Recent Listening: Scott Reeves and others


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Scott Reeves
Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra, Without A Trace (Origin)

Reeves’ second big band album for Origin features players in the top level of New York musicians. Saxophonists Steve Wilson, Vito Chiavuzzo, Tim Armacost and Rob Middleton are among the impressive soloists, along with trombonist Matt Haviland, trumpeter Andy Gravish, pianist Jim Ridl, and Reeves on flugelhorn and trombone. In Reeves’ title tune Carolyn Leonhart’s vocal is cool, contained and flawlessly delivered, however mundane the lyric. She might profitably have also been assigned a standard ballad with words by, say, Frank Loesser, Dorothy Fields or Johnny Mercer.

Reeves’ trombone solo on his composition “Shapeshifter” hews to the piece’s distinctive character; it is languid, then agitated and—finally—satisfyingly resolved. Indeed, that can be said of the leader’s most adventurous writing here. In his liner notes he claims that the shout chorus in “All Or Nothing At All” has “more quotes than I care to admit.” He needn’t have lost sleep over it; the quotes are logical and fit the harmonies. Knowledgeable listeners will find them clever. Drummer Andy Watson is a rhythmic mainstay throughout the album, performing hand-in-hand with pianist Ridl and bassist Todd Coolman.

Moving on to other new, or newish, releases, let’s not dwell on the customary Rifftides penchant for pointing out the obvious—that is there is more music than anyone can keep up with. Allow us to briefly (very briefly) alert you to recent releases that have caught the ear of the staff.

Wayne Escoffery, Vortex (Sunnyside)

Escoffery, a massively talented tenor saxophonist, left trumpeter Tom Harrell a couple of years ago to found his own quartet. Vortex finds him with pianist David Kikoski, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Ralph Peterson Jr. in nine powerful performances. Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt is the guest on Escoffery’s lyrical “In His Eyes.” Otherwise, it’s the quartet in compositions by its members, along with Harrell’s gorgeous ballad “February.” Escoffery’s liner note essay traces his own and The United States’ experience with racism at a time when, he says, “the people leading the country are the ones exemplifying the worst in men and scaring youth rather than inspiring them.” Escoffery’s “The Devil’s Den” seems to reflect upon that atmosphere, with the power of Peterson’s drum interjections abetting Escoffery’s intense minor key tenor solo. As Escoffery raises a young son in what he calls “the duality of this country,” the music amplifies the concern he expresses in his essay. It’s quite a package, musically and otherwise.

Ivo Perelman, Octagon (Leo Records)

Born in Brazil, in 1961, Perelman has become a contender for the title of most-recorded saxophonist in the world. The last list I’ve seen has the count at 81 albums. Those are apart from the many he has co-led or taken part in as a sideman, often with pianist Matthew Shipp. Octagon finds him, unusually, with another horn player who is also an avant-garde adventurer, trumpeter Nate Wooley. The album has eight tracks or parts, beginning, logically enough, with “Part 1.” All are what has come to be labeled, since the advent of Ornette Coleman, free jazz. All make demands on the listener to accept tonal manipulation and, unusually, abandonment of strict time. All can be engrossing, even the reactive “Part 5,” which at 1:39 is the shortest track on the album and one of the most interesting. Open your mind to Perelman’s music and you may find yourself intrigued.

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, Cheek To Cheek: The Complete Duet Recordings (Verve)

If Ivo Perelman was not exposed to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald when he was growing up in Sao Paulo, he was a most unusual developing musician. As Perelman approached his teens, Ella and Louis were still ubiquitous on radios and jukeboxes around the world. This four-CD collection combines their three enormously popular Verve albums with their Decca 78-RPM singles going back as far as 1946. Hearing the pair’s joyous interaction, the perfection of their phrasing, and their intonation, amounts to a lesson in not only musicianship but also in popular culture. Even a bauble like “The Frim Fram Sauce” from 1946 makes it tempting to compare this collection to the most recent Billboard top 40. Post Malone, anyone? Bazzi? Marshmello & Anne-Marie?

But what’s the point of that? The point is to recommend this Armstrong-Fitzgerald package to anyone in the market for virtually unyielding quality and taste. Care for a sample? Click here.

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This story appears courtesy of Rifftides by Doug Ramsey.
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