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CD Recommendations: September 2012
Scott Hamilton & Harry Allen: Round Midnight (Challenge Records)
This reunion of two great US tenor saxophonists is very much a meeting of minds. Harry Allen was strongly influenced by the playing of Scott Hamilton as he grew up, but rather than coming across as an imitator, what’s clear here is that his unique, immediately identifiable sound – wispy, yet rough around the edges – complements Hamilton’s full-bodied, rich tone. They lead a super-swinging trio featuring ace pianist Rossano Sportiello through nine tracks which, surprisingly for them, includes only one ballad.
Daryl Sherman: Mississippi Belle (Arbors Records)
As Edinburgh Jazz Festival-goers discovered lastmonth, the American singer-pianist Daryl Sherman is a terrific entertainer whose frothy, coquettish vocals and swinging jazz piano make her a class act. On this CD Sherman celebrates the lesser-sung Cole Porter – a composer with whom she has a special affinity, since for years she played his piano in the Waldorf Astoria. Some of the songs here are a little too cabaret for jazz tastes but there’s still much for devotees of elegant mainstream jazz.
Joe Stilgoe: We Look to the Stars (Absolute)
This is the second album from the singer/songwriter/pianist and raconteur who delighted Fringe audiences with his one-man show last year – and it’s a winner, though one which veers more towards pop than his last CD. The voice is very Buble-like, but the wittily-worded songs and catchy melodies are distinctly Stilgoe, with the poignant, Billy Wilder-inspired, (That’s The Way It Crumbles) Cookie-Wise and the jubilant I Like This One and Let’s Begin highlights alongside a gorgeous take on Waterloo Sunset.
Stan Getz Quartet: Swiss Radio Days Jazz Series Volume 29 (TCB) Recorded in Zurich in 1960 by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, this superb, swinging, six-track set by Stan Getz finds the tenor man at the peak of his pre-bossa nova powers. At the time of this concert, which was part of a Jazz at the Philharmonic tour, Getz was living in Copehnhagen and had brought a Danish rhythm section with him. But en route to Zurich he fell out with his bassist and drummer so Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen were co-opted in from Oscar Peterson’s trio to join pianist Jan Johansson. The results are simply sublime.
Sophie Milman: In the Moonlight (eOne Music)
Milman is a Russian-born, Israeli-raised and Toronto-based singer with a rich, luscious voice who sounds as if she has been around much longer than her twentysomething years, and who has a particular love of great lyrics. On this, her fourth album, she sings 14 love songs which were selected especially for the greatness of their lyrics. Several of these are given the full romantic treatment, with strings arranged by the great Alan Broadbent.
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Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012: Daryl Sherman
Daryl Sherman, Dirty Martini at Le Monde, Friday July 20th ****
Unless you’re going to a gig in a concert hall, there aren’t really very many opportunities to get dressed up for an evening of jazz these days – which made Daryl Sherman’s opening night show at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival on Friday all the more special. The sassy and classy New York-based singer, pianist and raconteur made her jazz festival debut in a new venue for the festival, the Dirty Martini, which is upstairs at the boutique hotel Le Monde. And what a wonderfully atmospheric and upmarket jazz-friendly venue it proved to be; perfect for a performer whose longest-running gig was at Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria hotel.
The piano she played there wasn’t electric (as Friday night’s was); it belonged to a certain Cole Porter – so it was little surprise that his songs made up a significant part of the programme. Among the many Porter gems she played and sang – as she swivelled around on her stool to draw in every section of the decadently decorated room – were the uptempo It’s Too Darn Hot and the bluesy Where Have You Been? Both of these were jaw-dropping masterclasses in simultaneously executing a complicated arrangement on the piano while singing the vocal line. I Concentrate On You, on the other hand, was a piano-less duet with bassist Roy Percy.
Other treats included “the quintessential song about the battle of the sexes” – the Rodgers and Hart number Everything I’ve Got (Belongs to You), which highlighted the fact that Sherman is a vocalist who makes you understand lyrics in a way you might not have done before.
First published in The Herald, Monday July 23rd
In a Mellow Tone
Getting To Know You
You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To
Get Out of Town
Night and Day
It’s Too Darn Hot
So In Love With You
Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me
I Thought About You
I’m Shadowing You
Why Did I Choose You?
Chase Me Charlie
The Song Is You
I’m Beginning to See the Light
I Concentrate On You
Where Have You Been?
Everything I’ve Got Belongs To You
You Go To My Head
Everything But You
Swingtime in Honolulu
Love Me Or Leave Me
Lullaby of Birdland
Flying Down to Rio
When Lights Are Low
Coming soon: Edinburgh Jazz Festival 2012
Well, I’m on my holidays but of course, this being the week running up to the Edinburgh Jazz Festival – my first love, festival-wise – I am ridiculously busy. In these desperate times for freelance journalists, I’ve had one (film) feature commissioned in the last four months; but have written two in the last 24 hours – on two aspects of the jazz festival. These will appear on here in due course.
But first.. Here are my picks for the jazz events of the next two weeks in Edinburgh. The first one is not part of the festival but a lovely way to kick it off in style – I’m talking about the Scottish Jazz Awards, which are, as of now, an annual affair and a glitzy one. They’re taking place on Thursday evening at the Queen’s Hall, and you don’t have to be part of the jazz glitterati to attend: tickets are on sale from the venue’s box office. I’ll be presenting the Best Vocalist award to either Alison Burns, Fionna Duncan or Carol Kidd. Can’t wait!
Then it’s down to the business of being a critic for the following ten days. Among the gigs I hope to attend are:
Daryl Sherman, Le Monde, Friday July 20 at 9pm
Django a la Creole, Teatro Spiegeltent, Saturday July 21 at 7.30pm
The Manhattan Transfer, Festival Theatre, Sunday July 22, 8pm
Swing 2012, Royal Overseas League, Monday July 23, 1.30pm
Orange Kellin & Morten Gunnar Larsen, Teatro Spiegeltent, Monday July 23, 6pm
A Night For Oscar: The Brian Kellock Trio/Dado Morini Quartet, Teatro Spiegeltent, Monday July 23 9pm
Curtis Stigers Up Close & Personal, Le Monde, Monday July 23 – Friday July 27, 9pm
Ken Mathieson Classic Jazz Orchestra Salutes the Kings of Jazz, Salon Elegance, Tuesday July 24, 6pm
Edinburgh Jazz Festival Orchestra – Sketches of Spain, The Individualism of Gil Evans, Queen’s Hall, Wednesday July 25, 8pm
Aga Zaryan, Salon Elegance, Wednesday July 25, 8.30pm
Cecile McLorin Salvant Quartet, Salon Elegance, Thursday July 26, 8.30pm
Diplomats of Jazz, Royal Overseas League, Friday July 27, 1.30pm
Havana Swing, Teatro Spiegeltent, Friday July 27, 5.30pm
Brian Molley & Mario Caribe Brazilian Quartet, Salon Elegance, Saturday July 28, 5.30pm
World Jazz Orchestra directed by Joe Temperley Play Duke Ellington, Festival Theatre, Saturday July 28, 8pm
Mike Hart Festival All-Stars (including Roy Williams), Teatro Spiegeltent, Sunday July 29, 5.30pm
Nova Scotia Jazz Band with Brian Kellock, Teatro Spiegeltent, Sunday July 29, 8.30pm
Colin Steele/Enzo Favata/Dave Milligan, Salon Elegance, Sunday July 29, 8.30pm
Here are some YouTube clips to give a flavour of what’s in store:
Norwich Jazz Party 2011: Sunday
The timetable may be gruelling – and the pressure may have been on, what with the volume of often tricky arrangements to be rehearsed -but what shone through from Sunday’s sessions at the jazz party was how much the musicians who come to Norwich relish the chance to play together in imaginative programmes with all sorts of different line-ups.
On Sunday, a set of Cannonball Adderley-associated music acted as a sort of touch paper for some particularly fiery, feisty playing by cornettist Warren Vache who recently told me how much he enjoys playing bop – and how seldom he gets to do it. Vache seemed to explode into life on this set, notably on a storming version of the enormously catchy Work Song, and he was aided and abetted by five fellow enthusiasts including Tardo Hammer, whose kittenish way with the keys offset the three-horn front line beautifully; Karen Sharp, whose dynamic baritone playing was a joy, and set-leader Alan Barnes in similarly energetic form. But it was Vache’s forceful, take-no-prisoners playing that stole the show.
If the Cannonball set brought out the tough – yet always lyrical – side of Vache, then his after-dinner set with guitarist Dave Cliff and bassist Dave Green inevitably showcased his sweet side. You only had to see this line-up listed in the programme to know that you were in for a treat. Vache’s taste is flawless – both in terms of the tunes he chooses, and the way in which he delivers them.
Really, the whole thing was a knockout, but it was a particular delight to hear him tease out extra magic from the sublime Richard Rodgers ballad My Romance which he played quietly, tenderly and with what seemed an air of exquisite resignation. You Don’t Know What Love Is and Triste were others which sounded as if they had been written specially for him, banishing as they did every other version from the memory. You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To was vintage Vache: swaying gently from side to side, the cornettist played with his trademark playful and seductive swagger, softly and persuasively at the start; bluesy and more assertively by the end.
Another musician who was on top form throughout the jazz party was guitarist Marty Grosz who may now be 81 but is clearly rejuvenated by performing. Sunday afternoon proved to be the perfect slot for a delightfully good-natured set on which he was joined by Nick Dawson (piano), Jim Galloway (soprano sax) and Duke Heitger (trumpet); the latter two emerging as something of a noteworthy duo over the weekend.
The mood was established straight-away with an uplifting take on You Are My Lucky Star (probably the first time I’ve ever heard this at a jazz concert), but it was a gorgeous, laid-back take on Love Is Just Around the Corner which lingered in the mind long after the music had ended. It was the perfect example of musical camaraderie.
The same could be said of singer-pianist Daryl Sherman’s late-night set which featured the second You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To of the evening for the versatile Dave Cliff. Mind you, second time around it was quite a different affair; one which played on the coquettish quality of Sherman’s voice.
The cosy piano-bass-guitar line-up swelled to a quartet with the co-opting of tenor man Houston Person (whose sumptuous Fools Rush In a couple of hours earlier had been inspired by his not-so secret love of Doris Day!) into the proceedings for a couple of terrific Rodgers and Hart numbers: a lovely Little Girl Blue (also a Doris song), on which Sherman’s suitably wistful, girlish vocals were complemented by Person’s masculine, bluesy sound, and a hard-swinging This Can’t Be Love; a perfect partner to his frisky Isn’t It Romantic of the afternoon…
Coming soon to a jazz venue near you (unless, like me, you’re in Scotland!) … The very talented and witty pianist and singer Daryl Sherman, who is currently in the midst of one of her “Nooks and crannies” tours of Britain. She’ll be at the Norwich Jazz Party next weekend (April 30-May 2 inclusive), and her other dates are:
* Tuesday, April 26 – Pizza Express, Dean Street, London, with Howard Alden (guitar) & Dave Green (bass)
* Thursday, April 28 – Grimsby Jazz Society (see www.grimsbyjazz.com) with Dave Green (bass) & Pat McCarthy (guitar)
* Tuesday, May 3 – The Green Man Pub, Rackheath, Norwich
* Wednesday, May 4 – Boisdale of Belgravia, London with Ricahrd Pit’s Blue Rhythm Boys, from 10pm-12am
* Thursday, May 5 – The Pheasantry, King’s Road, London, with Andy Cleyndert (bass)
* Friday, May 6 – Torfaen Jazz, Pontypool, Wales, www.torfaenjazz.org.uk
* Saturday, May 7 – Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea, Wales, with Digby Fairweather (trumpet), Dominic Ashworth (guitar) & Andy Cleyndert (bass)
* Sunday, May 8 – Chapel Arts Centre, Bath, with Andy Cleyndert (bass), www.chapelarts.org
A swell party
Daryl Sherman, the Manhattan-based singer and pianist who made her Glasgow debut in the City Halls Recital Room on Sunday, must have tripped back to her hotel a very happy lady. Why? Because she had the most enthusiastic response to her performance that I think I’ve seen at that venue.
Sherman has a girlish, Blossom Dearie-esque voice which is not every jazz fan’s cup of Earl Grey (it didn’t do anything for the aficionada sitting next to me – at least at the outset) , but she also has impeccable taste – which is a rare attribute these days.
Not only was her choice of material first-class but the atmosphere she created also distinguished her gig from most others. It was relaxed and fun, but there was no sense that the concert had been thrown together – as can often be the case when a visiting soloist throws his or her lot in with local musicians.
Mind you, Sherman had selected the ideal local musicians for her easygoing style and penchant for the less well-thumbed pages of the Great American Songbook. She really couldn’t have asked for better accompaniment than she got from bassist Roy Percy and, especially, the great guitarist Nigel Clark – both of whom gamely, and stylishly, joined her on a string of songs which they had probably never had call to play before.
Flying Down to Rio (from the Astaire-Rogers movie of the same name), Getting To Know You (The King and I) and Jeepers Creepers (from Goin’ Places) were all ensemble treats featuring Sherman’s vocal and pianistic talents.
On How Insensitive, she stepped into Carol Kidd’s shoes by duetting memorably with Nigel Clark. The results were sublime – Sherman’s vocals (which sounded deeper when she was singing in what I assume was Portuguese) and Clark’s sensitive guitar playing were a perfect match.
As were the vocal duets with guest artist Todd Gordon – playful versions of Fly Me to the Moon and Manhattan, both dished up with rarely-performed verses.
By the end of the night, Sherman had made herself more than a few new fans – and I think you could safely say she’ll be back.