The Jazz Artistry Of Legendary Composer-Arranger Tom McIntosh And Late Piano Great Sir Roland Hanna Presented On Two New CDs From IPO Recordings
IPO Recordings, an independent jazz label based in New York City, proudly celebrates the remarkable musical artistry of two of most intriguing and talented figures in jazz history, composer-arranger Tom McIntosh and late pianist Sir Roland Hanna, with a pair of new CD releases that are bound to enlarge these gentlemens already considerable regard among aficionados while delighting common listeners as well.
With Malice Toward None - The Music Of Tom McIntosh (release date April 13) collects an all-star ensemble of musicians that includes tenor saxophonists James Moody and Benny Golson plus pianist Kenny Barron to finally give McIntosh his due as a premier tunesmith whose melodies have, indeed, stood the test of time. A handful of newer compositions on the album prove an amazing vitality that will catch the attention of bandleaders and critics alike.
Tributaries - Reflections On Tommy Flanagan (release date April 13), an album of solo piano performances from Sir Roland Hanna that was recorded just months before his untimely passing in November 2002, represents the deep bond of love and respect felt between the two Detroit natives throughout their long careers. The carefully chosen, wonderfully wrought, eleven-song program finds Hanna deep in his expressive powers, homage of sorts that can also be perceived, as recognition of mutual loves and influences.
Although Tom McIntosh spent a good part of his early years playing trombone in bands like the famed Jazztet co-led by Golson and trumpeter Art Farmer, the New York Sextet and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, he has persevered in the music world in relative obscurity. Among musicians, however, he was admired and frequently hired not only for his estimable chops as an instrumentalist but for his compositional and arranging skills as well. In fact, it was James Moody, whom McIntosh met in the early 1950s, to truly recognize the trombonists promise, snatching him up after his honorable discharge from the Army band to work in a sextet.
The Cup Bearers is McIntoshs best-known song, having been recorded by countless artists over the years (its the title cut of a 1962 Blue Mitchell album), and, rightfully so, it kicks off With Malice Toward None in grand fashion. Veteran guitarist Ben Washer, vibraphone star Stefon Harris and pianist Roger Kellaway, long a Hollywood fixture, all take turns introducing the melody before a horn section comprised of Golson and Frank Perowsky on saxes, Jimmy Owens on trumpet and McIntosh himself taking honors on the trombone dig into the song. The lineup also includes bassist Richard Davis and drummer Ben Perowsky, giving the whole enterprise a cross-generational profile.
When approached to record an albums worth of his compositions McIntosh insisted that he be able to feature work that had not yet been recorded, and so part of the pleasure of With Malice Toward None is the premiering of four new McIntosh classics. And while many will recognize the two other pearls from McIntoshs pen here--the title song, of course, which was popularized by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross among others, and Balanced Scales Equal Justice, a nod to John Coltrane, the composer said, the newer cuts are just as striking. The MVP, dedicated to Dizzy Gillespie, features Kenny Barron; Ruptures in the Rapture, a 16-minute long workout based on My Blue Heaven, finds Helen Sung, a former student of McIntoshs at the New England Conservatory of Music, taking over the piano bench and showing why shes one of Manhattans most sought-after instrumentalists; Im Out! (No Hating) gives lots of room to Golson and Moody to blow; and Minor Consolation, a heart-rending elegy for McIntoshs late wife, contains contemplative solos by Harris and Moody on flute that highlight the songs melancholy. Two bonus cuts--Billies Bounce and Long Ago and Far Away--arent McIntoshs but were recorded anyway to let the rhythm section take a bow: the former track pits Barron and Kellaway against each other, and the latter flows winsomely along on Daviss elegant arco playing.
McIntosh left New York City in 1969 to work in Hollywood, where he accumulated numerous credits as a musical supervisor, most notably for two Gordon Parks films, The Learning Tree and Shaft, as well as for television programs like The Brady Bunch and Mission Impossible. Today he is regarded as one of the top educators in the jazz world, and many of his students are well into their performing and recording careers thanks to his mentoring. With Malice Toward None - The Music Of Tom McIntosh is not so much of career summation but a brilliant display of songwriting and musicianship. Lucky for jazz fans, McIntosh is presently preparing for his next recording!
Sir Roland Hanna first met Tommy Flanagan in the 1940s when they were teenagers living in Detroit. Although Flanagan initially was more fluent in modern, post-bop era jazz than Hanna, who took a more studious route (Eastman School of Music, Julliard) on his way toward the improvisers art, both pianists gigged with the some of jazzs biggest names in their heyday: Flanagan with Trane and Sonny Rollins before becoming Ella Fitzgeralds music director, Hanna with Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus and the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra before hooking up with Sarah Vaughn as her musical director. Oh, the conversations the two pianists probably had when their paths crossed!
After Flanagans death in 2001 Hanna began working on Tributaries - Reflections On Tommy Flanagan, finishing it in the summer of 2002 just a few months before his own passing. In many ways it picks up where his previous album of solo piano works on IPO Recordings, Everything I Love, leaves off, which means Hanna at the zenith of his powers: exuberant, intelligent and magisterial, his timing and touch impeccably executed to the extent that each song is superbly colored.
Tributaries starts with Flanagans zesty blues Sea Changes, which Hanna fits with a stride pattern. A mutual admiration between the two pianists of the compositions of Thad Jones sends Hanna to A Child is Born, delicately delivered here, and the boppish Tis, while songbook favorites like Body and Soul, Never Let Me Go and I Concentrate on You are creatively arranged and played in a manner that will certainly conjure Flanagans own unique gifts in this regard. Theres also bravura nods to the Gershwins on Soon and Ellington on Things Aint What They Used to Be, with Hannas piano voicings reaching such orchestral heights that the idea that this is a solo instrumental recording rarely occurs. Tom McIntoshs The Cup Bearers, a tune Flanagan loved to play (it appears on his last recording, Sunset and the Mockingbird), receives a loving, drawn-out embrace by Hanna, as if he were intent in finding all the emotion latent in the song, much as Flanagan would have. An exquisite reading of Flanagans Delarna caps off the album, and as valedictions goes youll find few as tenderly offered as this.
Sir Roland Hannas Tributaries - Reflections On Tommy Flanagan is the ultimate proof of how artistry begets and supports even more artistry. The genius of this album is that it will undoubtedly send many jazz fans back to other recordings these two greats led or contributed to, further enhancing their prominence in the jazz firmament.