The Grand Concourse
Dayramir Gonzalez is a very talented pianist from Havana, Cuba. The son of a trumpeter, he began on piano
when he was eight. Gonzalez showed great promise from the start, studied at Cuba’s National High School for
the Arts, and worked in several groups including Diakara and Klimax. He made his recording debut in 2007 in
Cuba with Habana EnTRANCE. After that he moved to the U.S. where he studied at Berklee (graduating in
2013), spent time living in Southern California, and is now based out of New York.
The Grand Concourse is an ambitious project that is quite successful. Rather than record a solo piano or trio
album, Gonzalez utilizes quite a few musicians with an expanded rhythm section, several horns (including
altoist Yosvany Terri), a few strings, and a vocal coro as he introduces 11 of his originals. The music is
episodic and sometimes tightly arranged, particularly the one non original “Camello Tropical” which is a little
reminiscent of 1970s Chick Corea. Occasionally the performances develop into an adventurous production
number. However there is also plenty of space for Gonzalez (on piano and keyboards) and some of his
sidemen to solo. Among the highlights of this wide-ranging set are the joyful “Smiling,” an assertive jazz waltz
(“Moving Forward”), a traditional and charming “Sencillez,” the orchestral ballad “Blood Brothers,” and the
romantic love song “Lovely Time With My Dear.” While paying tribute to the Cuban tradition, Gonzalez also
moves the music forward and displays a strong and winning musical personality.
The Grand Concourse, which includes a colorful and informative booklet, is an important step forward for
the pianist-composer. It is available from www.dayramirgonzalez.com.
An eclectic singer who is known for her versatility and her quirky sense of humor, Nellie McKay’s singing
sometimes comes close to crossing over into jazz, particularly on her 2009 tribute to Doris Day called
Normal As Blueberry Pie.
On Sister Orchard, Ms. McKay mostly plays it straight, performing ten veteran standards by herself. She
accompanies her singing on piano and electric keyboard and one assumes that the harmonica on one song and
the occasional background singing is also by her.
The set begins with an odd version of “My Romance” that has her keyboard sounding like it is being played by
a merry-go-round while she sings fairly straight. But, other than an unexpected hot boogie-woogie departure
during the middle of “Willow Weep For Me,” the other performances are straight forward and mostly taken as
ballads. Nellie McKay’s singing is quite touching on “The Nearness Of You” and “Georgia On My Mind” and
most of her renditions are wistful and charming, displaying her beautiful voice and laidback style. And, as if
to make amends for the opening performance, she concludes the set with a second and more conventional
version of “My Romance.”
The success of Sister Orchid (available from www.amazon.com) makes one hope that Nellie McKay will dig
even deeper into jazz in the future.
If Love Were All
Actor, comedian, radio personality and jazz vocalist Wayne Power has had a busy and colorful life in many
areas. 25 years ago in 1993 he recorded Plain Old Me with his Hoi Polloi band. A quarter-century later, it is
not an understatement to say that an encore was long overdue.
While Plain Old Me could partly be considered Retro Swing, for the recent If Love Were All, Powers simply
picked out some of his favorite songs from the Great American Songbook, gathered together four excellent
players, and sang.
Fortunately Wayne Powers’ voice has become stronger through the years. He now has a sound that is both
mature and youthful while also being inviting and good-natured. Joined by pianist Keith Davis, bassist Ron
Brendle, drummer Al Sergel, and occasionally tenor-saxophonist Ziad Rabie, he performs a set of familiar
standards with his own flair. Much of the time, he lets the high quality songs speak for themselves as he sings
close to the melody and sticks to the lyrics. The improvising is in his swinging phrasing and the playing of his
Among the highlights are a medium-tempo and cheerful “Never Let Me Go,” the top-notch ballad singing on
“Body And Soul,” a swinging “East Of The Sun,” and a version of “When Your Lover Has Gone” that has
Powers stretching out, performing the verse twice, and giving plenty of life, swing and subtlety to the early
1930s standard. “All Of Me” is a real change of pace for, after taking a slow opening chorus, Powers scats and
ad-libs words (almost like a G rated version of Jack Sheldon) quite colorfully. He should do this more often.
Rabie has some nice tenor solos on “You’ve Changed,” “Lush Life” and “Willow Weep For Me” and Davis’
piano is a strong asset throughout, whether accompanying Powers or taking short spots of his own.
Fans of first-class swinging singers will enjoy Wayne Powers’ If Love Were All which is available from www.
For the past five years, singer Cyrille Aimee has been touring and performing regularly with a group
comprised of acoustic guitarist Adrien Moignard and electric guitarist Michael Valeanu along with a couple
different bassist and drummers; most recently bassist Dylan Shamat and drummer Dani Danor. The French
jazz singer, long based in Brooklyn, has a beautiful voice, a real feel for Gypsy jazz (having attended the
Django Reinhardt Festival in France since she was a young child), and a versatile style and repertoire. She
recently moved to New Orleans and decided to break up her long-time band. Live captures their final concert
from Aug. 16, 2017, following their two excellent studio albums It’s A Good Day and Let’s Get Lost.
A celebratory rather than a mournful affair, Live captures a fine performance by the quintet. After the
opening “It’s A Good Day” and the singer’s original “Nutt Blanche,” Aimee performs a vocal version of
“Sidney Bechet’s “Si Tu Vois Mia Mere” (made famous in the Woody Allen movie Midnight In Paris) and a
swinging rendition of a rare blues by Stephen Sondheim, “Live Alone And Like It,” which gives the group and
the scatting singer a chance to stretch out. The group goes on a bit of a departure with a Michael Jackson
medley and “Off The Wall” but returns to swinging on “Day By Day,” an assertive “It’s Over Now” (a vocalized
“Well You Needn’t”), and a rapid rendition of “Three Little Words.” The concert concludes with the
infectious and upbeat “Each Day.”
Live, which is available from www.mackavenue.com, is a fine closer for this chapter in Cyrille Aimee’s
musical life. It will be quite interesting to see what she comes up with next.
Ted Nash Quintet
Live At Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola
These days, Ted Nash is most often heard as a key soloist and arranger for the Jazz At Lincoln Center Jazz
Orchestra. Live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola gives the altoist a chance to stretch out with an all-star quintet,
performing a few of his favorite songs.
Nash, who is heard on alto and one song apiece on clarinet, flute and piccolo, is joined by vibraphonist
Warren Wolf, pianist Gary Versace, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Matt Wilson for this high-quality set.
Nash performs likable versions of his fairly free blues “Organized Crime,” Chick Corea’s “Windows” (which
features him on flute), Herbie Nichols’ “Spinning Song,” a lengthy and spirited exploration of Thelonious
Monk’s “Epistrophy,” “Emily” (taken as a clarinet-piano duet), his driving and hyper “Sisters,” and a
boogaloo version of Henry Manciní’s “Baby Elephant Walk” which, although one might expect a tuba in the
lead, Nash plays on piccolo. The leader shows plenty of technique, taste and individuality on each of his
The music, which also features plenty of fine solos from Wolf and Versace, is melodic, lyrical and
occasionally stirring. The enjoyable set is available from www.tednash.com.
Thank You Elvin
One of the greatest drummers of all time, Elvin Jones became a permanent force and influence in the jazz
world during his period (1961-65) as a member of the John Coltrane Quartet. After leaving Coltrane, he
became an important bandleader himself, stretching the music while staying tied to its foundation. On Sept.
9, 1972, his quartet’s engagement at the Lighthouse was recorded and soon released as the double-Lp Live At
The Lighthouse. In the audience was a 17-year old aspiring drummer named Paul Kreibich.
Kreibich was already a professional by then. After studying at Berklee, he settled permanently in Southern
California. Along the way he toured extensively with Carmen McRae, Ray Charles, and the Gene Harris
Quartet, and has played and recorded with a countless number of top jazz artists in the L.A. area ever since.
His straight-ahead jazz playing has kept him in great demand for decades.
More than 45 years after seeing Elvin Jones at the Lighthouse, Kreibich and his specially assembled group
paid tribute to the music that he heard that night, not by repeating the repertoire or the solos but by playing
creatively within the post-bop style of Elvin Jones. While the Jones group consisted of David Liebman (tenor,
soprano and flute), tenor-saxophonist Steve Grossman, and bassist Gene Perla in addition to the leader,
Kreibich’s unit has three saxophonists (Doug Webb, Glenn Cashman and Jeff Ellwood on tenors with Ellwood
doubling on soprano) and bassist Chris Colangelo plus his drums. They performed at the same venue (the
Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach) which, although no longer featuring jazz every night, still presents jazz groups
two or three days or nights a week.
Thank You Elvin has the quintet performing five Kreibich originals, the standard “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears
Out To Try,” John Coltrane’s “Naima,” Doug Webb’s “Triple Play,” and one song (Gene Perla’s “Sambra”)
that was also part of the Jones recording. The three saxophonists are as fiery and passionate as Liebman and
Grossman had been in 1972, generally making fairly concise statements that are full of heat. While inspired
by John Coltrane, they play in their own voices. Colangelo also takes some fine solos along the way and
Kreibich, while not shy to display Jones’ influence and drive, never copies the master.
The repertoire consists of the minor-toned swinger “Fastrak,” the modal jazz waltz “Sabai Sabai,” some funky
rhythms on “Space Mistress,” Webb’s ballad feature on “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry,” the samba-
flavored “Sambra,” “Blues Trek” (a medium-tempo blues), the rhythm changes of “Triple Play,” a respectful
but intense “Naima” and the joyful calypso “Cookie’s Calypso.” Plenty of fireworks take place.
Elvin Jones would have enjoyed this strong set which is available from www.paulkreibich.com.
A major jazz pianist since the early 1990s and one who thus far has led at least 29 CDs and appeared on over
100, George Colligan has his own style within the modern mainstream of jazz. He has worked with such
notables as Cassandra Wilson, Buster Williams, Gary Bartz, Jack DeJohnette, Benny Golson, Miguel Zenon,
Tom Harrell, Steve Coleman, Vanessa Rubin, Ravi Coltrane, Michael Brecker, Nicholas Payton, Sheila
Jordan, Janis Siegel, Lee Konitz and many other giants.
Nation Divided is a set of solo piano musings in which Colligan seems to think aloud (and in his words
“dream”) at the piano. Some of the 13 improvisations have political titles (including “Nation Divided”) while
others depict scenes or philosophical ideas. The wide-ranging set includes the free and violent “Street Fight,”
the downbeat “Blues For Charleston,” a tension-filled “Nights Of Passion,” a purposeful “The Strength To
Move On,” “Cognac Logic,” “Sentimental Foolishness” and “Saddest Of All Keys.”
Although Nation Divided succeeds as background music since many of the pieces display a peaceful serenity,
a closer listen reveals passion, intensity and tension that are just beneath the surface. The music rewards
repeated listenings and is well worth exploring. Nation Divided is available from www.whirlwindrecordings.
Little Freddie King
Fried Rice & Chicken
Little Freddie King (no relation to his fellow blues performer Freddie King who passed away in 1976) is one of
the last of the authentic blues guitarists and singers. Born in 1940 as Frederick Martin and raised in
Mississippi, he fell in love with New Orleans at an early age and has been based there throughout much of his
life. King spent many years as a sideman playing in small clubs and juke joints with a variety of performers
including Slim Harpo, Champion Jack Dupree and Harmonica Williams, making his recording debut with the
latter in 1969. However he did not get a chance to record as a leader until 1995’s Swamp Boogie. At the age of
55 King, who had been working a day job as an auto mechanic, suddenly had his career rejuvenated. The
release of Swamp Boogie made King well known and resulted in him touring Europe and recording 2000’s
Sing Sang Sung. He has been performing with higher visibility ever since.
Fried Rice & Chicken has selections drawn from those two King releases. The first six numbers, a mixture of
hot instrumentals and low-down blues, feature King with a quartet that includes Rick Allen on electric piano
and organ. While his version of “What’d I Say” will not make one forget Ray Charles’ classic recording, King
plays the song his own way. Other highlights include “Cleo’s Back,” “Mean Little Woman” and “I Use To Be
The remaining five selections, drawn from Sing Sang Sung, were recorded live in 1999 with a group that
includes Bobby Lewis DiTullio on harmonica. Whether playing a straightforward blues, a low-down vocal
piece, or some country blues (which has an irregular number of bars per chorus), Little Freddie King shows a
great deal of individuality, soul and passion throughout these enjoyable performances.
While one might prefer the complete original releases, Fried Rice & Chicken (available form www.
orleansrecords.com) serves as an excellent introduction to the music of Little Freddie King who at the age of
78 is still active today.
Don Ellis (1934-78) was a very original trumpeter, bandleader and thinker. While he began his career as an
adventurous trumpeter who worked with the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra, the George Russell Sextet (where
for a time he sat next to Eric Dolphy), and as leader of a few inventive combo albums. Ellis also appeared in
settings ranging from the New York Philharmonic to his Hindustani Jazz Sextet but he will always be best
remembered for his remarkable big bands.
Starting in 1965 when he formed at 20-piece outfit that included three bassists, two drummers and several
percussionists along with the usual brass and reed sections, Ells became an innovator in utilizing unusual time
signatures which could range from 9/4 to 31/4. The hit of the 1966 Monterey Jazz Festival, the Don Ellis
Orchestra evolved during the remainder of the decade, sometimes utilizing electronic devices on their horns
(such as echoplexes, ring modulators and phasers), changed its instrumentation at various times, and always
included the leader’s crazy wit along with plenty of humorous false endings.
All of the music from the 1968-69 albums Shock Treatment and Autumn are reissued on this two-CD set from
BGO (www.bgo-records.com). For Shock Treatment, the orchestra was comprised of five trumpets, three
trombones, five reeds, keyboards, three bassists (one of whom doubled on sitar), drums and three
percussionists. Whether it is the exuberant “A New Kind Of Country,” “The Tihai” (displaying Ellis’ interest
in Indian music), the chorale effects on “Star Children,” “Beat Me Daddy Seven To The Bar,” or the eerie
“Milo’s Theme,” this is a colorful and memorable set.
However Autumn was the Don Ellis Big Band’s finest recording. Ellis is showcased on the lengthy “Variations
For Trumpet,” “Scratt and Fluggs” is a humorous satire, and altoist Frank Strozier takes a memorable solo on
“K.C. Blues.” The two most famous songs to come out of the Ellis band, the episodic and exciting “Indian
Lady” (which has a very wild tenor battle by John Klemmer and Sam Falzone) and the classic “Pussy Wiggle
Stomp” (the definitive 7/4 song) are the highpoints.
Autumn belongs in every serious jazz library and Shock Treatment is close, making this twofer a must. After
listening to the Don Ellis Orchestra, nearly every other big band sounds quite straight and sober in
Dial It In
(Treated and Released)
Reverend Freakchild has a deep and dark voice and is a fluent blues-based guitarist. In his career he has
performed in a variety of settings including with Soul Coughing, Bananafish, the Neptune Ensemble, the Soul
Miners, the Lucky Devils and the Cosmic All-Stars in addition to being a key soloist with the Metro Mass
Dial It In has the Rev joined by drummer-percussionist Chris Parker, Hugh Pool on harmonica, steel guitar
and rhythm guitar, Robin Sylvester or Tim Kiah on bass, and a few guest musicians. The music could be
classified as blues although it stretches the idiom quite a bit, delving into rock, pop, folk and unclassifiable
blends of styles. The leader’s vocals cover a wide range of emotions (and include some witty moments) and he
improvises well on guitar.
Among this CD’s 11 songs are the atmospheric opener “Opus Earth,” “Hippie Bluesman Blues,” the catchy
“Dial It In,” a folkish “Skyflower,” the exuberant “15 Going On 50” (with pianist Brian Mitchell) and the
closing instrumental “Opus Space.”
Listeners who are open to blues and its many relatives will find Dial It In (available from wwww.
treatedandreleasedrecords.com) to be quite enjoyable.
Vinny Raniolo is a very talented swing-oriented guitarist in the tradition of Bucky Pizzarelli, Carl Kress and
Dick McDonough. In addition to playing guitar, he also loves to fly. It is therefore fitting that for his debut CD
as a leader, Air Guitar, Raniolo has managed to combine his two passions by picking out 15 standards that
have something to do with flying.
Performing duets with bassist Elias Bailey, Raniolo revives such numbers as “Come Fly with Me,” “Blue
Skies,” “Airmail Special,” “Fly Me To The Moon” and “East Of The Sun” along with “Volare” and the obscure
George Smith number “Test Pilot.” Raniolo plays a lot of beautiful chords, shows that he is also a fine single-
note soloist, and leaves space for occasional spots by Bailey (who is particularly skilled when creating bowed
The melodic and concise music (no selection clocks in over 4:30) is easy to enjoy and is full of subtle
creativity, even while Vinny Raniolo pays respect to the melodies. There are enough tempo and mood
variations to keep one’s interest throughout, making Air Guitar an easily recommended set, available from