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London-based Ed Cawthorne, better known as Tenderlonious, co-founded the label 22a and also performs with Ruby Rushton and 22a Arkestra.

(Photo: Courtesy of Artist)

At Abbey Road, Tenderlonious Turns Flute into an Emblem of South London Jazz

Ed Cawthorne, better known as Tenderlonious, is an original character on the UK’s genre-bending jazz scene. Raised in an army family, he took up the saxophone at 23 and the…





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The Window

Cécile McLorin Salvant might have been weaned on the great jazz singers, but the vocalist on this sophisticated and adult recital owes more to the orderly emotional measurements of musical…


Open Fields


It’s Alright With Three

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Greg Fishman Quintet

So You Say
(Self Release)

Call it “tenor gladness”: Two bebop devotees with serious street-cred join forces on a joyous romp through 10 straightahead tunes tailor-made for tag-team-style improvisation.

Chicago-based tenor saxophonist Greg Fishman and Los Angeles-based tenor saxophonist Doug Webb wrote all of the material for So You Say, an old-school blowing session recorded with a West Coast rhythm section of pianist Mitch Forman, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Dan Schnelle. Their enthusiasm for the material is palpable as they swagger and zip their way through neatly harmonized, angular heads, only to leap off the page as they embark on extended solos steeped in the bebop vernacular.

These guys have thousands of licks at their disposal, and they know how to use them. Each saxophonist displays an uncanny knack for navigating even the most challenging harmonic turns and twists, as well as the wisdom to know when to burn, when to swing and when to play it cool. Forman is a wellspring of creativity who’s brilliant at spelling out the many nuances of sophisticated chord progressions, and his inspired, bop-informed soloing is on par with the two tenors. There’s no pretense or over-production to take away from the good vibes and simple pleasures on tap here. Not a moment on the album sounds planned: these guys are masters of jumping onboard and enjoying the ride, wherever it leads. Fishman will mark the release of So You Say with a free performance Sept. 11 at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase.

Barre Phillips

End To End
(ECM)

As much as any bassist in jazz—or even anyone on its periphery—California-born Barre Phillips has expanded the language and expectations for his chosen instrument.

He’s played a part in duo bass sessions alongside Dave Holland and organized an ensemble of three bassists and a drummer, in addition to putting together a succession of solo recordings that began in the late ’60s. There’s not time or space to reel off his accomplishments in others’ ensembles.

Phillips’ initial foray into solo bass, alleged to be the first of its kind, was issued under three distinct titles in three separate markets during 1969 and 1970: Journal Violone, Unaccompanied Barre and Basse Barre. Another solo dose of Phillips working over his instrument came on 1983’s Call Me When You Get There. And now, the longtime denizen of Southern France intends End To End to serve as the denouement of his solo bass odyssey.

The ECM release is segmented into “Quest,” “Inner Door” and “Outer Door,” each suites unto themselves, working through melody and bowed textures. Perhaps the most resonant statement is repeated on “Quest, Pt. 4” and “Inner Door, Pt. 4.” Creeping up that second time, Phillips’ reiteration of the progression might inspire some momentary confusion, a sort of déjà vu of the ear. But any listener with the patience for these pieces to unfold and allow themselves to be transported by the power of a single performer’s ability to entertain will find new worlds to explore on subsequent listens.

Rob Dixon Trio

Coast To Crossroads
(Self Release)

Being based at various times throughout his career in Atlanta, New York and Indianapolis likely has strengthened Rob Dixon’s silvery tone on alto and tenor saxophone.

On Coast To Crossroads, an album that deals with the bandleader’s travels, he’s joined by Headhunters’ drummer Mike Clark, guitarist Charlie Hunter and trombonist Ernest Stuart, each contributing a dose of funky congeniality to this 11-track album. Dixon’s previous work with both Clark and Hunter make what already would have been a recording stacked with lustrous moments an even more easy-grooving clutch of music.

“Memphis Bus Stop,” a composition prompted by Dixon’s stopover during a trip from New York to San Antonio, Texas, finds Hunter gently comping on his 7-string guitar, while Dixon and Stuart purr out the tune’s melodic material. It’s a bed of music, gently pushed forward by Clark’s uncomplicated work behind the kit, granting Dixon space to spin his travelogue. The troupe shuttles out to the West Coast on Tupac’s “California Dreaming,” before getting the “Flat Tire Blues” and eventually speeding off at “87 MPH.”

With his work as an educator and role as artistic director of the Indy Jazz Jest, the fact that Dixon finds the time and desire to issue work with this sort of narrative thread and unhurried finesse should show the world that the Midwest has stars of its own.

Spanish Harlem Orchestra

Anniversary
(ArtistShare)

Salsa fans can’t go wrong with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. The Grammy-winning band, which was founded 15 years ago, marks the milestone with its sixth album, the aptly titled Anniversary. Led by pianist, composer and arranger Oscar Hernández, this salsa powerhouse presents a generous, 68-minute program that highlights the compositions of its members, including high-octane, dance-worthy tunes by Hernández and singers Marco Bermúdez, Carlos Cascante and Jeremy Bosch (who also plays flute), as well as conguero George Delgado. The band also offers fresh renditions of three salsa classics: Cheo Feliciano’s “Guaracha Y Bembé,” Ruben Blades’ “Y Deja” and José Alfredo Jiménez’s “La Media Vuelta,” with a Hernández arrangement that showcases three-part vocal harmonies.

Throughout the disc, the emphasis is on the ensemble’s collective sound, but the precise, complex arrangements do allow room for some suburb solos by Hernández (“Goza El Ritmo”), trombonist Doug Beavers (“Yo Te Prometo”) and baritone saxophonist Mitch Frohman (“Dime Tú”). Special guest Randy Brecker injects a muscular trumpet solo into Hernández’s original tune “Somos Uno.” This album is filled with infectious, uptempo music, so Hernández’s arrangement of Osvaldo Farrés’ “Tres Palabras” is a rare breather—a slow tune that will give listeners a moment to catch their breath and grab a beverage before returning to the dance floor.

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra will visit California later this month, with a Sept. 22 performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival and a Sept. 29 set in Los Angeles at Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo’s 5th Annual Latin Jazz & Music Festival.

Vincent Peirani

Night Walker
(ACT)

Just as Béla Fleck has done for the banjo and Grégoire Maret has done for the harmonica, French musician Vincent Peirani has emerged as an important advocate for the accordion. He gloriously illustrates that in the right practitioner’s hands, an instrument can break free of any pigeonholing and be effective in a diverse array of settings. Like Fleck and Maret, Peirani is interested in a variety of genres, not just jazz. Fans of classic rock might get lightheaded when glancing at the track list for Peirani’s Night Walker, which contains a suite that combines his original composition “Opening” with two Led Zeppelin songs: “Kashmir” and “Stairway To Heaven.” The album also includes interpretations of Henry Purcell’s 17th-century piece “What Power Art Thou” and Sonny Bono’s 1966 pop-noir tune “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” popularized by Cher and Nancy Sinatra.

The bulk of this album, however, consists of Peirani’s adventurous original compositions. Despite the leader’s variegated tastes, the program here feels cohesive, thanks to his gifted bandmates: Émile Parisien (soprano saxophone), Tony Paeleman (keyboards), Julien Herné (electric bass, electric guitar) and Yoann Serra (drums). This agile ensemble recorded Peirani’s 2015 ACT album, Living Being (which explains why the full title of the new album is Living Being II–Night Walker).

On “Unknown Chemistry,” Peirani and Parisien gracefully demonstrate how the timbres of the accordion and soprano sax can complement one another and blend to create majestic results. Parisien’s solo on “Falling” gives the subtle ballad a powerful emotional punch, while Paeleman’s aggressive improvisation on Fender Rhodes adds fireworks to the fusion-flavored title track. Peirani’s intoxicating lines on “Bang Bang” have a feel reminiscent of Astor Piazzolla, and on “Enzo” he plays the infrequently heard accordina, adding intriguing texture to a tune that would be appropriate for the soundtrack to a suspenseful thriller. As he showed on his 2016 duo album with pianist Michael Wollny, Tandem (ACT), Peirani is a sensitive musician, a talented collaborator and an artist whose work can surprise and delight in equal measure.

Tony Bennett & Diana Krall

Love Is Here To Stay
(Verve/Columbia)

Part of the reason that Tony Bennett, 92, has remained artistically vital over the decades is his willingness to work with unexpected vocal partners, as evidenced by A Wonderful World (his 2002 collaboration with K.D. Lang), Cheek To Cheek (his 2014 release with Lady Gaga) and his series of Duets albums (which included contributions from Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse and Marc Anthony). On Bennett’s new album—devoted to the compositions of George and Ira Gershwin—his vocal partner is of the more expected variety, given her long history of interpreting the Great American Songbook: Diana Krall. Bennett and Krall have, in fact, recorded duets before, on his albums Playin’ With My Friends: Bennett Sings The Blues (2001) and Duets: An American Classic (2006). But Love Is Here To Stay marks their first album-length collaboration. One unusual twist here is that Krall doesn’t play piano on the session, instead focusing on vocal duets with the master, while the instrumentation is provided by pianist Bill Charlap’s impeccable trio. The result is a gem that showcases not only the longevity of the material, but of Bennett himself, who found fame after serving in the Army during World War II.

Bennett and Krall offer 10 delightful duets—including “I Got Rhythm,” “Do It Again” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It”—and each vocalist delivers one solo rendition; his is “Who Cares?” and hers is “But Not For Me.” Just as salt and pepper can work together in a recipe, Bennett’s authoritative vocals and Krall’s more delicate delivery complement each other, and several tunes conclude with a delicious bit of unison singing. On the album opener, “’S Wonderful,” there’s a brief segment in which Krall very quietly scats beneath Bennett’s lead vocal. That moment, along with Bennett’s chuckle at the end of “I’ve Got A Crush On You,” illustrates the singers’ chemistry and camaraderie. On “Somebody Loves Me,” there’s a slight reversal of typical roles, as Krall is more exuberant and Bennett is more subdued. These vocalists’ performances are a master class in the art of listening, reacting and then listening even more closely before responding. A swinging version of “My One And Only” features Charlap’s fluid pianism, drummer Kenny Washington’s compelling brushwork and a sturdy bass line from Peter Washington. It also features the type of clever lyrics that made Ira Gershwin such an important partner to George: “I tell you, I’m not asking any miracle/ It can be done, it can be done/ I know a clergyman who will grow lyrical/ And make us one, and make us one.”

Hardcore Gershwin fans might want to seek out the Target Exclusive version of this album, which contains two additional solo tracks: Bennett’s reading of “Oh, Lady Be Good!” and Krall’s rendition of “How Long Has This Been Going On?”

Miho Hazama & Metropole Orkest Big Band

The Monk: Live At Bimhuis
(Sunnyside)

Thelonious Monk effortlessly referenced disparate developments in jazz history, moving from bop back to stride during any given session. And it’s the capacious nature of his practice that conductor Miho Hazama captures in her seven arrangements of Monk tunes for the Metropole Orkest Big Band.

One of the date’s most endearing musical moments, though, comes during a sprightly spotlight: Most of the band drops out, leaving just the rhythm section and a lone trumpeter to linger in the chords behind “Ruby, My Dear.” Of course, Hazama’s conducting seamlessly brings the entire band back to lovingly ply the well-worn work in the end. “’Round Midnight” rarely has sounded as forlorn as it does a few tracks on, and “Epistrophy,” as wonky as ever, swings with blustery humanism. This is a work of fellowship and camaraderie, and it’s readily apparent.

The source material, of course, was a good place to start, but Hazama’s previous efforts—Journey To Journey (2013) and Time River (2015)—bolster a blossoming reputation. Even if this had arrived without her past work for context, The Monk: Live At Bimhaus comes off as a good-natured reflection of both its namesake’s personality and Hazama’s as she charts an astute course through the jazz landscape.

Kandace Springs

Indigo
(Blue Note)

Singer-songwriter and keyboardist Kandace Springs’ new r&b album will appeal not only to fans of her excellent Blue Note debut, Soul Eyes (2016), but also to fans of releases such as José James’ 2017 disc Love In A Time Of Madness (Blue Note), where the vocals are spare, but soulful, and the production is savvy and high-tech. Springs recruited an outstanding crew for the recording sessions, including drummer/producer Karriem Riggins, bassist Burniss Travis II, flutist Elena Pinderhughes, drummer Chris Dave, bassist Robert Hurst and guitarist Anthony Wilson (the latter two are Riggins’ frequent bandmates in Diana Krall’s group). On the album’s most jazz-leaning track, the original tune “Unsophisticated,” guest Roy Hargrove provides some potent trumpet work.

Onstage and in the studio, Springs’ original compositions and taste in covers reflect a deep understanding of the history of r&b, rock and jazz. Her original tune “Fix Me” includes the line “When I miss you, doves cry,” a nod to her mentor Prince. Springs’ version of The Stylistics’ 1972 hit “People Make The World Go Round” features her fine piano work, as well as guest Nicholas Payton’s contributions via bass, Fender Rhodes and chord reharmonization. It takes guts to tackle Ewan MacColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” not only because of the shadow cast by Roberta Flack’s classic 1972 version, but also because the song has been interpreted by such estimable singers as Lauryn Hill, Jennifer Hudson and Celine Dion. However, Springs’ interpretation—recorded with Hurst, Riggins and guitarist Jesse Harris—now enters the debate concerning the all-time-great versions.

The program also includes a rendition of Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s “6 8,” a tune that Drake samples on his track “Jungle.” Fans unfamiliar with Springs should check out the elegant video for her graceful, transcendent version.

Springs’ tour dates include The Troubadour in Los Angeles (Oct. 1), the Vancouver International Jazz Festival (Oct. 7), Sony Hall in New York (Oct. 28) and the Forum Leverkusen in Germany (Nov. 13), where she’ll perform with the WDR Big Band.

Miguel Zenón

Yo Soy La Tradición
(Miel)

The eight chamber pieces for alto saxophone and string quartet that constitute Miguel Zenón’s Yo Soy La Tradición pair structural beauty with emotional urgency while celebrating Puerto Rico’s cultural, religious and musical traditions.

The hour-long suite originally was commissioned by Chicago’s Hyde Park Jazz Festival, where it made its premiere in a September 2016 concert that featured the San Juan-born saxophonist in collaboration with the locally based Spektral Quartet. Now available as a studio recording featuring the same lineup of artists, Yo Soy La Tradición runs far deeper than your typical horn-plus-strings album. Spektral Quartet, known for its fearless outlook and a proven ability to create seamless connections across centuries of classical music, is a driving force on the album, interacting directly with Zenón as the saxophonist develops motifs and improvisations drawn from more than a decade’s worth of field research into Puerto Rican traditions. While folkloric in its origins, the music here is decidedly modern, a complex, multi-layered weave of new music and progressive jazz that marks a high point of Zenón’s ever-evolving oeuvre. It all comes together beautifully. Yo Soy La Tradición makes a profound statement about finding common ground between seemingly disparate musical genres and discovering the spiritual source of one’s artistic identity.

Zenón and the Spektral Quartet will perform the piece as a benefit concert for Puerto Rican hurricane relief on Sept. 21 at the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center in Chicago.



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Randy Weston at The New School in New York

(Photo: Jimmy & Dena Katz)

Randy Weston: ‘We Have To Go All the Way Back’

When DownBeat last spoke to Randy Weston in the summer of 2014, the master pianist-composer, then 88, was planning to issue The African Nubian Suite, a recent opus he’d recorded in concert at NYU’s Skirball Center in April 2012. For that occasion, documented on a self-released double CD that dropped in June, Weston convened an array of distinguished Afrocentric artists—including an expanded, five-horn version of his African Rhythms ensemble; various percussionists, string players and singers; and the late Jayne Cortez intoning a commissioned poem…






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October 2018
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