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MARIETTA, OH, USA - The name of Don Friedman will be familiar to those jazz fans who enjoy a piano played well and on his album called "Waltz for Debby" (411 Records), Friedman demonstates that he's still working with all his powers despite having recently reached the age of 69.
According to the notes of this excellent CD, Friedman started playing at the age of five, guided by parents who loved classical music. But Friedman discovered jazz at the age of 15, when he first heard two bands, one led by the incomparable Les Brown, the other by a leader who had an influence on Frank Sinatra during his days with Capitol Records, the excellent Billy May.
Friedman had his first albums released in the early '60s and it was obvious from the beginning that he was going to be influential. "Waltz for Debby" features the excellent sidemen George Mraz (on bass) and the skilled Lewis Nash behind the drum kit. The result is an album that scores on every song, including three Friedman originals, "35 W. 4th Street," "Blues in a Hurry" and "From A to Z."
Friedman does a superb version of the Chick Corea salute, "Bud Powell." Even the old warhorse "The Shadow of Your Smile" benefits from Friedman's beautiful jazz sensibilities.
"Waltz for Debby" stands out as one of the best trio efforts I've heard in quite a while. Highly recommended.
John Hines DebutWith the death within the year of the masterful J.J. Johnson, there aren't many famous trombone soloists left in jazz. Capri Records, bless their souls, tries to do something by giving John Hines his first solo recording, "In the Pocket." The payoff is an excellent array of solid efforts, played with vigor and a fresh sound that should delight anyone who ever fell in love with the sound of the jazz trombone.
Hines, from the Western states, plays like a proficient old veteran, but he's still new to the game, with no doubt remaining that he's going to make news in the jazz fraternity. He achieves a full sound, yet keeps his pleasant and smooth tone in mind throughout, performing with the jazz beat firmly in mind. The result can be delightful, sometimes simply stunning.
The tunes are a mix of originals and some deftly chosen warhorses, including "I Could Write a Book" by Rogers and Hart, "Secret Love" by Sammy Fain, and a fabulous arrangement of Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," which I never tire of hearing. Michael Pagan does his magic on keyboards and Mike Williams plays bass. Angela Holley does the vocals on "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square," an old song not for the fainthearted. She's quite good.
Mike Ragan works the keyboards, while Hugh Pagin makes a major contribution on trumpet and flugelhorn. Rob Ward sits behind the drums, working smoothly.
Let me make a prediction, which once you hear this CD, will seem obvious: John Hines should quickly become a household name, worthy of a quick dash to your local music dealer to snap up a copy of "In the Pocket."
Guitar, Bass & DrumsLet me be frank. I'm not an enthusiast for any trio that consists of electric guitar, bass and drums. The setup works just fine if the guitarist performs rock but for jazz the guitar seems lost in the equation, without electricity so to speak, and the drums must be so laid back that the entire matter seems simply too quiet and so-what.
Wrong again, Powers. When the trio is led by Joshua Breakstone, accompanied by drummer Joel Allouche and bassist Louis Petrucciani, what transpires is something worthwhile. The new album from Breakstone, "A Jamais," which means "forever". (Capri Records) demonstrates that listening to music with mind made up leads to embarrassment and the loss of music well worth the listening.
As a teenager in his native New Jersey, Breakstone joined the jazz crowd, listening ?with enthusiasm to such trumpeters as Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown and Donald Byrd. Later he found Charlie Parker, who quickly became a part of his list. It's been more than two decades since Breakstoneís first album, "Wonderfull." By now Breakstone has recorded 17 albums and has an enthusiastic following in Japan. He will tour Europe this summer.
Will & RainbowIt's only rarely that this listener gets enthusiastic about so-called "smooth jazz," which often translates to "boring jazz," in my book. But dammit, I must confess that the band called Will & Rainbow plays this easy-listening jazz with skill and even a bit here and there of actual emotion.
There are two Will & Rainbow albums resting uneasily in your favorite CD purveyor. The first, which was released several months ago, while my computer refused to allow me to write this column, is "Over Crystal Green." The new release, which hit my front porch last week, is entitled "Harmony." Both come from the reliable 441 Records in New York City. You could do a lot worse with some of the boring smooth jazz that awaits customers in stores across our land.
Leader Will Boulware plays acoustic piano, Hammond B-3 organ, and synthesizer. He handles all instruments with skill and smarts that allow him to offer something for those folks who believe smooth jazz is somehow akin to real jazz. Others in the band include David Letterman's bassist, the spectacular Will Lee, long-time drummer Steve Gadd, both of the Brecker Brothers, Michael and Randy, along with some other expert studio players.
The newest album depends on a smaller band, but benefits from the usual outstanding vocal work by Phoebe Snow, who's heard on three numbers, including the Carol King classic, "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"
Take my word, please. Both albums contain little gems.
Coming Next Time: There's a great new album from Marlena Shaw, a superb singer who does wonders with her new release. Plus lots more of the finest jazz and other goodies!
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