CD Reviews

JAZZ IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 (May 2020)

The COVID-19 has shut down the world’s economy in short order. For many jazz artists, recorded music is their only source of income. The albums reviewed here are all current releases; most of them were released during the period of nationwide lockdown. These reviews by Thomas Cunniffe will be a continuing feature on Jazz History Online as long as the crisis continues. The current set was adapted from what was to be a standard collection of vocal and piano reviews; the reviews in future issues will encompass all types of instrumental and vocal jazz. JHO has always encouraged its readers to support the musicians by purchasing their CDs. The message could not be more urgent now. If you can afford to help, please do.

More

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

Since the early 1900s, French classical composers and jazz musicians have influenced and inspired one another. Two new recordings examine this unique cross-relationship. “Impressions of Debussy” offers straight performances of Debussy’s Preludes by pianist Lori Sims, followed by jazz interpretations by soprano saxophonist Andrew Rathbun and pianist Jeremy Siskind. “The Melodic Line”, the sophomore release by Reverso–co-led by trombonist Ryan Keberle and pianist Frank Woeste–presents new works inspired by the composers of the French collective Les Six. Thomas Cunniffe reviews both albums in this special CD Review.

More

NEW RECORDINGS FROM VAIL JAZZ PARTY SOLOISTS

Every time Thomas Cunniffe returns home from the Vail Jazz Party, his luggage includes several new CDs featuring the festival artists. This year, it took a little while to gather CDs because some sold out quickly at the party, and other discs will still awaiting release. Here are capsule reviews of newly released albums featuring these superb musicians, many of whom are scheduled to return to Vail this summer.

More

HIS VOICE

The four male vocalists featured in this month’s Vocal CD Reviews have spiced up their new discs with unusual repertoire and unique arrangements. Thomas Cunniffe discusses the newly released music by John Allee, Benny Benack III, Paul Jost and Jay Leonhart.

More

HER VOICE

With an increased presence in today’s jazz scene, more and more female musicians are asserting themselves with projects focusing on personal heroes, historical milestones and contemporary politics. In this CD review, Thomas Cunniffe explores powerful albums by Nancy Harms, Karrin Allyson and Virginia Schenck.

More

THE PROPER COMBINATION

In discovering a unique repertoire, jazz musicians (both instrumentalists and vocalists) must search to find their own proper combination of standard and original material. If the two are not balanced, a musician can be unfairly labeled as either a cover artist or too esoteric. In this month’s Vocal CD Reviews, Thomas Cunniffe examines four self-released discs by artists who are searching for that elusive formula.

More

SOLO PIANO!

Artists of all kinds strive for a direct connection with their audiences (basically, where thoughts move from their mind to yours)_. Until the day when telepathic communication becomes the norm, solo performances are the closest equivalents, with only an instrument, a communication method and our comprehension. In this month’s Instrumental CD Reviews, Thomas Cunniffe discusses three new solo piano recordings where the artist’s emotions and motivations are clearly expressed in their music.

More

FOCUS ON COMPOSITIONS

There is a special challenge inherent in composing for a small jazz ensemble. The composer must leave enough room for improvisation but not stifle his/her own creative impulses. Thomas Cunniffe reviews three new albums primarily comprised of original music which secure that delicate balance. Led by Anat Cohen, Tom Harrell and Skip Wilkins, the discs feature prime examples of progressive jazz compositions.

More

REMINISCING AND RE-EVALUATING

The four albums in this month’s vocal CD reviews feature artists who look backward and forward at the same time. “Somewhere”, the new disc from Peter Eldridge and Kenny Werner sounds like a classic vocalist-with-strings date but most of the music is new. On “Thirsty Ghost”, Sara Gazarek uses an eclectic selection of pop and jazz songs to comment on events from her personal life. Maggie Herron offers fresh interpretations of standards written over a 100-year span on “Renditions”, and the New York Voices’ “Reminiscing in Tempo” finds the group using jazz standards to explore new directions in their musical sphere. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the results.

More

STANDARDS…OF MANY KINDS

The term “standards” can mean different things to different artists. On Holly Cole’s new CD, it refers to the Great American Songbook. Nancy Kelly, Jenna McLean and the Anöna Trio mix pop and jazz standards on their discs, and on the Tierney Sutton Band’s latest release, the term embraces a wide variety of movie music. Thomas Cunniffe reviews all of the above CDs in this month’s Vocal CD Reviews.

More