Albums

Bebop - Released September 21, 2000 | LucasRecords

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Bebop - Released November 11, 2016 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released June 17, 2016 | HighNote Records

Booklet
Saxophonist Houston Person and bassist Ron Carter have a duo partnership that goes back at least as far as their two 1990 recordings, Something in Common and Now's the Time! Since those albums, the legendary artists have released several more duo collaborations, each one a thoughtful and minimalist production showcasing their masterful command of jazz standards, blues, and bop. The duo's 2016 effort, the aptly titled Chemistry, is no exception and once again finds Person and Carter communing over a well-curated set of jazz standards. As on their previous albums, Chemistry is a deceptively simple conceit; just two jazz journeymen playing conversational duets on well-known jazz songs. At face value, that is certainly what you get. The deception enters into the equation with just how masterful and nuanced Person and Carter are in each song. Whether it's the way Carter anchors the duo's yearning reading of "But Beautiful" with his languorous, doomy basslines, or the way Person's languorous rubato introduction joins up with Carter on "Fools Rush In," they never fail to find surprising and deeply emotive ways to interpret each song. Similarly, cuts like the poignant "Blame It on My Youth" and the dewy-eyed "I Can't Get Started" are endearing romantic numbers that cradle the listener in the warmth of Person and Carter's warm tones. Elsewhere, they deliver a gleeful version of Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk," and summon the memory of Carter's former boss, trumpeter Miles Davis, with their jaunty take on "Bye Bye Blackbird." Ultimately, Chemistry is a lovely, heartfelt album of well-loved standards imbued with the duo's decades of experience. ~ Matt Collar
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Bebop - Released August 21, 2015 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released October 21, 2014 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released September 23, 2014 | Savant

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Bebop - Released September 9, 2014 | HighNote Records

Coming off his Grammy-nominated 2013 album, The World According to Andy Bey, vocalist/pianist Andy Bey delivers the equally compelling 2014 release Pages from an Imaginary Life. As with its predecessor, Pages finds the jazz iconoclast returning to his roots with a set of American Popular Song standards done in a ruminative, stripped-down style. This is Bey, alone at the piano, delving deeply into the harmony, melody, and lyrics of each song. But don't let the spare setting fool you. Bey is a master of interpretation. In his seventies at the time of recording, and having performed over the years in a variety of settings from leading his own swinging vocal trio, to working with hard bop pioneer Horace Silver, to exploring the avant-garde with Archie Shepp, Bey has aged into a jazz oracle who doesn't so much perform songs as conjure them from somewhere in the mystical ether of his psyche. Famously blessed with a distinctive, sonorous baritone warble, Bey's voice has only ripened over the years to a warm, burnished, woody resonance; a sound perfectly suited for these poignant, romantic songs. In his hands, songs like "My Foolish Heart," "How Long Has This Been Going On?," and "Everything I Have Is Yours," take on new hues of gorgeous devastation. And yet, there's still something hopeful, swinging, and urbane about Bey's performances, and songs like "Lover Come Back to Me" and "Take the 'A' Train," are, as with all of the music on Pages from an Imaginary Life, joyous, earthy celebrations of life and love. ~ Matt Collar
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Bebop - Released June 25, 2013 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released September 11, 2012 | HighNote Records

Not long after going through a serious illness of his own, George Cables lost the love of his life, Helen Wray, to pancreatic cancer. His partner of 28 years inspired him over much of his career, as he wrote several pieces in her honor. Bassist Essiet Essiet and drummer Victor Lewis are two veterans who are a welcome addition to any record date. The lush "Lullaby," sometimes played by the pianist as an opening and closing theme song (it was also a favorite of his the late alto saxophonist Frank Morgan), is the perfect way to open this heartfelt album, played as a whispering solo. The second is the joyful "Helen's Song," an understated samba that buoys the spirits. The third piece honoring Helen is the funky, infectious "My Muse," which blends the perfect mix of soul and Latin flavor. Although many of the other songs were written by other composers, there is little doubt that the pianist was thinking of his late spouse when he performed them. Cables puts a different stamp on McCoy Tyner's gorgeous "You Taught My Heart to Sing" by adding a compelling improvised introduction, while he gets a bit mischievous in his interpretation of the old chestnut "My Old Flame" by adding a few Tatum-like flourishes. Lewis, long an underrated composer, penned and previously recorded his potent post-bop piece "Hey, It's Me You're Talkin' To," as the trio dives full force into its conversational-like theme. My Muse is easily one of George Cables' outstanding releases in his extensive discography. ~ Ken Dryden
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Bebop - Released June 14, 2012 | Savant

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Bebop - Released May 22, 2012 | HighNote Records

Larry Willis mixes standards, jazz classics, and potent originals on this solo piano release. The sessions have a late-night, ruminative flavor, starting with a loping take of "This Time the Dream's On Me." His shimmering rendition of "Lazy Afternoon" opens with a spacious improvised introduction, while he makes great use of space in his interpretation of this ballad. The Ellington-Strayhorn songbook is represented by the former's whispering "The Single Petal of a Rose" and the latter's haunting "Lotus Blossom," both played with restraint, as these timeless pieces require few embellishments. The pianist's originals are just as impressive. "Sanctuary" was written for a project that included strings, though his moving solo piano arrangement is no less moving, suggesting an idyllic, isolated beach hideaway on a clear summer afternoon. "Blues for Marco," named for his co-producer, has a whimsical air, while "Silly Blues" starts like a ballad but quickly shifts to a laid-back, closing-hour blues. Recorded over two days on a top-notch Fazioli grand piano, this solo piano CD is easily among Larry Willis' best recordings. ~ Ken Dryden
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Bebop - Released May 31, 2011 | HighNote Records

Etta Jones could flat-out sing, and she never failed to make the blues, jazz, and Great American Songbook standards she sang her own, especially in her many collaborations with tenor saxophonist Houston Person, who was as sympathetic a player as any singer could ever hope for -- Jones and Person simply clicked and understood each other as a duo. This joyous set was recorded live April 15, 2000 (a little more than a year away from Jones’ death in the fall of 2001) at the Tri-C Jazz Festival in Cleveland, Ohio, and features Jones and Person with the help of pianist Stan Hope, bassist George Kaye, and drummer Chip White. Jones sings with vitality and poise, transforming Gershwin's “Oh, Lady Be Good” from a jazz standard into a flowing blues, making old chestnuts like “What a Wonderful World” and “Don’t Go to Strangers” shine anew with a poignant wisdom. This set is both a pleasant listen and a fun archival recording -- it captures Jones and Person at their best in front of a nimble and flexible rhythm section. ~ Steve Leggett
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Bebop - Released June 16, 2009 | Savant

Guitarist/arranger Peter Hand assembled a big band for this concert, stocking it with a number of well-known veterans, but featuring tenor saxophonist Houston Person prominently. The program consists of seven songs by the legendary Harold Arlen, starting with an easygoing, bluesy take of "Come Rain or Come Shine" showcasing Person, Hand, and pianist Richard Wyands, with some potent writing for the horns to accompany it. The poignant ballad "The Man That Got Away" is an overlooked gem in Arlen's vast output, with a heartfelt solo by Person, while the tenor saxophonist communicates the words with his effective playing of "Stormy Weather," backed by Hand's inspired voicings for the brass and reeds. The one medley of the evening is a departure from the Arlen songbook, a medley of spirited blues by Person and Hand. To wrap the evening, Houston Person plays a lush, unaccompanied solo of "Over the Rainbow" to bring down the house. ~ Ken Dryden
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Bebop - Released May 5, 2009 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released July 18, 2008 | HighNote Records

Well known for his work as the pianist in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and his seminal labors as pianist for Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, and Sonny Criss in the 1960s, and with Clifford Jordan on his seminal Glass Bead Games and Night of the Mark VII sessions in the 1970s, Cedar Walton is nonetheless often overlooked as a bandleader. As evidenced by 2008's Seasoned Wood, this should not be the case. At 74, Walton is as promising and as dizzying a bandleader as ever. His command of the hard bop and post-bop languages and his abilities to reinterpret well-known standards authoritatively are all remarkable. Here he is accompanied by longtime drummer Al Foster, saxophonist Vincent Herring, young trumpeter/flügelhorn upstart Jeremy Pelt, and bassist Peter Washington. Herring has been part of Walton's band for over 15 years; the pianist and Foster have played together literally dozens of times since the 1960s. The program consists of five originals, the Gershwin standard "The Man I Love," Jimmy Heath's "Longravity," and the standard "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." The main element here is a deep-rooted swing no matter the tune. From the first notes of the Gershwin number, opened by Walton's comping over the two-horn front line, it's everywhere. Walton extrapolates his reading of the tune from Thelonious Monk, and changes up by letting Washington solo first. Herring's solo follows and it's springlike and exuberant, as Walton's big chord comping is percussive and just ahead of the beat. The real rewards of the set, however, are the pianist's own compositions. The flamenco-tinged opening theme in "Clockwise" gives way to a breezy, airy waltz that is elegant and knotty -- especially as the theme interacts with the midtempo balladic melody. Walton has written many ballads in his day, but "When Love Is New" is among his most lyrical and warm. The shimmering melody is whispered as Pelt solos on flügelhorn, offering a textured silkiness that adds layers of implied meaning. Contrast this with "Plexus," a seemingly angular twist-and-turn post-bop number that is full of surprises in its stops and starts, staggered solo moments, Latin tinges, and time changes. Walton's solo is startling for its ease in the difficult pocket of steps, lending elements of grace and elegance to the sprightly tempo and advanced harmonic shapes. In sum, Seasoned Wood is a true and exceptional highlight in Walton's career. High Note as a label is on a tear in 2008 with killer dates by Larry Willis, David "Fathead" Newman, and Don Braden. Seasoned Wood is another very notable notch in the imprint's belt as well as Walton's. ~ Thom Jurek
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Bebop - Released June 17, 2008 | Savant

Jerry Bergonzi focuses primarily on his potent originals during this quartet session issued in 2008. Joined by pianist Renato Chicco, bassist Dave Santoro, and drummer Andrea Michelutti, the tenor saxophonist's loping "Hank" (a tribute to Hank Mobley that he previously recorded in an entirely different setting) settles into a comfortable groove, with the band working together rather than settling for tenor plus rhythm section. "Girl Idlig" is named for Bergonzi's daughter, a hip breezy tune that has the spirit of Bill Evans running through it, a piece likely to become an enduring part of the tenorist's live repertoire. "Soul Mission" is a lighthearted work, with Michelutti switching to brushes, while the hypnotic "Splurge" is a twisting post-bop vehicle that was inspired by Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge." The Caribbean-flavored rhythm of "Left of Memory" utilizes the changes of the standard "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," with Bergonzi wailing and Chicco adding an inventive solo. The one standard, George Gershwin's "Who Cares," is the CD's opening track, a pep-filled workout featuring Bergonzi's explosive tenor powered by his driving rhythm section. ~ Ken Dryden
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Bebop - Released March 7, 2008 | HighNote Records

This High Note release is a live recording of Mary Lou Williams at the Statler Hotel in Buffalo during the winter of 1976 accompanied by bassist Ronnie Boykins and drummer Roy Haynes. First off, the sound of the recording isn't perfect. These tapes were from a private collection and there is a noticeable amount of tape hiss and some crackle throughout. It hardly matters, though, because in spite of it, all three instruments can be heard with startling clarity and immediacy. The material, astonishingly enough, includes only one Williams' original. An accomplished composer, even a prolific one, Williams is heard here playing through tunes like Billy Taylor's "A Grand Night for Swinging" -- a tune she actually opens and closes with -- Vernon Duke and George Gershwin's "I Just Can't Get Started," "My Funny Valentine," Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol's "Caravan," W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues," and, compellingly, "Baby Man," which proceeds from it. Saxophonist John Stubblefield wrote the latter cut. This is poignant in that Williams was capable and indeed saw great value in celebrating the modernism of jazz as a fitting and necessary part of its evolution, just as certain critics as well as musicians were turning from it. The way both pieces are played here are startling, full of finesse, grand rhythmic interplay, and a jaw dropping harmonic reach by the pianist, who had been playing professionally for over 50 years at this point. Here she was still in charge and could front a rhythm section like this with the ease of total command and enjoy its sense of support and skittering improvisation. The only Williams' composition here is "Bag's Blues," a striking variation on Milt Jackson's "Bag's Groove," the melody of which she quotes and harmonically extrapolates on from the very beginning of its performance. The final cut on the CD is a nearly five-minute interview with Williams that is interesting but needs only be heard once. This is a welcome and necessary entry in Williams catalog. ~ Thom Jurek
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Bebop - Released September 21, 2007 | HighNote Records

On this Highnote set, master saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman digs back into the past for standards from the worlds of film, pop, jazz, and theater. The disc is named after a composition by the late pianist John Hicks, a familiar companion on a number of Newman dates over the past ten years, who passed away in 2006. The album is dedicated to his memory. David Leonhardt is in the piano chair on this date, along with drummer Yoron Israel, bassist John Menegon, guitarist Peter Bernstein, and vibraphonist Steve Nelson. The album opens with a beautiful reading of Neal Hefti's classic "Girl Talk." Newman's tenor is big, warm, and expressive in the grand Texas tradition. His melodic improvisation on the theme, though, is something that comes from his beginnings with Ray Charles and that has been molded and refined ever since. The flute makes its first appearance on the Hicks number with its bluesy changes. Newman takes the first solo, followed briefly by Nelson and then Leonhardt. The tune is relaxed but tight. There's a gorgeous, swinging Latin backbeat here as Israel just dances over the cymbals and snare. The enormity and depth of Newman's main horn are heard on Burt Bacharach's "Alfie," adapted from the Dionne Warwick single version and beautifully elucidated upon, with a stellar reading of the nuance in the melody. As the rhythm section enters, Newman's playing soul, deep and slow, à la Ben Webster in feel, but the phrasing is no one's but his own. To go from these three tunes to Gershwin is a jump on any session, but that's exactly what the band does on "I Can't Get Started." The tune is taken in a mellow, easy groove; and the vibes/guitar intro that leads into Newman's flute is a sweet touch. What's most remarkable here is the intuitive grasp that each of these players has on the other. This is as fluid a date as one is likely to come across in the 21st century. Newman's trademark restraint gives way to something here, and that something is a sheer symbiosis, brining out each player's melodic, rhythmic and harmonic sense along with his own. Whether the program is Ellington's "Come Sunday," from the "Black Brown & Beige Suite," bebop era nuggets "Autumn in New York" and "Old Folks," played on the alto, or his readings of "What a Wonderful World" -- a fitting instrumental counterpart to the Louis Armstrong vocal version -- or John Coltrane's "Naima," that closes the disc, taste, elegance and soul are the trademarks of everything here. Indeed, as evidenced by Life, Newman's able to turn the trick back inside out and seek new ground inside ballads and standards rather than radically revisioning them. He has always been a player of great feeling and economy, but here, he takes his gifts to an entirely different level. Just beautiful. ~ Thom Jurek
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Bebop - Released August 1, 2006 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released February 21, 2006 | Savant

Pamela Luss, who makes her recording debut on this CD, has a nice clear voice that is attractive, appealing, and on key. Her repertoire is mostly filled with standards, with Tex Allen's title cut and a pair of Tom Harrell songs being the only exceptions. Unfortunately, Luss' interpretations of such familiar songs as "Fools Rush In," "Georgia on My Mind," "Fever," and "My Funny Valentine," although pleasant, are not very creative and lack surprises. She sings well but fails to make those songs her own despite the assistance of a particularly strong supporting cast that includes altoist Vincent Herring and guitarist Romero Lubambo. One wishes that she had something new to add to the legacies of those warhorses rather than being so predictable. But overall, her Savant release is a decent beginning to her career. ~ Scott Yanow