CD review: recent releases in brief

Greg Lewis
Organ Monk: Uwo In The Black
(Greg Lewis Music)

New interpretations of Monk tunes are one of the constants in the in-tray, which in so many ways is a good thing. But I think this might be a first – certainly according to my highly fallible memory – because the lead instrument is Hammond Organ.

With Lewis is Nasheet Waits on drums, Ronald Jackson on guitar and tenor saxophonist Reginald R Woods, and it’s generally damned good fun.

Little Rootie Toot opens the album with Lewis giving full vent to distortion in the bass pedal notes as he winds the melody up. There are loads more Monk favourites, from Ugly Beauty and Thelonious to Crepuscule With Nellie and 52nd Street Theme, and Lewis intersperses them with some of his own compositions, which are OK and sometimes Monk-influenced but not up to the real Monk stuff.

Wilber Calver
Diaspora
(Alex Wilson Records)

From one viewpoint this album is a celebration of that great big fusion of musical styles and traditions from around the world; from another it’s a complete mess.

Calver is a Cuban-Jamaican who found his instrument of calling in Celtic music – yep, he plays the bagpipes. What we have here is a blend of Celtic traditional music, jazz, Cuban music and reggae.

Pianist Alex Wilson has assembled a crack band which includes Paul Booth on reeds, Edwin Sanz on percussion and himself on piano, and the whole outfit acquits itself impeccably, one minute ripping through a rumba, the next a jig.

In some ways the weak link is Calver himself who, once one gets past the novelty of hearing bagpipes in these Afro-Cuban settings, doesn’t seem to do a lot more than play the tunes.

I guess it’s a question of taste, in the end. Does a little rum in your porridge get your buds tickling? Well, my view is it’s worth trying once, but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.

Jordan Young
Cymbal Melodies
(PosiTone)

And the organ trios with a bit of added saxophone just keep coming… This one is led by drummer Young with Brian Charette on organ. Avi Rothbard adds some guitar and Joe Sucato is the saxophonist.

The book is pretty straight-ahead readings of classic guitar and organ material from the likes of Lee Morgan and Grant Greene with some covers including Jimmy Webb’s By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Bacharach’s Raindrops Keep Falling… and Sting’s Roxanne.

Pleasant enough small combo grooving that could have been made at any time in the last half century.

Mike Hobarts’ Urban Jazz Collective
The Third Fish
(Another World Music)

Saxophonist Hobart’s band includes former Pig Bag trumpeter Chris Lee and Heliocentrics pianist Danny Keane, and the band brings a fresh-ish punch and enthusiasm to the Blue Note sound of the ’60s with some more worldly and modern influences thrown in.

After a pretty straight-ahead start on Fathead, a tribute to the Texan tenor tradition, things get more electronic and spacey on Nardis, add some urban edge with The Vista, and the band drapes their hearts all over their sleeves on Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood.

It could sound a bit like a band that hasn’t found its style, but it’s saved by the enthusiasm they clearly feel for all the jazz that has gone before them.

Davide Mantovani
Choices
(Equilateral Records)

The Italian double bass player resident in the UK since the early ’90s, is another musician with world-wide taste. For this album he has called in Zoe Rahman, Paul Booth, Adriano Adewale and many others to play his compositions.

The range of styles runs from Brazilian samba to urban funk to West African rhythms and Eastern trance music, and there is even a little Bach, too.

Some of the pieces – like the Bach – outstay their welcome, while some of the lyrics – Goodbye Albatross, for example – are poor – and there is generally too much going in too many different directions, but it’s certainly not samey and the playing is all of a high standard.

Oz Robu Trio
Oz Robu
(Rhythm & Muse)

After the recent introduction of Kekko Fornarelli to British audiences, both on record and live, here is another young piano trio from Italy.

Fabio Visocchi is on piano and Fender Rhodes, Marco Brambilla on bass and Giordano Rizzato on drums. They all share compositional duties, and have a pleasantly Italian sound in that even when the chords get dark there is still some of that warm sunlight shining through.

Not as immediately appealing as Fornarelli, but not as strongly influenced by E.S.T. either. The band is due to visit Britain for some gigs next spring.

Sumi Tonooka
Now
(Arc)

The Philadelphian pianist is here in solo recital in New York State. It’s a double album documenting a whole concert with the material ranging from Elilington, Kern, Porter and Monk through a tasty medley of Mary Lou Williams tunes.

Then, having proved she knows her core jazz repertoire, Tonooka explores a few of her own compositions. These are wide-ranging, with Phantom Carousel feeling more classically impressionist in character, while Sojourn 1 And Uganda, and Moroccan Daze take a Randy Weston-influenced approach to African rhythms and harmony.

She ends with a witty, Art Tatumesque meander through I’m Confessin’.

A fine concert which might have made a better edited-down single CD.

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