JAZZ ALBUM REVIEWS IN THE AUSTRALIAN
In September, 2017 Eric Myers commenced reviewing jazz albums in the Review supplement of The Weekend Australian. All reviews in this folder are written by Myers.
Nick Haywood Trio
Published in The Weekend Australian September 16, 2017
This splendid album from Nick Haywood (bass), Colin Hopkins (piano) and Niko Schauble (drums), features lyrical compositions chiefly by Haywood, stirring versions of three pop tunes, and impressive exercises in free improvisation. The lovely opening track A Rag For Al - Haywood’s tribute to the late Allan Browne – has a ballad-like, sparse melody in slow four, and then is doubled so that the trio swings gently in four. Note Schauble’s subtle responses to the Hopkins and Haywood phrases. Schauble epitomises the listening drummer, who doesn’t so much play the drums, as colour the music. The lyricism which underpins the album is exemplified in Nellie’s Tune, written for artist Nellie Gibson, Haywood’s wife (who did the arresting art work for the album cover). The pop tunes, Stevie Nicks’ Landslide, Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers To Cross, and Justin Hayward’s Nights In White Satin have harmonic changes now in the collective memory, so they give the album a comforting aura of familiarity. The musicians breathe new life into them, through options specific to the piano trio: clever dynamics, the establishment of mood, and flexible interaction in the playing. In Fox Hat the trio shows how free improvisation can work well. After an extended introduction where no voice is prominent, Haywood produces a strong bass figure, which gives the music pulse. Hopkins and Schauble congregate around this figure, and the band finds a groove, leading to some fascinating interaction between the three players. But the main appeal of the album lies in the structured works, which are ruminative and heartfelt. Schauble, who recorded, mixed and mastered the album, has given it immaculate sound quality. This is a CD to which I will return, again and again.
Another Journey: Music for Symphony and Jazz Orchestras
Published in The Weekend Australian September 23, 2017
One can see why an imaginative jazz composer, normally restricted to trumpets, trombones, saxophones and the rhythm section, would welcome the opportunity to exploit the additional colours provided by the symphony orchestra: French horns, bassoons, the oboe and so on, not to mention strings. The distinguished Sydney jazz musician and composer Judy Bailey has ploughed into this magic garden with relish over several years. The result is a hugely enjoyable double-CD album which includes three works for jazz ensemble and symphony orchestra (each with three movements) and three works for large jazz ensemble (known in jazz as the Big Band). It feels like the culmination of a life’s work. Bailey’s writing is not merely gorgeous; it is Ellingtonian. Not in the sense of copying Duke Ellington - far from it - but, in the sense that, like him, she has found combinations of instruments in her ensemble writing that produce extraordinarily rich sounds. Throughout this splendid album, those rich sounds lift the listener’s spirit. Look out for the juxtaposition of conventional jazz writing with sounds that are rarely available in jazz. A good example is the use of strings in the third movement of the signature work, Another Journey, which the composer describes as “Afro-American”. Here an exuberant and percussive jazz theme is juxtaposed on two occasions with rhapsodic interludes, played unaccompanied by the strings. After various improvised solos Bailey returns to the head of the tune. This time the rhapsodic interludes are replaced by written bebop-style interludes played brilliantly in tempo by the strings, accompanied by the rhythm section. The sound of classical string players articulating highly literate jazz lines is refreshing. There is little piano from Judy Bailey herself on the album; in fact she herself plays only briefly in one of the big band tracks. In the second movement of Another Journey (“European”) there is a lovely rippling solo from the pianist Harry Sutherland. Backed only by a bassist and drummer, this can sound merely decorative. The difference here is the lush orchestral bed under the piano sound, which amplifies the strong element of romanticism which has always been a feature of Bailey’s music. On the two CDs there are many solos from individual players, and it is a shame that identifying most of them has not been possible. They are invariably at professional standard, and I hear no evidence that any of the ensemble musicians, apparently from student ranks, are struggling with Bailey’s sometimes complex writing. Judy Bailey is a strong, fearless composer whose music has always had an unusual robustness, compared to the work of her contemporary the late John Sangster, who is widely regarded as the finest composer to have been active in Australian jazz. Like Sangster, Bailey exemplifies the highly accomplished generation of self-taught jazz musicians who emerged in Sydney in the 1960s, and have spent a lifetime refining and articulating their idea of musical beauty.
Sinatra & Jobim @ 50
John Pizzarelli featuring Daniel Jobim
Concord Music Group/Planet
Published in The Weekend Australian September 30, 2017
Frank Sinatra recorded many great albums in his career but none more pleasurable than his 1967 album with Antonio Carlos Jobim. For me Sinatra’s readings of Jobim staples such as How Insensitive and Once I Loved were definitive. John Pizzarelli, son of the great American guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, has now issued Sinatra & Jobim @ 50, a tribute to the 1967 classic. Pizzarelli, 57, a veteran of 20 solo albums himself, and a brilliant guitarist in the mainstream jazz tradition, is no slouch at scat singing in unison with his own improvisations. To appreciate this album, however, one needs to look past Pizzarelli’s modest singing voice, which is without vibrato. He sings in tune though, and his phrasing is musical. Generally his approach is adequate for the gentle bossa novas which dominate here. Some of the 1967 repertoire is duplicated, including Jobim’s Dindi, Meditation and Quiet Nights, and the three American standards which were so successful previously: Baubles Bangles and Beads, I Concentrate on You, and Change Partners. Pizzarelli’s arrangements borrow judiciously from the superb Claus Ogerman orchestrations which underpinned 1967. The highlight of the album is a faultless version of Antonio’s Song, a truly beautiful work which Michael Franks – a poetic composer of very hip songs – wrote in tribute to Jobim. The vocals on the album are shared with Jobim’s grandson Daniel Jobim, who reminds us how sensuous are the lyrics of his grandfather’s songs when sung in Portuguese. There are splendid jazz solos from the pianist Helio Alves and the lyrical tenor saxophonist Harry Allen. Allen largely emulates Stan Getz, whose legendary sound was so much part of the bossa nova genre when it emerged in the 1960s.