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Recent Recordings by Area Artists
Many hands make light work, and many hands are at work on Amigos: From Our Hands (PKO 036) the new CD from Tumbao Bravo. Some hands are on bongo, some on conga, some on timbales, etc. Paul Keller's record company has come up with an exotic item in this disc, produced by Ann Arbor-area stalwarts Paul Vornhagen and Alberto Nacif. Vornhagen plays all the saxes on the disc plus some flute and piccolo. Nacif does his usual capable job on percussion, using both hands and sticks.
Tumbao Bravo's first album won the 2005 Detroit Music Awards' Outstanding Jazz Recording, and this second one attempts to maintain their track record. In addition to the omnipresent percussion there is fine trumpet work by Bob Mojica, keyboards by Sven Anderson, John Barron and Jacob Chmara on electric bass, and the aforementioned Vornhagen on woodwinds.
Anderson, Barron, Nacif, Vornhagen and Xavier Barrios contributed the compositions, all of them in the Afro-Cuban cum Brazilian cum Latin American vein, and therein was an opportunity on this CD. For those new to the genre, it would have been a good idea to drop in a standard or two, to give us baseline data. Other than that, this is a mixture of exciting sounds and textures.
Dennis Tini is one busy man. In addition to his full-time teaching job at Wayne State University, conducting chores, national boards, etc., he manages to slip into the recording studio to play superior jazz piano. (Ann Arborites can't help but be reminded of James Dapogny.)
On the CD The Eyes of Youth (NTM 002) Tini plays sweet, he plays hot, he plays Horace Silver, he even plays Bach ("Bach's Things," an original by Tini). He puts together trios, quartets and quintets and includes outstanding Detroit-based musicians on all tracks.
George "Sax" Benson and Larry Nozero are just two of the high-quality players on this disc. Tini's wife, April Arabian-Tini, is the vocalist on three numbers.
The title track is an interesting original by Tini, and the standards, "I Remember You" and "Someday My Prince Will Come," are well done. But Tini seems really to vibrate to Horace Silver's "Peace." The whole CD is testimony to the fact that the bridges between classical music and jazz have indeed been crossed.
Sheila Landis will try anything. On the CD Blues in the Night (SheLan 1021) she starts out with an original called "This Ain't No Cadillac" in which she bemoans the fact that an SUV with the Cadillac name on it just "ain't no Cadillac." Then she drops back from a full band backing to a trio on her cover of Peggy Lee's "Fever." On she goes to her own lyrics for Lee Morgan's "Speedball," and then to the title track.
Landis' most unusual arrangement on the disc is an up-tempo version of Glenn Miller's "At Last," and she does a touching version of "You Don't Know Me." Best of all, in my view, is what she does with Willie Nelson's "Crazy." She makes you almost forget Patsy Cline.
Rick Matle plays guitar on all the tracks, including a "seven-string guitar" on one; on another he handles both guitar and bass. Other players contribute on a variety of instruments: Keith Kaminski plays the saxes, drummers Dennis Sheridan and Dave Taylor are heard from, with Paul Finkbeiner, Scott Peterson, Renell Gonsalves and others as well.
I wonder what vocal challenges Landis might take on next!
This CD just whets your appetite for more of Judie Cochill's singing. The eleven tracks on Let's Do It: Judie, Gene, Jazz & Moore (Jazzisaurus JRJC 01) show off a singer with a distinctive voice who handles lyrics intelligently, sings in tune, phrases well and responds to her fine accompanists. What else can a singer do?
First, the accompanists. They back up the singer well and are given solo time, and both use it well. Gene Bertoncini and Michael Moore are talented and experienced jazz musicians who know how to back a singer without getting in the way but, on the other hand, are extroverts when given their solo turns. How lucky Cochill is to work with them.
The songs chosen contain a wonderful mix of tempos and moods. Considering that "Skylark" was written by two musical geniuses, Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, Cochill gives it everything it deserves. In full voice on that song, she drops back to a more tender touch on an item such as "I Wish I'd Met You." The standards "It Had To Be You" and "If I Had You" are sung beautifully, and she provides two different versions of "I Get A Kick Out of You."
Be sure to catch Cochill when she comes to your local venue. She's special!
This isn't just your usual guitar twosome. Michele Ramo and Mundell Lowe are two Southern boys, one from the Southern U.S., the other from Southern Italy: Sicily to be exact. (This info from the excellent liner notes by Piotr Michalowski.) One (Ramo) is playing an eight-string guitar which makes you think a string bass sneaked in on occasion. Both of the players are seasoned professionals who make Mick & Mundy, I Didn't Know About You (Moonboat 2005-1) a delightful experience.
The duo starts out with a slow, long (ten minute) version of the title song, one of Duke Ellington's loveliest melodies. Their distinctive voices ring clear while you luxuriate in their improvisations. Later they take up another Ellington theme, "Satin Doll," and even later go to work on the Rodgers and Hart classic, "There's A Small Hotel." One critic said that these two provide a "loving caress" to these tunes and that's about as well as you can state it.
The last track on the CD is quite unusual. Ramo's wife, Heidi Hepler, both recites poetry and sings about the glories of Sicily. It's a cool way to end this demonstration of guitar magic.
What a romp this whole CD is! Djust imagine being in a djoint that is djumping with the music of an accordion, a clarinet, a violin, a string bass and two guitars. This combination is just as unlikely as the original Quintette of The Hot Club of France. Who would have guessed that a violin, a string bass and three guitars — all played by Frenchmen — could produce good jazz. Well, they did, mostly because of the presence of the Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhart. This Detroit Swingtet is devoted to Django's memory, and Gypsy Djazz (Ranch RR0046) includes six of his compositions, including the beautiful "Nuages."
There have only been a few good jazz accordionists. Joe Mooney from the ‘40s was the best, and Bennie Moten's brother, Gus, played one in the ‘20s. The instrument has always had a bad reputation...being played at ethnic festivals or by little boys trying "Lady of Spain." But Julien Labro can make you forget all that. He is everywhere on this CD, jamming with the best of them.
As one of the few jazz accordion legends, Art Van Damme, says in the liner notes, "If the accordian world is looking for a new star, Julien gets my vote." (Incidentally, the joke was that Art was called "Van Darn" during radio's prim days.)
This disc just overflows with great young talent. Here's Evan Perri, one of the founders of The Hot Club of Detroit, a group that's been making big waves. Here's Dave Bennett, whom we've followed since his high schools days, doing his Benny Goodman thing on BG's, "Air Mail Special." Here's violinist Jeremy Kittel, who began with the Saline Fiddlers and now has his own group. Savor his solo here on "Djangology."
This CD djust djumps with youthful enthusiam and talent combined with classic djazz literature (with a DJulien Labro original thrown in for good measure). It's a djoy!
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