Monday, March 20, 2023

Brief Notes On New Jazz Releases

Music is there for us as we face our struggles, personal and universal, during these strange times. Here are notes on a few new jazz albums you might want to check out.

Towner Galaher Organ Trio: “Live” – Towner Galaher is a drummer, composer and bandleader. Live is his first album as leader in more than a decade, following Uptown!, which was released in 2012. It was recorded at Daddy Jack’s in New London, Connecticut in the summer of 2020, when everything was shut down. So it is not exactly a concert recording. The show was a private event for a few close friends and family members, so there is not a lot of applause, nor are there the other crowd noises you’d normally associate with a live album. And it is clear from the opening track, “One For McGriff,” that these guys wanted to take a break from the stress of the pandemic and just jam and groove. The trio is made up of Towner Galaher on drums, Lonnie Gasperini on organ, and Marvin Horne on guitar. That first track was composed by Gasperini, and it is a cheerful, swinging number featuring some delicious playing from all three musicians. It has a strong groove, one to make your body happy, and in the second half there is a cool drum solo. And speaking of strong grooves, they follow that with a cover of “Fever,” the guitar at first taking on what would be the vocal line. This is such a cool song, and these guys get into it, the guitar soon cutting loose. Then “Willow Weep For Me” begins with drums, immediately letting us know that their take on this song is going to be outside the ordinary approach. And, yeah, it features another delicious groove. There is some good work on both organ and guitar, but the drums are what really make this rendition something special. Things get even more fun with the trio’s rendition of “Hot Barbecue,” a track that will likely get you moving. From there, the trio goes straight into “Norleans,” keeping the groove going and the joy high. How can you not be affected by that great New Orleans rhythm? This is one of my personal favorite tracks. Then I love the guitar work on “Lover Man.” “Keep Talkin’” is another fun number, this one written by Lonnie Gasperini. Though Towner Galaher is a composer, none of the tracks on this album were written by him. Lonnie Gasperini’s work, on the other hand, is featured throughout the album. “Lonnie’s Funk” has that classic rhythm and blues vibe, which I love. And his “Little Bit Of This, Little Bit Of That” is a delightful and cool funk number. The trio’s cover of “Mellow Mood” features some wonderful stuff on organ. The album ends where it began, with a second version of “One For McGriff.” This album is scheduled to be released on April 7, 2023.

Maria Jacobs: “Back At The Bop Stop” – Vocalist Maria Jacobs’ new release is a live album (well, mostly live; the final two tracks are studio cuts), recorded in January 2022 at the Bop Stop in Cleveland. The music is a mix of standards and original compositions. The band backing her at this show includes Rock Wehrmann on piano, Bryan Thomas on bass, and Jamey Haddad on drums. The album opens with “Up Jumped Spring,” on which Maria Jacobs not only gives a strong and varied vocal performance, but also plays flute, delivering a good lead. This track also features some wonderful work by Rock Wehrmann on piano. Then her version of “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To” begins with a cool section of just vocals and bass, which has a sultry and intimate feel. The track develops from there, and includes some delightful scat, certainly a highlight of the album. And I love the playful aspect of her rendition of “‘Deed I Do.” This track is a delight, and includes some scat and a fun lead on bass. And before the end, this track even gives us a drum solo. She then puts her own mark on “Stand By Me,” giving the song a fresh arrangement that works quite well. That is followed by an original number, “Infatuation,” which features a vocal performance driven by a great sensuality. “Infatuation takes hold of you/Your mind is racing and you don’t know what to do.” This track contains one of the album’s most compelling and arresting vocal performances. Then “If You Could See Me Now” has an intimate feel. That’s followed by “Pour Me A Cup Of Yesterday,” an original composition that Maria Jacobs previously included on her Free As A Dove, Chasing Dreams, Lucky Girl, Hold On Your Heart and Bootleggin’ At The Bop Stop albums, so clearly it is a favorite of hers. She stretches out a bit on this rendition, and includes some scat. Maria Jacobs also delivers a really good rendition of Cole Porter’s “Easy To Love” that features excellent leads on both piano and bass, and a sweet version of “Moody’s Mood For Love.” The live portion of the album concludes with “Never Will I Marry.” The first of two studio track is a slow, gorgeous rendition of “Blue Moon,” which features Maria Jacobs on piano as well as vocals, with Bobby Selvaggio on alto saxophone. The second is an original composition, “Pale Moon, Blue Sky,” which features layered vocals, a change in pace partway through, and a horn section. This album was released on March 1, 2023.

Chris Keefe: “Opening” – Chris Keefe’s debut album as leader contains a mix of covers and original material. Joining the pianist on this release are Harvie S on bass and Adam Nussbaum on drums. Harvie S also produced the album. The disc kicks off with “Got A Chick?” which Nussbaum begins on drums, establishing a cool rhythm. When the piano and bass enter a moment later, they work together. There is a playful angle to this piece, and the track features some fantastic playing by all three musicians. And though the track is only a little more than four minutes in length, it contains a good drum solo. What an excellent start to the album! That original number is followed by another original composition, “Modern,” which contains a memorable theme on piano. The track becomes lively at times, due in large part to the bass and drums, though it is the piano which is the focus. Harvie S takes a short lead in the second half, and that is followed by a brief drum solo. I would be surprised if these first two tracks are not soon covered by other artists. The album’s first cover is Benny Golson’s “Along Came Betty,” this version beginning with some good work on bass before Chis Keefe plays that familiar theme on piano. There is a certain warmth to his playing here, which gives the recording a timeless flavor. This one fades out at the end. That’s followed by a cover of “I Fall I Love Too Easily,” which Chris Keefe begins alone on piano. It has an almost spiritual air about it at first, which is interesting, before taking on a hint of melancholy. It is then that Harvie S and Adam Nussbaum come in (approximately a minute and a half into the track), and that feeling actually increases. There is a sense of solitude, of late-night contemplation. That’s followed by another song co-written by Jule Styne, “Just In Time,” Chris Keefe putting his own spin on it, giving it a somewhat loose feel for the first section. Then the rhythm begins to encourage the song to move forward, and soon there is a cool section of drums and bass. The final of the original pieces, “Chobim,” eases in and has a Brazilian flavor. It features a wonderful lead on bass in the first half. Chris Keefe then wraps things up with a sweet cover of Johnny Mercer’s “Dream.” This album was released on February 18, 2023.

Alyse Korn & Robert Kyle: “Tuesday’s Child” – This album contains all original material, composed by pianist and vocalist Alyse Korne and saxophone player and flutist Robert Kyle. Joining them is Kevin Winard on drums and percussion. And there are guests on a few tracks. The album opens with “Gratitude,” written by Alyse Korn, a track that immediately transports us with her ethereal vocal work. There is a soothing vibe to this track as it begins, like feeling at peace with both nature and self. It contains a sense of introspection, with any communication being with the earth itself rather than other people. Though of course they are communicating this feeling with all who listen. “What If” was written by Robert Kyle, and on this track he delivers some beautiful work on flute, the instrument seeming to reach outward with both questions and answers. When the heavens refuse to respond, we offer our own answers, and it sounds like that is what his flute is doing here. Robert Kyle also plays surdo on this track, and there are moments when there is something of a Brazilian flavor to the rhythm of the piece. “Your Light,” also composed by Robert Kyle, is a beautiful and romantic piece featuring some gorgeous playing on saxophone. This track seems to urge us to slow down for a moment and hold the ones we love, to find those tender moments. For that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? “Distance Between Us” is also about love, about being apart from those who are important to us, while remaining close in spirit, and not allowing that distance to harm the relationships. This one was composed by Alyse Korn, and there is warmth to her playing. There is also warmth to “Tuesday’s Child,” the disc’s title track. The title comes from the fact that both Alyse Korn and Robert Kyle were born on Tuesdays (hey, so was I). There is an air of melancholy as “Winter” begins. This is a contemplative piece, with hope rising from the darkness. That’s followed by “Blue Jack,” which has a cool, mellow vibe. Ahmet Turkmenoglu plays bass on this track, and Howard and Phyllis Silverstein provide the finger snaps. Then Hussain Jiffrey plays bass on “Vivian’s Danzรณn,” a track with a good, Cuban rhythm. I also love the piano on this track. Leonice Shinneman plays tabla on “Ruby’s Dream,” the disc’s final track, and another one with the ability to transport us. This album is scheduled to be released on March 24, 2023.

David Larsen: “The Peplowski Project” – On his new album, saxophonist David Larsen is joined by Ken Peplowski on clarinet and tenor saxophone, and Jake Svendsen on piano, Josh Skinner on bass, and Brendan McMurphy on drums. They deliver standards as well as a few original compositions, the music in line with, and inspired by, some of the great straight-ahead jazz of the 1950s. The album opens with a delightful rendition of “All The Things You Are,” written by Jerome Kern. It has a light and somewhat cheerful feel, while the rhythm section keeps things moving forward. And toward the end, Larsen and Peplowski come together again, returning to the main theme, but now feeling like they are engaged in a wonderful dance. Things become more playful in their rendition of Johnny Mandel’s “Black Nightgown,” a piece featured in the Susan Hayward film I Want To Live! and that begins with a cool bass line. So put on your sexiest lingerie and dance around to this delicious number. I love that section with clarinet and bass approximately halfway through, and this track only grows more enjoyable from there. Then, with “Doodle Oodle,” these musicians pick up the pace and get things hopping. On this one, both Larsen and Peplowski are on saxophone, and in the second half they trade off licks. This track is a lot of fun. That is followed by “He Who Getz The Last Laugh,” the first of the album’s compositions written by David Larsen, and one he also included on his 2021 album Deviate From Standards.  (Josh Skinner and Brendan McMurphy both played on that earlier version too.) There is a good lead on bass on this track. Larsen and Peplowski then mellow things a bit at the beginning of their sweet and beautiful rendition of Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” a track I want to just drift away upon. “Into The Mild” is the second of the three David Larsen compositions, and it is another that he previously included on Deviate From Standards. It features some really nice work on piano. Plus, I love those brief drum solos in the second half. “Jazz Line Blues” also contains some good stuff on piano. This album also contains a wonderful rendition of “Love Me Or Leave Me” that swings, and a delightful version of “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.” The final original composition is “Tenor For Dinner,” and as you might guess, it contains plenty of enjoyable work on saxophone. That is followed by Al Cohn’s “Two Funky People” to close out the disc. And this is yet another complete delight, featuring excellent work on both clarinet and saxophone. This album is scheduled to be released on May 19, 2023.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Michael, just a note of thanks for your very kind review of our CD "Tuesday's Child." We very much appreciate your kind words! Sincerely, Alyse Korn & Robert Kyle