Marcus Roberts: East of the Sun

You have to give Marsalis points for including this trio track -- on which he doesn’t even play -- in the second CD in his Standard Time series. It says something about a man who in the interest of a well-rounded recorded document would step aside and let the band blow some (assuming that is the case!). I love these Standard Time CD’s for their economy and breadth, and this track is a perfect example of it. Roberts has such a classy blues touch and while it’s an overused cliché, you do feel you’re hearing the history of jazz piano in his playing. His compatriots rise to the occasion, as if they could do otherwise, for a beautiful balance.

October 31, 2007 · 0 comments

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Toots Thielemans: East of the Sun

Toots Thielemans single-handedly made it feasible to use "hip" and "harmonica" in the same sentence. Toots spent the 1950s as George Shearing's guitarist, where he played "East of the Sun" nightly. Here, however, Toots wields his alternate ax, although considering its diminutive size, it probably ought to be called a hatchet. In any case, pairing Toots with baritonist Adams was inspired. One's instrument is tiny and shrill, the other's bulky and gruff. Their contrast is a delight. Toots and Pepper play off one another like a hummingbird frolicking with a grizzly bear. Toots was a wizard with a toy wand.

October 26, 2007 · 0 comments

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George Shearing: East of the Sun

In 1949, pianist George Shearing committed jazz's cardinal sin: popularity. Building an appealing formula around closely voiced block chords and bracketing his keyboard with vibes and guitar, Shearing caressed the contours of a melody in relaxed, behind-the-beat unison, polishing medium-tempo standards to a perfect sheen. The public loved it. Therefore critics hated it. But open your ears for 3 minutes and let "East of the Sun" in. You'll be captivated by the care shown to dynamic shadings (a lost art in bebop) and by Shearing's shimmering ensembles, like church bells pealing amid the English countryside on a quiet summer morn.

October 26, 2007 · 0 comments

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