Fred Hersch is one of the most gifted, sensitive, and inspired living jazz musicians. This compilation of celebrated pianist Fred Hersch's best-loved recordings for Chesky culls material from three discs-1991's Forward Motion, 1993's Dancing in the Dark and 1994's The Fred Hersch Trio Plays.
Altoist Phil Woods took a rare vacation from playing with his regular group to collaborate with pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist George Mraz and drummer Kenny Washington on this fine straight-ahead quartet date. The 13 selections are fairly concise (clocking in between 3-7 minutes apiece) and most of the material (other than "Canadian Sunset," "Yours Is My Heart Alone," "Blue and Sentimental" and Bill Evans' classic "Waltz for Debby") consists of either obscurities or recent originals. A special bonus is that Woods plays his appealing clarinet on three numbers. Highlights include "Charles Christopher" (a tribute to Charlie Parker), "Butter" and Hal Galper's "Just Us."
Mango Santamaria utilizes a colorful cast of musicians on this CD. Flutists Hubert Laws and Dave Valentin are featured on two songs apiece (although unfortunately not together) and the nonet has trumpeter Eddie Allen, altoist Jimmy Cozier, and Craig Rivers on tenor and soprano, along with three percussionists. There are a lot of percussion features including the closing nine-and-a-half minute "La Mogolla," making this an excellent if not quite essential recording.
Right in the middle of celebrating his 79th birthday, Clark Terry went into the studio for several days to record 14 duets with a different pianist on each track, with many of them being veterans of many record dates and/or concerts with him. Terry remains one of the most easily identifiable trumpeters and flügelhorn players in jazz, so much so that more than one critic has claimed the ability to identify him after just one note. Each track is dedicated to a great performer of the past, though no attempt is made to copy famous recordings, of course. Terry's brilliant flügelhorn swings mightily along with Monty Alexander on the surprising dedication to Nat King Cole of "L.O.V.E.," which was a hit for him after Cole had all but quit playing piano and enjoyed even greater success as a popular singer.
This CD is most notable for featuring ten of trumpeter Tom Harrell's compositions. Few of the melodies from the harmonically advanced originals will stick in one's mind after one or two listens, but the solos are excellent (and in Harrell's case, often exquisite) and the generally melancholy moods of the advanced hard bop pieces are memorable in their own way. In addition to Harrell, Joe Lovano is in fine form on tenor, soprano and alto, Cheryl Pyle's two guest appearances on flute are a bonus and the rhythm section is supportive and alert with pianist Danilo Perez emerging as a major soloist, taking the title cut as a lyrical free improvisation duet with Harrell. An intriguing and thought-provoking session.
The Look of Love is Valerie Joyce's much anticipated follow-up to her Chesky debut, featuring elegantly chic original arrangements of the classic pieces in Burt Bacharach & Hal David's catalogue. This super audio CD was recorded in multi-channel surround sound using Chesky's state of the art minimalist miking techniques and the world's finest custom-made electronics to assure the purest, most natural sounding recording available.
Wayne Shorter has written a number of landmark jazz compositions that have found favor among fellow jazz musicians, but Mysterious Shorter marks a rare occasion when an entire CD is devoted to his music. Trumpeter Nicholas Payton heads a strong quintet, including saxophonist Bob Belden (who doubles on soprano and tenor saxes, like Shorter, and contributed all of the arrangements), organist Sam Yahel, guitarist John Hart, and drummer Billy Drummond. Since six of the eight songs are from Shorter's early Blue Note CDs prior to his move toward fusion, the substitution of Yahel's laid-back organ for the more striking sound of the piano softens the sound of Belden's charts, giving them a bit more of a mysterious flavor, especially in the brisk, playful setting of "Footprints." Payton is known for his powerful trumpet playing, but displays a quiet lyrical touch in "Teru."
All too often, piano trios feature the pianist extensively, with bassist and drummer relegated to supporting roles and occasional brief solos. That's hardly the case with this studio session, as even though the trio is billed under the names of David Hazeltine and George Mraz, with Billy Drummond, the date comes off like a working partnership with everyone getting lots of space to play. Hazeltine has been a workhorse in New York City, recording a number of CDs for various labels and frequently appearing as a sideman, while Mraz is one of the top bassists to emerge during the late '60s. Likewise, Drummond has himself been a very in-demand player. The interaction between the musicians is superb throughout the date, with fresh treatments of chestnuts like "Out of This World" and "Alone Together" that swing like mad.
Paquito D'Rivera's alto and clarinet skills were ably displayed on this session, which featured him working in Afro-Latin, salsa, funk, swing and hard bop. Compositions ranged from intense, jam-flavored numbers with torrid solos, like "Recife's Blue" and the title tune, to introspective ballads, group pieces with rhythmically explosive sections and numbers displaying classical influences. The unifying force was D'Rivera, who also played tenor, but was most prominent on clarinet, doing both swing-oriented and looser, freer solos. While not as strict a jazz vehicle as his Columbia dates, this session presented a more eclectic, versatile Paquito D'Rivera.