Saturday, January 31, 2015

Jeff Hamilton Trio - "Great American Songs"

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

In the letter that accompanied a preview copy of the “terrific new CD: The Jeff Hamilton Trio - Great American Songs Through the Years, Tom Burns, the owner-operator of Capri Records further explains that “Capri Records has made an arrangement with All Art Promotions in Japan to license the CD, which features drummer Jeff Hamilton and his working trio of over 10 years with Tamir Hendelman on piano and and Christoph Luty on bass. The release is a limited edition of just 2,500 copies, available only through the Capri via and on As with most of the Jeff Hamilton Trio releases, Great American Songs [subtitled “Through the Ages”] contains a potpourri of classic standards arranged brilliantly by members of the trio.”

Tom’s letter also contains the following comment from Jae Sinnett of WHRO Radio:  "I'm not a huge fan of standard recordings these days but here are beautifully crafted standard compositions with thought provoking arrangements that swing, swing and swing. Tamir Hendelman’s arrangements play well into Jeff’s concept for putting a fresh take on the familiar."

I couldn’t agree more with Jae’s assessment as though you’ve heard these melodies many times before, Jeff, Tamir and Christoph make them feel new by playing Tenderly as a slow bossa nova or by having Christoph open The More I See You with a playing of its rarely heard verse as unaccompanied arco in a beautiful display of bowing technique before Tamir comes in and interprets this pretty ballad as a down home, medium tempo, bluesy tune with some of the funkiest piano soloing this side of Gene Harris and Les McCann.

They continue their distinctive interpretations of these Great American Songs by remaking It Could Happen To You into an uptempo burner on which Jeff Hamilton takes an extended solo in a manner that is very reminiscent of the late, Max Roach in that you can sing the melody in your head while Jeff is soloing. Not many drummers can solo off the melody while at the same time not completely obliterating it in a flurry of drumnistics.

Christoph is back with the verse on Someone to Watch Over Me, but this time he also plays the pre-chorus and does both in pizzicato before turning to arco for the last 8 bars over which Tamir plays the tune’s closing chords - and this is only the introduction to the tune!

There’s always so much going on with this group. It’s a trio but the arrangements are so elaborate and so well-thought out, you’d think the writing was for a big band.

The musicianship is phenomenal both in its execution and in its expression. This is timeless music played by a trio of musicians with skill and imagination equal to that of any and all of the great piano-bass-drums trios in Jazz history.

From another perspective, I always enjoy new interpretations from the Great American Songbook because they provide me with yet another opportunity to cross-reference them with Ted Gioia’s annotations in his classic and definitive The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire [Oxford, 2012]. Here are some excerpts from Ted’s book about three tunes that appear on The Jeff Hamilton Trio - Great American Songs Through the Years,

- Someone to Watch Over Me p. 382 [Composed by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin]

“Ah, the power of the pentatonic scale. This sequence of notes—the easiest example for nonmusicians to find is the series of black notes on the piano—is arguably the most appealing and certainly the most universal melodic motif in human history.  … Jazz, with its obsession with blues notes and the higher intervals of the scale, might seem resistant to such a simple device, yet many popular jazz standards draw strength from pentatonic melody lines. The opening of "Someone to Watch over Me" simply states the pentatonic scale—interestingly enough, Ellington uses the exact same phrase to open his "In a Sentimental Mood," only shifting the tonal center from major to minor.

It Could Happen to You, p. 203 [Composed by Jimmy Van Heusen, with lyrics by Johnny Burke]

"It Could Happen to You" had the good fortune to arrive on the scene when jazz was still America's popular music. I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets a kick from the contrast between the upward movement of the melody and chords with lyrics that discuss a metaphorical falling (in love) along with real stumblings and tumblings. Even non-musicians probably pick up on this tension between words and music, if only subliminally.  …

These early tracks present Van Heusen's song as a relaxed ballad—as do many pre-stereo jazz versions, such as those by Erroll Garner (1950), J. J. Johnson (1953), and Oscar Peterson (1955). Today, the tune is more often heard at a medium or medium-up tempo. Miles Davis played a key role in this new conception of the song, but Davis himself was probably influenced by a 45 rpm recording of "It Could Happen to You," seldom heard nowadays, made by pianist Ahmad Jamal for the Parrot label in 1954, which anticipates Miles's later approach.”

Falling in Love with Love pp. 111-112 [Composed by Richard Rodgers, with lyrics by Lorenz Hart]

“... during the Swing Era, ... a typical jazz fan of the era could go night after night to clubs and dance halls without hearing the band perform a single piece in 3/4 time.

Richard Rodgers, to his credit, did his best to provide suitable waltz material for jazz performers. Back in 1932 he composed "Lover" …. Almost 30 years later, Rodgers was still at it, serving up "My Favorite Things" in The Sound of Music, which would become a vehicle for John Coltrane's modal explorations, although with more of a 6/8 feeling to the pulse than Rodgers's original 3/4.

"Falling in Love with Love" encountered a similar response. It failed to find jazz advocates for many years, …

In truth, there are bigger challenges here than the time signature. The phrases are heavily dependent on held tones and repeated notes, and the chord changes are not among the most inspired of Richard Rodgers's creations.

… Yet the song has one big advantage, albeit an intangible one. The tune seems to fall almost effortlessly into a groove and has produced a series of very swinging jazz performances over the years. …”

The following video features The More I See You track from The Jeff Hamilton Trio - Great American Songs Through the Years.

Why not pick up your own copy before they are all gone.

And, while you are at it, why not pick-up a copy of Ted Gioia's book too and make your own comparisons with other tunes from The Jeff Hamilton Trio - Great American Songs Through the Years.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Eddy Louiss, Ivan Jullien and PORGY & BESS

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

"There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. (...) Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it."
- Ernest Hemingway, 1960 Extract from A Moveable Feast

“French trumpeter, arranger, composer, and conductor Ivan Jullien paired up with organist Eddy Louiss for this expansive 1971 version of George Gershwin's Porgy & Bess. An ambitious combination of small-group jazz, big band, and Gil Evans-style orchestration, Jullien's Porgy & Bess also found him eschewing stylistic traditions with charts that touched upon hard bop, old-school swing, and AM pop, and even made room for bursts of electric fusion. It remains a landmark of French jazz and one of Jullien's most memorable recordings.”
- Matt Collar,

Some years ago, I remember mentioning to a friend who lived and worked in Paris that I didn’t recall seeing much in the way of French big band Jazz.

“That’s because you don’t know where to look for it,” he said.

A few days later, he sent me some recordings that featured compositions and arrangements by Ivan Jullien, someone I had known primarily as a French Jazz trumpet player.

If you’ll excuse the bad attempt at a pun, Jullien’s work just blew me away.

I was particularly impressed with his collaboration with Hammond B-3 organist Eddy Louiss on George Gershwin’s light opera Porgy and Bess which was produced in 1971 as a Riviera LP [421.083] and later released as number 41 of the Jazz in Paris CD series [Gitanes Jazz Productions 013 039-2].

The respected French Jazz critic Alain Tercinet had this to say about the recording in his insert notes to the CD [Martin Davies translated these from the French.].

"An organ springing out of the sea
It's not Nemo, it's Eddy
Hoisting the organ on the horizon
Heave ho, it's Louiss".

"That's Claude Nougaro's tribute in song to one of his most loyal accompanists, an arranger and composer too, on occasion. For Paris Mai, for example, or C'est Eddy. "He's a genius", said Stan Getz, who'd fallen under the spell of his music and joined his trio on impulse. Eddy Louiss is now a man of Rabelaisian fanfares, the soul of Multicolore Feeling, and he, better than anyone, knew how to make the Hammond organ dance — an awkward instrument to say the least, if not as ungainly as a Henri II antique — probably because Eddy maintained a passionate and impassioned relationship with it : one day it was "Little by little, the organ became vital to me, it totally integrated itself inside my musical universe" - and the next day : "This organ's a bloody pain. Sometimes all my feelings just can't get out. As if the instrument had its own inertia. Except when I'm playing well, obviously."

That was something that happened more often than not. It happened on November 12th 1971 too, when Eddy was recording Ivan Jullien's rather iconoclastic version of "Porgy and Bess". A trumpeter and arranger before he turned to leading a band, Ivan Jullien had acquired solid big-band experience during his years with Daniel Jeannin — who'd been in the pit orchestra at the Olympia theatre for a time — and also with Jacques Denjean. He'd led the Paris Jazz All Stars in 1965, when it came into existence for a concert in Hamburg. "For us French musicians", he said, "it was quite a revelation, because French jazz in the big-band format was something we'd stopped believing in !" The following year, he recorded his first album with the cream of France's musicians, an album entitled "Paris Point Zero". It was during those sessions that he was inspired to throw an immortal line at Michel Portal : "Listen, old man, we're not looking for perfection here, this is jazz we're doing !"

This time there were 26 musicians, among them Benny Vasseur [trombone]and Jean-Louis Chautemps [tenor sax], but also Michel Grallier [piano], Pierre Cullaz [guitar] and Andre Ceccarelli [drums]. However, except for Ceccarelli, who was omnipresent and consistently apposite, and Ivan Jullien, who played a few short phrases on trumpet, none of them took a solo. They weren't there to provide accompaniment, but to provide an envelope that surrounded, submerged (and brought back to the surface) the Hammond of Eddy Louiss. The orchestra did this with sumptuous, moving layers of sound in a spirit that was inherited from Gil Evans, but contained nothing borrowed….

Would Gershwin have approved if he'd heard his work without such famous pieces as Summertime and It ain't necessarily so? Would he have recognised his Gone, gone, gone or There's a boat dat's leavin' soon for New York ? Behind the two long and abundant performances by Eddy Louiss, who navigates his instrument through all kinds of weather ? Probably not, but given the result, he would certainly have taken his hat off to them."

[Ed. note: Gone, Gone, Gone is not part of the original Gershwin opera, but was written in the spirit of it by Gil Evans for the recording of Porgy and Bess that he arranged for Miles Davis].

Eddy, with drummer Andre Ceccarelli’s “urging,” really turns it loose on the following video montage which is set to Ivan Jullien’s arrangement of There’s a Boat Dats Leavin’ Soon For New York.

I’m sure glad that my Parisian ami showed me where to look for French Big Band Jazz.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Victor Feldman and Frank Rosolino: The "Lost" Recordings

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

For about two years in the late 1950s, I had the pleasure of hanging out with pianist/vibist Victor Feldman and trombonist Frank Rosolino who were then regular members of bassist's Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse Cafe All-Stars in Hermosa Beach, CA.

These were my formative years in Jazz and I always thought of the many nights at I spent at the club listening to set after set of the Lighthouse All-Stars as my “undergraduate education.”

The drummer with the All-Stars at that time was Stan Levey When I hounded him for lessons, he got gruffly and turned me over to Victor saying: “He even knows the name of the rudiments.” [Stan was being defensive as he was self-taught and not all that technically conversant with “drum speak.” He just played his backside off instead.]

What an understatement as I soon found out that before he turned to vibes and piano, Victor had been a World Class drummer [think Buddy Rich - Yes, he was that fast].

The closing time for the club was 2:00 AM, but on weekdays, most of the patrons were gone by midnight. At the witching hour, the musicians sometimes congregated in the back of the club to relax, have a smoke and conduct Jazz 101 with aspiring, young musicians before playing a last set.

Often, Jazz 101 consisted of war stories and one night while I was sitting in the back of the club with Victor and Frank Rosolino, Victor told a heart-breaking tale of the “lost tapes” he had made a few years earlier with a rhythm section of Hank Jones on piano, Bill Crow on bass and Kenny Clark and Joe Morello on drums [they split the two, recording sessions].

Before leaving Woody Herman’s Big Band and settling in with Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All-Stars for a three year stint beginning in 1957, Victor had made a prior arrangement to record an album for Keynote Records and set about making arrangements for the date.  Bassist Bill Crow tells the tale of this ill-fated Feldman, Keystone recording session in his book From Birdland to Broadway [New York: Oxford University Press, 1992, pp. 119-120].

“One night [in 1955] a young man sat at the Hickory House bar listening and smiling as we played [the Marian McPartland Trio featuring Bill Crow on bass and Joe Morello on drums]. When our set was finished, he introduced himself as Victor Feldman. The talented English vibraphonist had just arrived in New York, and had come to meet Marian. He said he liked the way Joe and I played together.

‘I’m doing an album for Keynote,’ Victor told us, ‘and I’d like you guys to do it with me. I’ve already sort of promised it to Kenny Clarke, so I’ll have him do the first date and Joe the second. I’ve got Hank Jones on piano.

Both dates went beautifully. Victor had written some attractive tunes, and he and Hank hit it off together right away. We couldn’t have felt more comfortable if we’d been playing together for years. Victor was glad to have the recording finished before he left town to join Woody Herman’s band.

The next time I ran into Vic, he told a sad story. The producer at Keynote had decided to delay releasing the album, hoping Victor would become famous with Woody. But the next Keystone project ran over budget, and when he needed to raise some cash, the producer sold Victor’s master tapes to Teddy Reig at Roost Records. Vic came back to New York, discovered what happened, and called Reig to find out when he planned to release the album.

‘Just as soon as Keystone sends me the tape,’ said Reig.

Vic called Keystone to ask when this would take place, and was told the tape had already been sent. A search of both record companies offices failed to locate the tape, and as far as I know it was never found. It may still be lying in a storeroom somewhere, or it may have been destroyed.

Since Keystone announced the album when we did the date, it was listed in Down Beat in their “Things to Come” column, and that information found its way into the Bruyninckx discography, but now that Vic and Kenny are both gone, that music exists as a lovely resonance in the memories of Joe, Hank and myself.”

Frank and I were horrified. “Some Christmas present,” Frank said, reflectively. He went on to say: “That better not happen with the tapes from the session we just finished.”

The recording session that Frank was referring to occurred on December 22, 1958 and while the outcome was not as irrevocable as was the case with the never-found tapes of Victor’s Keystone tapes, it DID happen that the Rosolino tapes were also, never released, at least, not until almost thirty years later [Frank died in 1978].

In 1987, Fantasy acquired the tapes from the December 22, 1958 Rosolino session and finally released them on LP as Frank Rosolino: Free For All [SP-2161]. The date was also released on CD in 1991 [Specialty Jazz Series OJCCD 1763-2].

Leonard Feather explains the story this was in his insert notes to the CD.

“Surprises of the kind represented by this album are as rare as they are welcome. The appearance of a hitherto undocumented album by Frank Rosolino makes a valuable addition to the discographical annals of an artist whose memory is cherished by admirers around the world.

His career seemed, on the surface, to have been reasonably successful. Born in Detroit in 1926, he came up through the big band ranks, playing with Gene Krupa, Bob Chester, Herbie Fields and Georgie Auld, then leading his own group in Detroit before joining Stan Kenton in 1952.

Two years later, he settled in Southern California and became, for several years, a regular in Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars in Hermosa Beach. His free-wheeling, extrovert style did not conform to the then prevalent image of West Coast jazz as tightly organized, laid back and somewhat derivative.

Moreover, Rosolino was known from the early days as an incurable comic, whose bop vocal on "Lemon Drop" with the Krupa band marked his first appearance on film. As Benny Carter once commented, "Frank was a fantastic musician, but behind that cut-up personality was a troubled man. He was like Pagliacci.”

Frank made his recording debut as a leader with a 1952 session for the short lived Dee Gee label. There were other dates for Capitol, Bethlehem and Mode, but by the mid-1960s the only available Rosolino album was a Reprise set that featured him mainly as a comedy singer. The existence of the present volume was unknown except to those who had taken part in it — and, particularly, the man who produced it, David Axelrod.

"Frank and I were excited about this album," Axelrod recalls, "because it was going to be the first hard bop album recorded and released on the West Coast. We wanted to get away from that bland, stereotyped West Coast image. We worked for weeks on planning the personnel and the songs. The results were terrific. It was a great disappointment to us both that the record, for reasons we never understood, wasn't released."

Rosolino confirmed this view in a letter he sent to Specialty some nine months after the session. "I feel it's the best album I have ever recorded; everyone who was on the date feels the same. I've played the dub for numerous musicians and they all think it's just great."

Harold Land, whose tenor sax shared the front line with Frank's trombone, was already well established as a proponent of the more vigorous California sound; he had toured with the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet in 1954-5 and went on to lead various combos in addition to working, off and on ever since 1955, in the Gerald Wilson Orchestra.

Victor Feldman, who had arrived from England in 1955 and settled in Los Angeles after touring with Woody Herman, has worked for many years in studios, often playing mainly percussion and vibes, but his jazz reputation (primarily on piano) is a formidable one. Two years after these sides were made he joined Cannonball Adderley; in 1963 he recorded and gigged with Miles Davis.

Stan Levey, one of the foremost bebop drummers of the 1940's, played with everyone from Dizzy and Bird to Herman and Kenton, then joined the Rumsey group at the Lighthouse. By 1972, tired of boring studio jobs, he gave up playing in order to concentrate on his growing success as a commercial photographer.

Leroy Vinnegar, born in Indianapolis, settled in Los Angeles in 1954 and has worked with innumerable groups led by Stan Getz, Shelly Manne, Jimmy Smith, Shorty Rogers, Buddy Collette, and the Crusaders.

Typical of Frank Rosolino's ingenuity is the opening cut; he tackled Love for Sale in 6/4, moving into a fast 4/4 for the bridge. His own solo and Land's establish immediately that this is a tough, no-holds-barred blowing session.

Twilight is a beguilingly pensive example of Victor Feldman's talent as a composer.
There is no improvisation here until the solo by Land, who also plays under Frank's eloquent excursion.

Frank deals with the melody, while Harold offers appropriate fills on Henry Nemo's Don't Take Your Love From Me. Note the easy moderate beat sustained behind Frank's solo, the typically inventive Land outing, and Feldman's evolution from single note lines to chords.

Chrisdee, an original by Stan Levey, was named for his sons Chris and Dee and is a bebop line based on a cycle of fifths, with a somewhat Monkish bridge. After Frank and Harold have adroitly negotiated the changes, there is a series of fours, with Leroy walking a passage and Stan in a couple of brief solo statements.

Stardust is Rosolino throughout, a masterful example of his approach to a well-worn standard into which he breathes new life. The verse is played slowly, the tempo picks up a bit for the chorus, and the beat is later doubled, with Frank's sinuous lines growing busier before he closes it out on the dominant.

Frank composed Free Fall the album's title tune as a funky blues theme that offers 24 bars to Leroy, four choruses (48 bars) to Frank, three to Harold and two to Victor before the theme returns, ending with a suddenness that was typical of the hard bop era.

Frank worked out the routine on There is No Greater Love, an Isham Jones standard that dates back to 1936 and is as much in use as ever at jam sessions a half century after its debut. The unison horns kick it off at a bright pace,- after Harold's and Frank's solos, Victor gets into a single-note bop bag.

Finally, Frank's own Sneakyoso provides the quintet with an ingenious vehicle, its attractive changes providing good opportunities for Frank to work out. Note the fine comping Victor furnishes for Harold Land before taking over for his own solo. The two horns engage in an exchange with Stan Levey before the head returns.

All in all, this is a superior, even superlative example of the genre of music it represents. Frank was right to be so proud of it. Talking to Stan Levey while preparing these notes, I was not surprised when he remarked: "I never heard anyone else quite like Frank. He put into his music much more than he ever achieved out of it. I remember this session well, and I'm happy it's being made available."

Sadly, Frank did not survive to see its release. … [He died under tragic circumstances] in November of 1978 …..

Free for All is a very welcome reminder of an exceptionally gifted artist who left us much too soon.”

Leonard Feather, 1986 (Leonard Feather is the Los Angeles Times jazz critic.)

The following video features Frank, Harold, Victor, Leroy and Stan on Chrisdee.

Who knows Maybe one day, someone will find the tapes of Victor’s 1955 session for Keystone and I can change the title of this piece from “lost” to “found.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Porgy and Bess Goes Latin - Nueva Manteca

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

For background information regarding the PORGY AND BESS GOES LATIN phase of our continuing theme of Jazz interpretations of the Gershwin opera, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought these insert notes from Nueva Manteca which was released by the Dutch-based Latin Jazz group in 1994 [Lucho 7714-2] might prove helpful.

“The idea of performing the gorgeous songs from Gershwin's masterwork 'Porgy and Bess' in a jazz format has been realized often in a most convincing way. One only has to think of the deeply moving version by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong with the Russ Garcia Orchestra or that other classic: The Miles Davis-Gil Evans collaboration. Remarkably enough a Porgy and Bess album has never been recorded in a Latin version.

George Gershwin himself loved jazz and greatly admired Thomas 'Fats' Waller and Art Tatum. He also had a deep interest in what we nowadays call 'World Music'. In 1932 he embarked for Havana, Cuba. Enjoying the good life, Gershwin found Cuba 'most interesting, especially for its small dance orchestras who play most intricate rhythms most naturally', as he wrote to a friend upon his return.

Inspired by his short visit to Cuba, Gershwin wrote the symphonic work 'Rumba'. According to his own words, in Rumba “... [he] endeavoured to combine the Cuban rhythms with his own original thematic material.” On the title page of the score Gershwin instructed that the players of four of the Cuban instruments he had brought back from Cuba — bongos, gui'ro, maracas and claves — should be placed in front of the conductor's stand, visible to the audience.

In 1934 Gershwin made another field trip. This time he travelled from New York to Charleston, South Carolina. His purpose was to visit the setting of his opera 'Porgy and Bess'. He also wanted to meet the people about whom librettist, DuBose Heyward, had written. From Charleston, Gershwin took the ferry to Folly Island. This island belongs to the group of Georgia Sea Islands. The Afro-American inhabitants speak the Gullah dialect with a vocabulary comprising some four thousand words. This dialect seems of West African derivation.

Although Gershwin found himself in a totally foreign environment far away from the glitter of Broadway, he immensely enjoyed 'going native' and immersed himself in the social and musical life. He frequently attended prayer meetings, participating in the so called 'Ring Shout'. The Ring Shout is a shuffling dance in anticlockwise direction accompanied by complex rhythmic patterns beaten out by feet and hands. Ring Shouts are a familiar characteristic of the 'Sanctified' and 'Pentecostal' churches and are believed to be derived from West African dances. The term 'shout' possibly stems from an Arabic word 'saut', said to be used by West African Muslim pilgrims to indicate the procession around the Kaaba [sacred Black Stone] in Mecca [Saudi Arabia].

Gershwin's friends discovered that the summer of 1934 spent on the Sea Islands was to the composer more like a homecoming than an exploration. The big city songs and the pulse of New York had found their counterpart in the haunting spirituals and body rhythms of the Gullah People. Gershwin had come under the spell of World Music, his masterworks 'Rumba' and 'Porgy and Bess' being the lasting reflection of it.

SUITE PORGY AND BESS GO LATIN - All compositions by George Gershwin.

All tracks arranged by Jan Laurens Hartong except nos. 2 & 6. 'Summertime' arranged by Ben van den Dungen. 'Bess, you is my woman now' arranged by Ben van den Dungen and Jarmo Hoogendijk.

BOUDEWIJN LUCAS Acoustic bass, bass guitar
LUCAS VAN MERWIJK Drums & percussion, bata drum (Itotele)
MARTIN VERDONK Tumbadora, quinto, chekere, bata drums (Yia ami Okoukole)
NILS FISCHER Timbales, conga's, bongo's and bata drums
guest; ALAOR SCARES Brazilian percussion

The following video features the group’s unique Overture to their Latin Jazz version of Porgy and Bess: