Lucid Culture


Amy London Shares an Archive Full of Stars

“You know, i played on that record.”

Sit around for any length of time with a bunch of sidemen, or bandleaders who sometimes lend their talents to others, and the conversation inevitably drifts to the obscure. Sometimes the thread ends on a down note. Eventually, “I wonder when she’s gonna put out that album,” turns into “That album never came out.”

Until this month, that’s what both Fred Hersch and Dr. Lonnie Smith would have said about Amy London’s wryly titled new retrospective, Bridges, streaming at Spotify. The singer and member of bebop quartet the Royal Bopsters recorded her first three sessions as a bandleader in 1984, 1987 and 1990,. None of them have seen the light of day until now.

An ambitious effervescence pervades this retrospective. To paraphrase London, it’s someone who cut her teeth on blue-eyed soul doing her damnedest to make a mark singing both bop and ballads. In the years since she recorded this material, she’s done both. It doesn’t look like she’s touring the record, but the Royal Bopsters are at Minton’s on Jan 13 at 7:30 PM for $15.

There are three ensembles on the three sessions represented here. Fred Hersch leads the 1987 recordings from the piano (and contributes vocals!), joined by drummer Victor Lewis, Harvie S on bass, Bob Mintzer on tenor sax and Cyro Baptista on percussion. The 1990 recordings – tracks eight through twelve – feature pianist Peter Madsen, bassist Dean Johnson, drummer Eliot Zigmund, trumpeter Byron Stripling and New York Voices leader Darmon Meader.

The final two cuts include Dr. Lonnie Smith on Hammond organ, Bobby Franceschini on tenor sax, guitarist Jack Wilkins, bassist Harvie S and drummer Akira Tana.

London’s clear, uncluttered delivery, sometimes with a tinge of mist, makes an apt vehicle for a singer whose ideas typically echo horn phrasing. London isn’t just the bandleader – she’s an integral part of these ensembles, and there  are innumerable, vivid illustrations of that here. The slinky intertwine between vocals and bass in A Sleepin’ Bee, just for starters. Likewise, the imaginative vocal-and-sax duet to kick off I’m in the Mood For Love. The torrents of vocals-as-trumpet-solo in Bohemia After Dark are irrepressibly fun and as craftily thought-out as any instrumental contribution to the sessions.

London shifts from brooding storytelling mode to an Afro-Latin stomp in Love For Sale, The rest of the album includes a full-throttle take of Devil May Care, a expansively pensive wee-hours interpretation of Dream, a hazily shimmery, organ-fueled version of You’ve Changed and a really nifty tropical reinvention of the 60s klezmer-pop hit Night Has a Thousand Eyes.

January 6, 2018 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eclectically Purist Solo Guitar from Jonathan Kreisberg

Jonathan Kreisberg’s new solo release, One, is a very rhythmic album, which makes sense for somebody whose main gig is holding down the guitar chair in Dr. Lonnie Smith’s band. But rather than doing anything funky here, Kreisberg keeps his mostly midtempo-to-slow pulse very straight-up. For anyone who might take a look at the track list and think, good grief, do we really need another version of Summertime, this one actually breathes new life into the song, as Kreisberg does with a bunch of other mostly familiar tunes and a couple of originals. One guitarist whose solo work Kreisberg’s elegantly expansive, often lushly chordal approach evokes is another busy New York player, Peter Bernstein.

Throughout the album, Kreisberg plays with a mostly clean, uncluttered tone, limiting his use of effects to a guitar synth pedal for an organ-like sustain on the baroque-influenced miniature, Without Shadow and then a whole slew of them on the closing track, an Elliott Sharp-esque sci-fi theme. The opening track, Canto de Ossanha contrasts  insistent, moody, suspenseful, chromatically-charged variations on the opening vamp with a bubbly La Vie En Rose brightness.

Kreisberg transforms Skylark into a blue-sky theme that wouldn’t be out of place in the Bill Frisell catalog, and does Wayne Shorter’s E.S.P. as a blithe samba. How does he get Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah to work as an instrumental? By adding some unexpected ugliness, a brilliant move. His take on Caravan reminds of both the virtuosity – it’s amazing that Kreisberg pulls off as much as he does without overdubs  – and creepy pointillisms of the version on the sensational Ulrich Ziegler debut album. It only takes a few seconds for the chorus of Tenderly to springboard a nimble improvisation, while a rather minimalist version of My Favorite Things revisits the baroque. And a nonchalantly swinging take of Johnny Mercer’s I Thought About You gets some subtle ragtime allusions. Notwithstanding Kreisberg’s consistency throughout the album, it’s remarkably eclectic.

January 22, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment