Mike Longo: Tell Me a Bedtime Story

Pianist Mike Longo must be in a pugilistic frame of mind. He follows up his 2007 CD Float Like a Butterfly with his current effort Sting Like a Bee—both titles coming from a famous self-description by boxer Muhammad Ali. On "Tell Me a Bedtime Story" the emphasis is more on float than sting. Yes, the boxing gloves need to come off at bedtime. After a fortissimo intro, the trio settles into a languid and nuanced rendition of the Hancock piece. Longo has picked some fine sparring partners here, and Cranshaw and Nash play with such relaxed swing that it would be easy to overlook their contributions, but the success of this track is very much centered in the pulse. I played it for a listener who knew little about jazz, who responded to the beat first and foremost. But musicians are more likely to enjoy the crisp chord changes and the subtle way blue notes are integrated into the melody line. Longo is willing to stretch the harmonies with his phrases, which sometimes bristle in an arrangement that seems to invite gentle tinkling. Definitely a heavyweight contender.

November 10, 2009 · 0 comments


Tom Lellis: Tell Me a Bedtime Story

Tom Lellis has been singing professionally since he was 15, but very little of his work has been documented on record. A full decade elapsed between his debut album And in This Corner 1981, and his follow-up release Double Entendre in 1991. He has had some visibility on labels such as Concord and Inner City, but never a platform commensurate with his talents. This track, recorded in the Netherlands in 1999 is a case in point. Lellis offers a gripping vocal transformation of Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me a Bedtime Story" that I've gone back and listened to again and again. Lellis's phrasing and dynamics are superb. His rhythmic sensibility is acute. He operates in the moment with full commitment to the song. And the whole orchestra, playing Willem Friede's chart under John Clayton's direction, matches him at every step. When this CD was first released in 2002 it created a bit of a stir. I hope the 2009 reissue on Adventure Music exposes some more listeners to this music.

July 08, 2009 · 0 comments


Matt Criscuolo: Tell Me a Bedtime Story

Here is a self-produced CD that stands out from the pack. There is a lot to admire here, but I am especially impressed by the most primal element of all: Criscuolo's sax sound. His is one of the most human and haunting alto sounds on the scene today. Even his simple phrases are infused with lots of emotion. I don't think you can teach this—unless there is some secret course at the Manhattan School of Music that the rest of the students know about—but I sure enjoy it when I hear it. Elsewhere on this CD, Criscuolo delivers a short version of Wayne Shorter's "Miyako" where he stands out just stating the melody. But here he stretches out a bit (not enough for my taste—I would like to hear what he could do a few more choruses), and shows he knows how to construct a solo. The rest of the cast helps too. The rhythm section is happening, and Willis's charts make effective use of the string quartet.

January 15, 2009 · 0 comments


Herbie Hancock: Tell Me a Bedtime Story

The smart horn writing on "Tell Me a Bedtime Story" looks back to the textures of "Speak Like a Child," but by now Herbie Hancock has gone electric, and the resulting mixture is one of the great medium-slow fusion performances of the era. This recording captures a "quiet storm" ambiance, and each of the band members sublimates his individual ego in order to sustain the late-night mood. Hancock's solo is more about textures than licks, and he projects his personality effectively through his electric piano. Soon Hancock would be moving away from these rich harmonies, embracing a style (epitomized in his hit "Chameleon") driven by basslines rather than chords. But "Tell Me a Bedtime Story" points toward a jazzier, more cerebral fusion -- one of the many paths tested briefly by Hancock, then abandoned in his quest for the next new thing.

December 02, 2007 · 1 comment


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