SONGS OF MIRTH AND MELANCHOLY, Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo; Marsalis Music, recorded January, 2010. Teamwork metaphors may seem apt for this recording even if there are few sports, other than tennis, that make a team of two. And there’s no straight-man-comic presentation, as happens so often in duos, apparent here either. What is apparent is familiarity — the old friend metaphor — and the pair’s commitment to melody, be it Brahms or originals. They open with the keyboardist’s “One Way” that’s all raggy and tenor honk. Then they move to Branford’s “The Bard Lachrymose” which is as clean and classic as the Brahms they take on later.Marsalis’ soprano has that broad, brassy sound that glides like a slick-shoe kid on ice. There’s a long-view, historical grasp of music here that extends beyond Chick and Herbie, even beyond Fats to pre-jazz genres. An amazing show of empathy, timing and grace. Music that moves…in all ways.
AND IF, Anat Fort Trio; ECM. When I have trouble writing, the introspective, honest personal stuff, sure, but even simple exposition, I turn to music to find my way back to clear, honest expression. Pianist Fort seems to lay her soul in front of us, easily, melodically, in ways that relate to our own existence. Yes, I know that her playing is often seen in terms of her heritage and a sort of homeland identity (she’s Israeli). But even in the folk influences and cultural rhythms she expresses something universal, something to strive for. As heard, hers is a beautiful story. I envy the way she tells it.
“Outback” from OUTBACK, Joe Farrell; CTI, recorded November, 1970. We all loved Joe Farrell’s tenor playing and admired his soprano work. But the Rabbit’s always felt that flute was his main axe. The ease with which he maneuvered through melodies, the tight phrasing and the moment-to-moment range left us (if not him0 breathless. The title tune from this recording is grand evidence. Buster Williams is, as always isoutstanding on bass, Chick does his electric thing and Elvin Jones makes his attack appropriate to every mood. Did I forget Airto? Shame.
CHABRIER PIANO WORKS VOL. 1,Georges Rabol; Naxos, recorded December 1993. It lifts, it separates, it makes sane and happy sense of so much. “Habanera” has been a favorite since the days it severed as theme (in instrumental version) for some long forgotten CBC program when Canadian radio was all I could pull in. “10 Pieces Pioresques” seems to cover every mood I’ve felt in the last few weeks. And believe me, I’ve felt my share. Rabol is crisp , expressive and sensitive to my sensitive feelings, neither too dramatic or too reserved. Good any time of day.