All that Jazz: A look at new releases worth a listen

A review of new Jazz offerings on the scene.

Food and jazz in Hamarkia (photo credit: BARRY DAVIS)
Food and jazz in Hamarkia
(photo credit: BARRY DAVIS)
Kalan Music
In this day and age, when putting out a CD is a relatively simple matter, the temptation is always there for a budding jazz artist to put out a debut offering before he or she has anything of real substance to say.
No one could excuse Basak Yavuz of jumping the gun, and the result of the Turkish vocalist’s mature approach to her craft, and how to tell her story, is evident in her debut release, which goes by the attractively quirky title of Things....
She began her love affair with music as a small child, and took piano and singing lessons.
But it was only after qualifying, and working, as an architect for several years that she decided life was too short to do stuff she didn’t feel deeply about. She got herself to the Manhattan School of Music in New York, and gained a solid formal education before returning home to Turkey to engage in music on a full-time basis.
is not only a succulent first fruit, it also traverses surprisingly wide disciplinary and genre terrain. In addition to straight-ahead jazz there are Turkish- and African- tinted slots, ethereal departures, bluesy vignettes that get you where it matters and even some rock-oriented passages. The sense you get from the album is that Yavuz is a roamer, and that she is fully conversant with all areas she visits.
She also has some pretty heavy guns on board for the trip. Veteran free jazz saxophonist Dave Liebman is in there, as is pianist-vocalist Peter Eldridge – Yavuz studied with both during her stay in the Big Apple.
Things... contains some standards, such as Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean” and Rodgers and Hart number “He Was Too Good to Me,” which Yavuz proffers in her own inimitable way, but most of the tracks are originals, with lyrics in both Turkish and English, and all are delivered in a singular style.
The title track is a lush affair, with sumptuous and subtle piano work by Eldridge, with Richie Barshay providing commensurate underpinning on drums and Yavuz adding Africanesque seasoning on kalimba. German guitarist Sebastian Boehlen weighs in with a delightfully distorted solo on “Hazarfen,” and that segues into a somewhat foreboding piano passage by Dutchman Wim Leysen and thence on to Yavuz’s plaintive vocal contribution before Liebman eventually gets in on the act with a tantalizing soprano sax solo.
There is ne’er a dull moment on Things....
Swingin’ on the Korner
Elemental Music
Just because something hails from times gone by does not necessarily mean it is of greater intrinsic value than contemporary offerings, but it seems there are still plenty of jazz gems out there just waiting to be disinterred for our listening pleasure.
Pianist Red Garland’s live trio outing from 1977, recorded at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco and re-released by Elemental Music, is a delightful blast from the past. The 2-CD set incorporates numbers the threesome performed, over a five-night stint, at the North Beach neighborhood jazz joint, which ran from 1972 to 1983.
The gig got Garland back with drummer Philly Joe Jones, with whom Garland had worked as members of Miles Davis’s so-called First Great Quintet from 1955 to 1958. Garland and bassist Leroy Vinnegar, whose résumé includes stints with the likes of Stan Getz, Chet Baker and Lee Konitz, had never collaborated before, but they were clearly a natural fit.
Garland was in his mid-fifties when the recording was made and had reached a wonderful stage at which he was able to combine his silky skills and wealth of experience to produce masterfully crafted lyricism, as well as reeling off slick licks by the dozen.
While the recording quality, in terms of instrumental equilibrium may, at times, be a bit suspect, that “fault” offers an opportunity to get a rare earful of, for example, Vinnegar’s walking bass lines and deft harmonics while Garland sensitively holds down the melodic fort.
Swingin’ on the Korner is a treasure to be savored.
Anzic Records
At the age of 32 Canadian drummer Ernesto Cervini is clearly a mature and accomplished instrumentalist, band leader, composer and arranger.
If that weren’t evident from his first three records there can be no ignoring his impressive all-round attributes as displayed on his latest release, the quizzically entitled Turboprop, which came out on Israeli reed player Anat Cohen’s Anzic Records.
If you’re going to play tight arrangements, but also with room for the occasional flight of fancy, it helps to have tried and trusted sidemen on board. As Cervini’s working band of tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, pianist Adrean Farrugia and bassist Dan Loomis is on hand for the outing, that takes care of that. The quartet is complemented by Tara Davidson, on alto and soprano saxes, and trombonist William Carn, and it all makes for one happy, and smoothly synchronized, musical family.
Half of the 10 tracks are Cervini originals, and his penmanship is unmistakable.
The drummer is also pretty adept at revisiting standards, as evidenced by his somewhat tongue-incheek take on Charlie Parker’s “Red Cross,” and even taking on classical music with his inventive and infectious reading of Claude Debussy’s “The Engulfed Cathedral.”
There are star turns wherever you look on this excellent offering.