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Los Angeles Jazz Scene - CD Reviews
                   August 2018
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John Coltrane
Both Directions At Once – The Lost Album
(Impulse!)
      
The discovery of a previously unknown John Coltrane recording is always an important event, but most have
been live performances released as bootlegs, some of which have inferior sound quality. Both Directions At
Once is a real rarity for all of the music was recorded during one day (Mar. 6, 1963) at Rudy Van Gelder’s
studio. Only one selection (“Vilia” which came out on a various artists sampler) had ever been released before.
      
John Coltrane and producer Bob Thiele recorded much more music during 1961-67 than the Impulse label
could release. Some of the performances were lost in the shuffle and the tapes eventually destroyed. The
music on this “lost” album was given to Coltrane as a tape and it eventually found its way into the closet of his
first wife, Naima. Recently it was discovered and fortunately the 55 year old tape was still in excellent
condition.
      
Recorded the day before Coltrane and Johnny Hartman made their classic album and made during a period
when Trane’s studio recordings (including Ballads and his quartet outing with Duke Ellington) were purposely
more accessible and conservative than his live performances, Both Directions At Once just did not fit into the
marketing plan that Impulse had at the time and it was quickly forgotten.
       
During that day the Coltrane Quartet (with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin
Jones) performed two untiled originals, “Nature Boy,” “One Up, One Down” (the released versions of the
latter two selections are from two years later, 1965), “Vilia,” a lengthy “Slow Blues” and “Impressions.” “One
Up, One Down” is much different (and relatively restrained) than the later version, and the “Slow Blues” is
fascinating with Trane’s second solo really finding him preaching the blues. “Impressions” was never
otherwise recorded by Coltrane in the studio. It was unnamed at the time and soon a lengthy and fiery club
version would be released. Along the way there are some worthy solos by Tyner and Garrison (who is
featured a bit more than usual) with stimulating support from Jones.
      
The deluxe two-disc version of Both Directions At Once also includes three more tries at “Impressions” (each
are at different tempos and clock in around four minutes apiece as opposed to the much longer club
renditions), two more versions of the second “Untitled Original” (a song that deserves a name and to be
played by others), and alternate takes of “Vilia” and “One Up, One Down.”
      
The discovery and release of Both Directions At Once is analogous to a discovery of a “new” Miles Davis
session from 1958, an unreleased Charlie Parker studio date, or a few unknown Louis Armstrong Hot Five
numbers. While it does not include any major revelations, the music is of such high quality that this
unexpected John Coltrane album (available from www.vervelabel.com) is just what one would hope for.
                                                 

Nutty
Live At The Purple Pit
(NuMu)
      
It is a unique concept. The musicians of Nutty often start out playing a jazz standard before Sonny Moon
enters the performance, singing an unrelated rock tune that (due to the inventive arrangement) somehow fits.
All kinds of unusual musical combinations take place during a set, performed by a group that dresses as if
they are playing a Las Vegas show of the Rat Pack era.
      
On their latest CD, one gets to hear John Coltrane meeting Steppenwolf in 3/4 time (“Giant Steps” and “Magic
Carpet Ride” become “Magic Trane Ride”), ZZ Top co-existing with Ramsey Lewis, Basie interacting with
Cheap Trick, and Cannonball Adderley teaming up with Heart. In addition to the humorous mixture of two
unlikely songs, the arrangements also have quotes from other pieces that add to the levity.
      
All of this would come across as a gimmick was it not for the high musicianship of the musicians. Sonny Moon
is a fine singer who knows the material quite well and is not shy to add hip (if purposely dated) Las Vegas
humor to the show. The instrumentalists (bassist Guy Wonder, pianist Dan Spector, drummer Abe Lagrimas
Jr, percussionist Pete Korpela, Edmund Velasco on alto and tenor, Mike Reznick doubling on baritone and
flute, and trumpeter Brian Beukelman) are all flexible jazzers who can emulate the giants of the past while
adding their own personalities and humor to the music. The three horns and pianist Spector take turns
creating concise solo statements that perfectly fit each individual piece before Sonny Moon ends the
performance with a second spirited vocal.
      
It all works quite well. Nutty frequently perform in the Los Angeles area (including at Vitello’s and Vibrato),
and are fun to see live. For an excellent sampling of their “Nutty music,” be sure to pick up Live At The
Purple Pit (which is available from www.nuttyjazz.com); it will leave you smiling.
                                                  

Hendrik Meurkens & Bill Cunliffe
Cabin In The Sky
(Height Advantage)
      
Hendrik Meurkens, who was born in Germany and has long been based in New York, is one of the masters of
the chromatic harmonica in addition to being a top-notch vibraphonist. While all jazz harmonica players start
out in the shadow of Toots Thielemans, Meurkens has come the closest of anyone to filling the gap left by
Thielemans’ passing. Meurkens has his own sound and approach to the instrument and can play bop, Brazilian
music and ballads with the best. His only real competition these days is Gregoire Maret.
      
Bill Cunliffe has long been an important part of the Los Angeles music scene as both a pianist and an arranger-
composer. Like Meurkens, he has been featured on quite a few recordings. However Cabin In The Sky, a set
of harmonica-piano duets, is unique in both of their discographies.
      
The duo performs melodic and swinging versions of such songs as the 1940s title cut, Wayne Shorter’s
“Miyako,” Joe Zawinul’s obscure “Young And Fine,” “Invitation,” “Speak Low,” “Wave,” and an effective
“Ode To Billie Joe.” In addition, they introduce four originals that could pass for standards.  Cunliffe
functions as the full rhythm section (one never misses the bass or drums) and Meurkens is a full horn section
by himself. The two musicians think along similar lines in building up their solos and act as equals during
most of the ensembles.
      
This is a delightful and easily recommended set that features both of the musicians at their best. It is available
from www.amazon.com.
                                                             

Joshua Redman/Ron Miles/Scott Colley/Brian Blake
Still Dreaming
(Nonesuch)
      
Back in 1976, four of Ornette Coleman’s top former sidemen (cornetist Don Cherry, tenor-saxophonist
Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden. and drummer Ed Blackwell) formed a new group called Old And New
Dreams. At a time when Coleman was leading the electric free funk group Prime Time, his alumni was
extending his 1960s acoustic style, performing a few of his songs plus originals of their own. During their
existence they recorded three albums for the ECM label (two titled Old And New Dreams and 1980’s Playing)
plus a Black Saint album of their final concert, 1987’s A Tribute To Blackwell.
      
Still Dreaming features a similar group three decades later. Tenor-saxophonist Joshua Redman, who years
ago shared a joint recording with his father Dewey, can be said to have put together a group paying tribute to
another band paying tribute to Ornette Coleman. Cornetist Ron Miles, bassist Scott Colley and drummer
Brian Blade are perfect for the roles formerly filled by Cherry, Haden and Blackwell, hinting at their
predecessors but improvising in their own voices.
      
Still Dreaming consists of four Joshua Redman originals and two by Colley plus Charlie Haden’s “Playing” and
Ornette’s obscure “Comme Il Faut.” The group is particularly successful at building on the musical legacy of
Old And New Dreams during the first two numbers, “New Year” and “Unamity.” They not only sound close to
the original group but their brand of free bop (which is all-too-rarely performed these days) is inventive and
colorful. The other selections work well too although a few more uptempo pieces would have been welcome.
      
Throughout Still Dreaming, the musicians balance reverence with their own musical personalities in winning
fashion. This inspired set (hopefully there will be more) is available from wwww.nonesuch.com.
                                              

Erroll Garner
Night Concert
(Mack Avenue)
     
For Erroll Garner, the Nov. 7, 1964 concert at Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw was probably just another
night at work. He had been an international success for over 15 years at that point. He was not only one of the
world’s most popular jazz pianists but a brilliant player with his own sound who was always capable of
greatness. On numerous occasions, Garner recorded a full album (or as many as three) in a single session,
playing one perfect take after another while rarely looking at the keyboard. His live performances were
generally sold out and this one was no exception. The music was recorded that night and eight of the 16 songs
(which were originally edited a bit) came out as an album in Europe that has been long forgotten. Now, thanks
to Octave Music and the Mack Avenue label, all of the unedited performances are available for the first time
in the U.S.
      
That night found Erroll Garner at the peak of his powers. He starts each song with an unaccompanied
introduction that is so humorously esoteric that, when he finally launches into the song, both the audience
and his long-time sidemen (bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Kelly Martin) are surprised to find out the
tune’s identity. While his treatments of ballads are generally dreamy, it is his medium and up-tempo romps
that really stand out with their joy and exuberant swing.
      
Among the many highpoints of this set are “Where Or When,” “Easy To Love,” “Cheek To Cheek,” “What Is
This Thing Called Love” and “’S Wonderful.” The latter title could very describe Erroll Garner’s performance
throughout Night Concert. Available from www.mackavenue.com, this long elusive set contains a large dose
of essential Erroll Garner.
                                                 

Virginia Ayers Dawson
Standards Of Love
(Ayerplay Music)
      
Virginia Ayers Dawson has certainly had a varied career, touring and recording with the likes of Ahmad
Jamal, Joe Cocker, Marvin Hamlisch, Sly and the Family Stone, and even George Burns! A soulful and
expressive singer with an attractive high voice and the ability to express deep emotions with a sigh or a shout,
Ms. Dawson seems to be on the brink of greater recognition as a solo artist.
      
Standards Of Love features the singer with such top L.A. musicians as pianist-keyboardist Robert Turner,
guitarist Craig T. Cooper, bassist Kevin O’Neal, and either Lyndon Rochelle or the late Ndugu Chancler on
drums. Virginia Ayers Dawson and her players give their own spin to such songs “I Wish You Love,” “L-O-V-
E,” “If I Were A Bell,” “What A Difference A Day Makes,” and a surprisingly funky (and almost disguised)
“Almost Like Being In Love.” While the program is primarily filled with standards, she also performs her own
original “Let The Love Begin.”
      
The mood, tempo and groove variations give the set a fair amount of variety while the vocalizing is on a
consistently high level. One can tell that Virginia Ayers Dawson really believes in the words she sings as she
balances extroverted moments with more subtle passages. The result is an impressive set of soulful singing
that is available from www.virginiaayersdawson.com.
                                                

Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band
West Side Story Reimagined
(Jazzheads)
      
West Side Story, featuring the music of Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, has one of the
great scores. For the hit play in 1957 and a classic movie from 1961, such songs as “Jet Song,” “America,”
“Maria,” “Cool” and “Somewhere” became famous. And even with its Romeo and Juliet plot, the story was
enlightened, showing both the joy and the dangers of growing up as Puerto Ricans in New York City.
      
Drummer Bobby Sanabria imagined what the music would have sounded like if it had been played by a large
Afro-Cuban jazz orchestra rather than studio musicians. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the play’s
debut and the upcoming centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, Sanabria and his 21-piece orchestra
performed and recorded all of the music from the play before a live audience. This two-CD set not only has
the eight main songs along with the “Prologue” and “Epilogue,” but also the incidental music and other brief
themes that appear in the show.
      
Although there are some verbal outbursts, chants, a little bit of narration, and a brief Sanbaria vocal, this is
very much an instrumental set. The soloists (of which there are many) are consistently inventive while
keeping the themes in mind, the ensembles are stirring, and the percussionists (three in addition to the leader)
are exciting.
      
Because there is so much to discover during the 80-minutes of West Side Story Reimagined, this well-
conceived and memorable program rewards repeated listenings. It is heartily recommended and available
from www.jazzheads.com.
                                               

The Angel City Big Band
Livin’ The Canary Life
(Self-released)
      
The Angel City Big Band, which is based in Los Angeles, is a 17-piece orchestra that was founded by baritone-
saxophonist Tim Miller in 2009. The band performs a variety of music ranging from classic swing and dance
music to more contemporary orchestra arrangements. Singer Bonnie Bowden has long been a special feature
with the band and on Livin’ The Canary Life she is featured during eight of the 12 selections.
      
Ms. Bowden has a wide range, an impeccable instrument, is a swinging improviser and, does justice to the
lyrics that she interprets. Among the songs that she performs on this CD are “Til You Come Back To Me,” “I’
m Gonna Live Till I Die,” “You Are So Beautiful,” and Patrick Williams’ “Livin’ The Canary Life” which pays
tribute to many of the earlier jazz vocal giants.
      
The Angel City Jazz Band features such fine soloists as tenor-saxophonist RW Enoch, trumpeter Mike
Muench and trombonist Dave Hickok and the instrumental numbers include “Swing, Swing, Swing,” “All The
Things You Are” and “Giant Steps.” With such arrangers represented as Patrick Williams, John Williams,
John Clayton, Sammy Nestico and Mark Taylor, it is not surprising that the music always swings, is tasteful,
and is quite danceable. This is clearly a fun band to see live and this recording is excellent.
      
Livin’ The Canary Life is available from www.angelcitybigband.com.
                                                      

Marieann Meringolo
Between Yesterday And Tomorrow – The Songs Of Alan & Marilyn Bergman
(Blujazz)

To do justice to the lyrics of Alan & Marilyn Bergman, a singer must have flawless pitch, a very attractive
tone, the ability to enunciate perfectly so one always understands the lyrics, and a solid sense of swing.
Marieann Meringolo, who interprets 20 of the Bergman’s works (including many performed as two or three-
song medleys) during her live set from the Iridium, has all of those qualities.
      
A regular on New York’s cabaret scene who becomes better known each year, Marieann Meringolo is
sometimes a little reminiscent of a young Barbra Streisand in her style, range, and ability to hold notes for a
long period without wavering. She has a powerful voice yet uses restraint and a range of emotions to give her
performances variety.
      
Accompanied by her musical director pianist Doyle Newmyer, bassist Boots Maleson and drummer Sipho
Kunene on the night of Aug. 13, 2017, Ms. Meringolo performs both hits and obscurities. Many of the
Bergmans’ famous collaborations with composer Michel Legrand are included on this set including a dramatic
“What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life,” “Summer Me, Winter Me,” and “The Windmills Of Your Mind,”
but she also includes some lesser-known numbers such as Dave Grusin’s “It Might Be You” (the theme from
Tootsie), and Legrand’s “Between Yesterday And Tomorrow” and “Something New In My Life.” She digs into
the blues on “Love Makes The Changes” and her version of “Summer Me, Winter Me” is a real showstopper.
She makes each of the songs sound fresh and relevant. Her improvising is subtle and she serves the music
rather than the other way around, always focusing on the stories that are told in the lyrics.
      
Fans of cabaret and powerful vocalists in general should know who Marieann Meringolo is. Her tribute to the
Bergmans, which certainly must have pleased the lyricists, will also delight fans of high-quality American
songs. It is available from www.marieannmeringolo.com and www.blujazz.com.
                                                          

Hugo Fattoruso
Y Barrio Opa
(Far Out Recordings)
      
Hugo Fattoruso, who was born in Uruguay 75 years ago, is perhaps best known for his work with Opa, a group
that was most active during the 1970s and ‘80s. The fusion group, a trio with Fattoruso on keyboards and
vocals, released two albums for the Milestone label during 1976-77. They often included guests including the
reeds of Hermeto Pascoal, guitarists David Amaro and Barry Finnerty, Flora Purim and Airto. Opa not only
combined together aspects of jazz, rock and funk with Latin rhythms but infused their music with the
traditional rhythm of Uruguay, the candombe. Fattoruso, who lived in New York in the 1970s, moved to
Brazil the following decade, working with Milton Nascimento and other Brazilian greats.
      
Y Barrio Opa finds Fattoruso updating the Opa sound. He is well featured on electric piano, giving the group a
1970s vibe but with more sophisticated rhythms, a stronger Brazilian tinge, and fresh melodies. Fattoruso is
joined by bassist Francisco Fattoruso, drummer Tato Bolognini, percussionist Albana Barrocas and guitarist
Nicolas Ibarburu on ten originals. The music grooves, has high musicianship and catchy rhythms, and
features many inventive yet accessible keyboard solos from the leader.
      
The London-based Far Out label (www.faroutrecordings.com) has released a wide variety of recordings by
Brazilian artists and those who have been inspired by Brazilian music along with forgotten but important
recordings from the past. Hugo Fattoruso’s Y Barrio Opa is just the latest of their recordings to be
recommended to jazz listeners.
                                                          

The Society Syncopators
Now You’re Talkin’ My Language
(Newmarket Music)
      
The Society Syncopators (who are now known as the Syncopators) from Melbourne, Australia were founded
in 1984 by trombonist Chris Ludowyk. They have their roots in swing and 1920s jazz but are also a top show
band, covering a variety of material that reaches up to 1950s Louis Prima. The band has toured Europe 18
times and have recorded the same number of CDs. Now You’re Talkin’ My Language, which was recorded
back in 2002, is an excellent sampling of their talents.
      
The septet, which consists of trombonist Ludowyk, Peter Gaudion on trumpet and vocals, Richard Miller on
clarinet and saxophones, guitarist-banjoist Jeff Arthur, pianist Ben Johnston, James Clark on bass and tuba,
and drummer Andrew Swann, is in top form throughout this wide-ranging program. Highlights include the
opening title cut (which is a relative of “Doin’ The New Lowdown”), the Duke Ellington-Rex Stewart piece
“Mobile Bay,” a spirited “Down Home Rag,” a version of the early Ellington theme “East St. Louis Toodle-oo”
that avoids sounding like a copy of the 1927 arrangement, a rare revival of Jelly Roll Morton’s “If Only
Someone Would Love Me,” and a spectacular feature for Gaudion’s trumpet and vocal on “When You’re
Smiling.” Also quite enjoyable is “Oh Marie” (which is associated with Louis Prima) and Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got
A Woman.” And be sure not to miss the hidden “bonus cut” at the disc’s conclusion.
      
The music is fun, swinging and inventive within the vintage eras; well worth checking out. This CD, along with
many of the group’s other sets, is available from www.newmarketmusic.com.
                                                  

Tubby Hayes
A Little Workout
(Acrobat)

      
Tubby Hayes was arguably the United Kingdom’s finest saxophonist of the 1950s and ‘60s, with some
competition from Ronnie Scott, John Dankworth, Joe Harriott and just a handful of others. Hayes, who also
played vibes and flute quite well, had the speed and superior articulation of Johnny Griffin and Sal Nistico,
making every note sound clear even at the most rapid tempo. He also had a warm sound that was sometimes
reminiscent of Stan Getz while he was open to some of the innovations of early John Coltrane.
      
A Little Workout was recorded Dec. 4, 1966 and Apr. 2, 1967 with his quartet of the time: pianist Mike Pyne,
bassist Ron Mathewson and drummer Tony Levin. Although other performances from those two dates have
emerged, only one of these six selections was previously released and that was just four years ago. The
recording quality is listenable even if Levin’s drums are a bit too loud in spots.
      
Hayes was on fire during these performances, playing blistering solos at very fast tempos on each number
other than the lone ballad “Here’s That Rainy Day” where he switches to flute.  His solos on his “A Change Of
Setting,” a blazing “Seven Steps To Heaven,” “For Members Only,” the lengthy “Dear Johnny B.” and a
version of “Walkin’” that recalls Miles Davis’ mid-1960s rendition, are dazzling but might wear out some
listeners. One occasionally craves to hear Hayes hold a long note, but that rarely happens during this
collection.
      
Pianist Mike Pyne often shows the inspiration of McCoy Tyner while bassist Ron Mathewson and drummer
Tony Levin are tireless while sometimes hinting at Scott La Faro and Tony Williams. As for Hayes, the
influence of John Coltrane is felt in his desire to stretch himself and in his sheets of sound improvisations
although his tone is closer to that of the 1950s Four Brothers.
      
The liner notes by Hayes biographer Simon Spillett are quite lengthy and very informative, not only setting
the scene for these recordings but giving one an overview of the state of Great Britain, its jazz, and Tubby
Hayes’ life at the time. While not quite essential as an intro to Hayes’ brilliant playing, A Little Workout will
be enjoyed by his fans. It is available from www.mvdb2b.com.
                                       

Jeff Cosgrove
Hunters & Scavengers
(Grizzley Music)

      
For free improvisations to be successful, the musicians need to listen closely to the music as it is being
created, have to have the ability to react quickly to each other’s ideas, need to pay attention to dynamics and
mood changes, and hopefully have a sense of humor. The three musicians on Hunters & Scavengers are
skilled in all of those areas.
      
Drummer Jeff Cosgrove, Scott Robinson (mostly on tenor but also occasionally switching to other reeds) and
bassist Ken Filiano create nine new pieces and also perform Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman.” Their group
improvisations are concise (only two performances exceed six minutes and not by much) and, while each of
the players contribute constant input, Scott Robinson is generally the lead voice. While sometimes utilizing
some of John Coltrane’s ideas, Robinson (who can play in any style on any reed and even brass instrument)
displays his own sound and approach to improvising in this intimate setting. Bassist Filiano and drummer
Cosgrove, while occasionally keeping time, offer their own voices in their interplay with Robinson.
      
The results always hold one’s interest and are unpredictable, both to the players and listeners. This is an
explorative set well worth exploring; it is available from www.jeffcosgrovemusic.com.