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Bebop - Released February 12, 1997 | HighNote Records

Carlos Garnett made his biggest impact in the late '60s and 1970s, when his intense tenor playing was heard on recordings by Art Blakey, Miles Davis and Norman Connors. Garnett spent a lot of time off the scene in the 1980s but emerged in the '90s in fine form, if a bit more conservative. For this 1996 CD, Garnett is joined by pianist Carlton Holmes, bassist Brad Jones and drummer Shingo Okudaira, playing mostly originals (plus Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower") that are spiritually linked to the music of the John Coltrane Quartet. Fortunately, the musicians do not attempt to sound like their predecessors; Garnett has an original tone of his own, and the improvising has its subtle surprises. Worth checking out. ~ Scott Yanow
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Bebop - Released March 15, 1997 | HighNote Records

Most of Houston Person's late-'90s albums are interchangeable collections of standards recorded with a small combo (the rhythm section led by either a piano or an organ, depending on Person's whim) and featuring Person's sterling tenor saxophone solos on top of a conservative backing. 1997's Person-ified is one of the string, but it's more interesting than some due to a slightly more adventurous taste in song selection. The track listing still leans heavily toward standards, but this time, Person has reached a bit deeper than usual into the great songbooks, coming up with somewhat less-obvious choices like "There's a Small Hotel," "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," and "I'll Never Stop Loving You," all of which are excellent. Even oddball choices like Mr. Acker Bilk's novelty trad jazz hit "Stranger on the Shore" and the gospel-tinged coda "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You" sound great. His backing combo is fairly anonymous, but never simply dull, and even at that, it means that Person's remarkable, underrated tenor playing is always front and center. Not bad at all. ~ Stewart Mason
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Vocal Jazz - Released March 15, 1997 | HighNote Records

On The Melody Lingers On, Etta Jones pays tribute to ten departed members of show business, with one song apiece saluting Phyllis Hyman, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis, Jr, Billy Eckstine, Alberta Hunter and Sarah Vaughan. The singer does not attempt to emulate any of these greats, and instead sings in her own soulful bluesy style. As usual, Houston Person's tenor is a strong asset while the backup group also features spots for violinist Tom Aalf and pianist Dick Morgan. Fine music. ~ Scott Yanow
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Bebop - Released March 15, 1997 | HighNote Records

Gunn Fu is one of trumpeter Russell Gunn's better hard bop/post-bop sets, as opposed to his more hip-hop-oriented projects. Gunn's sound is appealing, his ideas are creative, and he has a particularly strong supporting cast. Tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy blends and contrasts well with Gunn, vibraphonist Stefon Harris is a major asset to the ensembles, pianist James Hurt has plenty of good spots, and Sherman Irby adds his flute to two numbers. Highlights include the driving "Gunn Fu," an up-tempo "Solar," and the up-tempo "The Final Call," which has a riotous conclusion. Highly recommended. ~ Scott Yanow
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Vocal Jazz - Released May 15, 1997 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released July 15, 1997 | HighNote Records

Organist Charles Earland and his regular quintet of the time jam through three Horace Silver songs (a high-powered "Blowing the Blues Away," "Strollin'," and "Quicksilver"), Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance," Joe Sample's funky "Put It Where You Want It," the traditional gospel tune "This Is the Day," and a pair of R&B hits ("Sweet Love" and "For the Love of You"). Although the R&B numbers are less interesting, the powerful title cut and the solos throughout of Earland, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, and trumpeter James Rotondi, along with the support generated by guitarist Bob DeVos and drummer Greg Rockingham, make this a highly enjoyable date. Charles Earland shows once again why his title of "the Mighty Burner" perfectly fit his playing and his music. ~ Scott Yanow
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Bebop - Released July 18, 1997 | HighNote Records

With this CD guitarist Johnston has really hit a comfort zone, cruising through swinging, soul-laden jazz effortlessly. Drummer Mickey Roker appears as he did on "In A-Chord," while Nat Reeves is a good choice for the bass chair. Pianist Uri Caine, known for more progressive jazz work, fits in well. Of the ten cuts, two stand out like not-so-sore thumbs. The quartet revs up Hank Mobley's "Third Time Around" with a chordal approach and good, refreshing, swinging base, while Johnston's "Blues for the Milennium" is an original 12-bar swinger with a melody good enough to take you through 2000 and beyond; it could be a new standard. The other "standards" have a variety of slight changes, featuring Johnston's extremely literate stylistic signposts. Echoes of Wes Montgomery fall into place for "Dat Dere." There are two ultra-melodic, quick, and bright versions of "Secret Love": One is virtually supersonic, and the other trades wonderful fours with Roker. The band gets down on a funky "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" and "Sack O' Woe," both faithful to the originals. There are two ballads where Johnston not only cuts back his single lines, but languishes in their sparseness: during the title cut and in the tender "In the Wee Small Hours." Caine's embellishments bubble over during his fit as a fiddle solo for "A Beautiful Friendship." His use of different harmonic devices creates a sound that you want to dive into head first and listen to up close. When standards are performed like standards -- without frills but with conviction -- they can be viewed as either blasé or extremely consistent. This is a well-played and overall steady release from this quartet, whose efforts result in a recording that is not Johnston's best, but one that holds up well upon repeated late-night listenings. ~ Michael G. Nastos
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Bebop - Released July 24, 1997 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released October 14, 1997 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released October 17, 1997 | HighNote Records

Guitarist Jimmy Ponder is most closely associated with soul-jazz organ groups, so this quartet outing with pianist John Hicks, bassist Dwayne Dolphin, and drummer Cecil Brooks III is a happy surprise. During the bop-oriented set, Ponder takes a few numbers (including the opening "JP") unaccompanied, works well with Hicks (with whom he had not performed previously), and shows that he can play bop as well as almost anyone. Highlights of the superior straight-ahead set include "They Can't Take That Away from Me," "Love Theme from Spartacus," "The End of a Beautiful Friendship," and the Grover Washington, Jr.-associated "Mister Magic." ~ Scott Yanow
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Bebop - Released January 16, 1998 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released January 16, 1998 | HighNote Records

This is an okay set by veteran singer Gloria Lynne, but one that never really catches fire. Guitarist Rodney Jones was responsible for the arrangements (which are decent but not all that colorful) and produced the date, which finds Lynne backed by Jones, pianist Mike Renzi, bassist Benjamin Brown, either Akira Tana or Jesse Hameen II on drums and sometimes vibraphonist Mark Sherman and organist Bobby Forrester. Although the material is fine, Lynne does not make such songs as "Angel Eyes," "What a Difference a Day Makes," "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and "Here's That Rainy Day" sound as if they were written for her. The results are pleasing but fall short of their potential. ~ Scott Yanow
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Bebop - Released May 15, 1998 | HighNote Records

Red Holloway is joined by a set of veteran jazz performers for a no-nonsense, down-to-earth blowing session recalling those magnificent Prestige and Blue Note recordings of the 1950s and '60s by Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, and others. The first cut, "The Chase," was the vehicle for the seminal Dexter Gordon/Wardell Gray tenor sax battle recorded in 1947, which set the ground rules for all such battles to come. On this cut, Holloway shows he has lost little, if any, of the fingering dexterity that characterized his playing in earlier days with such notables as "Brother" Jack McDuff, Bill Doggett, and Lloyd Price. Holloway continues to be equally adroit on alto as he is on tenor, bringing out the smaller sax on "The Gypsy" and "A Tear in My Heart" (the latter a composition by piano player Norman Simmons). A highlight of the album is the very poignant rendition of Duke Ellington's "In My Solitude," played in soulful, long musical lines. HighNote Records, the successor to the old Muse label, became a home for several veteran saxophonists. In addition to Holloway, the stable includes Houston Person and Teddy Edwards. HighNote deserves considerable kudos for providing a forum for this hard driving saxophone playing, done with soul, which otherwise might be lost. ~ Dave Nathan
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Vocal Jazz - Released May 15, 1998 | HighNote Records

On My Buddy: Songs of Buddy Johnson, Etta Jones pays tribute to the man who got her started back in 1944. She sings songs originally done by Ella Johnson (Buddy's sister, whom she subbed for) and Arthur Prysock, in her typical soulful, clear, sweet, high-pitched voice. Legendary piano accompanist Norman Simmons is here doing his yeoman's work, with young bassist John Webber and reliable drummer Kenny Washington providing support. Longtime partner, tenor saxophonist Houston Person, tends to lay out in most of the ten cuts until the latter part of these classic melodies. The Prysock tunes include mostly ballads as "They All Say I'm the Biggest Fool" and "Save All Your Love for Me." Jones changes up a bit, playing with the lyric on the easy blues swing of "Let's Beat Out Some Love" and pines, not croons (as would Prysock) for the tenor-led slow tune "I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone." The Ella Johnson tunes include a personal favorite of Jones, the WWII-era "When My Man Comes Home" -- a good swinger that shows its timelessness. "Hittin' on Me" is a down-home blues cut that has a defiant, rollicking forward motion that suggests escape, and a fine closer to the set. It is clear that this project was important to Etta Jones for personal and historical reasons. It should be just as vital to the jazz and blues community as a whole to not only hear the music of the oft-neglected Buddy Johnson, but to revel in the song stylings of a great vocal treasure. [This highly recommended CD is also a 1998 Grammy nominee for Best Jazz Vocal Performance.] ~ Michael G. Nastos
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Bebop - Released May 15, 1998 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released June 19, 1998 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released August 4, 1998 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released August 14, 1998 | HighNote Records

Jazz guitarist Jimmy Ponder attempts to take on several holiday standards on Guitar Christmas. His smooth, light approach is a nice touch, making these songs flow without overloading them with flashy playing. His rendition of Mel Tormé's "Christmas Song" may be the best song on the album, a low-key version that emphasizes the heartfelt sentiment of the original. There are a few other good renditions, but the problem arises that many of these songs are quite long. Despite the classy approach to the material, songs like "Merry Christmas, Baby" do not maintain the listener's interest for seven minutes. Ponder is a fantastic guitarist, and this album is something that guitar jazz fans may really like, but unfortunately it will probably not translate to the average listener. ~ Bradley Torreano
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Bebop - Released September 18, 1998 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released September 18, 1998 | HighNote Records