Phil Woods Quintet Live At The Deer Head Inn
Two of the greatest jazz alto-saxophonists of all time passed away last year: Ornette Coleman (June 11) and Phil
Woods (Sept. 29). As of this moment, the two CDs covered in this review are their final recordings although other
slightly later sets may show up in the future.
Ornette Coleman, who recorded Sound Grammar in 2006, played on an occasional basis during his last decade. New
Vocabulary, which was recorded in 2009, is drawn from a series of practice sessions that team the altoist with
trumpeter Jordan McLean (who also plays electronics) and drummer Amir Ziv. Pianist Adam Holzman guests on
three of the dozen selections. Despite the fact that these performances were not planned as recordings and the group
lacks a bass, the music holds together quite well and is well recorded. Some of the songs (one assumes that they are all
Coleman originals) are memorable particularly “Baby Food” and the brief “Wife Life.” Ornette Coleman is happily in
prime form, inventing one melodic idea after another and, as usual, following his own musical path. McLean’s
electronics give the ensembles a full and otherworldly feel while his trumpet playing sometimes recalls Don Cherry.
Ziv’s drumming is supportive and Holzman’s piano adds some variety to the group’s sound. The adventurous New
Vocabulary (available from www.systemdialingrecords.com) is easily recommended to Ornette Coleman fans.
Despite his gradually declining health, Phil Woods stayed active up until the end, announcing his retirement less
than a month before his death. He is in excellent form on his Deer Head Inn set from Nov. 10, 2014. Performing with
his renowned quintet (trumpeter Brian Lynch, bassist Steve Gilmore, drummer Bill Goodwin and new member but
long-time associate pianist Bill Mays), Woods stretches out on six songs that clock in between 7:02-11;47. Whether it
is Oscar Pettiford’s “Bohemia After Dark,” a rare instrumental version of Bob Dorough’s “I’ve Got Just About
Everything” or a cooking version of “I’m Just A Lucky So And So,” Woods sounds excellent, Lynch is consistently
explosive and the rhythm section swings hard. The Phil Woods Quintet always stood for the best in modern bebop and
musical excellence. This final statement (available from www.deerheadinn.com) holds its own with their earlier
A Master Speaks
Conrad Herwig/Igor Butman
George Coleman, while best known as the tenor-saxophonist with the Miles Davis Quintet during 1963-64 (including
being featured on Davis’ classic Four & More recording), has had a significant career during the half-century since
that association ended. He has long been a master of hard bop, had his own sound, and been a consistently satisfying if
often unheralded soloist. A Master Speaks, which is a quartet date with pianist Mike LeDonne, bassist Bob Cranshaw
and drummer George Coleman Jr, is the tenor’s first recording as a leader in 20 years. In addition to his strong and
creative playing on four standards and a LeDonne composition, Coleman performs four of his own originals, pieces
that reveal that he is a greatly underrated composer. “Blondie’s Waltz” and “Sonny’s Playground” are particularly
memorable songs while “Time To Get Down” gives the quartet an opportunity to jam over rhythm changes. “Blues
For B.B.” (Coleman played with B.B. King back in 1955) features guitarist Peter Bernstein as a guest. LeDonne takes
many fine solos, it is good to hear the veteran bassist Cranshaw in a different setting than Sonny Rollins’ group for a
change (he has played with Rollins for over 50 years) and it is great that the supportive drummer Coleman Jr. had
an opportunity to record with his father. A Master Speaks (available from www.smokesessionsrecords.com) lives up to
its name and is easily recommended.
Modern hard bop is also featured throughout Reflections. The all-star sextet (trombonist Conrad Herwig, tenor-
saxophonist Igor Butman, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, pianist David Kikoski, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Jeff
“Tain” Watts) explores five pieces by Herwig, two Butman originals and George Gershwin’s “Who Cares.” As is often
the case with recent recordings, the playing is top-notch and the musicians are all creative improvisers but the
originals are not as special as the solos. The compositions by Herwig and Butman tend to be very advanced
harmonically and their melodies do not stick in one’s mind afterwards, unlike “Who Cares.” But on the plus side,
Sipiagin shows once again that he is a major trumpeter (sometimes hinting at Freddie Hubbard), Butman takes
many inventive solos, and Herwig gives additional evidence that he ranks near the top of his field among
trombonists. The rhythm section is a powerful force by itself and swings throughout, no matter how complex the
chord changes. It is for these great soloists (some of the best in jazz today) that Reflections (available from www.
crisscrossjazz.com) is well worth checking out.
Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow
Andando et Tiempo
Pianist-composer Carla Bley and electric bassist Steve Swallow have been together as a couple (both musically and
personally) for a few decades. They have often performed as a trio with Andy Sheppard on tenor and soprano.
Andando et Tiempo finds the group interpreting several of Bley’s originals.
The three-part “Andando et Tiempo” depicts what a friend went through in successfully overcoming an addiction to
pain killers. While one can feel the silent pain in its first section before the struggle becomes victorious, the music is
not painful to listen to. As is also true of the other two pieces (“Saints Alive” and “Naked Bridges/Diving Brides”), the
performances are thoughtful, develop slowly but logically, are full of subtleties, and include plenty of interplay. Bley
is often content to play a supportive role, Sheppard displays warmth on his two horns, and Swallow’s bass playing
emphasizes his upper register, sometimes sounding like a laidback guitar.
Andando et Tiempo, an introspective but purposeful set of heartfelt music, rewards repeated listenings. It is available
Music, You All
The Real Gone label (www.realgonemusic.com) has reissued one of the rarest of altoist Cannonball Adderley’s
recordings. Adderley, whose earlier set of gems for the Riverside label were both boppish and soulful, was a true
master. His sound (which was often exuberant) is still influential today, he could play bebop with the best, and his
quintet with his brother cornetist Nat Adderley was one of the most popular of all jazz groups in the 1960s.
After switching to the Capitol label in 1964, Adderley’s music began to change, de-emphasizing bop in favor of soul,
r&b and funk while also displaying awareness of the avant-garde. After “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (on which he did not
solo) became a hit in 1966, Adderley sometimes featured his electronic rhythm section as much as his own playing,
disappointing some of his long-time fans. However he never lost his abilities and shortly before his death in 1975, he
recorded new versions of straight-ahead material again.
Music, You All was recorded in 1971 at the same live sessions that resulted in The Black Messiah. Adderley is joined
by brother Nat, their new keyboardist George Duke, bassist Walter Booker, drummer Roy McCurdy and three guests:
percussionist Airto, the rockish guitarist Mike Deasy and (on the title cut), tenor-saxophonist Ernie Watts.
Cannonball takes rewarding solos on the opening “The Brakes” (during which he really pushes himself) and the
episodic “Music, You All.” Nat Adderley, who takes a spirited if so-so vocal on “Oh, Babe,” is in good form on cornet.
“Walk Tall” works well as a successor to “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” even though it did not become a hit, and two of
Adderley’s informative and charming monologues are included on this CD. “Music, You All” has Watts and Deasy
(whose intense playing uplifts a few of the numbers) taking excellent spots before Cannonball stretches out, bringing
the piece to a climax.
Music, You All is filled with happy surprises and is one of Cannonball Adderley better recordings from his later period.
Wade Legge Trio
His Orchestra and Small Groups 1955-1961
The Fresh Sound label is one of the major reissue record companies, also releasing new music on their Fresh Sound
New Talent subsidiary. Fresh Sound (www.freshsoundrecords.com), under the direction of the tireless Jordi Pujol, has
repackaged and reissued a great deal of very valuable jazz from the 1950s and early 1960s. In addition to the major
names, some of their most intriguing sets focus on obscure figures from jazz history whose music has been out-of-print
Wade Legge (1934-63) had a brief life and a briefer career but he was a fine bop-based pianist with his own chord
voicings and sound. He is best-known for being Dizzy Gillespie’s pianist during 1952-54, touring Europe with the
great trumpeter. Legge also made recordings with Pete Brown, Lenny Hambro, Jimmy Cleveland, Milt Jackson,
Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Gigi Gryce, Jackie McLean and Shafi Hadi during 1954-57 and the Lionel Hampton
big band in 1959. But for unknown reasons in 1959 he retired from actively playing music and, when he passed
away in 1963, Wade Legge was just 29.
Legge’s Fresh Sound release has his only sessions as a leader (12 titles with bassist Lou Hackney and drummer Al
Jones from Gillespie’s quintet), a song by the same trio with singer Joe Carroll and two of the four numbers that they
recorded with baritonist Lars Gullin making the group a quartet. In addition, Legge is featured on four numbers with
a quartet led by vibraphonist Joe Roland and on three songs with a quintet headed by drummer Bill Bradley Jr. that
also includes trumpeter Phil Sunkel and tenor-saxophonist J.R. Monterose. The swinging music, dating from 1953-55,
fits securely into the hard bop scene of the era and shows that Wade Legge was an unheralded talent.
Pianist-arranger Christian Chevallier (1930-2008) was famous in France during much of his lifetime but ultimately
became better known for his work writing soundtracks for films, scores for theatre and for pop music than for his jazz
work. His two-CD Fresh Sound release features his most significant jazz recordings. Many of these performances were
last out on French Eps so they were formerly quite rare. Chevallier is heard in small groups that often have solo space
for Bobby Jaspar on tenor and flute, vibraphonist Fats Sadi and trumpeter Roger Guerin, and at the head of several
big bands that feature a powerful trumpet section. Chevallier’s piano playing is modern and distinctive for the time
while his writing recalls the jazz-oriented side of Stan Kenton and his arrangers. While most of the musicians are
French, their playing is world-class and on the same level as their American counterparts. Bop and big band
collectors will certainly enjoy this perfectly-produced set which includes an extensive and informative booklet.
Nine Decades Of Jazz
Strawberry Fields Forever
B That Way
Sheila Landis & Rick Matle
Barbara Paris, an appealing jazz singer from Denver, has grown in power and creativity through the years. On Nine
Decades Of Jazz (available from www.barbarapariscom), she performs a wide variety of material that ranges from
“Dark Town Strutters Ball” and a catchy version of “Knock Me A Kiss” to “Splanky,” “The Song Is Ended” and two of
her originals including a tribute to the late pianist Joe Bonner (“Ode To Joe”). She swings throughout, scats when it
fits, and puts heartfelt emotion into the ballads including “Summer of ‘42” and “I Wanna Be Loved.” Joining her are
pianist Billy Wallace, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Jill Fredrickson. If the name of Billy Wallace sounds slightly
familiar, it may be because he was a member of the Max Roach Quintet (recording Jazz In 3/4 Time) in 1957, and
recorded with Frank Strozier, Billy Mitchell and Bunky Green in the early 1960s. While he has been in obscurity for
decades, the pianist sounds in top form throughout this set, creating boppish solos in his own infectious style and
making one happy that he is still on the scene. Clearly Wallace and Ms. Paris inspire each other and the results are
quite rewarding. This is the Barbara Paris CD to get.
Daria, a very talented singer from Northern California, on Strawberry Fields Forever performs ten songs composed
by either Paul McCartney or John Lennon. However this is not a typical Beatles tribute album or an attempt to
merely duplicate the famous versions of their hits. The arrangements of Daria and bassist Sam Bevan turn the
pop/rock songs into jazz, often in surprising ways. “When I’m Sixty Four” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” swing hard (with
Daria scatting on the latter), “Come Together” is transformed into a Brazilian romp, and “If I Fell” fares very well as
stirring Latin jazz. Other highpoints include the eccentric “Find A Hole,” a very different version of “The Fool On The
Hill” and a warm rendition of the ballad “Julia.” Daria also contributes one original (She’s Going Home”) that wraps
up the CD quite well. With strong support and occasional solos from top Bay area musicians (including four horn
players), Daria succeeds at turning some of the Beatles songs into 21st century modern jazz. Her stimulating set is
available from www.originarts.com.
Diana Panton, who has a soft and fetching voice, is expert at perfectly placing her notes. Like Rebecca Kilgore, even
when she sings the lyrics and melody fairly straight, her phrasing, solid sense of swing and honest feeling make each
song sound fresh and joyful. The Canadian singer is accompanied by a few of her country’s finest jazz musicians (Don
Thompson on piano and vibes, tenor-saxophonist Phil Dwyer, guitarist Reg Schwager and bassist Jim Vivian) plus a
string quartet and harp arranged by Thompson. Rather than weigh down the music, the strings add to the color and
beauty of the performances. Ms. Panton, who often includes the verse of the songs before swinging into the chorus,
performs such classy material as “Say It Over And Over Again,” “You’re The Top,” “Make Yourself Comfortable,” the
Billie Holiday-associated “24 Hours a Day,” “The Island,” “Who Cares” and (from the Glenn Miller songbook) “I Know
Why And So Do You.” The result is a delightful set that is available from www.dianapanton.com.
Always a top-notch jazz vocalist, Nancy Kelly has a powerful voice, a subtle delivery, and is unable to sing without
swinging. For her fifth CD, she is joined by organist Dino Losito, tenor-saxophonist Jerry Weldon, guitarist Peter
Bernstein and drummer Carmen Intorre. Ms. Kelly has had extensive experience singing with organists including
early in her musical career at the Philadelphia jazz club Jewell’s and regularly with Losito during the past six years.
On B That Way, she revives a few Billie Holiday numbers (including “Don’t Explain” and “Good Morning
Heartache”), and has fun on such tunes as “Come Back To Me,” “Day In, Day Out” and “Please Don’t Talk About Me
When I’m Gone.” With strong and boppish solos by Losito, Weldon and Bernstein, Nancy Kelly is heard at her best
throughout this highly enjoyable outing which is available form www.nancykelly.com.
Based in Michigan, Sheila Landis has been a significant jazz singer since her recording debut in 1973. She is a
consistently inventive scat singer and improvises constantly, even when exploring well-known standards. She has
teamed up with 7-string guitarist Rick Matle a countless number of times during the past two decades. On Beautiful
Things the duo performs 14 songs, including two versions of “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter.” A
few of the numbers are taken from a live concert tribute to Ella Fitzgerald including an original, “When In Doubt,
Make Coffee,” that is inspired by Ella’s version of “I Won’t Dance.” In addition to singing lyrics and scatting up a
storm, Ms. Landis sometimes effectively imitates a trombone with her voice. Matle is quite self-sufficient as the
rhythm section, augmenting his guitar playing with bass notes and engaging in plenty of spontaneous interplay
with the adventurous singer, who sounds unlike anyone else. Among the highlights are “Fine Fat Daddy,” “Caravan,’
“Pennies From Heaven,” “In A Mellotone” and Matle’s feature on “Besame Mucho.” Beautiful Things, available from
www.sheilalandis.com, is easily recommended.
Time To Play!
Jocelyn Michelle is a skilled jazz organist who is based in Hawaii. Her style is sometimes a bit reminiscent of Charles
Earland in the 1970s. Like Earland, she has the ability to turn a wide variety of material, whether funky originals,
pop songs or even bossa-novas into soulful and swinging jazz.
For this set of six of her originals and four standards from various sources (including “The Pink Panther Theme” and
“Last Tango In Paris”), the organist is joined by either her husband John Rack or Bruce Forman on guitar, tenor-
saxophonist Doug Webb or Steve Mann (on tenor or alto), trumpeter Stan Martin, drummer Sammy K. and
sometimes percussionist Brad Dutz. Gino Saputo and Regina Leonard Smyth take a vocal apiece but the focus is
mostly on Michelle and the instrumentalists.
Stan Martin, the guitarists and Doug Webb take several fine solos along the way as does Steve Mann, a local legend
who is long overdue to put out a CD of his own. As for Jocelyn Michelle, she has a timeless style that will greatly
appeal to lovers of the Hammond B3. Time To Play (available from www.summitrecords.com) is an excellent
sampling of her artistry.
Melissa Aldana is the daughter and granddaughter of major saxophonists in her native Chile. With the assistance of
Danilo Perez, she attended Berklee and, after moving to New York, George Coleman became her mentor. She won the
2013 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition and has become a fixture on the New York jazz
scene and the festival circuit.
Now 27, Aldana has developed a relaxed and thoughtful style, making unhurried but inventive statements even at
fast tempos. Although one can hear brief instances of such influences as Sonny Rollins (intentionally on the cooking
“Back Home”), Charles Lloyd and Joe Henderson, she already has her own distinctive sound.
Back Home has Melissa Aldana showcased in a pianoless trio with her long-time bassist Pablo Menares (who has a
similar relaxed approach) and drummer Jochen Reuckert, who is sometimes felt more than heard. Performing four of
her originals, two apiece from her sideman and a concise version of “My Ship,” Aldana is in top form throughout this
stimulating set. At this point, she can considered one of the young giants of jazz.
Back Home is easily recommended and available from www.wommusic.com.