CD Review: Jason Miles And Ingrid Jensen “ Kind Of New” (Whaling City Sound)

August 11, 2015
Devon Wendell

Devon Wendell

By Devon Wendell

I can’t believe I missed out on Kind Of New by Jason Miles and Ingrid Jensen when it was released this past spring. It’s been a busy few months but after finally “discovering” this album recently, I thought it certainly merited a write up.

Kind Of New is far from being just another run of the mill, fusion-steeped Miles Davis tribute album.

Keyboardist and producer Jason Miles is a humble visionary who has always followed his own path since his debut release Cozmopolitan in 1979, featuring Marcus Miller, Michael Brecker, and Badal Roy. Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen too has proven to be one who chooses the road less traveled yet most rewarding.

The chemistry and energy created between Miles and Jensen on this album is relentless. Their musical choices are unique on this stellar recording which also features an all-star lineup of some of the most seasoned studio musicians in the business such as: bassists James Genus, Adam Dorn, Amanda Ruzza and Jerry Brooks, bass, Jay Rodriguez, bass clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophones, Jeff Coffin, soprano, baritone and tenor saxophones, Nir Felder, guitar, Mike Clark, Brian Dunne, Steve Wolf, Gene Lake and Jon Wikan on drums, and Cyro Babtista on drums and percussion.

The album consists of 11 originals and a sublime version of Miles Davis’ “Sanctuary” (by Wayne Shorter).

Among the originals, “Ferrari (by Michael Brecker) “Faction Of Cool,” “Super City,” “Shirley,” “Film Noir Interlude,” “Ferrari” and “Seeing Through The Rain” are reminiscent of Miles Davis’ post Bitches Brew electric sound, but only slightly.

Jason Miles

Jason Miles

 

Jason Miles’ Fender Rhodes keyboard improvisations are stunningly original and unpredictable. His sense of texture and harmony help create a truly distinct mood within each carefully crafted piece.

 

Ingrid Jensen

Ingrid Jensen

 

Jensen’s trumpet lines go from sweet and tender to stark and menacing. The way these two masters play off of each other is the something special that so many musicians of all genres wish to achieve in a collaborative work.

“Street Vibe” (by Tom Harrell and Jason Miles) is swinging and funky with more of an ‘80s Miles Davis vibe to it.. Miles’ Hammond B3 comping cooks beyond belief and Jensen’s trumpet lines are dynamic and thoughtful.

Despite the slick and lavish production of this album, there’s a sense of freedom and stretching out that surely would have pleased Miles Davis.

As you get further into Kind Of New, you feel that you’re not only getting to know an intimately soulful side of Miles’ and Jensen, but you also get straight to the heart of Miles Davis. Not in some cliché, copy-cat fashion, but in what Davis wanted most from musicians, which was to stretch beyond one’s comfort zone to create something fresh.

This album will long be remembered as one of the most impressive and masterful Miles Davis tributes recorded by two outstanding artists.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.


Doc Wendell’s Prescription For Bop ‘Bone: J.J. Johnson The Eminent Volume One (Blue Note)

August 6, 2015

Devon ‘Doc” Wendell

By Devon Wendell

What could be better than trombonist J.J. Johnson joined with Clifford Brown, Jimmy Heath, John Lewis, Percy Heath, and Kenny Clarke all in one band? I can’t think of anything at the moment.
This was the band on J.J. Johnson The Eminent Volume One on Blue Note Records, recorded on June 22, 1953. No one spoke the language of bebop on the trombone better than J.J. Johnson. This album exemplifies Johnson’s unparalleled contributions to bebop and its sub-genre hard-bop beautifully.

It also gives you a chance to hear a young Clifford Brown (before The Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet) who was already one of the most masterful and eloquent trumpeters on the scene.

The album opens with a delightful reading of Gigi Gryce’s “Capri.” Johnson’s arrangement is sweet and elegant but still swings like nobody’s business. Johnson’s solo sings and dances gently around the melody line. Jimmy Heath’s tenor sax solo is frenetic and burning. Heath had (and still has) the ability to play fast but make every single note heard with true precision and clarity. Clifford Brown takes off like a ball of lighting. His solo is the most impressive here (and that’s saying a lot.) Although you can still hear the influence of the late Fats Navarro in his playing, you can hear Brown growing into his own voice with each beautifully executed trumpet line.

Many jazz musicians had already made the haunting Davis-Ramirez-Sherman ballad “Lover Man” a classic, such as Billie Holiday and Bird. But Johnson’s rendition on this album always makes me cry. It’s a stunning work of beauty. His solo is one of the great recorded trombone ballad performances of all time. I’d love to hear a truly great singer try to emulate Johnson’s “Lover Man” solo. John Lewis’ piano work is perfectly tasteful and melodic. Jimmy Heath and Clifford Brown harmonize to the changes softly behind Johnson, Lewis, Percy Heath, and Clarke.

On Johnson’s up-tempo piece “Turnpike,” “Brownie” and Jimmy Heath soar. Heath quotes a few of Bird’s alto lines on tenor sax. The energy of the band is infectious. Kenny Clarke’s drumming and Percy Heath’s bass lines can make anyone swing harder than ever and both are in top form here.

This Johnson original is an example of what a brilliant composer/arranger he truly was. His sensitive, romantic horn arrangements were at times reminiscent of Tadd Dameron’s greatest charts from the ‘40s and ‘50s. Johnson understood how to transform the big band bop sound to fit smaller groups like this magnificent sextet.

John Lewis’ “Sketch” is a gorgeously tender ballad. Lewis plays a more gospel flavored solo over the changes, creating a lush yet dark atmosphere. You can hear traces of Roy Eldridge during Brown’s brief muted trumpet solo.

J J Johnson

J J Johnson

And of course a ballad is the perfect vehicle for Johnson to play the most beautifully soulful and thoughtful lines on his trombone. Johnson and the band’s version of “It Could Happen To You” is another fine example of this. Johnson’s spacious and often beautifully stark lyricism on the trombone isn’t far from what Miles Davis (whom recorded with Johnson many times during this period) was doing on the trumpet.

The album finishes with a relaxed, swinging bebop version of “Get Happy.” Johnson’s solo is much harder and faster than on the previous album tracks. Jimmy Heath and Brown take off with wild abandon. This is an example of early ‘50s bop at its very best.

J.J. Johnson The Eminent Volume One is not only historically important in that it features J.J. Johnson playing with Clifford Brown (who died tragically 3 years later in a car crash)

But it also showcases some of J.J. Johnson’s most innovative work with some of the greatest musicians from the bebop era. This is essential listening.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.


Doc Wendell’s Prescription For Bass BeBop: Paul Chambers: “1st Bassman” (Vee Jay Records)

August 3, 2015

Devon “Doc” Wendell

By Devon Wendell

Paul Chambers or “Mr. P.C.” was one of the most prolific and inventive bassists to emerge from the hard-bop era. His presence was so strong on classic albums by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, J.J. Johnson, Sonny Rollins, Art Pepper, Bill Evans, and Thelonious Monk, (to name only a few) that his aggressive playing often rivaled the many jazz icons he “backed up.” He never overstepped his boundaries and he could be a very subtle player. But like bassists before him such as Oscar Pettiford, Milt Hinton, Ray Brown, and Percy Heath , he helped to bring the bass to the forefront of jazz. Chambers was young and hip. He took chances which gave him an edge that was relentlessly burning.

Paul Chambers

On May 12, 1960, Chambers lead an all-star band (Wynton Kelly, piano, Lex Humphries, drums, Curtis Fuller, trombone, Yusef Lateef, tenor saxophone and flute, and Tommy Turrentine on trumpet) for what turned out to be his last studio session as a band leader. The results were fantastic.

Lateef wrote all of the material for the album – 1st Bassman – (with the exception of Cannonball Adderley’s “Who’s Blues.”) Chambers creates some of the hardest swinging, funkiest grooves imaginable. On “Melody” and the modal “Bass Region,” Lateef’s tenor lines are tasteful and wonderfully original. Lateef had already established a style that was unique and that could fit in both hard-bop and more avant-garde settings. Humphries’ drumming is subtle and in the pocket, in the vein of Art Taylor or Kenny Clarke.

Fuller and Turrentine play melodically, dancing around the beat. Wynton Kelly always finds a way to explore new harmonic possibilities that fit perfectly within a given arrangement and composition. And Chambers’ solos are adventurous without losing sight of the grooves.

Paul Chambers

Paul Chambers

“Retrogress” and “Mopp Shoe Blues” feature Kelly, Lateef, Fuller, and Turrentine all soloing around Chambers’ bass lines. Lateef’s horn arrangements have a big band feel to them. Chambers is the man in front and on top and everyone present knows how to swing elegantly in orbit around him.

“Blessed” is a gorgeous ballad featuring some of Chambers’ most inventive and soulful bass bowing. The delicate horn arrangements glide softly below, punctuating some of Chambers’ masterful phrasing. Lateef’s flute solo is gracefully melodic and perfect. Turrentine’s muted trumpet solo and Fuller’s trombone lines are brief and poignant. Wynton Kelly’s piano solo is thematic and wonderfully complex.

The album finishes with “Who’s Blues,” a pure, slow blues that opens up even more room for everyone to solo. Cannonball Adderley makes a special guest appearance here (not credited because he was under contract with Riverside Records at the time) and plays one of his trademark hard swinging blues-bop solos on alto sax. Chambers’ leaps from the lower register of the bass to the upper with ease as Kelly’s rollicking solo takes you right to the heart of the blues. Everyone is cooking here and they know it.

1st Bassman is a unique album on all levels. Chambers reprograms the listener into not only accepting the bass as a lead instrument of a jazz sextet, but also makes it feel as though this is how it should be and that nothing else could be as hip. This album is an underrated gem that should heard by all music lovers.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.


Doc Wendell’s Prescription For Bop and Beyond with Roland Kirk’s “Rip, Rig, And Panic” (Emarcy)

July 22, 2015

Devon “Doc” Wendell

By Devon Wendell

By the mid 1960s, Roland Kirk had already established himself as one of the most unique forces in jazz. Being blind and able to play up to 3 horns simultaneously (and even a nose flute) was enough to get people’s attention. But aside from the visual stage performance, Kirk’s music was texturally and harmonically distinct. Kirk played tenor saxophone, manzello and flute and his compositions are still special and timeless.

On January 13, 1965, Kirk was joined by pianist Jaki Byard, bassist Richard Davis, and the great Elvin Jones on drums at Rudy Van Gelder Studios in Englewood, New Jersey to record Rip, Rig, and Panic. This highly experimental album combines hard bop, post bop, and avant-garde jazz in a delightfully peculiar manner that is impossible to forget.

Roland Kirk

Roland Kirk

The album’s opening track, “No Tonic Press” is a tribute to Lester Young. The track has no tonic in the “head” or melody line. Kirk starts out on tenor sax alone, but soon is playing tenor and manzello at the same time. Jaki Byard’s stride piano solo swings beyond belief. Elvin Jones drives this track’s rhythm with some of his typically brilliant drumming.

Kirk and the band’s rendition of “Once In A While” is almost a note for note tribute to Clifford Brown’s own masterful trumpet version from his performance on the live album Art Blakey At Birdland from 1954 on Blue Note.

“From Bechet, Byas, And Fats” is dedicated to Sidney Bechet, Don Byas, and Fats Waller. Kirk’s love of the history of jazz is prevalent throughout this track and the album. You can hear faint traces of Bechet at first when Kirk plays the melody line on soprano sax, and just a dash of Byas when he switches to tenor sax. But mostly you hear Kirk’s own style. There is the influence of John Coltrane in some of Kirk’s tenor lines but most tenor players were heavily inspired by Trane in 1965.

“Mystical Dream” showcases Kirk’s beautifully melodic flute playing. Byard’s solo is short but perfect. Elvin Jones starts off softly but is driven to more aggressive heights by the middle of this piece. Like Eric Dolphy and Yusef Lateef, Kirk brought atonality to the flute, making the instrument swing in new directions.

The title track is an exploration in sound and color. Kirk plays some hard but swinging microtones on the tenor sax until you expect to hear the sound of a glass breaking. The band then takes off, improvising around an ascending melody line. Kirk and the band venture “out” into the avant-garde here. Kirk eventually is playing tenor sax, manzello, and stritch all at once. Byard’s solo sounds like an odd mixture of Cedar Walton and early Cecil Taylor, and Elvin Jones just cooks. Davis’s subtle bass line is perfect for this sonic adventure.

“Black Diamond” is a modal ballad in the style of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” It sounds more like Brubeck on acid. Kirk’s manzello floats atop Byard’s piano comping and the pulsating rhythms of Davis and Jones. Kirk’s lines are harmonically brilliant.

“Slippery, Hippery, Flippery” is another sonic journey that feels slightly like Pharoah Sanders’ music of that time. Eastern music influences are definitely present here. The music is harsh, chaotic, and beautiful.

Roland Kirk’s music becomes even more important with time. Although this may not be one of his most popular releases, Rip, Rig, And Panic is one of his greatest; a true gem on all levels. Do not miss out on this one.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.


CD Review- Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Columbia/Legacy)

July 16, 2015

Devon “Doc” Wendell

By Devon Wendell

Many jazz aficionados like myself have been waiting for a live box set like this one for most of our lives and it’s finally here. Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 consists of 4 CDs featuring 20 years of Miles Davis performances (8 shows in total) showcasing Miles at different stages of his prolific career. The official release date is Friday, July 17th.

 

The first CD kicks off with a stellar set by Miles at Newport on July 17, 1955. Joining Miles is a “Who’s Who” of the bebop era: Thelonious Monk on piano, Zoot Sims on tenor sax, Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax, Percy Heath on bass, and Connie Kay on drums. After a delightful introduction by Duke Ellington and Gerry Mulligan, Miles and the band perform three pieces: “Hackensack” and “’Round Midnight,” both by Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker’s “Now’s The Time.” There’s a laid back yet stark beauty to this short set. Miles and Monk compliment each other perfectly. Miles proves that he understood Monk’s music better than most. The melodic beauty of Sims on tenor and Mulligan on baritone sax is a perfect joyful juxtaposition to the haunting beauty of Monk and Miles.

The Newport show from July 3, 1958 has been available on CD for many years, but it just sounds even more inspirational on this box set and the sound is vastly improved. This is the same band as on Kind Of Blue ( except for Wynton Kelly), released a year later: John Coltrane, tenor sax, Cannonball Adderley, alto sax, Bill Evans, piano, Paul Chambers, bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums. Miles’ lyricism on trumpet is breathtaking. That elegant swing that Miles created at that time really shines through this performance. Coltrane on the other hand plays like a mad man, ripping through “Ah Leu Cha,” Fran Dance” and “Bye Bye Blackbird” like a man on fire. You just cannot believe what you’re hearing. Coltrane was that incredible by 1958. Cannonball Adderley swings hard with his distinct blues- bop driven alto sax style and the rhythm section cooks. Evans takes a more subordinate role on piano but what he plays is perfect.

Hearing Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet (Wayne Shorter, tenor sax, Herbie Hancock, piano, Ron Carter, bass, and Tony Williams on drums) at Newport on July 4, 1966 is a true highlight of this box set. The energy of these brilliant players feels unearthly. Miles’ chops are in top form. Tony Williams’ drumming is hip, imaginative, and adventurous. On “Gingerbread Boy” and “All Blues,” Williams often changes the tempo and the rest of the band is right there with him without missing a breath. Shorter, Hancock, and Carter swing beyond belief. “All Blues,” “Stella By Starlight” and “R.J.” are some of the most spectacular live jazz recordings I’ve heard in my entire life. The band takes the material to new places and the vitality of the players is jaw-dropping. The sound is so clear that it feels as if Miles and the band are performing right in front of you. This set alone makes this box set an essential purchase.

That same infectious energy is felt on Miles’ Second Great Quintet performance on July 2, 1967. The band stretches out on Shorter’s masterpiece, “Footprints” and on “’Round Midnight.” Miles and the band even keep the older compositions sounding fresh with new ideas and boundless energy.

On July 5, 1969, Miles played The Newport Festival with his new electric sound. Maybe the audience didn’t “get it” yet but who cares? This music demonstrates that Miles was still moving, growing, and leading the way in the jazz/fusion movement. Joined by Chick Corea on electric piano, Dave Holland, bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums, Miles’ reinvents his sound once more. Listening to the band perform “Miles Runs The Voodoo Down” and “Sanctuary” from Bitches Brew is both loud and wonderfully funky. Corea’s distorted psychedelic electric keyboard work is nasty in all the best ways. Holland and DeJohnette’s chemistry was already very strong by this point.

As great as the ’69 set is, the show from November 1, 1973 at The Newport Jazz Festival in Europe in Berlin, Germany is even hotter. Here we have Miles with Dave Liebman on soprano, tenor sax, and flute, Pete Cosey, guitar and percussion, Reggie Lucas, guitar, Michael Henderson, electric bass, Al Foster, drums, and James Mtume Forman on percussion. “Turnaroundphrase” and “Tune In 5” are just preposterous. By this time, Miles had out psychedelicized the psychedelic rock bands of the day. This set is more of an exploration in sound and freedom than executing perfectly arranged compositions to fit a brief festival set.

The Avery Fischer Hall show on July 1, 1975 features Sam Morrison on tenor sax, Pete Cosey, guitar and percussion, Reggie Lucas, guitar, Michael Henderson, electric bass, Al Foster, drums, and James Mtume Forman on percussion performing Miles’ original “Mtume.” Like the Berlin set, this is electric Miles leaving the past behind as he and the band explore new sounds for a more youth-oriented audience. But the results are transcendent on another level than Miles’ more bop oriented performances from the first 2 CDs of this box set. Sam Morrison burns on tenor sax and Mtume’s thoughtful percussion is original and matches the funkiness of the great Al Foster’s drumming.

The box set finishes with an amazing performance in Dietikon, Switzerland on October 22, 1971. Here is one of Miles’ greatest bands from the ‘70s with Gary Bartz, soprano, and alto sax, Keith Jarrett, electric keyboards and organ, Michael Henderson, electric bass, Ndugu Leon Chancler, drums, Don Alias, percussion, and James Mtume Forman on percussion. This is without a doubt the tightest of Miles’ electric performances on this box set. Henderson’s bass locks in with Chancler’s drums, creating some truly innovative funk grooves. Gary Bartz’ soprano work on Joe Zawinul’s “Directions” cooks. The set consists of material mostly from Bitches Brew. “What I Say” sounds both beautiful and wicked at the same time. Henderson is one of the greatest bassists of all time and the proof is right here in this performance. The combination of the tight grooves and psychedelic rock sounds is further proof that Miles was not only in touch with the funk rock of the early ‘70s but was also an original, key contributor to that sound.

No music lover and especially no Miles Davis fan should go without this wonderfully historic box set. Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975 The Bootleg Series Vol.4 is a further glimpse into the genius of Miles Davis as it went through constant changes. Each performance defines a specific genre in jazz as only Miles Davis could do.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.

 


Doc Wendell’s Prescription For Bop: Sonny Rollins’ “Worktime” (Prestige)

July 13, 2015

Devon “Doc” Wendell

By Devon Wendell

To many critics and part-time jazz enthusiasts; Saxophone Colossus is considered to be Sonny Rollins’ greatest studio recording. Yes, Colossus brought Rollins much worldwide acclaim, but it also overshadowed one of Rollins’ most masterful recordings: Worktime, recorded a year earlier on December 2, 1955. Saxophone Colossus was much more accessible. Even non-jazz lovers enjoy it to this day. But Worktime is considered to be the superior quartet album by Rollins of that period by jazz musicians and hardcore Rollins fans alike.

At the time, Rollins had just replaced Harold Land as the tenor player in The Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet. Both Roach and bassist George Morrow of the Brown/Roach band are the featured rhythm section on Worktime, along with Ray Bryant on piano. This album not only showcases Rollins at one of his many peaks; it also features some of the most inspired drumming of Max Roach’s entire career. This is essential listening.

The band starts things out with “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Rollins can take a banal show tune or pop hit and make it swing like no one else. Rollins’ angular lines, uniquely shaped phrasing, and sense of humor make me think of Thelonious Monk. If Monk played the tenor sax, he would play like Sonny (which is why Monk and Rollins played so perfectly together). That sense of space, syncopation, harmonic brilliance, and wit are all there.

“Paradox” has a Latin feel to it and sounds as if it might be a precursor to “St. Thomas” from “Saxophone Colossus.” Roach’s polyrhythmic drumming pushes Rollins to swing harder and harder.

Billy Stayhorn’s “Raincheck” is built around a simple motif but Rollins and Roach just fly by the seat of their pants and burn though this number like it’s the last thing they’ll ever be playing on this planet. At times, Rollins plays frenetically and at other moments he chooses a few long tones or two or three fast licks. Rollins’ unpredictability makes the music even more tantalizing.

On the album’s ballad “There Are Such Things,” Rollins stretches out in contemplation, searching for new, unexplored turf on his instrument. It’s the subtle minutiae that makes this one of Rollins’ greatest album ballad performances. Some ideas fly by so quickly that if you blink you could miss them. Ray Bryant’s piano solo is melodic and swinging.

The album finishes with Cole Porter’s “It’s All Right With Me.” Rollins and Roach are on fire on this up-tempo standard. The virtuosity of both men on this composition is unparalleled. This is one of the great hard-bop performances of that entire era. The ideas just keep flowing from Rollins’ horn and Roach’s drum kit.

According to jazz historian Ira Gitler, he sat with Miles Davis in the office of Bob Weinstock (the president of Prestige Records) on West 50th Street in N.Y.C. in early 1956. Gitler had the test pressings of what would become Worktime. Miles was so blown away by every track that he played them over and over, returning to certain lines and segments, smiling and getting off from the incredible music. He even called bebop tenor saxophonist Allen Eager and played the album over the phone, especially “It’s All Right With Me.”

I’m with Miles on this one. I can replay many of Sonny’s lines on any of the five numbers on this album many times over and always find something new. After I heard this record in high school, Rollins became my favorite tenor player and still is to this day.

In case you missed or overlooked Worktime, grab it now or take it off of the shelf and play it loud.

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To read more posts, reviews and columns by Devon Wendell click HERE.


Record Rack: Halie Loren and The Monks of Norcia

June 30, 2015

Brian Arsenault

by Brian Arsenault

Soul Music
Secular and Sacred or
Sacred and Sublime

Halie Loren: Butterfly Blue (Justin Time Records)

Halie Loren glides in flight on her new album Butterfly Blue from newly composed musical poetry to the songbook of American music on the wings of a deepening and darkening musical sense, an extraordinary accompanying group of musicians and a voice to wring out all the passion, pain and promise of living. We are captives of the cages of our lives but the spirit still soars.

The new:

“Blue” by sterling guitarist Daniel Gallo, “blue like the deep sea . . . blue like a moonbeam.”     Delicate without sentimentality, painful but not maudlin. Gallo’s guitar masterfully weaves under Loren’s voice.

“Butterfly” by Loren herself, wherein I think Otis Redding held her hand. I thought he might harmonize on the chorus and perhaps he does somewhere else.

“After the Fall” again by Gallo. Paper Moons hang, funny Valentines bring a tear. Songs of life remembered, a soundtrack of a life.

The classic:
Charles Trenet’s “I Wish You Love”, sung mostly in French and the more romantic for that. Loren’s voice haunts, evokes all the lyrical romance of the tune. Matt Treder’s piano and David Larsen’s clarinet so perfect in creating the cafe sensibility in play. Mark Schneider’s bass simply perfect.
“Stormy Weather” touches the very center of that blues piece, slowed down achingly beyond any version you’ve heard before.

Billie Holiday would approve. Ellington could have arranged.
And a bit later, back to back to back, my favorite moments on the album.
A playful yet deeply felt “Our Love Is Here to Stay” with Irving Berlin’s wonderful, hopeful lyrics. Again Larsen, this time on baritone sax, would be worth the trip just on his own. And Halie’s phrasing, I think she knew Berlin in an earlier life.

She has also somehow magically visited Cole Porter. “Under My Skin” is launched by a fine instrumental intro with Treder and Schneider leading the way before Loren’s breathy vocal comes in with just a touch of Peggy Lee. All that Porter longing, the pain/pleasure of being caught with no release and maybe none wanted.

On the Loren penned “Danger in Loving You,” heard in a performance version on an earlier recording, she writes to the level of Gershwin and Porter. There’s no release here either. There is of course danger to the heart.

Halie Loren is generally termed a jazz singer and that’s true if you acknowledge that blues underlies jazz, which of course it does. Then there is soul, she has that too. Ask me to walk into a club and conjure up my singer of choice and it would be Halie Loren.

To bend a lyric in “Blue” just a bit, I love her like Sunday.

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The Monks of Norcia Benedicta: Marian chant from Norcia (De Montfort Music)

I’ve never been interested in meditation. That’s why I didn’t care that much for “Peace,” the last cut on Halie’s album. I’m generally annoyed with all that find your center, peace out stuff. I’m entitled to my tension and my anger. Wars aren’t won and great art isn’t created by navel gazing.

Monks of Norcea Benedictus CDYet if I was going to meditate it would be to the immortal Gregorian chants of these monks in Umbria (Italy). In fact, while I had it on I began to feel more peaceful, more in tune, as they say. That annoyed me so much that I almost turned it off, but the beauty of the prayerfulness held me. Many I know who still attend Mass say that changing from Latin to English diminished its spiritual power. I can now say I think they are right.

I’m made to understand that the monks are killing (forgive the word) on the classical charts, even outselling some pop stars, and I can see why. Benedicta, largely in tribute to Mary (I don’t need to say which Mary do I), seems to echo down the ages from a time of believing, we’re talking 10th century here. Perhaps that is part of the attraction in this age of unbelieving, at least in the modern West.

Wherever you fall on or off the spiritual scale, beauty so rich and full is not to be discounted. Ever. The Monks of Norcia are also renowned for their craft brews, a spirit also not to be discounted.


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