A Tribute To Paul Desmond
Todd Bishop Group
Little Played Little Bird
These two otherwise unrelated CDs feature tributes to major alto-saxophonists.
On his release from Primrose Lane (available from www.brucebabad.com), Bruce Babad manages the difficult feat of capturing Paul
Desmond’s sound, style and wit much of the time. Occasionally he sounds closer to Phil Woods but generally he is purposely cast in the role
of a Desmond soundalike. Babad, performing in a quintet also including guitarist Larry Koonse, pianist Ed Czach, bassist Luther Hughes
and drummer Steve Barrios, interprets three Desmond originals (including “Take Five”), two of his own songs (“Jan” and “B-A-B-A-D”),
four standards that Desmond liked to play and Mr. Rogers’ “It’s You I Like.” Koonse (who occasionally recalls Jim Hall a little) and Czach
(sounding nothing like Dave Brubeck) contribute concise and creative solos. On such pieces as “Line For Lyons,” “When Sunny Gets Blue,”
“Wendy” and “Desmond Blue,” Bruce Babad brings back the spirit of the much missed Paul Desmond, making this a set easily
recommended to cool bop fans.
Drummer Todd Bishop and his quintet with Robert Cole (bass clarinet, baritone, tenor and soprano), Tim Willcox (tenor and soprano),
keyboardist Weber Iago, and bassist Bill Athens, pay tribute not so much to Ornette Coleman’s style and sound but to his compositions. Of
the eight songs, only “Lonely Woman” (Coleman’s greatest hit but taken in a different direction than usual) has been performed much
since being debuted by the altoist up to 55 years ago. The lack of an alto and trumpet allows the quintet to get a bit of distance from
Ornette Coleman’s recordings, as does the utilization of Iago’s Fender Rhodes. The music is explored on its own terms. Ranging from free
bop romps to lyrical ballad statements, with the highpoints including spirited renditions of “Friends And Neighbors” and “Check Up,”
these fresh and adventurous interpretations cast new light on Ornette Coleman’s songs. Little Played Little Bird is easily recommended
and available from www.origin-records.com.
(Dan McB Music)
This album definitely lives up to its title. Daniel McBrearty, a middle-aged clarinetist from Belgium, was motivated to record Clarinet
Swing after spending time visiting and playing in New Orleans in 2011. Back home, he utilized pianist Dirk Van der Linden and (on six of
the nine selections) bassist Jean Van Lint for this intimate session.
McBrearty performs six standards including a swinging “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” and lyrical versions of “Body And Soul’ and
“Skylark.” He also introduces three of his own originals of which “March Of The Bluestones” has a particularly catchy theme. His clarinet
sound and style, while falling easily into the swing genre, does not sound like a copy of any of his historical predecessors, instead sounding
fresh and personal. Van der Linden and Van Lint are tasteful in support of the leader.
The results are tasty and easy to enjoy. This recommended set is available from www.danmcb.com.
Clare Fischer Orchestra
(International Phonograph Inc.)
Back in 1963, Clare Fischer was 34, had arranged for the Hi-Lps, written for the Dizzy Gillespie album A Portrait Of Duke Ellington, and
the previous year recorded two trio dates that included some early bossa novas. Extension was his first recording as the leader-arranger-
composer of his own orchestra. It had been out of print for many years until producer Jonathan Horwich and International Phonograph,
Inc. (www.internationalphonographinc.com) recently brought it back. The only reservation that I have to this otherwise perfectly
conceived reissue is that in order to read the original liner notes (which are reproduced twice), one needs a magnifying glass!
This relatively brief set (which clocks in around a half-hour) has quite a bit of vital music. The eight Fischer originals swing in their own
way and hint in spots at Claude Thornhill and Gil Evans yet are quite original and distinctive. Fischer utilizes eight woodwinds, three
French horns, trombone, bass trombone, tuba, vibes, bass, drums and his own piano and organ on four of the selections. The other
numbers have similar instrumentation except with five reeds and no tuba. The only soloists are Fischer and the cool-toned tenor-
saxophonist and bass clarinetist Jerry Coker.
The music is consistently fascinating, whether it is “Ornithardy,“ “Igor,” the classical-oriented “Passacaglia” or the Latinish “Canto
Africano.” Repeated listenings bring out hidden beauty and allow one to fully appreciate the innovative writing. Clare Fischer, just a
month before his recent death, wrote “I have never worried about my works standing the test of time because none of them were written
with an expiration date in mind.” 49 years after its original release, Extension still sounds fresh and unpredictable.
Echoes Of Indiana Avenue
Duke Robillard Jazz Trio
Word Of Ear
Echoes Of Indiana Avenue is a major release. The previously unreleased music features guitarist Wes Montgomery during 1957-58, about
the time that he recorded his first significant performances for Pacific Jazz. It was just prior to his discovery by Cannonball Adderley
which led to him signing with Riverside and becoming famous in the jazz world. Montgomery is heard in Indianapolis clubs performing
with three different rhythm sections and sounding quite recognizable. “Straight No Chaser” teams him with his brothers pianist Buddy
Montgomery and bassist Monk Montgomery. The other selections have him joined by either pianist Earl Van Riper or Mel Rhyne on piano
or organ plus bassist Mingo Jones and either Sonny Johnson or Paul Parker on drums. In addition to such songs as “Nica’s Dream,” “Take
The ‘A’ Train” and “Body & Soul,” most unusual is “After Hours Blues.” On that track, Montgomery sounds like a lowdown blues player,
playing with a funkier tone than he ever used on his recordings, making the performance perfect for a blindfold test. George Klabin and
the Resonance label (with the assistance of Michael Cuscuna) has done a perfect job of presenting this priceless material, which will be
wanted by all Wes Montgomery fans. It is available from www.resonancerecords.org.
Duke Robillard, perhaps best known for his founding of Roomful Of Blues and his work in the blues field, has always loved playing swinging
jazz. On Wobble Walkin,’” he is very much in the spotlight. Joined by bassist Brad Hallen and drummer Mark Teixeria, both of whom take
consistently colorful solos along the way, Robillard performs nine standards and four basic originals. On such tunes as “Wobble Walkin’”
(where he at first sounds a bit like Wes Montgomery), “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me,” “All Of Me,” “Indiana” and “You’d Be
So Nice To Come Home To,” he shows that there is a lot of life to found in swing tunes. He plays creatively within the older styles rather
than trying to copy one of the historic greats, and his ideas are fresh and joyful. An extra bonus is the fine singer Mickey Freeman’s guest
spot on “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You.” This fine set is available from www.blueduchessrecords.com.
An adventurous modern jazz guitarist, Wolfgang Schalk was born and raised in Austria. An early guitar hero was Wes Montgomery.
Schalk was a studio musician in Vienna, led his own groups, and made his first album as a leader in 1993. Since that time he has been
based in both Los Angeles and New York. On Word Of Ear, he is the head of an excellent quartet also featuring either Helen Sung or George
Whitty on piano, bassist Michael Valerio and drummer Tom Brechtlein. A very fluent guitarist (perfectly at ease at rapid tempos) who
also has an expressive sound, he introduces a set of originals (plus one standard) that include several pieces that have particularly
rewarding chord changes. Schalk’s solos are heated yet relaxed and they build logically. Word Of Ear, which is easily recommended (and
available from www.wolfgangschalk.com), is perhaps most notable for having one of the very few uptempo versions ever of “’Round
Midnight.” Incidentally, Wolfgang Schalk will be appearing each Thursday night in May at the Bang Theatre (457 N. Fairfax Avenue).
For more information call 323-653-6886 or look at www.bangstudio.com.
Ernest (EC3) Coleman
Her Eyes At Sunset
(Rhythm Universal Records)
Throughout Her Eyes At Sunset, drummer Ernest EC3 Coleman is a most genial and generous host. Although he takes a couple of concise
solos along the way and contributes two songs, Coleman is mostly content to accompany his musicians.
The CD can easily be divided into three. A few of the selections feature the very skilled tenor-saxophonist and flutist Sam Skelton.
Particularly on “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes,” the passionate Skelton shows that he has the potential to be a major player. A few of
the numbers showcase pianist Jose Manuel Garcia in a trio, including a lengthy exploration of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me, and
he is also a strong talent. There are also a features for singers Clynt Hyson (who is the set’s director and arranger), Chantae Cann and Alex
Lattimore. While pleasant, in general the vocalists are not on the same level as the musicians.
However there are plenty of bright moments to be heard on Her Eyes At Sunset to make Ernest Coleman’s CD well worth searching for. It
is available from www.rhythmuniversalrecords.com.
(Plastic Sax Records)
Chaography is an adventurous jazz film currently in progress by Doug Chang that will be comprised of fictional but true-to-life stories
based loosely on Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman. Real jazz musicians will be
portraying on-screen and musically the five greats. Ted Nash is cast as Ornette Coleman’s character, which is named Plastic Sax.
The Creep has Nash and his pianoless quartet with trumpeter Ron Horton, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Ulysses Owens performing
nine songs from the film. Seven are by the leader and there are one apiece from Sherman Irby and Coleman (“Kaleidoscope”). Although
Nash has a different and more conventional tone on alto than Ornette Coleman, he and his quartet often sound like a logical outgrowth of
Coleman’s 1959-61 quartet. Their brand of free bop is complementary to Ornette’s, with the two horns challenging each other while
Sikivie and Owens keep the music from ever becoming too comfortable or predictable.
Such pieces as “Burnt Toast And Avocado,” “Plastic Sax Rumble” and “Cabin Fever” are dramatic, cinematic, and strong vehicles for the
fine playing of these musicians. The Creep, available from www.tednash.com, features Ted Nash at his best.
Sounds Of Space
A brilliant young pianist who escaped from Cuba a few years ago, Alfredo Rodriguez recently released his long awaited American debut
recording. The 11 selections on Sounds Of Space hold together as a type of suite, covering many moods and melodic ideas. While mostly
heard in a trio (with either Gaston Joya or Peter Slavov on bass and Michael Olivera or Francisco Mela on drums and/or percussion), and
assisted on five songs by the reeds of Ernesto Vega, Rodriguez is in the spotlight throughout, and all 11 selections are his.
Most memorable are the fiery “Cu-Bop,” the haunting “April,” the Monkish blues “Oxygen” and the dramatic “Crossing The Border.” The
closing “Fog” adds the Santa Cecilia Quartet (comprised of flute, oboe, French horn and bassoon) to the group. Although sometimes
compared to Chucho Valdes and Keith Jarrett, on this very impressive outing, Alfredo Rodriguez sounds like no one but himself. He clearly
has a great future. This continually intriguing set is highly recommended and available from www.mackavenue.com.
Pianist Romain Collin’s The Calling is mostly a trio outing but with a slight curve ball. In addition to bassist Luques Curtis and drummer
Kendrick Scott, with guitarist John Shannon added on three tracks (two of which also include cellist Adrian Daurov), Collin also provides
his own “programming” as a flavor in the background on some of the selections. Fortunately the electronics are mostly subtle if generally
unnecessary, giving the music more of an orchestral feel without taking away from Collins’ fine piano playing.
The music on The Calling is melodic, mostly restrained, brooding (particularly on the ballads) and thoughtful. All of the songs except for
John Mayer’s “Stop This Train” and Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream” (which is given a light funk beat) are by the pianist. While he is a
better pianist than composer at this point, The Calling (available from www.palmetto-records.com) holds one’s interest and is thought
During the past 20 years, trombonist Steve Turre has recorded one colorful gem after another, many for the High Note label. Woody’s
Delight is a tribute to trumpeter Woody Shaw, with whom Turre played throughout much of the 1980s. It is a different type of tribute for
none of Shaw’s songs are performed, nor is all of the music in the modal/postbop area that Shaw favored. But Turre brings back the
trumpet-trombone frontline of many of Shaw’s albums in quintets (with percussionists added on three tunes) and the five trumpeters who
take turns are all worthy of this set.
The first two numbers (“Woody’s Delight” and “Something For Sweets”) with Jon Faddis are so strong and spirited that one wishes that
Faddis were on more songs. However Wallace Roney does well on two straight ahead selections, Claudio Roditi is fiery, veteran 83-year old
Chocolate Armenteros is ragged but right on “Manny’s Mambo” (which has Turre spending part of the time on conch shells), and 35-year
old Freddie Hendrix fits right in on the final two selections, showing that he deserves to be much better known. With either Xavier Davis
or Luis Perdomo on piano anchoring the rhythm section, Steve Turre is heard in prime form, both as a trombonist, a songwriter (he wrote
all but one tune) and an inspiring bandleader.
This recommended set is available from High Note (www.jazzdepot.com).
Chick Corea is a wonder. At 70 he continues doing what he has done for the past 40 years: create a dizzying number of high-quality
projects. One can think of the Five Peace Band with guitarist John McLaughlin, his duets with vibraphonist Gary Burton, the work with
Stanley Clarke and Lenny White as the trio Forever, or his recent tour with the fourth version of Return To Forever, and that does not
even sum up his recent activities. Throughout it all, the pianist-keyboardist-composer approaches each project with a youthful
enthusiasm and a constant flow of creative ideas.
The Continents and Further Explorations are both two-CD sets that add to Corea’s legacy. The first disc of The Continents has Corea and his
quintet with Tim Garland (soprano sax, bass clarinet and flute), trombonist Steve Davis, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Marcus
Gilmore) joined by a string orchestra. They perform Corea’s six-piece work with each movement being named after a continent. While the
music of “Africa” does not necessarily sound African, or that of “Asia” seem Asian, this complex suite, which leaves space for solos by
Corea, Garland and Davis, holds one’s interest throughout. The second CD has the quintet by itself playing three standards (including a
surprisingly heated version of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lotus Blossom”) and the pianist’s “What’s This.” Also included are 11 unaccompanied
piano solos that Corea had originally thought of inserting into “The Continents” as cadenzas. Instead he decided that the thoughtful
soliloquies worked fine as independent pieces. They form a moody conclusion to this intriguing twofer, available from www.
On Further Explorations, Chick Corea pays tribute to Bill Evans by utilizing bassist Eddie Gomez (who played 11 years with Evans) and
drummer Paul Motian (part of Evans’ famous 1961 trio with bassist Scott La Faro). Although most of the selections interpreted during
these live performances from May 2010 (among the late Motian’s final recordings) were in Evans’ repertoire, Corea does not try to copy
him and instead plays in his own style. Gomez and Motian had both evolved quite a bit since their Evans days, with the bassist developing
into a master at taking bowed solos. Motian learned how to create floating rhythms that are sometimes as much implied as stated. In
addition to the Evans standards such as “Peri’s Scope,” “Alice In Wonderland,” “Turn Out The Stars” and “Very Early,” each of the
members of the trio contributed originals (including Corea’s “Bill Evans”). “Song No. 1,” an Evans composition that he never documented,
receives its recording debut.
Bill Evans would have enjoyed Further Explorations, both for the heartfelt love expressed towards him, and the fact that the musicians
pay tribute to Evans by being original. The set is available from www.concordmusicgroup.com.