by: Hobart Taylor
Typhanie Monique - Call It Magic - (Dot Time)
My friend the singer/songwriter Enzo Garcia, made one of those grand pronouncements that are easy to contradict but contain a kernel of emotionally authentic truth. "(Some) people", he said, "can't tell the difference between the real thing and the simulation. If it (music) looks and sounds like what they expected, it will do."
I firmly believe that that dictum applies especially to the world of the female jazz vocalist. Historically, women singers in jazz have provided the profoundest of performances, and have provided the emotional resonance and intimate humanization of the form, enveloping the genre with wisdom, compassion, and candor. From Bessie Smith through Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln,Joni Mitchell,Billie Holiday, to Becca Stevens and Valerie June, women jazz singers have kept the medium and listeners grounded and in touch with sentient reality.
Sadly, what Enzo said is too often true. Audiences connect to technical skill or the familiar stylings of a voice, and mistake those things for the deeper connection a great singer has both to a song, and to a song's impetus in the real world.
Typhanie Monique is a no BS singer. Whether helping us to remember, or really hear for the first time, classic tracks from Cole Porter to Don Henley, Duke Ellington to Clyde Otis, Monique chooses to wear the tunes like a second skin. It also helps that the arrangements are brilliant, perfect both for her voice and the material. There are strings, there are star turns by clarinetists Victor Goines and Ken Peplowski, saxophonist Joel Frahm, and Tony Monaco on the Hammond B3, there are big sounds and small, and each element is used judiciously and sensitively in ways truly appropriate to each performance. Special kudos go the Monique's co-arranger and lead accompanist Ben Lewis. His delicate framing never intrudes on the picture, but clearly helps us see both figure and ground. There is no attempt to standardize a product here, or to create a Typhanie Monique "brand". There is just devotion to singing, each individual song, and being real.
Gary Motley - No Reservation Required - (G-Stream)
From Atlanta comes pianist, composer , and groove meister Motley. The opening cut has curlicue commentary on top of a killer groove laid down by a killer rhythm section, drummer Emrah Kotan and bassist Billy Thornton. Motley's compositions also can out and out swing. Gifted with a facility for super imposing beautiful melodic fragments over daring changes, "Sea Change", "Four on the Floor", or subtly incorporating Latin influences casual soulful pronouncements, "Preachin' To The Choir", Motley delivers.
Jeff Coffin - Next Time Yellow - (earuprecords)
With a Wayne Shorter feel as in Shorter's "Mato Grosso Feio" on the tune "Clementine", and on another cut, "Hiding Behind", Coffin and his ensemble's music is viscous and enveloping. The horn harmonies blend into the timbre of a human voice. The mid tempo "Zarakov's Dilemna", and in fact many of his compositions, call to mind bluesy versions of Nino Rota dreaminess. The guitar sound on the disc, (there are three credited guitarists),and Chris Walters on a Wurlitzer electric piano, dangle on the surface of this stream of music like perfectly tied trout flies.
Scenes - Destinations - (Origin)
This trio, guitarist John Stowell, bassist, Jeff Johnson, and drummer John Bishop, perform that divine magic trick, making three into one while remaining three distinct elements. It's like someone who can walk, chew gum, and think at the same time. Stowell's individual notes seem each multi-dimensional, containing prominent bends and curves and dynamic energy. Bassist Johnson, who contributes two compositions to the disc, is a robust and authoritative presence. His tune, "T.I.O" shows off all three artists to maximal effect as it gives space to the synergy of three separate but complimentary threads. A note on drummer John Bishop. Bishop's contribution to Jazz as the scion of independent record labels (Origin and OA2) and graphic artist extraordinaire, whose album covers have given context and communicate eloquently to audiences the significance of the music contained on the discs, is matched here by his melodicism and attentiveness as a performer. On this record, his energy is like an ionic bond between elements.
Michael Gamble/Rhythm Serenaders - Get Rhythm In Your Feet - (Organic)
Like the soundtrack to one long Betty Boop cartoon, this record just swings and swings and swings. It's like listening to old 78's without the scratches.
John Barron - Moods - (Self Released)
Fusion, jazz rock, whatever. There is an inherent appeal to this form. Rock guitar solos (Kris Kurzawa), reggae and other pop elements are prominent in this release by bassist/composer Barron. Barron has a deft tough, particularly in the high registers. There is a nice blues outing, "Out on Loan", and I like the extended solo, "Ours to Shape".
Bobby Watson with The Curtis Lundy Trio - Made in America - (Smokestack Records)
Alto saxophonist Bobby Watson provides breezy or pensive illustrations of African-American people of accomplishment. An aviator, a computer scientist, a business woman, a cowboy, the great guitarist Grant Green, Sammy Davis Jr. and actress Butterfly McQueen are among the well and lesser known folks honored here. The playing is straight ahead and and evocative. Watson soars hawklike above the trio, drawing his portraits in looping figures full of casual grace. Faves, "The Butterfly", "The Real Lone Ranger" and "The Computer Scientist".
Jen Siukola Lighthouse Reverie - (Self Released)
Trumpeter/composer Sikuola has a mellow and inviting tone. Her compositions are straight ahead. I especially like "Lil' B Jr.", the sophisticated Ellington like melody, "The Dawn Approaches Like Tears", and the cheery be-bop tune "Bog Walking".
Farnell Newton - Back To Earth - (Posi-Tone)
Trumpeter/composer Newton working in quintet form (trombone, piano, bass , and drums) is very easy on the ear. Nuances and rough edges are there, but neatly packaged and embedded in charming melodies. The covers by Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, and Wayne Shorter are direct links to aesthetic Newton embraces in his own writing. I like his conscious acknowledgement of his reverence for tradition contained in the tunes,"The Roots" and "Redefining the Norm", back to back works that form for me a sweet suite.
The Microscopic Septet - Been Up So Long It Looks Like Up To Me - (Cuneiform Records)
The Microscopic Septet has famously put skew twist on popular jazz forms off and on for thirty or so years. Full of humor, puss, and viagra, these expositors of "fake " jazz, to use the Trumpian trope, are more real than most. Rather than making traditional ('20's-30's) jazz that sounds like some clone or time trip, they bring a Monkish detachment and cool to comment on the form. Delightfully.