Todd Bishop Group: Little Played Little Bird

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.

Jazz Times Reviews: Chuck Deardorf, “Transparence”

from Jazz Times Magazine:

Most major American cities (and, for that matter, most European ones) contain a jazz musician who is the default bassist of record. You run into them all over town, in all manner of ensembles, kicking ass and taking names.

In Seattle, Wash., it is Chuck Deardorf. He is known for making other people sound good, not leading his own projects. But Transparence argues that he is also a strong and smart bandleader. Deardorf blends various configurations of the 14 musicians and combines sessions recorded in several places over three years into a coherent album statement with continuity of tone. It is no mean trick. His own voice is the primary unifying factor. He is a quick, clear rhythm-section player and an articulate, interesting soloist on all of his instruments: acoustic, Toucan and Fender freltess basses and acoustic bass guitar.

The roster of 14 includes strong players from Seattle (alto saxophonist Hans Teuber, pianist Jovino Santos Nero, tenor saxophonist Richard Cole) and elsewhere (pianist Bill Mays, guitarists Bruce Forman and Rick Peckham). Most of the ensembles are duos, trios or quartets, and there is a string bias. (Four different guitarists interact with Deardorf’s basses.) On “Alone Togeher,” Forman’s electric guitar and Deardorf’s acoustic bass create resonant blends and suggestive contrasts. The same instrumental combination, with Rick Peckham on guitar, portrays Jobim’s gentle “Zingaro” as something edgy and twangy.

Deardorf makes inspired song choices like “The Peacocks.” The version here is one of the permanent recordings of Jimmy Rowles’ atmospheric masterpiece. Deardorf and Mays and Teuber allow the song to keep its secrets. Together and apart, they just beautifully float with it.

Review: Jeff Johnson, ‘Tall Stranger’

from All About Jazz.com

Bassist Jeff Johnson has built a stellar reputation in jazz circles, having worked with pianists Hal Galper and Jessica Williams and appearing on over two-dozen recordings for the Seattle-based Origin Records. For his fourth release as a leader, Tall Stranger, the Seattle-based Johnson, along with saxophonist Hans Teuber and drummer Billy Mintz, delivers an intriguing set of stripped-down compositions, emphasizing a free-form approach to group improvisation.

The trio converses in a confident, unhurried manner throughout the disc. Teuber’s breathy, warm tone on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet complements Johnson’s deep, woody growl and Mintz’s subdued, contrapuntal approach. Together, the three create musical lines that intertwine and enhance each other’s point of view.

Continue reading at All About Jazz.com.

Click here to buy
Tall Stranger from Origin Records.

Review: Kelley Johnson, Home

Published by blogcritics.org, written by Jordan Richardson

Kelley Johnson emerges from the Seattle rain and casts the sun in the sky with her affectionate vocal tinges and her subtleties.

A jazz vocalist of the highest order, Johnson’s Home is a sincere record that runs the breadth of natural phrasing and stylish intimacy with effortless boldness, providing glimpses of a truly proficient vocalist that will surely find home in several places. Her style belongs both at the kitchen table and at the smoky jazz club, making pitstops the world over in between.

Johnson is as skilled an arranger and lyricist as she is a singer. She infuses her songs with class and her lyrics have a sense of kindness and social justice that is all too rare in the world of jazz.
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Doug Miller CD Review

Doug Miller‘s new CD, Regeneration, was just reviewed on All About Jazz.com.

Miller’s bass playing is featured prominently throughout with arco and pizzicato soloing. It is his unaccompanied bass reading of “Bye Bye Blackbird,” however, that really sums up what his playing is all about: no-nonsense, punchy and swinging. The influence of heavy hitter’s like bassists Ray Brown and John Clayton is made obvious through nicely-phrased blues licks, double stops and chords.

This music is both interesting and fun. Miller and company come across as a strong, like-minded unit.

Click here to read the complete review.

Dawn Clement CD Review

by Andrew Hamlin, Seattle Sound Magazine

Seattle-based jazz pianist and singer Dawn Clement’s back with a new album, Break. I just hope she doesn’t wait another five years between albums. I reviewed Hush, her debut as a leader, back in 2003, remarking that she “eloquently shares space with her bandmates … but her solo excursions show her capable of emulating a whole band, condensing, expanding, and rippling lines on her right side and mining new rhythms on her left.” She’s still all that, but “that” now absorbs and emanates a thicker multiverse.

At the keys she so often, so confidently, sprints up a scale, drops down a few steps like playing hide and seek, and finally pirouettes around the top of the previous figure. She musters an expressive muddle in the middle of “Distant Oasis,” then strides rightly out like a kid through the mud. The opener, Jerome Kern’s “I’ve Told Every Star,” stops and goes through “I Got Rhythm” figures, leaving her pulling and pushing at the time.

Click here to read the full review

Hadley Caliman CD Review

From AllAboutJazz.com by John Barron

Legendary west coast saxophonist Hadley Caliman made his mark by touring and recording with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson and Santana. For Gratitude, his first recording as a leader in three decades, Caliman is joined by vibist Joe Locke, bassist Phil Sparks, drummer Joe LaBarbera and trumpeter Thomas Marriott, who also produced the recording.

The disc opens with Marriott’s “Back For More,” a 6/8 minor blues. The simplistic, captivating theme and energetic groove sets the stage for a session full of unrelenting energy. Well into his seventies, Caliman holds his own with his somewhat younger crew, playing with the confidence and inventiveness of someone half his age. The veteran weaves through the Kurt Weill obscurity “This Is New” with sophisticated playfulness and soars gracefully on his own Afro-Cuban-inspired burner “Comencio.”

“Linda,” Caliman’s meditative tribute to his wife, is reminiscent of John Coltrane’s “Naima” with its hauntingly sparse theme and bass pedal-tones. Locke’s out-of-time floating behind the melody is satisfyingly hypnotic.

Things really start to cook by the time Joe Henderson’s “If” is introduced. Supported by Sparks’ rock-solid walking pulse, Marriott, Caliman and Locke blow through the angular blues form with imaginative vigor, setting up raucous twelve-bar exchanges with LaBarbera. On “Joe Joe Dancer Bossa Nova,” another Caliman original, Marriott tips his hat to Hubbard with crackling lyricism.

Gratitude is an exceptional comeback for an unsung maverick of modern jazz. Hopefully the next one doesn’t take thirty years.

The Stranger Reviews Thomas Marriott’s “Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson”

Seattle newspaper The Stranger has a nice review of Thomas Marriott’s Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson:

I phoned Seattle trumpeter Thomas Marriott with just one question about his latest disc, Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson (Origin): Why Willie Nelson?

As if anticipating my question, Marriott reflected, “In jazz, we have a lexicon of songs—the repertory of standard tunes. Many of them,” he added, “come from movies made in the 1930s. The repertory needs updating.”

It’s rare to see jazz coverage in any of our mainstream media here, so this article is an especially nice nod to both the new and old in Seattle’s jazz scene, also mentioning today’s Buddy Catlett concert.

To read the entire article online, click here, or pick up a print copy today.

CD Review: Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson

By John Barron, All About Jazz.com

Crazy: The Music of Willie Nelson goes above and beyond the confines of mere adulation for an American music icon. Seattle-based trumpeter Thomas Marriott creates a conceptual sonic flow, harnessing energy from the melodic and rhythmic legacy of some of Nelson’s well known and not-so-well-known gems. For the bulk of the session Marriott is supported by a stellar crew of like-minded risk takers, including saxophonist Mark Taylor, keyboardist Ryan Burns, bassist Geoff Harper and drummer Matt Jorgensen.

The disc traverses a musical landscape full of twists and turns, moving ever-so-smoothly from techno- based grooves (“Phases & Stages, Circles & Cycles”), to 1970s-era fusion explorations (“Write Your Own Songs,” “You Wouldn’t Cross the Street”), to straight-ahead blowing (“I’m Building Heartaches”). Tracks like “Everywhere I Go” and “Crazy” are comparatively clear-cut, adhering to the accessible nature of Nelson’s gorgeous melodies.

An emphasis on melody seems to be Marriott’s top priority throughout the disc’s eleven tracks. The trumpeter’s warm-tone and exuberance breathes life into simple, yet sumptuous themes such as “The Great Divide” and “On the Road Again.” An exciting soloist, Marriott’s improvised dueling with Taylor’s soprano saxophone on “I’m Building Heartaches” stands out as a disc highlight.

Jorgensen and Harper keep things grounded while maintaining a loose, open-ended rapport with each groove. Burns snakes his way through the disc with inventive soloing and distorted synth clusters. His out-of- left-field accompaniment on the second half of “Crazy” is worth the price of admission. Guest keyboardist Wayne Horwitz creates an electronic frenzy on the Weather Report-influenced “Write Your Own Songs”—the groove is practically a carbon copy of Joe Zawinul’s “Black Market.”

The music from this session may be hard to categorize, but the same can be said of Nelson. The eclectic nature of the iconic singer/songwriter’s catalogue lends itself surprisingly well to Marriott’s liberal approach.

Click here
to buy this CD

Cuong Vu CD Reviews

Trumpeter Cuong Vu, who is now teaching at the University of Washington in addition to his touring and recording, has two new reviews for his most recent CD, Vu-Tet.

Vu-Tet—an innovative, modernistic, compelling recording, from start to finish—answers the “Why plug in a trumpet?” question convincingly. Outstanding!
Read the full review at All About Jazz.com

With the possible exception of Norway’s Nils Petter Molvaer and Arve Henriksen, there’s simply no other trumpeter on the radar today as innovative in blending extended technique and electronic processing to expand the possibilities of his instrument. Utilizing both to dramatic effect, Vu turns the opening “Intro” into a sonic tour de force that begins atmospherically but gradually intensifies, with Takeishi creating his own layers of sound and Poor playing orchestrally rather than rhythmically.
Read the full review at All About Jazz.com

Listen to samples of Cuong Vu’s new CD on his website:
http://cuongvu.com

CD Review: The Cool Season: An Origin Holiday Collection, Vol. 2

By John Barron
originally published on All About Jazz.com

With no shortage of holiday music blasting through shopping malls and restaurants this time of year, it’s easy to understand why some might want to escape the incessant bombardment of the overdone and out-of-date. If one looks hard enough, however, hope for Christmas music burnout can be found. One place to look is Origin Records’ The Cool Season: An Origin Holiday Collection, Vol. 2. With fresh and swinging vitality, trumpeter Thomas Marriott, pianist Bill Anschell, bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop provide an invigorating alternative to the average holiday fare.

The disc’s selections range from familiar, to somewhat obscure, to brand new—Johnson contributes two original pieces. The strength of the session lies in the creative arranging of household melodies. The Vince Guaraldi classic “Christmas Time Is Here” moves along at a brisk 6/8 pulse, contrasting, yet maintaining the spirit of the original. “The Christmas Song” is re-shaped into a dark-tinged, modal frame for Marriott and Anschell to explore patiently.
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Gail Pettis CD Review

Jazz Times writer and Yakima resident Doug Ramsey recently reviewed vocalist Gail Pettis’ new CD on his blog, Rifftides:

Gail Pettis, May I Come In? (OA2). In her recording debut, the Seattle singer chooses a mixture of familiar standards and less-well-known songs, delivering them with warmth and intelligent interpretation. Pettis concentrates on serving songwriters’ intentions, but her delighted treatment of Jimmy McHugh’s “I Just Found Out About Love” includes one of two scatting episodes in the collection. She scats with musicianly understanding of harmony. There is not a lot of that going around among singers. Pettis gives “Black Coffee” its bluesy due but avoids the affected emotion with which many singers are tempted to smother the song.

In “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face,” bassist Jeff Johnson, with his customary strength and sensitivity, is the singer’s sole accompanist. “We’ve Met Before” is a duet between Pettis and pianist Randy Halberstadt. With this lovely song, Halberstadt may have composed a new standard. He and Johnson are on half of the tracks. On the other half, Darin Clendenin is the pianist, Clipper Anderson the bassist, Pacific Northwest stalwarts in good form, as is Mark Ivester, who plays drums throughout. Pettis keeps her considerable vocal power in reserve, using it with restraint and taste. In the burgeoning population of new singers, she is a standout.

Daniel Barry CD Review

Daniel Barry’s new CD, Walk All Ways (OA2 Records), was recently reviewed at AllAboutJazz.com

“The music this globally borderless chamber-like group makes can sound old world, folk song European one moment—with its sweet, expansive accordion washes dancing with the more succinct violin notes on “Nini’s Dream”—or darkly South American the next, on “La Folia Lando,” that opens with a despondent bass clarinet cry in front of an accordion drone, later joined by the rich cello tone and the low resonance, knock-on-the door sound of the Peruvian cajon behind Barry’s tangy-yet melancholic cornet rumination.”

Read the complete review at:
AllAboutJazz.com