Friday, January 29, 2016

Terri Lynn Carrington

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

“I gravitate to this kind of drumming. It doesn't feel lick-oriented. It feels organic, open, like you're playing off what you're hearing, as opposed to things in your repertoire.”
Terri Lyne Carrington

There are two things about the following Blindfold Test by drummer Terri Lyne Carrington that especially impressed me: [1] she nailed the identity of all but one of the drummers and [2] she describes their respective drumming styles with a vocabulary that is fresh, inventively descriptive while at the same time being expressively clear for those who are not conversant with drum speak.

“Drummer, composer, producer and Grammy winner Terri Lyne Carrington bedrocks her forward-looking musical output with an exhaustive knowledge of the roots and branches of jazz, world music and technology. She plays an array of instruments on her new CD, The Mosaic Project: Love And Soul (Concord).” [Ted Panken]

This is her first Blindfold Test. It was conducted by Ted Panken and appears in the February 2016 edition of Downbeat.

I have underlined those portions of Terri’s impressions that I found to be particularly new, different and helpful as descriptions of each drummer’s style of playing.

Ali Jackson

"Ali Got Rhythm" (Amalgamations, Sunnyside, 2013) Jackson, drums; Aaron Goldberg, piano; Carlos Henriquez, bass.

It's swinging hard. Something in the ride cymbal pattern reminds me of Ali Jackson. I love his forward motion on the beat. It doesn't feel rushed, but it's real edgy. I tend to play more behind the beat than that, but I appreciate when somebody does it well. Usually I'd rather listen to something that was done when the style was fresh, cutting-edge, pushing a boundary, but musicians who preserve a style from another time period are playing an important role. 31/2 stars overall; 41/2 for Ali, because I could pick up his ride cymbal.

Kendrick Scott

"Never Catch Me" (We Are The Drum, Blue Note, 2015) Scott, drums; John EIlis, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Mike Moreno, guitar, Taylor Eigsti, Fender Rhodes; Joe Sanders, bass.

The toms and snare sound like Kendrick Scott, but the bass drum sounds heavier than Kendrick's. Some things remind me of Eric Harland, and there's a beat I've heard Jamire Williams play — there's a school of drumming that's pulled from the same sources. I enjoyed the counterpoint between the two melodies. I like the piano sound. The drums are featured, but aren't overwhelming. It's nice to hear something in 4. So much music now is in odd time signatures, which I like playing, too— but you have to balance it. I would buy this track for sure. 4 stars, [after] Kendrick's playing has grown. His articulation, ideas, everything feels more intentional.

Jeff "Tain" Watts

"Brilliant Corners" (Blu, Vol. 1, Dark Key, 2015) Watts, drums; Troy Roberts, tenor saxophone; David Budway, piano; Neal Caine, bass.

Jeff Watts. From the first beat. Jeff has a distinctive way he plays that swing-funk thing. His triplet is very distinct. With the metric modulations, the tune sounds like either something by [Thelonious] Monk that he arranged or wrote in Monk's style as a tribute. I'm not crazy about the sound of the recording, though it has a certain rawness I like, with everyone playing in a room. At one point, he started playing a hi-hat, and it was overwhelming. I don't know who the tenor player is, but he sounded great. The piano solo was great. 4 stars. The playing is strong enough that I can get past the sound.

Antonio Sanchez

"Fall" (Three Times Three, CamJazz, 2014) Sanchez, drums; John Scofield, guitar; Christian McBride, bass.

That's Antonio. That little sound, the bell, [bass solo] During the ostinato, I couldn't tell it was Christian, but the solo tells me. It sounds amazing. I'm used to hearing Sco play more lines; this is a pastoral sound. Antonio is playing very cinematically and texturally. I love the sound of the recording and his drums—full and powerful, so balanced. 5 stars. The song itself sucks you in; it isn't over-arranged, and it's the right combination of players. Antonio masterfully took up the right amount of space without overplaying. What he played was tasty, but also meaningful.

Lewis Nash

"Y Todavia La Queiro" (The Highest Mountain, Cellar Live, 2012} Nash, drums; Jimmy Greene, tenor saxophone; Jeremy Pelt, trumpet; Renee Rosnes, piano; Peter Washington, bass.

That song took me back. At first I wasn't sure it was Lewis Nash, with the fingers on the drums (though I've seen him do that), but I knew it was him when he picked up the sticks. He's steeped in the bebop tradition, and plays it in a way that sounds modern and has an excitement factor. It's the ferocity he puts on the tempo, undeniable, like a train. The track is a drum feature, done live, and it's so well-executed ... just great drumming. He's a master at what he does. 4l/2 stars.

Myra Melford

"First Protest" (Snowy Egret, Enja-Yellowbird, 2015) Melford, piano; Tyshawn Sorey, drums; Ron Miles, trumpet; Liberty Ellman, guitar; Stomu Takeishi, bass guitar.

The drummer likes Jack Dejohnette. The sound of the snare makes me think of Brian Blade, though it's a little more on top, and the ride cymbal is brighter. I gravitate to this kind of drumming. It doesn't feel lick-oriented. It feels organic, open, like you're playing off what you're hearing, as opposed to things in your repertoire. When the piece started, the piano soloing with the drums, I thought it would stay in the vein of contemporary classical musicians who also improvise, but then it entered an area where I heard M-Base inflections—someone who has gone through that camp or been influenced by it. I like the loosey-goosey effect in this player's groove as opposed to some others from that school. 4 stars.

Brad Mehldau/MarkGiuliana

"Luxe" (Mehliana, Nonesuch, 2014) Mehldau, synthesizers, keyboards; Giuliana, drums, electronics.

I'd never heard Brad play electronic instruments; I'd never know it was him if I didn't know the record. I like it. Some elements remind me of Weather Report, a little Joe Zawinul creeping in. Mark is a strong, well-rounded drummer. I like the minimalism of the groove: I only heard the toms a few times in the piece, and he really held my interest with just the kick-snare and a hi-hat in the pattern, [keeping] a relentless feeling to the groove while improvising inside of it. His choices never took away from what's making me dance to the track. I like the '70s lope that pops into the beat. 4 stars.                                                        

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lew Tabackin - Soundscapes

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

On February 5, 2016, tenor saxophonist and flutist Lew Tabackin’s new, self-produced CD Soundscapes will be issued and the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought you might like a little advanced notice in the form of Jim Eigo’s communique about the recording which incorporates Lew’s background notes and John Ross’ review of the CD from the January/2016 edition of Downbeat.

You can locate more about Lew and the forthcoming CD by visiting his website at

Soundscapes has eight tracks made up of two Jazz Standards - John Lewis’ Afternoon in Paris and Billy Strayhorn’s Day Dream, two tunes from The Great American Songbook - Yesterdays and Three Little Words, and one from Ellingtonia - Sunset and The Mockingbird. Interspersed among these familiar melodies are three of Lou’s original compositions.

Lew tenor saxophone style is laced with references to Coleman Hawkins, Lucky Thompson and Sonny Rollins [checkout his homage to Sonny on Three Little Words] both in terms of tone and his preference for vertical, harmonically oriented improvisations.

But make no mistake, Lew’s his own man and this nowhere-to-hide approach using only bass and drums makes his individuality very evident. Lew plays and plays and plays; one fresh, inventive idea after another. He has become a - for lack of a better expression - Force of Jazz.

Lew’s maturity as a soloist is inspirational and Boris Kozlov on bass and Mark Taylor on drums are a perfect tandem to power things along because they are both equally strong players who can hold their own with the persuasiveness and passion of Lew’s playing.

Here’s how the project came about.

At the urging of noted jazz photographer Jimmy Katz,I agreed to !let him record my trio with Boris Kozlov, bass and Mark Taylor, drums. The concept was to create a kind of organic, unpretentious approach. Recording at Steve Maxwell’s drum shop in Manhattan, we set up in very close proximity. Sometimes you can actually hear the sympathetic vibrations from the many drum sets in the shop —
good vibrations.

We played as if "live”in a club, with no real editing. As my old friend, the great Zoot Sims would say, "You turn on the tape and gets what you get". Playing the flute in this space and in that system, however, was a bit problematic since the room is quite "dead". I had to try to play without over compensating and remembered a Jean Pierre Rampal masterclass several years ago where he discussed trying to overcome a dead acoustical hall, with unsatisfactory results, Lessons learned. Ultimately, with help from [Recording Engineer] David Darlington's magic, the results are transcendent.

Most of the tunes require little explanation; I was just trying to retain some of the more traditional jazz values in an open, communicative way. Not much was pre-set. The three originals are a kind of Japan trilogy. Garden at Life Time was inspired by the garden of Yoshinobu, the last shogun of the Edo era. The garden is adjacent to a wonderful jazz club, Life Time, owned by Mr. Yutaka Kubota, who loves to play bebop piano and is a great supporter of jazz and other arts. I arn so proud of the way Mark and Boris captured the kind of "Gagaku" free improvisation throughout this piece. Bb Where It's At, is a light-hearted tune written for Bb, a wonderful venue in [the] Akasaka [district of Tokyo], where Mr. Akira Suzuki has given us unconditional support for several years. Our performances there are like playing for old friends.

Minoru was written for one of the last great, old school saxophone technicians, Minoru Ishimori, who literally saved the musical lives of so many of us through the years when we encountered instrument problems during tours in Japan. His passing was a great loss and he is dearly missed. Playing at Ishimori Gakkrs performance space during our yearly tours rekindles memories of this special individual. It's always great to connect with his sons Tomo and Shinji and the wonderful staff at this special oasis in Tokyo.

A little explanation of my "derangement" of Sunset and the Mocking Bird is in order. I tried to incorporate as much Bird shit as I could, even quoting a little Yard Bird in my opening solo, i hope Duke purists are not too offended. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the amazing contributions of Boris and Mark and look forward to continuing on our path.”

“Tabackin Gets Creative in Unique Space”
Downbeat, January, 2016
John Ross

“Saxophonist and flutist Lew Tabackin creates miniature compositions inside each piece of music on his new album, Soundscapes.

The self-released CD is Tabackin's first recorded session with his longtime trio of bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Mark Taylor in seven years. The multi-instrumentalist packs 70-plus years of playing into each tune, creating an album that is complex yet straightforward.

Tabackin has been a trio player for decades, but he's best known for his time spent in the big bands of his wife, Toshiko Akiyoshi, from the early 1970s to 2003. Tabackin's attention to narrative playing may have been heightened by the band's Japanese-leaning compositions; he later expanded this concept with study of the programmatic ideas in Japanese music and the shakuhachi, a type of wooden flute. But Tabackin said he's always concentrated on playing more than just the notes.

"I'm trying to tell a story, paint a visual," he said. "There's always a story on my originals, and I try to be faithful to the story and expand the narrative when I play. I like to have some kind of context to it and some meaning."

His latest project was recorded after hours at the Steve Maxwell Vintage and Custom Drums shop in New York City. The band played as they would in a concert setting, minimizing the number of takes and recording without the luxury of extensive editing.

It all began with some persistent needling by an old friend. Photographer Jimmy Katz, who has known Tabackin for 25 years, approached the saxophonist numerous times to get him to lay down another album. As Katz sees it, the new album, which he co-produced, is a document of Tabackin's playing at a particular point in time. Katz allowed, however, that the recording process makes some musicians anxious.

"What I'm interested in is trying to make it as easy and casual as possible so that people can give the best performance possible," Katz said. "That's really what history and lovers of the music are going to remember; they're going to remember the great performance."

Katz talked with Tabackin about various recording options. After settling on the live approach,  Katz and Tabackin tested out a variety of spaces before landing on the drum shop. Katz then recorded the trio, completed the rough mixes and shot all the photographs.

"I always ask, 'What is the situation that we could go into with you and your group and have you play at the highest possible level?'" Katz said.

While the space had originally been a recording studio, the store's current setup led to some creative arrangements of the musicians.

"We were huddled together," Tabackin said.

"At one point, we had to reorganize a little bit so [Boris] had room to play his bow. We were closer [together] than when we usually play at clubs."

The recording was not without its musical challenges, as well. Tabackin noted that the office where he played his flute wasn't acoustically bright and lively. Before getting used to the room, Tabackin said he was overplaying, pushing to bring his flute tone up to his high standards.

"Playing flute in a dead room is really quite difficult," Tabackin said. "When you play a note, nothing happens. There's no romance in the note."

He did, however, enjoy an unanticipated musical side effect created by the space. Due to the retail merchandise setting, Tabackin's tenor saxophone tones caused sympathetic vibrations in the surrounding drums, adding "another little perspective," he noted.

While Soundscapes is an appropriate record of where Tabackin is as a musician in 2015, the reedist said he really doesn't like to go through the recording process.

"Some people really love to record. I don't. That's why the two CDs before Soundscapes were live recordings," he said, noting that regular album releases are a necessity for most artists. "At my age, if you don't [record], people forget about you. You're not on their mind, so you have to represent yourself."              —Jon Ross

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Nothing New In Quincy, But ..." By BILL MATHIEU

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

At the time of this article’s publication in the January 7, 1960 issue of Down Beat, Bill Mathieu was a young (22) Chicago arranger who spent 1959 as a staff writer for the Stan Kenton orchestra. For three months of '59, he played trumpet with the orchestra as well. An album of his arrangements by the Kenton orchestra, titled Silhouettes of Standards, was due for release by Capitol in the next few months.

Mathieu was not new to the writing of words, however. Born into a publishing family — his father retired recently as publisher of the Farm Quarterly, Writer's Digest, and Writer's Yearbook — he wrote music criticism all through his years as a student at the University of Chicago.

This perceptive criticism on the music of Quincy Jones was his first appearance in Down Beat.

To locate more information about Bill and what he is up to these days, please visit his website at

Of course, Quincy has gone on to a legendary career in the music business and you can “keep Up With Q” by visiting him at his website - www.quincy

“Wherever there is an artistic tradition, there are artists within it who are culminators (those who take what has been said in the past and re-say it more completely than anyone before them) and there are artists who are innovators (those who break from the tradition which spawned them). Both kinds of artists are rare, but the culminators are the rarest, for it is through them that a culture's expression reaches its highest point of maturity.

Among a culminator's attributes must be empathy and respect for tradition, clairvoyance, and simple good taste. It is the last quality — taste — that is the most difficult to come by.

Now jazz is largely a music of immediate, sensual, emotional release, especially Negro jazz, which is generally less restrained, more flamboyant. The value of Quincy Jones lies in this: he has come up with the perfect combination — a tasteful, cumulative application of the elements of a tradition rich in its unrestrained emotional appeal.

Quincy Jones is, both by his own description and by the nature of his music, a culminator rather than an innovator. His music contains nothing new; rather, it contains nearly everything of value that has been done before.
But this viewpoint, even coupled as it is with his excellent taste, is not enough to make his music as good as it is. The deciding factor is that Quincy is not only of but also beyond his tradition; beyond, I believe, because he has more information, a greater knowledge, a farther horizon, than most of the men who created that idiom from which he draws. These are the qualities (as I mentioned) which allow an artist to become the ultimate expression of his history.


Listen to Whisper Not (a beautiful piece, analysis or no analysis) on Quincy's Birth of a Band album (Mercury MG 20444). Right after the normal exposition of the tune, there is what seems at first to be a little coda orchestrated for unison saxes and cup-muted trumpet, a perfect instrumental echo of Zoot Sims' sound. Then Sims begins to play, and what we thought was a kind of coda now is seen to have been an opening of the door for the soloist, an ideal bridge between the written counterpoint of the exposition and the improvised homophony of the development.

But the beauty lies not so much in the device as in the rapport between the improvisor and the writer's interpretation of the improvisor.

Here is another example, more lovely than the first and proportionately more difficult to describe. First listen to Clifford Brown's solo on Stockholm Sweetnin' (Prestige LP 167). Then listen to the same tune on the big band recording (ABC-Paramount 149). On the latter disc, with infinite reverence, Clifford's earlier solo is orchestrated. If there has ever been a synthesis between the emotional freedom of jazz on the one hand and cerebral, conscious, esthetic control on the other, here it is. The result is the last word to be said from either point of view.


When a truly good writer has to write a commercial arrangement, even if the content of the music is terrible, the results are usually worth listening to. Strangely enough, Quincy's commercial writing shows off his technical skills to better advantage than does his serious work. His orchestrational abilities are prodigious. For a lesson in commercial (or any) orchestration listen to the record he made with Eddie Barclay's band in France (United Artists UAS 6023). The combinations of timbres, the balance of the instruments, the great concern for the musical integrity of each voice (try to pick out the second or third harmony parts to see what I mean), the careful unfolding of the arrangements, all these are most recognizable in this particular album. Another thing which makes this record especially valuable to arrangers is that there are very few improvised solos — that is, the written arrangement must sustain interest over an extended period of time. Any arranger who has suffered the pain that this problem can cause will be interested in Quincy's settings of these 10 insipid French popular songs.


In all of Quincy's writing there is not one sound that has not been heard dozens of times before. In fact, the very essence of his work becomes clear when we realize that what we are hearing is not a new invention, but a fresh reiteration of the past, a distillation of what has gone before. Because of this culminative approach, this composer means more to us than pleasant diversion. Those of us who are interested in the historical development of jazz can discern in this music a summing up, a tying together of many loose ends, a step altogether necessary before the next forward step occurs.

All is not praiseworthy in the writing of Quincy Jones. There are many breaches of taste (horrid ending chords, for example) many overworked, meaningless cliches (orchestrated pyramids built on perfect fourths). But the amazing thing is that his work misses the mark so seldom.

It is impossible to say whether Quincy Jones will continue his career from this present point of view. There is something in his music, some kind of restlessness, uneasiness, which suggests that the culminator and the innovator will be realized in the same man. Perhaps some day Quincy will begin to feel the weight of the chains which bind him to his tradition. Perhaps not. But whatever his future, he has already done the world a service.”

Looking back at Bill’s concluding remark about Quincy from the vantage point of 2016, one might be tempted to say that it was the epitome of understatement.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Crime - Nueva Manteca - 'Salsa y Suspense'

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

What more could you ask for than new music from the supremely talented Latin Jazz Band - Nueva Manteca?

Based in Holland, the band has been together for over 25 years and is highly respected in Latin Jazz circles for the authentic way in which they perform Afro-Cuban Jazz rhythms and the consistently high quality of its musicianship.

Over the years of existence, Nueva Manteca has had some personnel changes, particularly on the front line which has changed from a two trumpet and sax format to the current configuration of trombone, sax and guitar.

However, throughout these changes, three musicians have remained to anchor the rhythm section: Jan Laurens Hartong, piano, Nils Fischer, conga and percussion and Lucas van Merwijk, drum set and timbales.

The band has always been tight with a driving, controlled pulse and its cohesive rhythm section is primarily responsible for this and for the lively and energetic sound of the band. One would be hard pressed to find musicians more knowledgeable of the conventions, forms and rhythms of Latin Jazz than Jan Laurens, Lucas and Nils. The are literally an Afro Cuban Jazz tower-of-power.

Having worked with Lucas for many years in other settings, Jeroen Vierdag on bass adds punch and punctuation to the Nueva Manteca’s rhythm section allowing the band to loosen up a bit while he “stays home” with the beat.

Ben van den Dungen has been with the band almost since its inception and his Coltranesque tone on both tenor and soprano sax adds a certain harmonic complexity to the band’s sound. Ben’s very modern approach to improvisation along with that of master trombonist Ilja Reijngoud and the electronic guitar stylings of Ed Verhoeff can be said to be responsible for much of the “sound of nueva” in Nueva Manteca.

You can locate order information about the new CD be going here. It is also available as an Mp3 download at Amazon and at CDBaby.

Here are Jan Laurens Hartong’s insert notes to the new recording.


“Nueva Manteca has developed a reputation over the years for its ability to surprise its audience with refreshing different musical points-of-departure.

As so it is once again with its new project called Crime which consists of Afro Cuban arrangements of themes from famous crime and gangster music. Can you imagine the theme of the Godfather in a Cuban rumba Guaguancó? This approach creates music that you immediately recognize but have never heard played in this manner. A perfect combination of recognition and surprise!

NUEVA MANTECA - CRIME! was recorded in performance at Hef Klooster, Woerden, The Netherlands, 2014.

Jan Laurens Hartong, the group’s founder, pianist and primary composer-arranger contributed these inserts notes to the latest CD.

"With this recording Nueva Manteca makes you an offer you can't refuse."

A surprisingly large amount of the best film music has been written for Crime movies and TV series. The names of some of its greatest composers immediately come to mind: Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, Dave Grusin. This 12th Nueva Manteca album Crime! could also have been aptly titled 'Salsa y Suspense' instrumental Salsa that is. The crime movie genre heightens a viewer's mood and level of anticipation. Essential characteristic elements in its music are: suggestion, shock, surprise and suspense.

Some of these elements are also an essential aspect of the artistry of Ahmad Jamal whose approach appears at times to be similar to that of a film director.

As indicated earlier, Nueva Manteca, inspired by the work of Jamal, generally approaches songs more as a 'compositional device' which allows for interpretations whereby the song becomes a story comprised of edited musical scenes in the form of heads, intros, interludes, solo choruses, outros. Much like film editing. In this way each musical scene contributes to the progress of the story of the song.

A good example of this filmic approach is our arrangement of The Godfather theme. An opening melody is stated immediately after which comes a montuno vamp with a conga solo , followed by a return of the initial melody. Then comes the principal theme. An interlude precedes solo sections for trombone and piano and towards the end a new melody appears. It is the beloved refrain melody of the song "Caruso" Italy's tribute to the immortal opera singer. All the different parts of the arrangement are edited and so combined to form a whole.

With this approach we have attempted to shed 'new light' on some of the best-known Crime film music.

In addition to the The Godfather theme, Nino Rota's "Michael's Theme" from Coppola’s film masterpiece is presented here as a cha cha cha; its pensive mood beautifully rendered by our guitarist. A slow Guajira closes the arrangement.

Ciao City, an original composition, was inspired by the great TV series BoardWalk Empire about the rise and fall of Atlantic City.

The cop TV show of Baantjer was an instant success in Holland, its main title song "Circle of Smiles" made famous by harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans, It is here presented as a solo piano prelude after which the band kicks in.

The 'sneaking-up-from-behind' theme song of Baretta - one of the most famous police series of the 70's - challenged us to try some Latin Funk.

The gorgeous Deborah's Theme from the film Once Upon A Time In America is Morricone at his best. Reason enough to keep our version as basic and simple as

From the West Side Story comes I like to be in America cast in a catchy arrangement by the inventive pianist Marc Bischoff who gave the melody an intriguing 6/8 twist.

Dave Grusin composed the wonderfully haunting theme song of Mulholland Falls, a crime movie which, strangely enough, never appeared in Dutch movie theaters. Here we used several different grooves for different parts of the song.

'O Sole Mio, the old immortal Neapolitan song is here performed in a fast-paced arrangement seasoned with contemporary flavor and contrasting nostalgic old-fashioned horn lines. A Cuban-style montuno vamp rounds it all off.

Tatort is a famous European police TV drama which is still running. It's 'in your face' theme song was composed by the nestor of German Jazz saxophone, Klaus Doldinger.

Finally, I extend my heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation to the band members whose unique artistry has made this music corne to life.

Many thanks also go to Michel BAM Grens initiator/producer/director/editor/grading/authoring and Jan-Willem Stekelenburg recording sound engineer for believing in us and making this production possible.

Hope you like our album as much as we enjoyed making it.”

Jan Laurens Hartong

I like to be in America arranged by Marc Bischoff
The Godfather theme arranged by Jan Hartong in cooperation with pianist Piero Bianculli.
All other arrangements by Jan Hartong

Line up Nueva Manteca            
Jan Laurens Hartong - piano    
Ben van den Dungen - sax       
llja Reijngoud - trombone        
Ed Verhoeff - guitar                  
Jeroen Vierdag - bass              
Nils Fischer - percussion          
Lucas van Merwijk - drums