by: Hobert Taylor
Mitchel Forman Trio - Puzzle - (BFM Jazz)
Los Angeles pianist/composer Mitchell Forman joins with soulmates Kevin Axt on bass and Steve Hass on drums for a collage of casual virtuosity that demonstrates a versatilty and facility than transcends the idiom of jazz. These are more assemblages than tunes, a bit of this style or that joined together like the puzzle pieces used to illustrate the cover of the CD. This may be fitting for an artist who has collaborated with Stan Getz, Wayne Shorter, Carla Bley, Jaco Pastorious and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin. On this disc he covers Keith Jarrett, Joantha Brook, Mingus, and Bachrach, and his own tunes contain a similar diversity of styles. Even within tunes there are rapid shifts, and revelatory juxtapositions. My faves are the up tempo "Bounce", "Ten Cent Wings", "Cartoons", "Puzzle", and a medley with Keith Jarrett's "Death and the Flower" married to the sublime and wondrous tune, Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?".
Candice Hoyes - On A Turquoise Cloud - (Self Released)
Music by or inspired and played by Duke Ellington interpreted by Soprano Hoyes and a jazz classical octet. A couple of alums of the Jazz at Lincoln Center /Christian McBride school, (drummer /producer Ulysses Owen Jr., multi-reed player Ted Nash) and other notable New York sidemen support Hoyes on this ambitious effort to to highlight a facet of Ellingtonia dear to the maestro's heart but not currently fashionable. These are ballads and blues performed by an operatic voice with a meditative classicism that to some ears sound dated. Opera and jazz do work well together however when there is a deep fidelity to the passions behind the songs. "Far Away Star" is a masterpiece, both as a composition and as arranged here. "Single Petal of a Rose" with the exquisite bass clarinet solo by Carl Maraghi, "Creole Love Call" with lyrics written by Hoyes herself, the lyric-less vocalese title track, "On a Turquoise Cloud, and the sacred tunes, "Heaven and "Come Sunday" are also outstanding.
Charlie Haden/Gonzalo Rubalcaba - Tokyo Adagio - (Impulse)
Haden's passing last year has forced me to reflect on the wonderful gifts he gave the world. For instance, he was instrumental in the creation of Ornette Coleman's sound.There are his Keith Jarrett and Kenny Barron collaborations, his work with Carla Bley, and his forays into Americana music, as well his intimately transcendent "conversations" with guitarist Jim Hall that demonstrate the grace and generosity that permeates his work. This is true of his work with Cuban pianist Rubalcaba, a Haden protege. Rubalcaba is one of those artists who can play any style it seems. Classically trained and with the deep mysterious rhythms of Cuban jazz at his beck and call, he and Haden mesh like the gears of a fine Swiss watch. It's all great, but I especially am fond of their take of Haden's "Sandino".
Walt Weiskopf - Open Road - (Posi-Tone)
Tenor saxophonist Weiskopf has a exciting post bop up tempo vibe that drives ahead of the beat and into free jazz. He sacrifices none of the melody so it's easy for those who are not jazz aficianados to follow along, but there is no pop compromising here. "Gates of Madrid" , "Chronology" (shades of Bird's "Ornithology"), and the title tune "Open Road" are my picks. "Leaves of Grass" is a classic melody, very nice indeed...
Michel Nirenberg - Retrato/Portrait - (Self-Released)
Brazilian multi-reed player Nirenberg's debut outing is a delightful mix of up tempo Brazilian street music with a slight New Orleans tinge and classically inspired melodic explorations (tangos and the like). Party with ""Chorinho em Aldeia/Na Gloria" or "Forro from the South", and let your brain dance to his tasty solo outing "Desvairada".
Fred Randoplh - Song Without Singing - (Creative Spirit Records)
Bassist Randolph leads an ensemble of fine San Francisco players in a world/ jazz collaboration suitable for the bay area. The tunes intermix Latin, African, Brazilian, and straight ahead jazz seamlessly and appropriately. My picks are "No Agenda", "Hypnology" "W" and the title cut "Song Without singing".