- “Introducing Katie Thiroux” (BassKat 1001)
The number of bassist/vocalists in jazz history is rather small, and the number gets smaller when factoring in how many are women. Thomas Cunniffe introduces us to Katie Thiroux, whose abundant talents are displayed in her newly-released debut CD.
- (Lesser-Known) Tenors Of Our Time
Think of contemporary tenor players and the names of Shorter, Rollins and Lovato come to mind. While these men are true giants, there are many fine tenor saxophonists worthy of greater recognition. Thomas Cunniffe reviews recent releases by three of these lesser-known talents.
- 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.
- Amy Cervini: “Digging Me, Digging You” (Anzic 34)
Blossom Dearie's style was so subtle that it was hard to describe and even harder to imitate. On her new album Digging Me, Digging You, Amy Cervini captures that elusive style. Thomas Cunniffe offers his thoughts on Dearie and Cervini in this CD review.
- Anat Cohen & Joe Lovano: Reinterpreting the Masters
Tribute albums are nothing new in jazz, but recent releases by Anat Cohen and Joe Lovano offer deep insights into the music of Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker, while also giving us prime examples of jazz in the present tense. Thomas Cunniffe reviews Cohen's Clarinetwork and Lovano's Bird Songs.
- Anat Cohen Abraça o Brasil (Anat Cohen Embraces Brazil)
In addition to being one of the best jazz clarinetists today, Anat Cohen is a particularly fine interpreter of Brazilian music. She has made several trips to Brazil over the past two decades, and one of her collaborators says that she plays Brazilian music with a perfect accent. Thomas Cunniffe reviews two new CDs of Brazilian music, which represents her greatest concentration to this unique musical heritage.
- Ann Hampton Callaway LIVE!
There is quite a difference between Ann Hampton Callaway's cool, intimate studio recordings and her extroverted live performances. While no record company has yet recorded and released a disc of Callaway's live jazz shows, two recent releases give a glimpse of Callaway's live persona. Thomas Cunniffe reviews both albums.
- Antonio Adolfo: “Chora Baião” (AAM 703)
Antonio Adolfo is not very well-known outside of Brazil—yet! His new CD, Chora Baião is a tribute to two well-known Brazilian composers, Guinga and Chico Buarque, and our Latin jazz expert Janine Santana feels that this album may be the one to bring Adolfo greater recognition.
- Art of the Duet
Ever since King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton combined forces on a recording of “King Porter Stomp”, jazz musicians have played some of their most intimate performances in the duet format. The past few months have brought several new CDs in this venerable format. Thomas Cunniffe offers capsule reviews of the best new duet releases, including discs by Christian McBride, Ran Blake, Jane Bunnett, Eddie Daniels and Bill Kirchner.
- Balancing Standards and Originals
While most vocal albums include a mix of standard and original compositions, this month's CD reviews focus on how singers Peter Eldridge, Sara Gazarek and Clare Teal, found creative ways to enhance both types of songs. Thomas Cunniffe provides the commentary.
- BASSISTS & COMPOSERS
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.
- Bebop and Beyond
If we place the origin of jazz sometime around 1905 and then place the emergence of bebop around 1945, we find that the music is about 113 years old, and bebop has been part of its language for 73 years—considerably over half of the music’s history. The three albums featured in this month's instrumental CD reviews all owe much of their inspiration to the bebop masters. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the albums by Richie Cole, Christopher Hollyday and Bruce Barth.
- Better With A Band
Jazz began as an ensemble music, and even after soloists took the spotlight, ensembles have played a major role in the music’s development. This month, Thomas Cunniffe explores how modern ensembles like the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, The Cookers and Coalition work together as bands in their latest recordings.
- Big Bands Of Our Time
Perhaps the best answer to the age-old question is that big bands never truly went away. Since their first appearance in the 1920s, big bands have been a constant presence on the jazz scene. In this month's instrumental CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe examines discs of established jazz orchestras led by Christine Jensen, Pete McGuinness and David White.
- 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.
- Bright Vocal Talents
Our vocal CD reviews showcase three remarkable young singers who have mastered the jazz language and could either carry old traditions into the next generation or blaze innovative trails. Thomas Cunniffe discusses impressive new releases by Cyrile Aimée, Gregory Porter and Nicky Schrire.
- California Voices
Southern California may be the land of abundant sunshine and insufficient rain, but it is also the home of one of the most vibrant jazz scenes in the US. This month, Thomas Cunniffe reviews new albums by Denise Donatelli, Mark Christian Miller, Carol Welsman, and Mark Winkler which offer superb musicianship (by both the singers and the instrumentalists) and intriguing programs which include unusual song choices alongside the standards and originals.
- Catching Up 1
Here at the JHO offices, we have an abundance of CDs waiting for review. For the next two months, we are trying to get as many discs reviewed as possible--not only to relieve the overflowing pile of discs, but to qualify them for next month's 2016 Summation. Thomas Cunniffe offers reviews of (fairly) recent discs by Richie Cole, Brandi Disterheft, Monika Herzig and Catherine Russell.
- Catching Up 2
In a continuing effort to relieve the overflowing pile of discs for review, Thomas Cunniffe offers reviews of a tribute to David Baker by the Bloomington (IN) Busulli-Walarab Jazz Orchestra, a brilliant piano trio album led by Frank Kimbrough and an exquisite duet recording by vocalist Kendra Shank and pianist Geoff Keezer.
- CATHARSIS: APART AND TOGETHER
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.
- CD Review Roundup
This month's new CDs include a solo set by Dena DeRose, a live quintet recording by Lewis Nash, an exploration of jazz and Brazilian music by Monday Michiru, an album of originals by the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, a wide-open collection by the Hot Club of Detroit and a tribute to Duke Ellington and his saxophonists by an all-star band led by Mark Masters of the American Jazz Institute. Thomas Cunniffe and Amy Duncan provide the details.
- 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.
- Celebrating the Living
Every year, we lose more of the great jazz masters, and predictably, the tribute albums turn up within the next year. While many of these tribute albums are well-made, they are ultimately too late. This month, Thomas Cunniffe examines three albums which celebrate living musicians, and notes that on two of the CDs, the honorees perform alongside their admiring colleagues.
- Chamber Jazz
The three instrumental CDs reviewed this month by Thomas Cunniffe feature small groups with unusual instrumentation. The Innovations Trio uses trumpet, piano and cello in fresh combinations; Jonathan Moritz' trio of sax, bass and drums rethinks each instrument's role; and the duo of Frank Kimbrough and Scott Robinson spice up their album of improvisations with a wide range of instruments.
- Changing the Tune
A change in repertoire can offer new insights into a musician's artistry, and introduce them to a new set of fans. This month, Thomas Cunniffe examines new albums by vocalists Jacqui Dankworth, Stacey Kent and Tierney Sutton, and discusses how each singer triumphs with the new material.
- 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.
- Charlie Haden/Liberation Music Orchestra: “Time/Life” (Impulse 479 878)
The Liberation Music Orchestra has now outlived its founder, Charlie Haden. Under the leadership of its longtime pianist/arranger Carla Bley, they have recorded a new CD, Time/Life, as a tribute to Haden (who appears on two tracks) and a statement about the world's environmental crisis. Released too late to be included in last month's review of political big band recordings, Thomas Cunniffe contributes an extended CD review.
- Chick Corea/Eddie Gomez/Paul Motian: “Further Explorations” (Concord 33364)
Culled from 24 sets over a two-week stand at New York's Blue Note, the new album by Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian, Further Explorations started out as a tribute to Bill Evans but became an examination of the entire piano trio format. Thomas Cunniffe reviews this stunning double CD.
- Clarinets (Hold the Marmalade)
In the New Orleans, Chicago and Swing Eras, the clarinet was an essential part of any jazz ensemble. But few clarinetists tackled bebop and the instrument lost its dominance in jazz as a solo instrument. The trend may be reversing, with three new clarinet albums released in the past few months. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the new discs by Dave Bennett, Ken Peplowski and Anat Cohen.
The spirit of collaboration is a common thread in this month's vocal CD reviews. Thomas Cunniffe discusses the latest releases by the Caswell Sisters (with Fred Hersch), New York Voices (and the WDR Big Band of Cologne) and Sandy Stewart (with Bill Charlap).
- Combining the Old and New
The three instrumental CDs reviewed this month reveal a strong connection to jazz's past while exploring the outer edges of the music. While trumpeters play a pivotal role on all three of these albums, reviewer Thomas Cunniffe notes that these recordings by Avishai Cohen, Hush Point (with John McNeil) and Ron Miles all have their moments of quiet reflection.
This month's instrumental CD reviews spotlight three musicians equally impressive as composers and performers. Trombonist Marshall Gilkes reunites with the WDR Big Band for “Köln”, Pianist Oded Lev-Ari leads a unique 11-piece ensemble on Threading, and Myra Melford's quintet pay tribute to the late Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano with the suite Snowy Egret. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the compositions and performances.
- 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.
- 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.
All four of the recordings covered in this month's vocal CD reviews feature established singers at an artistic crossroads. Cyrille Aimée's live album catches her group just before they disbanded, while Amy Cervini, Keri Johnsrud and Allegra Levy all explore music new to their discographies. Thomas Cunniffe reviews these superb albums.
- Cyrille Aimée and Friends: “Live at Smalls” (Smalls Live 18)
We first introduced you to vocalist Cyrille Aimée last month on her guest appearance on Doug Munro’s “A Very Gypsy Christmas”. Her solo album, Live at Smalls finds her in a straight-ahead jazz setting, and Thomas Cunniffe reports that her scat singing is on the same high level as her stellar accompanists.
- Dependable Excellence
Jazz fans expect (and receive) great music from certain veteran musicians. That is certainly the case with Jimmy Cobb, Fred Hersch and Sonny Rollins. Thomas Cunniffe reviews three superb new releases from these jazz giants in this month's instrumental CD reviews.
- 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.
- Don Braden/Karl Latham: “Big Fun(k) Live” (Creative Perspective 3001)
Recorded live at Cecil's in West Orange, New Jersey, Big Fun(k) Live is the latest album by saxophonist Don Braden and Karl Latham. Ellen Johnson provides an enthusiastic review, hearing the group's roots in the music of Weather Report, Miles Davis and Grover Washington, Jr.
- 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.
- Donna Wickham: “Myth and Memory” (Gizmo 2)
Vocalist Donna Wickham draws from her vast experiences in jazz, classical, folk and pop music for her debut CD, Myth and Memory. Jazz History Online's newest reviewer, Ellen Johnson, explores this passionate journey into the feminine mystique.
- Dynamics of the Duo
The duo (or duet) remains one of the most venerable formats for jazz performance. The form defies any strict rules, so that the only necessary ingredients are two musicians who want to work together and can share the same jazz language. Thomas Cunniffe reviews two diverse albums from Anat Cohen & Fred Hersch, and Nadje Noordhuis & James Shipp.
- Embracing the Unexpected
Theoretically, surprise should be part of every jazz performance, but this month's instrumental CDs offer plenty. Thomas Cunniffe and Ben Markley offer reviews of a Harry Allen/Scott Hamilton tenor duets that eschews the fever pitch of other such efforts, a rhythmically rich album by Joe Lovano's Us Five and an understated interactive album by Ron Miles, Bill Frisell and Brian Blade.
- Expanding the Repertoire
Discovering new repertoire is an ongoing challenge for jazz musicians, whether they are vocalists or instrumentalists. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the latest albums by vocalists Claudia Acuña, Kellye Gray, Gretchen Parlato and Janis Siegel where they explore music that lays outside of the standard repertoire.
- Finding Common Ground
It has been said that the music of the future will be a combination of different styles, rather than a new form of an established genre. In this month's vocal CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe discusses albums by Dena DeRose, Camila Meza, and Sofia Ribeiro which blend elements of seemingly disparate styles.
- 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.
- For Our Jazz Heroes
This month's instrumental CD reviews are all (in one form or another) tributes to jazz giants. Thomas Cunniffe reviews Marc Cary's salute to his former boss, Abbey Lincoln, Eli Yamin and Evan Christopher's homage to a wealth of jazz heroes, Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway's live performances of Ellington and Hush Point's debut CD which examines the continuum between cool and free jazz.
- Four Jazz Masters
It's been about six years since pianist Renee Rosnes and saxophonist Lew Tabackin released albums under their own names, but each of them has a new disc out, and as Thomas Cunniffe notes in his reviews, both albums were worth the wait. Also reviewed is a collection of 2005 duets by trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and pianist John Taylor. The album was originally issued as a memorial to Wheeler, but by the time of its release, Taylor had also passed away.
- Francisco Mela: “Tree of Life”
On his new CD, Tree of Life, drummer/composer Francisco Mela creates a multicultured musical journey with his band, Cuban Safari, and guest vocalist Esperanza Spalding. The recorded results are explored by our Latin jazz expert, Janine Santana.
- Fred Hersch Trio: “Sunday Night at the Vanguard” (Palmetto 2183)
The live recording sessions for the new Fred Hersch Trio CD Sunday Night at the Vanguard were nearly canceled, until Hersch changed his mind at the group's initial sound check earlier in the week. It's a good thing that he did. The album features the astounding music primarily created during a single set at the storied Greenwich Village club. Thomas Cunniffe's feature review focuses on the ensemble work of this extraordinary trio.
- Fred Hersch: “Alone at the Vanguard” (Palmetto 2147)
After Fred Hersch lapsed into an AIDS-related coma in 2009, many in the jazz community feared he would not survive it. Thankfully, he emerged with renewed strength and creative spirit. His CD, Alone at the Vanguard was recorded shortly after his illness and reviewer Thomas Cunniffe calls it one of Hersch's finest recordings.
- Friends and Family
This month--without planning it--all of our featured CDs share the theme of family and community. Thomas Cunniffe and Amy Duncan review five albums by the Clayton Brothers, Brandi Disterheft, Diego Figueiredo, Eric Person and Houston Person that feature or salute family members, reunite longtime friends, or share the communion of faith.
- From 1 to 11
The above title is not a reference to Spinal Tap’s amplifiers. Rather, it designates the size of the ensembles featured in this month’s Instrumental CD Reviews. Thomas Cunniffe reviews these fine new albums by Fred Hersch, Bill Charlap, Annie Booth, and Josh Nelson.
- 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.
- Genre Blenders
The mixing of jazz with other genres is nothing new. Louis Armstrong's majestic solo finales have been linked to Italian opera, Django Reinhardt freely borrowed from gypsy music, and the entire movements of Third Stream and fusion were based on the combination of styles. This month, Thomas Cunniffe reviews the latest recordings of three vocalists who create new composites of existing genres.
- Gentlemen Songsters
Male jazz vocalists are a rare commodity these days, but performers like Kurt Elling, Allan Harris and John Proulx enhance jazz with their unique approaches to the music. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the latest albums from these fine gentlemen of song.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- JAZZ IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 (December 2020)
In a continuing series, Jazz History Online devotes its CD Review section to discs issued during the pandemic. Thomas Cunniffe reviews 6 discs this time, including Dave Douglas' "Overcome", Fred Hersch's "Songs from Home", Carla Marciano's "Psychosis", The Royal Bopsters' "Party of Four", Matt Wilson's "Hug!" and Martin Wind's "White Noise".
- 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.
- JAZZ IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 (September 2020)
In a continuing series, Jazz History Online devotes its CD Review section to discs issued during the pandemic. Thomas Cunniffe reviews 8 discs this time, including "Artemis", Dena DeRose's "Ode to the Road", Dave Douglas' "Dizzy Atmosphere", Sarah Elgeti's "Dawn Comes Quietly", Brian Landrus' "For Now", Allegra Levy's "Lose My Number", Maria Schneider's "Data Lords" & Kenny Washington's "What's the Hurry".
- Jazz Pianists: Emerging and Established
Jazz piano covers a multitude of styles and sounds. This month, Ben Markley reviews recent albums by the intense and poetic Dan Cray, the classically-trained and Latin-influenced Ari Erev, the powerful and creative Orrin Evans, and the exuberant and passionate Arturo O'Farrill.
- Jeff Hamilton Trio: “Red Sparkle” (Capri 74114)
A few decades ago, every young drummer dreamed of having a drum set finished in red sparkle. Jeff Hamilton was lucky enough to have one, and his memories of playing that set are so vivid that he calls the musical highlights of his life “red sparkle moments”. Red Sparkle is also the name of Hamilton's latest album, and in his review, Thomas Cunniffe notes that the album is a superb addition to the Hamilton trio's discography.
- Joe Locke: Interpreter and Composer
Vibraphonist Joe Locke’s fame has grown considerably over the last five years through a series of recordings on the Motéma label. However, he has been known as a “musician’s musician” since he first appeared on the New York scene in the early 1980s. Thomas Cunniffe reviews two new albums, scheduled to be released within the same week, which offer further evidence of his flexibility.
- José Rizo’s “Mongorama” (Saungú 3)
Mongo Santamaria was one of the giants of Latin jazz. In a new CD called Mongorama, producer José Rizo and a star-studded band of musicians pay tribute to the master. Our Latin jazz specialist, Janine Santana reviews the recording.
- Karrin Allyson: “Round Midnight” (Concord Jazz 32662)
Round Midnight is the latest concept album from vocalist/pianist Karrin Allyson. This collection of intimate ballads features a great variety of songs, but nothing compared to Allyson's live repertoire. A CD and concert review by Thomas Cunniffe.
- Kate McGarry: “Girl Talk” (Palmetto 2152)
In her new album, Girl Talk, Kate McGarry refreshes an old concept (a tribute to great female jazz singers) with insightful recastings of classic songs. Thomas Cunniffe offers his reactions to the disc in this CD review.
- 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.
- Late Night Vocals
This month's vocal releases seem tailored for late-night listening. Cyrille Aimée’s Let's Get Lost tells the story of a relationship through songs in English, Spanish and French, Stacey Kent's Tenderly is an intimate recital of standards featuring Roberto Menescal, and Jenny Maybee's collaboration with trumpeter Nick Phillips, Haiku is an intriguing and moody collection of original pieces and jazz classics. Thomas Cunniffe dims the lights as he reviews these three fine recordings.
- Leading from the Rhythm Section
In earlier eras, jazz bassists and drummers had few opportunities to lead their own groups. Thankfully, those days are long gone, and in this month's instrumental CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe listens to three new albums by Mark Dresser, Tom Kennedy and Jack Mouse which offer a wide range of musical approaches and styles.
- Love…and Other Subjects
While only one of the albums featured in this month's vocal CD reviews is entirely devoted to the subject of love, all four discs touch upon the topic. Thomas Cunniffe comments on new albums by Camille Bertault, Alexis Cole, Kate McGarry and Norma Winstone.
- Me & You: More Duos
Jazz duos offer a format where cooperation and communication are found in their purest form, and where each musician has the responsibility to make his partner sound good. By the same token, each musician must retain his own individuality and find places in his partner’s style where a dynamic interaction can take place. Thomas Cunniffe reviews three new duo albums in this CD review.
- Memories and Memorials
The words memory and memorial come from the same root, but they hold different connotations. In this month's instrumental CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe examines how these concepts are contrasted and combined in albums by saxophonists Jimmy Greene, Houston Person and Dayna Stephens.
- Mostly Ballads
Archie Shepp once said Ballads are the biggest challenge. You can hear every minute of every hour of every year a guy has put in on his horn with a ballad. Many musicians find one or two formulaic ways to handle ballads, but they must find several approaches when they plan an album with several love songs. In this CD review, Thomas Cunniffe examines how Michael Cunningham, Bill Kirchner, and Houston Person create variety within ballads-heavy programs
- 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.
- NEW SONGS: DISCOVERED & CREATED
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.
- New York (Jazz) Giants
Not all of the giants in New York play at the Meadowlands. Indeed, most of the giants heard in this month's instrumental CD reviews are most likely to be found at Manhattan's many nightspots. The range of the music, including Anat Cohen's Brazilian ensemble, Ryan Truesdell's Gil Evans Project, and the straight-ahead groups led by Steve Turre and Ben Wolfe display some of the styles played in the Big Apple. Thomas Cunniffe reviews these four remarkable new albums.
- New York City Piano
As Billy Joel's song has it, New York City is as much a place as it is a state of mind. This month, Thomas Cunniffe reviews new albums by three outstanding (and considerably different) pianists from the Big Apple: Bill Charlap, Steve Kuhn and Leslie Pintchik.
- Old and New Songs
Our vocal CD reviews cover music by three generations of singers. Emilie Weibel's Omoo is an intriguing collection of sonic tableaus, Jackie Allen performs an arresting collection of standards, original and pop tunes on My Favorite Color, and Barbara Morrison, Ernie Andrews and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra play a rollicking concert on LA Treasures Project. All three discs are reviewed by Thomas Cunniffe.
- 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.
- One For The Men
Female jazz vocalists have always outnumbered male jazz singers by a considerable margin, and if anything, the situation has become worse over the past few years. So with all due respect to the ladies, here are Thomas Cunniffe's reviews of albums by three outstanding male vocalists: Michael Dees, Kurt Elling and Ku-umba Frank Lacy.
- Original Songs
The three vocal CDs reviewed this month feature an abundance of original compositions. Gabriel Espinosa and Hendrik Meurkens lead an international ensemble on a celebration of Brazilian music, Samba Little Samba, Lauren Hooker sings an autobiographical song cycle on All For You, My Heart and Soul, and the duo of Judi Silvano and Michael Abene perform daring improvisations from compositional sketches on My Dance. Thomas Cunniffe examines the music.
Jazz compositions have been around almost as long as jazz improvisers. While improvisation is rightly considered as an essential component of jazz, soloing without some sort of pre-arranged structure would be little more than strings of meaningless notes. In this essay review, Thomas Cunniffe examines new recordings by Lynne Arriale, Leslie Pintchik, Renee Rosnes and Martin Wind, where each leader provides their stellar musicians with inspiring repertoire.
- Oscar Perez: “Afropean Affair” (Chandra 8094)
The latest CD from pianist Oscar Perez features a commissioned three-movement work that fuses African, European and indigineous musics into a unified whole. Our Latin jazz expert Janine Santana offers her thoughts on the disc.
- Pablo Aslan: “Piazzolla in Brooklyn” (Soundbrush 1023)
Astor Piazzolla's one attempt to fuse the rhythms of tango and jazz resulted in one of his least successful albums. Now, Pablo Aslan has gone back to that recording and created a contemporary fusion of the two styles. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the new album, Piazzolla in Brooklyn.
- Past, Present…and Future?
Twenty-five years in the music business can either make several changes to an artist's approach, or it can leave the artist pursuing the same style that brought them original acclaim. Kellye Gray's new double CD Rendering combines her debut disc with new versions of the same songs. Thomas Cunniffe contemplates the changes in Gray's style, and compares them to new albums by Diana Krall and Jazzmeia Horn.
- Personal Tributes
Tribute albums can come in many forms. Despite its title, Jane Ira Bloom's new CD, Early Americans actually celebrates her current trio. Roberta Piket pays homage to her mentor Marian McPartland with lovely sextet arrangements of McPartland's compositions on One for Marian. Matt Wilson gathers the members of his various groups in a lively memorial to his wife Felicia on Beginning of a Memory. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the discs.
- Piano Artistry
The piano is capable of a wide range of expression, and the piano CD reviewed this month display three different approaches to the instrument. Yelena Eckemoff leads a quartet of Norwegian jazz musicians through an original program of meditative pieces on Everblue, Benny Green and his trio enliven their audience with joyous swing on Live in Santa Cruz and Fred Hersch plays a concert of romantic ballads and energetic originals on Solo. Thomas Cunniffe offers his thoughts in this month's CD Reviews.
- Piano Tributes
Because jazz is learned through listening to recordings of established masters and/or in-person mentoring from great musicians, the debt to our forebearers is quite significant. This month, Thomas Cunniffe reviews three new tributes from pianists Alex Conde, Jean-Michel Pilc and Justin Kauflin.
The five instrumental albums reviewed this month are all led by pianists, but the groups they front range in size from duet to big band. Amy Duncan, a talented pianist in her own right, gives the rundowns on these noteworthy recordings by Cecilia Coleman, Satoko Fujii, Fred Hersch and Donald Vega.
- Poetic Jazz
In addition to being brilliant poets, Emily Dickinson and Carl Sandburg shared a deep appreciation for music. Dickinson was an amateur pianist and reportedly, a skilled improviser in the classical sense; Sandburg was a jazz fan, and an avid performer of American folk songs. In their latest albums, Jane ira Bloom and Matt Wilson celebrate Dickinson and Sandburg respectively, using stunning mixtures of poetry and music. Thomas Cunniffe spotlights both albums in this Sidetracks essay review.
- Politics and the American Jazz Orchestra
With a historically divisive presidential campaign now in its final weeks, politics seeps into everything, even big band jazz. Thomas Cunniffe discusses three new recordings with roots in politics and world events (and not necessarily Trump vs. Clinton). In his review, Cunniffe predicts that the musical qualities present in these recordings by Delfeayo Marsalis, Ted Nash and Darcy James Argue will survive long past the current political cycle.
- Primarily Instrumental
This month's CD review section focuses on instrumentalists, both veterans and newcomers. Thomas Cunniffe gives his impressions of the latest releases by Ed Cherry, Caroline Davis, Joe Gilman and Toots Thielemans.
- Redefining Standards
Albums of standards are usually rather predictable affairs, but within the span of a week, three new vocal albums offer dramatically re-imagined versions of classic repertoire. Thomas Cunniffe reviews these new albums by Elizabeth Shepherd, Diana Krall and Kurt Elling.
Two of the jazz world's best-known vocal groups returned to the recording studio after prolonged absences. Manhattan Transfer's The Junction, produced by Mervyn Warren, offers the first recordings of Trist Curless as official replacement for the late Tim Hauser, while New York Voices collaborate with the Bob Mintzer on Meeting of Minds, presenting the vocalists as an additional section of the band. Thomas Cunniffe reviews both in this CD review extra.
- 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.
- Reminiscing in Tempo
Memory links the three instrumental albums reviewed this month. Geri Allen, Fred Hersch (with Julian Lage) and Joe Lovano (with Gil Goldstein and the Brussels Jazz Orchestra) all perform compositions written or inspired by their idols, mentors and collaborators. Thomas Cunniffe reviews these three fine CDs.
- Return Engagements
All four of the singers reviewed in this month's vocal CD reviews have been covered in these pages before. Cyrille Aimée, Claire Martin, Tierney Sutton and Roseanna Vitro always bring intriguing and fresh ideas to their recordings, and the present CDs are no exception. Thomas Cunniffe offers details on this fine recordings.
- Returning Champions
While the term returning champion comes from old TV game shows, it also applies to the women featured in this month's vocal CD reviews. All have been featured here before, and all belong in the top echelon of the vocal jazz art. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the incredible new releases of Karrin Allyson, Rachel Caswell, Tessa Souter, Luciana Souza, and Roseanna Vitro.
- Revisited and Renewed
For this month's Instrumental CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe explores the debut and follow-up releases of two remarkable groups: John Beasley's Monk'estra. and Dave Douglas' Riverside. Beasley's group offers stunning big band versions of classic Thelonious Monk compositions, while the quartet Riverside explores music stemming from the Jimmy Giuffre 3 and Ornette Coleman Quartet.
- Robert Glasper & Esperanza Spalding: “The Elements of Style”
Released three weeks apart, the new albums by Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding make a concerted effort to blend elements of pop music and jazz. Thomas Cunniffe reviews both albums, noting that each artist has a unique way of mixing the styles.
- Roseanna Vitro: “The Music of Randy Newman” (Motéma 63)
Roseanna Vitro, one of the most versatile jazz vocalists working today, explores the music of Randy Newman. A CD and concert review by Thomas Cunniffe.
- Ryan Truesdell: “Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans” (ArtistShare 114)
Released to coincide with Gil Evans' 100th birthday, Ryan Truesdell's new album Centennial features ten previously unrecorded works by the iconic composer/arranger. Chris Coulter reviews both the album and a recent concert performance at the Jazz Standard in New York.
- Sammy Figueroa: “Urban Nature” (Senator 1001)
After years of being a respected first-call sideman, percussionist Sammy Figueroa has become a leader. His new CD, Urban Nature features compositions by pianist Silvano Monasterios and bassist Gabriel Vivas. Janine Santana reviews the disc.
- Saxophone Heritage
The three saxophonists featured in this month's instrumental CD reviews have all found unique ways to explore their heritage. Caroline Davis weaves interviews with original music to trace the history of Chicago jazz from 1980-2000, Matt Parker creates his unique style from a wide range of influences, and Ken Peplowski expands his repertoire with music by Bernard Herrmann, Barry Manilow, Herbie Nichols and Peter Erskine. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the new discs.
- Saxophone Unity and Diversity
Saxophonists can be a combative lot, but it's not always necessary for them to battle to the death. This month's instrumental CD reviews spotlight two new albums which each feature three saxophonists. However, as Thomas Cunniffe notes, the leaders David Berkman and Jerry Granelli take very different approaches in contrasting and uniting their fine saxophonists.
- Saxophones (of the E-flat variety)
Musicians easily recognize the term saxophones of the E-flat variety as a hip way to refer to the alto and baritone saxes (the term refers to the key in which both instruments are pitched). This month, Thomas Cunniffe reviews five new albums which feature alto or baritone saxophonists. Included are CDs led by Steve Slagle, Miguel Zenón and Gary Smulyan, along with co-operatively led dates by Ingrid and Christine Jensen and Hush Point (with Jeremy Udden).
- Saxophonists with Style
Through the generations of jazz history, the tenor saxophone has been the instrument most associated with the music. Thomas Cunniffe reviews new releases by three generations of tenor men: Benn Clatworthy, Ravi Coltrane and Brandon Wright.
- Silvano Monasterios: “Unconditional” (Savant 2111)
Venezuelan pianist Silvano Monasterios first album for Savant features musical portraits of those most important to him, ranging from his father to his dog! Janine Santana offers her reactions to the disc.
- Singing a New Song
The Great American Songbook has been—and will likely remain—a prime source of material for jazz singers. Yet many vocalists strive to find fresh repertoire that works within a jazz context. In this month's vocal CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe introduces us to Hilary Gardner, Julie Kelly and Júlia Karosi, whose new discs all feature a wide range of songs.
- Sittin’ In
The latest CDs by pianists Jeremy Siskind and Harold Mabern feature a plethora of guest vocalists. Such loaded rosters may cause some observers to claim that the artists and record companies are trying to boost the commercial appeal of the albums. However, our reviewer Thomas Cunniffe feels that the vocalists help fulfill the artistic goals of the leaders and that the casual nature of the albums belie any accusations of commercialism.
- Solo Flights
Performing solo can be both liberating and challenging for a jazz musician. Yet solo performances tend to expose new dimensions of a player's identity. This month, Ben Markley focuses his attention on new solo releases by guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and pianists John Medeski and Frederick Moyer.
- 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.
- Some Nice Things We’ve Missed
Jazz History Online receives several promotional CDs every month, and due to our limited resources, we aren't able to review every notable album in the month of its release. Thomas Cunniffe reviews three superb recordings by Tom Harrell, Geoff Keezer and Frank Potenza, all released in the last 6 months and just too good to leave on the shelf.
- Songs for Any Taste
All of the singers featured in this month's vocal CD reviews have been spotlighted in these pages before. The newest releases from Theo Bleckmann, and the groups Double Bass Double Voice (with Emily Braden and Nancy Harms) and Duchess (with Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou) offer a wide variety of songs and styles. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the discs.
- Sonny Rollins: “Road Shows” (Vol. 2) (Doxy/EmArcy 15949)
Sonny Rollins has released another spectacular collection of live performances, this time covering a month-long period in September and October of 2010. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the CD, noting that in the mere ordering of tracks, Rollins the producer has enhanced the performance of Rollins the saxophonist.
- Sophisticated Ladies
Standards are part of every jazz vocalist's repertoire, and the three women featured in this month's vocal CD reviews all share deep love and knowledge of the standard repertoire. Thomas Cunniffe discusses an autobiographical CD by Cat Conner, a soulful recital with B3 organ by Nancy Kelly, and a direct-to-2-track recording by Melissa Stylianou.
- Spreading Their Wings
In this month's vocal CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe discusses new albums by three supremely gifted young singers. Rose Ellis offers one of the most impressive debut CDs in recent memory with Like Songs, Like Moons, Alllegra Levy presents a light-hearted approach to relationship issues in Cities Between Us, and Rozina Patkai sings a stunning collection of songs in four languages on Paraiso na Terra.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stefon Harris/David Sánchez/Christian Scott: “Ninety Miles” (Concord Picante 32904)
It is only ninety miles between the Florida Keys and Havana, yet the ideological and political differences between the US and Cuba seem much wider. The Ninety Miles project attempts to bridge the gap through music. The resulting CD/DVD with American and Cuban musicians playing side by side is reviewed by Janine Santana.
For some jazz singers, telling a story through a song's lyrics is a primary goal. The three vocalists covered in this month's vocal reviews, newcomer Cécile McLorin Salvant , and veterans Carline Ray and Marlene VerPlanck, all share this ideal. Their latest discs are evaluated by Thomas Cunniffe.
- Straight Ahead!
Swing is a less important factor in the jazz of today, but that doesn't mean that swing is dead. In this month's instrumental CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe examines a quartet of new discs by musicians of several generations that shows the validity of straight-ahead jazz.
- Swingle Singers: “Weather To Fly” (World Village 450025)
The Swingle Singers are currently celebrating their golden anniversary with worldwide concerts and a pair of new recordings. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the first of these two albums, which captures the group in transition (with a change in the bass section) and offers recordings of the group's current repertoire.
- Teaching By Example
For this month's vocal CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe examines the recordings of several singers who balance teaching and performing. The music of Janice Borla, Rebecca DuMaine, and the group Vertical Voices covers an impressive range of styles, and through their exceptional performances, they prove that they can practice what they teach.
- Ted Rosenthal and Kenny Werner: Pianists with Standards
In addition to their prowess as jazz pianists, Ted Rosenthal and Kenny Werner are both skilled vocal accompanists. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the latest instrumental albums by both men, each of which offers unique approaches to standard repertoire.
- Tenors of our Time
Each of the three tenor saxophonists featured in this month's instrumental CD reviews have found ways to redefine classic jazz traditions. Geof Bradfield develops the music of folk singers Leadbelly and Blind Willie Johnson, while Jon Irabagon challenges our concept of straight-ahead jazz, and Kirsten Edkins delves into Blue Note and cool grooves with a unique concept of rhythm. Thomas Cunniffe gives his opinions of these three discs.
- Terell Stafford: “This Side of Strayhorn” (MaxJazz 408)
The music of Billy Strayhorn gets a fresh and surprising makeover in the latest CD from trumpeter Terell Stafford. Thomas Cunniffe offers his comments on the disc.
- Terri Lyne Carrington: “The Mosaic Project” (Concord 33016)
The Mosaic Project, Terri Lyne Carrington's latest CD offers a variety of styles (some coexisting in the same track) performed by an all-star--and all-woman--ensemble. Thomas Cunniffe offers his impressions in this CD review.
- The Art of the Composer/Pianist
Jazz composition is a unique art. Rather than creating a piece of music completely from start to finish, jazz composers must leave room for others to improvise and realize the score. This month, Thomas Cunniffe reviews CDs by three composer-pianists who have found their voices within the small-group format.
- The Delicate Balance
Jazz musicians pride themselves about being ahead of most audiences, but they must offer some sort of gateway to their music if they expect listeners to follow them on their musical journeys. In this month's vocal CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe explores new recordings by Kendra Shank and Sara Serpa that successfully strike the delicate balance between accessibility and progressiveness.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Process and the Product
Boulder pianist Art Lande refers to jazz as a process not a product, meaning that exploration continues on the bandstand long after recording the final accepted take on a CD. Lande plays a central role in the latest albums by vocalists Tina Phillips and Bonnie Lowdermilk. Thomas Cunniffe examines how each singer realizes Lande's theory.
- 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.
- The Quiet Revolution
There’s a lot of screaming happening in our world right now, but sometimes, a whisper can be as effective as a scream. The two albums of protest jazz reviewed here generally make their points without raising dynamics. Thomas Cunniffe examines new recordings by Dominque Eade/Ran Blake and Ryan Keberle's Catharsis.
- The Return of Luciana Souza
Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza has been off the scene for the past 3 years, but she's returning to public performance in a big way, with the simultaneous release of two very different albums, The Book of Chet and Duets III. Thomas Cunniffe reviews both CDs and notes how each illuminates Ms. Souza's unique talents.
- The Singer Within the Band
The promotional material for the latest albums by John Hébert and Mike Holober state that, despite the presence of vocalists on all of the CD's tracks, the disc are not actually vocal albums. In his reviews of the discs, Thomas Cunniffe wonders which categories that these albums fall, especially since vocalists Jen Shyu and Kate McGarry have primary roles in these recordings.
- The Song Book
Over the years, there have been plenty of albums featuring Brazilian music and the music of Duke Ellington, but few have transformed the material as well as Catina DeLuna and Nancy Harms. In this CD review, Thomas Cunniffe discusses how each vocalist has developed this well-worn repertoire through fresh approaches and brilliant arrangements.
- The Spirit of Discovery
One of the reasons that jazz remains a lively art is that its traditions are both strong and flexible. In this month's instrumental CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe explores three artists who have adapted standard album formulas in their own ways without sacrificing either their own integrity or the spirit of the originals.
- The Unpredictable Ran Blake
For progressive jazz singers, performing duets with Ran Blake is both challenging and rewarding. Blake expects a lot from vocalists, including the ability to find their own way through the music without help from the keyboard. However, this method makes the vocal/piano duet a truly equal partnership. Thomas Cunniffe reviews two new duet albums featuring Blake with vocalists Christine Correa and Sara Serpa.
- The Varied Sounds of Jazz
This month's instrumental CD reviews collect a stunning tribute to Hank Mobley by fellow tenor man Eli Degibri, a quintet recording featuring trumpeter Brad Goode and tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts, and a lovely ballad-drenched album with trombonist Steve Turre. Thomas Cunniffe offers his thoughts on these three new releases.
- Tierney Sutton Band: “American Road” (BFM Jazz 302062408)
Now in their 18th year as a cooperative unit, the Tierney Sutton Band has released a new CD, American Road, which captures the breadth of American music, from folk songs to opera. Ellen Johnson reviews this album, which has been nominated for two Grammy awards. .
- Tony Bennett/Bill Charlap: “The Silver Lining” (RPM/Columbia 14574)
While he hasn't always taken the best care of his voice, at 89, Tony Bennett is still at the top of his game. His remarkable new Jerome Kern tribute disc, The Silver Lining (co-led with pianist Bill Charlap) is a virtual master class of fine interpretation and vocal finesse. In this feature review, Thomas Cunniffe describes the many wonders located on this disc.
- Too Good to Leave Behind
Every month, the JHO mailbox is stuffed with more CDs that we can possibly review. In what has become as much of a holiday tradition, here are capsule reviews of worthy vocal and instrumental discs that we couldn't bear to leave on the shelf. Featured artists include Jackie Allen, Randy Brecker, Sara Caswell, Sinne Eeg, Mark Guiliana, Sarah Jerrom, Lauren Kinhan, Dave Liebman, Chuck Owen, Roswell Rudd, Martial Solal, and Fay Victor.
When arrangers set a piece by another composer, they can adapt it in several ways, In this month's instrumental CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe explores how Ben Markley, Mark Masters, Chris Washburne and Tina Raymond have adapted other composers works to create their own artistic statements.
- Tribute Albums with a Difference
In their celebrations of George Gershwin and Bill Evans, pianist Ted Rosenthal and bassist Martin Wind offer tribute albums that present the music in new and surprising ways. According to reviewer Thomas Cunniffe, the surprises start with the instrumentation and get better from there.
- Tributes and Collaborations
Many current jazz albums are either collaborations or tributes, but the four vocal CDs reviewed this month fall into both categories. Judy Niemack and Dan Tepfer's duet disc, Listening to You salutes Lee Konitz, while a bevy of top-name singers take part in The Passion of Charlie Parker. The New York band Swingadelic offers a sampler of Johnny Mercer songs, and Mark Winkler remembers his late husband on The Company I Keep. Thomas Cunniffe offers his thoughts on these recordings.
- Two Reviews from Michael Verity
Former JHO contributor Michael Verity helped us out on this issue by reviewing a pair of new CDs. Rather than mix them in with Thomas Cunniffe's notices, we've given Michael his own spot. He offers his reactions to Jim McNeely's Barefoot Dances and Other Visions and McClenty Hunter's The Groove Hunter.
- Un-easy Listening
The title of this review is not a reflection on the musical quality of the latest albums by Patricia Barber, Mostly Other People Do The Killing and Wayne Shorter; rather, it speaks of the uncompromising attitude that all of these artists share. Thomas Cunniffe offers his reactions in this feature review.
- Vanessa Perea: “Soulful Days” (Zoho 201406)
New Jersey vocalist Vanessa Perea's debut CD, Soulful Days is as remarkable for its understatement as it is for its musicality. This month, JHO reviewer Thomas Cunniffe focuses on this stunning album, and speculates that Perea could become jazz's next major vocalist.
- Various Artists: “Oscar with Love” (Two Lions self-released)
After Oscar Peterson's death, his hand-picked Bösendorfer Imperial Grand piano remained untouched for over five years. A piano technician told his widow, Kelly, this piano should be played, and she invited 17 great jazz pianists to Peterson's home studio to record on the Bösendorfer. The results have been issued on a 3-CD collection titled Oscar with Love, and in this expanded CD review, Thomas Cunniffe notes each performance and expresses hope that more recordings will follow.
- Vocal Diversity
The five vocalists featured in this month's CD reviews offer something for everyone. Alyssa Allgood impresses with her sophomore disc, Exactly Like You, Mark Winkler and Cheryl Bentyne celebrate 1959 in Greenwich Village on 'Eastern Standard Time, Bob Dorough offers quirky takes on well-known songs on But for Now and Judy Niemack collaborates with Jim McNeely and the DR Big Band for a multi-faceted salute to New York. Thomas Cunniffe provides the details.
- Vocal Intimacy
While many singers are very comfortable singing in front of an orchestra or big band, there's something special about working with a small group.The five CDs reviewed this month feature vocalists performing in intimate duos, trios and quartets. Thomas Cunniffe discusses these albums by Karrin Allyson, Laurie Antonioli, Sinne Eeg, Elisabeth Lohninger and the New West Guitar Group (featuring Gretchen Parlato, Sara Gazarek, Peter Eldridge, Becca Stevens and Tierney Sutton)
- Vocal Jazz Roundup
Thomas Cunniffe reviews a cross-section of new vocal jazz albums, including Cheryl Bentyne's Gershwin Songbook, Sachal Vasandani's Hi-Fly, Katchie Cartwright's Tales and Tongues and Brigitte Zarie's Make Room For Me.
- Vocal Jazz Roundup 2
Every month, Jazz History Online receives several new vocal jazz releases. Here are capsule reviews of a half-dozen CDs, contributed by principal writer Thomas Cunniffe and our newest staff member, Stacy Riley.
- Vocal Jazz Roundup 3
This month's vocal jazz reviews cover a wide range of styles and material. Thomas Cunniffe reviews an elegant collection of standards by Tine Bruhn, an adventurous debut from Molly Holm, a suite of music from Black Orpheus featuring Gretchen Parlato and Leny Andrade, and a humorous tribute to hipsters by Ben Sidran.
- Vocal Jazz Roundup 4
This month's vocal jazz reviews include an intimate solo recording by Andy Bey, a tribute to veteran composer Harry Warren by Jay Clayton and a vocal showcase for trombonist Pete McGuinness. Thomas Cunniffe offers capsule reviews of these three fine recordings.
- Vocal Potpourri
Vocalists from all over the globe highlight this month's vocal CD reviews. Swiss vocalist Beat Kaestli offers a wide range of songs on his disc Live in Europe, Australian vocalist and pianist Sarah McKenzie draws from a rich set of vocal and instrumental influences on We Could Be Lovers and from here in the US, Kurt Elling joins Branford Marsalis for a brilliant collaboration on Upward Spiral. Thomas Cunniffe notes the highlights in his reviews.
- Vocalists at the Edge
The spirit of adventure is omnipresent in the latest albums by vocalists Clare Wheeler, Kaylé Brecher, Sara Serpa, Jay Clayton and Andrea Wolper. Thomas Cunniffe explores the fascinating and unpredictable music of these five talented musicians in this month's feature CD review.
- Voices of Experience
The three veteran singers spotlighted in this month's vocal CD reviews bring their wealth of personal and professional experiences to the music. Freddy Cole eclipses the shadow of his famous older brother Nat on the tribute album He Was the King; Barb Jungr offers a salve for the world with Shelter from the Storm, and the late Mark Murphy performs a stunning collection of Miles Davis standards on Live in Athens, Greece. Thomas Cunniffe reviews the discs.
- With A New Voice
One of the greatest challenges for young jazz vocalists is how to stand out among the competition. In this month's vocal CD reviews, Thomas Cunniffe examines the music of Allegra Levy, whose first album is entirely comprised of original love songs written in the form of standards, and Lara Solnicki, whose second album features an eclectic playlist including pieces by Henry Purcell, Maurice Ravel, Jimmie Rowles, Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell.
- Women in Jazz: The Instrumentalists
There are probably more women instrumentalists on the current jazz scene than at any other time in the music's history. Thomas Cunniffe and Amy Duncan offer capsule reviews of new CDs led by Sarah Elgeti, Jessica Jones, Virginia Mayhew, Roberta Piket and Anne Sajdera.
- Women in Jazz: The Vocalists
Jazz is an adventure, and that spirit highlights the music of Sara Gazarek, Carol Saboya, Nicky Schrire, Sara Serpa and Judi Silvano. Thomas Cunniffe and Amy Duncan review the latest albums by these talented vocalists.
- Worth Waiting For
Years ago, jazz musicians would typically release two or three albums a year, but with the current state of the recording industry, new CDs appear much less regularly. The three instrumental albums reviewed this month by Thomas Cunniffe are by artists who have not released albums as leaders or with their usual groups in several years. However, these recordings by Pat Bianchi, Maria Schneider and Terell Stafford were worth the wait.