Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Recent Releases #1 - Jazz Promo Services

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

Jim Eigo, the owner-operator of Jazz Promo Services, occasionally sends out review copies of recently released CDs/Downloads and there are a select number of these that I would like to bring to your attention because I enjoyed the music on them and thought they deserved the attention of a wider audience.

Media releases prepared by Jim usually accompany the demonstration copies and since I can rarely improve on them, I thought I would share them with you “as is” and also include some excerpts from the informative insert notes to each recording.

Jazz artists today are not supported by the attention and resources that the Jazz press and recording companies focused on previous generations of Jazz musicians.

Thank goodness, then, for the existence of educated and informed media services such as Jim’s outfit that help today’s Jazz players get the word out. They are media savvy and provide a broad communication and information platform which helps Jazz fans and Jazz musicians stay in touch with one another.

I urge you to checkout Jim’s current projects by visiting him at his website: www.jazzpromoservices.com.

Jim is one of “the good guys” and deserves your support for all he does on behalf of the music and its makers.

Marlene VerPlanck -  The Mood I'm In
(Audiophile ACD 348)
Street Date: January 1, 2016

Marlene VerPlanck-vocals, John Pearce-piano, Paul Morgan-bass, Bobby Worth- drums, Mark Nightingale- trombone, Andy Panayi-sax/flute

“Spring comes early In England.  It comes, In fact, despite what the barometer says, in the last full month of Winter when Marlene VerPlanck arrives for her annual tour of the UK;   around eighteen one-nighters spread evenly over thirty days and a dozen counties, allowing plenty of time to recharge the batteries. 2015 was somewhat different; seventeen gigs compressed into nineteen days, gruelling whichever way you look at it with only two days off but on the credit side it did leave a week for R&R which in this case is not an abbreviation of Rest & Relaxation but means Rehearsal and Recording of a new (her 24th) album backed by the trio who have been her principal support since 2009, John Pearce, piano, Paul Morgan, bass, Bobby Worth, drums, a trio par excellence, beyond excellent, in fact, as is Marlene herself, but until Peter Marc Roget lays a new Thesaurus on us I lack a superlative to trump excellent, all I do know is that these four cats left excellent dead in the water along with their salad days.  On two of the twelve tracks they're augmented by the tenor of Andy Panayi, on a further two by his flute, and on a further five by the trombone of Mark Nightingale.  On all twelve tracks the six pros were augmented, in a completely different meaning of the word,  by me and in the interests of declaring an interest this is where I say that I have loved, admired, and respected the artistry of Ms VerPlanck since the day in 1979 when in the small record section of a now long defunct Doubleday's bookstore on 5th Avenue, Serendipity brokered an introduction that left his moment on the road to Damascus looking like a mere bagatelle.

So, what can I tell you.

The Mood I'm In is a typical VerPlanck album which means, as any of her fan-base will testify and new admirers will soon discover, a blend of acknowledged standards, a sprinkling of the neglected, forgotten, obscure, invariably the work of heavy hitters, plus a smattering of newer material by contemporary composers and lyricists.

This 24th album is no exception;  you want contemporary?  Choose track 5 where you'll find Ronny Whyte and John Bunch's Certain People, wonder as the trio in turn, first John, then Paul, then Bobby, elevate the art of accompaniment to a new dimension.

You want obscure? Try track 3 and listen as Paul's bass leads Marlene into the Bobby Troup Henry Mancini collaboration Free And Easy then plays tag with her up to the release before making way for Andy's liquid flute.

You want neglected? Step right this way and inhale Duke Ellington's It Shouldn't Happen To A Dream with a gorgeous solo from Mark.

You want forgotten?  Here's the very thing, a Cahn-Van Heusen entry from 1962 that no one and his uncle Max remembers;   but Marlene found Come On Strong and having found it she sings the bejesus out of it while Andy's tenor just about manages to keep up with her.

And now, you want standard? Boy, is this your lucky day. Close your eyes and wallow in Marlene's definitive interpretation, backed by just the trio, of one of the most gorgeous ballads of the twentieth century, Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane's Too Late Now. It was actually written at the mid-point of the twentieth century, 1951, for the MGM movie Royal Wedding where it was squandered on Jane Powell but looking on the bright side at least it wasn't Dick.

I could of course name-check all twelve tracks and come up with a superlative or three for each one but what the hey, ninety to ninety-five per cent of you holding this CD are repeaters, the loyal fan-base who know as well as I do that when it comes to interpreting the Great American Songbook and if it comes to that the lesser American Songbook Marlene not only wrote the book but also edited and published it and is so far ahead of the pack it isn't even funny.

On the other hand I would like to single out track 9 which is, in fact, a medley. The album was recorded in England in March, 2015, at the end of MVPs 26th annual UK tour and as most of you will know 2015 is Mr. Sinatra's centenary so for her own personal tribute Marlene linked a number he performed with Tommy Dorsey, It Started All Over Again with one he recorded on his own label, Reprise, some twenty years later, The Second Time Around. They were so well received on the tour that she decided to include them here because, let's face it, not everyone is able to get to a venue and hear her live.

And there you have it, a ballad or two, a bouncer or two; an in-betweener or two, like the man said, something for everyone.

Don't look now but that 'everyone' means you, so stop reading and start listening and keep in mind that if Marlene were a movie she'd be Casablanca. Better than that it doesn't get.


Leon Nock,
Lyricist, Journalist, contributor to Jazz Journal Int'l, UK

Artist Website: www.marleneverplanck.com

Lou Volpe
Remembering Ol' Blue Eyes: (Songs of Sinatra)
(Jazz Guitar Records 917)
Street Date: November 6, 2015

Lou Volpe-guitar, Mel Davis-keyboards, Delmar Brown-keyboards, Onaje Allen Gumbs-piano, Stanley Banks-bass, Leo Traversa-bass, Buddy Williams-drums, Sipho Kunene-drums, Gary Fritz-percussion

“At first thought, a guitar tribute to Frank Sinatra might seem to be something of a contradiction in terms. But just a few minutes into the extraordinary guitarist Lou Volpe's brilliant new album Remembering Ol' Blue Eyes (Songs of Sinatra), it will make perfect sense. Sinatra was known not only for his wonderful voice, but also for his absolutely impeccable phrasing and timing, and for his spectacular interpretive skills that made it sound as if every lyricist had written the song specifically for Frank to sing. He put aside his own virtuosity in order to make the song the center of attention to give it every fiber of his being as an artist. Each song was conceived and developed for its ideal presentation, like a fine jeweler perceiving the essence of the stone before shaping it to its perfect state.

So it is with Lou Volpe.

A virtuoso of consummate artistry, Lou is in masterful control of not only his instrument, but also the full vernacular of musical expression, distilled into a sound as distinctive and personal as the human voice. His playing "'sings" the song as if he was uttering the lyrics. Throughout this album, his phrasing is always perfectly shaped to the demands of the song and its lyrics, and never beholden to his personal style. As with Sinatra, that personal interpretation is entirely his, while still making the song the center of focus.

Lou's playing is spectacular throughout. Blazing single-note runs, riveting chordal playing, rich smears, edgy twang, swirling crescendos, filigreed delicacy, inventive call-and-response, and brilliant use of syncopation and suspension are all brought to the fore as needed to tell the fascinating and utterly enthralling stories that are not only contained in the lyrics, but within the singular artistry that is Lou Volpe. Virtuosic without question, but never for its own sake and always within the purest essence of the song and the tale it tells.

The 13 Sinatra classics - plus one very special dedication to him - are not arranged to replicate the Chairman's versions. Nonetheless, each song has been splendidly constructed in arrangement and production to respect and honor the unique manner in which Sinatra painstakingly crafted each of his own interpretations - and performed with the same emotive and captivating fervor.

Eight exceptional artists were selected to perform this music with Lou, assembled into various combinations specifically suited to the vision conceived for each song. These include Delmar Brown, Mel Davis and Onaje Allen Gumbs on keyboards; bassists Stanley Banks and Leo Traversa; Buddy Williams and Gary Fritz on drums and percussion respectively; with drummer Sipho Kunene offering his talents on one track. While their roles are essentially supportive to Lou's interpretive genius, the flawless musicality and loving care that they bring to every piece is breathtaking, as they make this music their own.

Appropriately, most of the songs selected are from the Great American Songbook, with a couple of more recent Sinatra hits as well. The later pieces include It Was A Very Good Year offered as a soul ballad -lilting, gentle and atmospheric, with some delicious fills by Onaje, and with Lou adding his own keyboard colorations. That's Life receives a gospel-ish treatment with Lou evoking Grant Green over a B3-flavored pastiche from Delmar.

The trio support of Davis, Banks and Williams is featured on three tracks. I’ll Remember April opens the album in wide-open cooker fashion, launched on a Coltrane-inspired rhythm with briskly walking bass and Williams shifting rhythms eloquently. A smoldering, dramatic groove is at play for A Foggy Day, from its Wes Montgomery/Barney Kessel inspired melodic statement to the spirited solo by Davis. Suspense is the operative word here, not only for its suspended rhythms but also for its thematic context. And Sinatra's quintessential late-night barroom classic One For My Baby is a funky soul blues with a hint of B.B. King on tap, all driven smoothly by Banks' dark blue pulse.

A delightful Brazilian feel with Samba/Bossa Nova flavoring spices four items, each greatly enhanced by the effervescent percussion of Gary Fritz. The Best Is Yet To Come is a mid-tempo percussive smoker, with Lou also on keyboards, contributing to its richly textured rhythmic core. The infectiously buoyant and joyful Speak Low contains some blazing single-note runs that would have made Johnny Smith smile. An evocatively shimmering version of You Go To My Head features some especially remarkable percussion interplay. I've Got You Under My Skin has some tantalizing behind-the-beat playing from Lou (who also plays bass), and the scintillating presence of Sipho Kunene on drums.

The playful I Get A Kick Out Of You is a rhythmically alluring jaunt that features some deliciously chordal Wes-like playing by Lou; and All The Things You Are is a scorcher, featuring Lou backed only by Leo's bass and Buddy's drums, and tearing off some explosive, vividly syncopated runs.

Three enchanting solo pieces round out this marvelous album, each with subtly effective and tasteful overdubbing that allows Lou to accompany and color his own leads. These include a vividly suspended and lovely version of Days Of Wine And Roses; and Softly As I Leave You, an exquisite, deeply touching ballad of beguiling intimacy. The final solo piece, which closes the album in poignant and emotionally powerful fashion is Carlos Santana's gorgeous Europa, subtitled by Lou (Dedicated to the Brilliance of Frank) - a majestic and luminous tour-de-force.

Romantic, danceable, uplifting and marvelously enjoyable, Lou Volpe's Remembering Ol' Blue Eyes (Songs of Sinatra) is an album that will be listened to over and over again.

For more information, visit http://www.louvolpejazz.com/

Clavo Records CR201509
Recorded, Edited and Mixed by: Matthew Brownlie and Brent Fischer

“It's an amazing experience when, unexpectedly, a wish suddenly comes true. If it happens repeatedly, then that's just plain good luck. And so it began years ago when I started archiving the written music library of my father, Dr. Clare Fischer. I had hoped to find buried treasure in the stacks—material previously not seen or heard by others—that could be added to his public output. It has been one great find after another and it's still happening!

Getting most of the music he wanted to perform himself recorded, as opposed to leaving some for others to play, took right up until the end of his life. As with his final concerts, when he was recording, there was an absolute joy of spontaneity. Throughout his life, he felt that emotional content was always strongest during the first or second take so we always recorded that way, even if it meant minuscule imperfections were kept for the greater good of a heartfelt performance. I continue that practice today.

During the process of recording his original material, I almost lost sight of another important aspect of my dad's brilliance: his ability to re-develop the compositions of others into unmistakably personal statements that had the qualities of a new work while still retaining the character of the piece as it was known. I'm proud to present here a compendium of previously unreleased original material, different settings for some originals plus arrangements of great American, Latin and European standards.

The latest surprise came while in the middle of a busy schedule wrapping up this and a few other albums; Pluto and it's largest moon Charon came into view—out of the blue. I had to stop and look, filled with childhood memories of peeking through my dad's telescope at celestial bodies, always yearning for more detail. We shared our fascination with astronomy for decades, constantly delighting at new images sent from telescopes or spacecraft. We hope you'll explore these new recordings with that same sense of joy.”
- Brent Fischer

Track listing
1.  Love's Walk 5:50 (Arr. Brent Fischer)
2. Tema do Boneco de Palha 4:25
(Theme Of The Straw Doll) (Brasil - Neto)
3. When You Wish Upon a Star / Someday My Prince Will Come 7:58
(Churchill - Marline - Morey - Washington)
4. Starbright 4:22
5. TWO for The Road 3:46 (Mancini)
6. Case of the Seven Waterfalls 6:26 (Maiheiros)
7.  Out Of the Blue 4:31 Arr. Brent Fischer
8.  Milbrae Walk 2:56
9. Amor Em Paz 3:18 (Jobim - Gilbert - De Moraes)
10. Squatty ROO 5:24 (Hodges)
11.  Nuages 5:51 (Reinhardt)
12. Novelho 4:11
13. 49 4:21 (Larry Ford) Arr. Brent Fischer
14. Carnaval/A Felicidade/Samba De (Meu 8:00
(Bonfa - De Moraes - Jobim - Maria)

Musicians: Dr. Clare Fischer - Keyboards, composer, arranger Brent Fischer - Producer, arranger, all Percussion instruments, bass Peter Erskine - drums on Love's Walk, Starbright, Out of the blue, Nuages and 49, Mike Shapiro - drums on Tema do Boneco de Palha, Cascade of the seven Waterfalls, Millbrae Walk, and Carnaval/a Felicidade/Samba de Orpheu medley Denise Donatelli - Vocals on Out of the Blue   John Proulx - Vocals on Out of the Blue

“The masterful artistry of Dr. Clare Fischer at the grand piano and digital keyboard permeates this new collection of 14 previously unheard recordings of originals and standards curated by Grammy®-winning Producer, Composer, Arranger Brent Fischer.

In solo, duo, trio and quartet settings, the Fischer's are joined by Peter Erskine and Michael Shapiro plus a special guest appearance by vocalists Denise Donatelli and John Proulx. Out of the Blue is out of this world!

Clare Fischer has often been thought of as being ahead of his time. His keyboard work on this album sets a new paradigm for 21st century jazz as the art form matures into its 2nd century. American, Latin and European standards mix perfectly with Fischer originals like the title song, which is heard here for the first time. Hundreds of years of music history are wrapped up neatly in each track—harmony, polyphony, thematic development, improvising and grooving in a timeless approach. Brent Fischer continues here what Ed Enright of Downbeat calls the "enduring legacy" of Clare Fischer: the culmination of an unusually wide array of influences into a singular sound.”

Artist Website: http://clarefischer.com

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