Archives for posts with tag: Hank Mobley

Album Review: Vol. 2, The Cookers Quintet (Do Right Music, 2015)

tcq2 The Cookers Quintet are making original jazz music today that not only evokes masters like Hank Mobley and Art Blakey but also makes a real and contemporary contribution to the hard bop sub genre of jazz.

I’ve welcomed in several prior posts the evolution of jazz that is going on at Blue Note records with acts like Jose James, Robert Glasper, and Kandace Springs. What they all have in common is how they push at Jazz’ boundaries and blend with other genres like R&B and hip-hop. The Cookers, on the other hand, don’t seek to evolve jazz but rather refresh some corners of it.

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The Cookers Quintet, TD Toronto Jazz Festival

I took in a free set at the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival a couple of weeks ago and the band made hay out of an afternoon gig in a suburban shopping plaza. Despite the uninspiring surroundings, the faux piazza came alive and children, yes, children, were bopping and bouncing to original compositions like “The Crumpler,” “The New Deal,” and even a cover of the standard, “Moanin’.”

There are many straight-ahead jazz musicians doing what the Cookers Quintet are doing: playing standards and original compositions using jazz stylings of the 50s and 60s. What sets The Cookers apart is the high proportion of original compositions in their repertoire and the musicianship that allows them to pull it off without sounding derivative.

Saxophonist Ryan Oliver’s composition, “The Crumpler,” has phrasing and an arrangement reminiscent of Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man but, like many jazz compositions even in the golden era of jazz, the similarity is incidental, short-lived, and leaves no question that this is original work. That’s just one example of a deep well of original music starting with their Vol. 1 album (For Right Music, 2014) and continuing into this release. Bassist Alex Coleman also composed some wonderful tunes in “The Sheriff” off this album and “Obligatory Blues” from Vol. 1.

Kudos to record label Do Right Music for fostering this act and others in its stable like The Soul Jazz Orchestra and Dawn Pemberton. Good music doesn’t need to be “on trend” or tailored to a demographic. Done right, it just cooks.

 

The Players: Ryan Oliver (tenor sax), Tim Hamel (trumpet), Richard Whiteman (piano), Alex Coleman (bass), Joel Haynes (drums).

 

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Music Review: Movement, Gerardo Frisina (Schema Records, 2014)

Latin influenced jazz had its beginnings in the 1940’s and was later popularized by Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria with his recording of “Afro Blue” in 1959. Soon after, Latin Jazz blossomed, attracting a caravan of masters recording hundreds of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian-influenced standards.

One of the best collections of these is the Blue Bossa collection from Blue Note Records (1992) featuring greats like Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, and Kenny Dorham. Incidentally, Mobley’s “Ricado Bossa Nova” from that collection is one of my all-time favourite Blue Note recordings. frisina movement

It is squarely in this tradition that Italian jazz composer and producer Gerardo Frisina has built his repertoire. His latest release, Movement, remains grounded in Latin Jazz while incorporating modern elements of jazz dance and soul jazz music. He achieves this with well-chosen vocal, electric piano, and organ accompaniment. Frisina also blends Afrobeat influences in tracks like “Eastern Vibrations – Shout It” with its fat brass section. geradofrisinajointhedance

I was so taken with the authenticity and musicianship on Movement, that I explored Frisina’s back catalog and was impressed even more deeply with his 2010 release, Join the Dance (Schema Records). More classic and straight-ahead than Movement’s modernized sound, Join the Dance evokes the masters that embraced this music. “Another Waltz,” features the vibes of Pasquale Bardaro and a steady groove that could have come off of a circa 1970 Bobby Hutcherson album. “Mille E Una Notte” is a easy-going musical sojourn through the Arabian peninsula, reminiscent of Pharaoh Sanders.

With both of these albums and his earlier work, Frisina’s body of work is a faithful extension to a tradition dating back more than five decades. He brings a freshness to the genre, not through gimmickry but rather through great composition and musicianship. In this sense, Frisina is not a mere preservationist. He is a progressive, who conserves the essence of what makes this music great, while allowing it to change and resonate with today’s tastes.

Album Review: Magic Ensemble, Quasimode, 2011

This snappy quartet can push out driving, frenetic jazz in the vein of the 60s masters. Some tracks are reminiscent of those classic Blue Note reissues of geniuses like Hank Mobley and Art Blakey. This album has loads of fast-paced, thrilling tunes that are technically perfect in timing and musicianship. But something is missing…perhaps the ebb and flow of more seasoned jazz performances that take the listener on a journey. These guys take you on a drive in a supercar and never slows down.

There are down tempo tracks but they are not as strong melodically or instrumentally. The guest vocals are hit and miss but there is something endearing about the blend of Japanese and English lyrics on “Music Can Change the World.”

Still, this album is worth checking out, if only for the instant thrill you get from some of the turbo-charged tracks. “Naghol Jumping” could have been a 70’s TV show theme song a la Hawaii Five-O. Good for a few laps around the island in your Ferrari!