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: and

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.;

Book Review: ‘Jeru’s Journey: The Life and Music of Gerry Mulligan’

Jeru’s Journey
The Life and Music of Gerry Mulligan
By Sanford Josephson
Hal Leonard Books, pp.213 © 2018

Jeru’s Journey is the first definitive biography of Gerry Mulligan. Most jazz fans likely know him as an outstanding baritone saxophone player but he was much more than that — arranger, composer and even a sometime theatrical actor. Author Sanford Josephson has done an excellent job of researching Mulligan’s work and career as well as interviewing many of Gerry’s musical collaborators.

In a telephone interview with the author, I learned that he had interviewed Mulligan in 1981 for a newspaper article that became a chapter in his 2009 book Jazz Notes: Interviews Across the Generations. Other valuable source material was the Library of Congress. Mulligan’s papers are deposited there along with his jazz instruments. There were a series of fourteen audiotapes that Mulligan had produced with an interviewer that were lent to Josephson by Mulligan’s wife Franca.

Mulligan’s career is succinctly laid out by the author and supplemented by comments from his collaborators.

The purpose of a book review is not to reveal the entire contents of the book but merely to provide an overview and enough insight for the reader to determine whether or not to proceed further. For those interested, the book will reveal intriguing aspects of Mulligan’s personality. For example, he had a relationship with theater and movie actress Judy Holliday. Mulligan played the part of a priest in the movie “The Subterraneans,” based on the Jack Kerouac novel. He also played Judy Holliday’s blind date in the movie version of “The Bells Are Ringing.” Mulligan was happy and comfortable with most styles of jazz, as well as other music. His musical associations were widespread from Dixieland, Bop to Classical.

Allow me two intriguing examples from this book. Mulligan had met New York Philharmonic conductor Zubin Mehta on an airplane flight. Mulligan was invited to play the soprano saxophone part on “Bolero” at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. A few days earlier, not having the music beforehand, Mehta had whistled Mulligan’s part over the phone. He only saw the music on the evening of the concert.

Some time after Mulligan’s death, there was to be a celebration of Mulligan’s life and career at the Library of Congress. Saxophonist Scott Robinson was scheduled to perform a piece on Mulligan’s baritone sax. He brought his own reeds and mouthpiece to play on Mulligan’s instrument. Following the trial run, he put his own mouthpiece and reed along with Mulligan’s instrument in the large airline traveling case. The staff assured him that he wouldn’t have to carry that bulky case; they’d set everything up for his performance. When it came time for Robinson to get ready to play, to his horror, he discovered that his own mouthpiece and reed were not on the horn but Mulligan’s own mouthpiece and a 25 year-old cracked reed! However, much to Scott’s relief, he got through the piece without incident!

Recommended. Josephson and Hal Leonard are to be thanked for the effort to bring Mulligan’s life and work to the present and future generations.

This book will go to the Jazz Room of the West Florida Public Library for its patrons to enjoy.

Video: July Jazz Gumbo

Please enjoy this video with highlights from the July Jazz Gumbo, July 16 at Phineas Phogg’s, Seville Quarter.

The July Jazz Gumbo at Phineas Phogg’s at Seville Quarter featured a tribute to legendary vocalist Phoebe Snow, with vocals by Juliette MooreCynthia Domulot on keys, Jim Armstrong on guitar, Tom Latenser, bass, and Fred Domulot, drums. The evening was sponsored by Paul Herrick.

Video by Mike Suchcicki

Remembering J. McCarthy ‘Mac’ Miller, Jr.

Born September 14, 1914
Died July 29, 2018

Jazz Pensacola members, especially native Pensacolians, will likely remember our longtime member Mac Miller. He was owner of radio station WCOA for many years and was active in the community. It was only when I read his obituary that I learned that he was involved in building a cable TV station which subsequently became Cox Cable.

Mac was a graduate of the Naval Academy and was a highly decorated Marine fighter pilot in the South Pacific during WWII. He was selected as Don Tristan de Luna 42 as well as being active in many civic organizations.

During his later years, he was a widower and was a resident of Azalea Trace but continued his Jazz Society membership until the end.

Allow me one jazz anecdote here. In 1988, the New Jersey Jazz Society decided to hold a 50th anniversary of the Benny Goodman jazz concert at Carnegie Hall. In learning about it, I contacted Mac and his wife June and Holiday Veal and his wife Mary about this concert. I purchased tickets for Betty and me and the other two couples. Prior to the concert, Mrs. Miller was diagnosed with a malignancy, so that trip was cancelled for them. Also, there were complications which prevented the Veals from traveling. The concert was a sell-out so the Miller tickets were returned and re-sold. Holliday’s brother who was a NYC resident received the Veal’s tickets. At one point during the concert, the announcer asked those to stand who had attended the original, 1938 concert. The gentleman next to me stood—that is, the one who received the Miller’s tickets—and I learned that he was radio broadcaster Edmund Anderson, lyricist for 1940 popular song Flamingo. Anderson reported that he was sitting the box seats with Duke Ellington during the first concert.

Mac’s memorial service will be 12 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, at All Saints Anglican Church in Warrington with graveside service to follow at Barrancas National Cemetery at 1:30 p.m.

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: and

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;

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

Les Lieber, Jazz at Noon leader, dies at 106

Les Lieber

The New York Times of July 17, 2018 carried a story about Les Lieber’s death at 106. He was a New York advertising executive and a saxophonist. Since he missed the opportunity to play with a group, in 1965 he organized the Jazz At Noon series. The format was that Lieber would invite some serious amateur jazz musicians to perform at a suitable restaurant or venue. He would usually hire one or two professional musicians to round out the group.

I was in NYC for a medical meeting in the 1980s and had opportunity to observe that performance. Besides Les Lieber, I didn’t know any of the performing musicians. However, bassist Milt Hinton was the invited professional and I knew him from the Dick Gibson jazz parties. The drummer on that occasion was Robert Litwak, a cardiac surgeon at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital. I did have opportunity to meet him. He reported that he was due in London to deliver a medical paper but had delayed his departure in order to make the gig.

In talking to various people who had participated in those events, I spoke with Jim Eigo, a jazz publicist. Jim was invited to Lieber’s elegant loft in lower Manhattan and Lieber explained how he missed performing, so he got the idea for a Jazz At Noon group. Lieber was the master of ceremonies until Lieber retired a few years ago.

Trumpeter Ed Polcer, who had been co-owner of Eddie Condon’s nightclub for about 10 years, told me that he had been one of the invited professionals for the Friday event. This was a number of years ago and he didn’t recall any unusual details except that it was well-executed under Lieber’s direction.

I also spoke with Richard Waldberger, an attorney-bassist, who said that he had played on a more-or-less regular basis especially in the early years before the custom of hiring a professional bassist. (One of the problems was transport and storage of that somewhat unwieldy instrument.)

There are numerous YouTube links to Les Lieber. One is a 1946 recording of Lieber in recently liberated Paris jamming on pennywhistle with Django Reinhardt and small group. Another is a group performing with Lieber on his 100th birthday. The group includes saxophonist Harry Allen, trumpeter Randy Reinhardt and guitarist Howard Alden. One may explore other options as well.

How does all this information relate to The Jazz Society of Pensacola, Inc.? The original founding meeting of the Jazz Society was held at Crossroads on Barrancas Avenue (now no longer present) in December 1982. Joe Occhipinti was leading a Friday Jazz-At-Noon event there. In early afternoon we had approximately 60 persons attending who voted to proceed with the organization of our new jazz society.

Thanks to Les’ son Don Lieber for the additional photos and appreciation to publicist Jim Eigo for his help in producing this piece.



Les Lieber
Les Lieber

Les Lieber