CD Reviews

Global Singing

This month’s vocal CDs cover music from far and wide. L’Estranges in the Night are a married duet from England whose album features music of French composer Michel Legrand; Austrian singer Elisabeth Lohninger treats Czech audiences to a wide-ranging repertoire on her live album, and Hispanic jazz vocalist Jackie Ryan covers a multitude of genres on her latest recording. Thomas Cunniffe provides his reactions.

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Gonzalo Rubalcaba: “Fe” (“Faith”) (5Pasion 5)

Gonzalo Rubalcaba explores his own faith in a self-released solo piano recording. The album evokes the Santiera religion of Cuba as well as the pianist’s main American influences, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans and John Coltrane. Our Latin jazz specialist, Janine Santana reviews the album.

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H2 Big Band: “You’re It!” (Jazzed Media 1053)

The debut CD of the H2 Big Band, co-led by Al Hood and Dave Hanson, features a wealth of talent and an excellent collections of arrangements by Hanson. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the CD and a concert performance.

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Hailey Niswanger: “The Keeper” (Calmit Productions)

Fresh out of the Berklee College of Music, saxophonist Hailey Niswanger has released her second self-produced album The Keeper. Dedicated to several of her mentors and featuring a band full of Berklee alumni, the album offers splendid examples of this engaging improviser and composer. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the album.

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Contemporary Stylists of the Hammond B-3

The Hammond B-3 organ designates its own subculture in the jazz world. Yet, in the proper hands, it can fit into many different musical environments. Ben Markley reviews a trio of varied albums featuring the organists Pat Bianchi, Tony Monaco and Jared Gold.

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Donald Harrison & Phil Woods: Alto Sax Roundup

Thomas Cunniffe reviews recent releases by two masters of the alto saxophone. Donald Harrison’s This Is Jazz is a surprisingly avant-garde set featuring Ron Carter and Billy Cobham, and Phil Woods performs in a duet setting with Bill Mays on Phil and Bill.

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Conrad Herwig and Marshall Gilkes: No Tailgating Here!

The modern art of the trombone is illustrated in two new releases by veteran Conrad Herwig (Tip of the Sword) and newcomer Marshall Gilkes (Sound Stories). Chris Coulter examines both discs in this CD review.

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In Memoriam

The two vocal CDs reviewed this month memorialize a great musician (and his wife), and an honored son. Karla Harris celebrates the rarely-heard vocal music of Dave & Iola Brubeck, while Chris McNulty offers a heartfelt memorial to her late son, Sam. Thomas Cunniffe gives his reactions to these fine albums.

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While each of the leaders of this month’s instrumental CDs is an accomplished composer/arranger, most of the music presented on their discs are from the pens of other composers. Saxophonist Michael Cox remembers his friend and colleague Mark Flugge on Compassion, Eddie Daniels salutes Egberto Gismondi on Heart of Brazil, Ryan Keberle and Frank Woeste explore a piece by Maurice Ravel on Reverso, and Bobby Sanabria offers a dramatic rewrite of a classic musical in West Side Story Reimagined. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the discs.

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International Flair

This month’s vocal CD reviews take us to Spain, Hungary, Switzerland and Brazil via four superb vocalists who may be not be well-known to American audiences. Thomas Cunniffe introduces you to the music of Carmen Cuesta, Paulinho Garcia, Beat Kaestli and Rozina Pátkai.

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Jacqui Dankworth: “It Happens Quietly” (Specific 14)

The spirit of the late John Dankworth is present throughout It Happens Quietly, the latest CD from his daughter, Jacqui Dankworth. John arranged most of the music on the album, and soloed on one track. In his review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that this import CD is a stunning memorial from daughter to father.

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James Morrison: “Snappy Too!” (Morrison Records 20)

Snappy Too has everything you’d expect from a modern big band album: great arrangements, thrilling ensemble parts and great soloists. In fact, all it’s missing is 15 other people, for this remarkable CD features Jeff Hamilton on drums, and James Morrison on all the other instruments. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the disc.

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Jane Ira Bloom: “Sixteen Sunsets” (Outline 141)

Just over 20 years ago, a quote from astronaut Joseph Allen about traveling through outer space and seeing 16 sunrises and sunsets per day inspired Jane Ira Bloom to write a brilliant piece for improvisers and antiphonal wind ensemble. Today that same quote has inspired a more reflective album from Bloom, an all-ballads CD which reviewer Thomas Cunniffe says unfolds like a well-written story.

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The Jazz Art Song

The art song has been a staple of European and American classical music for two centuries. It’s possible that jazz has found its equivalent in two new albums led by Renee Rosnes and Helen Sung. On each album, the pianist/composers have collaborated with a living, jazz-influenced poet to create song cycles with potent messages and room for improvisation. Thomas Cunniffe compares these stunning new releases in this special CD review.

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