"STREAMS OF EXPRESSION"
Saxophonist and great explorer of the jazz unknown Joe Lovano pays a gallant tribute to Miles Davis and everything for which Davis's name stands.
Lovano is especially inventive in the way he constructs Davis's "The Birth of The Cool Suite." He organized it into seven sections combining the three original compositions — "Moon Dreams," "Move" and "Boplicity" — within four of Lovano's own: "Prelude," "Interlude I," "Interlude II" and "Postlude." It comes off as if he and Davis were seated side-by-side, composing.
The first two tracks, titled "Streams of Expression," a Lovano original in two parts — "Streams" and "Cool" — introduces the 11-piece band. Some familiar names like John Hicks, Lewis Nash, Dennis Irwin and Tim Hagans all excel. Trumpeter Hagans wrote "Buckeyes," and it is a workout for him.
There is so much richness and musical substance that a book could be written about its conception, composition and recording. Who knows? Someday, maybe someone might just do that.
Key to all that is great about this effort is conductor Gunther Schuller, an intimate of Davis, the late Gil Evans and John Lewis, all of whom contributed to parts of this wonderful mix of yesterday and today.
"DEAR MR. SINATRA"
JOHN PIZZARELLI AND THE CLAYTON-HAMILTON JAZZ ORCHESTRA
Vocalist John Pizzarelli has a nice way of phrasing and using his modest and light voice to the utmost on this reiteration of some great Frank Sinatra material.
Pizzarelli is fortunate — and so is the listener — that the Clayton-Hamilton powerhouse big band is his traveling companion. For example, the piano of Tamir Hendelman is the highlight of "If I Had You." Co-leader John Clayton's bass signals the beginning of "Witchcraft," followed by an exciting orchestration featuring the brass section. Pizzarelli adds a Sinatra feel to this as does to all the songs.
Included are "Ring a Ding Ding," "You Make Me Feel So Young," "I've Got You Under My Skin" and a gorgeous medley of "I See Your Face Before Me," and "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and more.
"YOU TAUGHT MY HEART TO SING"
HOUSTON PERSON AND BILL CHARLAP
No, tenor saxophonist Houston Person has not lost his soul. He is just exposing us to another side of his musical spirit on this duo release with pianist Bill Charlap.
Nor has Person forsaken the blues; witness his treatment of "Don't Forget the Blues" and "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone," the final two tracks of this 10-track outing. However, even on those two tunes, Person's approach is lighter in its intensity, which must be necessary absent bass and drums.
It is quite a treat to hear an artist in any form bust out of his own stereotype and give the patron a glimpse — even a tiny one — of what else is in his soul. That is exactly what Person does as he executes beautiful interpretations of ballads, straight from the great American songbook.
Charlap is the perfect accompanist with his thinking and sensitive playing, indicating throughout he truly is listening to the soloist, Person. My favorite is "Where are You?" Others might find their personal favorite from "You Taught My Heart to Sing," "Namely You," "Sweet Lorraine," "S'Wonderful," " If I Ruled the World," " Where is Love" and "I Was Telling Her About You."
"WHO LET THE CATS OUT?"
Progressive guitarist Mike Stern has an impressive history in jazz music.
After studying at the Berklee College of Music, he joined Blood, Sweat and Tears for three years before joining drummer Billy Cobham's band. Stints with Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius followed.
Here, he uses a host of musicians with seemingly each cut becoming a separate project unto itself. "KT" was the first to hit home with me, as it featured trumpeter Roy Hargrove inside a Miles Davis-like setting — Miles in his fusion period, that is.
"We're With You" is a tune of support for others in a time of great need. It has a lush string orchestration from Jim Beard's synthesizer. Stern and his compatriots cover a lot of bases with this work. Ballads, funk, rock, jazz, bop — and all of it delightfully performed.