Solo Piano, Vol. 1
Ross Russell is best remembered for founding and running the Dial label during 1945-48, documenting Charlie
Parker and other modern jazz artists from the period. After 1949 he dropped out of the music business, later writing
the book Bird Lives about Parker. However in 1966 he attempted a comeback, recording sessions with pianists Joe
Albany and Martial Solal. However Russell soon gave up the venture and the dates remained unreleased for decades.
Now, for the first time ever, the three solo piano dates that featured Solal are being released as a pair of CDs. Martial
Solal is a still-active innovator whose roots were in bebop but who developed his own adventurous approach to
improvising many years ago.
On the first of two volumes, Solal performs 13 classic bop standards, many of which were associated with Charlie
Parker. However, even with some swinging sections, these are not conventional bebop jams. Solal states the melodies
but varies the chord changes, the time, and even the keys while he is improvising, sometimes playing briefly in two
keys at once. He comes up with unique versions of such songs as “Groovin’ High,” “Ornithology,” “Now’s The Time,” “’
Round Midnight” and other vintage songs. Solal throws in some stride passages, bits of boogie-woogie, and heated bass
lines, but also frequently sounds as if he is thinking aloud, taking his time between ideas. His wit is very much
present and the results are quite unpredictable.
Solo Piano, Vol. 1, a major addition to Martial Solal’s discography, is available from www.freshsoundrecords.com.
For The Love Of You
Guitarist Jacques Lesure has been a happy and very musical presence in Los Angeles for the past 20 years. Inspired
by Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell among others, Lesure has an attractive sound, a soulful bop-
based style, and the ability to swing at every tempo.
Willie Jones III’s record company WJ3 has been one of the most consistently satisfying jazz labels in recent years,
specializing in albums that are filled with high-quality modern straight ahead jazz, On For The Love Of You, Lesure is
joined by three giants of the idiom: pianist Eric Reed, bassist Tony Dumas and Jones on drums.
The set’s highlights include a swinging rendition of “The Lamp Is Low,” Lesure’s soulful version of the Isley Brothers’
“For The Love Of You,” and a cooking interpretation of Cedar Walton’s “Holy Land” that at first has Reed’s out-of-
tempo ruminations alternating with the guitar. Lesure, who takes the ballad “That’s The Way Of The World” as an
unaccompanied solo and contributes the medium-slow blues “That’s Mr. Burrell, Thank You,” is in top form
throughout, obviously inspired by his illustrious sidemen. The other musicians, particularly Reed, also have their
chances to shine.
This is a fun and easily recommended set of spirited music, available from www.williejones3.com.
And His Dames Of Rhythm
Duke Robillard has gained fame as an electric guitarist and singer in the blues world, particularly known for his
early days with Roomful Of Blues. However Robillard has long loved jazz of the 1920s and ‘30s and he has recorded
swing tunes on occasions with tenor-saxophonist Scott Hamilton. But, even in his varied career, this CD (available
from www.mc-records.com) is a bit different.
Robillard utilizes four horns (trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, clarinetist-altoist Billy Novick, Rich Lataille on tenor, alto
and clarinet, and trombonist Carl Querfurth), a solid rhythm section, and six singers for a set of 15 tunes, most of
which date from the 1925-40 period. Kelley Hunt has three vocals, there are two apiece from Maria Muldaur,
Madeleine Peyroux and Sunny Crownover, Catherine Russell and Elizabeth McGovern appear once, and Robillard
joins in by singing three songs. The closing “Call Of The Freaks” is the lone instrumental.
While all of the singers fare well with Muldaur (excellent on “Got The South In My Soul”) and Peyroux (“Easy Living”
and “Squeeze Me”) being the most instantly recognizable, they are just part of the music. The horn players (with
Kellso a consistent standout) have many short solos and there is a guest spot on violin for Andy Stein on “Me, Myself
And I.” Novick and Kellso contribute most of the arrangements.
As for Duke Robillard, whether accompanying the singers, taking acoustic guitar solos, or uplifting the ensembles, he
clearly had a great time. But with such songs as “From Monday On,” “What’s The Reason I’m Not Pleasin’ You,” “Me,
Myself And I” and “If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight” being performed at this level, it is difficult not to smile
at the results.
PJ Perry Quartet
Quite often in jazz, geography determines how famous a musician becomes. P.J. Perry may be a new name to many
American readers but for the past 40 years he has been one of the top bop-oriented altoists in jazz. A masterful player
who is based in Edmonton, Perry can be thought of as the Canadian Sonny Stitt. Not that he sounds as close to Charlie
Parker as Stitt did but, like Stitt, Perry is a master of the bebop vocabulary and one who can be relied upon to uplift
any straight ahead date.
Alto Gusto teams Perry with pianist Jon Mayer (long based in Los Angeles), bassist Steve Wallace and drummer
Quincy Davis. Performing seven songs including Paul Chambers’ “Ease It,” “Stablemates,” “Two Bass Hit” and
“Quasimodo” (Charlie Parker’s line on “Embraceable You”), Perry is heard throughout in top form, swinging up a
storm while displaying an attractive tone.
No further analysis is needed. Those who love bop and discovering “new” talent are well advised to pick up Alto Gusto,
which is available from www.cellarlive.com.
Nathaniel: A Tribute To Nat King Cole
(Scat Cat Records)
Ori Dagan, who is based in Canada, has a deep voice, is a superior scat-singer, and is an excellent song writer.
Nathaniel is his third CD as a leader.
This intriguing tribute to Nat King Cole has a variety of songs that Cole recorded (including a few lesser-known tunes)
and five Dagan originals that one could imagine Cole singing. Accompanied by pianist Mark Kieswetter (who does a
good job of emulating Cole’s style without copying him too closely), guitarist Nathan Hiltz, bassist Ross MacIntyre and
occasionally drummer Mark Kelso, Dagan is also joined by three special guests. The great veteran singer Sheila
Jordan joins in on a happy version of “Straighten Up And Fly Right.” Alex Pangman does a fine job on a vocal duet
version of Pretend,” and Jane Bunnett’s soprano and flute are assets on three numbers.
But the main credit for the success of Nathaniel lies with Ori Dagan. He fearlessly scats when it fits, does a rare
uptempo version of “Unforgettable,” and contributes such songs as “Keep It Simple” (which discusses Cole’s musical
philosophy) and “Complexion.” The latter recalls Cole’s racial problems during a Southern tour in the late 1950s.
Nathaniel grows in interest with each listen, adding to the legacy of both Ori Dagan and Nat King Cole. It is
recommended and available from www.oridagan.com.
Tribute To Jimmy Smith
Starting with his initial impact in New York during 1956-57, Jimmy Smith was such a dominant force on the
Hammond B-3 organ that one could say that nearly every organist of the past 60 years pays tribute to Smith during
every chorus they play.
Lucky Peterson is best known as a blues guitarist who occasionally sings, but he is also a talented keyboardist. On this
tribute album, he sticks exclusively to organ, hinting at Smith’s style and also taking vocals on two numbers. He is
joined by guitarist Kelyn Crapp, drummer Herlin Riley and on one song apiece, guitarist Nicolas Folmer and guitarist
Philippe Petrucciani. The biggest surprise is that veteran tenor-saxophonist Archie Shepp sits in on “Jimmy Wants To
Groove” and “Back At The Chicken Shack,” sharing the vocal duties with Peterson on the former.
Peterson and his musicians perform five songs associated with Jimmy Smith including “The Sermon,” “The Champ”
and “Back At The Chicken Shack.” They also play Leon Russell’s “Singin This Song 4 U,” “Blues For Wes” and two
Peterson originals that fit the soul jazz/hard bop style.
Organ may not normally be Peterson’s main instrument but he sounds very much at home on this mostly blues-
based material, jamming happily with his sidemen and keeping the spirit of Jimmy Smith alive. This fine outing is
available from www.pias.com.
Julian Costello Quartet
Veteran saxophonist and educator Julian Costello is based in the United Kingdom. He utilizes an international cast of
sidemen (guitarist Maciek Pysz, bassist Yuri Goloubey and drummer Adam Teixeira) on Transitions, an intriguing
and melodic set of modern jazz.
Transitions is comprised of 13 pieces that often flow together as a suite. In fact, there is virtually no time on this CD
programmed between the complementary compositions, particularly the first seven tracks. It is very easy to hear
and digest all of the music in one listen. Costello displays cool sounds on tenor and soprano along with a relaxed style
that is filled with inner heat. The same can be said for his sidemen, particularly the versatile and skilled guitarist
Pysz. The four musicians interact constantly throughout the set and never play the predictable.
There are many bright moments to be experienced including the melancholy ballad mood of “Waves,” Costello’s
soprano playing over his overdubbed horns on the brief “Corners,” the catchy patterns of “A Manic Episode,” some
witty free playing on “Tonight In Cheek,” and the memorable melody of “Earworm.”
Transitions, which always holds on to one’s attention, is easily recommended and available from www.33jazz.com.
The Dust Also Rises
While fusion (the combination of the sound, volume and rhythms of rock with jazz improvisation) dominated the
1970s and then became overshadowed by other approaches during the next decade, it is still very much a part of the
current jazz scene. The electronics have become more sophisticated as have the rhythms, and the best fusion groups
always have a generous amount of inventive solos.
Jim Templeton, an excellent pianist and an important educator in the Pacific Northwest, founded Cosmic Dust in
1980. The current version of the fusion band consists of Templeton on keyboards, guitarist Mike Doolin, Gary
Edighoffer on tenor, flute and other reeds, electric bassist Sam Hallam, and drummer Charles Neal. They perform ten
originals with spirit and constant creativity.
The music is consistently unpredictable, even when it hits a relaxing groove as on “Circus.’ The melodies, chord
changes and solos are quite original and at no time does Cosmic Dust sound closely based on any other fusion group.
All of the musicians are strong soloists (Edighoffer is a standout on flute and tenor), the ensembles are tight yet loose
and, even with its rockish moments, the jazz content is high. “Walkin’ On Out” (which sounds briefly like
“Chameleon” in spots), “Blues #7” and the happily funky “Bones For Kitty” are among the highpoints of this colorful
Cosmic Dust is a fusion group well worth checking out. The Dust Also Rises is available from www.jimivories.net.
George Webb’s Dixielanders
The British trad jazz movement was at the height of its popularity in the early 1960s, right before the rise of the
Beatles knocked away any chance of New Orleans-oriented groups having further pop hits. Trad had blossomed
during the 1950s with the groups of Humphrey Lyttelton, Chris Barber, Ken Colyer and Acker Bilk among many
others, but its seeds were actually planted during the 1940s.
George Webb’s Dixielanders, which began in 1941 when a group of part-time musicians discovered their mutual love
for the 1920s jazz of King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong, came together almost by accident. Webb’s
lengthy liner notes on the Lake reissue tell the full story. Considered the first British trad band (even though there
was jazz in Great Britain during the 1920s and ‘30s), Webb’s Dixielanders essentially launched the revival
movement in the UK.
While the group occupied a similar place in the history of classic jazz as Lu Watters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band did at the
same time in the States, and it also featured a lineup with two cornet players, the British musicians apparently never
heard Watters’ music until their sound was already fully formed. Clarinetist Wally Fawkes is the most impressive
soloist although cornetists Owen Bryce and Reg Giden, trombonist Eddie Harvey and the leader (accompanied by
banjo, tuba and drums) are all excellent within the idiom. All of the players contribute enthusiastically to the
Other than a broadcast from 1944 released by Jazzology, all of the existing recordings and broadcasts of the
Dixielanders (dating from 1945-46) are on this single CD. There are also six numbers (all that exists) from the 1947
version of the group which, in addition to Fawkes and trombonist Tony Finnis, has the young Humphrey Lyttelton as
the only cornetist. The group broke up the following year. Lyttelton and Fawkes would soon form a classic matchup in
the former’s band which originally also included the former bandleader George Webb on piano.
This CD by the very influential George Webb Dixielanders (available from www.fellside.com) is both a significant
historic release and great fun for those who enjoy high-spirited New Orleans jazz.
The Vienna Affair
(Cracked An Egg)
One of the finest male jazz singers of the past 30 years, Kevin Mahogany, who passed away Dec. 18, had a lower
profile than he deserved during his lastt decade. He had been performing regularly, including in Europe, but there
were fewer recordings than one would hope.
The Vienna Affair (which was recorded in Austria) features Mahogany at the peak of his powers, showcasing him as
both a singer and a songwriter. Mahogany performs six songs for which he wrote the words and music (two are
wordless scat features), his lyrics to a tune apiece by Kenny Barron and Dave Stryker, a Joe Williams song (“Pretty
Blue”), and the standard “The Nearness Of You” (taken as a duet with guitar). Particularly memorable are “It’s Too
Late” (during which the singer states emphatically in many ways that an affair is over), and “My New Friend” (an
unusual tribute to Michael Buble). Mahogany’s lyrics throughout are intelligent, sometimes witty, and insightful.
Joined by pianist Erwin Schmidt, guitarist Martin Spitzer, bassist Josehi Schneeberger, and drummer Martin Gonzi,
Mahogany displays a warm voice and engages in some dazzling scatting that uplift the songs. Schmidt and Spitzer
come through with consistently rewarding solos and Schneeberger and Gonzi keep the music swinging while
providing a perfect backdrop for the singer and the soloists.
The Vienna Affair, one of Kevin Mahogany’s final recordings, is filled with fresh music and stirring vocals, is
recommended and available from www.crackedanegg.com.
Petra van Nuis & Andy Brown
(String Damper Records)
Husband and wife guitarist Andy Brown and singer Petra van Nuis work regularly in the Chicago area. Lessons
Lyrical, a set of vocal-guitar duets, can be thought of as a follow-up to their fine 2009 recording Far Away Places.
Ms. Van Nuis has a sweet and youthful voice, does justice to lyrics, and improvises with subtlety. Andy Brown is a
very skilled swing-based guitarist who can operate well as a one-man orchestra, swinging like a big band or playing
sparse accompaniment on ballads.
Lessons Lyrical features the duo exploring 17 songs that are standards from several eras plus a few obscurities.
Ranging from “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’” and “Bali Hai” to “You’re Blasé” and a pair of 1920s songs (“Save Your
Sorrow For Tomorrow” and “Doctor Jazz”), these delightful and cheerful renditions cover a variety of moods and
tempos. And it is a joy hearing such forgotten numbers as “Peter Had A Wolf” (contributed by Judy Roberts) and Red
Mitchell’s “Simple Isn’t Easy.”
Lessons Lyrical is easily recommended and available from www.petrasings.com.
Ornette At 12/Crisis
(Real Gone Music)
One of jazz’s greatest innovators, the late altoist Ornette Coleman showed that jazz improvisation could go beyond
chordal restrictions. His solos lasted as long as he felt he had something to say (rather than sticking to a specific
number of bars), and the range of emotions and sounds that he expressed resulted in music that had previously never
been attempted. His shadow is still felt on much of jazz 60 years after he first burst upon the scene.
Two of Ornette Coleman’s rarest albums have been reissued by Real Gone on a single CD. Both of these sessions were
recorded live on college campuses. Ornette at 12 has Coleman leading a quartet that includes tenor-saxophonist
Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden and his son 12-year old Denardo Coleman in 1968. The elder Coleman, whose
alto playing had continued to grow and evolve, also plays a song apiece on trumpet and violin. He was self-taught on
those instruments and although his technique was limited (particularly on violin), he effectively uses them to get his
The four pieces, after the melody statements, give the musicians opportunities to improvise freely. Redman, who
learned a great deal from Coleman, is heard in his early prime, Haden (probably the only bassist who could have
given Ornette what he needed in 1959) swings in his own way (when he is not playing drone notes) without forcing
the other musicians to play over chord changes, and Denardo Coleman shows that he was a bit of a prodigy on drums.
Crisis was recorded in 1969 but not originally released until 1972. It has the same group except that Don Cherry is
added on trumpet and flute, having a reunion with Coleman seven years after he left his quartet. Coleman plays the
free blowout “Trouble In The East” on violin with Redman switching to clarinet and Cherry on flute. Otherwise he is
featured on his very distinctive alto. Best known among the five compositions are Charlie Haden’s “Song For Che” and
Coleman’s “Broken Shadows.”
On both sets, the music is passionate, unique, forward-looking (even in 2017), sometimes dense and explorative.
Ornette Coleman fans and listeners open to the sounds of avant-garde jazz will be very happy to have this valuable
high-energy music (available form www.realgonemusic.com) back in print.
The New York Crew
A fine singer, Tony Adamo is also a master at what he calls “hipspokenword.” He enjoys interacting with major jazz
musicians while telling stories having to do with the music and life in general. His lyrics and narratives are
intelligent, his approach and language are connected to the hipsters of the 1950s, and he fits into both the beatnik
tradition and the pioneers of “word jazz” while displaying his own hip personality.
On his fifth release, The New York Crew, Adamo gathered together an all-star group. Altoist Donald Harrison,
trumpeter Tim Ouimette, pianist Michael Wolff, bassist Richie Goods, drummer Mike Clark (who also produced the
recording), and percussionist Bill Summers are on many of the selections with drummer Lenny White and guitarist
Jean C. Santalis guesting on one song apiece. Unlike most other “jazz and poetry” recordings, this project has Tony
Adamo taking his turn taking “solos” with his sidemen who have plenty of opportunities to stretch out. Adamo may
be the main star but he does not dominate the performances. Throughout the set, Harrison, Ouimette and Wolff are
in top form during their many solos while the rhythm section is tight and swinging.
Among the subjects that Adamo discusses are the obscure but talented trumpeter Eddie Gale (“Gale Blowing High”),
New York City (“City Swings”) and Eddie Harris (“Listen Here Listen Up”). He talks about changing oneself during
“Buddhist Blues,” swings on an uptempo blues (“Mama’s Meat Pies”) and creates a fantasy about Picasso playing
trumpet in his off hours (“Picasso At Midnite”). A brief instrumental (“To Bop Or Not To Be”) has the trio of alto,
trumpet, and drums paying homage to Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach.
This unusual but satisfying set (available from www.amazon.com) is Tony Adamo’s most rewarding recording so far.