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Los Angeles Jazz Scene - CD Reviews
                     June 2017
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Tomasz Stanko
December Avenue
(ECM)
      
Veteran trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, who is from Poland, has recorded a string of picturesque and impressionistic
recordings for the ECM label. December Avenue teams the 74-year old trumpeter with his New York quartet which
also includes pianist David Virelles, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gerald Cleaver.
      
December Avenue features Stanko and his group performing a dozen of his originals, the majority of which are
ballads. Stanko’s music is consistently cinematic and can serve as quietly emotional background music. However the
closer one listens, the more one is drawn into the colorful sounds and expressive playing. Stanko says a great deal
with a minimum of notes, his rhythm section is very attentive to his playing (reacting immediately), and the
quartet has a singular purpose in its playing.

Things pick up a bit tempo-wise with the fifth selection (titled “Burning Hot”) and a few of the later pieces are taken
at slightly faster paces but December Avenue is most notable as a 12-part suite, with each selection leading logically
to the next, rather than for its individual compositions. This is music that grows in interest with each listen. It is
easily recommended as an example of Tomasz Stanko’s artistry and is available from www.amazon.com.
 
      
Sylvia Brooks
The Arrangement
(Self-Released)
      
Sylvia Brooks, who has been singing and acting in Southern California during the past decade, is the daughter of jazz
pianist-arranger Don Ippolito and of an opera singing mother. Her voice is attractive and alluring, her phrasing is
swinging, and she always sings in-tune. Ms. Brooks has had some success with her first two CDs, Dangerous Liaisons
and Restless, which often found her singing in dramatic fashion while looking back towards the film noir era of the
1940s and ‘50s.
      
The Arrangement is her most jazz-oriented set to date. Performing 11 familiar standards and three originals, Sylvia
Brooks performs with top artists (mostly from Southern California) on arrangements contributed by Otmaro Ruiz,
Quinn Johnson, Jeff Colella, Christian Jacob and Kim Richmond. Her singing is always appealing while her
improvising is subtle. While I would love to hear her take more chances with her phrasing since she largely sticks to
the words and the melody, it is obvious that Ms. Brooks is a top-notch singer.
While some of the arrangements modernize and reharmonize the standards, the best performances are the ones that
have charts that let the music breathe and include some space. The most rewarding renditions include “Eleanor
Rigby,” a swinging “The Tender Trap,” “Angel Eyes” and the three originals. It is particularly rewarding hearing the
singer perform her “Sweet Surrender” as a duet with pianist Christian Jacob.  There are also occasional statements
from sidemen with the solos of Ron Stout on flugelhorn and tenors Bruce Babad and Bob Sheppard being standouts.
      
The Arrangement (available from www.sylviabrooks.net) is Sylvia Brooks’ finest recording to date.  It makes one look
forward to her Catalina performance of Wednesday June 7.
                                                  

Rebecca Hardiman
Honoring Ella!
(Self-Released)
      
Since 2017 is the centennial of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth, there are many Ella tributes being planned this year. Rebecca
Hardiman’s Honoring Ella is a particularly swinging and fun affair. Honoring Ella finds Ms. Hardiman capturing the
sweetness, swinging phrasing, and infallible pitch of the First Lady of Song while also displaying her own musical
personality.
      
Accompanied by pianist Ray Hardiman, bassist Whitney Moulton and drummer Kurt Deutscher on nine songs,
Rebecca Hardiman is in prime form throughout. The set begins with Ella’s biggest hit, a version of “A-Tisket, A-
Tasket” that is given a Latin feel. “Manhattan,” which begins with the rarely-heard verse, features Ms. Hardiman
taking a heartwarming vocal, and her voice sounds quietly expressive on “Isn’t It Romantic.” One cannot do a real
Ella Fitzgerald tribute without including some scat-singing so there is some creative scatting on an uptempo “I Get A
Kick Out Of You” and “Honeysuckle Rose” which is taken at a perfect slow-medium pace. The singer’s voice is
particularly attractive on a slow version (complete with verse) of “Someone To Watch Over Me,” she has fun with the
Brazilian groove on “Cheek To Cheek,” and also sounds rewarding on “Stairway To The Stars” and a cooking “How
High The Moon.”
      
However the highpoint to the CD is the tenth and final performance. Rebecca Hardiman takes “You Turned The
Tables On Me” as a duet with guest bassist Marty Ballou. While she mostly sticks to the lyrics, she is particularly
inventive in her choice of notes and her phrasing.          
      
Ella would have approved of and loved this recording, which is available from www.rebeccahardiman.com.
                                                     

Kenny Dorham
1962 & 1966
(Uptown)
      
During the 1945-70 period, Kenny Dorham (1924-72) was one of the top bop-oriented trumpeters in jazz. While he
never gained the fame and acclaim of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan, he was close to
being on their level and made strong contributions to the music as a trumpeter and a composer.
      
Dorham was with the Billy Eckstine Orchestra early on and was a member of the Charlie Parker Quintet during
1948-49. As a sideman he worked and recorded with most of the bop greats. In the 1950s he played with Thelonious
Monk and Sonny Rollins, was an original member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, was Clifford Brown’s successor in
the Max Roach Quintet and led his own group, the Jazz Prophets. During 1962-64 Dorham became part of the hard
bop movement, using the young tenor-saxophonist Joe Henderson in his quintet and stretching himself to record with
Andrew Hill. Lack of work and a worsening kidney ailment resulted in him being less active in his later years.
      
1962 & 1966 features Dorham in prime form during a pair of previously unreleased radio broadcasts. He performs
five numbers in 1966 with a quintet that also includes altoist Sonny Red, pianist Cedar Walton, bassist John Ore and
Hugh Walker. Among those performances are his original “Jung Fu,” a trumpet feature on “The Shadow Of Your
Smile,” and the hard-swinging “Straight Ahead.” The earlier set has Dorham joined by tenor-saxophonist Joe Farrell
(near the beginning of his career), pianist Walter Bishop, Jr, bassist Larry Gales and drummer Stu Martin for three
lengthy numbers. Farrell is quite exuberant on “Au Privave” and Dorham sounds comfortable and creative on
“Woody’N You  and “If I Should Lose You.” The music is high-quality hard bop and is well recorded.
      
1962 & 1966, which has extensive liner notes from Matt Leskovic that definitively covers Dorham’s career, is highly
recommended and available from www.uptownrecords.net.
                                                    

Hod O’Brien Meets Sal Nistico
Live From The Netherlands
(HodStef)
      
At the time of his death in 2016 at the age of 80, Hod O’Brien was (along with Barry Harris) one of the last of the
bebop pianists. His style was very much in the Bud Powell vein (with no traces of Bill Evans or later pianists)
although infused with his own musical personality. Hod just loved to swing as the music on this previously
unreleased session shows.
      
In 1986, O’Brien was teamed with the hard-charging tenor-saxophonist Sal Nistico and a pair of fine Dutch players
(bassist Harry Emmery and drummer John Engels) at the Porgy & Bess Club in the Netherlands. Fortunately the
music was recorded and now it is being released for the first time on the label that O’Brien co-owned with his wife, the
great singer Stephanie Nakasian.
      
O’Brien and Nistico really stretch out on seven standards, with only one performance being less than nine minutes in
length. Alternating romps such as Charlie Parker’s “Quasimodo,’ “Airegin” and “Indian Summer” with ballads
(including a 15-minute version of “My Old Flame”), the co-leaders are in top form. The recording quality is decent,
the rhythm section is always swinging, and Nistico shows that he still had plenty of power and drive left 20 years
after his peak years with Woody Herman’s orchestra.
      
It is gratifying to have this music available, allowing one to appreciate the artistry of the late Hod O’Brien. It is
available from www.stephanienakasian.com.
                                                 

Joe Harriott
Helter Skelter
(Acrobat)
      
Joe Harriott (1928-73) had a fascinating and important if all-too-short career. Born in Jamaica, the altoist moved to
England in 1951 where he spent his last 22 years. He was originally rated as one of England’s top bop-oriented
musicians. While Charlie Parker was naturally a strong influence, Harriott’s passionate tone was actually more
reminiscent of Sonny Criss. During the 1950s he performed with the who’s who of British jazz, occasionally leading
his own group.
      
During 1959-60, Harriott began improvising freer explorations. While his music was sometimes a bit similar to
Ornette Coleman’s, he actually developed his ideas independently of Coleman. Another innovative period took place
later in the 1960s. Harriott teamed up with violinist John Mayer to develop “Indo-Jazz Fusion,” a combination of jazz
with music from India. Tragically, cancer caused the altoist’s premature death at 44.
      
Helter Skelter is mostly drawn from Joe Harriott’s bebop years and features him in four different settings. The rare
performances showcase him leading a quartet on four songs from 1955, in the spotlight during three previously
unreleased numbers with Kurt Edelhagen’s orchestra in 1959, taking short solos (along with many others) with the
Melody Makers All-Stars in 1957, and making appearances on four songs with the Daily Mail International Jazz
Festival All-Stars in 1963. The latter is particularly intriguing for it has Harriott with a modern combo on
“Milestones” and “Jackie-ing,” and jamming with a diverse big band alongside such major names as Kenny Ball,
Humphrey Lyttelton, Chris Barber and Tubby Hayes.
      
While Helter Skelter (which is available from www.mvdb2b.com) does not contain Joe Harriott’s most essential
sessions, it has more than its share of fun and swinging music from a British jazz legend.
                                                    

Mark Winkler
The Company I Keep
(Café Pacific Records)
      
A notable lyricist who has had 200 of his songs performed and often recorded by other singers, a playwright, and an
educator, Mark Winkler has also been a solo singer in the Los Angeles area for quite a few years. The Company I Keep
is his 13th CD as a leader.
      
The performances on The Company I Keep certainly show that Winkler has many talented musical friends. He is
joined on various songs by seven pianists, several rhythm sections, up to four horn players, and five other vocalists.
Winkler, who contributed five of the 12 songs, participates in vocal duets with Jackie Ryan (a swinging version of
“Walk Between The Raindrops”), Cheryl Bentyne (a surprising rendition of Prince’s “Strollin’”), Claire Martin
(“Stolen Moments”), Steve Tyrrell (the light-hearted “But It Still Ain’t So”) and Sara Gazarek (“Rainproof”). While
“Walk Between The Raindrops” and “Stolen Moments” have the feel of a big band with their four horns, the
instrumentation changes from tune-to-tune. Among the instrumental highlights are guitarist Larry Koonse’s
playing on “Strollin,” clarinetist Don Shelton and violinist Paul Cartwright during the atmospheric “Midnight In
Paris,” trombonist Bob McChesney on “That Afternoon In Harlem,” and Bob Sheppard’s tenor whenever he appears.
Sheppard also plays some surprising clarinet on “Lucky To Be Me.”

As for Mark Winkler, the personable singer clearly had a great time working on this project. He can be heard at his
best interacting with Tyrell on “But It Still Ain’t So,” paying tribute to Mark Murphy with some vocalese during part
of “Stolen Moments,” digging into the heartfelt lyrics on the ballads “Rainproof” and “The Sum,” and swinging on
“Lucky To Be Me.”

The Company I Keep, which is available from www.markwinklermusic.com, serves as a perfect introduction to Mark
Winkler’s music.
                                           

Cathy Segal-Garcia
In2uition
(Dash Hoffman Records)
      
An important musical force in the Los Angeles area since the 1980s, Cathy-Segal Garcia has performed in a countless
number of settings through the years, has booked other singers in many venues, and has been a significant educator.
Always an enthusiastic and tasteful improviser, she has performed regularly in Japan and frequently in Europe in
addition to Southern California.
      
In2uitiion, a two-CD set which is her tenth recording as a leader, finds Ms. Garcia utilizing ten different pianists on
one or two songs apiece: Josh Nelson, John Beasley, Karen Hammack, Otmaro Ruiz, Vardan Ovsepian, Gary
Fukushima, David Moscoe, Bevan Manson, Jane Getz and Llew Matthews. All of the performances are duets except for
the two pieces with Karen Hammack which also have Calabria Foti playing violin.
      
Cathy Segal-Garcia and her pianists consistently display impressive in2uition in guessing each other’s musical
directions during these spontaneous and spirited performances. Most of the songs are standards other than the singer’
s four originals and a tune apiece by Bevan Manson and Shelby Flint. Highlights include “I Love You,” a lengthy and
quietly emotional “It Never Entered My Mind,” the rarely-performed “Ruby,” “There’s A Small Hotel” and the
closing “America The Beautiful.”  The latter, a duet with Llew Mathews in what is probably one of his last recordings,
starts out a bit mournful before ending more optimistically, as if to say that this country can survive practically
anything.
      
All in all, In2uition is one Cathy Segal-Garcia’s strongest recordings and is available from www.cathysegalgarcia.
com.
                                                     

Idrees Sulieman Quartet
The 4 American Jazz Men In Tangier
(Sunnyside/Groovin’ High)
      
Pianist Oscar Dennard (1928-60) is a long-lost figure in jazz history, one who is partly restored on this intriguing
double-CD.  He did not live long enough to make a strong impression except among the musicians who knew him.
Dennard was a member of Lionel Hampton’s Orchestra during 1954-58, appearing on nine albums including a few
with Hampton’s small group. Beyond that, his only other recordings were an unissued trio session from 1956 and
albums with arranger A.K. Salim and saxophonist Jesse Powell. Bassist Jamil Nasser, a friend of his since 1950,
convinced the pianist to leave Hampton and go overseas with trumpeter Idrees Sulieman’s quartet in 1959. The
group (which also included drummer Buster Smith) performed in France, Switzerland, Morocco and finally Egypt.
Dennard was stricken with typhoid fever while in Cairo and soon died at the age of 31.
      
Trumpeter Idrees Sulieman (1923-2002), had a longer life but is also rather obscure. He made his first recording
with Louis Jordan’s Tympani Five in 1945 and also recorded with guitarist Bill DeArango, Thelonious Monk and
Mary Lou Williams. He had a slightly earlier stint with Lionel Hampton than Dennard, and appeared on a variety of
recordings in the 1950s, most notably with Mal Waldron, Teddy Charles and Coleman Hawkins (The Hawk Flies
High). After Dennard’s death, Sulieman moved to Scandinavia. He stayed in Europe for 20 years and was a member
of both the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band and the Danish Radio Band. Although the trumpeter led a few
sessions of his own for the Steeplechase label, during the two decades after returning to the U.S. in 1982, he had a low
profile. Sulieman was an excellent bop trumpeter with a big tone who, by the late 1950s, had learned how to utilize
circular breathing.
      
The 4 American Jazz Men In Tangier has a studio session cut in Tangier, Morocco and a private live recording made
in New York City shortly before the quartet left the country. The Morocco session (only put out previously by the
Japanese Somethin’ Else label) is primarily bebop. Highlights include “Confirmation,” “Stella By Starlight” and
Charlie Parker’s rarely-played “Visa.” Sulieman takes a continuous breath for five choruses on the slow “Tangier
Blues,” mostly playing one note endlessly. But otherwise this is a rewarding CD that includes occasional bass and
drum solos.
      
The second disc was privately taped and the recording quality of the previously unreleased music is sometimes a bit
rough. However it is quite significant due to Dennard being well featured in a much looser and more adventurous
setting, He takes the first six minutes of “Invitation” unaccompanied, tearing the music apart while keeping the
melody close by. When Sulieman joins in, the piece is given the rhythm of an Arabic caravan. Dennard hits a
dissonant chord 12 times to start “’Round Midnight,” launching into another creative solo feature. After an excerpt of
“These Foolish Things,” a heated “Wee” and “Circular Breathing Blues” with the quartet, Dennard is again alone on
“Piano Improvisation.” His meandering solo covers “Three Blind Mice,” a bit of stride piano and a classical melody in
addition to other musical thoughts.
      
Considering how little Oscar Dennard was documented, The 4 American Jazz Men In Tangier is full of treasures. It is
available from www.sunnysiderecords.com.
                                                            

Albert Ayler Quartet
Copenhagen Live 1964
(Hat Art)
      
This is fire music. Albert Ayler, a tenor-saxophonist whose early roots were in Sonny Rollins, was a major leader in
the free jazz movement by the time he performed at this Copenhagen concert.  His solos were often full of intense
passion, breaking the sound barrier with upper-register screams and inspiring John Coltrane and others to take their
music much further into sound explorations.
      
In 1964, Ayler led a quartet with cornetist Don Cherry, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray. Some of
the saxophonist’s originals (such as “Spirits”) had folkish melodies that harked back to the early 20th century (a
trend that would become much stronger a year later in his band with trumpeter Donald Ayler) but, once the brief
theme is gone, the improvising becomes quite intense. Jazz had experienced a gradual race towards freedom for over
40 years. It started in the 1920s and, in Albert Ayler’s music (and that of Cecil Taylor’s), it reached the end.
      
Whether wailing away or using a wide vibrato during the ballad moments, Albert Ayler is featured carving out his
own path. Cherry is fine in his briefer and more soothing statements while Peacock and Murray demonstrate how to
play inventively without keeping time or a chord pattern.
      
Listeners with open ears who want to hear passionate sounds are recommended to check out Albert Ayler’s
Copenhagen Live 1964, available from www.naxosusa.com and www.hathut.com.
                                                          

Larry Coryell
Heavy Feel
(Wide Hive)
      
The recent death of Larry Coryell (1943-2017) was a surprise to the music world. He had played at the Iridium in
NYC during the previous two nights. Coryell will always be best remembered as being the first fusion jazz guitarist,
playing rockish solos with Chico Hamilton (1966), the Free Spirits and the Gary Burton Quartet (1967-68), and
leading The Eleventh House starting in 1973. He had a wide-ranging career that included acoustic guitar tours with
John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia, bop sessions for the High Note label, and guest appearances with Sonny Rollins
and Wayne Shorter.
      
Heavy Feel was recorded in 2014 and features Coryell back in a fusion-oriented band. Preceding his brief Eleventh
House reunion, Coryell performs in a quartet also including electric bassist Matt Montgomery, drummer Mike
Hughes and soprano-saxophonist George Brooks. The music is rock-oriented at times with Coryell utilizing distorted
but recognizable tones but is always creative and a bit unpredictable. Never quite as intense as McLaughlin or Al
DiMeola, Coryell displays his own brand of passion, infusing the rockish grooves with plenty of bluish feeling. The
rhythm section is tight, Brooks’ soprano adds fire to the music, and the relatively straight ahead blues “Jailbreak”
offers a change of pace.

The set of originals segues easily from one song to another and shows that, when in the hands of someone on Larry
Coryell’s level, fusion still has plenty of life left. Heavy Feel is available from www.widehive.com.
                                                 

Regina Carter
Ella: Accentuate The Positive
(Okeh)
     
Ella Fitzgerald recorded so many songs in her career that one could make dozens of Ella tributes without repeating
any tunes. Violinist Regina Carter celebrates the singer’s centennial by completely reshaping nine vintage songs that
Ella had recorded, only one (“Undecided”) of which was closely associated with her.
      
Joined by guitarist Marvin Sewell, pianist-keyboardist Xavier Davis, bassist Chris Lightcap and drummer Alvester
Garnett, Carter reinvents each of the tunes.  Johnny Mercer’s “Ac-cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive,” which has a Miche
Braden vocal, is largely unrecognizable with reharmonized chords and a rockish guitar solo. The obscure “Crying In
The Chapel” sounds like a new pop tune rather than an early 1950s ballad. “I’ll Never Be Free” is taken quite
lowdown, Carter caresses the melody of “All My Life” before it ends as a light funk groove, and she takes “Dedicated To
You” fairly straight as a pretty ballad in a trio with piano and bass.
      
The lesser-known “Reach For Tomorrow” becomes a contemporary ballad that is well played. One of the biggest
surprises is “Undecided” which is turned into jazzy funk with a scat-filled vocal by Carla Cook. “Judy,” the song that
won Ella the Apollo Theater amateur show that launched her career, sounds melancholy while still retaining its
original melody. The program ends with a remake of one of Ella’s first recordings, “I’ll Chase The Blues Away.” The
first half of this performance has the piece recast as a lowdown country blues before it becomes a one-chord funky
vamp.
      
Obviously this is not a typical Ella Fitzgerald tribute CD. Instead, her centennial serves as a good excuse to dig into
the past and create fresh versions of older songs. While I wish that Regina Carter, jazz’s top violinist of the past decade,
would simply swing hard on a few numbers as she did earlier during her collaborations with pianist Kenny Barron,
this set is satisfying in its own way. It is available from www.okeh-records.com.