Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Brief Notes On New Jazz Releases

As more people get vaccinated and the world begins to resemble that place we used to know, we can look forward to seeing live music again. In the meantime, artists are continuing to release some excellent work to keep us going, to keep us sane. Here are notes on a few new jazz releases you might be interested in.

Kristin Callahan: “Lost In A Dream”
– Vocalist Kristin Callahan delivers beautiful, warm and earthy renditions of some beloved standards on her new album. She opens with a wistful, wonderfully sad version of “Lush Life” that reminds us why, regardless of the outcome, we’ll always be tempted “to madness.” That moment when the band quiets for the line “Oh yes, I was wrong again” is fantastic and captivating. That’s followed by “Memories Always Start,” a short piece with some interesting percussion that functions as an introduction to “‘Round Midnight.” This version of “‘Round Midnight” features, in addition to Kristin’s enthralling vocal performance, some really nice work by Matvei Sigalov on guitar and Joe Herrera on trumpet.  Then Matt Rippetoe joins Kristin on saxophone for a nice rendition of “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise” that also features prominent percussion by Tom Teasley and Lee Pearson. The album’s title track is its sole original piece, written by Kristin Callahan, and it is one of my favorites. It begins in a rather sad place, as she thinks back on an unrequited love, asking “And will you forget my love?” Then it takes on a Latin vibe while maintaining its beauty. “In my heart I know you don’t love me/Still I stay, holding on day by day/I’m a fool to dream that you would stay.” I am particularly fond of that guitar part in the second half of the track. That’s followed by a seriously cool rendition of “Caravan” that features some excellent work by Eliot Seppa on bass, and of course some wonderful percussion. What is most surprising about this rendition is that great instrumental section which has a late 1960s psychedelic flavor. Rounding out the album are “The Shadow Of Your Smile” and “Once I Loved,” two songs that look back at love. “Because love is the saddest thing when it goes away.” This album is scheduled to be released on July 16, 2021.

The Rebecca Kilgore Trio: “Vol. 1”
– There is a delightful sense of fun to jazz vocalist Rebecca Kilgore’s new album, which is clear right from the opening track, “Dear Bix,” written by Dave Frishberg. Just listen to the way she delivers lines like “You’re no ordinary, standard, B flat run-of-the-mill-type guy/Oh my, no.” Besides, it’s a playful choice to begin with. Certainly not a standard. The trio is made up of Rebecca Kilgore on vocals, Randy Porter on piano, and Tom Wakeling on bass. “Dear Bix” is followed by a standard, “Day In – Day Out,” written by Rube Bloom and Johnny Mercer, and from its opening with that bass solo, this rendition has a cool and merry vibe. Then Dick Titterington joins the trio on cornet for “Somebody Just Like You,” making his presence felt from the track’s first moments, and delivering a really good lead in the second half.  The trio clearly has fun with “Run, Little Raindrop, Run,” a breezy, light and lovely track. Rebecca Kilgore adds her own touch to “Talking To Myself About You,” writing some new lyrics for the beginning of the song. Interestingly, the song ends up being the exact same length as Peggy Lee’s rendition. An interesting choice, and one that definitely fits in with the sense of play, is Nellie McKay’s “I Wanna Get Married,” with lines like “I wanna get married/I need to cook meals/I want to pack cute little lunches/For my Brady Bunches/Then read Danielle Steel” and “I wanna get married/That’s why I was born.” Rebecca Kilgore delivers a totally sweet, wonderful rendition of “That Sunday That Summer,” following it with a fun version of “The Gentleman Is A Dope” which features some really nice work on piano. Another of the disc’s more playful choices is “Because We’re Kids,” which comes from the film The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T (if you haven’t seen it, it is definitely worth checking out). It was written by Dr. Seuss. The album closes with a standard written by Rodgers and Hart, “There’s A Small Hotel,” which features another sweet vocal performance and a good bass part. This album is scheduled to be released on April 30, 2021.

Jacqui Naylor: “The Long Game”
– The new album from vocalist and songwriter Jacqui Naylor features a lot of original material, but also a few classic numbers, both from the jazz and rock realms. She gets things going with an excellent and exciting rendition of “Like Someone In Love,” her vocal approach sexy and rich and playful. This track also features some great and lively playing by Art Khu on keys. The band backing Jacqui Naylor, in addition to Art Khu, includes Jon Evans on bass, guitar and backing vocals; and Josh Jones on drums and percussion. “Like Someone In Love” is followed by an original number, “Give Me One More Chance,” in which she sings “Give me one more chance at love/Show me all the sweet romance of love/I know I can do the dance of love.” Ooh, those moments when she hits her lower registers are so good! And, yes, a lot of the songs here deal with love, particularly her original material. “I’ll Be Loving You” is a fun number about the kind of lasting relationship most people want. Art Khu’s fingers are basically dancing on the keys in that one. And “Love Look What You’ve Done” is a pretty, more intimate-sounding track, featuring some nice work on guitar. The album’s title track is another highlight, interestingly mixing blues and reggae elements. But perhaps my favorite of the original songs is “It’s The Right Time,” which urges us to live life to the fullest, and to reach out to those who are important to us. “Life is too short to waste on your fears/You want to look back and love all your years/Because it’s the right time to follow your dreams/It’s the perfect time, things don’t have to be as hard as they might seem.” As far as standards, Jacqui Naylor delivers a good rendition of “Smile,” her vocals supported at first just by bass, and a cool version of “Speak Low,” with a delicious rhythm. And from the rock realm, Jacqui Naylor offers covers of Coldplay’s “Fix You,” David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up.” This album was released on February 12, 2021.

Jeannine Otis: “Into My Heart”
– The new album from vocalist Jeannine Otis features a mix of original material and standards.  It opens with a cool original number titled “Mood Is For Lovin’,” which was written by Jeannine Otis and Wilma Classon, and features some really good work by Jimmy Ponzie on guitar. Jeannine’s vocal approach here is intimate and sensual, and even playful before the end, and the track has a mellow, but joyful vibe, and there is a nice lead by Stanton Davis on trumpet. That’s followed by “Touch Me Tonight,” written by Jeannine Otis, and presented with just Jonathan Sherry supporting her vocal work on piano. Again, her voice has a sensual quality, and there is a late-night vibe to this piece. “If I could have you all my life/It would be fine/But all I have is just a night/That’s not much time/We cannot count upon the future.” Saul Rubin plays all the instruments on several of this album’s tracks, including “Sweet Sad Guitar,” a song written by Peter Angell, one having a soulful vibe. That’s followed by a cover of “Lover Man,” which was made famous by Billie Holiday, Jeannine’s vocals here supported by Saul Rubin on guitar. This rendition has a cool, loose feel. She also delivers a good rendition of Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” another of the tracks to feature Saul Rubin on guitar. This track also features the album’s most compelling vocal performance. The disc concludes with its title track, written by Onaje Allen Gumbs, featuring a friendly, touching vocal approach. “I know you feel so afraid to let go/And trust me with your love/You’ve been let down so much before/And now you’re so unsure/I only know that in you I found/The meaning of true love.” This album was released on CD on March 5, 2021, but was apparently released digitally earlier.

Vinnie Riccitelli Octet: “For The Record”
– Saxophonist Vinnie Riccitelli has performed and recorded with a wide range of artists over the years since the release of his first album back in the 1950s, Jazz From The Westchester Workshop. But he didn’t release another album as band leader until this disc, For The Record, which features some of his original compositions as well his arrangements of classic material. Though Riccitelli retired in 2018, he was present for these sessions and produced the album. It opens with one of his original compositions, “Minor Seventh Heaven,” which has a bright, rather cheerful vibe and sound. There is a youthful feel and a sense of joy in the playing, and I particularly like that work by Tony Tedesco on drums. That’s followed by a lively and vibrant rendition of Jerome Kern’s “I’m Old Fashioned,” featuring some really nice stuff by Joe Stelluti on tenor saxophone, and by Eddie Monteiro on piano. What strikes me over and over is the joy in the playing, as on “Serenata,” which features some wonderful work on drums, and on “Flying Down To Rio.” And check out Lou Stelluti’s work on bass on “Stompin’ At The Savoy.” As for the other original material, there is the seriously cool track “Blues Dominant,” which features some excellent work from the horn section and has a rhythm that ought to make you smile. “Flugelsville” features nice work by Glenn Drewes on trumpet, and has an easygoing vibe. And “Little Boy Blew,” which closes out the disc, is a lively and breezy number. This album was released on March 8, 2021.

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