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Monday, January 12, 2015

"Gulf Coast funk" with Caribbean spice and Euro flourishes

- from the jazzbreakfast, with Peter Bacon


Joe Sample & NDR Big Band – Children Of The Sun

children of the sun(PRA Records PRA-CD-61014)
In 1995 the former Crusader pianist played a festival at St Croix in the Virgin Islands. He was struck by the contrast between the tranquil setting and the brutal history of the place on the slave route. This suite of songs is the result.
A project which features not only Sample’s piano but also the drumming of Steve Gadd and the trombone-playing and production of Nils Landgren was never going to be a bleak affair; instead Sample and his cohorts stress the triumph of light over darkness, life over death.
The results are joyous and exuberant, the marvellous German big band bold and blustery, the soloists flying along on their trade winds. From the opening groove set down by Gadd and the piano riff Sample adds we know we’re in for a fine time, and when the full band adds its strongly swinging sections – the arrangements are by Jörg Achim Keller – the whole thing takes on a great big sunny glow.
The track titles – Buttermilk Sky, Rumfire, Gold In The Cane, Creole Eyes – say it all.
Joe Sample died last September, so this 2011 recording stands as a fitting reminder of his marvellous mix of jazz, blues, R&B and that inimitable “gulf coast funk”.

Jazz en Haiti: The Port-au-Prince Jazz fest is almost here

In an era where the main "jazz and Blues festival" here is content to boast of Mariah Carey as principal draw, its heartening to learn that Haiti has its own jazz fest, happening from jan 17-24, and that the line-up is in fact, quite credible and attractive from a jazz fan's standpoint:

Yellowjackets and local legends Boukman Ekspereyans are included this year, while previous outings have featured renowned players such as Mino Cinelu, Henry Texier, and American pianist Aaron Goldberg.

Names of no meaning to all but a handful of Jamaicans, but to those who know and love the form, a good recommendation to make the trip to Port au Prince (which, capital to capital, is actually closer to Kingston than Havana.)

For eight days, Port-au-Prince swings with jazz rhythms. The Festival participants pour into historic public spaces of the capital, such as the historic Sugar Cane Park with its gardens and vestiges from the colonial era, the gardens of the prestigious Karibe Hotel, and the FOKAL Cultural Center located in the heart of Port-au-Prince. For the after hours jam sessions, festival-goers fill the most attractive restaurants of Pétion-Ville, the nightlife neighborhood of the capital.

To achieve its mission to promote music and especially jazz around the country, the Fondation Haiti Jazz - the Festival's primary organizers - offers free music training workshops to young, local musicians in collaboration with the participating international music professionals.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Jazz Italia Pt II: Roberto Magris with Herb Geller

It was inevitable that we'd hear more from the meeting between pianist Roberto Magris and the late Herb Geller - the first recorded collaboration was 2009's "Il Bello Di Jazz" on Soul Note.

Now, through his American-based label JMood Records, the ever-resourceful Magris has released a continuation of that delightful output

American-born and coming of age just at the time when bebop  was reaching its peak, Geller not only beat the "Bird trap"(he admits to being influenced, but not a copy of, alto sax great Benny Carter) but also, partly by virtue of moving to Germany, managed to developed a wholly personal sound not beholden to any of the US titans who would star on the alto horn during the post-War period

Its a sinuous yet sturdy sound, neatly modulated, but without being clinical, essentially capable of anything  Magris' lush, ebullient yet  similarly well-ordered pianisms

The supporting cast definitely makes their presence felt on this record, especially drummer Enzo Carpentieri who alternate scorches and soothes with tremendous gusto throughout the disc. Prie examples: the Zoot Sims classic, "The Red Door"  and a staple pf the Basie Orchestra "9:20 Special"

The high point comes fairly early on with "Lonely Woman" (the Benny Carter tune, not the Ornette Coleman nor the Horace Silver tunes of the same title), although the Sondheim piece, "Pretty Woman", which closes the disc also comes close in terms of effect.

I guess one can never underestimate the power of a woman to move the energies of men.

Whatever their muse, this is a first-class session that only stands as a worthy tribute to an unsung jazz titan, but pretty much makes a statement on its own musical merits. If you want jazz that stirs, seduces, skips and kicks in equal good measure, this is your ticket.

Herb Geller, rest well. Magris & Co, - onward to greater.

Reviews: jazz Italia Pt I - Massa in Three and Four

This column has tended to have good fortune with Italian pianists. We have had the pleasure of featuring several excellent albums by Robert Magris, and now we have a pair from Dino Massa:  Anime Diverse - a quartet date, and Un Po Come Noi, a trio outing.
For the quartet set, bassist Danele Sorreto, who's about as close to a "regular" as we've been able to document, appears with Elio Coppola on drums and Valerio Virzo on tenor horn. There's track entitled 'McKoy's Blues" and its rathe fitting as Massa's sound does recall the great McKoy Tyner. But don't be mistaken - this is no clone. Massa and the band skip, ump, stomp and softly pedal through the 8 tracks with an irrepressible joy and sensitivity that is highly individualised but very welcome and endearing. That and 'Per un Amico" (for a Friend) mark the standouts from this disc.
The trio outing features the conventional arranngement, with Piero Leveratto on bass and Claudio Borrelli on drums supporting - really collaborating - with the leader. The overall feel is "smokier" as in classic jazz club ambience and tone-feel. The execution though, is similarly high level. Every note comes in with ust the amount of weight that one would expect and makes way for the next without hitch or undue flourish. Massa, just being introduced to this writer, clearly knows the idiom, and is committed to the highest level of expression, both individual and collectively.
Simply put, this is an Italian jazz outing (dual) that you will enjoy immensely and will wish to repeat - a lot.