Speaking of buried musical treasures, most of the tunes on pianist Roberta Piket’s sterling tribute album, One For Marian (Thirteenth Note Records), should be more familiar since the legendary Marian McPartland wrote many charming songs with delicate, memorable melodies. As a close friend of McPartland, Piket often commiserated with her over why her music wasn’t played more by other musicians, a situation the pianist intends to correct on this fulfilling record. Working with a sextet highlighted by saxophonists Steve Wilson and Virginia Mayhew, Piket’s arrangements expand essential McPartland tunes like “Ambiance” and “In The Days of Our Love.” Enhanced by her soloists – the band brings both dignity and swing to the compositions – these songs have an ingrained elegance and allow for plenty of musical interplay and cool intensity. Piket’s solos have a warm melodic flow that connects with the sentiment at the core of McPartland’s music. She’s a gifted improviser, especially compelling on her two originals, and masterful bandleader — witness jazz singer Karrin Allyson, who delivers a knockout rendition of “Twilight Time.” “Kaleidoscope” is the closer and a lovely coda, recognizable as the theme music to McPartland’s public radio show, Piano Jazz. Along with One For Marian, it seems appropriate to recommend these recordings by Marian McPartland since all of them are superb – Twilight World (2008), Silent Pool (1997), Live At Shanghai Jazz (2002). (8 tracks; 45 minutes)
A TOP JAZZ RECORDING OF 2014. Bassist Charlie Haden has a thing for piano duets and over the years his recordings with Kenny Barron, John Taylor, Chris Anderson and especially Hank Jones document performances full of magical interplay, but Jasmine (ECM), his 2010 album with pianist Keith Jarrett was something more, transcendent as music and art. Recorded in 2007 in Jarrett’s small home studio, the pianist and Haden didn’t rehearse ahead of time, yet merely discussed song choice, chord changes and such before rolling tape. The process yielded standards and ballads that were deeply and equally felt by the musicians and listeners alike. Continue reading
A TOP JAZZ RECORD OF 2014: Orrin Evans is a true jazz advocate. One of the busiest leaders on the scene, with more than 20 solo albums in his discography along with countless sideman appearances, Evans has a second-to-none work ethic in and around New York as well as his hometown of Philadelphia. An industrious musician with an impetuous streak (despite recognizing the economies of scale, he stated that he “can’t stand the trio format” in a July 2012 Village Voice interview), Evans thinks bigger, refusing to see limitations in presenting jazz or performing it. Pairing once again with Posi-Tone Records, Evans’ sophomore studio recording of his Captain Black Big Band is a particularly satisfying album that challenges the status quo. Leading a big band within today’s economic realities seems to defy reason, but Mother’s Touch marks a magnificent return of the CBBB and it scores in every way imaginable.
Philadelphia-born pianist Eric Reed grew up playing in his father’s storefront Baptist church and was discovered to be a child prodigy at age two. He was steered away from gospel and church music to classical, but dug jazz so much after hearing Art Tatum and Ramsey Lewis that he devoted himself to a different kind of soul music. He recounts in his bio that “I wasn’t interested in practicing Bach; I was too busy digging Horace Silver!” Fast forward to a call from Wynton Marsalis inviting Reed to tour with his band, a gig that lasted from 1990- 1995 and established the pianist as a first-rate player, bandleader and educator as well an artist with more than 25 solo recordings to his credit.
A jazz musician who lists influences as diverse as Muddy Waters, Steve Reich and Green Day is somebody I’d like to hear from and pianist/composer Lisa Hilton doesn’t disappoint, delivering a whiz-bang listening experience on Kaleidoscope, a mostly peaceful album of uncommon pleasure. The California-based bandleader distinguishes her 16th recording with open, airy compositions that are richly lyrical and deliciously ripe for interpretation by a trio that includes bassist Larry Grenadier and the astonishingly inventive drummer, Marcus Gilmore. They dig into an accessible playlist (“When I Fall In Love”) with quiet intensity, especially saxophonist J.D. Allen who guests on three tracks, including the edgy opener, “Simmer.” A tenor player with an admirable solo career, Allen is a majestic player with a big, naturalistic sound you could listen to all day. Hilton has a gifted ear for fresh interlocking melodies (“Sunny Side Up”) and repeated motifs that compels the allegiance of both her band and listeners. Sonically, the recording is superior with a resounding depth due to engineer James Farber and mix by Al Schmidt (Diana Krall). With Hilton at the helm of a Steinway D, all her guys help give her music a glorious presentation. (11 tracks; 50 minutes)