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Los Angeles Jazz Scene - CD Reviews
                  March 2018
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Anat Cohen Tentet
Happy Song
(Anzic)
      
During the past decade, Anat Cohen has been one of the top clarinetists in jazz in addition to being a very skilled tenor-
saxophonist. She has excelled in a variety of idioms including swing, trad, bop, modern jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz,
Brazilian choros, klezmer and World Music.
      
Happy Song is one of Anat Cohen’s most colorful releases. She is featured at the head of a ten-piece group consisting of
trumpet, trombone, baritone/bass sax, vibes, piano/accordion, guitar, cello, bass, drums and her clarinet. Oded Lev-
Ari is the musical director of the Tentet and often provides the arrangements. Most of the music is played
continuously as a suite that covers quite a few moods and styles.

The set begins with remakes of Cohen’s well-titled “Happy Song” and the lyrical “Valsa Para Alice.” The next piece is
a real highpoint, a joyful version of the 1920s “Oh Baby” that is based on Benny Goodman’s recording of the mid-
1940s. In contrast is the stirring and somber “Anat’s Doina,” a modern adaptation of klezmer played with a great
deal of feeling by the clarinetist. Egberto Gismonti’s “Loro” precedes the dramatic “Trills and Thrills” which features
some rockish and bluesy guitar by Sheryl Bailey. A beautiful version of Gordon Jenkins’ “Goodbye” (Benny Goodman’
s closing theme) and the spirited West African “Kenedougou Foly” close the memorable set.

In addition to Cohen and Bailey, the key soloists on this CD include trombonist Nick Finzer, cellist Rubin Kodheli,
vibraphonist James Shipp and Vitor Goncalves on piano and accordion. While I wish that Anat Cohen had included
some New Orleans jazz or perhaps another swing piece, Happy Song is a very enjoyable set of music that grows in
interest with each listen. It is highly recommended and available from www.anzicrecords.com.


Norbert Stein & Pata Messengers
We Are
(Pata)
      
Norbert Stein is a German tenor-saxophonist who has performed throughout Europe and the world including several
visits to the U.S. He has a large tone and is equally skilled at caressing melodies and playing very adventurous and
expressive solos. He sometimes hints at Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler but always displays his own musical
personality.
      
While Stein sometimes leads the James Choice Orchestra and several other ensembles, We Are features his Pata
Messengers, a quartet also including pianist Philip Zoubek, bassist Joscha Detz and drummer Etienne Nillesen. The
group performs nine of its leader’s originals.
      
On this CD, Norbert Stein and his sidemen often introduce a warm folkish melody before engaging in advanced
improvising. While playing quite free much of the time, the group does not lose sight of the mood set by the themes
and in spots shows its ability to swing in a modern manner. The rhythm section keeps a forward momentum
constantly flowing, building upon the past while looking towards the future. Zoubek has several excellent solos while
Detz and Nillesen never let the music merely coast.
      
With Stein contributing fiery solos, We Are stays consistently passionate. It is available from www.patamusic.de.
                                                          

Lucky Thompson
Complete Parisian Small Group Sessions 1956-1959
(Fresh Sound)

      
Lucky Thompson (1924-2005) was one of the finest tenor-saxophonists to emerge during the 1940s. Influenced by
Don Byas and (to a lesser extent) Coleman Hawkins, Thompson had the tone of a swing saxophonist but a complete
mastery of bebop. He first recorded with Hot Lips Page in 1944, spent periods with the big bands of Lucky Millinder,
Count Basie (in Lester Young and Illinois Jacquet’s old spot) and Boyd Raeburn, was on quite a few record dates in Los
Angeles during 1945-47 (including with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and the Louis Armstrong Orchestra), worked
with Fletcher Henderson’s last group in 1950, recorded with Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis (the famous version of
“Walkin’”), and freelanced in NY during the first half of the 1950s. Always versatile, he was as comfortable playing
with Jack Teagarden as he was with King Pleasure.

Despite all of this activity, Thompson was not making much money or becoming famous. In 1956 he gave Paris a try,
recording no less than 15 sessions in 79 days. All of the music has been reissued by Jordi Pujol on his Fresh Sound
label in either the single CD Lucky Thompson In Paris 1956 – The All Star Orchestra Sessions, or on the four-CD set
reviewed here. Thompson returned to Paris twice during 1957-58 and all of the small group dates from those visits
are also on this set.
      
There are more superb tenor solos in this package than one can list. After jamming creatively on rhythm changes
(“Thin Ice”) while just accompanied by bass and drums, Thompson leads a quintet session that has some of trumpeter
Emmett Berry’s best playing. Thompson is joined on the many other dates by some of the top French jazz musicians of
the era including pianists Martial Solal and Henri Renaud, guitarist Jean-Pierre Sassoon, baritonist Michel de Villers,
trombonist Charles Verstraete, bassist Pierre Michelot, drummer Dave Perchonet, vibraphonist Michel Mausser and
fellow tenor Guy Laffitte. In addition there is a full album with the rollicking American pianist Sammy Price. The 74
selections include uptempo romps, slower explorations, warm ballads, and no-nonsense bebop. Thompson is inspired
throughout and is heard at the peak of his powers. The four hours of music never loses one’s interest.

Most of these performances were formerly rare and they are perfectly presented. The colorful package includes a 32-
page booklet that includes definitive liner notes by Pujol, complete discographical information, and many photos of
the musicians and of all of the original albums and Eps.

Lucky Thompson, who is heard on a few numbers on the fourth disc introducing his soprano-sax, was among the first
to revive that instrument, predating John Coltrane. He came back to Europe on and off throughout the 1960s but
was frustrated by the music business and his lack of fame at home. After teaching at Dartmouth and making his final
recordings during 1972-73, he permanently dropped out of music despite living another 30 years.
      
The Complete Parisian Small Group Sessions features Lucky Thompson, who was 31 at the time of his first Paris
sessions, full of life and joy. This package (available from www.freshsoundrecords.com) is simply essential for any
bebop fan and 1950s jazz collector.
                                                          

Alexis Cole with One For All
You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
(Venus)
      
Alexis Cole has been a top jazz singer ever since she made her recording debut with 1999’s Very Early. She has a
warm and alluring voice, scats well, and has swinging phrasing, perfectly placing notes. She has spent periods of time
as a teacher, living and performing in Japan, even in the U.S. Army where she sang regularly during 2009-15 in the
U.S. Army. Her 12 CDs as a leader include a set with pianist Fred Hersch, a Christmas jazz album and full-length
tributes to both Pepper Adams and Paul Simon.
      
You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To was recorded back in 2011 but only recently released by the Japanese Venus
label. Alexis Cole is joined by an all-star group known as One For All that consists of tenor-saxophonist Eric Alexander,
trumpeter Jim Rotundi, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist David Hazeltine, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe
Farnsworth. The instrumentalists are so strong that only a very confident and skilled singer could avoid being
overshadowed by them. Fortunately Alexis Cole is on that level.
      
While there are many excellent solos throughout the set by the three horn players and pianist Hazeltine, Alexis Cole
emerges as the main star. She is particularly winning on “Golden Earrings,” a haunting version of “Delilah,” “A
Beautiful Friendship,” “So In Love” and the title cut although all 11 standards are given superior treatments. While
the songs are all of vintage quality, Ms. Cole gives them fresh interpretations through her phrasing, bringing out the
beauty of the lyrics while improvising with subtlety.
      
This CD is a delight, available from www.amazon.com. Alexis Cole deserves to be much better known in the jazz world
and this set is an excellent way to discover her talents.
                                                       

Remi Bolduc
Sax Zenith
(Les Productions Art And Soul)
      
Canada has long been home to a large number of major jazz talents. While most are not that well-known in the U.S.,
quite a few could hold their own with their American counterparts. Altoist Remi Bolduc falls into that category.
While he has worked along the way with such notables as Kenny Werner, Seamus Blake and Jerry Bergonzi, Bolduc
has been leading his own albums since 1994. Sax Zenith is one of his most exciting projects.
      
For this live set from Edmonton’s Yardbird Suite, Bolduc teams up with four other top Canadian saxophonists (altoist
PJ Perry and tenors Phil Dwyer, Kirk MacDonald and Kelly Jefferson) plus bassist Fraser Hollins and drummer Dave
Laing. The leader contributes four originals, mostly advanced pieces in addition to “Someone In Love” which is based
on “Like Someone In Love.” Of the other three compositions, Phil Dwyer’s “Things You Usual-Lee Are” is “All The
Things You Are” and Kirk MacDonald’s “The Revellers” (which has some highly appealing arranged ensembles
between solos) is a joyful romp on rhythm changes.

While not every horn is featured on every number, each of the saxophonists has plenty of chances to stretch out.
Bolduc is the most advanced of the players (adding a lot of excitement to the music), the great P.J. Perry is the most
boppish, and the three tenors each display their own approaches to the music while swinging hard.
Sax Zenith, which is full of fireworks and individual heroics, is available from www.remibolduc.com.
                                                 

Dave Brubeck Quartet
The Lost Recordings
(Fondamenta)

Sarah Vaughan
The Lost Recordings
(Fondamenta)
    
It is remarkable how much high-quality jazz is currently available. There is a continuous flood of new CDs from today’
s artists, labels (mostly from Europe) have reissued the great majority of the most significant early jazz recordings,
and “new” previously unknown and unreleased sessions from the past are constantly being discovered. The
Fondamenta label (www.fondamenta-music.com) has begun what could be a very extensive series, one called “The
Lost Recordings.” If the series can stay on the level of the Brubeck and Vaughan CDs, it will be quite noteworthy.
     
On Oct. 24, 1967, the Dave Brubeck Quartet (with pianist Brubeck, altoist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and
drummer Joe Morello) performed a concert at the Kurhaus Hotel in the Netherlands. The group had already
announced that they would be breaking up after their European tour, and there was only be one further recording
(Nov. 13’s The Last Time We Saw Paris) before it all ended.  Perhaps because the end was near, the musicians were
particularly uninhibited during their Kurhaus concert which is now being heard for the first time in a half-century.
     
In addition to the obligatory “Take Five” and “Three To Get Ready,” the group stretches out on such numbers as “La
Paloma Azul,” “Celito Lindo,” “Rude Old Man” and even “Swanee River.” “Blues For Joe,” which features a Morello
drum solo, is nearly 17 minutes long. Desmond is typically witty throughout, Brubeck comes up with many creative
solos, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet makes one wish that they did not feel that they had to end the magic.
      
Sarah Vaughan’s The Lost Recordings features her on Aug. 5, 1975 at Singer Concert Hall at the Laren Jazz Festival
in the Netherlands. With the fine accompaniment of pianist Carl Schroeder, bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer
Jimmy Cobb, she rips into the opening “The Man I Love,” scatting furiously. Throughout the night, whether it is jazz
standards, songs by Michel Legrand, “Sarah’s Blues,” or a four-song medley, Sassy displays her wondrous voice. There
are times when she comes close to going over the top, sounding like an opera singer who is not shy to do anything with
her voice, but the overall results are quite listenable and filled with remarkable moments. In addition, one gets to
hear Sarah Vaughan joking with the audience and clearly having a great time.
      
One looks forward to the future “Lost Recordings” releases by the Fondamenta label.
                                                          

Freddy Randall
My Tiny Band Is Chosen
(Lake)
      
An excellent British trumpeter, Freddy Randall (1921-99) played professionally from the late 1930s through 1958
when he temporarily retired from music. Other than a session in 1963, he did not return to fulltime music until the
early 1970s, performing for another decade. Randall was a fine swing and Dixieland player who led groups that were
in the style of Eddie Condon’s bands.
      
My Tiny Band Is Chosen (which is one of his originals on this CD) reissues 24 of Randall’s recordings from 1952-57
that were made originally for the Parlophone label. Randall mostly leads a septet comprised of trombone,
clarinet/soprano, piano, bass, drums and either guitar/banjo or tenor in addition to his trumpet. The only one of
Randall’s sidemen who is known much in the U.S. is Bruce Turner, heard here on clarinet and soprano but later
famed as Humphrey Lyttelton’s altoist. However all of the musicians are excellent and their renditions of dixieland
standards and three Randall originals are lively, fresh and quite fun. Most of the recordings are rare (Randall’s best
known albums in the U.S. are a couple of 1970s live dates for Black Lion), yet these are the recordings that best
display his musical legacy.
      
Fans of Muggsy Spanier, Billy Butterfield and Eddie Condon’s brand of freewheeling jazz will particularly enjoy this
valuable compilation, just one of scores of valuable prebop jazz British sets available from the Lake label at www.
fellside.com.
                                                   

Paolo Alderighi/Stephanie Trick
Broadway And More
(AT)
      
The great stride pianist Stephanie Trick and the slightly more modern but swinging pianist Paolo Alderighi have
been happily married for a few years. In recent times they have often performed as a duo on one piano, showing what
four hands can do to a single keyboard during their rollicking performances. Broadway And More features Trick and
Alderighi again performing as a duo but this time on two pianos, which obviously gives them more space, flexibility
and potential.
      
The results are quite enjoyable. They perform a wide-ranging program that includes witty and inventive medleys
from Call Me Madam, West Side Story and The Music Man, along with “Marie,” “Make Believe,” “If I Had A Million
Dollars” and even “Penny Lane” and “Mr. Sandman.” Although there are no classic stride pieces, Trick and Alderighi
consistently find ways to stride this material, giving each song new life.
      
Broadway And More, available from www.paolandstephanie.com, is a delight.
                                                         

Walter Smith III.
Twio
(Self-Released)
      
Walter Smith III. has been an impressive tenor-saxophonist since the beginning of his career. The 37-year old began
playing tenor 30 years ago in Houston where he was born and raised. He made his recording debut with singer-
trumpeter Christine Fawson in 2002, has worked with Sean Jones, Christian Scott, Ambrose Akinmusire, Eric
Harland, and Terence Blanchard, and has led several of his own albums since 2005.
      
Twio is Smith’s fifth recording as a leader and his first one at the head of a pianoless trio. He performs eight standards
and his own “Contrafact” with either Harish Raghavan or Christian McBride on bass and drummer Eric Harland.
Two numbers (“On The Trail” and “Contrafact”) have fellow tenor Joshua Redman making the group a quartet.
      
While the format may make one think of Sonny Rollins, Smith has his own sound, mixing together aspects of his
historic predecessors (including Rollins and Coltrane) with his own ideas. He pays respect to the melodies, builds up
his solos logically, and swings hard in a hard bop/post-bop style. Among the highlights of this fine outing are “Nobody
Else But Me,” “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Adam’s Apple,” “Social Call” and the two encounters with the competitive
Redman.
      
Twio is one of Walter Smith III.’s finest recordings to date. It is available from www.amazon.com.
                                                          

Mike Fahn Quintets
East & West
(Sparky 1 Productions)

Mary Ann McSweeney
Urban Fado
(Sparky 1 Productions)
      
Valve trombonist Mike Fahn and bassist Mary Ann McSweeney have been married for quite a few years and they
both have significant careers that occasionally overlap.

Fahn was born in New York, began on the valve trombone when his father (a fan of Bob Brookmeyer) gave him a
horn as a teenager, and moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was 16. He became well known during his
period in L.A., playing with the who’s who of the local straight ahead jazz scene including Bob Cooper, Pete Christlieb,
Maynard Ferguson, Frank Strazzeri and Conte Candoli. Since he returned to New York, Fahn has worked with
Michael Brecker, Toshiko Akiyoshi’s big band, Andrew Hill and Tom Harrell among many others. East & West
features Fahn with two different pianoless quintets, one from the East Coast (Chris Becas on tenor and soprano,
guitarist Tom Guarna, and drummer Eric Halvorson) and one from the West (tenor-saxophonist Chris Manning,
guitarist Larry Koonse and drummer David Hocker) with Mary Ann McSweeney heard with both groups. The music
is modern but swinging, featuring challenging material written by Bill Evans (“One For Helen”), Kevin Tullius,
Larry Koonse, Kenny Wheeler, Tom Harrell, Gabriel Faure (“Pavane”) and Fahn. While the two bands have similar
tones, they defy stereotypes a bit with the East Coast band sounding cooler while the one from the West is a bit more
adventurous. In both cases, the groups are an excellent outlet not only for the fluent Fahn but his sidemen, with the
valve trombone, tenor and guitar frontline blending together very well.

Mary Ann McSweeney was born in Aptos California, spending time playing piano and violin before switching to the
acoustic bass while in high school. She developed quickly and performed with an ensemble at the Monterey Jazz
Festival when she was 16. Among her many musical associations since that time have been Dizzy Gillespie, Lee
Konitz, Joanne Brackeen, Renee Rosnes, Ken Peplowski, Anita Brown and Claire Daly.

The bassist’s Urban Fado features ten of her arrangements of seven originals and three other songs, all of which are
inspired by the Fado music of Portugal. The Fado style, which began it the 1800s, has beautiful melodies that are
often melancholy. McSweeney utilizes a group that features either Marc Mommas or Sam Marlieri on saxophones,
Sara Caswell or Antoine Silverman on violin, Jason Ennis, John Hart or Vassilis Ketentzoglou on guitar, George
Polyhronakos, Willard Dyson or Tim Horner on drums, and sometimes percussionist Solis Barki along with occasional
vocals by Nana Simopoulos (who also plays bouzouki and guitar) and Margret Grebowicz. The leader is well featured,
often bowing, and the treatments of the material are both melodic and a bit adventurous. Rather than remembering
individual solos or even particular songs, it is the atmosphere of the entire project plus those haunting melodies that
stick in one’s mind the longest.
      
Both of these high-quality CDs are worth exploring. They are available from www.mikefahnmusic.com and www.
maryannmcsweeney.com.
                                                        

Dan Block
Block Party
(Miles High Records)
      
A very talented and versatile veteran tenor-saxophonist and clarinetist, Dan Block has ranged in his career from trad
jazz and swing to bop, hard bop and more adventurous styles. Born and raised in St. Louis, Block began playing the
tenor when he was about 14. He nearly became a classical clarinetist although the appeal of jazz was too strong. Block
studied at Juilliard, was on Charles Mingus’ final album, and has since worked with everyone from the Lincoln
Center Jazz Orchestra and Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks to Ralph Sutton, Marty Grosz, Warren Vache, Catherine
Russell, Tom Harrell and Dave Liebman.
      
Block Party has Block playing clarinet and tenor with a quintet that includes his brother guitarist Rob Block, pianist
Tadataka Unno, bassist Neal Caine and drummer Aaron Kimmel. The repertoire is as intriguing as Block’s career.
Featured along the way are such songs as a modernized “Dinner For One Please James,” Thelonious Monk’s “Light
Blue,” Gigi Gryce’s obscure but rewarding “Smoke Signal,” a hard-swinging “Wonderful One,” and two lesser-known
songs from the 1920s: “Changes” and “Ain’t No Land Like Dixieland.” While the treatments are mostly boppish, there
are many hints of earlier forms of jazz along with some more modern touches. Dan Block is the main soloist but Rob
Block (who had only recorded twice before) shows that he is a talented player while pianist Unno also fares well on the
diverse material.
      
Block Party is a fun set of music that has some of Dan Block’s most rewarding playing as a leader. It is available from
www.mileshighrecords.com.