"LEGENDS & LIONS: SWINGIN' "
This compilation is the most exciting CD I've heard this year, with peak performances by a heavily talent-laden roster of first-class musicians.
The point of this release is to place young, budding players in a setting with cats who have reached the top. Track one, "Mighty Burner," puts young trumpeter Rashawn Ross in company with organist Joey De Francesco, tenorist Ron Blake and drummer Greg Hutchinson. The youngster more than holds his own.
De Francesco makes a second appearance on "Blues for Hamp," a rousing shuffle, along with Terry Gibbs, Pete Christlieb, Anthony Wilson, Mike Melvoin, Dave Carpenter and Jeff Hamilton.
Vocalist Ilona Klopfer is captivating singing "Comment Allez Vous," backed by an all-star big band. A fine young pianist, Eugene Maslov, contributes two tunes, "The Masquerade is Over," and "Seven Steps to Heaven."
One of the finest groove tunes is "Centerpiece," performed by Kenny Burrell, Cedar Walton, Al McKibbon and Willie Jones III. This is a feast for jazz-lovin' ears.
"HANK & FRANK"
HANK JONES & FRANK WESS
The names Hank Jones and Frank Wess equate with jazz senior statesmen speaking with today's jazz voices.
Both pianist Jones and tenor saxophonist Wess have carved major niches in the art form. On this release, they are supported by drummer Mickey Roker, bassist John Webber and up-and-coming guitarist Ilya Lushtak.
One of the prettiest tunes here is "The Very Thought of You," which begins with Jones' supple solo followed by Wess' beautiful flute. They turn up the tempo for "Just One of Those Things," with Wess back on tenor handling the tempo in exemplary fashion. Jones' ageless fingers dazzle on this familiar standard.
The famed duo sink their teeth into "A Hankerin'," a slow blues that allows each to stretch out in solo. It's always a special treat when legends such as Hank and Wess pair up.
Bassist Brian Bromberg makes it very clear since he is the bass player and the leader, you will hear his bass.
To say the bass work was anything less than dominant would be a misstatement. The other musicians, pianist Randy Waldman and drummer Vinnie Colaiuto take back seats — way back.
Colaiuto does get 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" very much, mainly because Bromberg whistles the lead, and very nicely, too.
Someday — and it could be sooner rather than later — somebody at the top is going to have to move over and make room for Antoinette Montague, a singer with loads of promise.
She's about as straight-ahead as a singer can be. Her approach is basic: Sing the melody and don't muck it up with highly stylized gimmickry. Her program is composed of standards like "Dedicated to You," "Blue Skies," "How Deep is the Ocean" and "I'd Rather Drink Muddy Water."
She also uses some of the best sidemen in the world. Pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Peter Washington, drummer Kenny Washington and saxophonist Bill Easley all lend their considerable talents.
Former Portland television producer/director/ videographer Aaron Walker will soon release a DVD of Portland pianist Tom Grant in concert in Japan.
Grant performed in front of a near-capacity crowd at Azalea Hall in Ikula, Osaka. He was accompanied by a six-piece American and Japanese band. Reportedly, the crowd showed its appreciation for Grant's smooth jazz by demanding several encores.
The concert was produced by Walker, who also co-produced Grant's CD "Instinct" on the Shanachie label. His new DVD will be available at www.tomgrant.com.