by: Hobart Taylor
Carol Morgan Quartet - Post Cool Vol. 1:The Night Shift - (Self Released)
This CD from New Jersey based trumpeter Morgan is fresh, personal, and intimately authentic. In total control of her tone, she eschews the mechanical precision that many horn players prize and instead "speaks" with subtle nuance connoting wisdom, experience, and compassion, both in her playing and her arrangements. Her re-invention of the chestnuts "Autumn Leaves" and "Night in Tunisia" revive these near moribund classics. Also noteworthy is an up tempo Tadd Dameron composition, "On a Misty Night, and her own lovely melody, "Night".
Yelena Eckemoff Quintet - Blooming Tall Phlox - (L & H)
This release from Russian born composer/pianist Eckemoff is an evocation of pastoral Russian scenes. It's as if the moments remembered here were sliced thin then placed on a microscopes's slide to reveal in an elementary fashion the cells of a certain birch, the molecules of the berries on the table where she'd eaten midnight dinner on the white nights of deep summer, the atoms of memory. Trumpet, vibes, double bass, and various percussions waft over the listeners like breezes that swirl, shift, and vary in temperature. I haven't described the music sonically for a very specific reason. This music isn't about music. It is not self referential or connected to musical traditions, although one could tease out genres if so inclined. I am not so inclined. Suffice it to say it is gorgeous. (Nathan-Please include the cd cover with the review for this one as well as for Carol Morgan's lead review, even though Eckemoff is the second, not lead review. Thanks)
Carol Robbins - Taylor Street - (Jazzcats)
Composer/ harpists like Robbins and Brandee Younger continue the exciting exploration of the harp as an orchestrating overlay to jazz ensemble music. Pioneers Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby demonstrated how the chromatic range of the instrument allows for melodic variations that are surprising and rich. For her part, Robbins writes tunes that are straight ahead melodic gems, and joining her are exceptional musicians like the star arranger/pianist Billy Childs, UCI professor Darek Oles, on bass and trumpeter Curtis Taylor. Suggested tracks include the meditative "Grey River", "he Flight", "Full Circle", and "Trekker".
Carmen Lundy - Code Noir - (Afrasia)
Songwriter singer, and pianist Lundy has been an insider's favorite for decades. Her songs have meaningful content, in the tradition of say Donny Hathaway. Here her voice inhabits soothing lower registers that add ironic impact to her subtle ("Second Sight") or not so subtle yet biting satire ("Black and Blues", a song about policing in minority neighborhoods). And the tunes are beautifully constructed.
Beata Pater - Fire Dance - (B&B Records)
Vocalese, wordless singing, usually falls into two main categories, ghostly chanting like Enja's, or scat singing. Occasionally an artists uses vocalese as a horn voice, using overdubbed harmonies and arrangements incorporating saxes and brass. Former Polish rocker Pater reaches out to tribal music from the tribe of humans (no specific cultures here, but echoes of Africa, the Balkans, and South America abound). The tunes are often lively and charming. There is one slow and evocative tune that stands out, "The Princess".
Andrea Claburn - Nightshade - (Self Released)
Bay area pianist/singer Claburn's debut release presents us with an authoritative voice fully in command of her technique and style. Claburn wrote many of the songs here, and they are smart but a bit wordy which she handles well by developing unique phrasing. A very auspicious beginning.
Virginia Schenck - Aminata Moseka: An Abbey Lincoln Tribute - (Airborne Ecstasy Records)
Schenck is an adventurous soul who on her last release "Interior Notions" tore the lid off the jazz singing woman tradition by boldly focusing on each song as if it were it's own genre freeing up the music to connect to her voice, both her physical voice and her personal voice. The model for this in pop culture of course is Joni Mitchell, but there are several artists (Betty Carter anyone?) who make such exquisite sounds. Abbey Lincoln was one of the best of these. Ironically, by paying homage to Lincoln, I feel that Schenk restricts herself, holds back a bit, in reverence. The most successful tunes for my money are those where Schenck relaxes into the tunes, "Another World" with a wonderful "prepared" piano solo, "Blue Monk", and "The Music is the Magic".