Lennie Niehaus: You Stepped Out of a Dream

Neglected master composer/arranger of West Coast, counterpoint-styled Jazz, and no slouch as an alto saxman either, Lennie Niehaus is better known these days for his later work on the scores of Clint Eastwood films. But any fan of Mulligan, Baker, and great playing in general should seek out the series of CD reissues on Lone Hill Jazz that showcase Niehaus's amazing '50s run of quintet and octet albums on Contemporary Records.

To pick a single representative track is kind of laughable, so I'll just make the arbitrary choice of "You Stepped Out of a Dream," recorded in mid-1954 during his second session as a leader, and a solid example of his call-&-response, bob-&-weave arranging. Plus this track lets Lennie step out front with two faster-than-dreamy solos so up, so clean, so cool (oops, excuse the 4-letter word) with swift, echoing support from the saxes of Jack Montrose and Bob Gordon, and the happy underpinning of Monte Budwig and Shelly Manne. In less than 3 minutes, all five have their say, with no wasted notes the performance nearly over before you suddenly realize the source tune.

March 03, 2009 · 0 comments


Dave Frank: You Stepped Out of a Dream

When I first heard Sarah Vaughan sing this Gus Kahn & Herb Brown song, it immediately became one of my favorite renditions of the standard. Later I was exposed to the idiosyncratic texturing of the same tune by the inimitable Anthony Braxton, and despite the vastly different approach I was equally hooked. Like all great vehicles of expression, this song can be used to great effect in many different ways.

Now comes a version by pianist Dave Frank that gives us a whole new take. He starts off with his relentlessly walking left-hand variations, slowly introducing the melody with imaginative musings on his wildly frenetic right hand. Frank clearly demonstrates the influence of his one-time teacher Lennie Tristano as he plays with an inventive, machinegun-like technique. After a carefully placed break, he employs a completely different left-handed approach that plays contrapuntally to the masterfully fluid improvisations of his blindingly quick right hand. With this offering, Dave Frank has created a rendition of this timeless song that will remain a member of my select elite.

December 09, 2008 · 0 comments


Martial Solal & Johnny Griffin: You Stepped Out of A Dream

Those two veterans, despite both living in France and being about the best you can get on their respective instruments, had never recorded together before this session. In fact, Solal is not really the kind of pianist that bop saxophonists look for now, nor does he look for them, although he was a mainstay for U.S. horn players stopping in Paris during the 1950s. Anyway, this encounter is just a miracle. Griffin shows his mellow side rather than his usual "little giant" raunchy routine, and his melodic invention is huge. Solal produces constant fireworks of rhythmic and harmonic surprises. But his aim is good music and contrast with his partner, not to show off, and their version of this standard can easily compete with the best.

March 11, 2008 · 0 comments


Shirley Horn: You Stepped Out of a Dream

The late Shirley Horn had a long list of admirers. If you have any doubts, just look at the list of sidemen on her You Won't Forget Me CD -- which includes fellas named Wynton and Miles. They don't appear on this track, but the jazz credentials here are impeccable nonetheless. Buster Williams throws down the gauntlet during the opening bars, dishing out a queasy, churning bassline that would throw many singers for a loss. But Horn thrives on this type of accompaniment. Her intonation is perfect, her rhythmic sense impeccable, her phrasing always in sync with the meaning of the lyric. The CD title was prophetic. Although Horn is departed from the scene, she won't be forgotten.

December 08, 2007 · 0 comments


Dexter Gordon: You Stepped Out of a Dream

Part of a jazz lover's impossible mission, should you decide to accept it, is to champion artists forsaken in fashion's fickle frenzy. One such is Dexter Gordon, who in the movie Round Midnight (1986) sparked a flash in the pan, but quickly faded into the answer of a trivia question: "What jazz tenorman was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for portraying a jazz tenorman?" Probably more people know the answer than know this laid-back track, which is sad. With his spacious tone and abiding sense of song, Dexter could treat a standard respectfully, yet make it singularly his own.

December 07, 2007 · 0 comments


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