Thursday, May 24, 2012


Jazz Singer Allan Harris and piano player Takana Miyamoto had the best intentions when they made the jazz duet album “Convergence”. They sincerely wanted it to resemble Tony Bennett’s and Bill Evans gem “Together Again”.  Harris and Miyamoto played some of the songs Bennett and Evans performed such as “My Foolish Heart,” “Some Other Time” and “We’ll be Together Again”.

Harris is a good jazz singer with an alpha male voice, and he’s most comfortable performing love songs. Most of the songs on “Convergence” fit his voice like a catcher’s mitt. Miyamoto is a strong jazz piano player. Clearly, she invested a chunk of her formative years studying Evans albums. In Atlanta, her hometown, she’s a bigwig. 

Harris and Miyamoto should be applauded for trying to emulate Bennett and Evans. But “Convergence" felt rushed. Midway through it, you realize they hadn’t played together long. Nor did they spend much time rehearsing. Harris was stuck in one groove unable to wiggle free, and Miyamoto didn’t know how to aid him.

Bennett and Evans had chemistry. That’s what Harris and Miyamoto lacked. “Convergence” would’ve been better had Harris and Miyamoto delayed making it for, say, a year, and spent more time performing together and learning each other’s inner workings. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I promised Jordy Freed of DL Media I’d comment on your new disc “Journeyman”. He gave me an advance copy in April. I liked the disc the first time I played it. I planned to comment on it with three other new discs I received from jazz saxophone players, but I got sidetracked. Jordy, compared your style to the late sax player Michael Brecker, one of the best sax stylists around.  

Saturday, I played “Journeyman” again. My feelings about it haven't changed. It's hard to find a pure jazz album devoid of circus gimmicks and a bunch of special guests . 

Instead of hiring big named special guests, you gave drummer Donald Edwards. piano player David Kikoski and bass player Boris Kozlov top billing, and worked them like subcontractors.  I dig that you're a clean-cut jazz sax player. You don't have a lot of frequent flier miles as a bandleader yet, but throughout "Journeyman" you behaved like a dignified veteran. 

Many jazz sax players of your generation play as if they have bottled up hostility. I won’t name them. Some are probably your friends. I was surprised "Journeyman" is only your second disc. My favorite cuts are "Walk of Shame"  and "Illusion of Light". 

I had three helpings of “Walk of Shame”. It’s played at a rump shaking tempo. You didn't get carried  away  improvising. You kept it clean. I replayed the ballad “Illusion of Light” five times. I disliked it initially. I figured you hadn't endured enough heartache to play a ballad like your sax forefathers Ben Webster, Jimmy Forrest, and Dexter Gordon. They were balladeers who could make a motivational speaker weep. 

 Sometimes I distrust my first impression of things, so I listened to “Illusion of Light” again. "Illusion of Light,“ I realized, is the perfect baby making ballad. As you neared the last chorus, I pictured your horn melting in your hands. “ Jordy was right “Journeyman” is a worthwhile disc, and I recommend my reader’s buy it. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Driving home from work Wednesday morning, I caught the last hour of Bob Parlocha’s jazz program on WRCJ 90.9 FM. Parlocha opened the last set with On The Sunny Side of The Street from your 2000 album on Concord Records Second Nature. Jesse, it made me think about the first time I heard Second Nature 12 years ago. 

I was listening to Ed Love’s jazz radio show on WDET 101.9, and he played three cuts from Second Nature. Around Detroit Love is a jazz legend, and his show is popular. While Love queued up the first cut, he said if Charlie Parker had a grandson it would be alto saxophone player Jesse Davis, a great jazz musician from the Crescent City who been touring with a saxophone ensemble called Sax Machine. Phil Woods, Gary Bartz, and Charles McPherson were members. Jesse, I forgot the title of the first cut Love played. But I recall been immediately smitten by your blowing. 

I disagreed with Love that you blow like Parker. But I noticed one small likeness. On up tempo numbers you burned through the changes like Parker could. That’s clear on the 6th cut on Second Nature Marta’s Samba. Many of your fans, that I know, believed you have ties to Cannonball Adderly and Sonny Stitt. I disagree with them also. The first time I heard you I couldn’t hear an influence. You set out to be an original not a copycat. Many jazz musicians influences are obvious. 

Anyway, after hearing cuts from Second Nature on Love’s radio show, I had Chris at Street Corner Music order it form me. A week after I receive it, I played it so much it got all scratched up. The rhythm section—Massimo Farao, Aldo Zunino and Massimo “Max Dall’omo—stood out. Farao is a wonderful piano player. I listened to his solos so many times I would awake humming them. Farao made Second Nature memorable. He had the right blend of imagination and know-how. 

On I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face, his fingers cried gliding along the piano keys. It was commendable of you letting Farao, Zunino and Dall’omo play Tomnaso alone.  I pictured you standing off to the side smiling and your torso swaying side to side as they lollygagged through the song.

Weeks after I listened to Second Nature, I bought Young at Art and Horn of Passion. Neither hit me like Second Nature did. Jesse, I hadn’t played the album in years, so I’m thankful Bob Parlocha played a cut from the disc. I’ve played the album every day since, and I don’t plan to put it away anytime soon. 

Monday, May 14, 2012


Not including your 2010 disc Outer Reaches on my top jazz albums list for that year was a big mistake. I realized that a few days ago when I replayed it. Ralph. I’m considering expanding the list this year. Is that a good idea? Anyhow, your new disc, which comes out the 19th of June, the Duality Perspective, will make my 2012 list. I promise. 

DL Media gave me an advanced copy last week. Duality Perspective is a sweet way to celebrate your 50th birthday. You made so far the best jazz recording I’ve heard this year. Ralph, I rarely comment on  new recordings before they come out. But with Duality Perspective, I didn't want to wait. The title is fitting. The disc has a dual identity.  

The first five cuts--One False Move, 4 in 1, Addison And Anthony, Bamboo Bends in a Storm, and Princess--were played by your Fo’tet, your students, and they played like experienced swingers, especially clarinet player Felix Peikli. Soloing on Princess, Peikli sounded like Pee Wee Russell during his prime. Peikli blew like he was in the Olympics.

The first half of Duality Perspective seemed as if you shaped your students for jazz leadership roles. Peikli, vibe player Joseph Doubleday, and bass player Alexander L.J. Toth  behaved as if proving themselves was required, and making your band was the payoff. 

The second half of the Duality Perspective is even better. Your former student’s trumpeter Sean Jones, saxophone player Tia Fuller and Luques Curtis, current jazz stars and bandleaders, are in the sextet.

This half of the disc has the spirit of a Jazz Messenger session. Fuller and Jones almost blew each other over on Pinnacles. Ralph most jazz drummers are domineering. Never forgoing an opportunity to grandstand. But you are like your idol Art Blakey. You have hall of fame level chops, and you don't have a problem with giving your band-mates the floor.

Your reputation as a swinger's swinger is well-documented. At this leg of you career, trying to outdo your band-mates is silly. Duality Perspective, proves you are about making your band-mates shine. That was one of Blakey's gifts.

Ralph, Duality Perspective felt like a showcase for your band-mates. That was surprising and selfless, given the disc was supposed to be a celebration of your 50th birthday.. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


“Upper Westside Story” is jazz guitar player Bobby Broom’s sixth album for Origin Records. It will be released to the public on the 12th of May. Broom is in his natural habitat working out on nine original songs with bass player Dennis Carroll, drummers Kobe Watkins and Makaya McCraven. (McCraven, subs for Watkins on “Minor Major Mishap,”  "Lazy Sunday,” and “Father”.) There’re jazz guitar players on every street corner, but long ago, Broom distinguished himself from the lot. It’s refreshing that Broom isn’t into showboating.  On “Call Me A Cab,” and “Fambroscious,” Broom shows he's a craftsman with a sharp jazz acumen. “Upper Westside Story” is nearly flawless like his homage to Thelonius Monks “Playing For Monk”. 

 Jazz piano player Orrin Evans has never received the press his peers Jason Moran and Cyrus Chestnut have. Evans, a swing savvy musician, deserves the same attention. To support that opinion, I point to Evans' new trio album “Flip the Script,” which Posi-Tone Records will release the 12th of June. Evans plays mostly originals, and he tosses in “Someday My Prince Will Come” and Luther Vandross’ “A Brand New Day”. On fast tempo numbers such as “Clean House” and “Flip The Script,” Evans sounds like bop icon Bud Powell, zooming through the changes. Throughout his career, Evans has consistently put out stellar jazz albums.

Like his boyhood hero Art Blakey, jazz drummer Towner Galaher knows how to assemble an all-star jazz band and cull the best playing from them. Galaher has a new album “Uptown!” due out the 19th of June on Rhythm Royale Records and it has all the attitude of a Jazz Messengers oldie. For “Uptown,” Galaher hires   three Jazz Messengers class-mates sax players Donald Harrison, Craig Handy and trumpeter Brian Lynch. Together they could burn up your eardrums, but what gives “Uptown!” that old-soul goodness is the work of Lynch and organ player Pat Bianchi. Galaher’s all-star band cover tunes by Frank Foster, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, and a handful of slick originals. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012


 The Jazz Punks is a band from California that mixes jazz and punk rock. “Smashup” is the Punk’s debut album, and it’s unconventional. Miles Davis’ “Pfrancing,” Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo,” Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” and Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” are four jazz classics given punk rock makeovers.

After listening to “Smashups”, I wonder how the Punks could pull off such an ambitious project, and if Gillespie, and Desmond were alive would they like “Smashups”.

Guitar player Sal Polcino, saxophone player Robby Elfman, piano player Danny Kastner,  bass player Michael Polcino,and drummer Hugh Elliott are the brains behind Jazz Punks.  Elliot, the Punk's spokesman, answered questions I had about the band.    

When was the Jazz Punks born?

We were "born on the 4th of July". We met at an open-jam party with instruments in-house.  Once we were decidedly "a unit", the rest came pretty naturally.  We were all lovers of classic, jazz yet so bored with the way it's being played. Instead of giving listeners a tour through a museum, we wanted to actually excite people over the genre - especially those who either didn't "get" jazz, or thought they hated it.  We wanted to take it somewhere new, but while still "serving" the masters.

How long did it take to find the right musicians to pull off such a creative album?

After 20 years in NYC, I moved to LA.  A week later, I was invited to the above July 4th party by the only local friend I knew.  I attended, and he never showed up.  The five of us ended up on the house piano, drums, guitars. And that was it.

Who decides what jazz tunes and rock tunes to experiment with?

It is very much a group effort.  Our ages span the decades from the 60's on up, and our goal is to select true classics from both realms.  It involves a ton of experimentation.  We often spend rehearsals throwing out ideas like musical curve balls from every angle imaginable, and very rarely do they end up in the final song.

Would Wayne Shorter and Sonny Rollins like how the Punks reworked their songs?

Hope so.  We adore these guys and all of the master inventors who initially brought these songs to life.  One of my favorite quotes is, "Do not seek to emulate the Masters, but seek what they sought."  Jazz Punks would like to think such "masters" as Shorter and Rollins would nod to us trying to do our part.

Will jazz and punk rock fans like “Smashups”?

The goal is not to compromise what's "pure" about jazz and punk rock, and yet move people in a new way.  Folks leave our shows saying things like, "I never knew I liked jazz until I heard these guys".  We respect the "purity". We also want to lead folks to jazz. Not cloister them within some sort of time capsule for a select few to appreciate.  Also, just as there are now kids who have no idea who the Beatles were, there are just as many who consider Kenny G to be the "father of jazz".  I find that equally - if not more - artistically horrifying.

In California, is there a scene for this kind of music? 

I think most towns are somewhat lacking any scene these days.  We would love to not only take things to a new place musically, but also inspire folks to drop their remotes and be a part of something - something like mid-20th Century 52nd St. in NYC, where the punks of that era were experimenting and creating.

 Is the Punks a fly-by-night band, or are there long term goals? 

Jazz Punks is doing both what it loves and what it strongly believes in.  That combination of values is, to me, everlasting.  And we hope folks are moved by the results.