Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Smart, Energetic Purist Guitar Jazz from Graham Dechter

If it’s possible for an album of other peoples’ material to be brash, that somewhat describes guitarist Graham Dechter’s 2009 debut as a bandleader, Right on Time. His second, Takin’ It There is more dynamically charged and a degree subtler. A jazz purist in the Wes Montgomery/Barney Kessel tradition (both of whom he covers here), Dechter has irrepressible, tireless energy, wicked precision and a clean, unvarnished tone. The personnel here are the same as on his debut: bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton (who mentored him in their Jazz Orchestra) and pianist Tamir Hendelman.

A spring-loaded version of Montgomery’s Road Song kicks things off, Dechter’s  sizzling descending runs handing off to a jaunty ragtime-flavored Hendelman solo and then a wry bass solo that’s classic Clayton. Likewise, Clayton’s minimalism contrasts mightily with the guitarist’s expansive approach on an expert take of Kessel’s Be Deedle De Do. The standout track here is Jobim’s Chega de Suadade (No More Blues), slowly shifting from vividly scampering unease through up-and-down-tempos to a galloping, bubbly romp.

Likewise, an original Dechter ballad, Together & Apart follows a meticulous arc up from understated angst, brightening with a more bluesy feel. The album’s title track, by pianist  Josh Nelson, works a brightly swinging early 60s Grant Green vibe, nonchalantly building to a tasty outro fueled by Hamilton’s clustering attack and Hendelman’s big block chords.Clayton contributes Grease for Graham, a matter-of-fact midtempo/slow swing number that essentially segues into a breakneck take on Lee Morgan’s Hocus Pocus, whose high point is a rare drum solo that actually manages to bring the energy down a bit. There’s also a version of Come Rain or Come Shine that follows an almost imperceptible trajectory from gentle to gritty, a pulsing, goodnatured take on George Coleman’s Father, and a concluding diptych of a solo Dechter ballad into a similarly tender take of  Every Time We Say Goodbye. It’s out now from Capri Records.

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February 2, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gary Smulyan Goes Where Nobody Else Has Since About 1970

Isn’t it funny how the Hammond B3 organ and the baritone sax have complemented each other so well in funk music and ska for decades…yet hardly ever in jazz? For that matter has there EVER been a B3 jazz groove record featuring baritone sax? According to the liner notes for Gary Smulyan’s new album Smul’s Paradise (just out on Capri Records), the answer is yes: bari player Ronnie Cuber did several sessions with Lonnie Smith in the 60s, and is featured on Smith’s 1970 Live at Club Mozambique album. But in the past four decades? There doesn’t appear to be anything else! So this new album is especially welcome, an animated, warmly congenial, wee-hours collection of brilliant obscurities and originals originally conceived as a tribute to underrated 60s organist Don Patterson that quickly took on a life of its own.

Smulyan gets props everywhere, most recently as a winner of the 2011 DownBeat critics poll. This album is typical, in that it features his methodically aggressive, frequently wry, witty attack and smoky tone: Smulyan knows that there’s always a potential for humor in his instrument, and he’s not afraid to go there. Organist Mike LeDonne and guitarist Peter Bernstein have a comfortable rapport that stems from their long-running collaboration as the core of the house band at Harlem’s Smoke Jazz Club. Kenny Washington – Smulyan’s favorite drummer, and a lot of other peoples’ – propels this unit with his usual blend of scholarly erudition and counterintuitive verve.

The opening track is a radically reinvented version Bobby Hebb’s 60s pop hit Sunny- is this a staggered bolero? A jazz waltz? Either way, it’s a long launching pad for methodical, steady 8th-note runs by Smulyan and Bernstein. Patterson’s Up in Betty’s Room is a ridiculously catchy stripper theme of sorts, Smulyan in confidently deadpan mode, LeDonne enhancing the vintage soul/blues vibe with his bubbly, animated lines. Pistaccio, by another unfairly neglected 60s organ talent, Rhoda Scott, sails along on Washington’s blissfully subtle bossa-tinged groove. Similarly, Washington shakes up the shuffle on the catchy title track, capped off by a high-spirited round of call-and-response, everyone getting a word in with the drums.

George Coleman’s Little Miss Half Steps gets a bright, unselfconsciously fun treatment with some artful syncopation from Smulyan, organ and guitar again interspersed between the drum breaks (many of the tracks here were completed in a single take; this sounds like one of them). The most memorable number here is Patterson and Sonny Stitt’s soul song Aires, Bernstein channeling vintage George Benson, LeDonne’s lush washes of chords taking it up several notches. The album closes with the swinging, insistent Blues for D.P., a Patterson homage by Smulyan, and Heavenly Hours, a mashup of Seven Steps to Heaven and My Shining Hour. Amusingly (and maybe intentionally), the hook sounds like Diablo’s Dance (which incidentally is the opening cut on the highly anticipated new album of early Wes Montgomery recordings out soon on Resonance). As party music, this is awfully hard to beat: it’s the perfect soundtrack to 4 AM get-togethers when nobody cares anymore whether the people down the hall are awake or not.

February 9, 2012 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ken Peplowski’s In Search of… Finds a Groove

The cd cover of veteran big-band reedman Ken Peplowski’s new album In Search of… pretty much tells the story. Pictured at the edge of the sidewalk, playing his clarinet in the yellow neon light of a sepia-toned, twilit Downtown Diner in the shadow of downtown Manhattan skyscapers, this is oldschool after-hours music. With all but the final three tracks recorded live in the studio in a single take, there’s a comfortable familiarity here – you can hear the voices of the players as they respond to cues and solos – but also plenty of surprises. For the casual fan, it’s an album of spirited nocturnes; hardcore jazz types will be amazed by the liquid crystal clarity of Peplowski’s legato – what flows from his horn is rivers rather than single notes – and some unexpected tunes. Here he plays clarinet and soprano saxophone, backed by Shelly Berg on piano, Tom Kennedy on bass and John Hamilton (leader of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and his own trio, whose excellent 2009 album we didn’t exactly do justice to here) on drums. There are also three additional tracks with Greg Cohen on bass, Joe Ascione on drums and percussion and Chuck Redd on vibraphone.

They open it with The Thespian, by Freddie Redd, a lyrical ballad that jumps into doublespeed, piano and sax playing a double line before Peplowski’s soprano sax goes out exploring. The strongest tune here is Kennedy’s, Love’s Disguise, Hamilton’s hushed brushwork a clinic in good tast pushing the syncopated Cuban beat – as is Kennedy’s genial, melodic bass solo. More of those suspenseful brushes color an expansive, Romantically tinged version of When Joanna Loved Me; Hamilton’s warm samba groove, Falsa Baiana, gives Peplowsky a long launching pad for some boisterously tropical excursions. The relatively obscure Rodgers/Hart tune, A Ship without a Sail shifts rhythms back and forth to drive up the emotional impact;  the brooding quality of Peplowski’s clarinet elevates another showtune, With Every Breath I Take, far above its origins.

Berg has a couple of tunes here, a warmly summer 6/8 ballad that contrasts vividly with pensive clarinet, and a briskly comedic, almost dixieland dedication to Peplowski, who gamely plays along with the portrait of an irrepressibly good-natured guy who can’t sit still. And then Berg more than matches him for boisterous antics. The album winds up with an unexpectedly poignant take of This Nearly Was Mine, Berg adding suspense with some rubato solo piano as a bridge, and a tight bass/sax duo of No Regrets. The only misses are the Beatles and Professor Longhair cuts that end it; if you’re planning on using this as 4 AM wind-down music (it’s perfect for that time of night/day), either put those tracks somewhere else on your ipod or program the cd differently. Is this album a throwback to a better time and place? From a look at the cd cover, it’s hard to think otherwise. It’s out now on Capri Records.

March 25, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Cop and Bad Cop Review Atsuko Hashimoto’s New Album

Good Cop: Wow, they gave us a new assignment! We must have done a good job with that last review, no thanks to you…

Bad Cop: Just doing my job. Can you pass me that bottle please.

Good Cop: I didn’t hear that. Pass it yourself. I’m on duty.

Bad Cop [pours himself a huge glass of wine]: Today’s album is…how do you pronounce this…

Good Cop: Until the Sun Comes Up.

Bad Cop: No, the organist…

Good Cop: That’s Atsuko Hashimoto. Her new album is just out on Capri Records and it’s a throwback to the days of B3 jazz organ lounges in the 60s. When jazz was the people’s music, that everybody danced to and kept the bars open until closing time. Which explains the title…

Bad Cop: God, what a generic track listing. You’d think they could come up with something more interesting. Henry Mancini, Satchmo, You Are My Sunshine. Wake me up when this is over.

Good Cop: C’mon, let’s give it a spin. The opening track is All or Nothing at All – this makes me edgy, I can’t sit still. OK, give me a splash of that wine, I need to calm down here.

Bad Cop: Wow, this is fast. Did you just hear that nasty bluesy phrase she just ran for a couple of bars? This is juke joint jazz! I’m down with this!

Good Cop: You’re breaking character. Listen up, stay in character or risk the consequences.

Bad Cop: Such as?

Good Cop: Me turning bad. You don’t want to risk it.

Bad Cop: OK. The next track is Soul Station. Swing tune. Hank Mobley. Everybody’s done it. This sounds like Jimmy Smith – nothing wrong with that I guess. Who’s the guitarist?

Good Cop: Graham Dechter.

Bad Cop: Monster player. Listen to that tremolo picking, it’s like he’s lighting a match in the wind. I can’t understand why he’s not famous.

Good Cop: He’s not in New York. Colorado guy, from what I can figure.

Bad Cop: Come to New York, dude, plenty of work, even in a depression. And people will know who you are.

Good Cop: That’s Jeff Hamilton on drums.

Bad Cop: Noooooo…not the guy whose album we totally disrespected about a year ago….

Good Cop: Yup. Jeff, it’s about time we made it up to you. You wail.

Bad Cop: The organist won’t understand that…

Good Cop: Don’t assume that. That doesn’t make you look very openminded.

Bad Cop: OK. What I mean specifically by that is that I’m digging those shuffle beats and the fact that he’s not phoning it in, that you can just focus in on the drums and really enjoy being surprised…and the next track is So In Love. I don’t know this one. Curtis Mayfield did a great song with this title back in the 70s but this is new to me…whew…this is fast, I need another drink, pass me the bottle please…

Good Cop [passes the bottle]: OK. Now you know why every jazz bar had this kind of music back in the day…

Bad Cop: Amen [burp]. Wow. Joe Pass filigree runs, sixteenth notes, the crowd is on their feet…

Good Cop:…and a lush suspenseful passage when you least expected it. She knows how to work a crowd…

Bad Cop: The next song is Moon River, reinvented as a swing tune. Can I tell you a story? I saw REM – you know, the rock band – play this one before they got really famous and it was really cool. And this is kinda the same, it barely resembles the original and that’s why it’s great…

Good Cop: C’mon, say something bad, you’re out of character.

Bad Cop: REM sucks now.

Good Cop: I love this version, it’s such a river. What can I say. It blows away the original. Moon River – fluid, unstoppable, she nails it.

Bad Cop: OK, next track, What a Wonderful World. What a boring choice.

Good Cop: What a sweet rippling solo about three quarters of the way through….

Bad Cop: OK, next track. Blues for Naka. Club owner somewhere in Japan. Rescued and then consigned to obscurity with this song. But it’s good – swing blues with a balmy guitar solo, something you don’t expect from a requiem. Hey, I’m going upstairs, can you hang with this album for awhile?

Good Cop [quizzically]: No problem.

[ten minutes later] Good Cop: I have just been informed that Bad Cop has been overwhelmed by America’s favorite Chilean wine and will not be reappearing this evening. So to recap the album, I think it’s something that the new generation of kids, who like something fun and retro to dance to, will be into. Obviously, the indie crowd won’t dare to like this because the concept of fun doesn’t exist in the indie world. You know, if you express emotion, that might not be pre-approved for your peer group, and in that case you have to face the consequences. So I guess that means me facing the consequences! I like the delicious, unexpecting phrasing in You Are My Sunshine. I love how, in Cherry, the guitar solo goes intense when least expected. The way the guitar and organ, and then the drums, have fun playing back and forth with each other on You’re in My Heart Alone is just plain fun – I love that guitar solo – and I like how the last track combines a sort of Stevie Wonder feel with…wait a minute…whoah! This is California Sun! Did whoever wrote the Beach Boys’ California Sun steal it from a gospel song? Wouldn’t surprise me! Listen to this and decide for yourself. It’s out now on Capri Records.

February 26, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bud Shank Bows Out In Good Company

This is an entertaining and frequently joyous album with a sad ending, which you’d never know from the music. A day after recording the new album In Good Company with British alto saxophonist Jake Fryer, renowned alto player Bud Shank died. He literally went out on a high note. Lest anybody get the idea that this might be exploitative – think of the Yardbirds with Sonny Boy Williamson, for example – Fryer set up this session with Shank and his West Coast band in order to get the chance to collaborate with a player he greatly admires, and although not in the best of health, Shank rose to the occasion. Here, the two saxophonists are joined by Mike Wofford on piano, Bob Magnusson on bass and Joe LaBarbera on drums on what Fryer describes as an “album of first takes.” Full of spontaneity and high spirits, it foreshadows nothing but good times. Shank cut his teeth during the era where jazz was the western world’s default pop and dance music, and here Fryer provides a vividly melodic, catchy set of tunes along with a couple of well-chosen covers to springboard plenty of inspired interplay. As much as this is a tribute album, it’s not deferential: this is party music, after all.

On the opening cut, Caravan, Shank cuts his phrases a little shorter here than he might have in his prime but he’s on his game, bobbing and weaving, brevity matched to an understated sophistication: listen closely, and he’ll school you. Jake Fryer, as the liner notes mention, draws on Shank and also on Phil Woods: the bop influence is there, but so is the tunefulness. The swing blues Bopping with Bud is a platform for a tastily judicious descent by Shank, and to his credit Fryer follows in the same vein rather than trying to win a cutting contest. And the moment where Wofford realizes, “wow, I guess I get a solo now,” it’s pure delight.

Agnieszka, a warmly lyrical ballad dedicated to Fryer’s wife, is genuinely gorgeous, with a long, expansive piano spot from Wofford, followed by the blithe staccato shuffle Tip Top & Tickety Boo. Breaking Loose is essentially a long vamp that takes on a funky edge, giving LaBarbera ample opportunity to revisit his days with the Woody Herman big band. Similarly, The Time Lord makes for an amiable showcase for LaBarbera, with Shank getting into the rhythmically shifting fun as well. A cover of Almost Like Being in Love makes for another Wofford showcase; the title track, a brisk jump blues, highlights interplay from the reeds followed by a genuinely funny exchange between bass and drums on the way out. The album closes with a casual, friendly, low-key take of Kurt Weill’s Speak Low, more wee-hours theme than conspiracy. It’s out now on Capri Records.

February 15, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adam Schroeder’s Baritone Sax Blows a Cool Breeze

The most recent jazz album we reviewed was aggressive, urban jazz. This one is mellow and breezy – but it’s hardly elevator jazz. Adam Schroeder is the baritone saxophone player in the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. So it’s no surprise to see that he’s got his bandmates, one of the current era’s great jazz rhythm sections, John Clayton on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums along with the group’s superb guitarist, Graham Dechter, on this session. It’s Schroeder’s first as a bandleader. Clint Eastwood is a fan, which means something because Eastwood is a connoisseur. Schroeder combines a Gerry Mulligan geniality with bluesy Harry Carney purism as well as a remarkable ear for space, something you have to learn in a big band – or else.

The album, titled A Handful of Stars, begins anticlimactically: you won’t miss much by fast-forwarding past their version of I Don’t Want to Be Kissed. But the first of sadly only two originals, Midwest Mash is great fun, a casual blues/funk bounce hitched to Hamilton’s clave beat, good cheer all around, particularly when it comes time for a subtly amusing Clayton solo. Neal Hefti’s Pensive Miss is a clinic in terse, mimimal playing, done as a wee-hours ballad, Dechter adding a slowly bright Barney Kessel-ish solo followed by a quietly pointillistic one from Clayton. A matter-of-factly swinging version of Jessica’s Birthday, by Quincy Jones has Hamilton stepping out playfully this time. The Cole Porter standard I Happen to Be in Love gives Schroeder a rare opportunity to build some actual tension here, then it’s back to Dechter taking one of his characteristically richly chordal excursions.

The other original here, Hidden Within begins with a vividly whispery I-told-you-so conversation between Schroeder and Clayton and grows more expansive yet more spacious: the silences are as meaningful as the notes themselves. Understatedly jovial, the Barry Harris bossa tune Nascimento has Dechter moving from blues to sheer joy, Schroeder moving back toward more pensive terrain followed by a tricky polyrhymic solo from Hamilton. They do the title track, a Glenn Miller hit, as a brisk, snappy pop song, much as Paula Henderson might have arranged it. They end with a purist take of Ellington’s Just a Sittin’ and A-Rockin’ and a bustling version of Cole Porter’s It’s All Right with Me, Hamilton taking it up all the way with a Gene Krupa gallop. It’s out now on Capri Records.

August 13, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Ken Peplowski – Noir Blue

Most of what we like to spread the word about here is pretty edgy and intense. This is neither. In fact, veteran jazz reedman Ken Peplowski’s new album is about as far from noir as you can get and not particularly blue either. But it’s very smart – and the obvious fun the band had recording it is absolutely irresistible if you’re into this kind of stuff. Peplowski did his first gigs in a polka band in his native Cleveland, got his start in big band jazz as as teenager in the Tommy Dorsey Band, and was hired by Benny Goodman on tenor sax when Goodman came out of retirement in 1984. Since then he’s put out thirty albums as a bandleader – as he intimates in the liner notes to this one, he’s come to the point where he only does an album when he feels like it, not just because he owes one to the label, so this was inspired right from the git-go. The band on this one is oldschool: Shelley Berg on piano, bassist to the stars Jay Leonhart and drummer Joe La Barbera have a wise yet joyous chemistry that jumps out, track after track.

The album kicks off with a briskly shuffling swing version of Irving Berlin’s The Best Thing for You Is Me, scurrying piano cascades echoed by Peplowski’s boisterously fluid clarinet. A casually sunny take of Berg’s catchy Home with You hints at bossa nova, Peplowski blowing nimble clusters into a genial, laid-back Berg solo. Three of the tracks here come out of the Strayhorn/Ellington archive: Bourbon Street Jingling Jollies breezes along with a staggered tango beat on the pulse of La Barbera’s mallets; Multi-Colored Blue swings comfortably for over eight minutes and then comes up rousingly at the end, the title track the album’s standout number with its brooding, pensive piano matched by Peplowski’s blue-grey waves.

Hoagy Carmichael’s Riverboat Shuffle is reinvented as a sly slinkathon with a buoyant Leonhart solo, the first-call bassist for seemingly every A-list jazz singer out there showing off characteristic terseness but also also a propulsive drive that he doesn’t always get a chance to kick into on all those ballads. Love Locked Out by Ray Noble is a gently bluesy wee-hours ballad with Georgia on My Mind echoes. La Barbera’s If Not for You fits right in with its warmly catchy hook and bright solos from Leonhart and Berg and a briefly boisterous one from its composer, a formula followed on a romping take of Jerome Kern’s Nobody Else but Me. The album winds up on a high note with the considerably contrasting, rousing Peplowski original, Little Dogs driven by some strikingly uneasy tenor sax work. The whole thing makes for upbeat, fun listening for late nights and relaxing Sunday afternoons – if someone you know subjects you to elevator jazz, turn them on to this, they won’t know the difference and you won’t have to suffer anymore. It’s out now on Capri Records.

March 18, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: 3ology with Ron Miles

We’ve covered all kinds of jazz here over the years. The most recent good jazz album to come over the transom here was gypsy jazz; the one before that was all over the map. 3ology with Ron Miles is headphone jazz. If you’re into jazz, you know Miles, simply one of the finest cornetists around and a terrifically soulful, tuneful composer as well. Here he joins the Colorado free jazz ensemble for an absolutely psychedelic clinic in smartly spontaneous creativity, recorded live in the studio in a single day. They’re good at using modes as a stepping-off point for their jams; bass figures prominently and extremely effectively as a lead instrument, and they also like a latin beat.

After a solo cornet intro sardonically titled All Miles, they work it darkly and modally over an understated clave groove, Miles’ ominous solo evoking another Miles. They segue out of that into a solo intro from bassist Tim Carmichael, building to a hypnotic, circular 7/8 riff and a game of tag between Miles and tenor saxophonist Doug Carmichael. The centerpiece of the album is a minimalistic, noir masterpiece aptly titled Nightmares of My Youth, bass and Jon Powers’ drums expertly building white-knuckle suspense with scrapy bowing and boomy tom-toms. They finally emerge from the underworld, bass running a catchy, tricky hook as the sax plays a funereal theme that Miles takes somewhat higher before they return

The rest of the cd includes a captivating exercise in latin-inflected minimalism, bass once again setting the stage for the rest of the crew; a laid-back cornet solo over percussion by everybody in the band; a catchy, straight-up New Orleans funk number with subtle Middle Eastern tinges; a series of permutations on a familiar 6/8 soul ballad theme, and a concluding cut that moves from pensive cornet to yet another wonderfully moody, murky bass groove. It’s out now on Tapestry Records.

March 13, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Graham Dechter – Right on Time

Jazz guitarist Graham Dechter’s debut as a bandleader is auspicious to say the least. A John Clayton protégé, he made his debut with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra at nineteen. Four years down the road, as befits a guitarist whose main gig is a big band, Dechter eschews gratuitous solo lines in favor of an assured, frequently aggressive chordal attack which nonetheless abounds with subtleties in voicing and shading. He plays straight through his amp without effects, generally with a round, slightly bassy tone that grows to include just a hint of distortion, threatening to combust at any second, when he feels like sending a crescendo over the edge. What’s most impressive about this is that Dechter does it mostly with either familiar or canonical material – it’s a cover album, but the interpretations are unquestionably his. It’s quite a ride.

Backing him are his bandmates: his mentor Clayton on bass, Jeff Hamilton (whose latest as bandleader, Symbiosis, is also excellent) on drums, and the vividly lyrical Tamir Hendelman on piano. The album kicks off a briskly swinging, meaty take on Low Down (by Thad Jones, NOT Boz Scaggs), following with a Jobim cover, Wave, subtly and effectively bluesy with a brisk and confident Dechter crescendo followed amusingly by Clayton’s tiptoeing around, up to a sneaky false ending from Hamilton. The group take their time with The Nearness of You (Hoagy Carmichael), giving it plenty of room to breathe, Hendelman’s solo echoing Dechter’s casual terseness.

I Ain’t Got Nothing But the Blues (one of three Ellington tunes here) is a showcase for Dechter’s sly aplomb with subtle hammer-ons and tremolo picking. The comparison might seem over-the-top, but Dechter’s seemingly intuitive feel for the blues and fresh chordal approach remind of a young Matt Munisteri (albeit without the bluegrass), especially in the suaveness of In a Mellow Tone. Here he eggs his bandmates on, to the point where Hendelman smacks his way in with some impatient staccato as the first guitar solo winds up, then nips at Dechter’s heels for the rest of the song. And when it’s Clayton’s turn to step out, he comes in with a train whistle. Otherwise, Johnny Hodges’ Squatty Roo is a lickety-split romp full of post-Wes Montgomery guitar articulation; his saxist dad Brad Dechter’s bluesy title track works as both clinic in keeping it simple and on track, and an exercise in trick endings; and the old standard Broadway provides ample opportunity for Dechter to muscle up its horn chart. Considering the amount of time the players on this album have clocked together, it’s no surprise to hear such an abundance of convivial, good-natured jousting and interplay. Dechter’s wunderkind years may be behind him now, but with a whole career in front of him, it’ll be very interesting to watch him develop. Let’s hope he starts playing his own compositions – if this cd is any indication, they ought to be captivating. And if not, he’s made a mark as an individual, first-class interpreter worth watching over the months and years to come.

December 21, 2009 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Jeff Hamilton Trio – Symbiosis

[editor’s note – it’s just this poor guy’s luck that we decided to bring back Good Cop and Bad Cop after almost a year’s hiatus to review this one…]

Bad Cop: Let’s see, the Jeff Hamilton Trio has an album of familiar jazz standards. JUST what we need!

Good Cop: This puts an interesting spin on it, a drummer-led piano trio.

Bad Cop [sarcastic]: All covers except for one original, that’s a good start. Let’s hear that one first.

Good Cop: Here you go – it’s a samba.

Bad Cop: Sounds pretty generic to me. Eighteen hours setting up all those mics for a 25 second percussion solo. Now that’s what I call efficient…

Good Cop: Samba is like blues, it’s a stylized genre, a lot of the changes follow a specific pattern…

Bad Cop [peeved]: PFFFFT. What’s next? Let’s try the title track. I don’t know this one – by some European guy, Claus Ogerman?

Good Cop: He’s an arranger and composer, he worked with Tom Jobim and lately Diana Krall.

Bad Cop [the sarcasm is getting out of hand] : Now that’s really got me excited. Hmmm…this is actually quite beautiful. Nice cantabile ballad. Now why don’t I know this guy? And who’s the piano player?

Good Cop: Maybe because you’re not a Diana Krall fan? The piano player is Tamir Hendelman, he plays with the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. As does the drummer, Jeff Hamilton.

Bad Cop: Who’s the bass player? Sounds like John Clayton, got a nice groove going.

Good Cop: That’s Christoph Luty.

Bad Cop: OK. Let’s hear the rest of this thing. Track one please.

Good Cop: This is You Make Me Feel So Young. Nice exuberant, bright, lyrical piano, huh?

Bad Cop: OK, you got me there. What’s next?

Good Cop: This is Midnight Sun. Lionel Hampton tune.

Bad Cop: Interesting how the drums stay on the DL til the second verse kicks in. Grace and suspense.

Good Cop: Hamilton was in Hamp’s band in 1975, I guess that left a mark.

Bad Cop: I should say so. Let’s hear the next cut…oh yeah, the title track, we already heard that. Fast forward, what’s next?

Good Cop: Gershwin. Fascinating Rhythm. Not exactly the Moonlighters’ version…

Bad Cop: Gotta give these guys credit, they’ve really made this their own, how they skirt the melody with all those drum breaks, that’s cool. I like that piano solo too.

Good Cop: And the way that little drum solo toward the end winds up with a press roll back to the head…

Bad Cop: You know, I am actually starting to like this, believe it or not. OK, for awhile anyway. This is a Ray Brown tune, Blues for Junior, nice swing to it but it doesn’t have much in the way of a real melody…

Good Cop: OK, here’s the next one. Polka Dots and Moonbeams. You know this one.

Bad Cop [aside] And how. Doesn’t sound much like it – I like the bowed bass on the intro…and the piano, this guy really makes it sing.

Good Cop: What’s with the role reversal? You’re supposed to be cynical, jaded, embittered, the one who’s seen it all, heard it all.

Bad Cop: But I don’t hate this, that’s the strange thing. Oh yeah, here comes that samba. No thanks.

Good Cop: Can we please resume roles, you’re stealing my thunder. This one’s Blues in the Night.

Bad Cop: Harold Arlen. For the gazillionth time. But listen, the bass is playing a horn line. Bowing it! It’s good, too!

Good Cop: And check how Hendelman climbs out of that solo, big and glittery.

Bad Cop: Where’s the drummer here? He’s almost invisible.

Good Cop: Gotcha!

Bad Cop: Um. OK. Yeah, got me. You’re not supposed to notice the drums, DUH. Oh wait, we finally get some big cymbal splashes to up the ambience. You know, I should put this on my boudoir mix along with Sade and Al Green.

[Good Cop stifles a laugh]

Bad Cop: No, seriously.

Good Cop: Why don’t we wrap up this cd instead. This is the last cut. Ellington tune, The Serpent’s Tooth.

Bad Cop: I don’t know this one. Who was it that said that it never hurts to cover Ellington a few times?

Good Cop: That was Graham Dechter, I believe. Hamilton’s bandmate in the Clayton/Hamilton orchestra.

Bad Cop: I wouldn’t touch Ellington with a ten foot pole. Unless I was Steely Dan. One screwup and you make a real fool of yourself.

Good Cop: Well, let’s see how these guys do. Messing with the tempo and having a ball, seems to me.

Bad Cop: Tasteful bass solo. Drum breaks. A showcase for the rhythm section. Which is pretty much what this is when you think about it, in the oldschool sense of the word. Except the piano here is the lead instrument. And I want to learn more about this guy, does he have anything else out?

Good Cop:Yeah, he’s on Capri along with the other guys here.

Bad Cop: Can you do me a favor and get me a comp copy?

Good Cop: Back in character, I see. Always looking to get over. Why don’t you just buy the damn thing?

Bad Cop: Why is it you get all the good cds?

Good Cop: Start being less of a peevish ass and you might get one or two. Woops, that’s me being cynical.

Bad Cop: Touche!

Good Cop. OK, it says in the press material that All About Jazz raved about this and I have to say that they were right this time around.

Bad Cop: Usually that’s the kiss of death.

Good Cop: No it’s not.

Bad Cop: Better them than us!

[editor’s note: Symbiosis came out on Capri Records in September, available at their site, at shows and at better record retailers who are aware that jazz exists]

December 16, 2009 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment