The quiet pianist

John Horler

Until I heard John Horler perform at Southampton Jazz Club, he was depping for another player at the last moment, I have to admit to not being aware of him or knowingly having heard him play before. I very much enjoyed what I heard and saw that evening so, of course, just had to check him out further.

As it would happen John had released a solo album, john horler solo piano free and easy, on the Trio Records label, 2018. Normally I would have checked the album out before putting in an order but on this occasion I didn’t, I just took a punt: I was not disappointed.

There are thirteen tracks on this album, five of which are free pieces. These free pieces are short, nothing more than two minutes, but they are complete and a joy to listen to. John’s touch is delicate, thoughtful and he gives the notes he plays room to breathe.

The second track on the album is dedicated to his wife Poppy, who commissioned the album. “piece for poppy” is a beautiful composition played with a sense of reflection, a piece I could happily push the repeat button on as the more one listens the more is revealed – I also wonder what a piece dedicated to me might sound like.

There are no weak tracks on this album but listening through again I really enjoyed “beija flor” written by Nelson Cavaquinho. Having said that I only had to move on a couple of more tracks and Neal Hefti’s “after supper” is played and I think maybe that is the track I should be highlighting. The real joy of this album is John’s beautiful understated playing that grabs you from the outset and does not let you go until the last note of track thirteen. The quiet pianist of British Jazz should be listened to, enjoyed and shared.

Loud and clear

Since childhood I have always had hearing difficulties but add to that age then the inevitable happens, I need to wear hearing aids.

I am now the owner of NHS provided digital hearing aids. They have taken a bit of getting used to but I can now hear and no longer have to over rely on the use of the pro-noun what did you say?

So what does this have to do with listening jazz music? What I was not aware of, prior to my fitting, is that you can have up to four settings on the type of hearing aid I now have and setting number two is music.

I was listening to the album Abutbul Music by Omer Avital ( a good album and a great live act if you ever get the chance to see them) when I remembered the music setting on my hearing aids; what a difference. The tone changed, for the better, the overall sound changed and I could hear the music in a way that really did enhance the listening experience. Now I need to try them out at a live performance to find out whether or not the effect of the music setting changes my perception of the music I am hearing. I will let you know.

Carlos at Dizzy’s

I first came across bass player Carlos Henriquez listening to his album Bronx Pyramid, which I had read about on the latinjazznet.com, which is where I also discovered the Rodrigues brother Michael and Robert. So when I read that Carlos had released an album centred on the music of Dizzy Gillespie that also featured Michael Rodriguez on trumpet I knew it would very quickly become a part of my jazz collection.

rodbromusic.com

The album kicks off with “A Night in Tunisia” and the Afro-Cuban beat is there right from the start. Soloists Melissa Aldana, on tenor sax, and Michael Rodriguez make for a formidable front line with solid, superb backing from the rhythm section.

The first track runs for a little under nine minutes and I, for one, would have been happy if it had been extended as I am sure the audience at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, where the album was recorded, would have been too.

Michael Rodriguez again takes the trumpet solo on the second track “Groovin High”, which mixes Salsa and Afro-Cuban jazz to great effect. Anthony Almonte throws in some great vocals before things really kick off with track three, Bebop. This time Terrel Stafford takes the trumpet solo alongside saxophonist Melissa Aldana. The tempo is brisk but the notes crisp and clear and that Latin beat that drives through the piece makes for very enjoyable listening.

Dizzy Gillespie

All but two of the tracks on the album were written by Gillespie, “Tin Tin Deo” and “Trinidad, Goodbye” being the two exceptions. “Tin Tin Deo” is a well known tune that sounds like its been given a fresh coat of paint by Henriquez’s arrangement. “Trindad, Goodbye” is not so familiar a track to me, written Kenny Barron, but the musicianship, vocals, tempo and overall feel of the piece makes it a very fitting end to a terrific album – and I shall certainly to looking to find out more about Mellissa Aldana.

In the liner notes Carlos Henriquez writes:

I have arranged the Octet with an authentic rhythmic approach that Dizzy would have loved. We brought the sounds of modern Latin Jazz to the history that was bequeathed us

Carlos Henriquez: Dizzy Con Clave 201

Well I don’t think that Dizzy, who did after all initiate the Cubop era, would have disagreed with Carlos and that blend of the modern with the historical certainly works for me. Oh, and by the way, if you want to find out more about the Rodriguez brothers then find time to listen to their album Impromptu on Criss Cross Jazz

Louis who?

I recently picked up the album Here Comes Louis Smith on the Blue Note label. I did not do my usual thing of checking the album out first before ordering. I also had no idea who Louis Smith was (he died in 2016) or how I even came to be looking at the album in the first place. Having heard the album through a couple of times I have to ask: why I have I not heard of this trumpet player from Tennessee before?

Blue Note 52438

Here Comes Louis Smith was his debut album recorded in 1957 – it had originally been recorded for the Transition label but the company went out of business shortly afterwards and before the recording could be released in the spring of ’58. The album masters were acquired by Blue Note producer Alfred Lion. Louis had a stellar supporting group alongside him with Buckshot La Funke (Cannonball Adderley was signed to the Mercury label at the time so used a pseudonym) on alto sax. Duke Jordan and Tommy Flanagan shared piano duties with Doug Watkins on bass and drummer Art Taylor completing the rhythm section.

The album features four Louis Smith compositions and one tune each from Duke Pearson and Hoagy Carmichael. The Duke Pearson number, “Tribute to Brownie, opens the album with the drums of Art Taylor before Louis Smith comes in with a beautiful clear bop sound. If the opener does not grab your attention then go no further but, in my opinion, the rest of the album does not disappoint and is worthy of a hearing.

Of the four original compositions two are very well executed blues numbers: track 2 – “Brill’s Blues” and track 6 “Val’s Blues”. In fact track 2 features some really nice alto playing from Cannonball Adderley. Tracks 3 (“Ande”) and 5 (“South Side”) are good but it is “South Side” that stands out for me for both the group playing and the solo playing from Smith and Adderley. That leaves just one track to talk about, Hoagy Carmichaels “Star Dust”.

Carmichael wrote “Star Dust” in 1927 and it when on to become a standard that would be recorded by so many of the great and good in jazz music. On this version it is Smith’s solo trumpet work that stands out. The playing has a “haunting” quality to it that just makes everything around the listener disappear leaving only the sound of the trumpet to focus on.

[Those around Smith] make for a potent supporting cast, but the focus is mostly on the criminally obscure Louis Smith. After cutting his second Blue Note set and switching to teaching, Smith would not record again as a leader until 1978. All bop and ’50s jazz fans are strongly advised to pick up this CD ….

AllMusic Review by Scott Yano

As I wrote at the beginning of this piece, I have no idea how I came to be looking at this album in the first place but something must have prompted me to do so. I do have to agree with Mr Yano, Louis Smith is a “criminally obscure” artist whose music deserves to be played and heard.

Spanish hard bop anyone?

Oriol Vallès and Joan Casares appear to be the leaders of the quintet plus who produced an album in 2017 that goes by the title Smack 7 Dab, which can be found on the excellent Fresh Sound New Talent label. All the tracks on the album bar one are written by either Vallès or Casares, the final track is the exception with vocals written by Hugo Astudillo.

The group line up is: Oriol Vallès (trumpet), Joan Casares (drums), Lluc Casares (tenor sax), Joel González (piano), Pau Sala (bass). Guests: Perico Sambeat (alto sax on #3,4,6), Toni Belenguer (trombone on #3,4,6), Hugo Astudillo (vocals & alto sax on #9).

In the recording studio for Smack 7 Dab

Now to the album itself. For those who like to categorize their music I would put this album in the “contemporary mainstream” bracket. By that I mean that this album is, stylistically, firmly rooted in the bop, hard bop era of the forties and fifties but is by no means a modern copy of went before. The best example of what I am trying to say can be found on track three, “Raval Hip Attitude”, which has some fantastic trumpet playing on it, swings, introduces the alto sax of Perico Sambeat and the trombone of Toni Belenguer all underpinned by a good rhythm section.

Another great album from the Fresh Sound label

This is an album where all the musicians get a chance to shine without overstaying their welcome on any particular track. This album has barely left my CD player since getting it. It is writing and playing like this that gives me the pleasure that I only really find in jazz music. Even the final track, “Por Mi Fe Los Cuentos” (By My Faith the Tales), which features rap with a hip hop beat does not detract from the overall effect of the album due to the use of the trumpet, sax and keyboard supporting the drums of Joan Casares.

Fresh Sound New Talent does a terrific job of bringing new jazz talent to the fore (this is the label that gave us the superb saxophonist Sam Braysher) and the album Smack 7 Dab can be found at https://www.freshsoundrecords.com

Black Saint Mingus

It is not unusual for my wife to pass comment on the music I listen to as she passes my study. “oh I like that, who is it?” means that she really is liking what she hears. “That’s interesting”, means that she might like some aspect of what she is hearing but overall is not really sure. “They seem to be taking an awful long time in tuning up!” means that she really does not like what she is hearing and wishes I had my headphones on. So what, I wonder, would she make of Black Saint and the Lady Sinner released in 1963 on the Impulse label?

The first thing to say about this album is that it is not one that you have on in the background, it need to be listened to rather than just heard.
Black Saint and the Lady Sinner is a jazz suite comprising of six parts played by an eleven piece band. Each part is written for a a sometimes unspecified number of dancers and has a subtitle: for example, Track A – Solo Dancer [Stop! Look! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney!]. Mode D – Trio And Group Dancers [Stop! Look!And Sing Songs Of Revolutions!].

Mingus wrote the suite as a dance piece and Impulse altered its label slogan to read “Ethnic Folk-Dance Music”. For me, the sense of this being written for dance came on Track B – Duet or Solo Dancers. The piece starts with the piano of Jaki Byard and then just grows and grows and would not be out of place in a contemporary dance setting of today.

This album has received much critical acclaim and rightly so.

Richard Cook and Brian Morton, writers of The Penguin Guide to Jazz, awarded the album a “Crown” token, the publication’s highest accolade, in addition to the highest four-star rating.

Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008) [1992]. The Penguin Guide to Jazz (8th ed.

Steve Huey of AllMusic awards The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady five stars out of five and describes the album as “one of the greatest achievements in orchestration by any composer in jazz history.”

Huey, Steve. “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady – Charles Mingus”. AllMusic.

In other reviews of this album much is made of the playing of alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano’s solos and as good as they are this really is an ensemble work with each player contributing to the overall sound of the album – I particularly like the use of guitarist Jay Berliner and the flutes of Dick Hafer and Jerome Richardson.

In the liner notes on the 2011 release of Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (it is released along with Mingus x5 as a two on one CD) Charles Mingus writes, “I feel no need to explain any further the music herewith other than to say throw all other records of mine away except maybe one other.” Not something I would be prepared to do but I do acknowledge that Black Saint And The Sinner Lady is an album of classic jazz dance music that will hold its value for as long as there are those prepared to put in the effort to sit and listen to this majestic performance – just be prepared to put on your headphones, your partner may not feel the same.

Why shouldn’t jazz be fun?

Back in the days when Jazz Journal used to be available in print I read an article in the July Profiles section about singer Beverley Beirne. This was the first time I had come across Beverley’s name but what really caught my attention was the quote printed at the head of the profile:

“When I first decided to do this, Cum On Feel The Noize just had to be on there. I’d been performing it in a Christmas show at Matt & Fred’s and it went down stormingly well”

For those of you not familiar with “Cum On Feel The Noize”, it was a single the rock & pop band Slade released in February 1973 as their first single of the year. The song gave the band their fourth number one in the UK, it was also their first single to enter number one in its first week.

As a Slade fan, back in the day before I had discovered jazz music, I was intrigued to hear how this song would sound in a jazz setting. I headed over to Spotify, where I listen to all potential CD purchases before committing to paying out hard cash, to listen to the album Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun. I listened to two tracks and pressed the buy button for a physical copy of the music.

The album was released in June 2018 and was well received, and rightly so. The songs chosen are all well known pop songs that graced the UK charts:

1. Cum On Feel The Noize (3.29) 2. Prince Charming (2.40) 3. Bette Davis Eyes (4.09) 4. Ghost Town (3.30) 5. Deeply Dippy (3.11), 6. When Smokey Sings (6.58) 7. Cruel Summer (3.04) 8. Pop Muzik (4.50). 9. Too Shy (2.39) 10. Hot In The City (2.58) 11. Waiting For A Girl Like You (4.56) 12. Girls Just Want To Have Fun (2.29).

But it was what Beverley Beirne and pianist Sam Watts have done with the arrangements that make this album work. The songs swing and Beverley sings and treats them with the same reverence she would to the works of Gershwin or Porter. Of course the addition of Producer Jason Miles has done nothing to diminish the overall effect of the sound and, in fact, Beverley credits him with “hear[ing] an extra element to a song [to] lift it to a different level.”

Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun is a good jazz album; it is a good fun jazz album that deserves to be heard.

The album review by Jazz in Europe can be found here: https://jazzineurope.mfmmedia.nl/2018/06/cd-review-beverley-beirne-jazz-just-wants-to-have-fun/

An interview with Beverley Beirne can also be found at the Jazz in Europe site: https://jazzineurope.mfmmedia.nl/2018/05/beverley-beirne-jazz-just-wants-to-have-fun-interview-by-george-cole/

New Year Listening

So which CD was the first in to the player for 2019? Well that honour went to the trombonist Curtis Fuller.

The CD, Curtis Fuller: Four Classic Albums, is from Avid Jazz and was bought on boxing day at HMV in Winchester (there really are some of us who still like to pick up the physical article after browsing the racks of a music store) and has been sat on my desk waiting to played since then – this is not an example of deliberate delayed gratification but an enforced hiatus in listening due to a head cold that has long outstayed its welcome.

Avid Jazz is a very useful, and cost effective, label through which to explore jazz. They will give you three, four, or sometimes five albums by an artist across two CDs. The Curtis Fuller set is four albums starting with the album The Opener , which was originally released on the Blue Note label in 1957, featuring :

Curtis Fuller – trombone

Hank Mobley – tenor saxophone (tracks 2, 3, 5 & 6)

Bobby Timmons – piano

Paul Chambers – bass

Art Taylor – drums

Now that is a stellar line-up and it shows on the recording. This album is simply very good straight ahead jazz playing from musicians who know how to play for each other to create a sound that impresses the listener.
And if my word is not enough how about this review from Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music:

“The Opener” is trombonist Curtis Fuller’s first album for Blue Note and it is a thoroughly impressive affair. Working with a quintet featuring tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, pianist Bobby Timmons, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Art Taylor, Fuller runs through a set of three standards — “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening,” “Here’s to My Lady,” “Soon” — two originals and an Oscar Pettiford-penned calypso. The six songs give Fuller a chance to display his warm, fluid style in all of its variations. “A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening” illustrates that he can be seductive and lyrical on ballads, while the brassy “Hugore” and hard-swinging “Lizzy’s Bounce” shows that he can play hard without getting sloppy. His backing musicians are equally impressive; in particular, Mobley’s robust playing steals the show. In all, “The Opener”, along with his three earlier sessions for Prestige and New Jazz, establishes Fuller as one of the most distinctive and original hard bop trombonists of the late ’50s.

Well that is album one of a four album set heard through once, three albums to listen to from one of the distinctive trombone players of the 1950s before moving on to ..?