VEIN feat. Norrbotten Big Band / Symphonic Bop – Swiss trio VEIN has delivered a few outstanding recordings over the last years and ‘Symphonic Bop’ is another one – six great compositions penned by the members of the trio (Michael Arbenz, piano / Thomas Lähns, bass and Florian Arbenz, drums) and arranged for big band by Michael. Where the trio sometimes can sound like an orchestra, the big band here sometimes feels like an intimate small group … but with more colours than a trio might have. Musically this is typical VEIN: melodic passages, swinging grooves and free explorations, all bound together by the amazing musicianship of the trio and the Big Band, conducted by Joakim Milder and whose outstanding soloists on this recording are Hakan Broström on soprano sax, Arvid Ingberg on trombone and Dan Johansson on trumpet. This is not a trio with a big band, but an integrated musical affair, with lots of space for the main players, always perfectly supported by a big band of top quality. VEIN are an important part of the European jazz scene and the new album is confirming and cementing that status. Not to be missed!!!
Steve Haines and the Third Floor Orchestra – Now this is what I call a find!! An album that features singer Becca Stevens, soprano saxophonist Chad Eby and pianist Joey Calderazzo performing with an orchestra the music of Neil Young (“Harvest Moon”), Leonard Cohen (“Hallelujah”), Gordon Lightfoot (“If You Could Read My Mind”), Kim Mitchell (“Patio Lanterns”) and Stevens (“Canyon Dust”) as well as originals by arranger, composer and bass player Steve Haines. Becca Stevens voice soars over the wonderful arrangements for the 41-piece orchestra with haunting beauty and clarity. Eby delivers some great soli, especially in “What I’ve Seen” and Calderazzo is his usual amazing self, with a fantastic solo in “You” crowning his performance. Now, this isn’t a jazz record by any means … it is simply a great record with some jazzy bits in it … an album to relax to, to sit back and listen and smile. Great songs, great arrangements and great performances … and a Becca Stevens at the top of her game!!!
Joanna Wallfisch / Far Away From Any Place Called Home – Joanna Wallfisch is a real story teller – she did a trip on the bicycle from gig to gig in the US, down the Pacific Coast Highway, from Portland to LA, and in this new song cycle tells about this experience. The feeling of being alone, away and stories about people she met, moments of pleasure and pain. The singer / songwriter tells these tales with honesty and full of emotions and made songs from this personal experience that have global human validity. And the band of Jesse Elder on piano, Chris Tordini on bass, Arthur Vint on drums and Oran Etkin on clarinet, as well as Joanna on ukulele performing her compositions with ease and feeling. Oh yeah … and they are great songs! “When We Travel” sticks in the mind, so does “Road Trip”, the title track is a beautiful track, growing with every listen and “Ballet Of Birds” a jazzy track with beautiful colours provided by Etkin’s clarinet. Spoken word sequences connect the songs like a true story teller would and make the album overall a wonderful listening experience. Highly recommended!!!
Betty Carter / The Music Never Stops – This historical music of a special event held at New York’s Aaron Davis Hall was recorded March 29th in 1992 and showcases the art of jazz singing by Betty Carter in settings ranging from an intimate piano/voice duo with Geri Allen to Betty supported by a swinging Big Band. For two hours the wonderful singer run on the stage between trios and big band, performing hard swinging bebop as well as touchingly beautiful ballads. The list of participating artists reads like a Who ‘s Who of jazz, with pianists Cyrus Chestnut, John Hicks and Geri Allen, bass players Ariel Roland and Lisle Atkinson, drummers Clarence Penn, Kenny Washington and Greg Hutchinson, plus a big band featuring Jerry Dodgion – alto saxophone, Rick Wald – alto saxophone, Alex Foster – tenor saxophone, Lou Marini – tenor saxophone, Joe Temperley – baritone saxophone, Art Baron – trombone, Robin Eubanks – trombone, Joe Randazzo – trombone, Lew Soloff – trumpet, Earl Gardner – trumpet, Ron Tooley – trumpet and Kamau Adilifu – trumpet, as well as a string section. This is Betty at her best – powerful and inventive in her phrasing, immaculate in her interpretations of these standards and her own songs, like the outstanding ‘Tight!’. I was lucky enough to have worked with Betty when she was recording for Verve and had a chance to hear her live many times, as well as to get to know her a bit … what a wonderful lady she was – charming and open, full of music and stories. And her teaching her young musicians while in concert is the stuff of legends, as I could witness once at a gig at Ronnie Scott’s … ‘The Music Never Stops’ is a great album that should introduce Betty Carter to a new audience and remind us, who know her music, how special she was.
Undersound / No More Lies (Single) – This is the first track from Undersound’s forthcoming album ‘No More Shooting Stars’ and it is a groovy, brassy little affair. Known more as a Drum and Bass artist, Undersound (real name Gareth Evans) is back with one of the artists’ more relaxed tracks in which he has collaborated with Bella Collins and Ben Thorpe. This is funk, groove jazz with cool lyrics and absolutely danceable. Get your party going!!
Karin Plato / This Could Be The One – This surely could be the one album to bring Karin Plato to a wider audience. One of Canada’s best known and acclaimed jazz singers has delivered a beauty of a vocal album, mixing great originals with compositions by Lennon/McCartney, H. Williams and H. Carmichael/ F. Loesser and makes that mix work through a fantastic vocal delivery on each track. Outstanding the title track, a song I can hear being done by countless other singers, a swinging affair with cool lyrics. Stunning her version of ‘I’m So Lonesome I could Cry’, deeply touching and featuring a very beautiful bass solo by Laurence Mollerup. Beside him the album features Jim Byrnes – Guest Vocals on ‘What Came Before’, another great Plato original, Rebecca Shoichet – Guest Vocals on ‘Sorrow’, Rod Murray – Trombone, James Danderfer – Clarinets, Chris Gestrin – Piano and Joe Poole – Drums. This is a jazz record I hope will travel, as its quality and beauty deserve it … a pleasure to listen to!!
off to Bremen for jazzahead now … will report about it in early May ….