Eddie Palmieri, who is now 80, has been an innovative force on the Latin music scene since at least the early 1960s.
While he claims that he is not a jazz pianist since he does not want his music to be limited to one genre, Sabiduria is
certainly an Afro-Cuban jazz recording, one of the most rewarding of the year.
Palmieri leads a particularly strong group with the nucleus being bassist Luques Curtis, Little Johnny Rivero on
congas, Anthony Carrillo playing bongos, and Lusito Quintero on timbales. Some selections add four horns (two
trumpets and two saxophones) and both Xavier Rivera and Camilo Molina on bata. In addition there are quite a few
guests, each of whom make their presence felt.
Violinist Alfredo de la Fe takes hot and exciting solos on “Cuerdas Y Tumbao” and “La Cancina.” The latter piece
features vibraphonist Joe Locke in a Cal Tjader role as does “Samba Do Suenho” and the medium-tempo blues “Locked
In.” On “Wise Bata Blues,” after an introduction by the two bata players, the four horns (trumpeters Jonathan Walsh
and Jonathan Powell, and saxophonists Jeremy Powell and Louis Fouche) each get solos, also having spots on “Spinal
Volt.” The funky blues “Sabiduria” has a heated baritone solo from Ronnie Cuber, a rockish spot for guitarist David
Spinozza and a guest appearance by electric bassist Marcus Miller. Altoist Donald Harrison takes a high energy solo on
“Augustine Parish” and sings on “The Uprising,” but the latter is most notable for a furious tradeoff by Harrison and
Cuber. Ronnie Cuber is also in ferocious form on “Coast To Coast.” As for Eddie Palmieri, he takes several short solos
throughout the set and is showcased on the thoughtful ballad “Life” and the closing Latin romp “Jibarita Y Su Son.”
Every selection on Sabiduria is memorable in its own way, being rhythmically exciting, creative, and filled with
infectious ensembles and colorful solos. This highly recommended CD is available from www.ropeadope.com.
Echoes Of Swing
A Tribute To Bix Beiderbecke
This is a rather unusual two-CD set. The second disc has ten vintage recordings featuring the legendary cornetist Bix
Beiderbecke at the peak of his powers in 1927 (and on one song from 1928). While those performances are easily
available elsewhere, they serve as a fine sampling of Bix at his best including such numbers as “Singing’ The Blues,”
“I’m Coming Virginia,” “Royal Garden Blues” and his futuristic piano solo “In A Mist.”
The opening disc is a bit different. Nine songs that Beiderbecke had recorded (including five included on the second
CD) are updated and reinvented. There are also four originals in the style. Echoes Of Swing, a quartet comprised of
pianist Bernd Lhotzky, altoist Chris Hopkins, cornetist-trumpeter Colin T. Dawson and drummer Oliver Mewes, does
not emulate the original recordings but plays creatively within their own swing style. Dawson actually sounds closer
to Charlie Shavers than to Bix and the arrangements are more based in the 1930s and ‘40s than the 1920s.
Augmented on some of the selections by trombone, C-melody sax, soprano, guitar, string bass, and another
drummer., Echoes Of Swing offers plenty of surprises. Bix’s “In The Dark” is transformed into a tango, “Happy Feet”
becoming a Latin bugalu, “Jazz Me Blues” emerges as a bossa nova, “At The Jazz Band Ball” is played at half the
tempo that one would expect, and “I’m Coming Virginia” is interpreted in 5/4 time. Another surprise is hearing “The
Girl From Ipanema” arranged in Bill Challis’ 1920s style, as if he had written it for Beiderbecke.
With many fine solos, a couple of vocals, and tight ensembles, Echoes Of Swing succeeds at casting a fresh light on Bix
Beiderbecke’s musical legacy. This twofer is available from www.actmusic.com.
Laughing At Life
Duchess is a vocal trio featuring excellent jazz singers who have had solo careers of their own: Amy Cervini, Hilary
Gardner and Melissa Stylianou. Founded in Nov. 2013 when the three vocalists teamed together for what was
supposed to be a one-time club date, Duchess has since gained a lot of experience singing together in many venues.
They previously had released their self-titled debut recording.
Laughing At Life has the singers joined by a four-piece rhythm section and the colorful tenor-saxophonist Jeff Lederer
on four of the 14 songs. There are also two guest appearances apiece by clarinetist Anat Cohen and trombonist
Wycliffe Gordon. The emphasis is on swing standards with the vocalists performing such numbers as “Swing Brother
Swing,” “Everybody Loves My Baby” (based on the Boswell Sisters version although one misses Bunny Berigan),
“Creole Love Call (with Wycliffe Gordon), and a touching “We’ll Meet Again.” There are a few departures as Duchess
ventures into the 1950s with “Give Him The Oo La La” (a Cole Porter song revived by Blossom Dearie) and a spirited
The lack of liner notes makes it difficult to know who is singing which solo and, amazingly enough, the names of the
three singers are not listed! But other than that one flaw, Laughing At Life is an easily recommended CD of fun music.
It is available from www.anzicrecords.com.
Four Classic Albums
Everyone loved Sam Most (1930-2013). In addition to his lovable personality, he was best known during his many
years in Los Angeles as one of the top flute players, a cool-toned tenor-saxophonist, and a witty scat-singer. However
in his early days (the late 1940s and ‘50s), he often doubled on flute and clarinet. Most was particularly significant
for being one of jazz’s first major flutists and probably the first to occasionally hum through the instrument at the
same time that he blew into. Rahsaan Roland Kirk would expand that innovation in the 1960s. Most was also one of
the top clarinetists of the 1950s, a talent overshadowed by his other skills and the fact that his older brother Abe Most
was known as a major swing clarinetist.
Four Classic Albums, a two-CD set available from www.avidgroup.co.uk, brings back the music from four formerly
rare Sam Most Lps dating from 1956-57. At the time Most had already recorded for Prestige in 1953 (including
“Undercurrent Blues”), and made one album apiece for Debut, Vanguard and Bethlehem. This twofer has many
gems. I’m Nuts About The Most – Sam That Is has a sextet date that also features baritonist Marty Flax. Musically
Plays is a very good quartet album which can be considered one of pianist Bob Dorough’s best instrumental sets. Plays
Bird, Bud, Monk & Miles is split between big band titles and a sextet with Dorough, David Schildkraut on tenor and
trumpeter Doug Mettome. The Amazing Mr. Sam Most has the flutist playing with a rhythm section and strings.
Other than three titles in 1964, Most would not get another chance to lead his own record date until 1976.
Throughout these 32 performances, the music is no-nonsense bebop, the musicianship and solos are on a very high
level, and Most plays as much clarinet as flute. Anyone who loves bop or Sam Most should consider this twofer to be a
Morning Sun – Adventures With Oboe
Paul McCandless, a brilliant oboe and English horn player, has been a member of Oregon since its founding in 1972.
Before that, he was part of the Paul Winter Consort during 1969-71. He has played with Winter on an occasional basis
in the many decades since. Winter, who gained his original recognition as a bop-oriented altoist, in the 1960s became
very interested in Brazilian music and classical music. He formed his Consort with the goal of combining together the
sound of classical music with the freedom of jazz, shifting his own playing towards the soprano sax.
Morning Sun, which dates from 1970-2010, is a 14-song anthology that features McCandless mostly on oboe
performing with various versions of Winter’s groups. Drawn from nine previously released albums, the music can be
described as instrumental folk, New Age, World Music, Mood Music, light pop, melodic jazz or none of the above.
McCandless, whether heard on an unaccompanied solo, accompanied by keyboard Don Grusin, or interacting with a
larger chamber-type group, is in top form, displaying a beautiful tone and an inventive yet always melodic style.
While there are appearances from such notables as cellist David Darling, guitarists Ralph Towner and Oscar Castro-
Neves, and several different vocalists, McCandless is in the spotlight much of the time. In fact, Paul Winter is only on
a few of the performances.
This intriguing set is available form www.livingmusic.com.
Vintage Acker Bilk
Acker Bilk (1929-2014) will always be best remembered for his easy-listening clarinet-with-strings hit “Stranger On
The Shore” from 1961. However he was an important trad clarinetist on the British scene and his hard-charging
bands were often quite popular. After making his recording debut in 1954 with Ken Colyer, he organized his own
group, the Paramount Jazzmen, which recorded five studio titles in 1955. While there are some live dates from the
period that were preserved and released years later, Bilk began really recording in earnest in 1957.
During that year, Bilk made sessions with several overlapping groups: four dates by his Paramount Jazzmen (two are
quite extensive) and recordings with the Storyville Jazzmen (a band very similar to his own), banjoist Hugh Rainey’s
All-Stars and banjoist Johnny Bastable’s Chosen Six. Other than five rare selections that were considered a bit flawed
and a few alternate takes, all of the clarinetist’s recordings from 1957 are on this 40-selection two-CD set.
The freewheeling New Orleans jazz sessions mostly feature Bob Wallis on trumpet (Derek Saunders is on two
numbers), Keith Avison, Mac Duncan, Pete Dyer or John Mortimer on trombone, Les Wood occasionally on second
clarinet, and a banjo-bass-drums rhythm section that only utilizes a piano on five of the selections. John RT Davies,
later famous as a reissue producer and engineer, plays trombone and alto on some songs. A few numbers utilize a
clarinet-alto frontline as a tribute to Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra of 1928. Of historic interest is that Ginger
Baker (the drummer with Cream a decade later) is on two of the sessions.
While there are times when the Paramount Jazzmen sound a bit like George Lewis’ group of the era (Wallis sometimes
comes close to Kid Howard), they are a little less primitive and Bilk does not copy Lewis.. The music is often ensemble-
oriented although there are individual solos. The repertoire is a mixture of 1920s tunes, New Orleans numbers, some
obscurities, and even a bit of ragtime (a charming version of Scott Joplin’s “Gladiolus.”).
The Lake label (www.fellside.com) has done an admirable job of compiling classic British trad jazz from the early
years in addition to recording some newer sessions. Those who are interested in the beginning years of Acker Bilk, and
those who love enthusiastic revivalist New Orleans jazz will want this valuable and enjoyable twofer.
Danny Stiles 5
Danny Stiles was a great trumpeter. In his career he worked with Woody Herman (1957-58), the Gerry Mulligan
Concert Jazz Band (1960) and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra (1966), recorded with Gil Evans, Sal Salvador,
Nat Pierce, Chris Connor and Peggy Lee, and was on many sessions in New York during the 1960s and ‘70s.
Stiles had an important association with trombonist Bill Watrous, being one of the main soloists in Watrous’
Manhattan Refuge Orchestra and recording five combo albums with Watrous for the Famous Door label. Of the latter,
two (Bone Straight Ahead and Watrous In Hollywood) were headed by the trombonist while Stiles was the leader of In
Tandem, One More Time and In Tandem Into The ‘80s. Unfortunately Stiles did not make any further jazz recordings
after 1978. He became discouraged by his career, eventually moved to Orlando, Florida, and on New Year’s Day
1998 committed suicide.
In Tandem, recorded in 1974, is from much happier days. Stiles leads a quintet also including Watrous, pianist Derek
Smith, bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Bobby Rosengarden. A lead trumpeter who was also a very good bop-based
soloist, Stiles is heard at the peak of his powers during what may very well have been his finest recording. He and the
quintet perform Watrous’ uptempo blues “Dirty Dan” (which has some unaccompanied choruses and a colorful
framework), “It Had To Be You,” a faster-than-usual “Blue Room,” “In A Mellow Tone” and two of the leader’s
originals. While Derek Smith has a few fine solos (including a long intro to “In A Mellow Tone”), the focus is primarily
on the two horns who are both in superb form.
This reissue, which adds three previously unreleased alternate takes to the program, is highly recommended and
available along with most of the Stiles-Watrous dates from www.jazzology.com.
Jay Hoggard is a veteran vibraphonist who has been a major voice on his instrument since the 1970s. While he
began on records as an avant-gardist, Hoggard has long since shown that he is a well-rounded musician capable of
playing a wide variety of music ranging from swing and bop to post bop and in free settings.
Harlem Hieroglyphs is a two-CD set that features the vibraphonist with a quintet that includes Gary Bartz on alto
and soprano, James Weidman on piano and (on three numbers) organ, bassist Belden Bullock and drummer Yoron
Israel. Nat Adderley Jr. takes Weidman’s place on six of the 18 selections.
There are many Hoggard, Bartz and Weidman solos on these selections which include a few standards (such as “If I
Were A Bell” and “Airegin”) and many of the leader’s originals. There are quite a few highlights including the 1920s
feel of “Harlem Jazzbirds Swinging’ & Swayin,’” the funky jazz piece “I Am Free,” a somber and tasteful “Everything
Must Change,” the picturesque and soulful “A Walk Through The Colorful Forest” and the attractive original “I’m
Gonna Show You That I Love You.” Bartz and Hoggard engage in some inventive free improvising on two versions of
“Disposable Consumption,” a song that sounds as if it could have been written by Jackie McLean in the 1960s. The
sensitive and romantic vibes-piano duet “My Love” and Hoggard’s unaccompanied “Pleasant Memories” are also
Obviously there is a lot of rewarding music to be heard throughout Harlem Hieroglyphs, a set that is easily
recommended and available from www.jayhoggard.com.
The Sky Remains
Josh Nelson’s The Sky Remains is an unusual tribute to Los Angeles. It pays homage to L.A.’s rich architectural
history, much of which has disappeared due to the demolition of historic buildings through the years. The title “The
Sky Remains” refers to the fact that at least the sky has not been destroyed.
The pianist composed and arranged ten originals which form a suite. He pays tribute to the bridges of L.A., the
architects, a Civil Rights worker, TIKI culture, P.O.P. (Pacific Ocean Park), and the many stairways in steep
neighborhoods. Nelson utilizes an ensemble comprised of trumpeter Chris Lawrence, Brian Walsh on clarinet and bass
clarinet, altoist-flutist Josh Johnson, guitarist Anthony Wilson, bassist Alex Boneham, drummer Dan Schnelle and
percussionist Aaron Serfaty plus occasionally Larry Goldings on organ. The voices of Kathleen Grace and Lillian
Sengpiehl are used as part of the ensembles (quite effectively on “Bridges and Tunnels”) with Ms. Grace being
featured on three numbers where she displays an attractive voice while singing fairly straight.
The moody and often melancholy suite, which has some fine solos along the way plus an excellent tradeoff between
Nelson’s piano and Anthony Wilson’s guitar on “Bridges and Tunnels,” holds one’s interest throughout. Most
memorable is the dramatic “On The Sidewalk,” the celebratory “Ah Los Angeles,” the Latin jazz of “Lost Souls Of
Saturn,” and “Pacific Ocean Park” which sounds like an old-time party.
While Josh Nelson takes some fine piano solos, The Sky Remains makes the case that perhaps his greatest talent is his
writing. The fine outing is available from www.originarts.com.
Daddy Says So
Douye has gained a reputation as a singer of classic r&b, but Daddy Says So is something much different. Douye’s late
father always hoped that she would sing jazz standards someday, and in their last conversation before he passed
away, she promised that she would. Daddy Says So is the result.
Douye has an attractive and a warm voice. On Daddy Says So, she sticks close to the lyrics of the classic songs and
their melodies except when she sings wordlessly on “I Loves You Porgy” and “Nature Boy.” For this project, she is
heard with an impressive array of jazz all-stars. Among her sidemen on various cuts are pianists Kenny Barron, John
Beasley, Otmaro Ruiz, Benito Gonzalez, Joel Scott, and Rick Germanson, guitarist Russell Malone, bassists John
Clayton, Essiet Essiet, and Edwin Livingston, drummers Roy McCurdy, Willie Jones III, and Clayton Cameron,
trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, and saxophonists Bob Sheppard, Justo Almario and Zem Audu, not counting three songs with
larger ensembles. In addition, bassist Ron Carter duets with Douye on “Nature Boy.”
Throughout the set of well-known standards (which includes “But Beautiful,” “Mood Indigo,’ “Autumn Leaves,”
“Summertime” and “Besame Mucho”), Douye sings tastefully and with a genuine affection for the songs. Hopefully in
the future she will continue to sing jazz and will stretch herself a bit more in her improvising. This is an excellent
This enjoyable set is available from www.doyemusic.com.
Classic West Coast Blues 1948-1953
When one thinks of the type of blues that was recorded in Los Angeles in the 1940s and ‘50s, it is either swinging
sessions by the Nat King Cole Trio, the sophisticated bluesy ballads of Charles Brown, or the straight ahead urban
blues of T-Bone Walker. The two-CD set Hollywood Blues shows that there was a lot more blues activity in L.A. than
one might think.
The 43 performances on this two-CD set are filled with obscure talents and a wide range of blues-oriented
performances spanning from lowdown country blues to hokum. Many of the acoustic tracks could pass for a recording
from Chicago or the South in the 1930s/early ‘40s rather than the 1948-53 time period. Some of the numbers that
utilize an electric guitar sound a bit more modern but are a bit surprising . The influence of the swing bands is mostly
absent and it is difficult to believe, while listening to these performances, that bebop and r&b were the dominant new
styles of the time.
Among the stars of these selections are such long-forgotten names as Soldier Boy Houston, Sonny Boy Johnson, Sonny
Boy Holmes, Big Son Tillis, Little Son Willis, Mac Willis, James Tisdom, Sidney Maiden, Charles Lacy, Beverly Scott,
Black Diamond, John Hogg, James Little Houston, Ira Taylor, Ernest McClay and Slim Green. Even blues aficionados
have probably not heard of the majority of these performers due to them having recorded only a handful of sides for
While one wishes that this twofer was either in strictly chronological order or programmed by artist (it skips around
a bit), the liner notes do a good job of discussing what is known about these forgotten musicians. The music is
rewarding and shows that the earlier forms of blues were alive in Southern California during this era.
Hollywood Blues, which is just one of a large series of admirable blues box sets put out by the British JSP label, is
available from MVD Distribution at www.mvdb2b.com.
The Passion Of Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker’s music is always worth celebrating. On The Passion Of Charlie Parker, Larry Klein sought to put
aspects of Bird’s life to music. David Baerwald wrote new lyrics for eight Charlie Parker songs which, along with
“Yardbird Suite” (which has Parker’s original lyrics) and “Apres Vous,” trace Bird’s life up until his 1949 triumph in
The instrumentalists are top-notch modern players: tenor-saxophonist Donny McCaslin, Craig Taborn on piano,
electric piano and organ, guitarist Ben Monder, Scott Colley or Larry Grenadier on bass, and drummer Eric Harland
(with Mark Giuliana on one song). There is no attempt to reproduce Parker’s music or bebop in general. McCaslin is
featured throughout, adding emotional intensity to many of the pieces. The electric backgrounds by Taborn add to
the atmosphere of the story..
There are ten vocals by a total of nine singers ; Jeffrey Wright appears twice. Some of the vocalists have an
opportunity to do more than the others. Madeleine Peyroux and Barbara Hannigan mostly stick to the melody on
their pieces with McCaslin taking lengthy solos. Gregory Porter is fine on “Yardbird Suite” and Kurt Elling sings “Los
Angeles” (“Moose The Mooche”) with enthusiasm, but both should have been given much more of a chance to stretch
out. In contrast, Jeffrey Wright gets to display his dramatic skills on “So Long” (“K.C. Blues”) and “Fifty Dollars”
(“Segment”). Luciana Souza is surprising on “Every Little Thing” (“Bloomdido”), showing off her unexpected scatting
skills. Kandace Springs on “Live My Love For You” (“My Little Suede Shoes”) and Melody Gardot during “The King Of
52nd Street” (“Scrapple From The Apple”) sound like they are having fun. The program, which traces Charlie Parker’
s life from his funeral to his periods in Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York and Paris, concludes with Cammille
Bertault scatting in French on “Apres Vous” (“Au Privave”).
Toss away your preconceptions. The Passion Of Charlie Parker is a unique treatment to the tale of Bird, and it grows
in interest with each listen. It is available from www.impulse-label.com.