10-28-2016  7:04 am      •     

"ETAT de FAIT"  
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Born in Italy in 1948, drummer-vocalist Aldo Romano moved to France as a youngster.
He was influenced and inspired by drummers Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams and Billy Higgins. He performed with many American top cat players including Bud Powell, Chet Baker, Phil Woods and Don Cherry.
This writer does not speak nor understand French. That is only a slight handicap when it comes to enjoying this excellent release. In 2004, he received the prestigious Jazz Par award, considered to be the Nobel Prize of Jazz in Copenhagen. It was at the ceremony where he sang "Estate" to great applause. That led to his first vocal recording, "Chante." This release is a follow up to that album.
His voice is not unlike that of Tony Bennett's. He mixes the spoken word with his singing and romance fairly drips from each phrase. He is accompanied by bass, keyboards, tenor saxophone, clarinet, drums and percussion.

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Veteran saxophonist Willie Williams opts for a trio with bass and drums but no piano.
Trying as hard as Williams, bassist Gary Wang and drummer Rudy Walker find there's an unfilled niche, particularly on the longer cuts. The opener, "Comet Ride" runs 8:24 but seems longer because, at that length, it needs another solo instrument.
What follows is a mellow relief. "Tenor Ballet" is calming, opening with bowed bass and William's horn and closing the same way. "I'm Misunderstood" is a pretty pity piece featuring Williams who says, in the liner notes, the tune reflects a time past in his life.
My favorite is "Philly Syndrome," a 7:04 exercise where Williams treats the listener to inspired improvisation and his big sound.

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The word "shayari" is pronounced shy-ree and is an Urdu word meaning a type of poetry consisting of couplets and a highly stylized form of verse.
Produced by pianist Michael Cain, who is heard on all tracks, it allows for some very special guest appearances. Violinist Regina Carter is heard on one track, "Of Kindred Souls." Jack De Johnette's drums are included on five cuts. Bassist Chris McBride is added on two tracks; "What Is Your Prayer For," and "Teddy." Percussionist Gilman Gomes is on tracks 1,3,and 10.
All the musicians are superior and Blake makes great use of each. This is not music for "Everyman." It requires careful listening and an appreciation of subtlety and nuance.

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Bassist Drew Gress and his quintet move the music forward on this Premonition Records release, his second on the label following "7 Black Butterflies" and features the same players. Alto saxophonist Tim Berne, trumpeter Ralph Alessi, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Tom Rainey provide some scintillating and disciplined unison work on most tunes before launching into individual improvisations.
Gress says of his writing, "I've been intensely focused on blurring the lines between composition and improvisation, on engaging the listener's subconscious by bringing motivic unity into play throughout the album, searching for fabric to bind the pieces together as a unified whole."
It certainly works as it seems the overall theme is enhanced from track to track.

Dick Bogle hosts a weekly jazz radio show 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays on KMHD 89.1 FM. He can be reached at r.bogle@comcast.net.

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