Tuesday, June 5, 2018

John Pizzarelli Brings Sinatra, Cole, Jobim and Troupe to Decatur's Eddie's Attic

Mike Karn and John Pizzarelli
Like many an artist who follow a career that was trailblazed by their fathers, the guitarist John Pizzarelli will always be compared to his father, the now ninety-two-year-old and still swinging jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. The challenge-to be accepted for one’s own value- was even implied in John’s 1983 debut album titled I’m Hip (Please Don’t Tell My Father).

The now fifty-eight-year-old John Jr. has carved his own place in the world of jazz and contemporary popular music. He is in fact a very accomplished guitarist in his own right, with artful phrasing, a deft sense of time and a fluid facility on the fretboard. John’s true talent is in his vocal acumen and relaxed stage presence which was on bountiful display on Monday night at Decatur’s Eddie’s Attic.

This was the last set of the last night, of a two night gig. The previous night presumably were both sold out shows. On this Monday evening the venue was half-filled with an older crowd of fans that came to see Pizzarelli tell his stories, sing his songs and play his guitar. John was accompanied by bassist Mike Karn.

Pizzarelli was dressed in a grey pin-stripe suit and tie and projected a warm, friendly demeanor throughout the evening. He started with the tongue-in-cheek Bobby Troupe song “I’m Just a Hungry Man,” which set the tone of the evening as light and entertaining. From there he jumped into another quirky tune, written by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz and made famous by the chanteuse Blossom Dearie “Rhode Island is Famous for You.”  Another Bobby Troupe composition Rte. 66 came next. Here the jazz historian and entertainer in Pizzarelli came out. He talked about his conversations with Troupe and how Bobby told him the story of pitching the song to Nat King Cole who made it one of his staples. In many respects Pizzarelli has patterned himself after Cole. While Cole was a consummate pianist it was his voice and that relaxed polish that won him legions of followers.

Pizzarelli proceeded with a marvelous medley of songs that all contained the phrase “Hey Baby” and then broke into some Hot Club of Paris, Django Reinhardt-style guitar on another tune from the Nat Cole repertoire, “Errand Boy of Rhythm.” Pizzarelli is no stranger to gypsy jazz having once been recorded with the great Stéphane Grappelli on “Live at the Blue Note” from 1995.
John Pizzarelli on Edddie's Attic Stage
Ever the storyteller, John spoke of this very day being the twenty-fifth anniversary of him opening for another of his idols, Frank Sinatra, in Berlin, Germany in 1993. His introduction to Sinatra was brief and ended with the crooner admonishing him saying  “Get something to eat kid, you look terrible." Pizzarelli likened looking into the singer’s blue eyes “like looking into a natural gas flame, they were that blue.”  Pizzarelli sang two Sinatra songs-“You Make Me Feel So Young” and  “How About You” before treating the audience to a solo instrumental version of Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight” on his seven string custom arch-bodied guitar. You could really see how accomplished a guitarist he is on this marvelous piece. Bassist Karn returned for the SammyC ahn and Jimmy Van Heusen Song “ Ring A Ding Ding” that Sinatra sang on his inaugural record on the Reprise label.

The evening continued with “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” from the 1953 musical Kismet. A clever rendering of Cole Porter’s “I Concentrate on You” with a Tom Jobim inspired Bossa beat and Jobim’s classic “The Wave.” Being in Georgia, it was only fitting that Pizzareli included a Johnny Mercer tune in his repertoire and he chose a song about Football and music “Jamboree Jones.” The finale was a Medley ending in “I Got Rhythm” and the encore was Sinatra’s “Lady Be Good.”

It was a wonderful evening of great songs played by the fabulous talent that is John Pizzarelli. If the show was any indication of the music on John's latest album John Pizzarelli Sinatra and Jobim @50 then it should be a keeper.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Multi-Reed Artist Ted Nash and his Quintet at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola

Ted Nash Qunitet live at Dizzy's Coca Cola  Plastic Sax Records
Often musicians come from musical families and so is the case with the saxophonist/composer/arranger Ted Nash. Both his father and uncle were accomplished jazz and west coast studio musicians. Father Richard “Dick” Nash’s work can be heard on albums by discriminating arranger/composers like Lalo Schifrin, John Williams and Pete Rugulo. Perhaps his most important association was as Henry Mancini’s favorite trombonist, playing with the maestro for over forty years from 1959 through 2000.  Ted’s uncle and namesake, Theodore Malcolm “Ted” Nash, was also a studio musician who played with Les Brown and was also favored sideman in Mancini’s band. Here is a recording the brothers did together.

With this pedigree, it is no wonder that our now modern-day Ted, a seasoned fifty-eight year old professional musician, should follow in these imposing footsteps. Not only has Nash made his own mark as a first call multi-reed artist - for the last nineteen years he has been a key member of Wynton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra- He has established himself as a top rate composer and arranger. In 2010 Nash's Portraits in Seven Shades, a creative work of seven movements, each depicting the modern painters Chagall, Dali, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Pollock and Van Gogh, was nominated for a Grammy. In 2017 his ambitious Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom won two Grammy awards, one for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album and one for "Spoken At Midnight" for Best Instrumental Composition. 

Nash is the consummate musical explorer, he has never let his love for big band music get in the way of his playing creative improvised music in a myriad of settings. He has been an integral part of projects like his work with bassist Ben Allison on The Herbie Nichols Project or the trio with Allison and guitarist Steve Cardenas that celebrates the music of Jim Hall and Jimmy Giuffre on Quiet Revolution.  Not to be pigeonholed as a pure traditionalist he made his own free jazz explorations of the music of Ornette Coleman on his Quartet album The Creep.

With such an unquenchable thirst for ever expanding his musical horizons its nice to hear Nash play “live” on his latest album Ted Nash Quintet live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. The line up is superb with trailblazers like Warren Wolf on vibes, Gary Versace on piano, Matt Wilson on drums and the glue that holds it all together the veteran bassist Rufus Reid.

Nash and company offers up seven delightful compositions two of which, the opener “Organized Crime” and the next to last song “Sisters” are Nash originals. The remaining fare is a thoughtful assembly of songs by Chick Corea, Herbie Nichols, Thelonious Monk, Johnny Mandel and Henry Mancini.

The pace quickens right from the opening lines of Nash’s “Organized Crime.” Reid’s bulbous bass notes accentuating the rhythm under Wilson’s polyphony of bombs and crashes. Wolf offers a distinctive solo before Nash plays a searing, Coleman-esque alto solo.  Wilson’s playful antics are fill the air with electricity. The energy is palpable.

The band moves on to Corea’s masterpiece “Windows,” this time with Nash on flute reminiscent of the work on this by the great Hubert Laws. Wolf’s vibes and Versace’s piano lend an airy feel to this as Reid’s steady hand is probing with authority. Nash has wonderful intonation on the instrument. Versace, a pianist who deserves greater recognition, dances with superb sensitivity along with Reid in a gorgeous display of intuitive grace that is a highlight of the album.

Herbie Nichols, a cult figure on the piano known for his unique style, composed the next tune “Spinning Song.” Nash on alto and Wolf on vibes play the main theme in step. As the song changes to a slow swing Wolf again shows why he is a master of invention. The song has interesting breaks which the group navigates with effortless polish. Nash’s alto tone is rich and luscious as he trades notes with a lone Reid holding the line. Nash finds a delicate balance between a classic and modern tone. His playing brings you to the precipice at times but you never feel like you re in danger of falling off. 

What would a set list be without at least one Monk tune. The one Nash chooses is “Epistrophy,” brilliantly lead off by Wilson and Reid and played in unison by Versace, Wolf and Nash on alto. Monk would be shaking his leg in approval. Nash wails on his alto expressing a deep affection for the changes here and showing how well he has absorbed the tradition. Wolf loosens up the tune with his own excursion, a fountainhead of ideas, while Reid relentlessly lays down the powerful bass line. Versace’s piano solo is a marvelously twisted piece of invention as Wilson lands bombs and crashes behind him. This one is just a delight.

Nash takes to the microphone to explain how the next piece, Johnny Mandel’s beautiful ballad “Emily” is a dedication to his transgender daughter once Emily now Elias. This is a special moment for Nash, a man publicly acknowledging his unconditional love for his child. Played gorgeously by Gary Versace in duo with Nash’s transcendent clarinet, this one is special. Nash and Versace make beautiful music together and from Nash’s reaction that is caught on mic, Versace surprises him at times with his spontaneous and nuanced inventiveness. 
I recently praised a duo album by Fred Hersch and Anat Cohen using the same isntrumentation where I thought the two showed remarkable afinity for each other. Nash and Versace reach that same unfathomable simpatico here and it is just a treat to behold. You can tell by the complete and utter silence that the two command the room. The audience is spell bound. Bravo gentlemen!

Another Nash original, "Sisters," finds the saxophonist returning to his alto with relish and gusto on this quick paced swinger. Reid's bass line is in double time and flawless. Nash, Wolf and Versace all take turns burning down the house with their fleet, adreniline-paced inventions. 

The Nash-Mancini connection is inescapable and so it was appropriate to end the set with Mancini's playful "Baby Elephant's Walk." Nash plays the piccolo, an instrument rarely heard in jazz. Like the legendary Pied Piper, Nash leads the group on this rousing blues with joyful abandon, ending the show and the album on the perfect high note.

Live albums can at times be spoty or unisnpired, but Ted Nash Quintet live at Dizzy's Coca Cola is one of those rare recordings that has captiured a special moment in time, a moment when all things were working at the highest level and the only regret is that you weren't there to witness this for yourself.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Kevin Bales and the Inspiring Music of Fred Rogers on "Beyond the Neighborhood"

Beyond the Neighborhood: The Music of Fred Rogers by Kevin Bales and Keri Johnsrud

A recent project from local, Atlanta pianist Kevin Bales and a previously unknown vocalist to me, Keri Johnsrud, from Chicago, caught my attention. Titled Beyond the Neighborhood:The Music of Fred Rogers, the two artists came together two years ago when they discovered a mutual admiration for the music that was played on the children’s show Mister Roger’s Neighborhood

Fred Rogers ( photo credit unknown)
The music was all written by Fred Rogers and often sung by the gangly, good-natured show’s host accompanied his musical director the great pianist Johnny Costa, who was known in jazz circles as the “White” Art Tatum because of his musical facility.
Rogers Musical Director Johnny Costa with his idol Art Tatum ( photo credit unknown)
Bales recalls this music as being some of his very first exposure to the world of jazz. Rogers show, or variations thereof, ran from 1963 through 2001 and was watched by millions of children. The beloved, soft spoken Fred McFeely Rogers died in 2003 at the age of seventy-four.

The eleven songs on this heartfelt tribute are all Rogers originals with only one being a collaboration between Rogers and Josie Carey. Bales’ arrangements are careful constructions that pulse, swing, sometimes surprise and brilliantly support the lyrical content of Rogers music, all the while taking them into the age of musical modernity. His trio is made up of Atlanta veteran musicians, bassist Billy Thorton and percussionist Marlon Patton. These three cats create a singularity of sound that is quite impressive. Vocalist Keri Johnrud has a clear, earnest and pleasant voice.  Her approach is more akin to musical theater and she can be heard at her best on songs “It’s You I Like” and “I like to Take My Time.”

The two Rogers fans have taken songs from the program’s repertoire. Bales is a master of probing deep into a melody, blazing multiple paths during his improvisational forays. His bandmates are equally adept at following his implied direction, oftentimes carving out their own creative detours. The result is a symbiotic trio that often surprises with the direction they take and the rhythmic diversity they display on this music.

Thorton’s bass is particularly joyful in its buoyant abandon and his scat accompaniment with Johnsrud on the be-bop inspired “Troll Talk” is a delight. Patton’s drums offer multiple layers of percussive wizardry throughout the program.  Johnsrud, being stirred on by these adventurous musicians, should allow herself to loosen up a bit more and demonstrate some improvisational gusto of her own. Her voice was perhaps most unguarded when she improvised a bit at the end of “Look and Listen,” but for the most part she sings within the confines of the lyrics, rarely straying outside the lines of the music.

The music is sincere and honest and often brilliantly played. You can hear the heart and soul that Bales has poured into this project which was a labor of love for over two years. The cover artwork is a whimsical graphic by local artist Laura Coyle with layout from trumpeter and visual artist Darren English that captures the spirit of  Rogers show. 

Rogers lyrics were designed to communicate, love, friendship, overcoming doubt and exploring the sometimes-complex feelings that young children experience. He was very effective in that goal and in that context the often simple lyrics  were cleverly embedded into some hip music that introduced a jazz sensibility to a youthful, unsuspecting audience. Some believe that Rogers lyrics could be interpreted as having more complex, more adult meanings; the double-entendre effect (a device often employed by his raceier counterpart Soupy Sales), but I don't believe that was ever Rogers intent.  Suffice to say that Fred Rogers music inspired people like Kevin Bales and Keri Johnsrud and for that we can be eternally grateful to the soft-spoken man in the sweater and sneakers.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Utterly Enjoyable: Tessa Souter's "Night of Key Largo"

Tessa Souter Nights of Key Largo Venus 

I was recently sent a copy of Nights of Key Largo, an album from the vocalist Tessa Souter. The album was originally released on the Venus label in Japan in 2008 and was re-released here in the United States this year.

Ms. Souter is a London born singer who took to singing late after a successful career as a copy editor, a freelance journalist and a mother. She moved to the US in 1992 and attended the Manhattan School of Music meeting and later being mentored by the late great Mark Murphy for four years. She has also studied with the NEA master vocalist Sheila Jordan.

Ms. Souter’s work is marked by one of the most natural voices in jazz today. Her delivery is clean, honest and emotionally sincere. She has what musicians call great ears and a superb taste when choosing material to cover. She often finds inspiration in re-imagining songs that do not fall into the repertoire that is generally associated with jazz. Some splendid examples of this woman’s musical creativity include her flamenco-fused version of Cream’s “White Room” and her treatment of the Beatles classic “Eleanor Rigby” both from here 2009 album titled Obsession. She extended her musical boundaries venturing into a successful fusion of jazz, pop and classical on her fine 2012 album Beyond the Blue, putting her own lyrics to jazz versions of Beethoven, Rodrigo and Chopin. 

On Nights of Key Largo, Ms.  Souter, along with producers Tetsuo Hara and Todd Barkan, assembled an intuitive group of musicians to accompany her on this outing. The inimitable Kenny Werner on piano and I assume arrangements, bassist extraordinaire Jay Leonhart, guitarist Romaro Lubambo, saxophonist Joel Frahm and drummer Billy Drummond all add significantly to the overall success of this effort.

Souter again finds some hidden gems that other singers seem to miss. There is something for everyone who loves great music on this album. Notable compositions  include Ivan Lins romantic “The Island,” where Ms. Souter’s breezy vocal and Frahm’s mellow tenor wrap you in a sensuous blanket.

Van Morrison’s folk/jazz/blues classic “Moon Dance,” is given to a jaunty treatment featuring Leonhart’s buoyant bass. 

Lubambo’s lush guitar chording is the perfect complement to Souter’s liquid vocal on “So Many Stars.” 

Werner’s beautiful piano accompaniment on Bachrach’s “Look of Love” is just transcendent and Souter knows how to make the most of it with her unadorned approach. 

On the cinematic John Barry theme to James Bond “You Only Live Twice,” Souter’s voice floats over Lubambo’s gentle guitar picking.

The oft neglected Benny Carter composition “Key Largo” features Ms. Souter’s voice at it’s most sultry.  This is adult contemporary at its best. Werner is superlative and Leonhart and Drummond keep the walking time impeccably.

Lubambo’s delicate guitar and Drummond’s shimmering cymbals introduce the Mancini classic “Slow Hot Wind” before Souter comes in with her telling reading of the evocative lyrics, as Frahm offers a sensitive tenor solo.  

The album continues with the lovely “Moon and Sand,” “I’m Glad There is You” -with an exceptionally  swinging solo by Frahm- “All or Nothing at All”, “Morning of the Carnival” -with some beautiful arco work by Leonhart- and ending with John Lennon’s wistful and hopeful “Imagine.”

I've listened to this album several times now and it is utterly enjoyable. If her previous work hasn’t convinced you to pay attention to this fine vocalist than the re-release of this hidden gem Nights of Key Largo should be all you need to sit down, listen and enjoy the compelling sound of Tessa Souter.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Piano phenom Christian Sands graces the stage at Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta

Christian Sands, Eric Wheeler and Jerome Jennings at the Woodruff Arts Center

Last Saturday evening, those in the know attended the final concert of a three-part Emerging Jazz Icons series at the Richard Rich Theater in the Woodruff Arts Center here in Atlanta. The series was a symbiotic collaboration between the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Georgia Public Radio and WABE and the Woodruff Arts Center that was meant to showcase three emerging talents in the jazz world by presenting them in concert to the citizens of Atlanta. By any measure the series was a fantastic success. If you were fortunate enough to catch any one of these three fine talents, your life was immeasurably changed for the better;each offering a new and exciting take on the jazz tradition.  

The series started back in November with the chanteuse Charnée Wade and continued in January with an appearance of the sensational Jazzmeia Horn (you can get my take on Ms. Horn’s concert by clicking here). The final show featured a piano trio led by the piano phenom Christian Sands.

I have been following Christian Sands since I first heard him as part of the Grammy nominated Christian McBride Trio. I caught this dynamic trio at a small nightclub in New York. While I expected nothing but a superlative performance from the virtuoso bassist McBride, it was the young firebrand pianist that most impressed me that evening four years ago. The twenty-nine year old Sands comes from a musical family based out of New Haven, CT  and he has ties to Atlanta on his Mother’s side of the family, as he made clear by announcing his mother was in the audience on this evening. Sands was mentored by the late pianist Billy Taylor and in addition to his former bandmate McBride, he considers the trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, the saxophonist Kenny Garrett and the pianist Marcus Roberts as strong influences; their approach to the music starts with a deep and abiding respect for the tradition while still moving the music forward.

Christian Sands
On this night, Sands was accompanied by the bassist Eric Wheeler and the drummer Jerome Jennings. The group started the set with a composition by the pianist Eric Reed titled “The Swing in I.” Among the fine young pianists on the scene today, Sands and Aaron Diehl, are in my mind, two of the most respectful of the piano tradition.You can just hear it in their playing. 

On the opener, Sands played with a percussive intensity that had elements of McCoy Tyner’s style. The young man has tremendous velocity on the keyboard and so he naturally likes to strut his chops, astounding the audience with his facility, but make no mistake the man can swing with the best of them. He also knows dynamics and can play block chords ala George Shearing, which he incorporates into his repertoire with skillful aplomb.

The trio took their cue from Sands as he led them down various paths of rhythmic and harmonic diversity. Mr. Wheeler was particularly effective on the second selection, a Chick Corea composition titled “Humpty Dumpty,” and Jennings made the song explode with his rhythmic dynamics. This burner was for me a highlight of the evening. Mr. Sands has obviously been influenced by Corea’s work, what pianist hasn’t been in the last forty years? But Sands has big ears, and besides his ability to play with the facility of a Corea, his playing wove in elements of embellishers like Errol Garner and maybe even Hampton Hawes. His interplay with the powerful Jennings was particularly empathetic.

After the first two songs, Sands rose from his piano chair to address the audience. When he spoke, the was a sense of maturity and wit in his delivery. You could see that he has absorbed a great deal of the polish and affability that his former employer Christian McBride is famous for.  After introducing the titles of the songs previously played and naming his bandmates, the dapperly dressed Sands went back to his seat and began with his own composition “Reaching from the Sun” from his latest album Reach. The song had a Latin influenced beat and Wheeler was given a lengthy solo.Sands imparted a driving gospel sound to his playing as Jennings and Wheeler laid down an effective backbeat upon which Sands could explore.

On the next selection, Bassist Wheeler was given the stage for an extended less than melodic bass solo that I could have done without. Nonetheless it elicited shouts of approval from the crowd, who eventually started clapping along with him.  Sands and Jennings returned to support him bringing in some bluesy swing with Sands offering some colorful arpeggios that included some ragtime chording.

The pianist offered a beautifully filigreed intro to the Jackson 5 song “Never Can Say Goodbye” which gave the willing audience a chance to sing along to this familiar pop classic, once they finally caught a whiff of the melody. Sands started the song out slowly, but as the band continued to build momentum, first with a pizzicato bass solo by Wheller, he began building tension on his piano. He created a wave of sound using his uncanny ability to hold a seemingly endless sustained tremolo effect; his right hand producing a deluge of notes that washed over the song like a torrent from a broken dam. The trio developed a sustained groove over which Sands explored multiple harmonic possibilities, oftentimes with Jennings taking on an aggressive polyrhythmic role. The audience just roared with approval.

The set continued with another Sand’s original from his album titled “Oyeme” which the pianist said was inspired by his recent trip to Havana, Cuba. Sands started out with a clave-based rhythm over which Wheeler and Jennings ruminated. The song darted into and out of the rhythm as Sands danced all over his keyboard in an inspirational display of his grasp of hard-driving Latin music. Jennings showed how he was no stranger to the polyphonic rhythms of Afro-Cuban music, playing his own nearly three-minute solo of sustained rhythmic articulation. Sands has clearly absorbed the tradition of jazz piano in all its ethnic diversity.

The set closed with a ballad that Sands used as a vehicle for some his most impressive harmonic explorations of the evening. The young pianist showed signs of his mastery of stride, as the melody emerged from his musings on a song often associated with the late great Nate King Cole titled “Love.”  To watch this talented pianist explore the different styles that he can call on at will is quite impressive. I hear sounds of Tatum, Shearing, Garner, Tyner and even Teddy Wilson in this man’s playing and yet with all that influence there is something unique here that is all Christian Sands. Catch him if you can, you will be glad you did.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Art of Bill Frisell Live at City WInery in Atlanta

Thomas Morgan, Bill Frisell and Rudy Royston at Atlanta's City Winery
This past Wednesday night, April 4th, at Atlanta’s City Winery the world class guitarist and innovator Bill Frisell and his trio thrilled a nearly full house of faithful followers, aspiring guitarists and a few curious uninitiated listeners with an unforgettable night of music. The Winery can accommodate over three hundred in the confines of its comfortable, sonically pleasing wine cellar-like atmosphere. Frisell just released a fabulous solo album titled Music Is on the Okeh label on March 16, 2018.  On this night Frisell was joined by Thomas Morgan on upright bass and Rudy Royston on drums.

The now sixty-seven-year old Frisell has been playing his distinctive style of guitar for the better part of three decades. He signed to Manfred Eicher’s ECM label back in the early eighties and became the virtual house guitarist for the label. He has had long term associations with the eclectic experimental composer/saxophonist John Zorn from his early days in New York. In the early 2000’s he was a part of the influential drummer Paul Motian’s trio with saxophonist Joe Lovano. The list of collaborators he has worked with is a who’s who of the contemporary and avant-garde music world during the last quarter century. Along the way Frisell has developed his own unique sound- a mix of bluegrass, country, surfer rock, Americana, jazz, fusion and sophisticated electronics- that has made him one the most adventurous musicians and a sought-after collaborator. His work has been nominated for a Grammy on four occasions in 2005, 2009, 2016 and 2018 and he won once for Unspeakable in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album category for 2005.

The Guitarist Bill Frisell at Atlanta's City Winery 
Bill Frisell has the casual appearance of a disheveled, absent-minded professor, with his shock of white spiky hair, horn- rimmed glasses and his loosely fitting jacket and jeans. You could see this guy working part-time fixing motorcycles in a neighborhood garage or repairing old radios in his basement, but when he plugs in his Telecaster-style guitar and connects to  his array of electronic wizardry he becomes a master of the universe. The universe of the sound that he so deftly creates.

The guitarist started off with a series of harmonics, tones generated from his guitar that resonate with sympathetic frequencies. He is master of harnessing them to great effect and he used them to introduce the Henry Mancini classic “Moon River.”  The audience listened intently as he conjured up a delicate repeating motif on his guitar, looping it and then harmonizing to it. When the melody became apparent the crowd let out a collective sigh of acknowledgment.

One suspects that Frisell’s trio mates must have big ears to play with this man as his playing appears to be snatched from the ether, rather than firmly pre-planned. Morgan has been playing with Frisell since 2016 and they recently did a highly acclaimed duo release last year titled Small Town. Royston is a sought-after drummer whose work can be heard all over the gamut. His stylistic approach was first heard with Frisell on the guitarist’s 2010 Grammy nominated recording History Mystery. Together these three musicians showed just how empathetically connected three people can be, responding as Frisell utilized a series of surprising electronic embellishments to create cascading effects before transitioning into the familiar theme from the James Bond thriller “You Only Live Twice.”  He has a penchant for creatively using looping to allow him to create multiple layers of expression on a repeating motif.

Frisell’s repertoire often features movie soundtracks and on this evening besides the aforementioned “Moon River,” and the Bond theme “You Only Live Twice,” he later played another Bond theme from the movie “Goldfinger” to the delight of the audience. His surfer sounding guitar resonating clear, concise lines as the memorable melodies hung in the air like wisps of smoke from Bond’s lethal Beretta.  The man wastes no motion in his playing. He is a quiet leader that directs in an unobtrusive, firm but nuanced manner. Morgan’s bass is clear and resonant, and Royston is a master of delicate shading.

The group continued with a walking blues, which might have been Frisell’s “Winslow Homer,” which the guitarist played in his own fractured way, with Morgan and Royston each being featured on solos. The group went onto a more ethereal sounding piece, a rambling waltz that was reminiscent of the late John Abercrombie’s work. Interestingly Frisell was a highlight performer at a memorial concert held for the recently deceased guitarist at Brooklyn’s Roulette on March 26, 2018.

No jazz concert, although that is too restrictive of a title for Frisell's work, would be complete without at least one Thelonious Monk song. Frisell and company didn’t disappoint, doing their own take on the quirky “Epistrophy.”  Here the group was at its most intuitive, perhaps because of the familiarity of the song, but it was marvelous to watch the exquisite interplay, especially between Frisell and Royston who operates without bombast. The drummer created a jungle beat that added surprising rhythmic interest and an inherent sense of swing. Morgan had one of his most creative solos of the evening.

The real surprise of the evening  was Frisell’s marvelous take on the John McLaughlin classic “Arjen’s Bag.” Later renamed “Follow Your Heart,” from Mclaughlin’s 1969 album Extrapolation; Frisell played this on his own album, Ghost Town, from 2000. To hear Frisell’s take on this guitar classic some nearly fifty years later was a true treat, bringing me back to when guitar virtuosity was my idea of true greatness. The guitarist’s introduction cleverly hinted at the song before revealing his true intent. Royston played timely rim shots as Morgan plucked away creating the atmospheric feel of the song authentically. Frisell employed some distortion and echo to his guitar before he went into the song’s distinctive lead in. I had never heard anyone do this “live” and for me it was just so good to hear it played again with such creative energy and inspired tremolo and electronic effects.

The band continued with one of Frisell’s own compositions, this one played with phaser effects titled “it Should Have Happened A Long Time Ago” which is on his last release Small Town with Thomas Morgan. It is a song that has a nostalgic feel to it, one that you might hear coming from a guitarist, albeit a very good one, sitting on his front porch musing away the late afternoon. Frisell plays the sing-song line like the repeating verses of a melancholic nursey rhyme. His footboard of electronic wizardry produces sounds that at times mimic a harpsichord or perhaps a mandolin. Then he takes it to another level, accelerating the pace, developing it into a rhythmic jig of sorts, playing in a style that to my ears had native American elements to it, before returning to the main theme. An impressive display of what seem to be on the spot improvisation on a theme.

Transitioning into the theme from “Goldfinger,” Frisell recreated that echoed, twangy guitar on the John Barry composition that Shirley Bassey made famous. It was pure fun listening to this master explore this movie classic.

Frisell disengaged from his guitar and took to the stage, introducing his bandmates in his own inimitably folksy way. In a brief humorous interlude, he warned the audience of the excesses of eating locally made Maple Bacon ice cream, which he said gave him the sniffles.

After unrelenting applause, the band returned for an encore with what Frisell called his theme song, the Americana standard, “Oh Shenandoah.”  This poignant song, a lament from one that longs for a return to home, was the perfect vehicle for Frisell to spin his magic. His guitar took on multiple tones each one more expressive than the last as Morgan and Royston played the cadenced march like a mournful dirge. But Frisell is an optimist, and he skillfully transitioned from the somber Shenandoah into the uplifting Burt Bacharach composition “What the World Needs Now,” ending the show on an encouragingly upbeat note. The audience was completely taken by this wonderful performance. As a fellow audience member stated to me, Frisell takes you to another place.

The City Winery should be applauded for continuing to up its game, providing a comfortable, inviting and sonically pleasing venue and booking world class musicians like Bill Frisell to perform here in Atlanta. Hopefully people will respond accordingly and continue to support this premier music venue.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Many Facets of Bassist Martin Wind on his latest: " Light Blue"

Martin Wind Light Blue  Laika Records
Martin Wind is a classically trained bassist with impeccable tone and a polished arco technique. Consequently he has become an  in-demand sideman and sought after musical collaborator. His credits include his duo work with  guitar great Philip Catherine and current collaborations with fellow German and long time friend, guitarist Ulf Meyer. He is a member of the trios of vocalists Dena DeRosa and Anne Hampton Callaway; a member of the trios of pianists Bill Cunliffe, Ted Rosenthal, and Bill Mays  and a member of drummer Matt Wilson’s Arts and  Crafts Group. Wind has been a first-call session musician whose work can be heard on several films and if that wasn't enough he is educator on the faculty of both NYU and Hofstra Universities.

With all that work as a sideman, educator and collaborator, its hard to imagine him finding the time to both compose and lead his own group, but that’s exactly what this industrious bassist has done. His last album was an ambitious undertaking that re-imagined the work of Bill Evans. Titled Bring Out the Stars, the album featured Wind’s own quartet in concert with the Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana and was a joyous feast of sound.

On Wind’s latest release LightBlue, the bassist is joined by a stellar cast musicians including the clarinetist Anat Cohen, the multi-reed artist Scott Robinson, the trumpeter Ingrid Jensen,  the pianists Bill Cunliffe and Gary Versace, the vocalist Maucha Adnet and the drummers Matt Wilson and Duduka Fonseca. 

LightBlue is a revealing look into the versatility of this accomplished bassist and in the compositional inventiveness department it is anything but light. We are treated to ten original Wind compositions that show just how far he has come since his days of  studying composition and performance with such luminaries as Mike Richmond, Jim McNeely, Kenny Werner and Mike Holober.

The record is divided into two groups, the first half of the album, the more adventurous and daring of the two, utilizes keyboard artist Gary Versace, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, Scott Robinson on tenor, alto, taragota (A Hungarian instrument similar to a soprano saxophone but made of wood)  and bass saxophones, and drummer Matt Wilson, with clarinetist Cohen playing on just one cut. The second half of the album features Wind's more  Brazilian influenced, lyrical side. This lineup included clarinetist Cohen, Robinson on tenor, alto, bass saxophone and clarinet, pianist Bill Cunliffe, drummer Duduka Fonseca and the vocalist Maucha Adnet. Each side has its own distinct merits. 

The range of diversity in these compositions is quite impressive. Whether it be the opening bars of “While I’m Still Here,” with Versace’s wonderful cinematic sounding organ, or the raucous but jubilant “Power Chords,” with Wind’s rumbling bowing and Robinson’s bellowing bass saxophone solo creating a driving, almost metal-inspired sound, there is something here for almost anyone.

On his composition  “Rose,” the delightfully evocative taragota work of Scott Robinson is otherworldly and when played together with Jensen’s clarion trumpet, the group attains an admirable symbiosis.  Wind’s booming bass keeps the metronomic time whilevVersace dances intuitively between piano and organ. The music just cries out to be listened to, absorbed and enjoyed.

“Ten Minute Song” is a jaunty swinger that features the versatile Robinson’s wonderful bass saxophone work over Wilson’s shuffling brush strokes and Wind’s walking bass lines. A jabbing piano solo by Versace leads to a wispy Jensen trumpet solo and a reply by Cohen’s buoyant clarinet. Wilson offers his own playful solo before the group returns to a unified conclusion.

The often cold and dreary month “February” is represented here by a brooding ballad. Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen makes the most of the mood with a moving solo. Wind’s pizzicato intonation is remarkably precise and projects beautifully on his emotional solo. Versace’s tinkling piano musings  at the coda adds to the perfect ending.

Side two transitions into a more lyrical theme with the folk-inspired, “Genius and A Saint." Here the music features some of the best woodwind interplay I’ve heard in ages. The ubiquitous Cohen is a marvel on her instrument, but Robinson is an underappreciated master of the clarinet and he finds his harmonic groove in a graceful exchange with Cohen that can only be described as pure magic.

Brazilian vocalist Maucha Adnet lends her bossa authenticity to sing Wind’s breezy “Seven Steps to Rio.” Robinson creates a marvelous Getz-ian tenor sound clearly in the spirit of the master’s work with Jobim before putting his own spin on his solo. Cohen’s clarinet rises to new heights as Fonseca’s animated drums add some percussive accents to this catchy tune.

“A Sad Story” finds Wind’s emotive arco-playing merging with Cohens’s soulful clarinet opening this aching lament. Adnet’s voice is charged with the sorrow and regret that the lyrics portray.

“De Norte A Sul” (From North to South) finds Wind and Fonseca laying down a samba inspired beat and features darting solos by Cohen, a soulful vocal by Adnet and an inspired solo by pianist Bill Cunliffe.

Wind rediscovered this closing melody, “Longing,” while researching material for this album. Cohen’s signature woody sound floats over the changes in graceful communion with the backing rhythm. Wind’s bass is again featured on a pizzicato solo that is accompanied by Fonseca’s ever so light touch on his cymbal and by Cunliffe’s thoughtful chording. Adnet’s vocal stylings are splendid.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Renee Rosnes "Beloved of the Sky"

Renee Rosnes Beloved of the Sky Smoke SSR-1801

The stark cover art on pianist Renee (pronounced Ree Nee) Rosnes latest album Beloved of the Sky features a tall, spindly, yet singularly defiant pine standing in a field of stumps; remnants of its clear-cut brethren. The painting is titled Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky and was painted by Northwest Canadian artist named Emily Carr back in 1935 when the artist was sixty-five years old; some say at the peak of her creative powers.

The painting was the source of inspiration for another Pacific Northwest born and raised Canadian, the pianist Renee Rosnes, who at fifty-six is showing signs of entering her own peak of creative powers as an impressive instrumentalist, a formidable composer and a leader in her own right. She is joined by a powerhouse group of like-minded innovators including scarily talented multi-reed artist Chris Potter, the sublime vibraphonist Steve Nelson, stalwart bassist Peter Washington and driving drummer Lenny White.

I first heard Rosnes on a great JJ Johnson album titled Heroes from 1998 where her playing just blew me away. I’ve been a fan ever since. In a year where we  are finally celebrating the talented women in jazz, Rosnes is a clear leading lady in this genre.

Renee Rosnes (Photo credit unknown)
If you have any doubt about the creative forces bubbling out of this woman just listen to the driving opener titled “Elephant Dust,” a reference to an allergic reaction to petting a circus elephant.  The music is a supercharged composition that is utterly original, pinning you to your seat from the very start. Many songs have a powerful drive, but few challenge conventions so effectively with the marvelous use of fractured, staccato changes that Rosnes employs and which the group navigates with graceful aplomb. The irrepressible Potter’s frenetic lead tenor intertwining brilliantly with Rosnes piano and Nelson’s buoyant vibes as Washington and White lay down a roiling rumble. Rosnes can play with the best of them, her splendid solo just a sample of this woman’s chops. This song is a joy and one can just imagine how much fun the musicians had laying this breathless track down.

“Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky” is the most representative composition of Rosnes thoughtful rumination on the subject matter of Carr’s cover painting. Potter’s lilting soprano rises above Rosnes' resonating piano lines like the lone pine that stands in lonely defiance of its blighted surroundings. There is a somber grace here that has elements of classical music somehow woven with nativist underpinnings. Washington’s bass often providing a booming backdrop in concert with Rosnes piano.  When the pianist offers a brief solo it is a gorgeous interlude that bespeaks of the great natural beauty that is being so recklessly dismissed in the name of progress. Potters soprano solo soars on gossamer wings and Nelson’s tubular sound is reverential. An aural feast.

The album is filled with interesting music, often thematically connected by a sense of flow. “Mirror Image” was originally commissioned for the SF Jazz Collective of which Rosnes is a charter member. The song was composed as a feature for legendary vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and here features Steve Nelson and Chris Potter. Rosnes graceful composition is a series of shimmering reflections that ascend and descend with a fluidity that create the underpinning for the soloists to expand upon. Potter is particularly expansive on his tenor.

While recording this album, Rosnes must have been channeling the late Bobby Hutcherson, who she played with for more than twenty years. She takes a particularly reflective solo on the vibraphonist's delightful composition “Rosie.” Potter never seems to be short on ideas and once again his biting tenor steals the show, while Nelson’s reserved ringing tubes offer a warm counterpoint.

On Rosnes jet-fueled “Black Holes” we are treated to the rhythmic stylings of this powerful pianist. Drummer White is particularly potent here, but it is the dazzling interplay between Rosnes and Potter that is the highlight. Washington lays down some powerful bottom and White is propulsive while Rosnes ostinato prods an energetic exchange with Potter’s hair-raising tenor, bringing the music to new heights and a powerful coda.

The contemplative Rosnes composition “The Flame and the Lotus”  features the melody line played in unison by Potter’s tenor and Nelson’s vibes, as White plays his toms in a cadenced march. After a brief Nelson solo, Rosnes takes a solo that gives us a taste of her bluesy side. Potter gives another rousing solo before the group returns back to the original melody line.

“Rhythm of the River” is another Rosnes composition that has a distinctive samba pulse. The group sounding to me like early Return to Forever and Potter’s flute sounding eerily like the great Joe Farrell’s at times. 

Alec Wilder’s “The Winter of My Discontent” is a ballad that Rosnes plays with great sensitivity. The pianist first heard this brooding melody as a teenager sung by the vocalist Helen Merrill and accompanied by the pianist Dick Katz.  Potter takes a gorgeously plaintive solo and Peter Washington’s bass gets to the core of the emotional poignancy of this song with a masterful pizzicato solo.

The closer is a pure swinger, "Let the Rumpus Start," whose pulse is given its swagger by this fabulous rhythm section of Washington and White. Rosnes is remarkably adept at fitting in some bubbling lines on her piano while the crew percolate behind her. Potter is no stranger to letting loose in front of a swinging section and Washington’s facile bass is given a chance to strut his stuff. The song ends with White taking turns at different rhythmic variations.

Renee Rosnes’ Belovedof the Sky, which will be released on Smoke Records on April 6th,  is simply a superlative session that stimulates the senses on so many levels and provokes serious and rewarding listening for those willing to take the time.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Anat Cohen & Fred Hersch Live In Healdsburg": Simply Sublime

Anat Cohen & Fred Hersch Live in  Healdsburg  Anzic Records ANZ 0061

The clarinet is an instrument that harkens back to the early days of Dixieland, later becoming a prominent vehicle of expression in the swing era. Names like Barney Bigard, Sidney Bechet, Artie Shaw, Buddy DeFranco, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, Bob Wilber and the king of swing Benny Goodman all brought the clarinet to the forefront of jazz in their respective eras. The instrument saw a resurgence in the hands of innovators like Jimmy Giuffre, Eric Dolphy, Ken Peplowski and Eddie Daniels in later years. These artists all have one thing in common, they are all men.

Today the preeminent practitioner of this wooden instrument is a petite Israeli woman named Anat Cohen. Not only has Cohen almost single-handedly resurrected an interest in this marvelously expressive instrument, she has shown that in the right hands the clarinet can be both modern and versatile. With Cohen the clarinet can more than hold its own as a dominant voice on the present-day jazz bandstand.  Her remarkable virtuosity and creativity have been duly recognized with her two recent Grammy nominations.

The pianist Fred Hersch has been long considered one of the most sensitive of players in jazz. He is said to play with a great romanticism, employing a superb touch. His deep immersion into what he is playing is often manifested by his expressive physical movements while playing, showing the depth of his  emotional connection to the music. The now sixty-two-year-old Hersch has a storied history, having shared the stage with icons like Art Farmer, Charlie Haden, Joe Henderson and Toots Thielemans to name just a few. He has had working trios under his own name since 1985 and has been nominated twelve times for a  Grammy award for his work.

Fred Hersch and Anat Cohen (photo credit unknown)
It is a rare treat when you get a chance to hear two such accomplished and nuanced musicians work together in a live setting. Hersch is no stranger to the duet format. In 1997 he recorded The Duo Album which featured a series of duets with Jim Hall, Kenny Barron, Lee Konitz, Tom Harrell, Gary Burton, Tommy Flanagan, Joe Lovano, Dianna Krall and Janis Siegel. But it is one thing to perform a single song as a duet and a whole different endeavor to record an entire album with another artist and no supporting rhythm section. The communication has got to be flawless and the intuition nearly telepathic. With Anat Cohen and Fred Hersch live in Healdsburg, which was released March 9, 2018 on Anzic Records, the two seemed to have accomplished this feat in spades.

The album was superbly recorded by Steve Moon at the Raven Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg, CA on June 11, 2016. The music is simply sublime. The compositions covered included Hersch’s “A Lark,” “ Child’s Song,” and “Lee’s Dream,” Cohen’s “The Purple Piece,” and four classics,  Strayhorn’s “Isfahan,” Ellington’s “Mood Indigo,” Waller’s “ “Jitterbug Waltz,” and Jimmy Rowles “The Peacocks.” The chemistry these two have is just combustible in a very positive way. Hersch is generally the lead off batter in this ball game with Cohen adding her considerable technique and aplomb in exquisite counterpoint.

On the opener “A Lark,” Hersch creates a, crystalline intro before Cohen sails onto the scene like the songbird in flight floating on thermals. The two have more than a conversation, their instruments embrace like two dancers in perfect unison; two bodies merging into one, no longer separated by space or time. The effect is quite moving, never a note out of place, never a swerve or misstep.

The two repeat this empathetic embrace throughout the program, dancing, swirling, playfully challenging each other, interchanging ideas in the moment, using the melodies of the songs as mere armatures upon which to spin magical interludes, to create unexpected conversations. Hersch’s piano is delicate, melodic and gorgeous.  Cohen’s clarinet is mellow, fluttering and warm-toned with moments of burnished luster. The audience is quietly enraptured, reverential to the art, it’s presence only made aware by a spontaneous eruption of applause at the end of each selection.

My favorite selections include the aforementioned “A Lark,” Cohen’s movingly played “The Purple Piece,” a jaunty rendition of Strayhorn’s “Isfahan” which Cohen plays with marvelous tonal purity and a lingering vibrato.

I’m particularly fond of Jimmy Rowles” The Peacocks” which maybe the tour de force of expression on this album. The two find the haunting song a wellspring of inspiration. Hersch with his delicately dancing notes and magically light touch and Cohen with her resonantly long lingering lines.  She shows her prodigious technique slurring with exquisite precision, hanging notes in the dense air like  deliciously ripened grapes off a vine. She exploits the hollow wooden timbre of her instrument to great effect.  The mood these two set is like walking you through an enchanted forest.

Fats Waller “Jitterbug Waltz” is delightfully playful. Hersch and Cohen obviously enjoy themselves reveling in the endless possibilities this spirited song can elicit. The two tease you with a little minuet of notes finding inventive ways to reimagine the Waller melody.

The program ends with a slow moody rendering of Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” with Cohen showing her most sensitive side, taking on the role that Barney Bigard invented with Ellington.

With a musical repertoire that should please anyone, Anat Cohen and Fred Hersch Live in Healdsburg is a musical masterpiece that will be enjoyed for the ages.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Alexis Cole's "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To"

Alexis Cole's You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To Venus VHCD-1046

Full disclosure, I have been following the singer Alexis Cole for some time now. I first heard her when I lived back in the metro New York are and I caught her performing in a local Westchester venue after hearing her sing on a fabulous album I Carry Your Heart : Alexis Cole Sings the Music of Pepper Adams from 2012. The friends that I brought along at the time were so taken by her beguiling voice and charming, unassuming stage manner that they became instant fans and snapped up all of her recordings. At the same time they all wondered how such a fabulous singer had been running so low under the radar. I explained that Cole was serving her country as a member of the armed services for a stretch of six years, where she nonetheless continued to sing, fronting with the Army big band up at West Point. 

She was just getting her professional career started after attending undergraduate studies at William Patterson College and later at Queen’s College for graduate studies. I continued to follow her and saw her perform with the pianist Pete Malinverni at his Jazz Vespers series at the Pound Ridge Community Church, where he is musical director. She continued to impress me with her easy, unforced delivery and vocal acumen. I just loved her voice. By this time, she was snapped up by SUNY Purchase College as an instructor. 

Later that year, I was curating a jazz series for the Stamford Center for the Performing Arts in Stamford CT. I wanted her to be the lead off act for a new jazz series that we were piloting and she enthusiastically obliged bringing with her a fabulous group of musicians that included the guitarist Jack Wilkins, the bassist Andy McKee and the drummer Mike Clark. Predictably she was a big hit.

When I moved to the Atlanta area we stayed in touch via email and I was pleased when she asked me if I would write the liner notes for a Chesky Records project she was doing covering Paul Simon tunes. The album, which was titled Dazzling Blue from 2016, was a fine mix of Simon’s poetic music performed in a bare, roots-based style with Cole’s haunting vocals, Mark Peterson’s bass and Marvin Sewell’s guitar on most of the tracks. Cole was finally beginning to be noticed as the record climbed to 24 on the Billboard jazz charts.

The music on Cole’s latest album, You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To, was recorded back in 2010 at Avatar Studios in New York. Cole’s Japanese label, Venus, released the album in Japan in 2011. It was only available as an import before this year when the album was printed and released in the US. Lucky for us that the Japanese jazz fans didn't just keep this one to themselves, as this is a swinging session with Alexis in excellent form and her band offering inspired support behind her. 

The group is made up of many of the musicians that regularly perform at the upper West Side of Manhattan super club SMOKE. They include tenor star Eric Alexander, versatile trumpeter Jim Rotundi, masterful trombonist Steve Davis, pianist David Hazeltine, bassist John Webber and ubiquitous drummer Joe Farnsworth. 

Alexis has one of those lilting voices that seems to float in the air. Her delivery is so effortless, so natural, so fluid as to bespeak of some innate talent that requires no sweat equity; but be assured she has honed her craft with many hours of diligent study and assiduous practice. She is s a serious student of the music and like many great singers she has trained herself to become an effective storyteller.

Alexis Cole

While in the past Cole has taken some material from more modern sources, on this one she has mined the reliable Great American Songbook.  Composers like Victor Young, Michel LeGrand, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer, Julie Styne, Jerome Kern and of course Cole Porter have their work wonderfully represented by this talented songstress.

My favorite selections include the lead off Victor Young/Jay Livingston composition “Golden Earrings" where Ms. Cole starts out with a short, tasteful scat before introducing the lyrics out front of the three-horn section of Davis, Alexander and Rotundi and the swinging rhythm section of Hazeltine, Webber and Farnsworth. Rotundi’s muted trumpet meshes beautifully with Cole’s melodious voice, before Davis and then Alexander take turns soloing on this swinging piece. Webber’s big round bass leads the way as Farnsworth’s traps keep the time. Just listen to the ease with which Cole’s voice negotiates the lyrics through the changes, impressive.

The Michel Legrand composition, “I Will Wait For You,” is the perfect vehicle to showcase this lady’s wonderful instrument. After a scatted lead accompanied by a walking bass lead in that sets the tone, Cole starts off with the iconic lyrics. She has an astute sense of timing and her inflections are always subtle with no vocal theatrics. Alexander offers a sublime harmonizing tenor solo before the group plays in tight section style behind her; Cole’s years of experience playing in front of the Army Band has obviously paid dividends.

The highlight of Mancini and Mercers’ “Moon River” is a splendid tenor solo by the powerful Eric Alexander.

Another more obscure Young/Livingston composition “Delilah” finds Cole at her most expressive. Her introduction to this theatrical version of Biblically inspired Middle Eastern music is emblematic of her storytelling acumen. Her voice gently sways into the swing of the music as the horn section plays the evocative Alexander arrangement. Rotundi’s open bell trumpet solo is just magic. Farnsworth’s drum solo is punctuated with a synchronous chorus of Cole’s voice and the stellar horn section. Cole is simply hypnotic. Like a snake charmer’s Punghi transfixes a deadly Cobra into docility, Cole’s sultry vocal treatment captivates you like the Biblical Delilah subjugated the mighty Samson. The soporific beat adds to the enchanting effect.

“Alone Together” is played as a quick tempo swinger with some wonderful solo work by Davis. Rotundi, whose trumpet work on this album raises the entire program, makes a brilliantly succinct statement. Bassist John Webber's beat is always strong and omnipresent.

The poignant “You’ve Changed” is played like a slow ballad with Cole and company wrenching out all the emotion and pathos that this classic song of lament can muster. Listen to Rotundi’s solo on this and marvel at the man’s ability to play precisely what is needed and then listen to Cole’s crystalline voice at the coda. Just beautiful.

Other songs on the album include “Cry Me a River,” “A Beautiful Friendship,” “All the Things You Are,” “So in Love,” and the title song of the album “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.”

For those of you who crave to hear familiar standards played with modern, creative arrangements and featuring a fabulous singer backed by a great band, then look no further than Alexis Cole’s You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To. Believe me this is an album you’ll be glad to come home to.