Other Views – November/December 2019

(continued from the November-December issue of Jersey Jazz Magazine)

The songs of Alec Wilder deserve far more attention and exposure than they have received over the years. Some are well-known standards such as “I’ll Be Around, and “While We’re Young.”

by Joe Lang

(continued from the November-December issue of Jersey Jazz Magazine)

The songs of Alec Wilder deserve far more attention and exposure than they have received over the years.  Some are well-known standards such as “I’ll Be Around,
 and “While We’re Young.”  Others like “Blackberry Winter,” ‘It’s So Peaceful in the Country,” “Moon and Sand,” and “A Child Is Born” have garnered more attention than most, but full albums of Wilder’s songs are far too scarce.  SUSANNAH B has now given us a new Wilder collection to enjoy, Girl Gone Wilder! (Self-Produced).  There are 14 tracks, including five of those mentioned above, the exception being “While We’re Young, that include many selections not contained in the most notable prior Wilder collections, those by Marlene VerPlanck, and Jackie and Roy.  Wilder wrote words and music for some selections, while he wrote the words or music only for others.  As you proceed through the program, it is quickly apparent that there are several real gems in his catalog that certainly deserve wider exposure.  Susannah B has a smooth vocal style, and a voice that settles easily on the listener’s ears.  The jazzy arrangements by John Ballinger, who plays guitar on most of the tracks, nicely enhance Susannah B’s vocals.  Kudos go out to Susannah B for taking on the challenge of recording the Wilder material, and doing so effectively and winningly.  (www.susannahb.com)

Just Imagine (Summit – 753) finds the DAVE MILLER TRIO paying tribute to one of his inspirations, George Shearing.  Bassist Chuck Bennett and drummer Bill Belasco join pianist Miller for a 14-song program that offers an overview of the wide range of material that Shearing addressed during his long career covering over 60 years.  From the opening strains of “One for the Woofer” to the closing notes of “Just Imagine,” Miller and his cohorts give a fine example of the kind of joy resulting from three empathetic cats stretching out playing music that reaches them emotionally.  It can be summed up in the title of one of the songs, “A Beautiful Friendship.”  Miller captures the effervescence that was always present in Shearing’s playing, but he makes no attempt to channel Shearing’s style.  Miller is comfortable in his own skin, and with good reason, his playing stands on its own as fine jazz pianism.  (www.summitrecords.com)

There are many jazz fans and musicians who dismiss country music as less than deserving of attention.  Some, however, find that there are many country songs that have strong melody lines worth exploring in a jazz context.  Such a musician is ELLIOTT McCLAIN, a Nashville native, and a jazz pianist who as been blind since birth, but who has been hearing country sounds all his life.  Fusing the two kinds of music was a natural for McClain, and he has released Country (Self-Produced) on which he gives his jazz impressions of 10 tunes like “You Don’t Know Me,” “Everything Is Beautiful,” “Always on My Mind,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “I Still Miss Someone.”  McClain’s approach is to give attention to the melodies, recognizing their country origins, and offer straight ahead improvisations, often with a strong blues influence.  On two tracks, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “The Heart That You Own,” McClain effectively adds his vocal interpretations.  Country is definitely listener friendly.  (elliottmcclain.com/listen)

Moving Mists (Patios Records – 025) is a showcase for the piano eclecticism of LUKE GILLESPIE.  The 10 tracks find Gillespie in various formats from lovely solo takes on “’Round Midnight” and “All the Things You Are” to a septet on his original composition, “This I Dig of Grew,” a tribute to the late pianist Mulgrew Miller. Throughout, Gillespie is complemented by a varying cast of fine players, most of whom have shared time with him on the faculty of the Jazz Studies program at Indiana University.  His sensitive piano accompaniment for Tierney Sutton’s beautiful reading of “Beautiful Love” is a highlight.  This collection shows Gillespie to be a jazz player with wide ranging imagination, and great musicality.  (lukegillespie.com)

Guitarist TOMAS JANZON, originally from Sweden, has been living in New York City since 2010 after many years in Los Angeles, where he was busy playing gigs as well as serving as an educator.  130th & Lennox (Changes Music – 114) is his fifth album as a leader.  Five of the 11 tracks were recorded in Los Angeles with bassist Nedra Wheeler and drummer Donald Dean, while the remaining six selections were recorded in New York with vibist Steve Nelson, bassist Hilliard Greene and drummer Chuck McPherson.  The program is a mix of standards such as “Softly As in a Morning Sunrise,” “Invitation” and “Have You Met Miss Jones;” some jazz tunes, Kenny Dorham’s “Prince Albert,”  “Beatrice” by Sam Rivers,” “Iris” by Wayne Shorter, and “Monk’s Mood” by Thelonious himself; three Janzon originals, and his adaptation of a traditional Swedish song, “The Crystal.”  Janzon has a fertile imagination, and plenty of technique, a combination that is irresistible.  He has surrounded himself with players of similar abilities for a collection that provides satisfying listening, even after repeated plays.  (www.tomasjanzon.com)

Work (Jazzheads – 1235) presents tenor saxophonist RAY BLUE playing a 13-track program filled with his appealing straight ahead approach.  His up-tempo playing is exciting, and his ballad work is sublime.  The basic group along with Blue are Sharp Radway on piano, Jeff Barone on guitar, Essiet Okon Essiet on bass and Steve Johns on drums.  Kirk Lightsey and Benito Gonzalez take the piano chair for two tracks each, while Ron Wilkins adds his trombone on three selections, Belden Bullock is on bass for “Teach Me Tonight,” and Neil Clark is added on percussion for three songs.  If you were told that this album was recorded decades ago, you would not raise your eyebrows.  Blue captures the feeling of the pre-Coltrane tenor approach.  Whether playing standards like “That’s All” or “Teach Me Tonight,” jazz numbers such as “Sweet Emma” or “Amsterdam After Dark,” or grooving on some of his original selections like “Work” or “Attitude,” he brings just the right approach.  Dig this outing from Ray Blue, and your blues will disappear.  (www.jazzheads.com)

Jersey Jazz

The New Jersey Jazz Society (NJJS) is a non-profit organization of business and professional people, musicians, teachers, students and listeners working together for the purpose of advancing jazz music.

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The New Jersey Jazz Society (NJJS) is a non-profit organization of business and professional people, musicians, teachers, students and listeners working together for the purpose of advancing jazz music.