Percussionist Francisco Mela's second CD as a leader is a compelling blend of many influences, mixing neo-bop, Cuban jazz, and South African jazz, with a fine cast in support that includes pianist Jason Moran, guitarist/vocalist Lionel Loueke, bassist Larry Grenadier (sideman with Brad Mehldau on a number of his CDs), and tenor saxophonist Mark Turner. Six of the eight compositions were penned by the leader. "Tierra and Fuego" is an intricate, adventurous melody with Mela's tense percussion lighting the fire under Turner's burning tenor.
Avishai Cohen, who became well known in the jazz world during his period with Chick Corea, is one of the top bassists in the world. His virtuosity and constant creativity in both a modern mainstream format and on funkier grooves seem effortless. As Is…Live at the Blue Note contains a CD (the first seven selections) and a DVD. "Smash," "Feediop," the ballad "Remembering" and an overlong "Caravan" (the one non-original) are featured in both formats while three songs are different.
Always one of the most tasteful of musicians, guitarist Kenny Burrell is in fine form on this set from 1996. He is joined by a rhythm section led by pianist Sir Roland Hanna, trumpeter Jimmy Owens (who is in excellent form), either Steve Turre or Benny Powell on trombone and the underrated tenor-saxophonist and flutist Jerome Richardson. Burrell sings a heartfelt "Dear Ella" (his voice is just average) and there is a vocal apiece by Jeannie Bryson (a sensuous "I've Got A Crush On You") and Vanessa Rubin ("All Blues"). Other highlights of this relaxed bop set include Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer," Richardson's "Groove Merchant" and a medley of "Embraceable You" and Charlie Parker's "Quasimodo." (allmusic.com)
Arturo Sandoval, one of the great trumpeters, leads his high-powered septet on a variety of diverse material. The uptempo bop original "The Real McBop" introduces the audience to the strong solo playing of pianist Phil Magallanes, tenor saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia, Sandoval, and guitarist Rene Toledo.
This live date, recorded at the Blue Note in 1999 in commemoration of Elvin Jones's 72nd birthday, was one of the drummer's last recorded performances before his death in 2004. Jones's Jazz Machine turns in an exciting program of nervy hard bop, with nods to both the mainstream and the avant garde. The band, comprised of Michael Brecker and Antoine Roney on saxophones, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Darren Barrett on trumpet, Carlos McKinney on piano, and Gene Perla on bass, displays an impressive sense of group interplay, while not skimping on brio in the solos.
This two-CD set gives one a good example of how Duke Ellington's Orchestra sounded in 1959. Greatly expanded from the original single LP, the release essentially brings back a full night by the Ellington band. The music ranges from old favorites to some newer material and highlights include Billy Strayhorn sitting in on his "Take the 'A' Train," several selections from the recent Anatomy of a Murder soundtrack, versions of "Drawing Room Blues" and "Tonk" that have both Ellington and Strayhorn on piano, an 11-minute rendition of "Mood Indigo" and quite a few features for altoist Johnny Hodges.
Stephane Grappelli Live at the Blue Note with Bucky Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli and Jon Burr. "Stephane Grappelli was one of the masters of the jazz violin. In this wonderful Telarc recording one can witness the master's playfulness, charm and talent as he plays before an appreciative and polite audience. I was surprised at the recording quality of the CD - the warmth of reproducing string usually requires vinyl, a VPI turntable and a Jadis tube amp - however this reproduction has a less digital and more natural sound. An enjoyable CD - highly recommended in terms of Grappelli's talent as well as it's engineering." ~ Michael Schelb.