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Los Angeles Jazz Scene - CD Reviews
                      July 2013
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Matteo Fraboni Quintet
This Is My Music
(Via Veneto Jazz)
      
Matteo Fraboni, a 30-year old drummer-composer from Italy, spent time living and studying in Cuba, New York and Africa. He was in
Brooklyn when he recorded this excellent and largely unclassifiable set of modern jazz.
Fraboni, who contributed all of the compositions except “A Time For Love,” is joined on This Is My Music by tenor-saxophonist George
Garzone, altoist Logan Richardson, keyboardist Arvan Ortiz and bassist Rahsaan Carter. While Franboni has a fair number of short drum
features throughout the set, sometimes beginning a piece with a solo, he gives his sidemen plenty of solo space. His music can be called
inside/outside in that while the musicians can improvise as freely as they like, they can also caress the melodies or play over the chord
changes if it fits their ideas.

Among the highlights are the 5/4 “Something New” which gives the saxophonists plenty of chances to stretch out, the melodic jazz waltz
“Dear Friend,” and the modal and impressionistic hard bop piece “Umuntu Ngumuntu.” Garzone and Ortiz are excellent throughout as is
Carter in support; Logan Richardson often takes solo honors.

This is a high quality and spirited set that holds one’s interest throughout. It is available from www.viavenetojazz.it.


Nat King Cole/Quincy Jones Big Band
Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 33
(TCB)
      
The music from this May 1, 1960 concert, broadcast from Zurich, Switzerland, had never been officially released before. 53 years after the
fact, the results are well worth waiting for although I wish the public did not have to wait quite this long!
     
The Quincy Jones Orchestra, an all-star 18-piece band, went to Europe in 1960 as part of Harold Arlen’s Free And Easy show. When the
production unexpectedly closed, Jones and his musicians were temporarily stranded in Europe. Fortunately Norman Granz heard about
their plight and added them to Nat King Cole’s month-long European tour. The tour not only helped save Quincy Jones’ finances, but
resulted in some of Cole’s most jazz-oriented music of his last decade. While playing in Zurich, the audience (which was filled with jazz fans)
was not enthusiastic about Cole’s pop singing. At Jones’ suggestion, Cole played more piano than usual, and the results were magical.
      
This well recorded CD is a gem. First the big band performs three numbers with solos by trumpeter Benny Bailey and altoist Phil Woods
(showcased on “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set”). Cole sings a couple of songs (“Unforgettable” and “Madrid”) and plays wonderful piano
on “Tea For Two,” “Laura” and “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.” Jones’ big band (with solos by Julius Watkins on French horn,
trombonist Jimmy Cleveland and tenor-saxophonist Budd Johnson) sounds strong on two more pieces. Cole returns for five final numbers,
playing piano on “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” “Sweet Lorraine” and “Route 66.” Everything works well.
      
This CD concludes with a very valuable five-minute interview of Cole by Swiss jazz journalist Lance Tschannen. Nat King Cole’s comments
about the music scene (he dismisses rock and roll) and why he no longer played that much jazz for American audiences by 1960 are quite
fascinating.
      
This highly recommended disc is available from www.allegro-music.com.
                                                    

Maud Hixson
Don’t Let A Good Thing Get Away
(MaudHixson)
      
Maud Hixon has a beautiful clear voice, swings lightly, and enunciates lyrics very well. A few years ago she applied for a grant to work
with a living composer and perform a full set of the composer’s works. This recording, which has her interpreting a dozen songs by Michael
“Mickey” Leonard, is the result.
      
Leonard’s best known songs were mostly written for the 1965 Broadway musical The Yearling including “I’m All Smiles,” “The Kind Of
Man A Woman Needs,” and “Why Did I Choose You” (which was recorded by Barbra Streisand). Otherwise much of the material on this CD
(which includes the premiere recording of four of the songs) is lesser-known but intelligent and original. The insightful lyrics (which are by
a variety of lyricists) fit Maud Hixson’s style well, with “Don’t Let A Good Thing Get Away” being one of the highlights.
      
Throughout the set of ballads and medium-tempo material, the singer is joined by the sensitive and swinging pianist Tex Arnold, guitarist
Gene Bertoncini, bassist Steve LaSpina and occasionally Warren Vache who contributes some warm cornet solos.
      
Don’t Let A Good Thing Get Away (available from www.maudhixson.com), which is comprised of fresh and rewarding material, is easily
recommended to fans of first-class singing.
                                                     

The Big Broadcast
Volume 7
(Rivermont)

The Big Broadcast
Volume 8
(Rivermont)
     
In 1973 Rich Conaty hosted the first edition of his radio show Big Broadcast on WFUV. 40 years later he is still playing music from the
1920s and ‘30s on that station. Even more unusual than the Big Broadcast’s longevity and high quality is that Conaty has compiled eight
CDs (and counting) of the vintage music that have been released by the Rivermont label (www.rivermontrecords.com).
      
Each of the volumes is a must for collectors of early jazz and dance music. Programmed in chronological order with a colorful booklet
included, the programs are filled with rarities. Balancing hot jazz with dance numbers and vocalists, Conaty always puts together an
entertaining and informative program.
     
Volume 7 starts with singer Arthur Fields in 1921 extolling the virtues of “Moxie.” Otherwise it dates from 1926-37. Featured along the
way are Charley Skeete’s Orchestra, a very rare Harry Barris solo performance (he is best known for being in the Rhythm Boys with Bing
Crosby but could have been a major solo attraction), the Golden Gate Orchestra, Jack Richmond, Smith Ballew, Cliff Edwards, Marion
Harris, Tom Stacks (“Chinnin’ And Chattin’ With May”), Al Shayne, Charlie Lawman, Scrappy Lambert, Annette Hanshaw (“I Don’t
Know Why” which includes Benny Goodman), Ramona with Paul Whiteman, Les Allen, Claude Hopkins, Harold Arlen (singing “Smoke
Rings’), Louis Prima, Dick Robertson, Browning & Starr, the Harmonists (an exciting and very rare vocal version of “That’s A Plenty”),
Jimmy Farrell, the Regal Jazz Band (a swing band from Tokyo in 1935), Phil Harris, and Joe Sanders and his Nighthawks.
      
While Volume 8 leans a little more on the sweet rather than the swing side, there is certainly enough jazz included to justify its purchase.
Dating from 1924-37, it includes performances by Yerkes Famous Florilla Orchestra, Ohman & Arden, Harold Arlen, Fred Rose, Jack Pettis
(“Spanish Dream”), Al Katz, Lud Gluskin, Sam Browne, Gus Deloof’s Racketeers (from Switzerland), pianist Lee Sims (an early influence on
Art Tatum), Johnny Davis, Red Pepper Sam, Ruth Etting, Chick Bullock, Tom Gerun’s Orchestra (with Woody Herman featured on his
first vocal in 1932), Nina Mae McKinney, the Three Keys, Cyril Grantham, David Rose, Nick Lucas, Eddie Stone, the first jazz harpist
Casper Reardon (a classic version of “Washboard Blues”), Ozzie Nelson’s orchestra, and a 1933 radio broadcast from Vincent Lopez.
      
In addition, Volume 8 includes a second full CD drawn from Rivermont’s catalog, ranging from 1920s jazz bands, novelty ragtime piano,
and early vocal groups to a sampling of today’s trad and ragtime scene.
      
Collectors of early jazz are advised to consider the eight volumes of The Big Broadcast to be essential acquisitions.


Vivian Lee
From Miss Lee To You
(Scarlett Production)

Vivian Lee is a talented jazz singer based in Sacramento. From Miss Lee To You is her fourth recording as a leader, following 2000’s
Scarlett, Where Is Love and Have You Met Miss Lee.
      
Ms. Lee has a soft voice, a subtle improvising style, and personal phrasing that is sometimes reminiscent of Peggy Lee in her prime or early
Billie Holiday. She hits every note perfectly, swings, and has a quiet and appealing delivery that is infectious.
     
On From Miss Lee To You, the singer interprets ten jazz standards plus Lady Day’s rarely performed “Stormy Blues” (which fits her style
perfectly) and John Lewis’ “Afternoon In Paris” for which she wrote some excellent lyrics. Accompanied by a tasteful rhythm section
(pianist Ron Foggia, bassist Paul Klemperer and drummer Jeff Minnieweather), each of whom contribute occasional brief solos, and joined
on a few songs by altoist Jeff Clayton and tenor-saxophonist Darius Babazadeh (whose playing sometimes recalls Eddie Harris), Vivian Lee
is in very good company throughout this pleasing set. Among the highpoints are “Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” a suitably sly
rendition of “I Don’t Know Enough About You,” an inventive reworking of “At Long Last Love,” and “Star Eyes.”      

From Miss Lee To You (available from www.reverbnationa.com/vivianlee) is easily recommended to fans of easy-swinging, joyful and
quietly expressive jazz singers.
                                                              

Terri Lyne Carrington
Money Jungle
(Concord)
      
In 1962, the unlikely trio of pianist Duke Ellington, bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach joined together to record the classic
album Money Jungle. Most memorable was the title cut, which found Mingus really pushing Ellington. Much of the music of the set
bordered on the avant-garde at times.
      
50 years later, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington (who has always loved Money Jungle) teamed together with pianist Gerald Clayton and
bassist Christian McBride to bring back much of the music. This set is not a strict recreation. Carrington decided not to play “Caravan,”
“Solitude” and “Warm Valley” from the original program, adding two of her own originals plus Clayton’s “Cut Off” (which quotes in spots
from “Solitude”). Some spoken word and vocals are utilized on a few numbers, with Liz Wright featured on “Backward Country Boy Blues”
and Clark Terry (an early Carrington mentor) adding some wordless “Mumbles” on “Fleurette Africain” which, considering his health,
might be his last recording. In addition, there is some “added programming” on two numbers and a few brief appearances by guest
musicians including altoist Tia Fuller.
      
In reality the most successful and enjoyable selections are the trio numbers without the added effects. Clayton, while not attempting to
imitate Ellington’s piano style, hints at Duke in places while being creative in his own voice. McBride takes some fine solos and Carrington
is excellent in support.

While I wish that the entire new Money Jungle was performed by just this top-notch trio, the overall project is rewarding. It is available
from www.concordmusicgroup.com.