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Jazz Music Reviews - Part 2 - October, 1996


By John Sunier

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Zigidap ZIGIDAP
Anglaspel
Prophone PCD 011
Distributed by May Audio Marketing, CD, 66 min.
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Anglaspel is a septet (having started off in l978 as a sextet).consisting of: Stefan Forssen, piano; Lars Almkvist, trumpet; Mikael Godee, soprano sax; Thomas Jaderlund, alto sax; Johan Borgstrom, tenor sax; Peter Janson, bass; Erik Dahlback, drums. The top Swedish modern jazzmen have been known as among the best in terms of technical proficiency and swing. This septet has combined with those qualities an extraordinary originality both in the artistic freedom of the individual band members and in the special sound of the ensemble as a whole. No wonder they are considered one of the most exceptional jazz groups in Europe today.

Anglaspel may remind listeners of some of the Charles Mingus groups, but with a tighter overall sense of timing that never suffers from the occasional Mingus moments when everything seems to fall apart for a few seconds. In spite of the three saxes this is not a "3/4 Four Brothers"-sort of sound; it sounds brassy-er, almost as if there's often another trumpet and maybe a trombone in there. Sixteen of the 17 tracks are originals by pianist and leader Forssen; they all have Swedish titles (including the pseudonymous tune) which mean nothing to this listener...no, call me a fan after hearing this single CD. These guys are a kick! While often minor and mournful, the tunes are always fairly tonal and accessible - many partaking of a wonderful ironic feeling. Prophone is the jazz side of the classical Propius label and responsible for the audiophile-favorite "Jazz at the Pawnshop" album. Zigidap is better, hipper jazz and even better recorded, without Pawnshop audience noise.

John Sunier

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Live In Europe LIVE IN EUROPE
Arcado String Trio: Mark Feldman, violin; Ernst Reijseger, cello; Mark Dresser, double bass Avant (Disk Union) 058, Japanese Import, 72:54
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Jazz played on bowed stringed instruments seems to be having a renaissance at the moment, and though this trio was new to my ears, on the strength of this CD they are in the vanguard of that rebirth. These seven original tracks come from concerts the ensemble gave in Europe in 1994, and the album was made possible by avant composer-performer John Zorn. It's predictable that this sort of ensemble would find a more appreciative audience in Europe which has always cultivated classical-jazz confluence.

Coming from a classical background, I've long had a personal attraction to the use of the more classical instruments in jazz. But this is not just jazzed-up harpsichord, French horn or bassoon -- it's stretching the possibilities on their three instruments in the same fashion that jazz players stretched Adolph Sax's instrument when they took it over. It's not easy to swing an ensemble like this, but Arcado does. "Lanette" uses percussive knocking on the bodies of the instruments to set up a rocking rhythm, "Armadillo" has one of the three players whistling in addition to bowing, and some of the solos -- such as Feldman's on "Xanas" -- are astonishing improvisatory flights that may remind one of an East Indian violinist's raga improvisations. Perhaps it's from extended exposure to similar chamber ensembles playing atonal classical music, but I find the more raucous "free jazz" passages by the Arcado less annoying than similar flights from sax-based ensembles.

John Sunier

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Swing Is Here SWING IS HERE
Dick Hyman, piano and leader; Peter Appleyard, vibes; Jay Leonhart, acoustic bass; Nancy Marano, vocals; Butch Miles, drums; Ken Peplowski, clarinet; Bucky Pizzarelli, acoustic guitar; Randy Sandke, trumpet; Frank Wess, tenor sax Reference Recordings RR-72CD, HDCD encoded, 65:26
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Pianist and arranger Dick Hyman has assembled another elegant ensemble of top jazzmen and women (jazzpersons?) to encore his previous album for Reference, "From the Age of Swing." All 15 tracks are products of the 1930s and small group swing, and this octet does swing, with the rhythm guitar licks of Pizzarelli setting down the beat for the others just the way the great Freddie Green did for Count Basie. Some of the tunes, such as "Dickie's Dream" and "Taps Miller," sound straight out of the Basie book, but in "chamber" versions. A sextet grouping recalling the Benny Goodman Sextet, handles several of the tunes, and vocalist Nancy Marano shines with them "On the Bumpy Road to Love" and "With Plenty of Money and You."

The session was recorded in a concert hall rather than a studio, and the natural ambience is well-preserved in the HDCD process, provided you have an HDCD D/A processor in your music system. And most of the new processors with the HDCD chip make a tremendous improvement in the playback of standard CDs. But I'm a bit (no pun intended) concerned with what HDCD encoding seems to be doing to the sonics of an unadorned grand piano. With the ensemble, it isn't a noticeable problem on Swing Is Here, but try A/B-ing Dick Hyman's earlier two excellent solo piano CDs on Reference -- Dick Hyman Plays Fats Waller (RR-33) was made before the coming of HDCD, while Dick Hyman Plays Duke Ellington (RR-50) is HDCD encoded. I believe the comparison will have the same aural results whether you have an HDCD decoder or not. The non-encoded CD sounds more like a real piano.

John Sunier


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