Sunnyside Albums Radiate Warmth


Hadar Noiberg (left) and Chano Dominguez

(Photo: Tracey Yarad)

A spate of new albums on the Sunnyside label don’t have all that much in common, aside from the fact that they’re all quite good. Laszlo Gardony’s solo piano record feels like a throwback to Michel Petrucciani, while Guillermo Klein’s latest release nods to the legendary tango artist Carlos Gardel. Gerald Cleaver’s experimental bop outfit, Violet Hour, reunites after a hiatus, while pianist Chano Dominguez and flutist Hadar Noiberg unite for the first time on Paramus. And drummer Dan Weiss, playing alongside a pianist and two bassists, pulls in a wide variety of influences for Utica Box. Sunnyside seemingly has a bright future.

Laszlo Gardony, La Marseillaise (Sunnyside 4034; 40:07 ***1/2) During the past 25 years or so, Gardony has released a number of solo piano albums—including Changing Standards, Clarity and Serious Play. His latest monologue was recorded live, a context in which Gardony thrives. His playing here is lush, loose and splashy, with blues-inflected, barrelhouse detours, as on “Bourbon Street Boogie,” where he summons images of a saloon pianist. Gardony, now in his early 60s, plays the whole piano, much like predecessors he appears to be channeling, like Earl Hines.

Gerald Cleaver & Violet Hour, Live At Firehouse 12 (Sunnyside 1565; 45:56 ***1/2) Drummer Cleaver puts forth a kind of kinetic and chameleonic hard-bop on this live recording, which features the same band from his 2008 album Detroit. This recording, too, crackles with energy, evoking the raw energy of, say, an Art Blakey dispatch, along with the elasticity of Miles Davis’ second quintet. The music keeps changing, even as you want to peg it as a straightahead affair. But it’s much more than that.

Chano Dominguez & Hadar Noiberg, Paramus (Sunnyside 1564; 64:14 ****) Spanish pianist Dominguez joins up with Israeli flutist Noiberg on this lovely duo record, delicate and deeply felt. Paramus—which, as it happens, was recorded in Paramus, New Jersey—begins with a festive air, as the pair work their way through a number of sprightly tunes, including Paco De Lucía’s “Canción De Amor” and “Carrusel,” a Dominguez original that feels like a choro. The mood progressively gets more contemplative but no less enchanting; one highlight is the minor-key rumination “Morenika,” a Ladino folk tune. It simply feels as if these two have much more to explore—and hopefully they’ll do so.

Dan Weiss Trio Plus 1, Utica Box (Sunnyside 1573; 64:48 ***1/2) Drummer Weiss’ album takes its name from the inhumane crib-like contraption that once was used to confine psychiatric patients. The idea is that Weiss won’t be boxed in. But he doesn’t have to make his point so literally to get it across: It’s obvious that his approach is broad and ecumenical. The centerpiece is the 17-minute title track, which features dramatic peaks and troughs as Weiss plays tight rock beats that build to intense climaxes only to fall away and then appear again. Weiss and his bandmates nod to a lot of influences, intentionally or not: the Isley Brothers, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Led Zeppelin. This album is all over the place, in the best sense of the phrase.

Guillermo Klein y Los Guachos, Cristal (Sunnyside 1567; 53:23 *****) The Argentine pianist, composer and bandleader is working at the top of his game—and so is his 11-piece group, which includes jazz luminaries like alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Jeff Ballard. Here, Klein features his own compositions, as well as those of Carlos Gardel, the early 20th-century tango singer whom Klein listened to growing up. But the album isn’t sentimental or even recherché. Cristal is thoroughly modern, with groovy beats, sophisticated horn voicings and a folksy feel that only could have come from Los Gauchos. DB

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February 2023
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