CD Reviews: Al Jarreau and other goodiesDon Albert
Jazzaholic by Don Albert: Do NOT miss the latest ‘Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest Live’ CD, it’s sensational and probably the best he’s done in years.
“Cold Duck” is a groover with some fine overdrive guitar while “Jacaranda Bougainvillea” refers to Africa and Mandela. “Agua De Beber” with its signature Jarreau vocal sounds leading into a hip samba rhythm and Marc Scholten adds a good soprano sax solo. Weather Report’s Joe Zawinul’s beautiful composition “A Remark You Made” has been given super lyrics by Jarreau and comes out as “Something That You Said”. Just as the instrumentalists grabbed onto the original, so I see many vocal versions in the near future.
“We’re In This Love Together” is smoothed out for this 2012 version. A driving rhythm section pushes the singer to add new life to “I’m Beginning To See The Light” and Bart van Lier adds a top notch trombone solo, when the band comes it has a distinct Basie feel. “Midnight Sun” is a ballad that Lionel Hampton had a hand in composing and receives a fitting treatment. “Scootcha-Booty” is a contemporary song which builds up to Jarreau scatting in his own inimitable style.
The master vocalist gives everything he can on “Spain” and once again Van Lier offers a good solo as does tenorman Leo Janssen. The orchestra is stunning throughout conducted and arranged by Vince Mendoza, while Al Jarreau is at his very best. What a great marriage this is which has resulted in a consummate CD. Available in South Africa.
Sometimes a CD comes along that sounds like the run of the mill, but on second hearing it starts to grow on the listener, such a CD is ‘Give Me The Simple Life’ by pianist Joe Alterman with bassist James Cammack and drummer Herlin Riley along with guest tenor saxophonist Houston Person. It’s obvious that Alterman is influenced by early Ahmad Jamal. Melodic, tasteful and space is the basis for his solo outings. He’s the perfect antidote to the many pianists who delve into an almost morbid path, or on the other side of the coin where everything is killed by a show-off technique. Alterman plays the melody in a musical manner before easing into thoughtful improvisation. Bass and drums back him with equal taste, and adding a bit of beefing up is the breathy playing of Person.
The repertoire of 12 tracks slides from the title tune to “Georgia On My Mind”, “Pure Imagination” to a rocking “Kelly’s Blues” and the lovely ballad “Why Try To Change Me Now?”. This CD is fast becoming my 5pm accompanying music to a double Scotch when I like to relax. No it’s not background music, but well played pleasurable music of an almost bygone era of The King Cole Trio, Bobby Troup and as I said Ahmad Jamal’s Okeh and Epic period. Can he get tough? Yes, listen to “Biscuits” including the New Orleans street beat of Riley. For info www.joealtermanmusic.com or www.mileshighrecords.com
Pianist Dominic J Marshall takes a look at the music of the various tribes of the Amazon created by the Shaman of each tribe on the CD ‘Icaros‘. Marshall writes the following in the liner notes “These 10 pieces may at first-listen sound quite unlike traditional Amazonian medicine songs. I attribute this to the disparity between our physical surroundings, rather than to a difference in artistic approach.” What the compositions have done is added a stepping stone to a fresh basis to improvise on and the integrated trio does it well. Marshall is a fine thinking pianist/composer, Tobias Nijboer is always listening to what’s happening around him adding to the music either as a rhythm player or soloist, and drummer Kaspars Kurdeko offers various colours to the music and often answers little ideas played by either piano or bass. For info www.f-ire.com/label
Awhile back I reviewed a superb CD by Dan Block playing the music of Duke Ellington titled ‘From His World To Mine’ which I really enjoyed and continue to play today. Then I had the pleasure of hearing him at Sofia’s in New York playing with Vince Giordano Nighthawks Orchestra, now I have his new CD called ‘Duality’ on which he plays duets on either alto, tenor or baritone saxes, clarinet or bass clarinet with pianist Ted Rosenthal on three tracks and one each with either bassist Lee Hudson, guitarist Paul Meyers, vocalist Catherine Russell, steel guitarist Matt Munisteri, the versatile saxman Scott Robinson, pianist Rosanna Sportiello, vibes player Mark Sherman or Saul Rubin guitar, and one trio track with Lee Hudson bass and Tim Horner drums. Because of the variation on the eleven tracks the music holds the listeners attention.
Ever since coming to South Africa years ago with TS Monk, who we recorded on my TV show at the time called ‘Jazz Studio’ I’ve been a Rosenthal fan, so I‘m well pleased with his outings here. I loved the duet with Scott Robinson on “Pitter Panther Patter” in fact I enjoyed the whole CD which is polished and understated. More info www.mileshighrecords.com or www.danblockmusic.com
Don Albert is a saxophonist and jazz journalist. He spent 12 years with The Star Newspaper on the Tonight! section writing about jazz. Currently he writes jazz CD and book reviews for Financial Mail and is the South African Correspondent for Downbeat (USA) and Jazz Journal International (UK). He has presented radio programmes on jazz and served awards.as judge at prestigious competitions. He has also won numerous awards.