Live Jazz: “A Tribute To Miles” with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Marcus Miller, Vinnie Colaiuta, and Sean Jones at Disney Hall

April 25, 2013

By Devon Wendell

Los Angeles, CA. Any tribute to Miles Davis really goes against Miles’ core belief in always growing and never looking back at past ideas and concepts.  But when you gather five musicians (three of whom — Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Marcus Miller — played with Miles) who are constantly  pushing themselves beyond what they know, and collectively changing Miles’ compositions from all eras of his career, the result will likely be something Miles would have been proud of. This is what the Tribute To Miles performance achieved on Tuesday night at Disney Hall.

Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter

Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter

Witnessing Hancock, Shorter and Miller, along with drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and trumpeter Sean Jones together onstage, was in itself something to behold, whether it was a tribute to Miles Davis or not.   Throughout the night, the solo order was pretty much the same with Jones playing the first solo on trumpet, followed by Shorter on tenor and soprano saxes, then Miller and Hancock exchanging leads between bass and keys.

Marcus Miller

Marcus Miller

The band opened the show with “Walkin’,” giving this Miles hard-bop classic a funky/fusion twist to it, especially in the tight, slick groove laid down by Miller on bass and Colaiuta on drums. Jones’ trumpet style sounded very close to that of Miles’ mid-‘60s playing, which mixed perfectly with Shorter and Hancock, since both were core members of Mile’s second classic quintet of that time.

Although the harmonies and arrangements of each number were drastically altered, the long time connection between Hancock and Shorter could be felt during the entire program, especially on “Little One,” which was the only piece close to the ‘65 original in its melodic approach. This piece was rarely performed with the next Davis quintet, so it was exciting to see Hancock and Shorter revisiting it all these years later.

Vinnie Colaiuta

Vinnie Colaiuta

The arrangements of each song were changed so much that even the most devote Miles fan would have had to take a moment to figure out the tune, which kept the material fresh on classics such as “Milestones,” “All Blues” and “Directions.” Only true masters who understand Miles’ music intimately could have done this as successfully as these players did. The energy level grew with each nuance and it felt as though the players had ESP and were symbiotically feeding each other new ideas, pushing themselves beyond the parameters of the songs’ structures.

Miller’s mournful bass clarinet playing on “In A Silent Way” was truly haunting and mesmerizing, as the other band members dropped their sound down to a whisper.  Shorter alternated between tenor and soprano sax, Hancock moved from his grand piano to his various synthesizers, and Colaiuta played with sticks, brushes, and his hands, all over the kit from one moment to the next. There was constant motion within the band as well as reactions to ideas that happened in the moment.

Sean Jones

Sean Jones

Although neither man actually played with Miles, Sean Jones’ youthful energy and aggression, matched with Colaiuta’s dynamic fire and bombast, pushed Miller, Shorter, and Hancock to amazing heights. This was especially the case in an up-tempo, joyful reading of “Fran Dance.” Here, Hancock played a fluid solo that quoted directly from Bill Evan’s piano part on the original recording from 1958.  Jones played muted trumpet and only emphasized syncopated segments of the original melody line, with Shorter filling in those spaces on tenor sax. The results were brilliant on all levels.

The highlights of the entire evening were stark, sinister versions of “Someday My Prince Will Come,” and Shorter’s masterpiece “Footprints.” Shorter played a brief soprano sax solo on “Footprints” that screamed and shrieked into a place beyond good or bad as only a genius like Shorter could pull off. And he made it look easy, as if it wasn’t and couldn’t have been rehearsed.

Even with all of Hancock’s adventurous synthesizer experimentations, the bebop qualities were not lost on “Dr. Jackle.”  Jones’ trumpet squealed into the upper register, venturing into a Don Cherry, avant-garde style, and Miller switched to upright bass. Colaiuta conjured up the spirit of Tony Williams and Philly Joe Jones, without abandoning his own unique musical presence.

The band finished with an encore of “Jean Pierre.” Miller played the slap-happy bass line with the same youthful vitality he expressed on the original recording with Miles in 1981.  Hancock made some delightfully peculiar sounds on his many synthesizers to match Miller’s live vocal special effects. And all the players were laughing and having fun.

The Tribute to Miles was a powerful statement of focus, soul, and wisdom by some of the greatest musicians in the world. The constant energy and movement made it seem as if Miles were there watching each musician with the intense look that only Miles could give – a look that meant that you’d better give it your best.  And these remarkable players did just that.

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

Live Jazz: A Celebration of Miles Davis at the Hollywood Bowl

June 28, 2012

By Don Heckman

There was a lot to like about the opening program in the 2012 jazz schedule Wednesday night at the Hollywood Bowl.  Start with the fact that it was conceived as a tribute to Miles Davis.  Add to that the simultaneous release of a commemorative Davis USPS stamp. And top it off with a program of music celebrating three of Davis’ most memorable recordings.

Herbie Hancock, the L.A. Philharmonic’s Creative Chair for Jazz, opened the evening with an introduction of Jimmy Cobb’s “So What” Band playing the complete set of works from Davis’ much praised  Kind of Blue, reportedly the best selling jazz recording of all time.  Cobb, who performed on the original recording, has been touring his Band, emphasizing his connection with Kind of Blue. “So What” is the title of the first tune on the album, and it was first on the program.

Here, as elsewhere in the performance, the evening’s trumpeters – Jeremy Pelt (with the Cobb band), Nicholas Payton (with the Miles Electric Band) and Sean Jones (with Marcus Miller’s “Tutu Revisited”) – had to confront the question of how to take the role of the inimitable Miles Davis in the midst of the legendary trumpeter’s highly influential outings.

To his credit Pelt captured some of the Davis sound and flow without abandoning his own creative identity. So, too did alto saxophonist Vincent Herring and tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson move convincingly within their assumed roles of Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane.  But ultimately, a good part of the appeal of Kind of Blue traces to the way the soloists worked from the amiable sounds of modal harmonies, rather than the complex, often chromatic chords of hard bop.  And it was the pieces themselves – “Freddie Freeloader,” “Blue in Green,” “All Blues” and “Flamenco Sketches” in addition to “So What” – that made the Cobb band’s set appealing.  (This, despite the fact that the audio engineers needed at least two tunes to find a sound balance that did not heavily overweight the bass and piano in the mix.)

The program’s second portion was devoted to Davis’ so-called electric bands, which actually were among the ‘70s and ‘80s’most convincing blends of jazz and electric rock elements.  Performed by an eleven piece band featuring Payton’s trumpet, the saxophones of Antoine Roney, the guitar of Blackbyrd McNight and high energy percussion from Mino Cinelu, Munyungo Jackson and tabla player Badal Roy, such classic Davis outings as “Jack Johnson,” “Nefertiti” and “In A Silent Way” came vividly to life.  Up to this stage it was clearly the high point of the program.

But it remained for Marcus Miller’s “Tutu Revisted” to climax the evening with a set that would surely have made Davis proud of the encouragement he gave to the bassist/composer/bass clarinetist when he was an enthusiastic young player.  Pieces such as “Tutu” (from the Davis recording of the same name, produced, composed and arranged by Miller) along with newer Miller works such as the deeply atmospheric “Goree” were underscored by remarkable emotional intensity from the players.  Trumpeter Sean Jones and alto saxophonist Alex Han were especially impressive, delivering some of the evening’s most emotionally compelling musical moments.

All that said, the tribute raised a few questions as well.  One wonders, for example, why – given the timely issuance of the  stamp — Miles Davis wasn’t included, five days earlier, among this year’s group of inductees into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.  Maybe next year?

It also was odd to see Herbie Hancock, who was a member of one of Davis’ most highly regarded bands, making announcements without going near a piano.  That band, the Davis quintet of the ‘60s, also included Wayne Shorter, like Hancock a Los Angeles resident.  And one wonders, too, why Shorter and Hancock, with the addition of bassist Ron Carter, a veteran of the same band, couldn’t have been assembled with, say, trumpeter Wallace Roney (who was mentored by Davis) and a drummer with Tony Williams’ skills in an impressively authentic version of an important Davis band, otherwise unrepresented in this gathering.

Those carps aside, any celebration of the life of Miles Davis is a worthwhile celebration.  And it was both the successes and the failures of this ambitious program that reminded us of Miles’ greatness, of the vital role he played in the second half of the first jazz century.

Picks of the Week: Aug. 23 – 28

August 23, 2011

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

– Aug. 23. (Tues.)  Clay JenkinsGood Signs  CD concert.  Trumpeter Jenkins celebrates the September release of his new CD with the stellar band on the album — guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Tom Warrington and drummer Joe LaBarbera Vitello’s.    (818) 769-0905.

– Aug. 24. (Wed.)  Alan Ferber Quartet. Versatile trombonist Ferber moves easily across numerous jazz styles, always with imaginative creativity.  Here he makes one of his rare Southland appearances, working with bassist Pat Senatore, pianist Josh Nelson, and his brother, Mark FerberVibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

Omara Portuondo

– Aug. 24. (Wed.)  Arturo Sandoval, Natalie Cole, the Buena Vista Social Club with Omara Portuondo and Ninety Miles, featuring Stefon Harris, David Sanchez and Christian Scott.  The Bowl sizzles with a far-ranging evening of Latin jazz in a wide array of manifestations and styles.  Hollywood Bowl.  (323) 850-2000

– Aug. 25. (Thurs.) Theo Saunders Quartet with Dave Binney.  Pianist Saunders, a probing musical artist on his own, gets together with alto saxophonist Binney, whose career has been filled with adventurous musical explorations.   Charlie O’s. (818) 994-3058.

– Aug. 25. (Thurs.)  Mr. Vallenato.  The Skirball’s free Sunset  Concerts for 2011 close with a performance by Jorge Villarreal. a Mexican-American accordion virtuoso whose emotional romps through cumbia and vallenato music have prompted some reviewers to compare the excitement of his playing to that of the legendary Jimi Hendrix.  The Skirball Cultural Center.   Free.  Doors open at 7 p.m. for an 8 p.m. performance.  (310) 440-4500.

– Aug. 25. (Thurs.)  Ken Peplowski.  Clarinetist Peplowski has been doing an effective job of keeping the jazz clarinet alive (along with his equally impressive tenor saxophone work.  He’s backed by pianist Mike Wofford, bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Paul Kreibich LAX Jazz Club Crowne Plaza Hotel.    (310) 642-7500.

Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.

– Aug. 25 – 27. (Thurs. – Sat.)  Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr.  Married for more than forty years, McCoo and Davis continue to celebrate the entertaining music of the group that brought them together, the Fifth Dimension.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Aug. 26 & 27. (Fri. & Sat.) John Williams, Maestro of the Movies.  With one of the most impressive catalog of film scores in his resume, Williams fully deserves the “Maestro” title.  He conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a collection of his memorable music.  In an added highlight, James Taylor will be guest narrator.  Hollywood Bowl.   (323) 850-2000.

– Aug. 27. (Sat.)  Brian Wilson.  One of the rock music figures who truly warrant the label “legendary” makes a rare concert appearance.  Wilson – whose awards reach from Kennedy Center honors to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – will offer selections from many of his greatest Beach Boys hits.  Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.    (562) 916-8501.

San Francisco

Oliver Lake

– Aug. 25. (Thurs.)  Oliver Lake Organ Quartet.  Alto saxophonist Lake, a true Renaissance man, is also a poet, painter and performance artist.  For this appearance, he’ll focus on expanding the arena of the jazz organ quartet with organist Jared Gold, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix and drummer Chris Beck. Yoshi’s Oakland.    (510) 238-9200.


– Aug. 25 – 31. (Thurs. – Wed.)  Ira Sullivan and Friends. Eighty year old multi-instrumentalist Sullivan has always been one of jazz’s most impressive, but also elusive performers, sticking close to the Chicago area.  Here he is again in his home territory, displaying his remarkable skills as a trumpeter, saxophonist, flutist and composer.   Jazz Showcase.    (312) 360-0234.

New York

– Aug. 23 – 27. (Tues. – Sat.)  Richie Beirach Quintet. Veteran pianist Beirach burst onto the jazz scene in the early ‘70s with Stan Getz.  And his multi-layered style is still a marvel of improvisational imagination.  He performs with the cutting edge ensemble of Randy Brecker, trumpet, Gregor Huebner, violin, George Mraz, bass and Billy Hart, drums.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

Jon Faddis

– Aug. 23 – 28. (Tues. – Sun.)  Jon Faddis Quartet with special guests Sean Jones and Terell Stafford.  Trumpeter Faddis, a protégée of Dizzy Gillespie, does his own mentoring in the company of young trumpeters Jones and Stafford.  The Blue Note.   (212) 475-8592.


– Aug. 23. (Tues.)  Buddy Greco and Lezlie Anders.  Veteran pianist/singer Greco, who turned 85 earlier this month, is still adeptly offering the blend of bop-tinged piano and soaring vocals that have characterized his music since he left the Benny Goodman band in the late ‘40s for a solo career.  He’ll perform with his wife, singer Lezlie Anders.  Ronnie Scott’s.   020 7439 0747.


– Aug. 23 – 25. (Tues. – Thurs.)  Ramsey Lewis Electric Band.  Pianist/keyboardist Lewis continues to tour with his five piece electric band, mixing standards and new works with material from his 1974 gold album, Sun Goddes.   The Blue Note Tokyo.   03-5485-0088.

Picks of the Week: Dec. 29 – Jan. 3

December 29, 2009

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Jane Monheit

Dec. 29 – Jan. 3. Jane Monheit. There’s no more entertaining jazz way to bring in 2010 than with the gorgeous sound and imaginative phrasing of the always compelling Ms. Monheit. Catalina Bar & Grill (323) 466-2210.

Dec. 29. (Tues.) Ron Jones Influence. Jones leads his big, 22 piece orchestra in an evening of large ensemble jazz. Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

– Dec. 29. (Tues.) Wayne Bergeron’s Big Band. Trumpeter Bergeron has ample credibility as a big band performer to front his own large jazz collective, and he does it well. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Judy Wexler

– Dec. 30 (Wed.) Billy Mitchell Group starts the holiday early with his pre-New Year’s Eve Celebration, backed by Rob Kyle, Tomas Gargano, and Frank Wilson. Crown Plaza Brasserie Jazz Lounge. (310) 642-7500.

– Jan. 2. (Sat.) Judy Wexler Quartet. Filling in as an unexpected replacement, Ms. Wexler gives her many fans an early opportunity to hear her briskly swinging vocals in action in the new year. Café Metropol. (213) 613-1537.

Highlight: New Year’s Eve in L.A……………………………………

Dr. Bobby Rodriguez

– Dr. Bobby Rodriguez New Year’s Eve Dance Party. Trumpeter Dr. Bobby knows how to celebrate a holiday, keeping the dance rhythms moving while retaining a firm hold on his admirable jazz chops. The Culver Club in the Radisson Hotel Los Angeles Westside. (310) 649-1776.

– Don Menza, John Heard, Roy McCurdy and Tom Ranier. One couldn’t ask for a better, more seasoned band to spend a holiday evening with — or, for that matter, a better place to spend it than at Charlie O’s. (818) 989-3110.

Veteran guitarist Don Peake brings in the New Year with one of his typically entertaining bands, featuring Ellis Hall, vocals, Earl Gordon, drums, Michael Torres, bass, Aaron Mclain, guitar/vocals and Harlan Spector, keyboards. Spazio. (818) 728-8400.

– Janis Mann and Llew Matthews Trio (Paul Kreibich, drums, John Belzaguy, bass). The rich, dark sound, soaring vocals of the under-appreciated Ms. Mann, backed by a sterling trio. Sheraton Gateway Hotel LAX. (310) 642-1111.

– Jerry Vivino’s Quartet from the Tonight Show with Conan Obrien. It’s described as a Masquerade and Dance Party, filled with “glitz, glamour, dancing and music. ” And with saxophonist Vivino leading bassist Mike Merritt, drummer James Wormworth and pianist Scott Healy, the description should be right on target. Upstairs at Vitellos. (818) 769-0905.

– Kleber Jorge. The guitarist/singer from Rio celebrates New Year’s Brazilian style. Crustacean, Beverly Hills. (310) 205-8990.

Louie Cruz Beltran

– Louie Cruz Beltran Latin Jazz Ensemble. Percussionist/singer Beltran is entertaining on any night one hears him. Celebrating New Year’s he’ll no doubt be even better. South Coast Winery Resort and Spa, Temecula. (866) 994-6379.

– Rick Vittallo. The veteran singer/guitarist has been a busy Southland performer since the ’70s, working in far ranging musical settings. Here he works in an intimate small group setting with bassist Pat Senatore and pianist Matt Harris. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc. (310) 474-9400.

Roaring Twenties New Year’s Eve. Marie MacGillis performs classic jazz and swing tunes with Michto Pelo, Tommy Davy and John Reynolds. Chaya Brasserie, Beverly Hills. (310) 859-8833.

– Don Randi & Quest. Keyboardist avoids the holiday traffic by leading his fusion group Quest at his own cozy jazz room, the Baked Potato. (818) 980-1615.

San Francisco

– Dec. 29 – Jan. 2. (Tues. – Sat.) Ledisi. Soul stylist Ledisi has been entertaining audiences with her engaging voice since she was eight. Her latest album, “Turn Me Loose,” adds a touch of funk to her driving vocals. Yoshi’s San Francisco. (415) 655-5600.

McCoy Tyner

– Dec. 29 – Jan. 3. (Tues. – Sun.) McCoy Tyner New Year’s Celebration. And an all-star celebration it is — a rare combination of players not to be missed. With Ravi Coltrane, Esperanza Spalding and Francisco Mela. Yoshi’s Oakland. (510) 238-9200

– Dec. 30 – Jan. 3. (Wed. – Sun.) Melba Moore. Moore’s checkered career and sometimes troubled life haven’t diminished the quality of her work as a singer with a unique way with a song. Here’s a rare chance to hear her up close and personal. The Rrazz Room. (415) 394-1189.

New York

(Dec. 29 – Jan. 3) Chris Botti‘s trumpet playing continues in rare form, as he finishes up his epic three week run at the Blue Note. (212) 475-8592

(Dec. 29 – Jan. 3) Struttin’ With Some Barbecue. Straight ahead, hard driving, New Orleans-tinged jazz at its best. With Henry Butler, piano, Donald Harrison, alto sax, Sean Jones, trumpet, Wycliffe Gordon, trombone, Ben Wolfe, bass, Ali Jackson, drums. The Jazz Standard. (212) 447-7733.

HIlary Kole

(Dec. 30 – Jan. 3). The Bad Plus. Still at the cutting edge of contemporary jazz, the trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King continue to be influential pathfinders for imaginative young jazz players. The Village Vanguard. (212) 255-4037.

Dec. 31. Hilary Kole with the Chico O’Farrill Jazz Orchestra. Any night with Kole’s singing is a night to remember. New Year’s Eve with Kole and the O’Farrill Orchestra should be something to preserve in a memory book. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

Dec. 31. (Thurs.)  New Year’s Eve with Liz Callaway.  The mellifluous voice and dramatic interpretive style of Broadway’s Callaway will be heard in two shows: Passage of Time at 8:30, featuring tunes from her recent CD; The Best of Liz at 10:30, with “Meadowlark,” “Memory,” “The Show Goes On” and champagne at midnight.  The Metropolitan Room.  (212) 206-0440.

CD Reviews/Jazz: Marsalis, Masekela, Roditi, Jones

April 17, 2009

By Michael Katz

The trumpet has long been jazz’s signature instrument, from Buddy Bolden and Louis Armstrong through Miles and Dizzy, Clifford Brown, Clark Terry and Freddie Hubbard. It seems like there is a cornucopia of fine trumpeters today; here are four recent releases from some greater and lesser known players.

 Wynton Marsalis

“He and She” (Blue Note)

            Leave it to Wynton Marsalis, in this age of limited attention span and digital downloads, to come out with a 75 minute performance piece that demands the listener’s unyielding attention. He and She mixes Marsalis’ poetic voice with a talented quintet drawn from his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. 

            The title poem, read by Marsalis with an engaging wink towards southern bluesmen, is broken into short riffs introducing the music, intended to explore the mystery of man and woman. Early on, it seems like a wonderfully performed period piece; School Boy features a ragtime groove, with Dan Nimmer on speakeasy piano and Walter Blanding echoing Sidney Bechet on soprano sax. Marsalis plays a muted trumpet on The Sun and the Moon, with Blanding on tenor and Nimmer playing a striking piano solo that carries the piece into the present.

              From there the suite picks up steam. Marsalis delves into the darker realm of self-doubt in his introduction to Fear: “What passions could cosmic bluesmen blame/if a man too scared to ask a woman her name”. That leads to a wah wah trumpet line, backed by Carlos Henriquez’s  foreboding bass.  The momentum builds with the suite’s most extended piece, The Razor Rim. Wynton’s mute is off now, Blanding provides a stunning tenor solo and drummer Ali Jackson  carries the time changes from ¾  to what Marsalis describes as “Elvin Jones 5/4” and back to 4/4.

            A live performance might have an intermission here, reconvening for Blanding’s lovely opening solo in Zero, which leads to a four part medley, First Crush/First Slow Dance/First Kiss/First Time.  By now the poetic themes become a bit muddled, and the listener wonders if he/she can just sit back and enjoy the music, especially the last segment which has a Latin flourish featuring Marsalis and Blanding. Marsalis must sense this, delivering his ensuing verse with tongue in cheek: What folly do sophic bluesmen find when a man think he know a woman mind?  He gives his quintet plenty of room to answer. Whenever the listener’s mind wanders, Dan Nimmer brings us back with emphatic swing.

            The suite closes with a gutsy blues, A Train, A Banjo and A Chicken Wing, with a burning solo by Blanding and a shout out by Marsalis.

 Hugh Masekela

“Phola” (Times Square)

            At 70, Hugh Masekela still possesses a warm tone on flugelhorn, a voice reminiscent of Harry Belafonte and a social conscience to match. His latest CD, Phola, is full of South African rhythms, the vocals mixed between English and native tongues. Phola translates to “heal, get well” or in slang, to chill, and that is what Masekela does here, aided by collaborators Eric Paliani and Ezra Erasmus, who between them contribute various guitars and keyboards. A couple of the tunes are autobiographical – Ghana tells how he first met his wife, Elinam at the Paris airport, where she was being held by immigration officials (They don’t care if you insult them/as long as it is en Francais) as he was on his way to Ghana. Sonny Boy takes him back to his childhood in apartheid South Africa, playing his first notes on the trumpet. In Bring It back Home, he chides the politicians and businessmen who have prospered from the end of apartheid to remember where they came from.

            All of this is played against the familiarly pleasing pop-jazz lilt that Masekela has been performing for the better part of fifty years. Guitarist Jimmy Dludlu sits in on Malungelo and the closer Hunger with some appealing work. Befitting Masekela’s international appeal, the music resonates through repeated listenings, even when the language is unfamiliar.

 Claudio Roditi

“Brazilliance x 4” (Resonance)

            Claudio Roditi is a veteran Brazilian trumpeter whose credits include stints with McCoy Tyner, Herbie Mann and Dizzy Gillespsie’s United Nations Orchestra. As dominant as the trumpet is in jazz, we don’t see it as often taking the lead in bossa nova, which tends to favor guitars (think Joao Gilberto and Charlie Byrd) or the  keyboards of singer/composers like Jobim and Ivan Lins. And, from the American side, the silky tenor sound of Stan Getz.

            Roditi, in his new CD Brazilliance x 4, has assembled a Brazilian quartet featuring pianist Helio Alves and percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca, along with bassist Leonardo Cioglia. It’s a sprightly program from the start, leading off with the upbeat Pro Zeca, an infectious line by Victor Assis Brasil. Alves, as he does throughout the CD, provides a bright Brazilian patter on the piano. Roditi has a clear, slightly muted sound, adroitly dancing in and out of the percussive themes. He alternates the more upbeat songs with slower bossas on the flugelhorn, most notably a gently swinging version of Miles Davis’ Tune Up. Rapez A Bem is a pre-bossa tune by Johnny Alf, written in 1953, that seems oddly familiar, perhaps because Roditi closes it with a riff from C Jam Blues.  Song For Nana is a nod to singer Nana Caymmi with a piano solo by Alves. Two of the last three cuts are extended versions of Roditi compositions, recorded live in Beverly Hills, and provide an added energy to an eminently listenable collection.

 Sean Jones

“The Search Within” (Mack Avenue)

            Sean Jones is one of the new wave of trumpeters, which includes Christian Scott and Jeremy Pelt. Like them, he is full of energy and a fine improviser. Similarly, his writing hasn’t yet caught up to his virtuosity on the horn.  His newest CD, The Search Within, features mostly his own compositions, with mixed results. The title track is broken into three interludes, played with a clear, resonant tone, leaving the listener to wish that any one of them might be stretched into a single tune.  Jones fares best in Life Cycles, which begins with a melodic solo on flugelhorn and features the harmonica of Gregoire Maret and the flute of Erika Von Kleist.  The Storm, one of two pieces inspired by philosopher Kahlil Gibran, has a bright Afro-Latin beat by percussionist Kahlil Bell, and more crisp soloing by Jones. Pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Lucques Curtis and drummer Obed Calvaire contribute a steady rhythm section.  There’s some fine saxophone work by altoist Brian Hogans, who contributes one of the two outside compositions, Summer’s Spring,  and by Walter Smith on tenor, particularly on Sunday Reflections and Frank Foster’s composition, Sean’s Jones Comes Down.  Jones ballads tend to be more declarative statements, serving as platforms for his soloing.  It would be nice to see some of the creativity evident in his improvisations go into the melodic themes. It’s laudable for musicians to explore their personal growth with their own tunes, but it would be useful to look to the compositions of other great improvisers – Freddie Hubbard and Cedar Walton come to mind – who have created more urgent or lyrical themes that endure long past their original recordings.


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