A situation that could develop into a real battle of the bands, at least economically, is underway with the announcement of the new Oregon Jazz Orchestra.
The OJC is led by saxophonist Devin Phillips and he plans on using drummer Mel Brown and pianist Darrell Grant in the orchestra's debut performance, Dec. 31 at the Governor Hotel. The event is a black tie dinner and dance.
If the rest of its members are close to Phillips, Grant and Brown in talent, they will give the other new band a run for the patrons' money. The Portland Jazz Orchestra was established in 2005 by trombonist Lars Campbell and is conducted by Portland State University's Charlie Gray. The band features such local jazz stars as trumpeters Rich Cooper, Paul Mazzio and Farnell Newton; saxophonists Bryan Dickerson, Tim Jensen and Tim Bryson. Jeff Uusitalo and Campbell anchor the trombone section. One of the scene's brightest young talents, Dan Gaynor is the pianist with drummer Ken Ollis and bassist Tom Wakeling filling out the rhythm section.
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This pianist, Falkner Evans, is not only an excellent exponent of the keyboard but also has considerable compositional chops.
His "Singing Darkness" makes great use of bassist Belden Bullock and drummer Matt Wilson in creating a dark but not gloomy street scene. At least that's what I saw as I heard Evans execute strong chords over a hypnotic rhythm section vamp.
The blues are evident in another of his works, "Make Tracks, Child," which is not a blues but a neat medium tempo light hearted and happy tune. Evans includes Coltrane's "Central Park West," Wayne Shorter's "Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum" and Johnny Mercer's "Lost in the Stars."
"PLAYING FOR KEEPS"
BOB DE VOS
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Guitarist Bob De Vos must have been pre-destined to work in or lead organ groups.
His musical history is heavily peppered with stints in groups led by Charles Earland, Richard Groove Holmes, Jack McDuff, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Mike Le Donne and Joey De Francesco.
So, it's no surprise he records his working band of organist Dan Kostelnik and drummer Steve Johns along with special guest, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. They turn in a very fine mix of recognizable jazz tunes like "Body and Soul," "Naima," "Freedom Jazz Dance," "So in Love," and "Ask Me Now' with some De Vos originals.
One of those originals, "Pause for Fred's Claws" combines a nice shuffle beat with groove solos by De Vos and Kostelnik. An obvious tribute to the late legendary guitarist Wes Montgomery comes with "Wes Is More," another De Vos composition that romps along with exceptional solos by the leader, Alexander and Kostelnik.
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Steve Nelson is the answer to what the world, especially the jazz world, needs now — a vibes master who really, really knows how to swing.
The ranks of the above described have truly thinned with the passing of Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson. On this stellar Highnote album, Nelson has some of the best accompanying him. Pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash are an awesome rhythm section. Miller and Washington got a chance to stretch out on "Night Mist Blues," a fine example of swinging the blues with class.
One of the prettiest tunes — and there are several — is "Sound Essence," where again Nelson allows Miller and Washington to do their own beautiful thing.
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This is a different Paul Bollenback than the one we are used to hearing on guitar with organist Joey De Francesco.
This is Bollenback the explorer, creating moods and images on the title tune, "Invocation" parts one and two. He tries and succeeds in the main, in duo with vocalist Chris McNulty. It's pretty in spots. Part two's brightest spot is Randy Brecker's trumpet solo.
My favorite tracks are the ballads; "Everything Must Change," and "Emily." Bollenback does a lot on those two to elevate the perception of his breadth as a musician. He gets great support from bassist Ed Howard and drummer Victor Lewis.
Dick Bogle hosts a weekly jazz show 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays on 89.1 KMHD.