Solo, Duo, Trio and more

I haven’t really written about stuff I am listening to at the moment and therefore I will review briefly a few CD’s that caught my attention in all the releases out there … and I am sure I missed a lot of great ones…

Chick Corea’s solo effort Portraits was recorded on tour over the last few years and shows his incredible talent as an improviser and pianist of both classical and jazz. The first CD of the double album pays respect to Bill Evans, Stevie Wonder, Thelonius Monk , Bud Powell and Paco de Lucia. Chick talks about these influences in his musical life before performing songs of or for them, by going into the essence of the compositions and making them all his own. CD 2 starts with Scriabin, Bartok and then goes into Corea’s own Children Songs and Portraits – simply beautiful.

Charlie Haden / Jim Hall The newly re-activated Impulse! Label pays tribute to two masters of their instruments, two great story tellers and musicians. Recorded in Montreal 1990, this is a true gem and shows again why both artists will be missed in the music world. Communication between two people is the most direct form of communicating – Haden and Hall show us how to listen, react, give the conversation new directions and then pick up the theme of the discussion again.

Sílvia Pérez Cruz & Raül Fernandez Miró This is an album full of beauty and constant surprises and still it sounds coherent and is throughout captivating. On Granada the most amazing singer in Spain at the time and her guitarist are covering music from Enrique Morente to Robert Schumann and Edith Piaf, she singing in English, French, German besides the obvious Spanish and Catalan and it all seems to flow into one great musical expression – A rare thing to happen. A true star.

Kenny Barron / Dave Holland give us The Art Of Conversation … and that is exactly what it is. It is no exaggeration to state that Dave Holland is now probably the leading jazz bass player in the world and the immaculate Kenny Barron always has been a musician’s musician – together they ‘chat’ on the highest musical level and communicate over their tunes as old friends can do – with an understanding that is beyond words, can leave things out without losing meaning, always pushing a bit further to get deeper into the music. Sublime.

Antonio Serrano performs on Mahalo with pianist Alberto Sanz and it proves a worthy partnership, paying tributes to Antonio’s heroes Larry Adler, Toots and Paco de Lucia, with whom he was touring the last few years. Serrano has the most beautiful sound on his instrument, full and warm and he performs and improvises on the highest level. The album features songs by Horace Silver, Gershwin, Ivan Lins and of course Toots and Paco de Lucia, but Serrano makes all these his own and sensibly supported by pianist Sanz, this turns into one gorgeous record to listen to.


GoGo Penguin v20, the new album by this British piano trio was just recently nominated for the Mercury Award, one of the UK’s most prestigious music awards. But then, these guys are modern and cool and attract a young and hip audience. And now as the album is released as well in the rest of Europe, they are out to conquer the old continent – and will have a good chance. They are touring in the fall in most EU countries – go and check them out!

Lars Danielsson Liberetto II is the follow up of the critically acclaimed Liberetto album – and this one will excite critics as well as listeners in the same way. Danielsson again proves what an excellent composer he is and how he can get the best for his music out of his sidemen – in this case the amazing Tigran on piano, Magnus Öström on drums and John Paricelli on guitar with guest performances by Matthias Eick on trumpet and singer Cæcilie Norby, who as well produced the album. Music from the soul, emotional and touching. Exceptional.

Jason Moran had Don Was and Meshell Ndegeocello produce his latest opus All Rise, A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller and it did the album well – this modern take on Waller’s music is full of fun and respect – just check The Joint Is Jumping and you’ll understand. The music keeps the energy of the originals, but takes them into our times and one still can dance to them – or just listening (and moving your legs anyway).

Vein – Jazz Talks is the second Vein album featuring sax legend Dave Liebman and it shows an even closer understanding of the Swiss piano trio with the saxophonist. From standards like All The Things You Are to compositions by all 4 musicians to April in Paris, this music is fresh and interesting, leaving space for all to improvise and move within the music. Liebman doesn’t take the spotlight as the main soloist – this is more of a collective effort with the guys playing with each other and communicating in the group and let each of them express himself within the framework of the song. Liebman’s composition Negative Space is a good example for that.

And then I do listen as well to Christian Muthspiel & Steve Swallows duo album Simple Songs; the new and more jazzy Jamie Cullum Interlude; Free Souls by the amazing Nicola Conte; the best of Madeleine Peyroux; El Niňo by the incredible Flamenco singer Rocío Márquez; Gilbertos Samba by Gilberto Gil and Nicolo Faraci’s It Came To Broadcast The Yucatan.

About all the great music on OKeh I’ll write next time.

Kind of ….

Blue – too many great jazz musicians have passed away this year, leaving a huge empty space, which just got bigger with the news that Kenny Wheeler (1930-2014) and Mandolin maestro U Srinivas have both passed away as well in the last few days. Wheeler, a great composer with a beautiful tone, has left many great recordings on ECM and Srinivas surprised the music world with his magic as a member of Remember Shakti with John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain.

True – we went on September 15th to the celebration of Independence of Mexico in Madrid’s Teatros del Canal – main attraction was Magos Herrera, first singing in the duo with guitarist Javier Limon and then with her Spanish group featuring Ivan ‘Melon’ Lewis on piano, Reiner Elizarde Ruano on bass and Georvis Pico Milian on drums. While the duo is a very intimate affair and focuses more on her than on a Javier Limon who perfectly supports her, giving the one or other little twist in the way he plays to guide her in a different direction within a song, the group gives her more freedom the relax and let the focus wander somewhere else and so they are creating a loose structure in which she can scat and improvise, building a beautiful and captivating atmosphere. She stuck truly to her musical world and I thoroughly enjoyed this set, but it was a bit lost at the audience, which came to see what followed: a typical Mexican Mariachi band, songs they could sing along to and celebrate Mexico.


New – a few tips of things I heard or saw or read:

GoGo Penguin, a British piano trio, cool and modern, powerful and mysterious … their new album v2.0 has just be nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize in the UK … check out their latest video here

Pablo Martin Caminero, whose previous album El Caminero was a truly great recording of flamenco/jazz has a new album coming out very soon: O.F.N.I.- Objeto Flamenco No Identificado, which translates as UFO – Unidentified Flamenco Object. You can watch one of the new tracks via below link.

1.000 Times Good Night – a movie by Erik Poppe with a brilliant Juliette Binoche. Poppe relies on his own experiences as a war photographer in this tale of passion and choices to be made in life. Absolutely a Must-See!!!

Jonas Jonasson, The Girl who saved the King of Sweden – another funny and almost slapstick style written novel by the successful Swedish author – a book that tells the story of someone supposedly unimportant having a big impact on many lives … Beautiful!

Joe Sample 1939 – 2014

I first met Joe in 2006, when we were preparing the release of the album he recorded with Randy Crawford ‘Feeling Good’ and they came to London to record an EPK. And then we met various times over the years, as after that I released on Emarcy their follow-up album ‘No Regrets’ and saw them a few times while touring that album around Europe … and had some unforgettable dinners in London at Fishworks in Marylebone, with great food, good wine and all the stories a life as a musician brings.

He enjoyed the food in that place so much, that I at the end of one of the dinners bought him the Fishworks Cookbook … and that was as well the place where we introduced him to the Spanish white wine Albarino and the Spanish Orujo, which is a form of Grappa from there. He simply loved to discover the good things in life.

Joe was always smiling, enjoying life and searching for more and new music inside him. A great sense of humour and a remarkable talent for telling stories made him the perfect companion … and then there was his music. Most people will remember him for the work with the Crusaders and the hits he wrote: from Street Life via One Day I’ll Fly Away to Rainbow Seeker and many others, but his trio recordings, like the Sonet album Fancy Dance or The Three with Ray Brown and Shelly Manne are definitely worth listening to, as is the beautiful solo album Soul Shadows.

Joe was also a highly requested studio musician, having recorded as well on the following albums: Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” Joni Mitchell’s “Court and Spark” and “The Hissing of Summer Lawns,” Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer,” Steely Dan’s “Aja” and “Gaucho,” and on a few recordings by B. B. King.

2012 saw his last two recordings coming out in Europe – LIVE, a great concert recording with Randy Crawford, Joe’s son Nicklas on bass and Steve Gadd and ‘Children of the Sun’, an outstanding recording with the NDR Big Band performing his music and Joe on piano and keyboards – worth checking out.

Rest In Peace.

Joe Sample By Rainer Rygalyk

Photo by Rainer Rygalyk

R.I.P. Idris Muhammad

Idris Muhammad

The passing of so many great jazz musicians this year makes this world a truly sadder place …. Two days ago one of the greatest groove drummers of his time, Idris Muhammad (born Leo Morris) passed away. Not only did he support almost all jazz greats of today at one time or the other, but he did as well some amazing albums under his own name, first of all the evergreen Power of Soul on the KUDU label in 1974. As a sideman he worked among others with George Benson, Lou Donaldson, Pharoah Sanders, Randy Weston and lately with Ahmad Jamal, giving them the backbone for their performances and recordings. I will remember Idris as a warm and kind human being, with a great sense of humour and many music stories to tell – just check out his 2012 book ‘Inside The Music: The Life of Idris Muhammad’, which he wrote with his friend Britt Alexander. Idrid Muhammad: a soul of musical power – unforgettable!


As almost every year we visited the jazz festival in Vitoria-Gasteiz to listen to great music, eat well (at the amazing Sagartoki, which has been voted three years now as having the best Tortilla de Patatas in Spain … and the Huevos Fritos alone are worth a trip up there ….) and generally have a good time in the company of the great people who are running the festival.

Our first day opened with a performance of pianist Chano Dominguez and guitarist Niño Josele, whose first duo concert this was – a world premiere of the album Chano & Josele, which will be released in September. A deep musical understanding of the two artists made this concert special from the first minute, exchanging improvisations, playing with the tunes and seemingly enjoying this show. Some of the songs just worked perfect, like John Lewis’ Django, one of the most amazing tracks on the record, here performed with many new ideas and twists and full of feeling for the essence of the song, others will need to be played more often to reach what the artists already promised in that first performance. A deserved standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience that Asked for 2 encores ended that initial concert, but more will follow all over Europe in the second part of this year and early 2015.


This show was followed by Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, but as I had seen and heard them already in Rotterdam the weekend before, we opted for an earlier night and just had a vino before retiring to our room.

Noa opened the next evening’s shows – with a read message about the madness of the war in Israel/Palestine and then performed old and new material in a captivating mix – as usual perfectly support by her husband and guitarist Gil Dor and this time bass and percussion. She is simply a great performer and even the ‘old’ song still sound fresh, as today’s version of I don’t know impressively showed.


Then Miguel Poveda – one of Spain’s most impressive voices – Coplas and Flamenco and …. He is a very emotional and expressive singer, who performed from a really small more flamenco based group to up to an octet with horns and in every format he was truly comfortable and musically at home. The audience definitely loved it and showed their appreciation with shouts of Olé and standing ovations after some of the songs.


He ended his show with asking Noa to join him on stage and they performed a few songs together – a great finale to a glorious night of voices and music.

Charlie Haden R.I.P.

July 11th – I am at the North Sea Jazz Festival and messages are coming in from various sources on various social networks: Charlie Haden has passed away age 76. Hard to believe, even so the great man was struggling with health problems the last few years and hardly did perform anymore. I started working – in different functions – with Charlie around 20 years ago. He was then signed to Verve US with the Quartet West, then moved his contract to Universal France and finally I did sign him directly to Emarcy, all of these labels are part of Universal Music. I always had loved Charlie’s music – his beautiful and full sound on the bass, the way he could tell you any story on his instrument, the clearness of his music and the deep emotional content he offered to his listeners. I had listened to him on record and live in Keith Jarrett’s American quartet, Old And New Dreams with Don Cherry and many other combinations. I love the Quartet West and his work with John Taylor and of course The Liberation Music Orchestra. Charlie was a man with many faces, as a human being as well as a musician, but the talks we had about music and movies I will always remember, as well as signing him to Emarcy/Decca and being involved in some of the last recordings he made under his own name: Rambling Boy, Sophisticated Ladies and the second duo album with Hank Jones, Come Sunday.


Great, lasting recordings of a master on his instrument. Charlie will be missed by many, I am one of them.

North Sea Jazz ‘14

Rotterdam, Friday, July 11th 2014 – the first day of the annual North Sea Jazz Festival, which again had an amazing program of jazz and jazz-related music to offer. I started the night with Robert Glasper, whose last show I saw was disappointing, but this time he performed with The Metropole Orkest under Vince Mendoza, and it was simply incredible to hear Glasper’s songs arranged for an orchestra and with Vince he had the best guy to work with. The full sound gave a different power to the compositions and Glasper and band added what was necessary to not make it cheesy …. A welcome surprise.


Then I ran off to see a bit of Phronesis, the bass led piano trio that is making waves in Europe … and deservedly so. Exciting playing of complex compositions, great understanding and communication and fantastic improvisation from all three musicians made this concert a pleasure to listen to. I didn’t stay for the whole gig, as I wanted to see a few minutes of Pharoah Sanders as well – a legend still touring and performing … and there are not many left of these! The two songs I hear were powerful and exciting to listen to – Sanders in great form and blowing hard and his band in great support of the soloist. Hope to get a chance to see the full show next time.

But I checked the full concert of John Scofield’s Uberjam Band – and it rocked! John is just incredible – ever single time I hear him he really gets me with his amazing playing and the guys in the band are just pushing him further and further … Playing the recordings from the 2 Uberjam albums live is a treat and on the night John was in amazing form and improvised and let rock like only he can! One of the best jazz guitarists of our time – versatile and constantly exploring new avenues of expression.


More guitar heroics then with the Tedeschi Trucks Band … a blues/rock outfit in the tradition of the Allman Brothers with a sharp brass section, a great rhythm section and Susan Tedeschi on vocals and guitar and Derek Trucks as the lead guitarist, who surely knows his blues … great riff’s, amazing screaming and pleading soli give proof that he is one of the best rock guitarists around today. A great show to end the first night of fantastic music.


Day 2 – I started the musical evening with a bit of Tigran’s show – he is one of the most amazing young pianists around and he is fusion of jazz and Armenia folk music was a great success in Rotterdam. Then quickly to see Zara McFarlane, a young singer lots of people are talking about at the moment and under the wings of Gilles Peterson, who has a great track record in discovering voices … from Jose James to Nailah Porter … and Zara is truly talented. A great voice and good control she surely will make her way – the songs still lack something, but with a good co-writer she will be one to watch.


Then off to see a bit of Richard Bona, who performed with Manu Katche, Stefano DiBatista and pianist Eric Legnini – a powerful group around the masters of Bona and Katche – especially saxist DiBatista showed some great skills and beautiful and imaginative improvisations, as did pianist Legnini.

From there to the next venue to see the Trio of Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade, showing that they can exist as a group in its own right and not only as the Wayne Shorter band …. Great com[positions performed with the usual imaginative group improvisation and top soli made this concert a true pleasure to listen to. I hope they will tour more often in that formation, to see their own music develop and to establish their own voice, something already there in this captivating show.


Off to catch a bit of Ibrahim Maalouf, the exciting trumpet player and his very unique mix of jazz and Arabic and world music influences. A powerful set with a great band and a charismatic leader, of whom I would have loved to hear more, but Stevie Wonder was waiting. Unfortunately the venue he was playing was so packed, that there was no way to get in and listen … so I checked my program and marched off to see Dr. John …. A great New Orleans show based on the music of Louis Armstrong with a groovy band and a sharp brass section and Nicholas Payton as special soloist. Dr. John’s arrangements of the music associated with Armstrong were great and at times odd, but working well overall. Payton was the perfect choice for Louis’ part, as this is his music as well and was comfortable in improvising on top level when asked. A cool and groovy way to end the second night of North Sea Jazz 2014.


Day 3Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society is surely one of the best big bands around today – great composition, powerful arrangements and incredible performances and soli by all members of the group are a trademark of the records and the live show. This was the first time for me to see them perform and I enjoyed every single minute of it and so did the rest of the audience, which cheered each tune and solo.

Then I had a dilemma: both OKeh acts for that day performed at the same time: Dave Holland’s Prism with Craig Taborn, Kevin Eubanks and Eric Harland and Nir Felder 4, the group of young guitarist Nir Felder. So I had a chat with Nir and the guys before the show and listen to them for around 40 minutes – performing tracks from the Golden Age album Nir released earlier this year. The audience in the packed room was truly amazed and as well as I glad that we had catched some of this show. Prism is one of the hottest groups around now and they showed again why – jazzy improvisations on rock grooves and fantastic interplay make this group so special. They played mainly tunes from their first album, but are already looking forward to record again next year …. can’t wait to hear this.


Then wandered off to see Sachal Vasandani performing 3 songs with British singer Ian Shaw and his Trio. Shaw is a truly original – a great singer (his version of Joan Armatrading’s Shelter from the Storm was something else …) a comedian (which was made clear in his really funny announcements) and a true gentlemen who gave Sachal space to shine and get a great and positive reaction from the audience, who loved his voice and performance as a guest.


Back to the Hotel to have a drink with Dave Holland, I just arrived in time to see the second half of extra time in the world Cup final … Germany won (as I had expected and hoped, as they had been the most impressive team overall in the World Cup) with a great goal and we all celebrated a bit afterwards – what better way than that to round up another great North Sea Jazz where I did see and hear lots of great music, but as well missed a lot too…. Will be back next year!