Thursday, September 2, 2010

Matt Vashlishan: No Such Thing

Origin Arts
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 9.2.10
Buy CD: No Such Thing

This is the debut album for Miami-based reedman/composer/arranger Matt Vashlishan.

It's a perfect example of what we get when a talented teenager is taken under the wing of an older musician (David Liebman) who has made his name in the profession, then attends a prestigious music college (The Eastman School).

Vashlishan composed seven of these tracks and arranged all of them. Even the standards could be considered “originals,” in that the melodic lines, meters and keys have been modified. The album's liner notes explain that some were either contracts or school assignments that had associated deadlines.

The result is highly “arranged”' but, for the most part, is very pleasant jazz.

Vashlishan plays alto and tenor saxes and flute, and is backed by Liebman on soprano and tenor sax; they're joined by guitarist Vic Juris, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Michael Stephans.

The covers are particularly interesting. “Lennie's Place,” a tribute to pianist Lennie Tristano, uses the chord changes from “On Green Dolphin Street,” while “Pieces” is based on the chord changes from “All the Things You Are,” but written in 5/4 time. “Alone Together” has been radically modified and, at times, is almost too modernized.

Even Joe Henderson's composition, “Inner Urge,” written for tenor sax, is revised for an alto sax range.

At times, one gets the feeling that some of these modifications have been made solely for the sake of change, but the quality of the results holds our attention.

I look forward to more from Vashlishan.

Dave Glasser: Evolution

Here Tiz Music
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 9.2.10
Buy CD: Evolution

There's an old saying: An individual is known by the quality of his friends.

For our purposes, consider this: A quality musician is known by the artists who seek him as a friend.

Alto saxophonist/composer Dave Glasser fills this definition. During his career, he has performed extensively with some of the finest individuals and groups in the jazz world. He was with Illinois Jacquet in 1988 and again from 1991-95; he was part of the reconstituted Count Basie Band (led by Frank Foster) and with Clark Terry from 1995 to 2006.

As an instructor, Glasser has taught at New York City's New School and numerous other colleges.

Glasser plays hard bop with tinges of Phil Woods, Lee Konitz — who was his instructor for awhile — and a “softer”-blowing Charlie Parker. For this album, Glasser is joined by pianist John Nyerges, bassist Jeff Campbell and drummer Rich Thompson. Glasser wrote four of the eight tracks, and two are covers of tunes by Thelonious Monk (“Rhythm-a-ning”) and Burke/Van Hausen (“It Could Happen to You”).

Everything is top-drawer; it's like “new” trip down a very swinging Memory Lane. Bop fans will love this album.

Jimmy Amadie Trio: Kindred Spirits

TPR Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 9.2.10
Buy CD: Kindred Spirits

The “trio” designation here is misleading; six musicians actually contributed to this album. Amadie and drummer Bill Goodwin are constants, and Amadie wrote five tracks.

Lee Konitz (alto sax), Lew Tabackin (tenor sax and flute) and Joe Lovano (tenor sax) alternate on the various tunes, and bassists Tony Merino and Steve Gilmore also split duties. Amadie either played with these guys at some point during his career, or he wanted to, but hadn't been able to — until now — due to his health problems.

Jimmy started out as a musician who was also an athlete. He played baseball and boxed while young, and both sports caused injuries to his hands, fingers and arms. Broken bones were only the beginning; he has also had a lifelong battle with extreme tendonitis, which put a halt to his piano playing for decades at a time.

Then, not long ago, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. As a result, three sessions were required to complete this album. There were no rehearsals, and everything was done as a single take.

Most of these guys are senior citizens: Amadie is 73, Konitz is 82, Goodwin and Tabackin are 70, and Lovano is 60. Trust me, they still swing like they used to.

Konitz was part of the birth of “cool” jazz and, after a start with Claude Thornhill, worked with Lennie Tristano, Miles Davis and Stan Kenton. Tabackin and his wife, pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi, formed a big band and have played together for years. And everyone who loves big bands knows about Lovano, who starred with Woody Herman for years.

This is a nice visit to the good ol' days.

Marian Petrescu Quartet: Thrivin'

Resonance Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 10.07.10
Buy CD: Thrivin'

Pianist Marian Petrescu was born in Romania, and his musical training covered both classical and jazz genres. I first heard him as the pianist on a big band tribute to Oscar Peterson, and this release features his quartet: guitarist Adreas Oberg, bassist David Finck and drummer Mark McLean.

Some pianists are graced with dexterity and speed that set them apart from all the others: Art Tatum, Lennie Tristano, Peterson and Dave Frank come to mind. Petrescu belongs in their company.

My initial reaction to this guy was similar to that of Peterson who, when he first heard Tatum, was certain that two pianists were performing together. Petrescu is, in a word, breathtaking: You'll shake your head in disbelief.

This comes with a caveat, however; Petruscu hasn't developed the fantastic jazz “feel” that Peterson had. Further, the fact that Petruscu is “fast” doesn't mean that he always swings; the pyrotechnics can detract from the listening experience.

Just as he's developing a groove, he can lose it with several choruses of “Wow, look how fast I can play!”

Fortunately, that doesn't happen often here. Two tracks are covers of compositions by Peterson — “Cakewalk” and “Blues Etude” — and these groove nicely. “Blue in Green,” by Miles Davis and Bill Evans, is done beautifully. Another highlight is the seldom-heard “On the Trail,” from Ferde Grofe's “Grand Canyon Suite.”

Two old standards — “My Romance” and “Yours Is My Heart Alone” — are impressive showpieces for the artistry of the rhythm section members.

The finale, “Indiana,” is done as a solo piano piece. It ultimately turns into an excess of explosive showtime technique: impressive, but it's not jazz.

That said, this remains a very promising group.

The Dave Anderson Quartet: Clarity

Pony Boy Records
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 9.2.10
Buy CD: Clarity

Dave Anderson is another member of the great cadre of musicians who make Seattle their home. He began to play the alto sax at age 11, added the soprano sax when a teenager, then the tenor and baritone shortly thereafter. He won several scholarships and ultimately graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1990. Prior to settling in Seattle, he worked in both Minneapolis and New York City.

The quartet featured on this, Anderson's debut release, came together in 2008. Anderson had studied piano at one time under John Hansen, who plays that instrument her; bassist Chuck Kistler and drummer Adam Kessler also are from Seattle. One track also features the well-known Thomas Marriott on flugelhorn.

Although the quartet is the main focus, several different combinations are utilized: Marriott's addition results in a quintet; the piano is omitted to form a trio setting on one track; and another utilizes solely alto and piano. All the tunes are Anderson originals, except for a cover of Joe Henderson's “Y Ya la Quiero.”

This group plays “thoughtful” jazz, and while the album isn't a burner, everything swings nicely.

Phil Woods and the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble: Solitude

Jazzed Media
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 9.2.10
Buy CD: Solitude

Sax player, composer and arranger Phil Woods needs no introduction; this 81-year-old icon has played with almost every jazz star who could be named.

He performs here with the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble, an award-winning organization with which Woods has been associated since 2004.

Woods began his professional career in the 1950s, played in the States until '68 and then moved to France, where he lived and worked for four years. Upon his return to our shores, he formed a quintet that still is in existence, albeit with some personnel changes. He has a prolific discography, with more than three dozen releases as a leader, and almost a dozen as a sideman.

Woods has been nominated for seven Grammy Awards, and has won four. He composed all the tunes here, and did three of the arrangements.

This album, recorded in 2008, features one of 14 DePaul student jazz groups. Twenty-two students (in various combinations) contributed to these tracks, and Woods' rhythm section is heard on three. The result is one of the best university-affiliated groups I've heard.

It's beautifully rehearsed and swings wonderfully.