explorations that recall the
early Ornette Coleman Quartet. Whether wailing the blues on “Trouble In Mind” or sounding more laidback on “Love
In Vain,” Preminger and Palmer are in top form during their expressive solos and their often-fiery interplay with
each other. Cass has several strutting bass solos and Froman’s drumming is subtle yet stimulating.
       
This unlikely program, which is available from www.noahpreminger.com, is full of surprises and inspired
interpretations that give 21st century interpretations to ancient blues themes without losing their essence.


Yellowjackets
Cohearance
(Mack Avenue)

       
It is difficult to believe that the Yellowjackets are nearly 40 years old. A popular jazz group that has at times been
inaccurately categorized as “fusion,” “contemporary jazz” or even “smooth,” the Yellowjackets have long been in
their own musical category. Their music generally grooves and sometimes utilizes melodies reminiscent of Weather
Report at its most accessible but the Yellowjackets have had their own sound since near the beginning of their musical
evolution.
       
The current version of the group consists of original member Russell Ferrante on keyboards, saxophonist Bob Mintzer,
drummer William Kennedy and their new bassist Dane Alderson. On Cohearance, they perform five originals by
Ferrante, three from Mintzer, a theme by Kennedy and the folk song “Shenandoah.” “Guarded Optimism,” which
alternates between two tempos and is quite infectious, “Trane Changing” (a relative of “Giant Steps”) and Mintzer’s
straight ahead “Child’s Play” are among the highpoints. Other memorable selections include the forward-looking
“Golden State,” the funky “Inevitable Outcome” and Mintzer’s fluent soprano playing on “Coherence.”
       
Throughout Cohearance, the Yellowjackets feature inventive post bop solos (mostly by Ferrante and Mintzer with a
few spots for Alderson), colorful ensembles and often-catchy compositions. Longtime fans and those who have not
heard the group in recent times are advised to pick up the Yellowjackets’ Cohearance which is available from www.
mackavenue.com.


Hendrik Meurkens
Harmonicus Rex
(Height Advantage)

       
The history of the chromatic harmonica in jazz can be summed up in three names: Larry Adler, Toots Thielemans
and Hendrik Meurkens. Few others have mastered the small but difficult instrument, particularly when it comes to
playing bebop. With the retirement of Thielemans, with just a few exceptions, Meurkens practically has the field to
himself.
       
Harmonicus Rex is one of Hendrik Meurkens’ finest recordings. Joined by pianist Dado Moroni, bassist Marco
Panascia, drummer Jimmy Cobb and, on four songs apiece, either trumpeter Joe Magnarelli or Anders Bostrom on
alto flute, Meurkens is heard in a bop-oriented setting. He contributes five straight ahead originals and also performs
such standards as Milt Jackson’s “SKJ,” “Falling In Love With Love,” “Up Jumped Spring” and “Darn That Dream.”
His harmonica blends in well with Bostrom’s flute, interacts with the fiery Magnarelli, and is showcased during three
quartet numbers.
       
Throughout Harmonicus Rex, Hendrik Meurkens improvises with the ease and flexibility of a saxophonist. This set,
available from www.hendrikmeurkens.com, is a consistent joy.
   

Ferit Odman
Dameronia With Strings
(Equinox Music)

       
Tadd Dameron was one of the top composers and arrangers to emerge from the bebop era. Although he only lived to be
48, passing away in 1965, he left behind quite a few superior originals that have inspired jazz artists through the
years.
       
It is a measure of Dameron’s consistently high quality that one of his best known songs, “Hot House,” is not included
on this CD. Turkish drummer Ferit Odman organized a memorable set which utilizes the arrangements of David O’
Rourke for a core quartet with trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist Danny Grissett and bassist Peter Washington and a
string sextet comprised of three violins, one viola and two cellos. Dameron wrote for strings on an occasional basis
through his career and his arrangements for Blue Mitchell’s Smooth As The Wind album are cited as a major
inspiration for this project.
       
O’Rourke’s writing for eight Dameron songs is very much in Tadd’s style, with the strings often being a subtle part of
the background. Stafford is the solo star and in top form throughout. Such songs as “On A Misty Night,” the classic
ballad “If You Could See Me Now,” “Our Delight” and “Soultrane” receive inspired treatments during the tasteful and
swinging set.
       
Tadd Dameron would have enjoyed this CD which is available from www.equinox-music.com.


Derek Brown
Beatbox Sax
(Self-Released)

Tony D’Aveni
Alone With Duke
(Iztone)

       
While most unaccompanied CDs by horn players tend to be avant-garde sound explorations, these two manage to be
both unusual and closer to the mainstream.
       
Beatbox Sax is a remarkable CD by tenor-saxophonist Derek Brown. The Chicago-based musician has developed
phenomenal technique on the saxophone that lets him become a one-man band without using any overdubbing.
Brown utilizes slap-tonguing, circular breathing, a wide interest in musical styles and dazzling coordination. He
embraces both melodies and catchy rhythms to create music that is quite accessible yet almost impossible to imagine
being performed. Like Bobby McFerrin, who could sound like three singers at once during his solo concerts, Brown
takes care of the melody, harmonies and rhythms simultaneously. He alternates between notes and percussive
clicking sounds with occasional honks and roars. And as if that is not enough of a challenge, on a few of the numbers
he also sings while making rhythms on his sax both with his hand and by jumping back on the horn between words.
Somehow he manages to sound relaxed while doing all of this simultaneously, sounding natural and never
gimmicky. How does he manage to create so many parts without getting lost?
       
Beatbox Sax (Brown’s term for his concept) has 14 performances that range from funky originals to “I Got Rhythm,”
Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1” and “Air On The G String,” “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,”
“Stand By Me” and even Justin Bieber’s “Baby” (which he turns into a complex rhythmic vamp). The packaging is
basic and would have benefitted from liner notes, but the music is often stunning. To see Derek Brown performing a
few of these songs, look at his clips on You Tube, especially “Stand By Me.” While he does not sound like either of them,
one can certainly imagine Eddie Harris and Rahsaan Roland Kirk loving this highly recommended and innovative
recording which is available from www.derekbrownsax.com.
       
While being a little more conventional, Alone With Duke is also unique. How many trumpeters have recorded an
unaccompanied album of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn songs? Tony D’Aveni, a versatile and skilled player,
does utilize some overdubbing to occasionally form brass choirs but many of his 15 performances have just a single
trumpet. He uses mutes on some numbers, displays a very wide range, keeps the melodies in mind, and comes up
with some consistently fresh and concise variations with only four of the renditions being over three minutes. His
versions of such songs as “Take The ‘A’ Train” (which is heard twice), “Cottontail,” “African Flower,” “If You Were In
My Place” and “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” are all very different than previous recordings and they contain plenty of
surprises. Tony D’Aveni’s Alone With Duke (available from www.tonydaveni.webs.com) is well worth acquiring.


Richie Cole
Pittsburgh
(RCP)

       
Richie Cole is one of the top bebop-oriented jazz musicians to emerge during the past 50 years. While the altoist
remains best known for his 1970s and ‘80s recordings for the Muse label, he is still quite active and very much in his
musical prime. After a period living in Los Angeles, followed by short stays in San Antonio, Las Vegas, Chicago and
Trenton, he has settled in Pittsburgh where he has become part of an active and viable jazz scene.
       
Pittsburgh teams the altoist with top local players: Jeff Lashway or Patrick Whitehead on piano, guitarist Mark
Lucas, Jeff Grubbs or Mark Perna on bass, drummer Reid Hoyson, and George Jones on congas. They perform three of
Cole’s originals and five standards which typically include some offbeat material including “Flying Down To Rio” and
“Tomorrow.”
       
This CD mostly consists of performances taken at relaxed medium-tempos plus a few ballads. While the program
would have benefitted from the inclusion of some real cookers, Cole’s double-time lines and passionate playing make
the music quite vital. The highpoint of the set is his lengthy exploration of “I’ll Be Seeing You” which is full of plenty
of inventive ideas and honest emotions.
       
Pittsburgh features Richie Cole at the top of his game. It is available from www.richiecole.com.


Charles Lloyd & The Marvels
I Long To See You
(Blue Note)

       
Charles Lloyd’s second recording for the Blue Note label is a bit different than his long series of quartet albums for
ECM. The veteran tenor-saxophonist and flutist is joined by guitarist Bill Frisell, steel guitarist Greg Leisz, bassist
Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. Their laidback music is very much in the style of Frisell’s often-wistful
and relaxed Americana recordings. While Lloyd is generally the lead voice, the melodic performances put an
emphasis on the ensemble and group interplay with some of the music leaning close to country and folk music at
times while always containing the improvising of jazz.
       
The repertoire is quite intriguing. Lloyd contributed three songs including revivals of his earlier pieces “Of Course, Of
Course” and “Sombrero Sam.” The group also performs four traditional melodies (best known are “Shenandoah” and
“Abide With Me”), a jam on Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War” and guest vocal features for Willie Nelson (“Last Night I
Had The Strangest Dream”) and Norah Jones (an uneventful version of Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful”).
       
Charles Lloyd contributes some beautiful playing on tenor and flute and gets to stretch out on both horns a bit during
the lengthy “Barche Lamsel.” However this is a bit of a departure for him and will be of strongest interest to those
who particularly enjoy Bill Frisell’s atmospheric projects.


Tony Messina
Send In The Clowns
(Heart To Heart)

       
A talented singer of jazz and vintage pop, Tony Messina is also a television and film actor. Send In The Clowns, his
11th CD for his Heart to Heart label, starts out with a rather unusual performance. Messina, who had the
opportunity to sing with Stan Kenton many years ago, recently heard the Kenton big band’s recording of “Send In
The Clowns” and noticed that it was in his key and left plenty of logical places for him to sing. He contacted the
Creative World label and gained permission to overdub his voice over the recording, giving him an opportunity to
sing once again with Stan Kenton. Despite the difference in years, the recording sounds very much as if he was
performing live with Kenton.
       
In addition to that leadoff number, this CD has a dozen selections in which the singer is joined by a swinging
trio/quartet with pianist Irwin Solomon, bassist Ed DeMatteo, drummer John Hayman and occasionally Paul Chafin
on tenor and flute. Throughout the set, Tony Messina displays a warm and expressive voice, his own appealing
phrasing, perfect placement of notes, and a strong understanding of the lyrics that he interprets.
       
Tony Messina contributes three colorful originals and excels on such numbers as a scat-filled version of “I Love You,”
“I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” (which has a spot for Chafin’s Stan Getz-inspired tenor), “The Look Of Love” and
“That Old Black Magic.”
       
Fans of warm and swinging vocalists will enjoy Send In The Clowns, which is available from www.tonymessina.com.


Forrest Westbrook
The Remarkable
(Fresh Sound)

       
Forrest Westbrook (1927-2014), a very skilled bop-based pianist, almost missed being documented altogether. His
only official recordings were a few records in which he was buried in Si Zentner’s big band (1960-61), an appearance
on electric piano in 1968 on an obscure Gil Melle album, and his own adventurous quartet session for the Revelation
label in 1969 (This Is Their Time, Oh Yes).  While Westbrook can be seen on a couple of clips with the Lighthouse All-
Stars on You Tube from 1962, otherwise until recently he was completely lost to history despite only passing away
two years ago at the age of 86.
       
Westbrook was just not all that interested in recording although he remained an active performer in San Diego until
near the end of his life. Through some fortunate circumstances, his daughter discovered many tapes of her father
playing at private sessions and contacted writer Marc Myers who soon told Jordi Pujol of Fresh Sound Records. Last
year, Fresh Sound released a very good CD by trumpeter Carmell Jones that was drawn from the tapes and features
Westbrook. Now this new CD showcases the pianist on five numbers from 1958 in a trio with bassist Bill Plummer and
drummer Maurice Miller plus one selection with a quintet from 1960.
       
The trio numbers are consistently exciting. Only one of the performances is under nine minutes and, although there
are brief spots for Plummer and some tradeoffs with Miller, the focus throughout is on the pianist. While one can hear
hints at times of Horace Silver, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly and early Bill Evans, those are generally just brief
passages. By 1958, Forrest Westbrook had developed an adventurous voice of his own within the modern mainstream
of late 1950s jazz. While his playing would continue to evolve into freer areas during the 1960s, he already had a
mature style. A particularly highpoint is his lengthy exploration of the medium-tempo Charlie Parker blues “Buzzy”
and he is also in top form digging into such songs as “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,’ “In Your Own Sweet Way”
and Cole Porter’s “I Love You.” The quintet selection, an original called “Effa,” matches Westbrook with trumpeter
Dick Hurwitz, tenor-saxophonist Dave Madden, drummer Bill Schwemmer and the young but very promising bassist
Gary Peacock.
       
The Remarkable Forrest Westbrook is a major new find that rescues the pianist from being completely forgotten by
the jazz world. It is highly recommended and available from www.freshsoundrecords.com