Saturday, March 3, 2012

GREGORY PORTER, OLIVER JONES, AHMAD JAMAL HAVE IMPRESSIVE NEW ALBUMS

“Be Good” is jazz singer/songwriter Gregory Porter’s second album. In 2010, he put out “Water,” his first album, and it caught the jazz world off-guard. It was nominated for a Grammy, and surprisingly it made him the shit overseas. He kicked the dreaded sophomore jinx in the ass.

“Be Good” is a perfect album. It will make Porter a household necessity stateside. He can sing his ass off. Of the twelve songs on “Be Good,” Porter wrote ten. He writes more like a poet than a songwriter. 

For example, “On My Way To Harlem,” he wrote: “I was baptized by my daddy’s horn. (That line floored me.) On “In Good Hands,” he’s a love-struck guy, asking his lady’s dad for permission to marry her, assuring him she’ll always be in good hands.  

 Porter stripped the old paint off the chain gang anthem “Work Song” and juiced up the tempo. On “God Bless the Child,” he sang a cappella. That was the only time on "Be Good" he showboated. 

 Piano player Oliver Jones is a loyal man. He’s been making albums for Justin Time Records since 1983. Sticking with a label that long is rare for any recording artist, particularly a jazz musician.

Why screw with a relationship that works? Jones--an Oscar Peterson acolyte who's not afraid to flex his virtuosity--has a new album on the market “Live In Baden Switzerland”.

 “Live In Baden Switzerland” is a trio date recorded 23 years ago, and then shelved. Only Jones and the executives at Justin Time know why the album is just seeing the light of day.

 At any rate, on the live album, Oliver covered a lot of ground. The late Ed Thigpen (for a long time Thigpen was Oscar Peterson’s drummer of choice) and bass player Reggie Johnson were at Oliver’s side. 

Oliver's trio plays standards, ballads, blues, and gospel cookers. In short, the trio put on a complete show. “George Gershwin Medley,” “Something for Chuck,” and “Hymn To Freedom” were showstoppers. 

 Drummer Herlin Riley, percussion player Manolo Badrena, and bass player Reginald Veal have been running the streets with piano player Ahmad Jamal lately.

 It’s one of the tightest jazz band's working. Last year, I caught Jamal’s band at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor Michigan. That show is engraved in my memory. 

 That night, Jamal had a cottony soft touch on ballads, and on up-tempo songs he switched tempos faster than a runway model switches outfits at a fashion show. 

 “Blue Moon,” is Jamal's new album. He recorded songs his band performed at Hill Auditorium, for example, “I Remember Italy,” and “Morning Mist”. On “Invitation” and the title track, Jamal was playful with Riley, intercepting his rim shots mid-flight. 


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