Los Angeles Jazz Scene - Jazz Around Town
                         January 2016
THE TOP JAZZ CDS OF 2015

Judging by this past year’s record releases, jazz is still very much in an artistic golden age as it has been since records became widely
available in 1920. There were many more than 30 rewarding jazz CDs released in the past year and even a list of 300 would only tell part of
the story. This is a very different “best of” list than most, covering a wide variety of styles and approaches. Suffice it to say, I think these 30
sets (listed in alphabetical order and divided into new releases and historical recordings) are simply great. All of these recordings will
certainly reward your attention.

NEW RELEASES
Cat Conner - Cat House - Cat Tales
The Cookers – Time And Time Again – Motema
Mon David – This Is All I Ask – Human Connection
Erik Friedlander – Oscalypso – Skipstone
Ghost Train Orchestra – Hot Town - Accurate
Edsel Gomez – Road To Udaipur – Zoho
Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band – A Big Phat Christmas - 1201 Music
Marty Grosz and the Fat Babies – Diga Dga Doo – Delmark
Edwin G. Hamilton – The Whole World Must Change - EGHM
Eddie Henderson – Collective Portrait – Smoke Sessions
Carl Sonny Leyland – King Of The Barrelhouse – Piano/Mania Music
The Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble – Circulation: The Music Of Gary McFarland – Planet Arts
Susie Meissner – Tea For Two – Lydian Jazz
Andy Schumm – Bix Off The Record – Lake
Kenny Wheeler – Songs For Quintet - ECM

REISSUES AND HISTORICAL RECORDINGS
Eva Cassidy – Nightbird – Blix Street
George Chisholm – The Gentleman Of Jazz - Retrospective
Eddie Condon & Bud Freeman – Complete Commodore & Decca Sessions – Mosaic
Miles Davis – At Newport 1955-75 – Columbia/Legacy
Erroll Garner – The Complete Concert By The Sea – Columbia/Legacy
Lars Gullin – Complete 1956-1960 Studio Recordings – Fresh Sound
Jeff Healey – The Best Of The Stony Plain Years – Stony Plain
Billie Holiday – Banned From New York City: Live 1948-1957 – Uptown
Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay/Straight Life/First Light – BGO
Bunk Johnson - Rare & Unissued Masters Volume One 1943-1945 – American Music
Carmell Jones – Quartet – Fresh Sound
Stan Kenton – Concerts In Miniature, Vols. 1-10 – Sounds Of Yester Year
Wes Montgomery – In The Beginning – Resonance
Albert Nicholas & Herb Hall – GHB
Thelonious – Criss Cross Live A the Red Sea – K2B2

ROBERTA GAMBARINI AND BENNY GREEN
      
KJZZ’s Jingle Jazz concert at the El Rey Theatre featured two of today’s giants, singer Roberta Gambarini and pianist Benny Green, in
separate sets. Roberta Gambarini is one of the very best jazz vocalists of the past 15 years. Unlike many other jazz singers, she has stuck
exclusively to jazz throughout her career. Her beautiful voice was very much in evidence throughout her performance which found her
joined by pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Joe LaBarbera. She began with an unaccompanied chorus on
Cole Porter’s “So In Love,” swung her way through “That Old Black Magic,” and was soulful and expressive on “This Masquerade” which was
taken at a perfect medium-slow tempo. Other highlights include the melancholy “Oblivion” (taken from an Italian movie), Jimmy Heath’s
“Without Song,” Johnny Griffin’s intense “The JAMF’s Are Coming” (which featured some masterful scat singing), Cy Coleman’s “With
Every Breath I Take,” and Ms. Gambarini’s trademark song, “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” (featuring her vocalese to the recorded solos
by Sonny Stitt, Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins). All in all, it was a memorable and outstanding performance.
      
Pianist Benny Green always invigorates the modern mainstream of jazz. During his set with bassist David Wong and drummer Rodney
Green, he sounded in prime form on Horace Silver’s uptempo swinger “St. Vitus Dance,“ the ballad “Theme For Ernie,” Cedar Walton’s
“Fiesta,” the lyrical “Weaver Of Dreams” and a rapid “52nd Street Theme.” Able to play creatively in styles ranging from Bobby Timmons to
McCoy Tyner, Green is particularly outstanding when he zooms through fast unisons with his two hands. The night concluded with Green
and Gambarini performing an exquisite duet version of “A Time For Love.” They should record a full CD together someday!

NEW MUSIC FROM THE PAST
      
One of the joys of following jazz is that all eras of the music are still alive, whether in live performances or on newly discovered recordings. All
five of the CDs in this review contain music that has not been heard since it was originally played.
      
Timme’s Treasures (available from www.storyvillerecords.com) features private performances recorded by Baron Timme Rosenkrantz, a
colorful character from Denmark who loved jazz and worked on its periphery for decades. The music on the CD, dating from 1944-45, begins
with three selections featuring Slam Stewart who hummed along with his bowed bass. While those numbers are not as exciting as one would
hope, the music quickly picks up in interest with a few performances that showcase tenor-saxophonist Don Byas, two songs from radio
broadcasts that feature the great jazz violinist Stuff Smith, a lengthy “All The Things You Are” with pianist Erroll Garner, Lucky Thompson
on tenor and singer Inez Cavanaugh, and especially two Thelonious Monk piano solos. Monk is heard on a joyful version of “These Foolish
Things” and on his first-ever recording of “’Round Midnight.” It is remarkable that music of this caliber has gone unheard for over 70 years.
      
Moving up a decade, Kurhaus Concert 1954 (available from www.doctorjazz.nl) has 18 songs from a performance by the Count Basie
Orchestra from the Netherlands. While most of the “New Testament” Basie band is well featured (including trumpeter Joe Newman,
trombonists Benny Powell and Henry Coker, altoist Marshall Royal and both Frank Wess and Frank Foster on tenors), the band did not yet
have Joe Williams. The only vocal, on “Three Little Words,” is by Bixie Crawford. The other soloists include trumpeter Joe Wilder, arranger
Ernie Wilkins who sounds fine on tenor, and baritonist Charlie Fowlkes who plays like Illinois Jacquet on a hot version of “Rockabye Basie.”
The orchestra performs with plenty of enthusiasm throughout, with arrangements supplied by Wilkins, Wess, Neal Hefti, Buster Harding,
Jimmy Mundy and Johnny Mandel. Count Basie fans will definitely want this well recorded set.
      
During the past few years, the Resonance label (www.resonancerecords.org) has regularly come up with unheard gems from the past. Their
latest, Wes Montgomery’s One Night In Indy, features the influential guitarist on Jan. 18, 1959 with pianist Eddie Higgins, drummer Walter
Perkins and an unidentified bassist. The quartet performs six standards including a nine-minute exploration of “Give Me The Simple Life,”
“Stompin’ At The Savoy” and “Li’l Darling.” On the verge of become nationally (and eventually world) famous, Montgomery playing was
already quite recognizable. His solos are both relaxed and heated and it is a pleasure hearing him teamed with the underrated but brilliant
pianist Eddie Higgins.
      
Live At Chautauqua Volume 1 (available from www.dottimerecords.com) features Ella Fitzgerald in an upstate New York concert from July
11, 1968. Well aware of the rise of the Beatles and rock, Ella was doing her best to adjust to the times without changing her style.
Accompanied by pianist Tee Carson, bassist Keter Betts and drummer Joe Harris, Ella mixes together some standbys (including “It’s All Right
With Me” “The Lady Is A Tramp” and her hit of 30 years earlier, “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”) with such recent material as “For Once In My Life,”
“On A Clear Day” and a medley of “Sunny” and “Goin’ Out Of My Head.” While some of the latter songs (particularly “Goin’ Out Of My
Head”) do not really work despite her best efforts, Ella is particularly outstanding scatting on “One Note Samba” and her voice sounds as
wonderful as usual.
      
An underrated giant of free jazz, altoist Sonny Simmons has been obscure during much of his career despite his talents. Reincarnation
(available from www.arhoolie.com) features him a 1991 club performance with his wife the great trumpeter Barbara Donald, his son
drummer Zarak Simmons, pianist Travis Shook and bassist Court Crawford. While the solos during the five selections are sometimes free, the
music is often melodic and closer to early Ornette Coleman than it is to Cecil Taylor. Surprisingly accessible, the performances include many
superior solos from Simmons and Donald, with the latter showcased on the closing “Over The Rainbow.” The release of Reincarnation is a
great find.

TUNES OF THE TWENTIES

      One of the most interesting recent jazz books is Robert Rawlins’ Tunes Of The Twenties. A long-time devotee of that era, Rawlins colorfully
tells the story behind the birth of 250 songs which mostly date from the 1920s (some of the tunes were written a little earlier while a few are
slightly later). A companion to his previous The Real Dixieland Book which provided the sheet music to the songs, Tunes Of The Twenties is
filled with fascinating and well-researched tales about the origin and history behind the classic material. Ranging from New Orleans
Dixieland tunes to pop songs played by the musicians of the era, this book will answer many questions. Colorfully illustrated, Tunes Of The
Twenties is not just a valuable addition to the history of jazz but makes for a delightful read. It is highly recommended and available from
www.tunesofthetwenties.com.