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Straight-Ahead - CD Reviews (1956)

Tributes have become staples of the jazz industry. On this 2011 effort, laudable Italian pianist Roberto Magris pays homage to late, great hard-bop trumpeter Lee Morgan who died from a gunshot wound in 1972 at New York City's Slugs jazz venue. The trumpeter's stylistic fusion of R&B and groove-oriented patterns set his craft apart from many peers, in addition to his fluidly melodic phrasings and largely memorable compositions. Here, Magris leads a young band, featuring renowned jazz drummer, Albert "Tootie" Heath (Heath Brothers).
Choose One, the self-released, first jazz record by Denver guitarist Ryan Fourt, is a charming collection of straight-ahead, bop-oriented jazz. Of the eight tunes, Fourt composed three, sideman Shilo Stroman one, and the rest are a mix of standards.The title track, “Choose One,” opens the record with light-hearted bop. While the title connects well with the cover art, showing Fourt with guitar in hand at a fork in a wooded road, the title for this tune could also come from the fact that alto s
Sir Roland Hanna (1932 - 2003) was one of the finest jazz pianists to ever grace a bandstand. His legacy of compositions, recordings, and students is a testament to his significant contribution to the jazz world. So many of the community who knew him speak so highly of him. But, it is the spirit of the man in his music that, for me, confirms his royalty. Colors From A Giant's Kit is a release of the late pianists recordings of a variety of compositions of his own and others. Hanna treats the lis
Educated at the Academy of Music in Malmö, Sweden, Kristian Lind is a young bassist beginning his contributions to the global corpus of recorded jazz with the release of his first record, Wintergames. Like the Sonny Rollins piano-less trios that inspired him, he is joined only by drums (Peter Danemo) and tenor saxophone (Karl-Martin Almqvist). Paradoxically this setting both draws attention to Lind as he is driving the harmonic progression of the tunes, and detracts from him because the focus i
The Massachusetts-based Mill City Trio stirs up a quiet brand of intensity on Looking Up, with the somewhat unusual instrumentation of drums and two guitars. Drummer Anthony D'Anna provides a delicate, yet driving foundation for guitarists Jamie Dunphy and Greg Passler who display a like-minded approach to jazz guitar. Exchanging solo lines full of quick wit and swinging exuberance, the two revive the spirit of celebrated guitar duo outings with the likes Herb Ellis and Joe Pass on original piec
Sending My Love is the fitting title of the splendidly captivating contemporary jazz release on Peak Records & Concord Music Group from accomplished guitarist Norman Brown. Although Brown is indeed most prominently a superlative guitarist, he also expertly excels at songwriting and from time to time bestows his urban rooted silky-smooth vocals to provide spice and variation to his music. Norman Brown is not a newcomer to making pleasing smooth contemporary jazz recordings saturated with rh
Holly Hofmann ( is one of the premier flutists in jazz, "Along with Hubert Laws. . . the best jazz flute player today" according to Phil Woods. Bill Cunliffe ( is an outstanding pianist--1989 winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Award--and an award-winning arranger--he won a Grammy in 2010, with three other nominations, including another one this year. Together they provide one of the finest examples of the art of the jazz duo. This is
Approximately 23 years ago, Harvie S received a telephone call asking if he would be willing to play bass for a new, young musician performing at the JVC. Harvie has always been in demand both here and abroad, and he accepted the offer. The festival went off without a hitch and over the following months, that young musician, pianist Bill Charlap, and Harvie S became friends. And as friends and musicians, they did what came naturally, played their instruments, jammed together and explored mutu
New York saxophonist Benjamin Drazen doesn't waste any time letting a listener know what his musical intent is all about. From the opening moments of Inner Flights, his debut release as a leader, the fiery alto and soprano saxophonist swings unrepentantly with blistering lines and a bold, Jackie McLean-inspired sounds. Along with a high-energy rhythm section, Drazen delivers a sturdy set of his straight-ahead originals and a couple of standards. At ease with fast tempos, Drazen careens effortles
Creative drive demands new sounds and techniques. With so many terrific jazz pianists recording nowadays, it's tough to satisfy that drive—tough even to be noticed, unless you are the second coming of Art Tatum. It’s tempting to try a new approach—maybe a piano and percussion duo? Dave Anderson and Mike Wingo have given it a shot.Wingo produces a spectrum of colors not often heard accompanying a piano. His exotic set includes bongos, many cymbal sizes, and a few percussive rarities. Bongos push
Spohie Berkal-Sarbit opens matters on her latest CD, Young and Foolish, with a driving, swinging rendition of "I'm Gonna Live 'til I die." Sperandei's trumpet captures the essence of this arrangement as he twists and turns this tune upside down brilliantly with his rapid fire offerings. This number is a portent of things to come, as it is an ear-catcher from the opening note to the last.With the title song, "Young And Foolish," the ballad side of this seductive vocalist is captured most enchanti
If you are like me, the last thing you are looking for in a modern jazz album is another run-out cut of “All The Things You Are.” During my first listen of Hiroe Sekine’s debut album A-mé, I found myself stopped in the middle of the street (I was walking the dog at the time), fumbling for my i-Pod, trying to find the name of the track I was listening. It sounded so familiar, yet I couldn’t put my finger on it. As it progressed, the ostinato of the piano with a subtle Latin groove gently undernea
Toronto-area businessman Mario Romano studied music formally in the 1970s before being lured into the more lucrative world of cement and construction. Without ever losing his passion for jazz piano, Romano has managed to maintain a healthy dose of chops and a keen sense of arranging. Valentina, his debut recording for the Canadian label Alma Records, features a familiar set of standards and a couple of original pieces in an acoustic quartet setting. Top-notch Toronto musicians Pat LaBarbera (ten
Power Play is a disc of hard-driving, intense, full-throttle, straight-ahead jazz. It's not that saxophonist Ralph Bowen isn't capable of subdued tender moments—such moments are certainly present throughout this disc—, it's just that the renowned veteran of the East Coast scene, in both his playing and composing, happily leans to the aggressive side of modern, progressive jazz. From his days in the 1980s with young-lion super group Out of The Blue, to his more recent stints with pianists Horace
Seattle-based trumpeter and composer, Chad McCullough, teams up with Slovakian and currently The Hague-based pianist, Michal Vanoucek, as leaders for a straight-ahead jazz quintet recording of ten original compositions. McCullough, who has earned degrees from the University of Idaho and the University of Washington, has worked in the Disneyland bands, and played piano and trumpet with the Glenn Miller ghost orchestra. Others he has worked with include Wynonna Judd, Claudio Roditi and Michael W
There are so many potential pitfalls that can occur when one tries to record a live date, it’s obvious why so few jazz recordings are done in this situation. Unfortunately, a few of those potential hazards rear their ugly head and diminish the work done by the Steve Elmer Trio on this recording. Recorded on June 10, 2010 at Cleopatra’s Needle in New York, a restaurant and no-cover jazz club named after the famed monument in New York’s Central Park, the piano used for this recording is a bit ou
Marcus Miller performing live is indeed a very euphoric experience, and those who have never been so fortunate might as well grab a copy of his latest CD “A Night in Monte-Carlo,” which is due for a February 1st release. The CD is a live audio documentation of one of Marcus’ treasured performances in Monaco back in 2008. Marcus is backed up by the L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo and is also joined by trumpeter Roy Hargrove and guitarist Raul Midon. Out of the box, the first track on th
Berkeley, California-raised saxophonist, pianist and composer Dan Wilensky joined Ray Charles’ band as the lead alto player immediately following high school. After spending a brief amount of time studying at the Eastman School of Music, Wilensky joined organist Jack McDuff’s band and moved to New York. The saxophonist went on to cut his teeth working with artists like Cornell Dupree, Steve Gadd, Dave Letterman and studio great Will Lee, Richard Tee and Dave Weckl, as well as going on the road
Sicilian Opening is an extraordinarily pleasant modern jazz offering from the veteran Italian jazz pianist and his highly capable trio. What I admire most about this CD is the trio’s obvious musical chemistry, and their ability to create jazz that – while not on the cutting edge, stylistically – manages to challenge the listener despite being quite accessible and pleasant to listen to. Like the Hungarian-born pianist (and Boston resident) Laszlo Gardony, Bonafede has a strong affinity for Americ