A Reluctant Reviewer
Wednesday November 18th 2009, 10:28 am
Filed under: I'm All Ears,Jazz Ears,This 'n' That

There are several dozen CDs awaiting my attention, many sent by publicists who likely have long since given up on me – some have been waiting for more than a year. Some came directly from the artists themselves. Back in August of 2007 I explained that “I do not consider or even intend for this blog to be an impartial journal or source of news as in ‘all-the-news-that’s-fit-to-print. I receive tons of press releases and even some review copies of books and CDs, but I used to be very selective in what I choose to write about, and my selection criteria is admittedly based on my personal taste.” (Read the entire It’s My Party post here )

As readership grew, more submissions arrived. When it comes to the roles of music critics and reviewers, I am conflicted about whether I wish to be one. Today I am leaning toward “no.” Duke Ellington is often quoted as defining two kinds of music, good music and the other kind. I have a minimum of three categories, carving out a subsection of Good for the Truly Great. The truly great songs, singers, musicians, arrangements, and performances (live or recorded) are those that transcend the quotidian and make a lasting mark on my soul.

Still, a number of people have sent me these stacks of CDs and I now feel obligated to respond. This feeling will not continue into the new year. Be forewarned: while you are welcomed to send review copies, please know that I will only blog about those I really like. I may from time to time include something for intellectual reasons, allowing for its evolutionary impact, or rail against something I find offensive, but from here on out my primary criteria for a mention on DevraDoWrite will be to share only the music that has touched me. Luckily there are many ‘“reviewers” and “critics” out there who relish the assignment of screening it all for you and they will be the ones who will reap the joy of a new discovery — I am just not one of those people.

So now, here are a few discs that I placed in a pile marked “well done” – they don’t deserve a spot in my forever time capsule, and they do not even rank near the top of the Good list, but they are enjoyable nonetheless.

Jammin’ by the Jay T. Vonada Quartet is Vonada’s debut release. I got nervous when I realized that it was a self-produced novice production comprised entirely of original tunes, but my ears were pleasantly surprised. His compositions have form and flow, and he displays versatility (blues, Latin, swing, bebop, ballad…) This young man has been studying, shedding, and striving. Being a youngster, he has a way to go, but this release bodes well for his future in jazz.

Morning Glory features flautist Dotti Anita Taylor backed by a lady’s trio: Bertha Hope, Miriam Sullivan and Bernice Brooks. This easy swinging CD is a mix of original compositions and well-knowns ranging from a jaunty Time After Time to a contemplative A Child Is Born (Thad Jones). The recording was produced by Houston Person and the trio is joined by percussionist Steve Kroon, saxophonist Patience Higgins, trumpeter Eddie Allen, and guitarist Dave Tunnell on a few tracks.

Our Delight by the Paul Gormley Quartet features Paul on bass, Sam Most on flute, Paul Kreibach on drums and Larry Koonse on guitar. Toe-tapping with the pros from the opening notes, these gents have clocked a lot of hours on the bandstand. The ensemble is tight, the solos good, and the wide-ranging collection of tunes includes compositions by Tadd Dameron, Nat Adderley, Horace Silver, Cole Porter, Henry Mancini. Very enjoyable!

If you want to hear some standards, old-style, take a trip down memory lane with Since You by vocalist Josie Courreges. And if you’re also a movie buff you might appreciate Jazz and the Movies featuring vocalist Jack Wood backed by a number of Los Angeles-based heavy-hitters including George Gaffney and Llew Matthews, Luther Hughes and Jim Hughart, John Pisano and Peter Woodford, Pete Christlieb and Buddy Childers. The songs come from 11 different movies, penned by the likes of Marilyn & Alan Bergman, Arlen/Mercer, Cole Poter, Gershwin, and more.


Fela! Dance Music With A Political Message
Tuesday November 10th 2009, 3:42 pm
Filed under: This 'n' That

Back in the day, I was a New York City child of the sixties. I attended a private progressive elementary school and my friends and I were fairly savvy and politically active — protesting war toys, stumping and stuffing for Bella Abzug, marching on Washington… My friends and I were also music , dance, and theater lovers, singing folk songs, dancing weekly at Michael Herman’s Folk Dance House, attending Broadways musicals and then performing them in our living rooms. Torches have been passed to next generations, and my best friend’s son has learned his musical, social and political lessons well. Barnaby is no longer a kid. Now he’s a young man with two jobs — a 9-5er by day and musician by night. His band (and Barnaby himself) is featured in this video promo for the Broadway show “Fela!”

I did not know that Fela! and I shared a birthday and that on that day last month (October 15), “Felabrations” were held all over world. A happy belated discovery.

In the words of director/choreographer Bill T. Jones “a confrontation of power is always relevant,” and Fela! is is “a wake up call” that hear you can “hear with your hips.” Click here to watch Jones and biographer Dr. Carlos Moore discuss Fela Anikulapo-Kuti on YouTube.