Bill Frisell, “all we are saying …” (CD review)

(recently reviewed for JazzTimes; direct link)

Bill Frisell, all we are saying … (Savoy)

An entire generation of guitarists—musicians of every stripe, whether, rock, blues or jazz—points to the Beatles as a lifelong inspiration, beginning with their 1964 appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Bill Frisell, who never met a genre he couldn’t straddle, is no exception. “The songs are part of us,” he writes in the liner notes to his latest, a salute to the music of John Lennon. “There was nothing we really needed to do to prepare for this. We’ve been preparing our whole lives.” These songs are darn familiar, maybe too much so, but Frisell’s approach to them is lived-in, bone-deep and occasionally revelatory.

These 16 arrangements of Lennon tunes, from Beatles albums and solo releases, grew out of Frisell’s 2005 tour with guitarist Greg Leisz and violinist Jenny Scheinman, augmented by bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen during a 2010 residency at Yoshi’s in Oakland. The intertwining is the thing, and the instruments meld beautifully, occasionally hinting at the kind of Americana textures heard on Frisell’s 1997 Nashville album. Flickering strings and a unison guitar-and-violin melody are heard on a beautifully mournful “Julia,” while another Lennon favorite, “Imagine,” takes its time getting to the melody, with criss-crossing fiddle and steel guitar supporting the leader’s reading of the theme.

Frisell opens the disc with a quiet, brooding “Across the Universe,” all sparkling harmonics, delicate cymbals and tender chording. While the album is dominated by mellow pieces, several rockers do show up to enliven the proceedings, including the slightly overdriven guitars, high-flying fiddle and country stomp of “Revolution”; a dissonance-buzzed “Come Together,” replete with a long, effects-drenched outro; and a stark, hard-slamming “Mother” that builds into a furious jam. The closing, dirge-speed “Give Peace a Chance” makes for a noisy electric tone poem. Audacious stuff.

Pat Martino Quartet, “Undeniable” (CD review)

(recently reviewed for JazzTimes; direct link)

Pat Martino Quartet, Undeniable (HighNote Records)

Nearly 25 years after his recording comeback and a decade after his last in-concert album, 2001’s Live at Yoshi’s, Pat Martino turns in a set that has the revered guitarist reprising the bluesy organ-based jazz that launched his career in the ’60s. This time he’s caught on the East Coast, at Washington, D.C.’s Blues Alley, for a sometimes mellow, sometimes rambunctious set featuring his band at the time — frequent collaborator Tony Monaco on B3 organ, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. Martino’s melding of heady bop lines and fat grooves remains as engaging as ever.

The school of soul jazz is in session on several occasions here, particularly on a pair of blues shuffles, both of which bring to mind the music Martino heard and played during his early career stint in Harlem. The aptly titled “Goin’ to a Meeting” stretches out to 10 minutes with the help of an earthy, yelping romp by Alexander, who often steals limelight from the leader. The tuneful tenor-and-guitar unison melody of “Midnight Special” is followed by a conversant, staccato-chopped organ solo and an adventuresome turn from Martino that has the guitarist unleashing long series of notes and making use of a repeated phrase.

The quartet opens with the uptempo swing tune “Lean Years,” the setting for a blistering introductory display of fretboard prowess by Martino. The swing is the thing, too, on the laidback “Inside Out” and bright closer “Side Effect.” Rounding things out is the sole tune not penned by Martino, an inviting take on “’Round Midnight.” The guitarist, joined only by Monaco and a quiet, brushes-bearing Watts, imbues the melody and his inquisitive solo with a certain warmth, and the guitarist’s use of octaves recalls his long-ago acquaintance and influence Wes Montgomery.

Tampa Jazz Notes: SPC Jazz Fest; Ira Sullivan; Wynton & the LCJO

It’s encouraging to see several good jazz shows on the calendar for the first quarter of 2012 around the Tampa Bay area (at the same time, there seems to be a steady shrinkage of regular  opportunities for local jazzers to play paid gigs at local venues).

On the way:

Jan. 26-28 — 4th Annual SPC Jazz Festival: St. Petersburg College prof and trombonist/composer David Manson has assembled another strong lineup, this time with an emphasis on Brazilian and Latin strains of jazz.

  • Thursday, Jan. 26, 7:30 p.m. — Alfredo Rivero Trio (guitarist Rivero, left, bassist Yovanny Roque and drummer Patrick Hernly) & La Lucha (pianist John O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas, drummer Mark Feinman) with singer Jun Bustamante
  • Friday, Jan. 27, 7:30 p.m. — Singer Kathy Kosins with the Helios Jazz Orchestra
  • Saturday, Jan. 28, 7:30 p.m.  — O Som do Jazz (Manson, Arenas, Feinman, Rivero, singer Andrea Moraes Manson, saxophonist Austin Vickrey, and David Kubillos) and pianist/composer Antonio Adolfo (pictured, left), a recipient of 5 Latin jazz awards from the Latin Jazz Corner for his new CD, Chora Baiao.
  • Saturday, Jan. 28, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  — Brazilian music workshop, led by Adolfo

All events will be held at the college’s  St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus Music Center, 6605 Fifth Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Admission is $10 at the door for each event; for more information, visit the official site or call (727) 341-7984

Sunday, Feb. 12, 3 p.m. — Ira Sullivan (right, below; my video clip from the Bob Seymour tribute): The great trumpeter, saxophonist and flutist Ira Sullivan, making his 16th appearance in a concert presented by the Tampa Jazz Club, plays HCC’s Mainstage Theatre.

He’ll be joined by several of his favorite Tampa Bay area musicians — pianist Michael Royal, bassist Richard Dreler, and drummer John Jenkins. Admission is $25, $20 for Tampa Jazz Club members, and $10 for students with ID.  For more information, visit the Tampa Jazz Club site, or call (813) 253-7695. The Theatre is at the corner of Palm Avenue & 14th Street (Republica de Cuba) in Ybor.

Saturday, March 10, 8 p.m. — Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra: The trumpeter, composer, and bandleader, probably the world’s best-known jazz musician, brings his superb 15-piece big band to the Straz Center’s Carol Morsani Hall. In addition to Marsalis, the group may include the following musicians (subject to change): Ryan Kisor, Marcus Printup, Kenny Rampton, trumpets; Vincent Gardner, Elliot Mason, Chris Crenshaw, trombones; Sherman Irby, Ted Nash, Walter Blanding, Victor Goines, Joe Temperley, saxophones and woodwinds; Dan Nimmer, piano; Carlos Henriquez, bass; Ali Jackson, drums.

Tickets start at $33.50, The Straz is at 1010 North MacInnes Place in Tampa. For more information on the show, call (813) 229-7827 or click here.

Other notable jazz shows in the next few months:

Friday, Jan. 20, 7:30 p.m.  — Stan Hunter Group, Ruth Eckerd Hall’s Murray Theater, Clearwater, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 14, 8 p.m. — Diana Krall, Ruth Eckerd Hall

Feb. 25, 8 p.m. — Jane Monheit, Ruth Eckerd Hall,

Matt Abts, “Planet of the Abts” (CD review)

(recently reviewed for Relix; direct link)

Matt Abts, Planet of the Abts (self-released)

Gov’t Mule began life as an Allman Brothers side project, and now the Mule has spawned its own spin-off: Matt Abts and bassist Jorgen Carlsson have joined forces with guitarist/keyboardist/singer T-Bone Andersson —an old friend of Carlsson’s from Sweden.

The result is a wildly rambunctious, highly unlikely hybrid of sounds that nevertheless appeal, from hard and heavy blues-tinted rock to arty, synth-laden material like “Circus” and “Planet Pt. 2,” reminiscent of Pink Floyd.

Opener “Planet Pt. 1” kicks the disc into action with a heavy riff augmented with horns (courtesy of Mule multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis ), mellow piano overlays and acid-washed guitar. Andersson’s powerhouse six-string work is featured again on “Dressed Up Looking Fine” and “Deep Into Self,” and the band turns Stones oldie “Off the Hook” into a chugging rave-up. It is a nice planet to visit.

New NEA Jazz Masters: Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette, Sheila Jordan, Von Freeman, Jimmy Owens

Congrats to the class of 2012 NEA Jazz Masters: Bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Jack DeJohnette, singer Sheila Jordan, saxophonist Von Freeman, and trumpeter Jimmy Owens.

The latest inductees, each of whom will receive a $25,000 fellowship, were honored during ceremonies and a concert held Tuesday night at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center (the webcast of the event is here).

More good news: Despite reports that the 30-year-old program would be discontinued, the National Endowment for the Arts will continue awarding Jazz Masters fellowships in 2013 and — with luck — beyond.

For more information on the Jazz Masters program, which has honored 124 jazz greats since 1982, visit the official site. For videotaped interviews with the honorees, go here.

And for additional details on the near cancellation of the program, check out jazz critic Howard Mandel’s blog.


Sonny Rollins, Gretchen Parlato, Miguel Zenon Top 6th Annual Jazz Critics Poll (

Sonny Rollins is getting lots of love from critics this year, yet again — and deservedly so. His live Road Shows, Vol.2 (Doxy/Emarcy) was just named Album of the Year in the 6th Annual Jazz Critics Poll.

The poll, formerly affiliated with the Village Voice, this year is sponsored by, where the complete results are posted. More than 120 critics (including me) participated in the poll.

The winners of the major awards:

  • Album of the Year: Sonny  Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 2 (Doxy/Emarcy)  Runner-Up: Ambrose Akinmusire, When the Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note)
  •   Reissue: Miles Davis Quintet, Live in Europe 1967: Bootleg Series, Vol. 1 (Sony Legacy) Runner-Up: Julius Hemphill, Dogon A.D. (International Phonograph)
  •   Vocal: Gretchen Parlato, The Lost and Found (ObliqSound) Runner-Up: Jen Shyu & Mark Dresser, Synastry (Pi)
  •   Debut: Chris Dingman, Waking Dreams (Between Worlds)Runner-Up: Fabian Almazan Trio, Personalities (Palmetto)
  •   Latin: Miguel Zenón, Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (Marsalis Music) Runner-Up: David Murray Cuban Ensemble, Plays Nat Cole en Español (Motéma) 

Individual critics’ ballots are posted here.

Sonny Rollins, Joe Lovano, Ambrose Akinmusire top JazzTimes’ critics picks for 2011

New releases from two veteran saxophonists and a fast-rising young trumpeter topped the list of JazzTimes‘ critics picks for 2011.

Sonny RollinsRoad Shows Vol. 2 (Doxy/Emarcy), the Joe Lovano Us Five‘s Bird Songs (Blue Note),  and Ambrose Akinmusire‘s When the Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note)  occupied the top three positions on the poll, as selected by 37 of the magazine’s contributors (including me; my list for the mag is here)

Also in the Top 10:

4 Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian, Live at Birdland (ECM)

5 Miguel Zenon, Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (Marsalis)

6 Charles Lloyd/Maria Farantouri, Athens Concert (ECM)

7 JD Allen Trio, Victory (Sunnyside)

8 Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM)

9 Keith Jarrett, Rio (ECM)

10 Roy Haynes, Roy-alty (Dreyfus Jazz)

The complete list is here