ArtSpoken & Reviews

CDs from the past into the future

Don Albert
04/19/2012 08:56:04

Jazzaholic by Don Albert: Swing, a new approach to the ‘60s organ, an old-fashioned jam-session and the direction music might be moving towards.

Pianist Taurey Butler hails from New Jersey but now lives in the hometown of his idol, the late Oscar Peterson in Canada. It’s been a journey that took him to the East plus obtaining degrees. He describes himself as “A Japanese-speaking electrical engineer who loves playing jazz piano.”

Backed by bassist Eric Lagacé who is superb throughout and has a huge sound. Drummer Wali Muhammad plays with taste and swings without being loud. Together the two combine to do a great job backing Butler.

Butler is a powerhouse player, and is no clone of Peterson, however his right hand playing at the top of the keyboard on “Please Send Me Someone To Love” and “Moonlight In Vermont” does recall Ahmad Jamal. From swinging versions of “Sunrise, Sunset” and “The Lady Is A Tramp” to his own melodic compositions which become vehicles for him to take flight on, “Grandpa Ted’s Tune” will convince you of that, and on “From The Other Side” he displays his Peterson chops. The 11 tracks end with a Peterson-ish sounding “The Preacher”. The self-named CD is on Justin Time. For more info tel.: 021 552 6207.

Hot off the press is Smul’s Paradise from Poll Winning baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan. Filling out the quartet is organist Mike LeDonne, guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Kenny Washington.

The music is unpretentious and based on the organ trio groove of the 60s. Smulyan brings that sound right up to date, but in place of the usual tenor sax, this time it’s a baritone.

Smulyan’s sound is tough and edgy and he plays inventive long lines with bop phrases and seems to be having a good time, especially on his own composition “Heavenly Hours” on which he really explodes with just drums backing his solo outburst. Exciting stuff.

LeDonne handles the Hammond B3 with thought and imagination, and Bernstein plays beautifully with a guitar sound that stems from Charlie Christian through to Barney Kessel. Washington adds the heat without being intrusive. After some hard driving tracks the quartet displays its tender side on “Aires”. Unfortunately you’ll have to go onto the net to get this CD. www.caprirecords.com or www.garysmulyan.com

I’m sure many readers will remember the TV series of bygone years, Peter Appleyard Presents. The set looked like and the atmosphere was that of a jam-session. He has now released a CD titled The Lost 1974 Sessions by Peter Appleyard and the Jazz Giants. Indeed they are giants of the genre Hank Jones, Slam Stewart, Mel Lewis, Zoot Sims, Bobby Hackett and Urbie Green. It wasn’t taken from the TV show, but from a recording in 1974 by the musicians who were in Ontario with Benny Goodman at the time. It’s a kind of after-hours blow, relaxed on the ballads and swinging on the up tempos. Each track is preceded by a short studio dialogue, which gives one a sense of actually being there. Nine tracks of sheer nostalgia from an “Ellington Medley” to a rave up on “After You’ve Gone” Hackett is featured on “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, Green on “But Beautiful” and Sims on “You Go To My Head” while Stewart adds his signature sound of humming in unison with his arco playing on a groovy “Indiana”. There is an added track of ‘out takes’, which gives one a peek into what happens at a recording. For more info e-mail meghan@linusent.ca

If you have an open mind and want cutting-edge orchestral string music with a touch of jazz and improvised violin playing plus a composition of layered colours, deep swirling sounds and an emotional ride into the future, you ‘have’ to listen to composer, conductor and violinist Jason Kao Hwang/ Spontaneous River - Symphony of Souls. This is a young, modern and fresh look at what at one stage might have been referred to as Third Stream. Not for the faint-hearted.

Should you want to listen to violinist Jason Kao Hwang in a small group context, then Crossroads Unseen has him playing his own compositions with a cornetist, drummer and string bassist. It’s like Dali and Picasso meets Jackson Pollock. For more info jasonkaohwang.com


Don Albert is a saxophonist and jazz journalist. He spent 12 years with The Star Newspaper on the Tonight! section writing about jazz. Currently he writes jazz CD and book reviews for Financial Mail and is the South African Correspondent for Downbeat (USA) and Jazz Journal International (UK). He has presented radio programmes on jazz and served as judge at prestigious competitions. He has also won numerous awards.