Ahmad Jamal and his trio delighted a respectable crowd of fans last weekend at Seattle's Jazz Alley.
His program was all about the ensemble, which features bassist James Cammack and drummer Idris Muhammad. Jamal subtly inserts independent roles for the bass and drums. On some tunes, his powerful left hand played call-and-response with his right.
On "Estate," Jamal used a series of rhythmic changes combined with his unique harmonic concepts to firmly stamp the tune as his property. The ballad "Where Are You" began with only Jamal and bassist Cammack, but soon launched into full motion when drummer Muhammad joined in.
The deep, dark-hued tones of Cammack's bass on "Swahili Land" are seldom heard with such resonance. Jamal chose to close with an old favorite, "Poinciana." No doubt about it — with their emphatic style of performance, this trio is definitely macho.
It seems as if it was only a year or so ago that a club full of people came together to hear Esperanza Spalding and her band and bid her farewell and good luck.
Immediately after the gig, she caught a red-eye flight to Boston, where she would be a freshman at the Berklee College of Music. Now, she is back with her first CD release and a teaching position in the bass department at Berklee, but still a student of her art buried in theory.
A strong bass player, composer and singer, Spalding enchants all those who listen to this fine recording venture. She opens with a wordless vocal on Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks." It's a heavy rhythm treatment, tying together her bass with the drums of Francisco Mela and Aruan Ortiz's piano. Her voice floats intermittently high above like a cool breeze on a hot, sultry day.
She wrote four of the tunes here, including the title tune, "Junjo." Spalding chose songs written by Kenny Barron; Chick Corea; her pianist, Ortiz; and drummer Mela. For want of a better label, I would call this music "progressive Latin," but more importantly it's good and fresh music.
Although the total running time of this CD is only 37:53, it is some of the best 37 minutes one could hear.
John Coltrane accompanied by almost anybody would be a treat, but here he has far greater companions than just anybody. Pianist Red Garland plays with fire or restraint, depending on what's needed at the time. And what better timekeeper than Arthur Taylor to have on drums? Bassist Paul Chambers' supple work is an absolute essential.
Julie Styne's "You Say You Care" gets its likely first-ever jazz treatment, a medium up-tempo with Garland contributing a scintillating single line solo. A collaboration between Count Basie and Tadd Dameron led to "Good Bait." The 12:07 treatment has all the players playing at the top of their abilities.
Strangely, a track bearing the CD's title, "Soultrane," is not included — but with everything else here, it's not missed.
Tania Maria, the vivacious Brazilian pianist, singer and composer, delivers 10 tracks of diverse Brazilian music — all of it with an emotional impact.
She has fun with "E' Lao Gostos Sau Moco," interjecting spoken-word phrases such as "Wassup, daddy?" She includes the Mexican bolero composer Consuelo Velazquez's familiar "Besame Mucho." She makes it special with her mellow voice, with just a trace of huskiness.
My favorite track is "Canto", even though I don't understand a word of it. The message is one of love, a deep and everlasting love with passion. And if truth be different, I don't want to know about it. Her core group is bassist Eddie Gomez and percussionist Mestre Carneiro.
Bassist Brian Bromberg makes it very clear — since he is the bass player and band leader, you will hear his bass clearly.
To say his bass work was anything less than dominant would be a misstatement. The other musicians, pianist Randy Waldman and drummer Vinnie Colaiuto, take a back seat — way back.
Colaiuto gets in a first solo on "Bolivia," which overall is a pleasant listen. "Blue Bossa" is totally Bromberg, and if one likes 5:41 of very good bass work, this is it. I liked "Four Brothers," mainly because Bromberg whistles — and very nicely — in the lead