CD Review: ‘Tenormore,’ Scott Robinson

SCOTT ROBINSON; TENORMORE
Arbors Records

Some reviews almost write themselves; this is a prime example. Scott Robinson has produced a CD about his longtime love affair with his 1924 Conn tenor saxophone. Excellent liner notes by longtime jazz author and critic, Doug Ramsey, also make this CD special for me.

Robinson assembled an excellent small group which included Helen Sung on piano and Hammond B3; Dennis Mackrel on drums; and Martin Wind on string bass. Scott’s wife, Sharon, appears as special guest for one number on flute. About half the numbers are originals by Robinson with a lovely original, Rainy River, by bassist Martin Wind.

Sanford Josephson, in his excellent book about Gerry Mulligan, tells the story about Mulligan’s papers and his baritone saxophone being deposited posthumously at the Library of Congress. Robinson was selected to play one number on Mulligan’s baritone saxophone at that ceremony. Scott brought his own mouthpiece and reed to use when he played Mulligan’s horn. In the transfer from rehearsal space to stage, an L of C assistant helped to transport the horn and set up on stage. Much to Scott’s anxiety and disappointment, Mulligan’s mouthpiece and 25-year-old cracked reed was on the horn; and, there was no time for Scott to rescue his own mouthpiece set-up. But, trooper that he is, Scott got through the piece satisfactorily!

Tunes that most readers will recognize are Lennon and McCartney’s And I Love Her; The Good Life; and Hoagy Carmichael’s The Nearness of You. Bassist Martin Wind’s Rainy River has a lovely melody and the tenor sax and Wind’s bass blend marvelously. Scott’s original The Weaver is an excellent showpiece for a duet with wife Sharon’s flute.

This CD should be especially appealing to reed players but also to the casual fan who likes good music.

Thanks to all who helped make this CD possible, including Rachel Domber of Arbors Records. Scott gives special acknowledgment in the liner notes about her encouragement of the project.

This CD will be available for check-out by patrons in the Jazz Room of West Florida Public Library, downtown Pensacola.

Note: The hat worn by Robinson on the cover of “Tenormore” was created by him from some of the many reeds with which he’s performed over the years.

CD Review: ‘The Definition of Insanity,’ Tony Monaco

The Definition of Insanity
Tony Monaco- Hammond B3, piano, accordion and voice
Chicken Coop Records—Release date January 18, 2019

Monaco, a Hammond B3 artist, has done it again. With his usual small-group format, which includes guitarist Derek Decenzo, and drummer Tony McClung, he also uses his wife Asake Monaco on piano on a single number, Never Let Me Go.

Monaco is a personal favorite and he earned more converts when he was a featured soloist with his trio at a Pensacola JazzFest in the early 2000s.

The selection of 11 tunes is eclectic. Cars, Trucks and Buses, by keyboardist Page McConnell, is the opener on the CD. Jimmy Smith’s “Root Down” is executed more or less faithfully to the Smith version except that Smith used a bass player whereas Monaco plays the bass part with left hand. Never Let Me Go is a lovely ballad by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans and features Monaco also on vocals and his wife Asake on piano.

Monaco’s only original tune, Awar Athar has a Middle Eastern flavor and uses the Turkish scale, which he learned from one of his Turkish students. He sings in Italian and also plays accordion on Non Ti Scordare Di Me a traditional Neapolitan song. Monaco’s rendition of Floyd Cramer’s big hit, Last Date is also memorable. His finale, A Song for You, Leon Russell’s composition, which has been frequently recorded by many artists, is rendered as a vocal as well as keyboard piece.

This CD was a joy to hear and to review. It will be placed in the Jazz Room of the West Florida Public Library for patrons to check out and enjoy as well.

CD Review: ‘Eric Dolphy, Musical Prophet’

There’s a saying some circles: There are two kinds of music, TRAD and STAD. (S—t, that ain’t Dixieland.) If you’re a strict adherent to the former, then this review won’t appeal to you.

However, for the rest of you musically adventurous souls, this may or may not appeal to you. I was aware of Eric Dolphy’s multi-instrumentalism and his important place as a jazz icon, but that was about the extent of my knowledge. The full title of this three-CD set is “Eric Dolphy Musical Prophet; The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions.” It is released by Renaissance Records and produced by Zev Feldman and flautist James Newton. The set is accompanied by a 100-page CD size booklet complete with commentary by various artists. Two of the three recordings are reproduced on CD with supplemental recordings to make an approximate one hour each. The third CD features alternate takes from the previous two recordings, previously unreleased. All are mono-track recordings.

The two recordings previously released are entitled Conversations and Iron Man. The accompanying 100-page booklet includes photographs, description of how the recordings came to be made as well as commentary from various artists about Dolphy’s life and musical artistry. Besides Dolphy, who performs on alto sax, flute and bass clarinet, are the following: William “Prince” Lasha, flute; Huey “Sonny” Simmons, alto sax; Clifford Jordan, soprano sax; Woody Shaw, trumpet; Garvin Bushell, bassoon; Bobby Hutcherson, vibraphone; bassists Richard Davis and Eddie Kahn; and drummers J.C. Moses and Charles Moffett.

Several personal take-aways: the previously unreleased “Muses for Richard Davis” was intriguing duet for Davis’ bass and Dolphy’s bass clarinet. Also, a discussion about how Dolphy would practice flute and birds would respond, so Dolphy’s practice might be interrupted by a flute-bird conversation. This reminded me of my own flute and chromatic harmonica bird conversations. Dolphy was a straight-arrow who avoided the drug/alcohol problems of so many musicians of that era. He was engaged to a Parisian dancer but died in 1964 at age 36 of undiagnosed, untreated diabetic coma in a Berlin hospital.

This is not a recording that is likely to leave the casual listener humming a familiar tune. But it will leave the perceptive listener was a greater appreciation of the talent and skill of multi-instrumentalist Dolphy and his talented performers.

Pensacola library patrons may check out this valuable recording from the Jazz Room of West Florida Public Library.

CD Review: ‘Standard Deviations 1 & 2,’ Tobin Mueller

Standard Deviations, Volumes 1 and 2
By Tobin Mueller
Album available CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes

Interestingly, I had reviewed a previous two-CD set, “Afterwords,” exactly one year previously. On receiving this one, my expectations were pleasantly fulfilled. But, first some words about this unusual multi-talented man. In addition to being a pianist/composer/vocalist, he’s a playwright and sometime actor.

The current two-CD set features Tobin on piano, keyboard or organ. Some of the selections have an added instrumentalist such as saxophonist or guitarist. Then Mueller might add vibraphone, drums and/or bass. All selections on this album will be familiar to most jazz listeners. To name a few: God Bless the Child, St. Louis Blues, Take the “A” Train; Autumn Leaves, Stardust, My Funny Valentine and Georgia On My Mind.

All are performed tastefully and in Mueller’s unique style. Hence, his appropriate title of “Standard Deviations.”

So, this is a recommended album for those willing to listen to standard jazz tunes presented in a tasteful yet different style.

See www.tobinmueller.com to get more details on this album and other interesting projects of Mr. Mueller. One can purchase from the usual mail order sources as well as directly from this website.

CD Reviews: ‘Cabin in the Sky,’ ‘Music From the Heart’

Cabin in the Sky
Hendrik Meurkens, chromatic harmonica; Bill Cunliffe, piano
Height Advantage

Music from the Heart
Roger Davidson Quartet featuring Hendrik Meurkens
Soundbrush Records

The common factor in these two recordings is, of course, chromatic harmonicist Hendrik Meurkens. According to publicity accompanying “Cabin in the Sky,’ Meurkens and Cunliffe had long planned to get together for a recording, which occurred June 26, 2015 and April 1, 2016. String arrangement on one number was added later. Meurkens, German born of Dutch parents, immigrated to the U.S. in his mid-30s. He spent time in Brazil, where became entranced with Brazilian-style music. Meurkens is first-call chromatic harmonicist in the style of late Jean “Toots” Thielemans. This recording — with the exception of one strings-added number, Afternoon, a composition by Meurkens — is a mix of jazz standards and compositions both by Cunliffe and Meurkens. Numbers that are likely familiar to jazz fans include Cabin in the Sky; Joe Zawinul’s Young and Fine; Invitation, Bobby Gentry’s Ode to Billie Joe; Weill’s Speak Low and Jobim’s Wave.

This recording will remind some jazz fans of the Thielemans and Bill Evans recording, “Affinity.” And the current one doesn’t suffer by comparison. I’m pleased that these two experts finally got together. Let’s hope there are more recordings in the pipe-line. I have one regret; the recording came without liner notes. Let’s hope the second one will come so supplied. For further info see their respective websites:
hendrikmeurkens.com and billcunliffe.com.

Music from the Heart

Music from the Heart features pianist and composer Roger Davidson on piano, Hendrik Meurkens on both chromatic harmonica and vibraphone. The quartet is completed by Edwardo Belo-string bass and Adriano Santos-drums. All compositions are by Roger Davidson. This pianist-composer was previously unfamiliar to me but in reading and listening, I learned that he is talented in many areas of composition. Davidson has a long American lineage and has spent time in Brazil, a similar story to that of Meurkens.

Although the compositions are all new, they have the typical Brazilian flavor and the listener will likely find himself/herself humming along and keeping time to the catchy rhythms.

And, extra treat here, there are a number of tunes on which Meurkens plays vibraphone. The drummer and bassist are an integral part of the quartet and get to “shine” with their occasional solos, too.

Recommended for quiet listening times such as late-night or dinner-time. This one will spin on my own turntable frequently. Non-jazz fans likely will be intrigued as well.

www.rogerdavidsonmusic.net; www.soundbrush.com

CD Review: A diverse pair of recordings

Erroll Garner — Night Concert

Tom Hook — 62

Erroll Garner

Ah, the joys of a record reviewer! Two recordings were recently received featuring pianists. The first was a live recording of Erroll Garner’s trio from Amsterdam, Nov. 7, 1964. The second one was of pianist/vocalist Tom Hook, a current recording commemorating Hook’s 62nd anniversary of his birth.

The Garner CD is elegantly packaged –the six-sided fold-out has four different photos of Garner and his group at that event. Liner notes are by jazz journalist-historians Nate Chinen and Robin D. G. Kelly with song descriptions by Christian Sands. Eddie Calhoun, bass, and Kelly Martin, drums, were Garner’s accompanists. As most Garner fans know, and for newer fans the writers explain, Garner did not announce the tunes beforehand. And the program schedule was also unknown to his accompanists. Garner would play an elaborate introduction which, in retrospect, might give a clue to the coming familiar jazz tune. Then, he would go into the familiar melody and one could hear the audience sigh as they recognized the tune. At that time, of course, the accompanists would have recognized the tune, and what key he was playing in, and would start their accompaniment. I won’t name any of the tunes here so as not to spoil the fun for those hip persons who would like to play the guessing game along with the 1964 Dutch audience. Most of those familiar with the Great American Songbook will recognize the majority of the tunes.

Another interesting aspect of the Garner concert was that it started at midnight. The Amsterdam Concertgebouw had been booked for a classical concert earlier that evening so the sell-out jazz crowd enjoyed the concert in the early-morning hours.

Additional info at: errollgarner.com and mackavenue.com.

Tom Hook’s “62.”

Tom Hook’s recording on the Arbors label is a potpourri of musical effort using some of the best New Orleans players in various combinations. On some, he even uses a string section: two violins, viola, cello and string bass. Hook is featured on piano and vocals and is credited with many of the arrangements. Those familiar with New Orleans players will recognize many of the names here. I list only a few here: Bobby Durham, bass and vocals; Ed Metz, drums; Wendell Brunious, trumpet; Tom Fischer, clarinet and sax; Rick Trolsen, trombone. Metz is from the Tampa area rather than New Orleans but he’s a first-call percussionist for many and has been featured on many labels including this Arbors recording.

New Orleans pianist and HBO “Treme” actor Tom McDermott wrote the liner notes along with brief notes and acknowledgement by Hook himself.

The thirteen tunes are listed here so that the reader can appreciate the diversity of the selections, many of which were arranged by the pianist-vocalist headliner.

Songs: Buona Sera; Bounce Me Brother with a Solid Four; Come Fly With Me; Lipstick Traces; Let Them Talk; At the Swing Cats Ball; Someday; My Jug and I; I Never Talk To Strangers; That Old Black Magic; After My Laughter Came Tears; I Hear a Sound (by T. Hook) ; Here’s to Life.

Arbors Records ARCD 19463; arborsrecords.com.

Both these recordings will be available for patron check-out at the Jazz Room of the downtown West Florida Public Library.