Seattle-based musician Jay Thomas may be considered the oddest of ducks in the jazz universe. By that, I am referring to his fierce musicality expressed both on trumpet and saxophone, as well as most members of the brass and woodwind families. Inspired early in his career by the like minded veteran Ira Sullivan, Thomas in a single night will drift from trumpet to tenor, from flugelhorn to alto, and then double back on flute and soprano. He may as well play a melody in elegant style on tenor, and solo on trumpet and flute within the context of a single tune. While the demands of embouchure for each of these instruments makes Thomas’ methodology remarkable in itself, the fact that he performs with equal world-class virtuosity on each makes him, well, the oddest of ducks in the jazz universe. To continue reading, click this linkhttps://www.allaboutjazz.com/upside-jay-thomas-quartet-mcvouty-records
The storyline for the Pacific Northwest-based band Scenes began in 1983, when drummer John Bishop and guitarist John Stowell began playing together in Portland and Seattle. When bassist Jeff Johnson arrived in Seattle in 1989, he began playing a weekly trio gig with Bishop and tenor saxophonist Rick Mandyck. Stowell, already frequently traveling abroad to play and teach, would drop by every so often to play.
The quartet wouldn’t get around to record until 2001, releasing Scenes on the Origin Records label Bishop had created with drummer Matt Jorgensen in 1997. Shortly thereafter, Mandyck exited the music scene, unable to play due to illness and injury. Scenes would continue to perform over two decades as a trio, releasing five more albums on Origin. On occasion, they would be joined by multi-reedist Hans Teuber, but generally the trio evolved outside of what would commonly be associated with a guitar trio. They developed an intuitive, free sound that in many ways encapsulates the Origin sound, steeped in the remoteness of the Pacific Northwest, embellished by connections in Chicago, New York and Europe. The trio developed as an equal partnership, with Johnson and Bishop having as much to say as Stowell. They largely performed Stowell’s vignette style pieces, and Johnson’s wide-open comps, designed for more free form conversation.
For their seventh release, Scenes once again becomes a quartet, with Mandyck returning to form after a long hiatus. He contributes five original compositions, all much like Johnson’s, enabling his mates to recreate at their whim. Mandyck’s distinct sound, very much lifted from the John Coltrane tradition, has a clarity and dynamic sense very much his own. With the addition of two of Johnson’s pieces, and the title track penned by Claudine Francois, Trapeze (Origin, 2020) reaches out towards the edge and defines itself within the risks and rewards the free spirit indulges.
Two of Mandycks’s pieces, “House of Ra, ” and the angular “The Reckoning,” produce the most open-ended playing on the album, particularly from guitarist Stowell. Long known for his colorfully melodic voicings, and precision playing, he spools out his solos to great melodic, spatial lengths. Johnson’s soloing incorporates fleet single note passages with exploding chordal clusters, all refined by his elegant vibrato. One of the true originals of the double bass, Johnson, in tandem with Bishop, possesses the unique ability to interpret time in the moment, and obliterate linear expectations. Intertwined with Stowell’s sparse comping, the harmonic and rhythmic firmament is fertile ground for Mandyck to play strong, rich, melodic passages in the open space.
Johnson’s “Highwaymen” swings ever so gently, while his “Pause” elicits a gorgeous interpretation of the tender melody from Mandyck. Both tunes draw strong reference to Johnson’s resume as a composer, with melody fragments that seem to be suspended in time. Every note Mandyck plays on “Pause” could be referred to as “the melody.” Much like Coltrane’s “Naima,” the melody itself is so spiritually bound, that any interpretation must in itself possess an essence of beauty that can rival that of the source. Mandyck’s playing fits that description perfectly.
The tandem of Johnson and Bishop has been well established in the groundbreaking trios of Hal Galper, Jessica Williams and Chano Dominguez, to name but a few. Both have a performance resume that includes dozens of tours and hundreds of albums. That special connection is truly “the enabler” on Trapeze.
Over the course of 30 years of friendship and of playing music together, much is revealed. Scenes, always seems to find a new and unique destination every time in the studio. It as well translates night to night on the bandstand. The addition of Mandyck is in fact, no addition at all. That sound has always been in the air.
“That was the sound that we always envisioned ourselves being. We just went through 20 years of wandering off in some other directions, doing different things. I think that connection with Rick just feels like home,” says Bishop. – Paul Rauch
In a day and age when social and personal narratives pervade the jazz recording medium, it is a welcoming feeling to experience a recording of superb jazz musicians playing music in the moment the way it’s supposed to be played—for the people.
For his spring 2020 quartet release Trumpet Ship (Origin, 2020), Seattle-based trumpeter Thomas Marriott has summoned a powerhouse quartet that hits hard from the outset and never lets up. He has convened a band that shares his ferocity of approach, stretching the boundaries, while respecting tradition of modern jazz music. While many recent releases have been attached to some sort of conception, Marriott focuses the music on the fellowship that accompanies friendship and community. To continue reading click this linkhttps://www.allaboutjazz.com/trumpet-ship-thomas-marriott-origin-records__30386.php
Attempts to characterize the music of Barcelona-born pianist Marina Albero seem to get lost in the details. She is not an artist who found herself within a passion for a particular form. That her music is the sum of her life experiences would be a factual description that would nonetheless fall short, given the far reaching, culturally diverse, and wildly meandering path that has occupied her first forty years. To continue reading, click this linkhttps://www.allaboutjazz.com/a-life-soundtrack-marina-albero-self-produced
Jazz has always carried with it a social narrative with historical ebbs and flows reliant on the polarizing issues of its time. With Immigrant Nation (OA2, 2019), Portland based trumpeter Charlie Porter embraces the forever narrative of American immigration, the historical force of humanity that has formed and enriched this country from its beginnings. The linear timeline of American immigration that widened at the beginning of the twentieth century has narrowed due to the gut wrenching actions of the current administration, providing much artistic impetus to inspire a much needed reaction from the jazz community. Porter follows through with a view and statement from the collective lens of the musicians on this session. Much like Max Roach’s We Insist! (Candid, 1960), concerning the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, and Roxy Coss’ modern narrative piece, The Future is Female (Posi- Tone, 2018), Porter surrounds the listener with a social narrative that is rich musically, and open-ended poetically. To continue reading, follow this linkhttps://www.allaboutjazz.com/immigration-nation-charlie-porter-oa2-records
Son Cubano is a genre of music and dance originating from the hill country of eastern Cuba during the 19th century. Its origins are a blend of African and Spanish influences. Son vocal style and meter are of Spanish tradition, while its identifiable clave rhythm, call and response, and percussive elements are of Bantu origin.
Over the past century, the form has evolved, spreading its influence as the music was performed internationally by touring musicians. It manifested itself in the jazz world in New York in the 1960’s with the advent of salsa music. Son became the main form utilized in jam sessions known as descargas, incorporating tres, cuatro, trumpets, percussion, and piano. Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit, 1996), a brilliant documentary film and album release from American musician Ry Cooder, helped popularize this form of pre-revolution Cuban music to audiences in the United States and Europe.
Kiki Valera is a Cuban cuatro master, formerly the director of one of the most influential bands in the history of Son Cubano-La Familia Valera Miranda. He currently resides in Seattle, and has released an album of twelve original compositions by Francisco Jose Freeman and Valera, Vivencias en Clave Cubana (Origin, 2019) on the highly regarded Origin Records label. To continue reading, click this link-https://www.allaboutjazz.com/vivencias-en-clave-cubana-kiki-valera-origin-records
Before the tech revolution that has ushered in an era of unprecedented growth and global recognition, the city of Seattle was a bit of an outpost in the world of jazz. Since the 1920s, the city has enjoyed a vibrant and innovative jazz scene, often resulting in local musicians backing major international touring artists. The emerald city has spawned such renowned jazz icons as Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Larry Coryell and Ernestine Anderson as well.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, bassist Chuck Deardorf was often on call to perform with touring artists at the city’s vaunted jazz spots, Parnell’s and Jazz Alley. Major artists such as Kenny Burrell, Chet Baker, Larry Coryell, and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson would be the fortunate recipients of his solid sense of time, marvelous articulation, and innovative solo work. To continue reading, follow this link:
Trumpeter Thomas Marriott has established his jazz credentials over the years through a collection of beautifully inspired and well received albums on the Origin Records label. His formidable chops, extensive vocabulary, respect for tradition and penchant for musical adventurism has put him into the conversation concerning the top practitioners of his instrument in modern times. Marriott has the rare ability to look deeply into the matter at hand, whether it be through interpretation of classic repertoire, or performing his deeply reflective and emotive original compositions. To continue reading, follow this link
CD Review: Jay Thomas with The Oliver Groenewald Newnet- I Always Knew
Jay Thomas has lived the jazz life. He has endured, overcome, and continued to artistically thrive through all the ruminations of a path chosen by few. While much of his life may form a parallel story to those of many, Thomas’ version, his personal adjunct to its litany, is a story of artistic triumph that opened doors seldom walked through. It is a musical legacy in Seattle, unmatched in the colorful history of jazz in his hometown, documented by a number of recordings on several small labels. He as well is among the few musicians in jazz to be featured on both trumpet and saxophone, and in his case, play them both with virtuosity. His skills are as well applied fondly to the flute, and clarinet. To continue reading, follow this link. https://www.allaboutjazz.com/i-always-knew-jay-thomas-with-the-oliver-groenewald-newnet-origin-records-review-by-paul-rauch.php
Pianist Randy Halberstadt has a new record on Origin, after an eight year hiatus from the studio. It features many of the top names in Seattle jazz, including Mark Taylor, Ben Thomas, Jay Thomas, David Marriott, Jr., and Chuck Deardorf. Read the review and buy the CD!
Seattle based pianist Randy Halberstadt has been a major figure on the jazz scene in the Pacific Northwest for several decades, applying his talents as a pianist, composer, educator, and author. He has four previous releases as a leader, most recently with Flash Point (Origin, 2010). So yes, it has been some time since we last heard from the multidimensional pianist…..to continue reading, follow this link:https://www.allaboutjazz.com/open-heart-randy-halberstadt-origin-records-review-by-paul-rauch.php
Once, maybe twice in a generation, a singer enters the world of jazz and captivates the genre so dominated by jazz instrumentalists. There are qualities in the voice, delivery, the exquisite phrasing, and inexhaustible ability to deliver a narrative in such a way that expresses the jazz and blues tradition in a special and personal way. Johnaye Kendrick is one of those singers. Upon graduating from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, then sequestered at Loyola University in New Orleans, Kendrick was hired by trumpeter Nicholas Payton, who remarked, “Johnaye has the potential to be a vocalist of the highest order, the likes of which we have seen seldom since the grande dames of the golden era of jazz roamed the earth. She’s got it!” Continue reading here-
Seattle based Origin Records has released the debut recording of Korean born pianist Bongwool Lee. A young classical piano prodigy in her native Korea, Lee gravitated to jazz, and offers a unique sound and approach to jazz composition and improvisation.
Much has been written about the different creative processes engaged between classical and jazz musicians, more specifically, as applied to the collective worlds of jazz and classical piano. New York based pianist Bongwool Lee has an intimate relationship with these perceived differences. Born and raised in Seoul, Korea, she was exposed by her parents to a variety of music at a very early age, winning her country’s acclaimed Samik Competition at age seven. Considered a prodigy in the classical world, Lee’s focus shifted to jazz upon hearing Oscar Peterson on the radio. After graduating as a music major from Dongduk Women’s University, she relocated to New York City, where she engaged in jazz studies at the Manhattan School of Music earning a Master’s degree. More importantly, she engaged in and began to flourish on the heralded jazz scene in Gotham. Continue reading here
Chamber 3 began as a trio effort started by German guitarist Christian Eckert, and Seattle based drummer Matt Jorgensen, who forged a friendship while studying at the New School in New York in the early nineties. Over the years, they engaged in many projects and tours together, culminating in this project that includes German tenor saxophonist Steffen Weber. The band added a fourth member in the person of Seattle bassist Phil Sparks for their last release, Grassroots (OA2, 2017), and returns the same lineup for the new Origin release, Transatlantic (OA2, 2018).
Seattle based pianist Bill Anschell has created a tremendous body of work over the past 30 years, as a composer, musical director, and pianist. He returned to Seattle in 2002 after 25 years abroad and formed a relationship with Origin Records, releasing more than a dozen records both as a leader and co-leader. Whether composing and performing original pieces, or interpreting standards ranging from Cole Porter to Lennon/McCartney, Anschell has consistently upheld a rare standard of excellence.
Anschell’s musical personality can perhaps be best experienced within the confines of Tula’s Jazz Club, an intimate jazz spot in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. He typically performs with two separate combos, a quartet that performs his own works, and a standards trio featuring trailblazing bassist Jeff Johnson, and wonderfully talented drummer D’Vonne Lewis. The trio has been performing on and off since 2007, and have achieved an intuitive, almost telepathic musical relationship that produces moments only attained through the one-mindedness of the piano trio format. They perform in the area of 80 standards, never play from a set list, and are subject to the momentary whims of Anschell’s inventive curiosity. At long last, the trio has released a definitive collection of standards aptly titled Shifting Standards on the Origin label. To continue reading, please follow this link-
Review by Andrew Freund
Multikulti jazz is hardly a new phenomenon, but here is a group that speaks in a collective voice that is brave and sly and remarkably its own. Issue #1, the debut recording of the genre-bending, all-strings Trio Tritticali, offers us music so fresh, assured, and unique, to register as a delightful surprise.
Trio Tritticali is the joint project of three virtuosi, Helen Yee, a Yale-trained wide-ranging violin dynamo (and throat singer), Leanne Darling, a violist with particular affinities for Arabic music and electronic looping, and Loren Kiyoshi Dempster, a University of Washington-trained cellist of “world music” sympathies, who also plays the didgeridoo, sometimes in tandem with his father, the UW trombone guru, Stuart Dempster. That such iconoclasts choose to so subsume their strong individual identities to a unified group sound is remarkable.
Strings-only jazz, an outlier to American tradition, originated overseas (with the thirties Django/Grappelli chug-chug-chug Quintet of the Hot Club of France), so little wonder at this New York-based group’s name, or musical globe-hopping. But, while forging a complicated identity, outdistancing previous categories, Tritticali is a unit that was gigging together for four years before recording, and by now their playing displays the unity of purpose of the finest string quartets. Their sound is comfortable, organic, cohesive, and insidiously thrilling.
Pardon the pun, but Trio Tritticali finds no need to be high-strung. They dig in, certainly, and don’t stint on passion, but on their own chosen terms. How refreshing – a new recording that answers mostly to itself. Over and over, they display absolute mutual trust and unity of purpose. Their arrangements are surprisingly complex, time-defyingly pensive here, propulsive or gamboling there, moments that prove that they have learned their Philip Glass lessons.
Trio Tritticali is both daring and conversational, a fascinating combination. They traffic in sensual release, but in the context of formal restraint. Their CD matches band originals and arrangements to Jobim’s Corcovado and Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments, visiting Argentine tango and keening Near Eastern mysteries, along with evocations of traditional Japan and other ports of call. Sometimes redolent of the hippest of salons, the music finds time to swing, while telling one
overall, sly, knowing story.
Throughout Issue #1, there is an ongoing sense that the listener is being invited to share a passel of musical secrets, many with implications that only reveal themselves over time. So, as a trio of stringed companions explore old traditions along new pathways, this is an invitation I would advise the world to accept.
via Greg Sinibaldi:
I’m happy to announce the release of my newest record, Ascendant, on the Prefecture Music label.
Ascendant was recorded in the Dan Harpole Cistern with my good friend, clarinetist Jesse Canterbury. The Cistern is a unique space; a two-million gallon cylindrical concrete tank, originally constructed as an emergency water supply for fire control at Fort Warden in Port Townsend, WA. It has a 45 second reverb, which makes the acoustic qualities of this record truly unique. The album features compositions by myself and Jesse as well as a few improvisations, for two bass clarinets, saxophone and clarinet. It sounds awesome!
Additionally, you can get this record on an actual record! Vinyl baby! For only $12.50 you can buy a limited edition vinyl copy of the album. When you buy, you’ll also get a high resolution digital download of the music too, for all your iPod/computer/phone needs.
Don’t have a turntable? No problem, you can download the record in a number of digital formats, for whatever you want to pay for it!
Head to http://prefecturemusic.org/ for more information and links to get the record! I hope you enjoy it!
from All About Jazz:
Bassist Jeff Johnson traveled the United States from the 1970s until 1990. He followed the work during his time of transience, and played an array of styles, from R&B to country, from blues to pop, and jazz. Then he put his suitcase down in Seattle and evolved into something of a house bassist for Origin Records, backing pianists Jessica Williams and Hal Galper, saxophonist Mark Taylor, vocalists Carrie Wicks and Jeff Baker, drummer John Bishop, and many more.
For his own recordings, he favors a free jazz approach and the trio—saxophone, bass and drums. His trio, with saxophonist Han Teuber’s smooth, fluid sound in the center, is spacious and cool, a sort of West Coast Zen music. But on Suitcase, Johnson adds a pianist into the fold for the first time since 2001’s Art of Falling (Origin Records).
The quartet’s chemistry is remarkable. While Johnson has been playing and recording with Teuber for more than twenty years, pianist Steve Moore and drummer Eric Eagle are newcomers who have lent a new dimension to the bassist’s sound. Moore, in this setting, is very effectively stingy with the notes he plays, placing them perfectly in this flexible, chamber music-like ensemble; and Eagle is a master of percussive subtlety who has no problem laying on a bit of muscle when the situation calls for it. And it calls for it on Johnson’s “Scene West,” and “Soweto Man, where the bassist leads the group deep into the groove.
With the exception of the disc’s opener, “Shake it Off,” an in-the-moment, four-way improvisation, all the tunes are from Johnson’s pen, written during his “twenty years of wandering” around the country, following the jobs. “Avion” features Teuber on bass clarinet, contributing a smooth, deep tone to a tune that floats, untethered in a cloud- drift mode. “Kiwi” is a rather jaunty, light-stepping waltz and “Artist” has a brooding, late night mood, with Teuber at his most beautiful.
“Letters for Marcy,” written for the special lady in Johnson’s life, is a gorgeous, tender love song, with Johnson singing the woman’s praises in the most poignant of fashions on his Fender Jazz bass, before Teuber blows in like an intimate whisper. The band closes with “Soweto Man,” with Teuber’s alto flute layered over a steady dance beat, wrapping up Johnson’s finest recording to date.
from All About Jazz.com
Chad McCullough, with one CD under his own name—the outstanding Dark Wood, Dark Water (Origin Records, 2009)—has also contributed his distinctive voice to recordings by the Kora Band and Tunnel Six, all under the Origin Records banners. But the Seattle-based trumpeter must have a European sensibility; his finest work to date has been in teaming, as co-leader, with artists from the other side of the Atlantic—Slavakian pianist Michal Vanoucek, on The Sky Cries (Origin Records, 2010), and Antwerp-based pianist Bram Weijters, on Imaginary Sketches (Origin Records, 2011), and now, again with Weijters, on what could be a breakout effort for both players, Urban Nightingale.
Recordings that are tagged “breakouts” aren’t necessarily way better than the efforts that preceded them. It’s more a matter of the output reaching a critical mass of sustained excellence that pushes the music to a level where it gains greater notice. A re-visitation of McCullough’s previous CDs as leader or co-leader reveals a well-developed artist who is smart enough to pick great sidemen starting out with his Dark Wood, Dark Water debut. He is a rare instrumentalist who makes each note sound as if it were imbued with a deeper meaning. Certainly a player with great chops, his approach—especially on his two teamings with Weijters—is one that is a measured and deliberate, often introspective, sometimes gorgeously melancholic, and one that employs a continuity of mood and atmosphere that the best recordings have.
That said, Weijters is, perhaps, more responsible for the concepts of their two CDs together. His is the dominant songwriting voice, having penned five tunes to McCullough’s two on Imaginary Sketches and seven tunes to McCullough’s two on Urban Nightingale. His piano playing has a distinctively searching quality, and he has added to his arsenal (or at least brought it into play since Imaginary Sketches) the Fender Rhodes, which he uses to give some of the tunes a gritty, urban atmosphere.
Inside the sound is the perfect, understated bass pulse of Piet Verbist and subtle percussive intricacies of drummer John Bishop the super sideman in the drum chair for Origin Records, also the label’s honcho, and one of the finest CD cover art designers in jazz, rounding out the quartet on an outstanding set of sounds.
Track Listing: Nightingale; Residu; Freezing; Love Song; Flow; Tired and Dizzy; Buildings in a Dark City; Phrygian; Downtime.
Personnel: Chad McCullogh: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bram Weijters: piano, Fender Rhodes; Piet Verbist: bass; John Bishop: drums.
from All About Jazz.com
Origin Arts bassist Jon Hamar effects an intimate trio with alto saxophonist Todd DelGiudice and pianist Geoffrey Keezer on Hymn. Heard most recently, prior to this date, on Richard Cole‘s Inner Mission (Origin Records, 2007), Hamar’s Hymn is heavy on introspective yet muscular originals, as Hamar also chooses some sturdy standards upon which to improvise.
Hamar closes is disc with a swinging reading of Lew Brown’s “Comes Love.” Keezer rolls his fingers just right in the introduction, preparing the way for Hamar to state the melody down low, with piquant accents by DelGiudice. The song is played as an insinuation. Each instrument is responsible for keeping the others between the lines at different times, and each instrument makes every effort to color outside those lines. Keezer tries to foil Hamar’s walking bass, and Hamar hands it right back to him in his solo. DelGiudice takes advantage of the situation, running away in his solo, looking for the spirit of Johnny Hodges.
Personnel: Jon Hamer: bass; todd DelGiudice: alto saxophone; Geoffrey Keezer: keyboards
The three players who now call themselves Human Spirit—drummer Matt Jorgensen, trumpeter Thomas Marriott and alto saxophonist Mark Taylor—have a very successful track record of recording together. They teamed up on Jorgensen’s magnificent Tattooed by Passion (2010) and Another Morning (2008), and on Marriott’s strange and splendid Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson (2008) and Flexicon (2009), all on Seattle’s Origin Records. But the idea of the group’s name came certainly from Marriott’s Human Spirit (Origin Records), teaming the trio with organist Gary Versace for one of 2011’s most dynamic and modern-sounding recordings.
Dialogue finds the group—with special guests sitting in on piano and bass—in a live setting at the Earshot Jazz Festival, and sounding very spirited indeed. Jorgensen, Marriott and Taylor have a special genius for for taking the standard jazz quintet—sax, trumpet and rhythm section—and breathing new life into the format. The distinct ensemble sound comes, in part, from the melding of Taylor’s tart tone, with its “lemonade a couple of teaspoons short on the sugar” tang blending with Marriott’s clean, pure timbre. A vibrant simpatico rises up, whether the horn men are playing unison lines or interweaving long notes, leading to always-inspired soloing. Jorgensen, in the drum chair, channels tumultuous grooves and—as the best of the best drummers seem to do (like the late Paul Motian, and Al Foster)—makes everyone sound better, as he subtly boosts the music and catches the ear with the unexpected.
Dialogue‘s tunes are all originals: two by Jorgensen; two from Taylor; and four from perhaps nominal leader Marriott. It’s a live show, and the energy level is high, with mostly up-tempo workouts and lots of fire. And the special guests are inspired choices, as they’ve always been with Human Spirit—whether, as on previous recordings, it was guitarist Corey Christiansen and keyboardist Ryan Burns, or bassists Geoff Harper, Dave Captein or Jeff Johnson. The guest slots on Dialogue go to pianist Orrin Evans, who plays with percussive gusto, and bassist Essiet Essiet, who supplies a solid foundation for the horns’ soaring free flights.
Human Spirit offers up high wire jazz quintet sound with Dialogue, an outing that takes a standard lineup and shifts it into a different dimension.
Track Listing: In Unity; Stepford and Son; Reversal of Fortune; Song for Samuel; After Hours; 148 Lexington; Pelham Gardens.
Personnel: Thomas Marriott: trumpet; Mark Taylor: alto saxophone; Matt Jorgensen: drums; Orrin Evans: piano; Essiet Essiet: bass.
from All About Jazz:
In the twilight days of the compact disc as a sound storage device, the most compelling reason for keeping what still seems a “new” audio media (compared to wax cylinders and 78s) in the face of purely electronic media is “concept” or “thematic” releases. One such example was drummer Todd Bishop’s Pop Art 4 album, 69 Annee Erotique (Origin Records, 2009). This excellent release surveyed the music of French pop artist Serge Gainsbourg, music with popularity in Europe, little heard in the United States. Bishop used this collection of music as a vehicle for novel arrangements and improvisation, turning it into a more than familiar period sound and thereby achieving greater New World exposure for one of France’s greatest artists.
Bishop has picked another enigmatic subject in Ornette Coleman, assembling a collection of never before covered compositions (save for “Lonely Woman”). Coleman’s enigma extends to the disc’s title, Little Played Little Bird. The “Little Played” represents the songs from Coleman’s book that are rarely covered. Coleman was never called “Little Bird” like Sonny Stitt or Frank Morgan, but the association could not have been clearer. As it turns out, the name Ornette literally means “Little Eagle” or “Little Bird” in Old English. Bishop does with this repertoire what he did with the Gainsbourg material; he refracts it through the prism of his experience, making something new and vital.
The music selected by Bishop covers 1959—”Lonely Woman” from The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic)—to 1987—”Feet Music” from In All Languages (Caravan of Dreams). The band Bishop assembled to perform this rarified music is notable for the lack of an alto saxophone. Instead, Bishop heads up a quintet made up of Hristo Vitchev’s pianist Weber Iago, bass reeds player Richard Cole, tenor and soprano saxophonist Tim Willcox, and bassist Bill Athens. In contrast to much of Coleman’s work, Bishop’s inclusion of Iago on piano lends a greater harmonic depth, and therefore, a foundation to these ruminative compositions.
Bishop’s performances plumb the freedom inspired by Coleman while placing the composer’s song in a postmodern light. Most notably, the plaintive alto wail that is the hallmark of “Lonely Woman” is conspicuously absent, the underlying theme presented instead by Willcox on tenor and Cole cleverly on bass clarinet. Iago plays nervous, percussive dances in the background. Iago’s use of the Wurlitzer on “Friends and Neighbors” and “Country Town Blues” is very effective. For a collection based on music where the piano is anathema, Iago discharges himself admirably on both keyboards. The leader provides that vibe essential to the Coleman sound—that controlled chaos that so permeated post bop in the wake of John Coltrane’s classic quartet and Miles Davis’s second great quintet—freewheeling and solid.
Track Listing: Mothers of the Veil; Enfant; Feet Music; Comme Il Faut; Friends and Neighbors; Check Up; Country and Town Blues; Lonely Woman; Strange As It Seems.
Personnel: Richard Cole: bass clarinet, baritone, tenor and soprano saxophones; Tim Willcox: tenor and soprano saxophones; Weber Iago: piano, Wurlitzer; Bill Athens: bass; Todd Bishop: drums.