CHIE IMAI ZUMI
My jazz standard has always been, "it's got to swing or be pretty." That was passed on to me by Mr. Ed Slaughter, proprietor of Top Q Billiards, a spot with a jukebox full of his favorite jazz artists back in the 1940s and 50s.
Composer-conductor Chie Imaizumi hit both these marks on "Unfailing Kindness," a release with exquisitely gorgeous compositions as well as at least one hard swinger, "Round and Round." Even though her beautiful face graces its cover, Ms. Imaizumi is not an instrumentalist on any of its tracks. But her very essence is the dominant presence on each of the seven tracks, which she wrote.
Trumpeter Ron Miles, guitarist Mike Abbot and pianist Jeff Jenkins are the standouts on "Adversity" which begins somberly but then becomes an even more beautiful ballad.
Another, titled simply "Lonely" is one of the prettiest tunes I've ever heard. It opens with Abbott's guitar and Jenkins' piano. Soon, Greg Gisbert's flugelhorn begins his sweet but melancholy solo. The full orchestra swells the sound and continues i
When it comes to saxophonists, there's nothing better than a big tone player like tenorist Wayne Escoffery.
He steps away from his lead position in the Mingus Big Band to record this five star small group session with vibist Joe Locke, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Lewis Nash.
However, his tone is only part of the story. His improvisation on Duke Ellington's "Isfahan" with its tempo change from Ellington's big band original is remarkable, and for one, I'm certainly glad it was recorded. His opener, spanning two tracks, explores Dizzy Gillespie's bop ballad, " I Waited For You." Locke played a solo vibes intro lasting 1:43 before Escoffery's melodic statement and subsequent exciting interpretation.
Escoffery switches to soprano saxophone on the ballad "Tell Me Why." His soprano tone is one of rounded edges and soft corners. It should be no surprise when "Veneration" makes many top ten lists at year's end.
"UP AND RUNNING"
JOHN FEDCHOCK'S NEW YORK BIG BAND
This band has been together for nearly 20 years and has maintained a style that is both relaxing and swinging.
Fedchock, himself a fine trombonist, doesn't hog the solo spotlight. That is likely one reason he can keep this first class group of musicians. His solo on "Dedicated to You" is sheer beauty.
One of America's top baritone saxophonists, Gary Smulyan, owns, "Alfie's Theme" with his vigorous driving solo. George Gershwin's "Embraceable You" gets a prize for Barry Ries' flugel horn solo with pianist Allen Farnham offering support behind him and then taking his own gorgeous solo. This is a winner with ten tracks, all of them four stars.
"BILL CHARLAP TRIO LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD"
Trio leader-pianist Bill Charlap has said, "We love the music, the past, the present and the future and this album is representative of what we do on a nightly basis."
What he does on a nightly basis has stamped his band with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington as the leading working piano jazz trio in jazz.
Gerry Mulligan's "Rocker," a neat up tempo piece with a boppish feel, due in part to drummer Washington dropping assorted bombs under Charlap ranging over the keys.
What follows is a most sensitive version of "Autumn in New York," the ultimate in ballad artistry.
Charlap summons all the power, creativity and speed and lays it all out on "My Shining Hour." It's turns out to be a sprint relay with each band member handing off to another to execute rapid-fire solos.
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