By Fernando Gonzalez
Closing 2011 with a glance back, a peek into the future and sincere gratitude to the artists and producers who keep creating and pushing forward, no matter how daunting the odds. Your work is an inspiration. Thank you all, let’s meet again in 2012.
Poncho Sanchez and Terence Blanchard
Chano y Dizzy! (Concord)
A tribute to Cuban conguero Chano Pozo and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, by conguero Poncho Sanchez and trumpeter Terence Blanchard. The program includes both standards (“Tin Tin Deo,” “ Manteca” and “Guachi Guaro” addressed in a medley; Dizzy’s “Con Alma” and “Groovin’ High;” Ernesto Lecuona’s “Siboney” ) as well as originals by Blanchard and band members Ron Blake and Francisco Torres. For lovers of the classic Afro-Cuban jazz sound.
* * * * *
Paolo Fresu & Omar Sosa Featuring Jaques Morelenbaum
The disc is a reunion of sorts for Cuban pianist Omar Sosa with trumpeter Paolo Fresu (who appeared as a guest in Sosa’s group for the live recording Promise, in 2007) and, on four of the 12 tracks, cellist, arranger and producer Jaques Morelenbaum (who played, arranged and conducted on Sosa’s Ceremony). In Alma, Sosa and Fresu very effectively blend acoustic instruments with electronics, creating a sound at once intimate and open- ended, earthy and ethereal. Sosa’s pan-African approach mix naturally with Fresu’s Mediterranean sensibilities. (He’s from the isle of Sardinia, Italy) The set comprises original compositions by Sosa and Fresu and an imaginative reading of Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies.” The release date is January 10.
Tord Gustavsen Quartet
The Well (ECM)
Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen’s music has a muted lyricism and soulful, gospel tinge that suggests a darker hued version of Jarrett’s European quartet. Tenor saxophonist Tore Brunborg provides the robust tone and melodicism, just as Gustavsen’s approach is decidedly more austere, of the school of less-is-more. The Well is smart, soberly elegant, emotionally controlled, and well played. If this sounds like another fine example of ECM’s sound, you’ve been paying attention. The U.S. released date is February 7.
* * * * *
A new jazz label. Now that’s an idea …
Perhaps because jazz has such a precarious standing in American cultural life, I’m always moved by the depth of passion and dedication this music elicits in fans around the world. Listening to and discussing jazz in Buenos Aires or Madrid, for example, often has been an illuminating experience for me. The knowledge and enthusiasm of friends and colleagues in our discussions never fails to send me back to my music and my books both humbled and refreshed. Distance from the source plays its tricks, but it also gives a certain perspective — on artists or values in the music — that perhaps we have come to take for granted.
That said, I was surprised when I found out recently that a friend in Buenos Aires was starting a jazz label. Really. Are you serious? Now?
“How do you make a million dollars with jazz?,” the old joke goes. “Start with two million.”
And in case you are in the 1% and live blissfully unaware of what’s happening out there, there’s also a calamitous situation of the world economy in general and the record industry in particular. Still, Justo LoPrete, criminal law attorney, record collector and passionate jazz enthusiast, recently released the first batch of discs on his own label, Rivorecords. This week he’s going to the studio to record the next set.
“I’ve been wanting to do something related to promoting jazz for a long time,” wrote LoPrete via email in response to my questions. “Recording was an option. And that would also allow me to take special care with the art and the packaging. The present, and probably the future, of the recording industry was not a concern. And no, the financial debacle hadn’t really started when we took on this project. But at any rate, this was not strictly taken as a business enterprise. And it’s clear that the recording industry is going a certain way and my tastes are going another way. It’s just that this was the moment when financially I could do it.”
Rivorecords feature young Argentine jazz artists focusing on a repertoire of American standards. The albums are impeccably produced, from the recording (done in the old, one-day style), to the sober, elegant packaging. (According to LoPrete, the look is a tribute to classic labels such as Blue Note, Riverside, and Pacific Jazz.)
“We decided to go in that direction [for repertoire] because I love standards,” wrote LoPrete. “For me, it was going back to the roots, if you will, and there are many [standards] that have not been recorded ad infinitum, but have beautiful melodies.” As for the one-day recording approach, he writes that it wasn’t as much due to budget considerations but as “to maintaining a certain freshness in the performances. There is not one punched-in note in those recordings. It was an approach we discussed with the musicians and we all agreed it was the way to go — even if we had to live with some less-than-perfect notes here and there.”
There is no distribution set yet in the United States for Rivorecords, and the label doesn’t yet have a web page. “I know we need it,” wrote LoPrete. “We’re a bit behind on all that side of the project.” But the recordings are available on eBay (click below on the artist’s name) or by contacting the label directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
The first releases are:
– A Child Is Born. Saxophonist Carlos Lastra’s quartet , including versions of Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes,” and Thad Jones’s ”A Child Is Born.”
– What’s New? Trumpeter Mariano Loiacono plays Billy Strayhorn’s “Johnny Come Lately,” Nat Adderley’s “Work Song, Victor Young’s “My Foolish Heart.”
– Our Delight. Pianist Paula Shocron leading her trio in Tadd Dameron’s title track, and “Soultrane,” Hoagy Carmichael’s “One Morning in May,” and Duke Ellington’s “Melancholia.”