CD Reviews


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.



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.



Ryan Keberle’s outstanding group Catharsis has won wide acclaim in recent years for its superb ensemble work, commitment to collective improvisation and strong political stance. In this feature review, Thomas Cunniffe reviews the band’s latest disc, alongside albums led by two members of Catharsis’ front line, Scott Robinson and Camila Meza.



The challenge for singers to find unique repertoire is not new, but with new jazz vocalists debuting every week, the repertoire challenge is as important as ever. Thomas Cunniffe reviews new CDs by Claire Martin, Judy Wexler, Hilary Gardner and Rosana Eckert which find solutions to this continuing issue.



All three of the albums covered in this issue’s Instrumental CD Reviews are led by bassists, but they are also tied together in their focus on compositions by the leaders and well-regarded masters. Thomas Cunniffe examines albums by Jay Anderson, Mark Dresser and Linda May Han Oh.


Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue

This month’s vocal CD reviews spotlight four remarkable singers–two who have been reviewed here before (Sara Serpa and Elisabeth Lohninger), and two others who are new to our pages (Alyssa Allgood and Maggie Herron). Reviewer Thomas Cunniffe is eager to note that the adjectives in the review title are not intended as descriptions of each disc in turn, but a collection of qualities shared throughout the group.

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Standards, Old and New

Many of today’s jazz vocalists strive to find unique repertoire. This month’s Vocal CD Reviews spotlights three singers with their own solutions to the problem. Catherine Russell and Ann Hampton Callaway both explore classic songs written before 1950, with notably different results, while Cyrille Aimée transforms the music of Stephen Sondheim. Thomas Cunniffe notes the strengths of each album.

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Keyboard Heritage

The twin concepts of personal and stylistic heritage is examined and celebrated in this month’s Instrumental CD Reviews. Ehud Asherie performs music from several different jazz eras on “Wild Man Blues”, Benny Green celebrates his mentors on “Then and Now”, Stu Mindeman explores the indigenous music of Chile on “Woven Threads” and Kenny Werner adds his artistry to the long tradition of solo pianists on “The Space”. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the four CDs.

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Adoration of the Lyric

Lyrics are a central focus of the singers featured in this month’s vocal reviews. Drawing on an extensive legacy of singers like Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee and Ray Charles, these singers interpret songs in ways that emphasize important words in the song. Thomas Cunniffe reviews new CDs from Michelle Lordi, Hilary Gardner, Stacey Kent and Cheryl Bentyne, which cover a wide range of lyric complexity.

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Gary Smulyan: “Smul’s Paradise” (Capri 74113)

Other than Ronnie Cuber’s recordings with Dr. Lonnie Smith, there haven’t been many organ combos featuring baritone sax. But Gary Smulyan’s album Smul’s Paradise shows that the big horn works perfectly in that setting. Thomas Cunniffe offers his thoughts on the CD.

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Charlie Haden Quartet West: “Sophisticated Ladies” (EmArcy 15347)

Charlie Haden’s romantic Quartet West returns after an 11-year recording hiatus with Sophisticated Ladies, a ballad collection featuring six of today’s top jazz vocalists. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the results.

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Brad Goode: Polytonal Jam Session

While trumpeter Brad Goode is well-versed in many jazz styles, he is most interested in progressive jazz. For the past two decades, he has developed a harmonic theory that involves stacking dissonant chords on top of each other. In this feature review, Thomas Cunniffe explains Goode’s theories and reviews two albums that feature the polytonal style.

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Celebrating Bob Dorough and COTA

COTA is an active jazz support group headquartered in the Pocono Mountains 75 miles west of New York City. The combination of its picturesque location and the region’s avid jazz fans has attracted several musicians to the area. Bob Dorough has been part of the COTA family for years, and his new CD of Duets is a fundraiser for the organization. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the all-star disc.

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Distinctive Voices

Anyone who wishes to become a jazz vocalist must find a way to stand out from the crowd. In this month’s vocal CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe discusses the music of Dee Dee Bridgewater, Lainie Cooke and Joanna Pascale, three women whose sounds differ a great deal, but who all possess a distinctive approach to their music.

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