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Los Angeles Jazz Scene - CD Reviews
               November 2018
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Roseanna Vitro
Tell Me The Truth
(Skyline Productions)

Deep down, Roseanna Vitro has always kept her roots in Texas and Arkansas. While she has enjoyed steady
success over the years in the North as a jazz singer, she is quite at home with bluesy, funky and r&bish
material too. Unlike say Dee Dee Bridgewater’s recent soul project or when many jazz singers tackle
singer/songwriter material (sometimes losing their own musical personality in the process), Vitro interprets
the material in her own way, always improvising, ad-libbing, and making the songs into creative jazz despite
its diverse origins.

Tell Me The Truth has Ms. Vitro joined by a top-notch sextet consisting of pianist Mark Soskin, bassist Dean
Johnson, drummer Rudy Royston, guitarist Mitch Stein, trumpeter Nathan Eklund, and saxophonist Tim
Reis. Some of the songs that she interprets may seem a bit offbeat, but she makes each one her own. Whether
it is Allen Toussaint’s “On Your Way Down” (which is given a rhythmic riff reminiscent of Lee Morgan’s “The
Sidewinder”), “Walkin’ After Midnight,” a jubilant “Respect Yourself” (with singer Al Chestnut proving to be a
perfect musical partner) or a stretched-out and slightly reinvented version of Mose Allison’s “Your Mind Is
On Vacation,” Roseanna Vitro finds something fresh to say. Several of the pieces have political aspects to
their lyrics including “Respect Yourself,” and the late Jon Hendricks’ “Tell Me The Truth” (which seems to
predict the current situation). Of the other highlights, the swing standard “Foolin’ Myself” is modernized a bit
but has some excellent wordless vocalizing along with an inventive soprano solo from Reis. The singer gets
quite soulful on “When Will I Be Loved” (one of several songs with solos from guitarist Stein that are
passionate and bluesy) and is full of determination on Boz Scaggs’ “I’ll Be Long Gone.” “Fortunate Son” has a
torrid tradeoff by Reis (on soprano) and Eklund. The set concludes with the spirited “A Healing Song” and the
gospel song “I’ll Fly Away” which has violinist Sara Caswell and the harmonized singing of Kate McGarry and
Cindy Scott uplifting the music.

Everything works throughout this heartfelt release, one of Roseanna Vitro’s finest recordings. Tell Me The
Truth is available from www.roseannavitrojazz.squarespace.com.
                                             
      
Rebecca Hardiman
Rain Sometimes
(Self-Released)
      
If Doris Day in the 1950s had been a jazz singer, could scat with the cool assurance of Anita O’Day, and
expressed the happiness of Ella, she might have sounded a little like Rebecca Hardiman. Not that Ms.
Hardiman sounds like a copy of anyone, but she fits very comfortably into the classic style. Her voice is
attractive in all ranges, one can always understand the words she sings, her phrasing is inviting, and she
swings at every tempo. A member of the top-notch jazz vocal group the Ritz in the late 1980s, she settled in
Oregon in 1990 and has been a local treasure ever since.
      
Rain Sometimes is the singer’s fifth CD since 2013. Joined by her husband, the skilled pianist Ray Hardiman,
bassist Craig Snazelle, drummer Ron Steen, and quite often Laird Halling on tenor and flute, she performs ten
standards, many of which are not sung all that often.
      
The first two songs are among the most memorable “Look For The Silver Lining,” which effectively uses a
vamp between choruses, immediately displays the beauty of Ms. Hardiman’s voice as she sings the melody
and scats sweetly during the second chorus. Ray Hardiman (sounding like a vibraphonist on his keyboard)
takes a fine solo before the song ends with laidback scatting over the vamp. “I Didn’t Know What Time It
Was” turns its title into reality with the piano chords being purposely played behind the pulse while Rebecca
sings right on the beat, making the song sound out of balance. Things straighten up immediately during some
swinging choruses (with a nice spot for Halling’s tenor) before the piece ends as it started, pretending to
search for the time!
      
Among the other highlights are a happy romp through “No More Blues” (with Halling contributing some fine
flute), the obscure Arthur Hamilton ballad “Rain Sometimes,” a joyful “The Things We Did Last Summer,”
and a revival of “The Late, Late Show.” All ten selections have their bright moments.
      
Rebecca Hardiman deserves to be much better known beyond the Pacific Northwest. Give Rain Sometimes a
spin and see if you agree. It is available from www.rebeccahardiman.com
                                                     

Rob Dixon Trio
Coast To Crossroads
(Self-Released)
      
Rob Dixon is a tenor and alto-saxophonist who loves to play music on the funkier side of jazz. Earlier in his
career, he worked with the Illinois Jacquet big band for four years and was a member of Tana Reid. While he
spent time in New York, he has been part of the Indianapolis jazz scene since 2003, sometimes working with
the late organist Mel Rhyne.
      
Coast To Crossroads has Dixon showcased in a group with guitarist Charlie Hunter, drummer Mike Clark and
trombonist Ernest Stuart. Due to Hunter’s remarkable playing, not only does one hear basslines in addition to
his guitar, but it is easy to think that there is also an organist in the band.
      
The group plays eight of Dixon’s funky originals (one could imagine Stanley Turrentine performing many of
these songs) and two recent pop songs, with Dixon and trombonist Stuart often playing off of each other while
Hunter and Clark keep the rhythms funky and give the music a strong forward-momentum. In addition to the
group jams, as a change of pace, Dixon closes the set with an unaccompanied ballad version of the standard
“It Could Happen To You.”
      
All in all, this is an enjoyable CD of often-rollicking music which is available from www.robdixonmusic.com.
                                                  

Stan Kenton
Concerts In Miniature, Vol. 24
(Sounds Of Yester Year)
      
During 1952-53, Stan Kenton led what was arguably his finest band, his New Concepts Orchestra. With the
bulk of the arrangements provided by Bill Holman and Bill Russo, the band evolved to the point that it had
quite an all-star lineup, with solos provided by trumpeter Conte Candoli, trombonist Frank Rosolino, altoist
Lee Konitz, tenor-saxophonist Zoot Sims and guitarist Sal Salvador while being driven by drummer Stan
Levey. There was some tension in the band as the swinging contingent of Holman supporters gradually “won”
over the more third-steam and experimental writing of Russo. The group had a definitive musical personality
of its own along with plenty of spirit.
      
Very fortunately, Kenton had a regular weekly radio program called Concerts In Miniature that resulted in
48 programs. While many of the shows had been out before in incomplete and piecemeal fashion, the Sounds
Of Yester Year label (whose releases are available from www.cityhallrecords.com) have released all of the
broadcasts in excellent sound on 24 CDs. Vol. 24, which has the final broadcasts from Oct. 27 and Nov. 3,
1953, has recently been put out.
      
All two dozen CDs are rewarding, with Kenton proving to be a genial and humorous host. Vol. 24 is
highlighted by versions of “Sweets,” Candoli’s feature on “Poem For Trumpet,” Rosolino’s playing on “Frank
Speaking,” trumpeter Buddy Childers on “Autumn In New York,” Zoot Sims on “Zoot” and every time that
Lee Konitz gets to solo.
      
Ironically Kenton begins the final broadcast by confidently saying, “We feel reasonably secure now that we’ll
be back on the air next week.” A car accident that hurt a few musicians, disgruntlement over the grueling
schedule, and a desire for the star soloists to go out on their own soon resulted in both the broadcasts and this
version of the Stan Kenton Big Band quickly coming to an end. But as these 24 volumes show, this was quite
an orchestra.

All Stan Kenton fans are urged to pick up this entire series for there is quite a bit of exciting music on these
CDs, and not a weak broadcast among the 48.
                                                

Elektrik Market
Attraction
(Self-Released)

Bassist Ervin Dhimo, originally from Albania, spent six years living in Greece where he graduated from Nakas
Conservatory, and was awarded a European scholarship to study at Berklee in the U.S. where he has since
settled. Veteran keyboardist Steve Hunt has been an important musical force since the 1980s, working along
the way with Billy Cobham, Stanley Clarke, and Allan Holdsworth (1987-1995) in addition to leading his own
sessions for his Spice Rack label. Dhimo and Hunt co-lead Elektrik Market, a unit that on the recently-
released Attraction also features either Vancil Cooper or Steve Michaud on drums and Jerry Leake or
Ricardo Monzon on percussion. The fusion-oriented unit performs colorful originals (mostly by Hunt and
Dhimo) that are full of surprises and superior playing with many inventive solos from both the bassist and
keyboardist.
      
The program begins with a brief prelude “Portrait Of A Painter” that features Dhimo’s fluent yet thoughtful
bass over Hunt’s background keyboards. “Attraction” is much lengthier with Dhimo’s bass creating a funky
groove that becomes denser as it progresses. Hunt’s orchestral keyboard and a four-note phrase that pops up
in various spots make this an accessible and dynamic performance. “A River Flows” reminds one of Weather
Report’s original goal to have “everyone and no one soloing.” The ensemble piece has strong contributions
from each of the musicians with Hunt’s keyboards in the lead. Speaking of Weather Report, one is reminded
of the interplay between Joe Zawinul and Jaco Pastorius on “Dafina’s Journey.” The performance includes an
outstanding keyboard solo, a few changes in tempos, grooves and moods, and an Eastern European feel,
making for a fun musical adventure.
      
“Tirana’s Sunrise” does have the feeling of a sunrise, starting as a thoughtful ballad and picking up steam
along the way. The episodic “Witch Hunt” includes catchy grooves that are a little reminiscent of Herbie
Hancock’s Headhunters although they are more modern. Concluding this CD is the melodic “Fusion
Collusion” and “Time Traveler” which has a rhythmic four-note riff by Dhimo that inspires some fine
improvising by Hunt.
      
The impressive Elektrik Market has created a set in Attraction (available from www.ervindhimo.com) that
fusion fans will enjoy.
                                                   

Janet Planet
Da Capo
(Stella Sound Productions)

      
This recent CD can be thought of as a celebration of the long-time friendship of vocalist Janet Planet and
pianist John Harmon. They have performed together on an occasional basis over the past 40 years. Ms.
Planet was originally a folk singer but changed direction after hearing the classic Nancy Wilson/Cannonball
Adderley record. She has a very inviting voice and can sing bebop quite well while not forgetting her roots in
folk music. One of her recent recordings (there are over two dozen) is her versions of Bob Dylan songs. John
Harmon is on Ms. Planet’s recording debut (1986’s Sweet Thunder), recorded a duet album with the singer
(1995’s More Beautiful Than Planned), joins her as part of a trio on the Gene Bertoncini recording Just Above
A Whisper, and is an important part of her Get Happy and Of Thee I Sing CDs.
      
Harmon, who is now 83, studied with Oscar Peterson at the Lenox School of Jazz in the late 1950s, was an
influential educator at Lawrence University, and led the successful fusion group Matrix during 1974-81. He
has freelanced as a pianist and composer ever since.
      
Da Capo has Planet and Harmon performing 13 of the pianist’s songs. He also provided the words to eight of
the numbers (“El Tigre” is wordless) with the vocalist writing the lyrics for the other four tunes. Eight of the
selections have the duo joined by bassist John Gibson and drummer Zach Harmon with tenor-saxophonist
Tom Washatka making two guest appearances and guitarist Tom Theabo helping out on “Sundowner.” A few
of the numbers were previously recorded years ago including “Another Lonely Spring” and “I Raise My
Glass” which were part of the More Beautiful Than Planned album.
      
Da Capo is full of memorable melodies and top-notch singing. The program begins with the medium-tempo
“To Be Yet Again,” a happy tune celebrating friendship. “Lucky Me” is a little funky but also has some
boppish singing from Planet. The next few songs are ballads. “The Gift Of Surrender” features tender singing
and sensitive piano. “Sundowner” is picturesque song, has attractive piano patterns, and is an Americana
song that Vince Guaraldi would enjoy playing. “In A Perfect World (A Father’s Dream)” is a touching piece
with quietly emotional singing while “Child Of Light/A Lullabye” has some particularly heartfelt piano
playing.
      
One could imagine “Today And Everyday,” one of several songs on this set that cross musical boundaries
while being based in jazz, becoming a standard in the future if it is heard enough; the melody is that good. The
rhythm changes tune “Half A Bubble Off” has a witty and tricky melody and some excellent scat-singing
before it gives Harmon an opportunity to stretch out, recalling his days leading a trio in New York in the early
1960s. The introspective “Lately” and the melancholy “Another Lonely Spring” are followed by the happily
swinging “The Time Is Right.” Other than some wordless explorations at its beginning, “El Tigre” is primarily
an infectious instrumental with spots for Washatka’s tenor and Harmon’s electric piano, hinting a bit at
vintage Chick Corea. The satisfying set concludes with the heartwarming “I Raise My Glass (To You”).
      
Da Capo, a set of warm and beautiful music, features Janet Planet and John Harmon at their very best. It is
available from www.stellarsound.net.
                                                   

Scott Routenberg
Supermoon
Summit Records

      
Pianist Scott Routenberg is an award-winning arranger, composer and orchestrator who teaches Jazz Piano at
Ball State University. His Supermoon release builds upon the success of his previous Summit CD Every End
Is A Beginning. As with the earlier set, he leads his regular trio (which frequently performs in the Indianapolis
area), a unit also including bassist Nick Tucker (who takes several melodic solos) and drummer Cassius
Goens III. Their familiarity with each other’s playing is obvious for the trio often seems to think as one,
sounding quite tight but also spontaneous with the pianist being the first among equals.

Supermoon consists of ten Routenberg originals that are inspired by his two young sons. The music often
seems to be a soundtrack for the activities and thoughts of his children. “Supermoon” is a fairly simple and
catchy number that mostly features the ensemble and serves as a fine introduction to the program.
“Everything Is Alive” is a happy performance full of discovery and is filled with the wonder of life.
“Locomotivity” has constant movement and displays plenty of energy. In contrast, “Children Of The
Orchard” is a thoughtful performance, a jazz waltz that starts as a ballad before it builds up a bit.

“Our World” is a song of exploration, depicting how the world of children grows as they mature, getting more
exciting as it progresses. “My Julian” is a tender tribute while “Secret Neighbor” has mystery and some
intense moments. Here, as is true throughout this set, the close interplay of the musicians is quite impressive.

“Quiet Time” fits its title and is dreamlike. “Bebop Baby” gives the trio an opportunity to romp through
rhythm changes and for there to be a tradeoff by bassist Tucker and drummer Goens. The pretty “Little
Song” wraps up the set beautifully.

Supermoon almost operates as a suite, with one song leading logically to the next. It features the playing of
Scott Routenberg at its best and is available from www.scottroutenberg.com.
                                                      Scott Yanow

Lizzie Thomas
Easy To Love
(Self-Released)
      
Born in Pittsburgh, after growing up in Georgia and studying music in Nashville, Lizzie Thomas has been part
of the New York jazz scene for the past decade where she performs regularly. Easy To Love finds her singing
ten of her favorite standards with a top-notch jazz group in settings ranging from duets to a septet.
      
Lizzie Thomas considers Billie Holiday one of her main inspirations and at times her phrasing and expressive
style recall the late Etta Jones (who was also touched by Lady Day’s style) although she has her own
distinctive voice. She is uplifted by the inventive arrangements of pianist Xavier Davis and the tasteful and
stimulating contributions of Davis, guitarist Ron Affif, either Yoshi Waki or Greg Ryan on bass, Frank
Levatino or Alvester Garnett on drums, trumpeter Antoine Drye, trombonist Frank Lacy, and clarinetist
Janelle Reichman.
      
From the start of an infectious rendition of the late 1920s tune “You Do Something To Me,” Ms. Thomas
displays a real joy in her voice. She swing easily and digs into the meaning of the lyrics, even at faster tempos.
“Close Your Eyes” starts out with sparse accompaniment over a vamp, really gets swinging in the second
chorus, has fine guitar and trumpet solos, and ends with the singer sailing over the closing vamp. “One Note
Samba” is taken for a wild ride at a speedy tempo. Lizzie Thomas manages to sound relaxed even when
scatting at the rapid pace in unison with Drye’s trumpet.

The momentum never slows down. Displaying her versatility, she also excels at the medium-slow tempo of “I’
ve Got You Under My Skin” before she gets cooking on “I Only Have Eyes For You.” “Easy To Love” is given
a slow, saucy and soulful treatment, partly as a duet with pianist Davis before Drye takes a thoughtful muted
solo. During this performance, the singer really draws out the long notes, putting plenty of feeling into her
rendition. “Just The Way You Look Tonight” is surprisingly taken as a charming waltz and “You Stepped Out
Of A Dream” is swung hard before Lizzie Thomas sings a touching version of “The Shadow Of Your Smile.”
She starts with the rarely-heard verse and creates an intimate version with the horns harmonizing behind her.
The enjoyable program concludes with “Our Love Is Here To Stay” which is taken as a relaxed duet with the
bassist.
      
Throughout Easy To Love (available from www.lizziethomas.net), Lizzie Thomas is in top form, bringing out
the hidden beauty in these timeless standards. It is easily recommended to lovers of the Great American
Songbook and first-class singers.
                                                   

Bill Boris
Bright Moments
(Mikomi)
      
Although he has his own sound and approach, guitarist Bill Boris is a little reminiscent of Pat Martino in the
way that he plays within chord changes while at the same time pushing them forward, adding a bluesy and
soulful feeling even when he is at his most adventurous.
      
Bright Moments features the guitarist in a trio with organist-keyboardist Dan Chase and drummer Tyrone
Blair, performing five of his originals plus three jazz standards and two transformed pop songs. While at times
sounding a little like a throwback to the late 1960s/early ‘70s soul jazz tradition, the trio is far from a copy.
They use the vintage sound as a platform to launch into more modern solos and their own brand of grooves
and swing.
      
The opening “Bright Moments” (no relation to the Rahsaan Roland Kirk song) is a swinger that serves as an
excellent introduction to the trio with each of the musicians getting to solo. The trio gets a little funky on
Stevie Wonder’s “I Can’t Help It,” showing that they are expert at setting an infectious groove. An offbeat
choice, the Young Rascals’ “How Can I Be Sure” is reinvented as a jazz waltz. It is a bit reminiscent of how
Charles Earland could take unlikely material in the early 1970s and make it into a new song. “The Fallen
Angels’ is quite danceable, featuring an attractive ensemble sound with active drums and Chase’s keyboards.

“My Funny Valentine” is taken at a medium-tempo pace that finds Boris sounding relaxed even during the
more heated moments. Of the remaining pieces, “Cozumel” (which has a Latin tinge), the medium-slow “You’
re The One,” and “Number 3” feature the group exploring the funkier side of soul jazz while a cooking
“Stablemates” and the excellent straight ahead version of Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” are
closer to hard bop.
      
Bill Boris’ fluent solos, Dan Chase’s stimulating accompaniment and brief spots, and the driving Tyrone Blair
come together to create a trio with its own musical identity. Available by writing boris@sbcglobal.net, Bright
Moments lives up to its name and is easily recommended to fans of the classic organ trio.
                                            

Bob Washut Dodectet
Journey To Knowhere
(Artists Alliance)
      
Bob Washut, who was an important force at the University of Northern Iowa during 1970-2018 as the
director of Jazz Studies for 22 years and a Professor of Music, in his career has written for many college and
high school ensembles, professional musicians and symphony orchestras. While he has recorded two albums
as a pianist, Journey To Knowhere finds him arranging and composing for a talented 12-piece ensemble
which performs seven of his originals and his arrangement of Kenny Wheeler’s “Smatter.”.
      
Each of the members of the “Dodectet,” which is comprised of three trumpeters/flugelhornists, two
trombones, four reeds, and three rhythm, is not only a fine ensemble player but an excellent improviser as
Washut shows by giving each of them some solo space.
      
The opening “Melt Down,” which is inspired by Brad Mehldau, is a fairly mellow piece with excellent solos
from tenor-saxophonist Peter Sommer and flugelhornist Greg Gisbert, some playing by pianist Dana Landry
over the ensemble, and a few drum breaks from Jim White. It serves as a fine introduction to the sound of the
band. “Bluezone” is a medium-tempo blues that has an arrangement a little reminiscent of Thad Jones. The
muted trumpet and trombone solos by Peter Olstad and Mike Conrad along with the fluent and swinging alto
of Chris Merz sound like logical outgrowths of the arrangement. The jazz waltz, “3 For McKee,” is a showcase
for trombonist Paul McKee while Wheeler’s “Smatter” has tenor solos by Sommer and John Gunther before
the tempo slows down a bit and the great trumpeter Bobby Shew gets to stretch out a bit.
      
The medium-tempo ballad “Nora Rae” (which has some fiery interplay by Gisbert and Sommer) builds to a
triumphant conclusion. “Thick Plot” (inspired by late-period Bob Brookmeyer) has Merz excelling on
soprano and baritonist Wil Swindler getting explorative. “A Nod To Ahmad” is a tribute to the drum rhythm
utilized on Ahmad Jamal’s famous version of “Poinciana” with Shew and McKee getting their spots. The
concluding “Malecon” utilizes Afro-Cuban rhythms and a Shew-Gunther tradeoff. Also making solid
contributions on the set are bassist Erik Applegate and (on “Bluezone”) guest cellist Brett Andrews.
     
But the real stars of Journey To Knowhere are the swinging and colorful modern mainstream arrangements
of Bob Washut. His charts bring out the best in the players and vice versa, making this a rewarding release for
those who love the sound of a modern big band. It is available from CD Baby and www.amazon.com.