Tag Archives: standards

THE RIGHT TIME: The GREG RUGGIERO TRIO (MURRAY WALL, STEVE LITTLE) at MEZZROW, October 1, 2018

The three serious-looking fellows below (from left, Murray Wall, string bass; Steve Little, drums; Greg Ruggiero, guitar) make wonderful music.  Greg’s new trio CD, IT’S ABOUT TIME, gentle explorations of great standards, is proof enough (read more here).

From left. Murray Wall, string bass; Steve Little, drums; Greg Ruggiero, guitar. Photograph by Gabriele Donati.

To celebrate the new CD, Greg, Steve, and Murray had a lovely session at Mezzrow (163 West Tenth Street, New York City) on October 1 of this year.  As befits a trio’s numerology, here are three selections showing the compact unhurried lyricism this group creates.  They know how to swing, how to leave space, how to play pretty, to create phrases to ring in the air: masters of their sonorous craft.

GONE WITH THE WIND:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

I’VE GROWN ACCUSTOMED TO HER FACE:

We could easily grow accustomed to this trio.

May your happiness increase!

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NOT ONLY BUT ALSO: ROBERTA PIKET, “WEST COAST TRIO”

When I taught freshman composition, some of my best students had grown up speaking a language not English.  They were often far more perceptive than the local talent whose radius of exploration was fifty miles. But the “ESL” crew occasionally had trouble with English idioms that native speakers take for granted.  One, memorably, was “not only but also,” and perhaps its apparent negation becoming affirmation was too much to digest at first.

While I was listening to pianist-composer Roberta Piket’s new CD, WEST COAST TRIO, the expression came back as a perfect way to describe her work, a great compliment.

If you don’t know Roberta’s work, you will want to scamper ahead to the video to hear it; she is also, not surprisingly, quietly eloquent about how she perceives what she does, and where she’s come from: here is a recent interview.

But to the music: in a landscape of artists who equate modernism with abstraction, Roberta always remembers that the heart of music is song, so her work, even when she is exploring, is always melodic and soulful, free from cliche, welcoming us in.  And whatever meter or tempo she chooses, her music has the pulse of a heartbeat.  To some, swinging improvisation is no longer relevant.  From the first measures of MENTOR, the first song on the disc, I was bobbing my head: for me, very good evidence of enjoyment.  The result can be innovative or technically sophisticated, but it’s mobile and warm, never chilly.

Here is the behind-the-scenes look at the session, extremely valuable because not only does it provide a tasting menu of the music, but also we see and hear Roberta speaking about it:

and here you can listen to longer samples of the music, download it, or purchase the actual disc — the last of which I recommend because Thirteenth Note Records’ products are superb, and Bob Bernotas’ liner notes equally so.

One of the other things to love about this CD is it shows off Roberta’s wide range of musical affections: standards by Legrand, Rodgers, and Donaldson (MY BUDDY is aimed right at our hearts), compositions by Shearing, Corea, Hicks, and two originals by Roberta.  Beautiful recorded sound and beautiful playing by Joe La Barbera, drums; Darek Olszkiewicz, string bass, with telling cameo appearances by Larry Koonse, guitar; Billy Mintz, drums.  There’s great variety: some performances seem dreamy, musing; others are superb dance music.

When I’d played the disc the first time, I wanted to hear it again.  You will, too.

May your happiness increase!

THE GREAT AMERICAN JAZZBOOK: ROB ADKINS, EVAN ARNTZEN, DAN BLOCK, CHRIS FLORY at FRAUNCES TAVERN (May 7, 2016)

Fraunces TavernHere is the first part of a delightful Saturday afternoon of music performed at Fraunces Tavern by the Garden Party Quartet: this version being Rob Adkins, string bass; Chris Flory, guitar; Evan Arntzen, clarinet, alto saxophone, vocal; Dan Block, clarinet, tenor saxophone, on May 7, 2016.  Four more delicious performances follow below.

People who fear jazz — it makes them skittish — often say that they can’t recognize the melody.  For them (and for us) here are four standards, played and sung with loving swinging reverence by this melodic quartet.  You’ll hear the work of Hoagy Carmichael, Sidney Arodin; Alex Hill, Bob Williams, Claude Hopkins; Cole Porter; Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler.  And I daresay that the composers and lyricists would be pleased with the results.  You decide.

YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME:

LAZY RIVER:

I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING:

Yes.  The real thing.  The good stuff.  Out there in public, too.

May your happiness increase!

WARM TRANSLUCENCE: ANDY BROWN, SOLO JAZZ GUITAR

Andy Brown Soloist

Andy Brown knows and embodies the simple truth.  It’s not how many notes you can play: it’s how you convey feeling with those notes.

For some time, the guitar has been the most popular instrument on the planet. Many guitarists aspire to blazing technique that causes the fretboard to burst into flames.  If you like to blame people, you can blame Hendrix, Bird, or even Django, masters who suggested to the unwary that the way to be even better was to be faster, more densely aggressive.

I come from a different school, having heard Charlie Christian, Teddy Bunn, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Mary Osborne, George Barnes, George Van Eps and others early in my development. I cherish deep simplicities, not fireworks. That is why I have delighted in the playing of Andy Brown and am especially entranced by his most recent CD, plainly named SOLOIST (Delmark Records).

Andy Brown makes music, first and always.  His music woos the ear and the brain but lodges deep in the heart.  You shouldn’t get the wrong idea about him from my somewhat reactionary description: he is no primitive, rejecting technique because he has none.  On the contrary, he can play quickly, elaborately, and dramatically when the music calls for it.  The most mature players know that the greatest displays of technique involve restraint, subtlety, and breathing space.  Andy understands this, and what you hear is a relaxed lyricism where every note counts.  He is a melodic improviser, someone in love with beautiful warm sounds, not trying to impress listeners with outlandish dramatic spectacle.

Andy sounds like himself, but if I were pressed to say what ancestral heroes his playing suggests, they wouldn’t be guitarists.  Rather, I think this CD would have made Bobby Hackett, Ruby Braff, and Count Basie grin, for its understated singing grace, its beaming pleasure in music-making.

Time for a sample? Make yourself comfortable and savor these varied performances — beginning with luminous solos, then moving to collaborations with Howard Alden, Petra van Nuis, Jeannie Lambert, the cats at the Chautauqua Jazz Party, and even Barbra Streisand.  (Don’t be disconcerted that on the Streisand video — taken from a television appearance — the words “INSIDE DEATH ROW” appear bottom right.  No hidden messages here.)

Here you can hear brief audio samples from the CD.

Andy’s idols are many — he explains all that in his delightfully understated liner notes — but this isn’t a homage to any one guitarist.  It isn’t a disc where the artist reproduces and then elaborates on an influential album or set of recordings.

SOLOIST is a love letter to beautiful songs played with affection and swing, and it is easy to listen to without being Easy Listening.  It would impress any harmonically-astute guitar whiz but it could also embrace someone who knew nothing about substitute chords.  And although most of the songs are “standards,” they are played as if they were just written. Their melodies shine through; they swing.

And — unlike many solo guitar recordings I’ve heard — the sound is plain, unaltered, but gorgeously warm.  I see that the engineer is Scott Steinman — we are no relation — and he has done a lovely job.  And all I can say is that when I began listening to this disc, I delighted in it from first to last and then it seemed the most natural thing to start it up again.  You will feel similarly.

SOLOIST is a lovely recording, and an accurate record of the music of someone I admire, having heard him in person.

Andy writes in his notes that he simply began to play in the recording studio as he would on a gig. That should give any motivated person in the Chicago area a good idea: see Mr. Brown live and buy several copies of the CD from him.

May your happiness increase!

GIANCARLO MAZZÙ and LUCIANO TROJA, JAZZ STORYTELLERS in NEW YORK

If virtue and fame went hand in hand, Giancarlo Mazzù (guitar) Luciano Troja (piano) would be much better known worldwide, for they are masters of play — of playful improvising that respects the original melody, harmonic structure, and rhythmic impulses while at the same time exploring, experimenting, and inquiring within and without.

Here’s a sample of their enthusiastic, graceful music — improvisations on ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE, recorded in London in June 2012:

I first encountered and admired this duo about four years ago, when I was sent a copy of their CD — SEVEN TALES ABOUT STANDARDS — to review for CADENCE.  

Here’s some of what I wrote:  The duets between guitarist Mazzu and pianist Troja made me sit up straight in my chair.  Inventive, probing, and winding lines are traded back and forth with lightness and wit.  I would have thought that “Bye Bye Blackbird” had long since flown off, but this CD shows that there’s life in it.  I was occasionally reminded of Jimmy Rowles and Joe Pass, but these players are outstandingly adventurous, intertwining yet never overriding one another.  This CD duet should be required listening for improvisers of all persuasions.

You can hear more of their inspired music here.

But even better: you can see Giancarlo and Luciano improvise soulfully in person in New York City on Monday, April 29, 2013 — a concert beginning at 6 PM at New York University’s Casa Italiana, 24 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011.  It’s free and open to the public.  Details here.

May your happiness increase.

ROSWELL RUDD’S NEW PROJECT: BEAUTIFUL STANDARDS

Roswell Rudd — eminent jazz trombonist and composer — might seem an unusual figure to be in JAZZ LIVES, but he has deep roots: early work in Eli’s Chosen Six, improvising with Steve Lacy, and more.  In fact, Roswell and I have been delving into a period in his life, around 1960, when he played in an Eddie Condon unit that broadcast from the London House in Chicago.  His colleagues?  How about Pee Wee Russell and Johnny Windhurst?  More to come . . .

But right now, I would like to alert you to Roswell’s newest project, TROMBONE FOR LOVERS.  Here’s what he has to say:

Hello Friends, Family, Fans and Music Lovers …

I am writing you with some very exciting news. As of today, I have officially launched a campaign to fund the recording of my next album, a collection of standards entitled “Trombone For Lovers”.

For this project, I am using Kickstarter.com, a well-known website used for raising money for artistic projects of all kinds. Kickstarter’s website explains everything in detail, but basically, it’s a system where sponsors support projects at different levels in return for “rewards.” Among other perks, I am offering up private trombone lessons and live performances in return for your generous donations.

At this time in my life I am particularly interested in the great STANDARDS … Songs we all know that mark moments in our lives. I am currently arranging a number of tunes that are classics of American jazz, folk, roots, gospel, country and soul … Timeless compositions from the likes of Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson. And I promise we’ll have some beautiful surprises for you!

For this album, I will be collaborating with the young producer Ivan Rubenstein-Gillis. We recently worked together on a version of “Feeling Good”, the lead track from my latest CD, “The Incredible Honk”. Things went so well that we want to keep those good feelings going. We will be joined by the dynamic rhythm section of drummer Aaron Comess and bassist Richard Hammond, as well as some wonderful guest singers and instrumentalists from my distinguished list of musical associates. If we raise enough money, I plan to record several tunes with a string section, in lush and full arrangements.

We have set our fundraising goal at $20,000. This will cover the bare bones, essential costs associated with producing the album, including rehearsing the musicians, time in the recording studio, mixing and mastering. However, it goes without saying that the more money we can raise, the greater options we will have, and the more expansive our project ultimately can be.

Please check out my fundraising page which contains many more details about this project. If you have any questions please send me a personal email and I would happy to discuss. Also, please pass this email along to any friends/fans/music lovers who might be interested in helping out!

So many of you have been so supportive of my music over the years.

WITH YOUR HELP, WE CAN MAKE CONTINUE TO MAKE GREAT MUSIC HAPPEN!!!     THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROSITY!!!  I  AM READY TO TACKLE THE STANDARDS!!!

Roswell Rudd

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1554876228/roswell-rudd-records-an-album-of-standards